Big 12 M5: 01.16.13 Edition

Posted by KoryCarpenter on January 16th, 2013

morning5_big12

  1. It can’t be a good feeling watching your season flash before your eyes, but that’s exactly how Bill Self must have felt when freshman guard Ben McLemore dropped to the floor late in Kansas’ 61-44 win over Baylor Monday night. Gary Bedore of the Lawrence-Journal World reported it was a grade one ankle sprain, and Self said he is hopeful that McLemore will only miss a few days, theoretically giving him enough rest before the Jayhawks’ next game against Texas on Saturday. The 6’5″ guard from St. Louis is averaging 16.4 PPG and 5.4 RPG this season and has shot up NBA Draft boards recently, even being discussed as the possible #1 overall pick in next June’s draft.
  2. Speaking of Bill Self, he will be inducted into the Oklahoma Sports Hall of Fame in August, KUAthletics.com reported Monday. Self grew up in Edmond, Oklahoma, and later played at Oklahoma State from 1982-85. He was named the Oklahoma High School Player of the Year in 1981 and was named to the All-Big 8 Freshman team a year later. He worked under Eddie Sutton from 1986-93 and began his head coaching career in the same state, first at Oral Roberts and then at Tulsa until 2000. He recruited the bulk of the 2004-05 Illinois team that made the national championship game, won the 2008 national championship at Kansas, made another appearance in the title game last season, and is on his way to a ninth consecutive Big 12 regular season championship. Hall of Fame worthy? Yeah.
  3. It’s not as if a coach would ever admit to losing control of his team, but for what it’s worth, Rick Barnes refuted any such claims Monday. “We have a group of guys who want to be good,” Barnes told the Austin American-Statesmen. “They are willing to work. I’m not worried about ever losing them.” They may want to be good, but the Longhorns are far from a good team right now. Barring a big upset, they will be 0-4 in Big 12 play after Saturday’s game against Kansas. Myck Kabongo is still out for nearly another month, and leading scorer Sheldon McClellan played just one minute in Saturday’s 20-point loss to Iowa State.
  4. Kansas State senior guard Angel Rodriguez is good, but his coach just wishes he were more consistent. He is second on the team with 9.5 PPG and leads the Wildcats with 4.4 APG, but he is prone to boneheaded plays, like fouling out 90 feet away from the basket against Oklahoma State, as Kellis Robinett of the Wichita Eagle points out. Bruce Weber insisted to Robinett that Rodriguez can’t play the game like he is by himself on the court. “He’s part of the team,” Weber said. “He’s got to keep it in the system.” Even with his inconsistent play at times, Rodriguez has helped lead the Wildcats to a 13-2 record and #16 overall ranking. They face TCU tonight and Oklahoma on Saturday before a big home game against Kansas next week.
  5. Korie Lucious had his two highest turnover games in the first six weeks of the season, committing seven TOs on opening night to Southern and seven more in a loss to intrastate rival Iowa on December 7. He also had six turnovers in a losing effort to Cincinnati on November 23. The senior guard has settled down since then, turning the ball over more than four times just once since that game against Iowa. Not surprisingly, the Cyclones are a banked three-pointer away from being 6-o since facing the Hawkeyes. “I like the way they flow,” Rick Barnes told the Des Moines Register last Saturday. “They share the ball. They do a lot of good things.” The Cyclones are sixth in the country with 82.5 PPG and 15th with 16.9 APG, both largely credited to improved play from Lucious.
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Big 12 M5: 01.14.13 Edition

Posted by KoryCarpenter on January 14th, 2013

morning5_big12

  1. Kansas struggled during the first half against Texas Tech on Saturday in Lubbock, and Lawrence-Journal World columnist Tom Keegan didn’t like the Jayhawks’ energy level in their 60-46 win over the Red Raiders. It was the second straight sluggish game for Kansas, which needed a Ben McLemore banked three-pointer with one second remaining in regulation to force overtime against Iowa State last week, a game the Jayhawks eventual won. And while few people questioned whether Kansas would beat Texas Tech (They led just 27-25 at halftime), it has now been three games in a row where Kansas has either struggled for large parts of the game or has been in danger of losing late. Baylor visits Lawrence tonight, and the Allen Fieldhouse crowd should give Kansas the usual boost it provides for big games. But if not, the Bears have enough talent to take advantage of sloppy play, something you might not be able to say for Texas Tech, Iowa State, or Temple.
  2. I read the headline of this column by John Helsley of the Oklahoman and immediately thought, ‘Oklahoma State has more issues than just struggling on the road,’ and a minute later, I read similar sentiments from Helsley. As he says, the Cowboys have lost 20 of 21 road games in conference play and have begun this season 0-2 on the road after losses at Kansas State and Oklahoma. But it’s becoming more clear each day that the win over then #6 North Carolina State in November was more of a mirage then we thought. The Cowboys rank in the triple-digits nationally in PPG (70.6), RPG (36.7), APG (12), and field goal percentage (44.3). Their roster of talented players like Marcus Smart, Le’Bryan Nash, and Markel Brown is nice, but this isn’t the 1996 Bulls we’re talking about, either. They aren’t incapable of free-falling into irrelevance, and unless their road woes cease to exist, that might be exactly where the Cowboys are headed.
  3. West Virginia lost a close one to Kansas State last week after playing without second-leading scorer Juwan Staten for the second straight game for disciplinary reasons. The Mountaineers are 8-7 and will be lucky to make the NIT this season, so it’s not completely surprising Bob Huggins is having personnel problems. Losing seasons can make for hostile environments sometimes. It’s hard to say whether Staten’s off-the-court problems are one of the reasons the Mountaineers have struggled this season, or the Mountaineers struggling is giving Huggins plenty of opportunities to teach lessons without fear of losing meaningful games. Who knows? We do know one thing, however. The 2012-13 season won’t be a campaign Huggins looks back on with admiration.
  4. It’s still early, and as Tulsa World columnist John E. Hoover points out, Oklahoma has only three wins combined the last three Februarys, but with each win the Sooners are looking more and more like an NCAA Tournament team. The real test will come next month, it seems, but right now Oklahoma is 11-3 with a very winnable game against Texas Tech coming up on Wednesday. With four games remaining against Texas Tech and TCU, it’s not hard to find another eight or nine wins on the regular season schedule, getting them right around the 20-win mark and in a good spot to hear their name called on Selection Sunday.
  5. Texas is 0-3 to start Big 12 play, and regardless of how good you think sophomore point guard Myck Kabongo is, his return on Feb. 13 won’t suddenly erase all the problems the Longhorns are facing right now. They lost to back-to-back overtime games to West Virginia and Baylor to open the conference season and were blown out by Iowa State in Ames on Saturday. The Longhorns can’t score this season. There are literally 300 teams with a better shooting percentage this year (302 to be exact). Not only that but head coach Rick Barnes seems to be having problems with effort. But don’t take my word for it. “He went in, first play of the game, gave up an offensive rebound,” Barnes told the AP about benching Shelden McClellan against Iowa State. “We’re not going to continue to talk about coaching effort.” Horrific shooting. No starting point guard. No effort.
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Texas’ NCAA Tourney Hopes Slipping Before Kabongo’s Return

Posted by dnspewak on January 10th, 2013

Myck Kabongo is not walking through that door. Not until February 13, at least. His Texas team must play eight more games before he returns from his NCAA-mandated  suspension, and by that time there’s a very real possibility the Longhorns could have an overall losing record. Without their star point guard, they’ve managed to reach the midway point of the season with an 8-7 record, fresh off two straight conference losses to open the Big 12 schedule. The hard-fought, overtime loss at Baylor this weekend was excusable.

Last night was not. Texas blew a 10-point lead over West Virginia with less than four minutes to play in regulation, needed a miracle shot by Jonathan Holmes to simply force overtime and then scored three points in the extra period. The Longhorns shot 44 percent from the free throw line, 35 percent from the floor, and had almost twice as many turnovers (14) as assists (8). It’s a good road win for Bob Huggins, whose team needed a boost after its own nightmarish non-conference performance, but let’s not pretend as though Texas’ collapse had nothing to do with this. Without Kabongo, Rick Barnes’ team cannot score. Period. We knew J’Covan Brown wouldn’t be here this year. But Kabongo? He figured to be the heart and soul of this team, the one guy who could create for others and change the dynamic of the offense. Barnes was counting on him to open opportunities for leading returning scorer Sheldon McClellan, blue-chip freshman center Cameron Ridley and the rest of this young squad.

Rick Barnes Is In Danger of Missing the NCAAs for the First Time at Texas

Rick Barnes Is In Danger of Missing the NCAAs for the First Time at Texas

Had Kabongo played last night, there’s no chance Texas would have lost this game on its home floor. There’s no chance it would have blown such a significant lead in the final minutes, and there’s no chance it would have scored three points in an overtime period. When he returns against Iowa State on February 13, this Texas team will transform itself. Kabongo certainly wasn’t perfect a year ago, but this guy changes the game when he steps on the court. His blend of pure athleticism, pure speed and play-making ability is rare for a point guard. Kabongo will have eight games to prove that when his suspension ends in about a month.

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Why it’s a Travesty OU’s Sam Grooms Isn’t Seeing More Time

Posted by dnspewak on January 7th, 2013

When the Big 12 released its 2011-12 All-Conference teams last March, it included a who’s who of elite, nationally-recognized point guards. Tyshawn Taylor of the national runner-up Kansas Jayhawks made the first team. The dynamic Pierre Jackson of Baylor made the second team. Missouri’s Phil Pressey, the league’s leader in assists, made the third team, star Texas freshman Myck Kabongo earned an honorable mention, and the voters even named MU’s Michael Dixon the Sixth Man of the Year.

Why Has Grooms' Time Decreased This Season?

Why Has Grooms’ Time Decreased This Season?

Sam Grooms did not make that list. At all. Not even an honorable mention for the Oklahoma point guard. And when the 2012-13 preseason awards came out this fall, he didn’t make that list, either. Jackson and Kabongo did, but the Big 12’s returning leader in assists was nowhere to be found. Entering this season, it seemed perplexing how much people ignored Grooms and discarded him as a second-rate point guard in this league. Other than Pressey, who moved on to the SEC and was named that league’s preseason Player of the Year, no player in the Big 12 averaged more assists than Grooms a year ago when he dropped six dimes per game. His assist-to-turnover ratio was a stunning 3:1. When Big 12 play heated up, the junior college transfer emerged as a true floor general in spite of his team’s inability to win a basketball game. The statistics tell the entire story. In a five-game stretch last February against the likes of Kansas, Iowa State, Missouri, Texas Tech and Texas, he dished out 43 assists against 11 turnovers and even notched a career-high 17 points against the Tigers. Lon Kruger told a local newspaper Grooms was doing a “terrific job.” Even though Oklahoma’s season ended with a thud with a loss in the opening round of the Big 12 Tournament, it was clear Grooms had nothing to do with the Sooners’ slide. On the contrary: He was the bright spot on a 15-16 team. His command for the point guard position and feel for the game was all so promising as Kruger attempted to build for the future. Nobody knew much about Grooms, but we did. I even named him the eighth-best player in the entire conference as he entered his senior year.

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Big 12 M5: 01.04.13 Edition

Posted by dnspewak on January 4th, 2013

morning5_big12

  1. It’s not too often you see Baylor on the bad side of recruiting news, but Scott Drew’s 2014 class took a hit when Leron Black announced his de-commitment from the Bears this week. Black, a 6’7” forward from Memphis, originally made a pledge to Drew in September, but he said he rushed the decision, so now he’s re-opened his options to just about every other major program in college basketball. Interestingly, Black was Drew’s only 2014 commitment, but there’s no reason to think he’ll shun Baylor entirely at this point. It’s just that the Bears have some competition now.
  2. Jason King always knows the ins and outs of the Big 12, so here’s a nice read on the state of the league heading into conference play this weekend. No surprises with Kansas atop the conference, but King makes a notable argument hidden in the middle of his article. He said he “wouldn’t be surprised if [Iowa State] finished as high as second in the Big 12 standings.” Makes you wonder, doesn’t it? Lost among Kansas State, Oklahoma State and Baylor, it’s easy to forget that Fred Hoiberg’s three losses all came away from home to good competition, including UNLV and Cincinnati. The Cyclones slammed BYU, too, and they’re getting much better play from point guard Korie Lucious after a difficult start to his Iowa State career. We need to see more from ISU before picking it above any of the aforementioned contenders, but it’s clearly a step above the bottom-dwellers and has serious potential.
  3. Iowa State’s non-conference season may not have gotten much attention, but that’s because nothing significant really happened. It wasn’t terrible, and it wasn’t great, either, so nobody said a word. That’s not the case for West Virginia, which actually has the worst record in the league at this point and had to suffer through a nationally-televised debacle at Gonzaga to start its season. According to at least one website, however, maybe the Mountaineers are OK after all. That article points out that West Virginia’s RPI ranks seventh in the Big 12 and its strength of schedule is fourth. Of course, nobody’s going to hang a banner for ranking seventh out of 10 teams in a league, and Bob Huggins’ team has no wins of note unless you think beating Virginia Tech by a point on a game-winner by Juwan Staten is notable. The Hokies subsequently lost by 36 to Colorado State and 26 to BYU, so that should tell you something. Yes, the Mountaineers are indeed in bad shape, and they’ll need a terrific Big 12 season to make up for it. Not just good — that won’t cut it. They need to be world-beaters.
  4. Did Myck Kabongo get a fair shake in the court of public opinion? After reading this well-done piece, we’re not so sure. For weeks, every media outlet has painted Kabongo as some sort of liar to the NCAA, and that’s why he originally received a season-long ban from the governing body. After more facts emerged and the NCAA amended his suspension to 23 games, it’s apparent now that Kabongo lied, but not to the NCAA. He lied to Texas officials. Is that as bad as lying to the authority? We’ll let you decide that. Either way, the fact that most jumped to the conclusion that Kabongo lied to investigators shows that not everybody knew the real story at the start of this whole ordeal.
  5. Bill Self is a basketball coach. Nothing’s ever good enough for basketball coaches. So while we gush about Kansas’ defense, Self isn’t impressed. Here’s the full quote for your enjoyment:  “I’ve watched us play (on film). People are saying too much about our defense. It’s not that good. It’s not… Of all the possessions we have defensively in a game, I guarantee you, 50 percent are bad possessions compared to 50 percent good possessions. The result may end up good because they may miss a shot or they may fumble the ball or make a bad pass or something that doesn’t have much to do with us. I think the biggest area of improvement for us would have to be the defensive end.” And there you have it. Pretty harsh words for the team allowing the fifth-lowest field goal percentage in all of college basketball.
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Morning Five: 01.04.13 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on January 4th, 2013

morning5

  1. Now that non-conference play is essentially done Seth Davis decided to release his annual Buy, Sell, and Hold column. Our microsites are in the process of releasing their responses to Seth’s ratings for the team’s within each conference so be on the lookout for those throughout the day. As for our general overview, as Seth notes he is “bullish” on this year’s field going with 19 “Buys”, 13 “Sells”, and nine “Holds”. We are not exactly sure how the three teams widely considered the best in the country right now (Duke, Indiana, and Louisville) are all listed as a “buy” since that theoretically means that all are being undervalued at this time. We are not sure what kind of market Seth believes in, but it sounds like Seth may not be a disciple of the Chicago school, but instead favors a Zimbabwean model. We wonder what Lanny would have to say about that.
  2. When John Calipari released a series of posts on Wednesday night mentioning something special on Thursday morning we were expecting something ridiculous like the videos he posted of the housing for Kentucky basketball players several months ago. Instead, he  posted a fairly in-depth article about how closely he is monitoring his players. Although this lacks the “wow” factor that we have come to expect from Calipari’s surprises it is an interesting look at the level of detail top programs tend to go through in training there players (we doubt that Calipari is really as far ahead of other coaches as the media would have you believe outside of his social network wizardry).
  3. If you want to see what happens to a coach when his athletic director changes direction on him, check out what happened to Josh Pastner yesterday during his radio interview with Gary Parrish. Recently, Pastner has made multiple comments essentially saying that the rivalry between Memphis and Tennessee was dead and that he didn’t see the need to continue the rivalry. Unfortunately for Pastner, the school and the athletic director had a change of heart and appear to be working on a deal that would extend the rivalry. The result is that Pastner is left having to answer questions for the media about his prior comments. Obviously, Pastner could have handled this much better by simply not being as controversial with his original comments, but it will be interesting to see how Tennessee fans treating him going forward.
  4. Jabari Parker may have kept his recruiting under wraps in terms of letting the media know what was going on, but he did not keep it as “in the family” as he and his father originally stated. According to Parker he also talked to Derrick Rose about the recruiting process and Grant Hill about recovering from his foot injury. While both Rose and Hill are/were great players we are not sure that we would have talked to them about those topics unless we wanted to learn from their mistakes (Rose for the SAT fiasco and Hill for the seemingly unending series of setbacks that curtailed a promising career).
  5. The NCAA has already handed down its ruling in the Myck Kabongo case and although most people have moved on Burnt Orange Nation has a few questions about the entire saga. As they openly admit Kabongo is far from blameless here, but instead takes a look back at the sequence of events that led to the NCAA deciding to suspend Kabongo for a seemingly arbitrary 23 games. As they note the facts in the case do not appear to add up to a suspension of that length particularly since Kabongo allegedly lied to school officials not NCAA officials. While the article’s parent-police analogy may be stretching it a little, it does provide an interesting basis for the argument and serves to raise interesting questions as to how the NCAA made its decision.
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Big 12 Power Rankings: Week Eight

Posted by KoryCarpenter on December 31st, 2012

With schools on Christmas break and a lot of teams giving players a few days off to travel home for the holidays, it was a slow week in the Big 12.  There were only eight games this week, highlighted by Baylor’s 94-87 loss at Gonzaga Friday night. The rest of the schedule was the usual end-of-December no-name games against teams like American and UMKC as teams prepare for the conference season’s start on Saturday. Kansas remains on top of the power rankings for another week after dismantling an overmatched American squad in Allen Fieldhouse Saturday night. The Big 12 microsite staff couldn’t agree on Oklahoma State and Kansas State at No. 2, and the trio of Texas, Oklahoma, and Iowa State were tied for fifth place, so we went to KenPom to settle the score. To reiterate the ranking process, I can’t speak for Danny and Nate but my vote isn’t like a Top 25 ballot where teams are almost automatically moved up or down each week with a win or loss. So Baylor lost to Gonzaga in Spokane. Do I think Iowa State or Oklahoma would have fared any better? If the answer is yes, I vote accordingly. If not, then the Bears might not slip because of the loss. With that out of the way, here is where we stand in week eight:

1) Kansas (11-1, 0-0)
Previous Ranking: 1

With no changes in a slow week in the Big 12, Bill Self's Jayhawks remain at No. 1 in our Power Rankings this week. (Photo credit: AP Photo).

With no changes in a slow week in the Big 12, Bill Self’s Jayhawks remain at No. 1 in our Power Rankings. (Photo credit: AP Photo).

Last Week: W 89-57 vs. American

This Week: Off

  • Rundown: Kansas did what it was supposed to do against American on Saturday in a glorified scrimmage. Bill Self is notorious for vastly improving his teams over the winter break when practice times are less limited, and this year is no different. The Jayhawks have been improving steadily since the close wins over San Jose State and Oregon State at the end of November, winning their last five games by an average of 26.2 PPG.
  • Interesting Stat: Jeff Withey has been so imposing defensively that teams have basically given up trying to score on him lately. In the last five games, Kansas opponents have attempted 23.6 three-pointers per game. And unless you are playing against Reggie Miller and Ray Allen on the perimeter, I think any team would gladly let its opponents shoot that often from deep.

2) Oklahoma State (8-1, 0-0) (KenPom No. 27)
Previous Ranking: 2

Last Week: Off

This Week: Today vs. Gonzaga, 5:00 PM ESPN, Saturday at Kansas State, 12:30 PM

  • Rundown: Gonzaga is 4-0 against the Big 12 this season, looking to make it five wins tonight in Stillwater. Gallagher-Iba Arena should be jumping tonight with the Bulldogs in town, and a Cowboys win would create a definite gap between themselves, Kansas, then everyone else in the conference.
  • Interesting Stat: Even with the talented duo of LeBryan Nash and Marcus Page, the Cowboys have not shot the ball well this year (44.2%), but they are the No.3 adjusted defensive team on KenPom.com. Their 81-71 loss to Virginia Tech on December 1 was the only time an opponent has scored over 65 points against them this season. Five teams have failed to reach 50 points against the Cowboys.

3) Kansas State (10-2, 0-0) (KenPom No. 48)
Previous Ranking: 3

Last Week: W 52-44 vs. UMKC

This Week: Today vs. South Dakota State, 1:oo PM, Saturday vs. Oklahoma State, 12:30 PM

  • Rundown: Kansas State struggled against UMKC last week, eventually winning by just 12 points. The Wildcats shot 32.1 % from the field against the Kangaroos, but I will consider it a letdown after beating then No. 8 Florida in Kansas City the week prior. 
  • Interesting Stat: Like Oklahoma State, Kansas State does not shoot the ball well (41.4% on the season) but they still have Frank Martin’s identity. They have grabbed 206 offensive rebounds this season (17.1 ORPG).

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Big 12 M5: 12.27.12 Edition

Posted by KoryCarpenter on December 27th, 2012

morning5_big12

  1. If the annual conference realignment fiasco has taught us one thing, it’s that the NCAA doesn’t have as much power as it once did. Coaches and media members have hinted at the idea of the major conferences and schools eventually breaking away and doing things their way, without the dozens — hundreds in basketball’s case — of small schools taking a piece of the pie. When that time draws near, stories like the Myck Kabongo investigation will not help the NCAA’s case. The NCAA is more inconsistent than midwestern weather. One player accepts cash from a booster and gets a 10-game suspension. Another player catches a ride from someone and has to sit out three games. Kabongo took a flight and worked out with NBA personnel and is suspended for 23 games. Some coaches are punished for putting schools on probation. Other coaches bolt to different jobs and win championships at blue bloods without a scratch.
  2. If you want to see what some of your favorite former college players are up to, go watch an NBA D-League game sometime. It’s a great place to pick up some “Where Are They Now” trivia questions. If you can’t stomach that (I wouldn’t blame you) take a look at the end of a college team’s bench and you might recognize a few young coaches who were recent players. Former Oklahoma State guard Keiton Page turned down the chance to play professionally overseas to begin his coaching career on the ground floor. He’s now the Cowboys’ assistant strength and conditioning coach, a title that wouldn’t surprise me if told it was created just for him. He seems to be using the opportunity as an internship for a coaching career, and this opportunity should provide him plenty of experience in the next few years.
  3. Gary Parrish’s Poll Attacks is back this week, and he doesn’t like the fact that Bruce Weber’s Kansas State team is still unranked in the Coaches poll. It’s hard to argue with any of Parrish’s points on the Wildcats, either. I figured they would debut in both polls after beating a top 10 Florida team in Kansas City last Saturday night. They got the 25th spot in the AP Poll, but are still behind New Mexico and North Carolina in the “Others Receiving Votes” category of the Coaches poll. As Parrish points out, it is hard to find a reason to put North Carolina ahead of Kansas State right now. Luckily, we have this tournament at the end of the year to settle things.
  4. Former top-rated recruit Josh Smith seems to have eaten his way out of UCLA. He struggled with his weight during most of his career with the Bruins and looked to be north of 300 pounds most of the time. He left the school not too long ago and is looking to end his career at one of three schools: Georgetown, Washington, and Kansas. Bill Self has been churning out NBA big men for years now and Kansas strength coach Andrea Hudy is one of the best in the country. Self and Hudy (and former assistant Danny Manning, too) turned Marcus and Markieff Morris from skinny reeds to solid NBA scorers. Cole Aldrich went from a clumsy tall guy to a lottery pick, and current center Jeff Withey is only the best defensive player in the country. If anyone can get Smith’s weight down and turn him into a legitimate player who can stay on the court, it is the duo of Self and Hudy.
  5. Luke Meredith of the Washington Times finally noticed what we have been saying here at RTC for a while now: The Big 12 is anything but deep this season. Can Oklahoma State challenge Kansas for the regular season conference title? That is about the only compelling discussion around the league right now. West Virginia and Baylor have underperformed. Texas has, too, but at least the Longhorns have a good reason. Kansas State looks to be good for a few upsets this season but that might be it. None of the middle-of-the-road teams like Iowa State or Oklahoma have surprised anyone either, leaving us with the Jayhawks on track to win their ninth consecutive conference title and roll to another top seed in the NCAA Tournament. Someone feel free to make things interesting.
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Big 12 M5: 12.26.12 Edition

Posted by KoryCarpenter on December 26th, 2012

morning5_big12

  1. After beating eighth-ranked Florida on Saturday, Kansas State made its debut in the AP Top 25 poll on Monday, coming in at #25. Oklahoma State jumped from #24 to #22, and Kansas\’ road win at Ohio State vaulted the Jayhawks from ninth to sixth in this week\’s poll. With the Cowboys off this week and only American and UMKC on the schedules of Kansas and Kansas State, respectively, all three teams should remain ranked into the new year.
  2. Last week, Seth Davis of Sports Illustrated wrote about his favorite college basketball stories of 2012. Not surprisingly, Kansas\’ 87-86 overtime win over Missouri on February 28 made the list. Missouri won the first meeting at home and held a 19-point second half lead in Allen Fieldhouse, shocking the 16,300 Kansas fans into silence. As everyone remembers, Kansas came back, forced overtime, and won possibly the greatest game the border rivals had ever played. Now with Missouri in the SEC, that rivalry is on hold probably until the teams are someday matched up in the NCAA Tournament.
  3. Jeff Goodman and Gary Parrish listed their 10 National Player of the Year Candidates yesterday on CBSSports.com, and Kansas center Jeff Withey came in currently at No. 4. They call him \”arguably\” the best defensive big man in the nation, but you would be hard pressed to find anyone in the post better defensively. He is averaging 8.3 RPG and 5.0 BPG to go along with his 14.1 PPG. He leads the country with 3.9 blocks per foul and has yet to commit more than three fouls in a single game this year, meaning that he\’s on the floor when KU needs him the most.
  4. High school superstar Shabazz Muhammad has yet to live up to his preseason hype, but he finally cracked the CBSSports.com Freshman of the Year watch yesterday at No. 5. The Big 12 has two of the five representatives on the list: Kansas guard Ben McLemore is second after scoring 22 points and six rebounds in Saturday\’s 74-66 win over Ohio State. He is averaging 16.5 PPG on the season. Oklahoma State guard Marcus Smart follows McLemore at third, averaging 12.5 PPG, 6.4 RPG, and 5.1 APG. He is also averaging 2.7 SPG and has led the Cowboys to a 10-1 record so far this season.
  5. Jay Bilas has never been afraid to voice his displeasure with the NCAA, and Saturday\’s broadcast of Texas-Michigan State was no different. Before the game the NCAA had announced that sophomore point guard Myck Kabongo\’s season-long suspension had been reduced to 23 games. As usual, Bilas held nothing back with his criticism, noted here in a USA Today article from the weekend. Kabongo will be eligible to return on February 13 against Iowa State, and whether that is too late to mesh with his teammates remains to be seen.
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Big 12 Power Rankings: Week Seven

Posted by KoryCarpenter on December 24th, 2012

Don’t look now, but the Big 12 might not be as awful as we thought. Big wins by Kansas, Kansas State, and Texas this week helped improve the conference’s reputation, for now at least. The biggest surprise came Saturday night as Kansas State entered as 11-point underdogs to Florida in nearby Kansas City. The Wildcats won the game by six over the much-hyped Gators to improve to 9-2 on the year. Kansas was a rare five-point underdog as well on Saturday afternoon in Columbus against Ohio State, but the Jayhawks eventually won, 74-66. And then there was Texas, who has struggled most of the year without point guard Myck Kabongo in the lineup. The Longhorns beat North Carolina at home last Wednesday in a game that was not close. Yes, the Tar Heels are overrated, but it was a nice win for a Texas team that badly needed one.

1) Kansas (10-1, 0-0)
Previous Ranking: 1

Last Week: W 87-59 vs. Richmond, W 74-66 vs. Ohio State

This Week: Saturday vs. American, 7:00 PM

The Jayhawks are flashed their Final Four potential in beating Ohio State on the road (Photo credit: Getty Images).

The Jayhawks Flashed their Final Four potential in beating Ohio State on the road (Photo credit: Getty Images).

  • Rundown: Last week, Bill Self said his team’s season would start Saturday against Ohio State. The Jayhawks beat the Buckeyes for the third time in 13 months and left Columbus as legitimate national championship contenders.
  • Feather in the Cap: If Ohio State keeps winning, Saturday’s road win over the Buckeyes will look great for Kansas on Selection Sunday. The Jayhawks’ defense was nearly unstoppable, thanks in large part to center Jeff Withey. His shot-blocking ability kept the OSU players on the perimeter most of the game, where they took bad shots repeatedly and finished with just 66 points.

2) Oklahoma State (10-1, 0-0)
Previous Ranking: 2

Last Week: W 69-44 vs. Texas-Arlington, W 78-42 vs. Tennessee Tech

This Week: Off

  • Rundown: I kept the Cowboys at No. 2 this week because of their overall resume to date (certainly not because of wins over Texas-Arlington and Tennessee Tech), but Danny had Kansas State in this spot. When tied, we turn to KenPom for the final verdict, and his ratings have Oklahoma State at 18th in the country. The Cowboys are third in the country in adjusted defense, behind only Kansas and Louisville.
  • Feather in the Cap: North Carolina State is not the top 10 team that the Cowboys beat last month, but it was still an impressive win for head coach Travis Ford. Oklahoma State will have another chance at a resume-building win this week on New Year’s Eve, as No. 14 Gonzaga comes to Stillwater.

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Big 12 M5: Christmas Eve Edition

Posted by KoryCarpenter on December 24th, 2012

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  1. After initially being suspended for the entire season, an NCAA appeals committee lessened the season-long penalty for Texas sophomore guard Myck Kabongo to 23 games on Friday, which includes the 11 games he has already missed. The report stated that Kabongo allegedly accepted personal training and flights from  NBA agent Rich Paul and his associates before lying to officials about his involvement. Kabongo will be eligible to return against Iowa State on February 13, but it is hard to say how much of an impact he will be able to have on the Longhorns at that late point in the season.
  2. There were plenty of questions surrounding this Kansas team heading into this season as the Jayhawks looked to capture its ninth consecutive Big 12 regular season title. Would center Jeff Withey make the jump in production like so many Jayhawks big men before him? Was redshirt guard Ben McLemore as good as advertised? Would there be enough pieces in between to help Kansas compete at their usually high level? Up until now, the answers are yes, yes, and yes. With the Big 12 clearly down this year, most expected Kansas to win the regular season championship again. But that didn’t necessarily mean they were primed for a deep run in March. Saturday’s convincing eight-point win against No. 7 Ohio State in Columbus and the beatdowns they have been giving opponents in the weeks leading up to that game have made it clear this Kansas team will (again) contend for the national title.
  3. Bruce Weber was successful at Illinois, but the bulk of that success came with Bill Self’s players. As everyone knows, he was fired after last season and landed at Kansas State. He took over for a popular coach in Frank Martin and was tasked with the tough job of coaching 90 miles down the road from in-state rival Kansas. The Wildcats have been winning the games they were supposed to, but had also lost badly to the two decent teams they had faced, Michigan and Gonzaga. It’s safe to say that Bruce Weber needed Saturday’s upset win over No. 7 Florida to relieve a little stress heading into the holidays.
  4. Yahoo! Sports writer Jeff Eisenberg also noticed the impressive win by the Wildcats, mentioning them in his “Stocks Rising and Falling” column on Sunday. K-State’s stock is rising, he claims, and it is hard to disagree. While one win is not enough evidence to predict a conference championship (or even to predict they will contend for the title), it does give the Big 12 one more team to look out for. And in a season full of disappointments so far (I’m looking at you, West Virginia and Baylor), the conference could use all the help it can get.
  5. Sports Illustrated‘s Seth Davis mentioned something in an article Saturday that has been overlooked so far this season. Baylor guard Brady Heslip’s three-point percentage has dropped from 45.5% last season to 34.9% this year. In losses to Colorado and Northwestern, Heslip shot just 30 percent (3-of-10). The Bears have enough talent and athleticism to win the Big 12 and reach the Final Four, but they are playing like a team like could reach the other Final Four, in Madison Square Garden. Heslip’s poorer shooting stroke this season isn’t the only reason the Bears have struggled, but it is certainly one of the reasons.
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Who Won the Week: Duke, UC Irvine and Texas (sorta) …

Posted by Kenny Ocker on December 21st, 2012

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Who Won the Week? is a regular column that will outline and discuss three winners and losers from the previous week. The author of this column is Kenny Ocker (@KennyOcker), an Oregon-based sportswriter best known for his willingness to drive (or bike!) anywhere to watch a basketball game.

WINNER: Duke

Mason Plumlee has led Duke in rebounding 10 times in 11 games as the Blue Devils are 11-0 while ranked third in strength of schedule. (AP Photo)

Mason Plumlee has led Duke in rebounding 10 times in 11 games as the Blue Devils are 11-0 while ranked third in strength of schedule. (AP Photo)

The week couldn’t have gone much more perfectly for the Blue Devils than it did. Achieve top ranking? Check. Land a top recruit? Check. Win both games handily? Check and check. Yes, Duke should probably send some flowers to Butler for knocking off preseason favorite Indiana, but who would have looked at the two teams before Saturday and thought the Hoosiers were better? Outside of the state of Indiana, I’m guessing few would. The Blue Devils (11-0) have the nation’s best body of work, and have dominated it in such a fashion that they look to be the nation’s top team convincingly, and this is before prized prospect Jabari Parker picked Mike Krzyzewski’s squad over Michigan State and BYU. On the court, Mason Plumlee, who has led Duke in rebounding 10 times so far, carried his team to an 88-47 win over Cornell with 18 points and nine rebounds Wednesday and followed that up the next night with 21 points and 15 boards in a 76-54 win over Elon. And as an added bonus, the youngest Plumlee, freshman Marshall, already made a brief return to the court against Cornell coming back from a foot injury.

(Related winners: Mason Plumlee, Butler. Related losers: Indiana, Michigan State, BYU, Cornell, Elon, and especially North Carolina – more to come.)

LOSER: Eastern Kentucky

The Ohio Valley’s Colonels started their season off hot, winning nine straight games before a weekend matchup at also-undefeated Illinois. The major-conference team expectedly pulled Eastern Kentucky apart, winning 66-53, but it was what happened next that wrapped up a bad week in Richmond, Ky. On a rare road trip to a MEAC school, the Colonels were tripped up by North Carolina A&T, who pounded the ball inside while shooting 55 percent from the field and stifling Eastern Kentucky’s guard-oriented offense by holding it to 40 percent shooting. The Bulldogs also nearly doubled up the Colonels on the glass, sealing the game. So much for a hot start.

(Related winners: North Carolina A&T, the 457 Bulldogs fans who watched the game in person. Related losers: Murray State and the Ohio Valley Conference, which both need every break they can get come March.)

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