Big 12 Power Rankings: Baylor is Losing its Mind Edition

Posted by Nate Kotisso on January 27th, 2014

Here was a team that was picked to finish third in the Big 12 by the league’s 10 coaches. They fought their way to the Maui Invitational championship game where they lost to a still-unbeaten Syracuse team. They didn’t seem phased by arguably the best recruiting class in decades against Kentucky, beating the Wildcats on a neutral floor in Arlington. But for whatever reason, Baylor currently stands at 1-5 in the Big 12 with two-thirds of league action still to play. Granted, two of those losses came at Iowa State and at Kansas, but the Bears haven’t been able to take care of business at home either, falling to Oklahoma on January 18 and Texas over the weekend. But hey, if it took six games to get us all freaking out over Baylor, it’s entirely possible they can turn their season around in the final 12 contests, right? (Right?!) Well last week, our power rankings had two groups of two that found themselves tied. We did better this time around: only one!

As best told by this photograph, there are a lot of things not going Scott Drew's way lately. (Rod Aydelotte/Waco Tribune-Herald)

As best told by this photograph, there are a lot of things not going Scott Drew’s way lately. (Rod Aydelotte/Waco Tribune-Herald)

1. Kansas — 4 points (previous: 1st; Brian, KoryNate & Taylor: 1st)

Comment: “What can be said about the Jayhawks that hasn’t already been said? Wayne Selden Jr. has been a different player since Big 12 play began and Andrew Wiggins had a career-high of 27 points against TCU. Curious to know how Joel Embiid’s knee is after bruising it in the second half Saturday. Based on how little media coverage it got after the TCU game, it probably isn’t serious.” – Nate Kotisso (@natekotisso)

2. Oklahoma State — 10 points (previous: 2nd; Brian, Nate & Taylor-2nd, Kory-4th)

Comment: “Marcus Smart played his worst game of the season, as this chair would tell you if it could, you know, talk. No matter, though, since the Cowboys still beat the Mountaineers.” – Brian Goodman (@BSGoodman)

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Oklahoma versus Kansas State Already with Bubble Implications

Posted by Nate Kotisso on January 14th, 2014

Before I start, a quick shout-out to the Big 12 schedule makers for giving us great match-ups seemingly every night conference games occur. They deserve raises.

It'll be a contrast in styles when Lon Kruger's Sooners take on Kansas State. (Jason Bean/Las Vegas Review-Journal)

It’ll be a contrast in styles when Lon Kruger’s Sooners take on Kansas State. (Jason Bean/AP Photo)

You’ve seen and heard this before: The Big 12 has the best conference RPI in the country. In his latest bracketology, Jerry Palm has seven teams from the Big 12 making the field of 68, more than any other league. So the next biggest Big 12 Game of the Week of the Night gives us Oklahoma at Kansas State, the result of which will go a long way in figuring out how soft the NCAA Tournament bubble will be in two months. The Wildcats and Sooners are polar opposites of each other. Literally. Oklahoma leads the Big 12 in points per game (87.0 PPG) while Kansas State is dead last in that category (67.2 PPG). K-State is tops in the league in scoring defense (59.8 PPG) while Oklahoma sits at the bottom of the conference (79.2 PPG). It’s one of those “something’s gotta give” games.

Oklahoma’s four-guard lineup has been confusing for opponents to defend, as the Sooners run the floor, shoot from long range (38.4 percent from three as a team), and rebound well (fourth in the Big 12). Ryan Spangler, the lone ranger on the interior, is currently the second-best rebounder in the conference (9.2 RPG). Kansas State, on the other hand, appears to be more conventionally constructed with two bigs and three guards. The one-on-one match-up on which to focus tonight is Oklahoma’s Buddy Hield versus Kansas State’s Marcus Foster. Hield is averaging 20.6 points and 5.6 rebounds per game in Big 12 play while Foster was recognized as the Big 12 Newcomer of the Week a week ago.

Before Saturday’s loss to Kansas, the Wildcats were on a 10-game winning streak which included wins over George Washington, Gonzaga and Oklahoma State. They are fortunate enough to have another important and winnable game at home here, but going forward, they’ll need to add additional credible road wins to their portfolio. The Sooners, despite a soft non-conference schedule, already have two marquee wins in Big 12 play: at Texas on January 4, and Saturday’s home win against Iowa State.

You can watch the Sooners and Wildcats tangle tonight at 7:00 ET on ESPN2. Something’s gotta give.

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Big 12 Power Rankings: Kansas is Finally Finding Itself

Posted by Nate Kotisso on January 13th, 2014

Going into last Wednesday’s game against Oklahoma, Bill Self told his players that conference play was a “new season” and that everything would be “fresh and new from this point forward.” The young Jayhawks have heeded that message so far, getting past the Sooners and soundly beating Kansas State on Saturday. With a 2-0 start in the Big 12, we all figured they would rise in this week’s power rankings, but by how much? Is your top 10 shaped differently than ours? That’s what the comments are for.

It appears safe to close the panic button for Bill Self and the Jayhawks. (AP Photo)

It appears safe to close the panic button for Bill Self and the Jayhawks. (AP Photo)

1. Kansas — 6 points (previous: 3rd; Brian-1st, Kory-1st, Nate-3rd, Taylor-1st)

Comment: “It’s looking like Kansas’ non-conference struggles were nothing more than one of the youngest teams in the country playing one of the toughest schedules in the country. The Jayhawks have looked good the last two games and now have four legitimate threats to have a big game any on night: Andrew Wiggins,  Perry Ellis, Joel Embiid, and Wayne Selden.” – Kory Carpenter (@Kory_Carpenter)

2. Iowa State — 7 points (previous: 1st; Brian-2nd, Kory-2nd, Nate-1st, Taylor-2nd)

Comment: “I didn’t feel like I should drop the Cyclones in my top 10 — they lost to a pretty good Oklahoma team by five on the road. The winner of Kansas-Iowa State tonight will likely take my top spot next week.” – Nate Kotisso (@natekotisso)

3. Oklahoma State — 13 points (previous: 4th; Brian-3rd, Kory-3rd, Nate-4th, Taylor-3rd)

Comment: “Travis Ford’s squad avoided a disastrous start to conference play by knocking down a big three late to give them the win in Morgantown. If the Cowboys would have dropped two of their first three in league play to teams in the middle tier of the conference, they could have kissed their Big 12 title hopes goodbye.” – Taylor Erickson (@tc_erickson)

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Four Takeaways From Oklahoma Ending Iowa State’s Unbeaten Season

Posted by Nate Kotisso on January 12th, 2014

Oklahoma came into its game against Iowa State with a bad taste in its mouth. The Sooners led for much of the first half against Kansas on Wednesday, but a late spurt from the Jayhawks just before halftime gave them a lead they wouldn’t relinquish. The Cyclones came in as one of five teams with an undefeated record and had convincingly taken care of Baylor earlier in the week. Here are four things we learned from Iowa State’s visit to Oklahoma on Saturday.

OU's Cam Clark came into the Iowa State game leading the Big 12 in scoring. He only had 12...and the Sooners still won. (Tim Heitman/USA Today Sports)

OU’s Cam Clark came into the Iowa State game leading the Big 12 in scoring. He only had 12… and the Sooners still won. (Tim Heitman/USA TODAY Sports)

  1. Oklahoma Picked Their Poison and Chose Wisely: It’s easy to feel overwhelmed against a team like Iowa State. They can shoot, rebound, run the floor well and don’t turn the ball over much. So the game plan for Lon Kruger was to “surrender” the paint in favor of guarding the perimeter with all their might, and it worked. The Sooners, ranked 234th in Division I in two-point field goal percentage defense, according to KenPom, worked with their small lineup and allowed Melvin Ejim, Georges Niang, DeAndre Kane and Dustin Hogue to get plenty of good shots in the paint, which they made. But ISU misfired on 20-of-26 attempts from three-point land. Will other Big 12 opponents take note of this strategy? Read the rest of this entry »
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Oklahoma’s High-Powered Offense Provides Some Hope in a Crowded Big 12 Race

Posted by Alex Moscoso (@AlexPMoscoso) on December 10th, 2013

A month into the new season, the Big 12 may be more crowded at the top than originally thought. Perennial favorite Kansas is the most talented team, but the Jayhawks have looked vulnerable as their stud freshmen have shown that they are not immune to growing pains. After several signature wins, some other conference teams such as Oklahoma State, Iowa State and Baylor have proven that they too will have the talent to compete with Bill Self’s squad. One Big 12 team that may be flying under the radar and could make some noise come conference play is Oklahoma. Lon Kruger’s young team is currently 8-1 with no bad losses — the single defeat was to Michigan State – and it may also have one of the best offenses in the league.

Lon Kruger

Lon Kruger has the Sooners playing well, but it’s crowded at the top of the Big 12. (AP)

In October, the Big 12 Preseason Media Poll selected the Sooners to finish fifth mostly due to the fact that Kruger had lost his top three scorers from the year before (Romero Osby, Steven Pledger, and Amath M’Baye) and did not have any immediate impact recruits to fill the void. Because of this, Oklahoma’s starting lineup consists of one senior, Cameron Clark, and four underclassmen. This was supposed to be a transition year for the Sooners, but after 27 years of success spanning six schools, maybe we should have had more faith in the underrated head coach. Those underclassmen who were supposed to take this year to transition into bigger roles are all averaging double-figure points per game and have converted the Sooners into the 13th most potent offense in the country, scoring 87.4 PPG. The reasons: They run their offense at a fast pace and score at a high rate. The young Sooners average 74.9 possessions per game (eighth nationally) and score 1.14 points per possession (25th).

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Oklahoma Has a Favorable Match-up in its First Tournament Game Since 2009

Posted by Nate Kotisso on March 20th, 2013

Jeff Capel had it working in Norman. Building off the success of his predecessor Kelvin Sampson, Capel took the Sooners to consecutive  NCAA Tournament appearances in 2007 and 2008. Heading into practice, the 2008-09 season had all the makings of a season to remember. The Sooners boasted the future #1 pick of next year’s NBA Draft coupled with Willie Warren, a McDonald’s All-American from Dallas, not to mention the return of veteran contributors Taylor Griffin and Tony Crocker. They won 30 games that year before eventually losing in the Elite Eight to eventual national champion North Carolina.

Since 2009? Nothing.

For the first time since this guy suited up, the Sooners are dancing. (Joe Murphy/Getty Images)

For the first time since this guy suited up, the Sooners are dancing. (Joe Murphy/Getty Images)

But it was only a matter of time before a program like Oklahoma would rise again. Lon Kruger, known as a fixer of ailing programs, has the Sooners dancing in just his second season in Norman. As the Sooners hovered around the middle of the Big 12 this year, they were searching for a leader and found it in senior Romero Osby, He’s playing the best basketball of his career, and I believe that had he not made the step from role player to lead, the Sooners may have been on the outside looking in with this Tournament. After struggling to start the year, another senior, Stephen Pledger, has turned it on as well. Oklahoma finds itself as the #10 seed in the South Region paired with #7 seed San Diego State. As a result, OU can conceivably win its first foray back into the Madness since those Griffin brothers were still wearing red uniforms together.

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