Big 12 Season Wrap: the Highs, the Lows, All the In-Betweens

Posted by dnspewak on April 15th, 2013

In a big-picture sense, the Big 12 provided us with no surprises this season. Kansas won the league again, TCU finished in last place, five teams made the NCAA Tournament, and all was right with the world. It wouldn’t have taken Nostradamus to make those predictions. That doesn’t mean it wasn’t an interesting six months, however. There were flops–most notably from the state of Texas. There were overachievers–most notably from the state of Oklahoma. There were thrilling finishes, blown calls, standout freshmen and that one time Kansas somehow lost to TCU. Oh, and one team even won a championship this season in, well, the wrong tournament.

Game of  the Year: Kansas 68, Oklahoma State 67 (February 20)

This showdown in Stillwater was simultaneously the best and worst game of the Big 12 season. How’s that for logic? After the Cowboys stunned Kansas at Allen Fieldhouse earlier in the winter and literally celebrated by doing back flips on the court, this revenge game took on even more importance in the league standings. Had Oklahoma State won, it would have seized the proverbial driver’s seat along with Kansas State and would have made the Jayhawks’ path to the regular season title very difficult. We had drama. We had overtime. Two, actually. And we had a game-winner in the final minute of regulation by Naadir Tharpe, who shook off a rusty performance to hit the go-ahead jumper with 16 seconds to play. Instant classic, right? Certainly. The problem was, it was perhaps the ugliest game ever played by two top-15 opponents on the same floor. Kansas did not make a field goal in the first overtime and it did not make a field goal in the second overtime until Tharpe’s game-winner. That’s almost 10 minutes of basketball without a basket. In overtime! Overall, the two teams combined to shoot five for 32 from beyond the arc. Ben McLemore played 49 minutes, missed nine of 12 shot attempts and finished with seven points after barely touching the ball in the overtime periods. And that’s the best game of the year? We still stand by our decision. This was the game that changed the complexity of the Big 12 title race, and two free periods of basketball is never a bad thing.

Bill Self Won Another Big 12 Title (Photo credit: AP Photo).

Bill Self Won Another Big 12 Title (Photo credit: AP Photo).

Honorable Mentions:

  • Kansas 108, Iowa State 96 (February 25): Asterisk on this one. Kansas beat Iowa State in Ames — where the Cyclones hadn’t lost in more than a year — but it needed a blown call at the end of regulation to get the opportunity. You remember the situation. Elijah Johnson‘s charging toward the basket with five seconds left in the game, his team trailing by two points. Georges Niang sets his feet and takes what appears to be a pretty standard charge. But there’s no call, the ball bounces on the floor and the officials eventually blow the whistle on Niang during a scramble. That allows Kansas to tie the game and win in overtime behind Elijah Johnson’s epic 39-point performance. The Big 12 would later admit its referees should have called a charge, but that’s a moot point right now. It’s a shame we’ll remember this game as the No-Call Game as opposed to the Elijah Johnson Game.
  • Oklahoma State 74, Baylor 72 (March 14): The Bears needed a victory in this Big 12 quarterfinal to give themselves a chance for an at-large bid in the NCAA Tournament. Then they fell behind by 20 points. Dead in the water. Except Pierre Jackson started raining jumpers and floaters all over the place, and Baylor inexplicably tied the game in the final minute of regulation. But the officials made a controversial foul call (that’s a trend this year, across all conferences) and sent Phil Forte to the line, where he made both. That’s an exciting finish in and of itself. But it got even better: Nobody’s quite sure how it happened, but with just seconds left on a desperation, mad-dash possession, Jackson dribbled straight through two Oklahoma State defenders and found himself absolutely, completely wide open from three-point land. He had a chance to win at the buzzer. No hands contesting him, no defender in sight. He missed. That sent the Bears to the NIT, and at least they won that tournament. But Jackson’s failed buzzer-beater signaled the end of Baylor’s tourney chances, and it was another dark moment during an underachieving season.

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Texas Sophomore Myck Kabongo Will Enter the NBA Draft

Posted by Nate Kotisso on April 13th, 2013

You could see this coming from a mile away. Texas sophomore guard Myck Kabongo announced his intention to enter this June’s NBA Draft, foregoing his final two years of eligibility in Austin. When he arrived on campus in 2011, Kabongo was a five-star prospect according to recruiting services like Scout, ESPN and Rivals. He made an immediate impact, averaging 9.6 points, 3.0 rebounds and 5.2 assists per game in 34 starts for a Texas team that slid into the NCAA Tournament as a #11 seed.

He gone. (TexasSports.com)

He’s gone. (TexasSports.com)

His second season didn’t start off the way he would have liked. The NCAA investigated Kabongo for receiving an impermissible payment related to an offseason workout hosted by Rich Paul, an agent to former Longhorns Tristan Thompson and Cory Joseph. Kabongo was ruled ineligible for the first 23 games of the regular season but made the most of what little playing time he had, averaging 14.6 points, 5.0 rebounds, 5.5 assists and 2.0 steals per game, all career highs. So why would he even consider a return for a junior campaign? Sheldon McClellan, the team’s second-leading scorer at 13.5 points per game, has already decided to transfer. Javan Felix, who filled in for Kabongo as a starter this season, will get plenty of competition from two incoming freshman players in Kendal Yancy-Harris and Isaiah Taylor at the point guard slot. But Texas has other issues, most notably the lack of shotmakers on the team except for Julien Lewis. On the inside, Cameron Ridley has shown very little offensively and his overall impact on games has been disappointing for a player with his size.

The winner in all of this is obviously Kabongo because he’ll get drafted and become a multi-millionaire. The loser is Texas, which is facing another season where the NCAA Tournament looks unlikely unless some surprises step up unexpectedly from Rick Barnes’ roster.

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Assessing the Season: Texas Longhorns

Posted by Nate Kotisso on April 11th, 2013

As the season winds down and Big 12 teams continue to find themselves eliminated from the post-season, we’re taking a look back on a team-by-team basis at the 2012-13 season. Next up: the Texas Longhorns.

Final Record: 16-18 (7-11)

The Expectations: All Texas fans have ever known under Rick Barnes is that they’re eventual shoe-ins for the NCAA Tournament. But even the most optimistic of fans realized that this year would be the toughest he’s ever had in Austin. Gone was their 20 PPG scorer from 2011-12, J’Covan Brown, who decided to pursue a professional career after his junior year. What remained was a rotation that was talented and highly-recruited but was also consisted of a bunch of freshmen and sophomores. Heading into the start of team practice, fans were cautiously optimistic with both Myck Kabongo and Sheldon McClellan pegged for breakout sophomore campaigns.

This season was a surprise to Longhorns fans and head coach Rick Barnes. (Eric Gay/Associated Press)

This season was a surprise to Longhorns fans and head coach Rick Barnes. (Eric Gay/Associated Press)

The Actual Result: When teams started practicing in early October, that’s when news broke that the NCAA was investigating Kabongo. The allegations were that Kabongo had received impermissible benefits from Rich Paul, the agent to former Longhorns Tristan Thompson and Cory Joseph as well as LeBron James. Kabongo attended an offseason workout in Cleveland and his travel considerations were (allegedly) paid for by Paul. While Kabongo was investigated, Texas didn’t take any chances in playing a possibly ineligible player. The season commenced and Texas’ offensive struggles were noticeable from the get-go. The Horns suffered an embarrassing loss to Division II Chaminade and struggling USC at the Maui Invitational. There was also the 41-point effort against Georgetown, but after that game it seemed like Rick Barnes’ team was turning the corner. It lost a two-point decision to über-talented UCLA down in Houston and beat Texas State seven days later by double digits.

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Big 12 M5: 04.10.13 Edition

Posted by KoryCarpenter on April 10th, 2013

morning5_big12

  1. In a move that surprised absolutely no one, Kansas freshman guard Ben McLemore announced his intention to enter the NBA Draft yesterday. McLemore apparently told coaches in February that he was coming back, but Bill Self was having none of it. “If he told me he wanted to come back, I would have told him, ‘We need to look at this again,'” Self told the Associated Press. As a near-lock to be a top-three pick, there was little chance McLemore would return for his sophomore season. While it would have obviously helped next year’s team, having a four-star player turn into a top five pick in the NBA Draft will boost Kansas recruiting down the line. Ultimately, McLemore leaving early is a benefit to all parties.
  2. Iowa State has been playing basketball for over 100 years but it wasn’t until this season that the Cyclones led the nation in a statistical team or individual category. They made a remarkable 9.9 three-pointers per game this season, tops in the country, thanks in large part to Tyrus McGee. The senior guard led the country in three-point field goal percentage, knocking down 46.4 percent from deep this season. The Cyclones’ small lineup made them one of the toughest match-ups in the country this season. They spread the floor and could knock down shots from anywhere on the court, making double-teams useless and forcing defenses to defend well past the three-point line.
  3. The final USA Today/Coaches poll was announced yesterday and not surprisingly, Kansas led the Big 12 representatives at #8. The Jayahwks were #3 in the final pre-NCAA Tournament AP poll, but a disappointing Sweet Sixteen loss to Michigan deservedly dropped them a few spots. Kansas State, the only other Big 12 school to make the cut, also dropped from its final AP ranking. The Wildcats were #12 a few weeks ago but a Second Round loss to La Salle dropped them to #20 in this final poll.
  4. Because we can’t get enough college basketball and the dullness of mid-summer baseball is staring us down more with each passing day, the CBSSports.com crew unveiled their way too early Top 25 (And One) rankings. Kentucky, Michigan State and Louisville top the list, but there isn’t much love for the Big 12. Kansas comes in at #20, and it’s hard to argue the Jayhawks should be any higher. All five starters are gone and at least five new freshman are coming to campus. As far as the Big 12 goes, though, that’s it. The conference isn’t supposed to be very good next season as schools like Iowa State, Oklahoma State, and Baylor all lose key cogs from this year’s teams.
  5. One surprise team next year could be the Texas Longhorns, who struggled mightily this season with one of the youngest rosters in the country and spending a large portion of the season without point guard Myck Kabongo in the lineup. With most of the rotation returning — except for Sheldon McClellan, who will transfer — next season likely hinges on the draft decision of Kabongo and whether he will stick around Austin. Most people seem to think he is NBA bound as a likely late first rounder.
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Rushed Reactions: Kansas State 66, Texas 49

Posted by dnspewak on March 14th, 2013

rushedreactions

Danny Spewak (@dspewak) is a Big 12 microsite writer. He filed this report after the Kansas State-Texas game in Kansas City this evening.

Three Key Takeaways:

Kansas State Inched Closer to a Big 12 Title

Kansas State Inched Closer to a Big 12 Title

  1. Rodney McGruder, aka The Zone Buster: Against Texas’ active 2-3 zone, McGruder was unstoppable. The Wildcats weren’t flawless, and they weren’t always able to get the ball inside, but they knocked down enough three-pointers to pull away from the Longhorns. Credit McGruder for that, as he made four threes and finished with 20 points on 10-of-20 shooting. Much like Kansas’ Ben McLemore in the earlier quarterfinal, McGruder had to make up for a relative lack of scoring production by his teammates. Angel Rodriguez helped, scoring 13 points and finding holes in the zone to finish with five assists, but this was McGruder’s game.
  2. Kansas City, Here We Come (Back): Following the Big 12 Tournament this weekend, the Sprint Center will host an NCAA Tournament pod next weekend. There’s no doubt Kansas State wants to make a trip back to Kansas City to play in these friendly confines in the second and third rounds, but it needed a strong showing this weekend to convince the selection committee it deserves the advantage. This quarterfinal victory was a start. Two more victories should all but lock up a return to Kansas City, but nothing’s guaranteed with the committee. Still, it’s hard to envision it sending KSU anywhere but KC if it wins the Big 12 title this weekend.
  3. Myck Kabongo Needs Help: Kabongo scored two points this evening. He missed all five shots he took from the field, turned the ball over five times and could not pull Texas out of a severe scoring drought late in the second half. In perhaps his final collegiate game, that’s something Kabongo will have to live with. In his defense, though, he’s simply under too much pressure to perform, considering the youth of his teammates and complete lack of scoring options around him. This team runs through him. He has the ball in his hands at all time, and even when he’s penetrating and creating, nobody can knock a shot down. He had seven assists, but he could have had 15. That has to take a toll on the sophomore point guard. This team has played drastically better with him in the lineup, so it’s hard to blame him for any of Texas’ woes tonight.

Star of the Game: Rodney McGruder led all scorers with 24. Rodriguez was the only other Wildcat in double figures. He shot the ball well, rebounded the ball well and scored from everywhere on the floor. Easy choice here for Star of the Game.

Sights and Sounds: Kabongo’s leadership is noticeable this season. His coaches praised his attitude during the suspension this year, and it’s obviously carried over to the court. On Thursday, all he did was talk. And we mean that in the best way possible. He talked on defense, got in his teammates faces and always had his mouth moving. He’s grown up, and he’s the clear leader of this team. The Longhorns don’t have the experience or personnel for it to matter, but credit Kabongo for growing as a person over the last year or so.

Wild Card: KSU’s D.J. Johnson played big tonight– in every sense of the word. He made all four of his field goals, scored eight points in 15 minutes and threw down a thunderous putback in the second half. On a night where Thomas Gipson struggled and even badly airballed a jumper, Johnson was a nice surprise for Bruce Weber.

What’s Next: Kansas State advances to play either Baylor or Oklahoma State in the semifinals on Friday.

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Big 12 Power Rankings: Week 16

Posted by KoryCarpenter on February 25th, 2013

We are four days away from March, the Big 12 is close to solidifying its representation in the NCAA Tournament, and there are only two weeks left in the regular season. Obviously all games are important (Just ask Kansas about TCU), but for the top three teams in the standings, there isn’t much room for error in the home stretch, giving us great games like Wednesday’s double-overtime thriller between Kansas and Oklahoma State and tonight’s game in Ames between the Jayhawks and Iowa State. And that doesn’t even mention Kansas State’s trip to Waco on Saturday, where a win could potentially give the Wildcats sole possession of first place in the conference. But we’ll start with Kansas in the Power Rankings this week, who moves back to #1 after beating Oklahoma State on the road.

A Big 12 Championship Could Be On The Line Tonight For Kansas (AP)

A Big 12 Championship Could Be On The Line Tonight For Kansas (AP)

1) Kansas (23-4, 11-3)
Previous Ranking: 2

Last Week: W 68-67 (2OT) at Oklahoma State, W 74-48 vs TCU

This Week: Tonight at Iowa State, 8:00 PM, Saturday vs West Virginia, 1:00 PM

  • Rundown: Kansas is now 8-3 in the last five seasons when underdogs of four points or fewer after Wednesday’s double-overtime win over Oklahoma State in Stillwater. Tonight’s game in Ames is nearly as important and should be close as well (Kansas is favored by a single point). How about Jeff Withey against the Cowboys — 17 points, 14 rebounds and four blocks in 29 minutes. He saved Kansas’ conference title hopes, and a win tonight could begin the conversation for a #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament assuming there are no more TCU-like roadblocks.
  • Outlook in March: A #1 seed is possible, but I think they will drop one more game through the Big 12 Tournament and snag a #2 seed. If they don’t end up in Indiana’s bracket, there’s enough talent and coaching ability for another trip to the Final Four. But they showed us in Fort Worth that they could just as easily lose to a Stony Brook or Montana in the first round.

2) Oklahoma State (20-6, 10-4)
Previous Ranking: 1

Last Week: L 68-67 (2OT) vs Kansas, W 73-57 at West Virginia

This Week: Wednesday at TCU, 6:00 PM Saturday vs Texas, 3:00 PM

  • Rundown: I know the Cowboys have fewer wins than K-State (in conference and overall) and lost to the Wildcats back on January 5, but I can’t say Oklahoma State isn’t the second-best team in the conference right now. Not with a straight face, anyway. Marcus Smart might be the best freshman in the country and a First-Team All-American choice while Markel Brown is playing even better than Smart lately, averaging 18 PPG, 3.5 APG, and 5.0 RPG last week.
  • Outlook in March: Wednesday’s game against Kansas was one of those games where a close loss wouldn’t have killed them in mock brackets and a win would have helped tremendously. They are still a #5 seed in most mock brackets and will probably end up as a #4 seed without any hiccups. They’re a definite Sweet Sixteen-level team that would give its region’s #1 seed a great game in the regional semifinals.

3) Kansas State (22-5, 11-3)
Previous Ranking: 3

Last Week: W 71-61 vs West Virginia, W 81-69 at Texas

This Week: Tonight vs Texas Tech, 6:00 PM, Saturday at Baylor, 6:00 PM

  • Rundown: K-State’s three conference losses were very forgivable. They were swept by Kansas and lost by six at Iowa State, one of the toughest places to play in the Big 12. Their other two losses were to Michigan and Gonzaga, a pair of projected #2 seeds. They’re also winners of seven of their last eight games and have a relatively easy next three: Texas Tech, at Baylor, and TCU. The season finale against Oklahoma State in Stillwater will likely determine the Big 12 championship and whether the crown will be shared this season.
  • Outlook in March: A conference championship would probably get the Wildcats a #3 seed, a perch above their consensus #4 seed right now. As noted, they don’t have any bad losses and have a pair of good wins over Florida and Oklahoma State.

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Big 12 M5: 02.21.13 Edition

Posted by Nate Kotisso on February 21st, 2013

morning5_big12

  1. Wednesday was a busy day for Kansas players, past and present. In Stillwater, the Jayhawks and Cowboys played a hotly contested basketball game even though they were both offensively challenged. There were so many heroes for KU in its one-point victory. Naadir Tharpe’s game-winning floater was the Jayhawks’ only field goal in either of the overtime periods. Travis Releford caused Marcus Smart to foul out in OT. Jeff Withey was fouled early and often and he made the most of it (11-of-14 on free throws). With two winnable road games remaining, the Jayhawks are once again in the driver’s seat to win another Big 12 regular season title.
  2. There was perhaps a game just as big as KU-OSU going on at the same time last night in Waco. Iowa State and Baylor came into the game each in desperate need of a resume-building victory, and for right now at least, the Cyclones appear to be on the good side of the bubble. With the win, ISU now has a profile featuring two wins versus Baylor, one against Kansas State, and another against Oklahoma. The downside of it is if Baylor continues to slide, the luster of those wins will fade away quickly. That’s what makes their Big Monday game at home against Kansas so huge. They need that win no matter what.
  3. Fresh off of a draining overtime loss to Oklahoma State, Oklahoma head coach Lon Kruger doesn’t worry about his team’s ability to bounce back in its next game. It was a close game to start but Oklahoma was able to create some distance between itself and Texas Tech with an 86-71 win on the road. By the looks of it, the Sooners have a solid enough profile to make the field with an RPI of #17 and the fourth toughest strength of schedule in college basketball. Though Kruger may not stay anywhere for a very long time, he’s still an outstanding coach.
  4. As weird as it is to say, Myck Kabongo is officially one week and one day into his sophomore season, which raises questions about his future at Texas. Mac Engel of The Fort-Worth Star Telegram seems to agree with me: Kabongo needs to stay on campus one more year. I think he needs to play a full season at the college level where his youth or eligibility issues won’t get in the way, and hopefully in turn, he’ll grow into more of an attractive NBA point guard prospects for the 2014 draft.
  5. With three seconds left in the first overtime of KU-OSU, the Cowboys gained possession of the ball and prompted Bill Self to unintentionally give the Internet this beauty of a GIF. As is, it’s a masterpiece. The movements are natural and repeated, so what could possibly make it better? Music. So enjoy it in all its glory and clap to the beat with Self. Sound the bell… school’s in sucka.
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Big 12 M5: 02.20.13 Edition

Posted by Nate Kotisso on February 20th, 2013

morning5_big12

  1. Thank God it’s Wednesday because on paper, Tuesday gave us an undesirable match-up between bottom-feeders Texas and TCU. Surprisingly enough, it was a pretty good game. Texas came into the contest shooting 40% from the field as a team while committing more turnovers per game (15.5 TOPG) than anyone in the Big 12. Last night the Longhorns shot better than 50% and turned it over just eight times. It’s a night like this that accentuates the importance of a player like Myck Kabongo (seven assists, two turnovers), who played only his third game of the season. Even TCU (13.7 TOPG) had nine TOs in a losing effort. There’s a lesson to be learned from this: You shouldn’t judge a game by the teams playing in it.
  2. This year’s Oklahoma State squad is different than the ones in the recent past. Yes Marcus Smart has something to do with it but much of the Cowboys’ success has relied on winning close games. Four of their games in the current seven-game winning streak have come against probable NCAA Tournament teams and were all won by five points or fewer. How does that compare to years past? In games decided by four points or fewer, OSU went 4-3 in 2011-12 and 5-5 in 2010-11. That’s a good way to separate the men from the boys.
  3. The biggest game on Wednesday night may not be in Stillwater. Baylor and Iowa State are playing for the second time this season with major bubble implications. There’s a lot of talent on both sides but neither team has been able to put it together for an extended stretch. The Cyclones nicked the Bears by eight earlier in conference play, but while their tournament profiles are still lacking, a win in this game would go a long way.
  4. We got an unexpected storyline from Monday’s West Virginia-Kansas State game. Eron Harris, a freshman guard for WVU, was seen crying on the sidelines shortly after fouling out in just eight minutes of action. After checking back into the game, Harris had committed separate technical and personal fouls that sidelined him for the rest of the game. If there’s anything we know for sure, the young man plays with purpose. His increased playing time in conference play has shined a light on his abilities as a scorer. About him crying, wouldn’t you? Yeah it’s been a rough season but in Harris’ mind, he’s trying to do anything he can to come up with a W. So when he receives questionable foul calls and learns that his night is over before it really began, you’d feel helpless. Sometimes in life, people cry when they feel helpless. Nothing wrong with that. Oh, and it seems like he’s over it. 
  5. Not enough can be said about the job Lon Kruger has done this season. It takes a brave man to give his freshmen regular playing time with an already seasoned basketball team in place. Je’lon Hornbeak is an excellent example of this. Kruger took the point guard by trade and moved him out on the wing. So far, so good. Hornbeak is averaging 8.7 points per game in his last three contests since fellow freshman Buddy Hield went down with an injury. Once again: brave, unconventional. Kruger may be on his way to Big 12 Coach of the Year.
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Big 12 Power Rankings: Week 15

Posted by KoryCarpenter on February 18th, 2013

We don’t have many of these rankings left this season, but the Big 12 isn’t getting any easier to decipher as we inch closer to March (less than four weeks until Selection Sunday). The Big 12 still has a good chance to get six teams into the NCAA Tournament, but Baylor and Iowa State don’t have much margin for error the last three weeks of the regular season. The Cyclones are a consensus #10 seed and the Bears are an #11 seed on the latest Bracket Matrix mock bracket. The top of the conference is more of a mess, though. Oklahoma State, Kansas, and Kansas State are 9-3 but it doesn’t mean there isn’t distinctness with each record. For instance, Kansas State is 1-2 against the other first place teams while Kansas is 2-1. Oklahoma State, on the other hand, is 1-1 but plays host to the Kansas schools in the coming weeks. They are also fortunate in that two of their final three road games are against West Virginia and TCU. And that’s why the Cowboys are #1 this week.

Tier I:

Back On Top: Marcus Smart Is Playing As Well As Anyone In The Big 12. (AP)

Back On Top: Marcus Smart Is Playing As Well As Anyone In The Big 12. (AP)

1) Oklahoma State (19-5, 9-3)
Previous Ranking: 2

Last Week: W 91-67 at Texas Tech, W (OT) 84-79 vs Oklahoma

This Week: Wednesday vs Kansas, 8:00 PM, Saturday at West Virginia, 1:00 PM

  • Rundown: After struggling around the turn of the year and dropping three out of four, the Cowboys began playing like their talent suggests and are winners of eight of their last nine games. They have an opportunity on Wednesday to become the first Big 12 team to sweep Bill Self in a season as the Jayhawks come into Gallagher-IBA Arena, where the Cowboys have won two out of three against the Jayhawks dating back to 2007-08.
  • Player Stepping Up: Freshman G Marcus Smart: Smart had 25 points, nine rebounds, and five steals in the upset over Kansas on Feb. 2. He had 23 points, seven rebounds and five steals against Texas a week later, and on Saturday against Oklahoma, Smart finished with 28 points, seven rebounds, and four assists in the overtime victory.

2) Kansas (21-4. 9-3)
Previous Ranking: 3

Last Week: W 83-62 vs Kansas State, W 73-47 vs Texas

This Week: Wednesday at Oklahoma State, 8:00 PM, Saturday vs TCU, 3:00 PM

  • Rundown: It doesn’t really matter that top-10 teams have been consistently falling the last few weeks, but it can give Kansas fans a small sense of relief knowing that every perceived top team in the country has its flaws as well as the Jayhawks, who rebounded nicely last Monday with a 21-point win over Kansas State when they desperately needed a 21-point win. Wednesday’s game at Oklahoma State could decide the Big 12 championship.
  • Player Stepping Up: Freshman G Ben McLemore: McLemore had 30 points against Kansas State on 9-13 shooting, a cool 69.2%. In seven of his last ten games he shot over 50% from the floor. But he can still do more, attempting 10 or less shots in six of those games.  Shoot the ball, Ben.

3) Kansas State (20-5, 9-3)
Previous Ranking: 1

Last Week: L 83-62 at Kansas, W 81-61 vs Baylor

This Week: Tonight vs West Virginia, 8:00 PM, Saturday at Texas, 7:00 PM

  • Rundown: Monday’s loss at Kansas hurt, but it wasn’t all that unexpected. If they can take care of Baylor on the road on March 2, there’s still a chance the Wildcats could be 14-3 heading into the final regular season game at Oklahoma State on March 9. The remaining schedule sets up that well for K-State, with their next five games against the bottom five teams in the conference.
  • Player Stepping Up: Sophomore G Angel Rodriguez: He has a 2.5:1 Assist to Turnover Ratio on the season and is averaging an efficient 19.6 PPG his last three games. In that stretch, he is 46.3% from the floor and 41.6% from three-point range.

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Big 12 M5: 02.13.13 Edition

Posted by dnspewak on February 13th, 2013

morning5_big12

  1. Texas has been waiting for today all season long: Myck Kabongo will finally return from his NCAA suspension tonight against Iowa State. Problem is, he’s a little late. The Longhorns’ season died a long, long time ago, around the time Division II Chaminade smacked them around in Maui way back in mid-November. Nevertheless, Kabongo could help Rick Barnes’ team play spoiler during the final month of the regular season, and perhaps he offers a little hope for a late Big 12 Tournament run. A Longhorn fan can only hope. Barnes said Kabongo will indeed start against the Cyclones tonight, and he’ll need to make up for lost time right away.
  2. Buddy Hield isn’t a household name at Oklahoma yet. He’s a fun personality and promising freshman, but you’d be hard-pressed to find many Big 12 fans who know much about him. You need to know that he fractured his foot on Monday, though. More importantly, you need to know that it’s a big loss for the Sooners. Hield is considered one of the top on-ball defenders on the team. He also played very well at both guard spots throughout the season, so he’ll add more pressure to veteran Sam Grooms and youngsters Isaiah Cousins and Je’lon Hornbeak.
  3. Speaking of guards, Naadir Tharpe was brilliant against Kansas State on Big Monday. His final stat line: eight assists, seven points and one turnover. And he even split time with Elijah Johnson at the point. This performance begs the question– is it time for Tharpe to start? It’s hard to cut Johnson’s role on the team, but maybe it’s a necessity for Bill Self so that his team maximizes its potential. Johnson certainly hasn’t been playing well lately, but he’s proven during his career that he’s more than capable of rebounding from a slump. That’s why we’re betting on Bill Self to ride out the veteran here until he absolutely has to make a change.
  4. Bill Self knows best. That’s why he has Kansas in a position to win the league again even though his team suffered through an atrocious three-game losing streak and looked more lost than any KU team in recent history. Rob Dauster tells us how that the losing streak is now a faded memory, and that it all stemmed from a lack of confidence. The Jayhawks already have a leg up on Kansas State now that they’ve swept the season series, so the big game to watch for is on February 20. That’s when Kansas travels to Stillwater to play Oklahoma State in their rematch game. Something tells us the Cowboys will need to come to play that night, because KU’s not going to just hand over the Big 12 regular season title on a silver platter.
  5. West Virginia is still not a great basketball team, but it’s not among the worst teams in the league anymore either. That’s a minor victory for Bob Huggins, who has seemed perplexed at his team’s rather poor performance all season long. The Mountaineers have now won three straight games against the three Texas schools at the bottom of the conference (TCU, Texas and Texas Tech), which means they’re an even 5-5 in Big 12 play. They’ll now try to win their fourth straight against Baylor. The Bears have problems of their own, but that would be a solid win for Huggins during somewhat of a lost season. You’ve got to beef up that CBI resume somehow.
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Big 12 Conference Call: February 9 Edition

Posted by Nate Kotisso on February 9th, 2013

Welcome to another edition of our Big 12 Conference Call! This week has been some kind of something hasn’t it? We have seen TCU take down Kansas in perhaps the biggest upset in the Big 12 era as well as Baylor and Oklahoma’s attempts to play themselves off the tournament bubble. There are bigger questions that loom too. Who has the inside track for Big 12 Coach of the Year? And, if Kansas continues to slide, who will win the Big 12? Today, we’ll hit on those topics and more. 

1. Kory predicted the Jayhawks to fall to Oklahoma State on Saturday and we all know what happened at TCU on Wednesday. Is their Big 12 title hopes in jeopardy?

2. If Kansas doesn’t win the Big 12 title, who will sit atop the conference standings at the end of the year?

3. Imagine yourself on this year’s NCAA Tournament Committee and you’re forced to choose Baylor or Oklahoma to put in the field of 68. Which team would you go with and why?

4. Who do you like to win Big 12 Coach of the Year?

5. Which of the three Texas schools will have the highest finish — UT, Tech or TCU?

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An unreal night in the Metroplex. (Rodger Mallison/Fort Worth Star-Telegram)

It was an unbelievable night in the Metroplex. (Rodger Mallison/Fort Worth Star-Telegram)

1. Kory predicted the Jayhawks to fall to Oklahoma State on Saturday and we all know what happened at TCU on Wednesday. Is their Big 12 title hopes in jeopardy?

KC: Absolutely. With the way Kansas had been playing in January, the loss to Oklahoma State was coming. The Cowboys have plenty of talent and nobody was going to go undefeated in the Big 12 this season, anyway. But the loss to TCU -ranked lower in kempom than the likes of Quinnipiac and Yale- is the worst Kansas loss since before Larry Brown was coaching in the 80’s. Point guards Elijah Johnson and Naadir Tharpe shot a combined 5-for-27 with three assists against the Horned Frogs. In his last eight games, Johnson has more turnovers (28) than assists (25). If that doesn’t trouble you, nothing will.

NK: Most definitely. Kory hit the nail on the head — a slip up was bound to happen. To be truthful, I didn’t see one of this magnitude. Their loss to TCU Wednesday has gone down as easily the biggest upset in the Big 12 era in my opinion. The Jayhawks could only win in spite of their point guard problems for so long. And now in a time where a team like Kansas is supposed to separate themselves from the rest of their conference mates, they find themselves in a tighter league race. At least it’s better for the fans of other teams.

DS: They’re in a heck of a lot more jeopardy than they were a week ago, that’s for sure. And yet the Jayhawks still sit tied atop the league with Kansas State, and they own the tiebreaker with that win in Manhattan. So forget the TCU debacle. With half of the Big 12 schedule left to play, Bill Self once again has his team in position to win a regular season title. Kansas has serious issues on the offensive end, and it’s hard to envision this team doing a ton of damage in March, but it’s still the class of the Big 12. With Self’s track record, I’m expecting to see vintage Kansas show up against the Wildcats on Big Monday. But that game in Norman is a tough one this weekend.

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Big 12 Power Rankings: Week 12

Posted by KoryCarpenter on January 28th, 2013

Right when we thought a team might overtake Kansas in the Big 12 standings (or our power rankings, at least), Kansas State went out and lost two in a row last week, first to Kansas at home and then at Iowa State on Saturday. Both were close games with the Wildcats losing by a combined 10 points, but they lost two games on the Jayhawks in the Big 12 race and fell into a third place tie with Iowa State and Oklahoma. Baylor has quietly started 5-1 in conference play, but the easier part of their schedule is now behind them. The Bears have already swept TCU and have another win over Texas Tech in Lubbock (but hey, that’s more than Iowa State can say). And about those Jayhawks — they are due for a loss, aren’t they? They have been winning close games for the last month it seems. We’ve spiced up the rankings this week with a team’s projected NCAA Tournament seed from Bracket Matrix. Instead of picking a random bracketologist’s numbers, how about averaging out a bunch of mock brackets? The guys at Bracket Matrix do that so we don’t have to, and as many people have been saying lately, there looks to be six NCAA Tournament teams from the Big 12 this year.

The Kansas Offense Hasn't Been Pretty In January, But The Defense Has Helped Keep Their Winning Streak Alive.

The Kansas Offense Hasn’t Been Pretty In January, But The Defense Has Helped Keep Its Winning Streak Alive.

1) Kansas (18-1, 6-0 Big 12)
Previous Ranking: 1
Projected NCAA Seed: #1

Last Week: W 59-55 at Kansas State, W 67-54 vs Oklahoma

This Week: Tonight at West Virginia, 8:00 PM CST, Saturday vs Oklahoma State, 3:00 PM

  • Rundown: The Jayhawks have won 17 straight since losing to Michigan State in November but the offense has disappeared in January. They are averaging 62.2 PPG in their last five games, leading to a KenPom Adjusted Offensive Efficiency of #18. And as we pointed out here, teams that finish outside the top #25 in that category rarely make the Final Four.
  • Cause For Concern: The offense, of course. Last season, point guard Tyshawn Taylor was always there to clean up an ugly offensive possession with a drive to the basket. This team has had point guard issues most of the year. Starter Elijah Johnson has been more of an off-guard during his career and backup Naadir Tharpe is trigger-happy. Freshman Ben McLemore averages 16.2 PPG, but with a shooting percentage of 51%, he needs to take over more games than he does. He’s the best player on the team and one of the five best in the country, so an average of 10 shots a game isn’t enough.

2) Baylor (14-5, 5-1)
Previous Ranking: 3
Projected NCAA Seed: #9

Last Week: W 64-54 vs Oklahoma State, W 82-56 at TCU

This Week: Wednesday vs Oklahoma, 6:00 PM, Saturday at Iowa State 7:00 PM

  • Rundown: The days of losing to teams like Charleston and Northwestern look to be behind them, but the schedule certainly picks up the rest of the way. Eight of their last 12 games are against teams projected to make the NCAA Tournament. The emergence of freshman center Isaiah Austin will help, though. Austin has scored double figures in each of his last 10 games going back to December 12.
  • Cause For Concern: We all know what the Bears are by now, a talented, underachieving squad that could fall on its face in the first round of the Tournament or make the Elite Eight. From where they stand now, the worst thing that could happen to Baylor — or any team for that matter — is to land in the #8/#9 game and play a #1 seed in the second round.

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