Texas Looks to Maintain Balanced Attack in 2k Sports Classic

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 20th, 2014

Over the next week, we’ll be bringing you breakdowns of notable Big 12 teams participating in neutral site holiday events. Today, we look at how Texas shapes up in the 2k Sports Classic in New York, where it will face Iowa tonight and either Syracuse or Cal tomorrow.

Outlook

Texas picked up right where it left off coming out of a successful 2013-14 campaign. It’s only been two games against teams who aren’t going to sniff NCAA Tournament bids this season, but in hanging 85 points on both North Dakota State and Alcorn State in blowout wins, Texas has done nothing to deter the preseason expectation of competing with Kansas for the Big 12 title. The most important development of the short season has been Myles Turner‘s stellar start to his college career. Through two outings, he holds per-36-minute averages of 22.5 points, 11.7 rebounds and 7.2 blocks. That will definitely play. Leading returning scorer Jonathan Holmes has also been steady, averaging 12.0 points and 7.5 rebounds per game, while point guard Isaiah Taylor is in the process of emerging from national obscurity with a terrific all-around skill set.

Get ready to meet Myles Turner in the 2k Sports Classic. (Brendan Maloney/USA Today)

Get ready to meet Myles Turner in the 2k Sports Classic. (Brendan Maloney/USA Today)

Opening Round Preview

One of the best frontcourts in the nation will find a competitive match-up in the Hawkeyes’ rotation, which consists of four players who are 6’9″ or taller. That core should help Iowa improve on its woeful two-point field goal defense from last season, and although it has done so this year in two games against inferior competition, the Hawkeyes still need to prove that they can do the job against quality opponents. To that point, look for Turner, Cameron Ridley and Holmes to test Aaron White, Adam Woodberry and Gabriel Olaseni early, and possibly stretch them out to the perimeter to free up cutting lanes for Taylor and Javan Felix. Defensively, the Longhorns should have the edge inside, so the big question is whether Texas’ backcourt can neutralize Iowa’s long-range attack. Despite losing Roy Devyn Marble from their rotation, the Hawkeyes can still launch it; Anthony Clemmons, Josh Oglesby and Peter Jok can all connect from deep, as can 6’9″ Jared Uthoff. Read the rest of this entry »

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Wooden Award Watch List Features Plenty of Big 12 Talent

Posted by Chris Stone on November 18th, 2014

The 2014-15 Wooden Award Preseason Top 50 watch list released on Monday features 10 players from the Big 12. League favorite Kansas leads the conference with four selections — a number matched only by the top-ranked (and tonight’s opponent in the Champions Classic) Kentucky Wildcats. Five other Big 12 schools are also represented on the list, including Iowa State, Kansas State, Oklahoma, Texas and West Virginia. The conference most recently won the award when Oklahoma’s Blake Griffin took home the honor at the end of the 2008-09 season.

Juwan Staten is one of ten Big 12 players on the Wooden Award Preseason Top 50 watch list.

Juwan Staten is one of 10 Big 12 players on the Wooden Award Preseason Top 50 watch list.

This year’s watch list features three Big 12 freshmen, all of whom were top 10 recruits according to Rivals. Kansas’ Cliff Alexander began the season by playing 12 minutes in a 69-59 victory over UC Santa Barbara last Friday, scoring nine points and grabbing four rebounds behind the more experienced frontcourt players, Perry Ellis and Jamari Traylor. The second Kansas freshman on the list, Kelly Oubre Jr., played only four minutes in Friday’s contest. Oubre has struggled to find his place in Bill Self’s rotation, playing behind sophomore Brannen Greene and freshman Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk and having a minimal impact against UCSB. While Oubre struggled, Texas center Myles Turner opened the season with a bang against North Dakota State, scoring 15 points and pulling down six rebounds in 20 minutes of playing time in the 85-50 victory. He followed up that performance with a 10-point, seven-rebound, six-block game in an 85-53 win over Alcorn State on Sunday night.

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Big 12 M5: 11.17.14 Edition

Posted by Nate Kotisso on November 17th, 2014

morning5_big12

  1. Oklahoma finally got resolution to a major question mark heading into the season when TaShawn Thomas was declared immediately eligible by the NCAA on Saturday night. Thomas nearly did it all in his three years at Houston as a scorer, rebounder and shot-blocker. Now that he will play alongside Ryan Spangler, these two will make yet another lethal frontcourt in the Big 12. On paper alone, one could make arguments as to why Oklahoma, Kansas, Texas and Iowa State each have legitimate chances of making a run to this year’s Final Four.
  2. Last week, we previewed a Texas team facing a potential dilemma in bringing back most of its core while trying to find enough playing time for highly-touted freshman Myles Turner. Turner was impressive in his collegiate debut on Friday night versus North Dakota State and was equally efficient (10 points on 4-of-7 shooting, seven boards, six blocks) off the bench in a subsequent win over Alcorn State on Sunday. At the same time, we should manage our expectations of Turner’s output given the light competition in the first two games. Must… resist… superlatives!
  3. Kansas’ own sparkling freshman Cliff Alexander scored nine points and grabbed four rebounds in 12 minutes in Friday’s opening win against UC Santa Barbara. Alexander, however, is already dealing with an injury early into his college career. He hurt his right wrist on a dunk in Kansas’ second exhibition game and was icing it after the game Friday. Hopefully this doesn’t become a serious issue as the season wears along. Jayhawks fans wouldn’t want to deal with a similar experience to Joel Embiid’s back injury that got progressively worse late last year.
  4. I’m mildly surprised that it took Georges Niang until his junior year to cross 1,000 career points at Iowa State, although he would have definitely passed it in March had he not suffered a season-ending injury. Niang hurdled the 1,000 mark with a 30-point performance on 9-of 15 shooting against Oakland on Friday night. Assuming he continues at his 14.3 PPG pace over the next two years, Niang will reach the 2,000 point milestone in his 138th college game. I’d say that that was food for thought but [/puts sunglasses on] Niang has gotten better with portion control.
  5. The father-son coaching matchup that you may not have heard quite so much about also went down on college basketball’s first weekend. Texas Tech’s Tubby Smith defeated his son, GG Smith, the head coach of Loyola (MD), 71-59 in Lubbock Friday night. Viva The Matadors named freshman forward Norense Odiase as its star of the game, and with good reason, as Odiase put up 16 points, 10 rebounds (six offensive) and three blocks for a squad with very few big men to choose from. Other newcomers like Keenan Evans (10 points, 2-of-3 from three) and Devaugntah Williams (13 points on 4-of-6 from the floor) also made their presences known. Competition will ramp up quickly as Texas Tech travels to LSU as a part of the 24-hour hoops marathon on Tuesday.

 

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Big 12 Preseason Predictions: Standings and First Team Picks

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 13th, 2014

With tip-off mere hours away, we enlisted the Big 12 microsite’s contributors — Kory Carpenter (@Kory_Carpenter), Brian Goodman (@BSGoodman), Nate Kotisso (@natekotisso) and Chris Stone (@cstonehoops) — to stake their claims on how the Big 12 will shake out.

Predicted Finish

The unique thing that has separated the Big 12 from other power conferences over the years is the fact that it hasn’t taken more than three seconds to pencil in a winner. The bulk of the work comes in identifying which team is going to finish behind Kansas, and from there, predicting which of those is going to be in the running for NCAA Tournament bids and in which order. Moving toward the bottom of the standings, we always hold out some hope that Texas Tech and TCU can field a roster capable of making us think twice about putting them in the cellar, but their time hasn’t come just yet. Here are our Preseason Big 12 Predicted Standings.

Standings

Insights

  • No Surprise Here, Kansas is the Team to Beat: Between Bill Self’s track record and yet another top-notch collection of talent arriving in Lawrence, it’s a fool’s errand to bet against the Jayhawks now. It may take some time for Kansas to rise to its ultimate potential, but until proven otherwise, it is the unanimous alpha dog in Big 12 basketball. We’ll leave the bold picks to other outlets.

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Introducing the RTC Preseason All-America Teams

Posted by Walker Carey on November 13th, 2014

With the season tipping off on Friday night, there’s no better time to roll out our preseason All-America Teams. More than anything, these three groups of outstanding players are here to foster and encourage discussion over the next four months. Our crack panel of seven national columnists provided ballots over the last week or so, and this is where we ended up.

First Team All-Americans

FirstTeam

  • Marcus Paige, North Carolina – Paige enters his junior season at North Carolina following a sophomore campaign when the guard take his game to new heights. After a fairly productive freshman season (8.2 PPG), the 6’1″ point guard took home the ACC’s Most Improved Player Award by upping that average to 17.5 PPG as he led the Tar Heels to the NCAA Tournament. Paige’s season was good enough for him to be the first North Carolina point guard to be named first-team All-ACC as a sophomore since Tar Heels’ legend Phil Ford in 1976. Expectations are high in Chapel Hill again this season, and with Paige running the show, it is easy to understand why. Factoid: In an informal poll of college coaches taken by CBSSports.com in August, Paige was named as one of the players the pollsters would most like to have on their team this season. Once coach said of the Tar Heel, “he really doesn’t get enough credit for what he did for North Carolina last season. Won’t surprise me if he’s National Player of the Year.”
  • Juwan Staten, West Virginia – Not many guards can fill up the stat sheet like Staten. The highly productive senior returns for the Mountaineers following a season when he become the first player in West Virginia history to score 500 points (598), grab 150 rebounds (186), and dish out 150 assists (193) in a season. With the offseason transfers of Eron Harris and Terry Henderson, Staten will almost definitely see those numbers rise during his final collegiate season in Morgantown. After a two-year hiatus from the NCAA Tournament, Staten appears primed to lead what one expert is calling an underrated Mountaineers squad back to the Big Dance. Factoid: Following Staten’s first season at West Virginia, Mountaineers coach Bob Huggins gave his guard the assignment of watching tape from two of the great point guards Huggins coached at Cincinnati – Nick Van Exel and Steve Logan.
  • Montrezl Harrell, Louisville – It was a bit of a surprise in April when Harrell announced that he would return to Louisville for his junior season rather than enter the NBA Draft. Cardinals coach Rick Pitino is undoubtedly pleased with his big man’s decision, as Louisville is set to begin its first season in the arduous ACC. With Russ Smith and Luke Hancock gone, Harrell seems to be the best bet to pick up the slack in Pitino’s up-tempo offense. The junior forward has reportedly added what he and his coach call a more consistent 14-to-16 foot jump shot to his offensive repertoire. While that development unquestionably has Louisville fans giddy, it should worry the Cards’ new conference foes. Factoid: Harrell originally committed to Virginia Tech out of high school, but he reopened his recruitment following Seth Greenberg’s abrupt dismissal. A few weeks later, Harrell signed with Louisville and the rest, as they say, is history.
  • Jahlil Okafor, Duke – The Chicago prep superstar-to-Duke pipeline continues as Okafor is set to begin his freshman season in Durham. The consensus number one high school player in the Class of 2014 enters his college career with a tremendous amount of hype. He has been described as “one of the most skilled and poised back to the basket centers to come along in some time.” Duke brought in a star-studded recruiting class to help offset the early departures of Jabari Parker and Rodney Hood, and there is no question that Okafor is the jewel of that class. If the big man turns in the type of season that many expect from him, there is no telling what the ceiling for the Blue Devils could be. Factoid: Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski has already acknowledged that he expects Okafor to be a one-and-done: “We won’t have him long. We’ll have him this year and then he’ll be one of the top NBA picks.”
  • Frank Kaminsky, Wisconsin – Kaminsky entered the 2013-14 season as a relative unknown after averaging just 4.2 points in 10.3 minutes per game as a sophomore. He did not remain an unknown for long, though, as the junior emerged as one of the top big men in the Big Ten, taking home consensus first-team All-Big Ten honors. While his regular season was outstanding, what really turned Kaminsky into a household name was his 28-point, 11 rebound effort against Arizona to send Wisconsin to the Final Four. The Badgers return four starters from that Final Four squad, but none are more important than the seven-foot senior. Factoid: Kaminsky was lightly-recruited coming out of Benet Academy in Lisle, Illinois. In fact, he was a Plan B for the Badgers after one of their top frontcourt targets, Nnanna Egwu, committed to Illinois.

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Big 12 Season Preview: Texas Longhorns

Posted by Nate Kotisso on November 12th, 2014

Throughout the preseason, the Big 12 microsite will preview each of the league’s 10 teams, from worst to first. Today: Texas. 

Texas

Hey look, Rick Barnes magically became a good coach again! Some may have actually had this thought, but no, he didn’t become a terrible coach after one bad season. Those calling for his termination have to remember that Barnes has taken the program to heights not seen since the midway point of the 20th century. It’s hard to believe the same Texas team picked to finish eighth in the Big 12 Preseason Coaches Poll last season won 24 games and made it to the NCAA Tournament’s Round of 32. Now with virtually everyone back on board for another year, the Longhorns are primed to jostle with the Jayhawks atop the Big 12 standings. Just like old times.

Did we mention Rick Barnes won Big 12 Coach of the Year? No? Well yeah, he did. (Troy Taormina/USA Today Sports Images)

Did we mention Rick Barnes won 2013-14 Big 12 Coach of the Year? No? Well yeah, he did. (Troy Taormina/USA Today Sports Images)

Strengths: A team full of freshmen and sophomores at key positions a year ago grew up rather quickly. Most can point to their December win at North Carolina as a turning point in the season. Then you throw in some tournament experience, a blue-chip recruit and a largely intact rotation, this has the makings of a colossal year in Austin. Myles Turner is the blue-chip center out of the Dallas area. The center and forward spots are in capable hands even without Turner but there’s little reason to believe a player of his talent will not have a role carved out for him by Barnes. The fascinating thing about Texas is that they don’t beat you with a star or two. At any time, all five guys on the floor for the Longhorns can beat you in a multitude of ways. Isaiah Taylor showed great polish as a freshman driving and dishing. Jonathan Holmes successfully took on the role as top scorer, rebounder and big shot-maker (see buzzer beater vs Kansas State). A slimmed down Cameron Ridley still clogged up the paint scoring easy buckets, improving at the free throw line and altering shots on the defensive end. Aside from Taylor, Holmes and Ridley, guys like Demarcus Holland, Connor Lammert, Javan Felix and Prince Ibeh were hustling after nearly every rebound (ranked fourth nationally; sixth nationally in offensive rebound percentage per Kenpom) and block (ninth nationally in block percentage per Kenpom). I could understand if a fan of another team became annoyed watching them. They were like a fly that would buzz past your ear every few seconds but you could never find and destroy. It would not be a stretch to expect the same effort this time around.

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The Freshman 15: Preseason Freshman of the Year Watch List

Posted by Alex Joseph on November 12th, 2014

The 2013-14 NCAA freshman class was packed with stars. Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker, Joel Embiid, Aaron Gordon, Julius Randle and Noah Vonleh were all top 10 picks in the 2014 NBA Draft. Not far behind that group were Zach LaVine (No. 13), James Young (No. 17) and Tyler Ennis (No. 18). Will the 2014-15 NCAA freshman class deliver nine first-round draft picks? While it’s doubtful, it’s certainly possible. This is a deep class full of talented players with completely different skill sets. RTC has compiled a list of 15 hopeful freshmen that have a solid shot at winning this upcoming season’s INTEGRIS Wayman Tisdale Freshman of the Year award.

Let’s start with the player most pundits believe will hold up the trophy at the end of the season.

The Favorite

Duke's Jahlil Okafor is the favorite (left) but the guys on the right (Arizona's Stanley Johnson,

Duke’s Jahlil Okafor is the favorite (left) but the guys on the right (Arizona’s Stanley Johnson, Kansas’ Cliff Alexander and Kelly Oubre and UNLV’s Rashad Vaughn) will also be right in the mix.

Jahlil Okafor, Duke – 6’11”, 272 pounds: If it weren’t for Emmanuel Mudiay (who chose to play overseas in lieu of a year of college), Okafor might be the consensus No. 1 NBA draft pick in 2015. Okafor has the size and length (7’5” wingspan) to not only be an interior force on offense, but he’s going to be a solid rim-protector on defense. Don’t be fooled by his weight, either. At 272 pounds, Okafor has surprisingly great mobility and athleticism. His ability to run the floor and his soft hands will make him a prime candidate to receive transition lobs on the fast break. As of now, Okafor is strictly a back-to-the-basket player who needs to develop a consistent mid-range jumper to round out his game. He also needs to work on his free throw shooting, as he figures to spend a lot of time there this season.

In the Discussion

  • Stanley Johnson, Arizona – 6’7”, 235 pounds: Johnson might actually be the most complete player in this class. He is a polished, two-way player and an above-average ball-handler for his size. He uses his high motor skills and never-ending energy to produce in transition, absorbing any and all contact as he makes his way to the rim. The knock on Johnson right now is that he needs to become a more consistent shooter and develop more range. Depending on what Arizona head coach Sean Miller wants to do with him, Johnson could find himself as the starting shooting guard in the Wildcats’ lineup. His versatility allows him to play multiple positions, but if he starts at the two, then he is going to need to become a floor-spacer with consistency. It will be interesting to see how Johnson and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson play next to each other, as they have very similar size and playing styles.

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Big 12 M5: 11.07.14 Edition

Posted by KoryCarpenter on November 7th, 2014

morning5_big12

  1. Good news for Iowa State fans: The Cyclones look to finally be healthy heading into their exhibition tonight against Viterbo University tonight in Hilton Coliseum. From a sprained ankle to mono, as Des Moines Register writer writer Randy Peterson points out, the Cycones have been far from 100% the last few weeks. That changed this weekend for the 14th ranked team in the country. They defeated Minnesota 103-78 last week in a closed scrimmage on Sunday and open the regular season next Friday against Oakland.
  2. Bill Self took some time for a Twitter Q&A on Thursday. Nothing earth-shattering was shared by the Kansas coach, but hey, it’s still the off-season and anything is better than nothing. In case you were wondering, Self said Brady Morningstar was the best perimeter defender he has had at Kansas, Mario Chalmers is the one player he would want taking a last-second shot, and he likes bacon in his grilled cheese sandwiches. He also wants to play at Cameron Indoor Stadium. Good luck getting Coach K to schedule an actual opponent at home, Bill.
  3. In recent years there has always seemed to be a “sexy pick” to finally knock Kansas off the top of the Big 12 standings. Kansas State and Oklahoma State were picked by some the last few years. Not surprisingly, Texas is this year’s pick. Burntorangenation.com previewed the Longhorns this season and asked some good questions surrounding the Texas players. They have a solid core coming back and added one of the best recruits in the country in Myles Turner as well. I don’t think they will have the firepower to dethrone the Jayhawks, but make sure you tune into both (possibly three) meetings, you won’t be disappointed.
  4. From the Not-So-Shocking department, Charleston Daily Mail writer Mike Casazza has a good piece on West Virginia and senior guard Juwan Staten, and how the former will have to rely heavily on the latter if the Mountaineers want to make a serious run at the Big 12 title. The conference pre-season player of the year led the league in points and assists last season and will be shadowed in every game this season. Someone will have to step up if the Mountaineers are to be successful in 2014-15.
  5. Pre-season No. 1 Kentucky and No. 5 Kansas face off again in the Champions Classic in a few weeks, and a Kentucky blogger wrote about what he believes are the three best games in the Kansas/Kentucky rivalry. Not surprisingly, all three games were won by the Wildcats. Kansas fans would probably point to the 150-90 shellacking they gave Kentucky in Allen Fieldhouse in 1989. This year’s game, played in Indianapolis along with Duke and Michigan State, should be another great one. Does Kansas have the talent to keep up with Kentucky? I don’t know, especially this early in the year. But the Champions Classic has been great every year, and this year should be no different.
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Matchup Analysis: Is Texas Built to End Kansas’ Big 12 Dominion?

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 6th, 2014

It’s been 10 long years, but the prominent question in the Big 12 remains the same: Will someone throw Kansas from the mountain top? There have been some fantastic runners-up in the Big 12 over the years and four teams have shared the regular season crown with the Jayhawks, so even if the streak isn’t quite as dominant as it appears, it is still incredible. Impressive as it is, though, consistency can be boring, too. With that in mind, it’s natural to identify the next-best team in the conference at the beginning of the season and ask the question of whether this is the year it can rise to the occasion.

Texas was picked second in the Big 12, but are they built to be the team that dethrones Kansas? (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

Texas was picked second in the Big 12, but are they built to be the team that dethrones Kansas? (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

This season, it’s clear that Texas (on paper) is the second-best team in the conference. You probably know their story, but if you aren’t familiar, the Longhorns return nearly everyone from the campaign that saved Rick Barnes’ job and they fortified a strength with the addition of super-recruit Myles Turner. While rankings aren’t everything, Texas sits at #10 in both the AP and USA Today polls and appears to be about as good as any preseason number two the Big 12 has had over the years. With a double-round robin format in this league, the fate of the conference championship could come down to the head-t0-head battles (January 24 and February 28) between Texas and Kansas, so let’s take a look at those match-ups. To be clear, no team is built with the singular goal of beating another specific team, and any of a number of things could happen that would render this post meaningless, but the possibility is still worth exploring.

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Big 12 M5: 10.24.2014 Edition

Posted by Brian Goodman on October 24th, 2014

morning5_big12

 

  1. It’s been a rough week for complementary players in the Big 12. We’ve talked about D.J. Johnson and Georgois Tsalmpouris being hobbled to various degrees, and Thursday, it was announced that Iowa State transfer Hallice Cooke (formerly of Oregon State) will miss the season to repair cartilage tears in both of his hips. Cooke’s injury won’t have too big an impact this year, as he wasn’t going to play anyway due to NCAA transfer rules, but now, he won’t even be able to practice with his new team. Cooke will have three years of eligibility left starting with the 2015-16 season.
  2. Kansas State guard Marcus Foster admitted that being snubbed by Kansas as a prospect is a motivating factor as he looks to live up to high expectations as a sophomore for the Wildcats this season. In case you aren’t familiar, Foster was a highly sought-after guard before he let his conditioning fall by the wayside. Bruce Weber stuck with him, though, and Kansas State was rewarded for their loyalty with a commitment and the best season from a freshman Wildcat since Michael Beasley. Foster is getting some attention as a Big 12 Player Of The Year Candidate, so it will be interesting to see if he gets off to a fast start next month.
  3. Cliff Alexander and Myles Turner were mentioned by NBC’s College Basketball Talk among 20 impact freshmen around the game this year. Both Alexander and Turner have tremendous strength that should help them power to the basket on offense, but like the vast majority of freshmen at any level of college hoops, both are a little rough around the edges. It will be a lot of fun to see how they match up come conference play, as those tilts could very well decide the fate of the Big 12 race.
  4. This week had been a little quiet on the Baylor front, but not anymore. Late Thursday night, Scott Drew reeled in his fourth commitment of the 2015 class when 6’3″ guard Wendell Mitchell gave a verbal commitment to the Bears. Depending on which scouting service you prefer, Mitchell checks in with either three or four stars. While Baylor hasn’t landed a big fish in the class quite yet, they have some solid pieces on the way and remain in the hunt for the services of 5-star big man Skal Labissiere.
  5. Tubby Smith‘s first season as the head coach of Texas Tech saw his team spring a few upsets, topping Oklahoma State, Oklahoma and Texas during conference play. While there are seven new players on the squad, Smith is hopeful that the team will build on last year’s experience and become a more competitive squad in 2014-15. The ceiling for this team remains limited, but as our Nate Kotisso relayed earlier this week, they have a deep pool of guards that can help lead them to a finish around .500 in league play if things break right.
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Big 12 M5: 10.22.14 Edition

Posted by Brian Goodman on October 22nd, 2014

morning5_big12

  1. Remember yesterday when we said that Kansas State‘s depth down low should be just fine? Well, it may not be so fine after all. It turns out that a broken foot sustained earlier this fall by Wildcats big man D.J. Johnson will keep the junior out for the entire season. Head coach Bruce Weber mentioned at Big 12 Media Day last week that the injury would likely lead Johnson to redshirt the year, but it seems like an even clearer possibility now. Fair or not, Johnson’s absence puts more pressure on Thomas Gipson, Wesley Iwundu and Georgetown transfer Brandon Bolden to stay healthy and productive.
  2. If you lean more towards the statistical and analytical side of things, Jeff Haley has a treat for you with his in-depth breakdown of the 2014-15 Iowa State Cyclones. We’ll have our own preview of Fred Hoiberg’s squad within the next few weeks, but until then, if you’ve ever wanted to know how many two-point jumpers Bryce Dejean-Jones put up for UNLV last season, what Marquette transfer Jameel McKay will bring to the table once he’s eligible, or how Iowa State will be able to maintain its trademark spacing on offense, Jeff’s your guy.
  3. Recently, Rick Barnes took an opportunity to get close to a few fans during Texas‘ open practice. Among other things, we were reminded that big man Myles Turner announced his commitment to the Longhorns while wearing a bucket hat. We’ll leave it to the fashionistas to determine if bucket hats — last considered popular in 1998, or Barnes’ first year at the helm in Austin — are back in style (unlikely), but we will say that if they take off at Longhorns games, you were warned.
  4. NBC Sports’ College Basketball Talk has slotted Oklahoma in as the 15th-ranked team in the country. The Sooners have an interesting look because they have nearly everyone of importance back, but just one senior (D.J. Bennett) figures to be a rotation mainstay, although that will change if transfer TaShawn Thomas is deemed eligible. Either way, Oklahoma is experienced, but it wouldn’t be inaccurate to say that they’re young, either, which is an odd combination. All in all we agree with Rob Dauster’s assertion that there’s a wide range of possibilities for Oklahoma when it comes to their place in the crowded top half of the Big 12, but at this stage, a win or two in the NCAA Tournament is a very reasonable expectation.
  5. Another former Kansas coach went on record about his experience coaching in Allen Fieldhouse: current UNC head coach Roy Williams. Despite the hard feelings some Kansas fans had towards Williams when he left (many of which have been soothed by a national championship and three postseason head-to-head victories), it is clear that the longtime coach still has a special place in his heart for the school and its fans. Williams hasn’t set foot in The Phog since he surprised the college basketball world by leaving Kansas for his alma mater in 2003, but all things considered, the move has worked out well for all parties involved.
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Breaking Down the Top Five Big 12/SEC Challenge Match-ups

Posted by Brian Goodman on June 3rd, 2014

Over the last few years, college basketball has taken some big steps to become more relevant in the national consciousness before non-conference play. The second annual Big 12/SEC Challenge will attempt to drum up some early December interest in basketball before bowl season hits in earnest. The Big 12 won last season’s rendition with seven victories in 10 games and will look to pick up the pieces of its fractured national reputation after a middling March performance. Here’s a quick look at the top five match-ups of next season’s edition.

Cameron Ridley will look to build on an impressive 2013-14 campaign when Texas faces the prohibitive #1 team in the country. (Brendan Maloney/USA Today)

Cameron Ridley will look to build on an impressive 2013-14 campaign when Texas faces the prohibitive #1 team in the country. (Brendan Maloney/USA Today)

  1. Texas at Kentucky (December 5) – Just 12 months ago, Rick Barnes was squarely on the hot seat. Now he finds his team in the Challenge’s marquee game against last year’s national runner-up and what is sure to be the preseason #1 team in the country. Both squads will enter this game with crazy depth, so look for this one to be decided by how each team’s coach handles its pieces at this early juncture. The Longhorns will have a slight leg up on Kentucky in experience with Cameron Ridley, Jonathan Holmes and Prince Ibeh to side with blue-chip prospect Myles Turner,  but much of Kentucky’s frontcourt will be back too after Willie Cauley-Stein, Alex Poythress and Dakari Johnson announced their returns in surprising fashion. The guard battles will be nothing to sneeze at, either, with Javan Felix, Isaiah Taylor and Demarcus Holland going up against the loaded Kentucky backcourt of Aaron Harrison, Andrew Harrison and Tyler Ulis.
  2. Florida at Kansas (December 5) - Andrew Wiggins nearly led the Jayhawks to an improbable comeback in Gainesville last season, but Kansas ultimately fell short in that effort. They’ll have a chance to make it good at Allen Fieldhouse, where despite their overall struggles last season, was a relative safe haven for Bill Self’s team. Wiggins and Joel Embiid are of course now gone, but Kelly Oubre, Cliff Alexander and Sviatoslav Mykhaliuk will step in, and hopefully Bill Self will find a steady point guard who can be relied on to make everything come together. Florida’s Final Four core has moved on as well, so this will be a great chance to see how incumbents Michael Frazier, Kasey Hill, Chris Walker and Dorian Finney-Smith handle a big early test on the road. Read the rest of this entry »
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