The Five Big 12 Players and Coaches Under the Most Pressure This Season

Posted by Kory Carpenter on October 21st, 2013

With a new season comes new expectations across the Big 12. And pressure. Some coaches and players will be under more scrutiny than others as the season tips off next month, but more than a few will be dealing with it all season. Let’s take a look at the five people facing the most pressure in the Big 12 this year:

Rick Barnes

Rick Barnes' Seat is the Warmest in the Big 12

Rick Barnes’ Seat is the Warmest in the Big 12

When you type ‘Rick Barnes’ into a Google search, the first suggestion is ‘hot seat.’ That’s not a good sign for the 15-year head coach of the Texas Longhorns. Barnes is an interesting case because he coaches at a school with the facilities and recruiting advantages of a top 15 program but the expectations of a Missouri Valley school, it seems. He has brought in plenty of talent to Austin, including Wooden Award winners T.J. Ford and Kevin Durant. Ford and Barnes led the Longhorns to the 2003 Final Four, but that was now over a decade ago. Since then, Barnes has been to two Elite Eights and advanced past the first weekend only one other time. In the last five seasons, he has won as many NCAA Tournament games (two) as Florida Gulf-Coast. That’s not a good look for someone with the advantages Barnes has at his disposal at Texas. And with the transfer of would-be returning scorer Shelden McClellan as well as the head-scratching departure of sophomore Myck Kabongo (who subsequently went undrafted over the summer), Barnes does not appear to have the roster capable of silencing any critics.

Marcus Smart

Last season Smart averaged 15.4 PPG, 5.8 RPG, and 4.2 APG while earning Big 12 Player of the Year honors as a true freshman. He was also expected to be a top-five selection in the NBA Draft, so it shocked most of us when he decided to return to Oklahoma State for his sophomore season. Earlier this week, however, he told John Helsley and Gina Mizell of The Oklahoman that re-fracturing his wrist in the NCAA Tournament loss to Oregon kept him from dribbling a ball until May, making him a bit uneasy about entering the NBA at less than 100 percent. With motives like that, it makes his decision to return less surprising and more logical, thus taking some pressure off the 6’4″ guard. But being expected to duplicate his fantastic freshman campaign won’t be easy.

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Morning Five: 10.11.13 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on October 11th, 2013

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  1. In a week full of trash talk, hype machines and other nonsense, how about this for a heartwarming story of substance? ESPN.com‘s Andy Katz revealed the story of Robert Kirby, a 53-year assistant coach at Memphis who recently donated one of his kidneys to his sister, Virginia Kirk, as she gradually slid toward renal failure. It was similar to the conditions that took their mother’s life some 17 years ago, but she wouldn’t allow any of her 13 children to become a donor. Kirby wasn’t about to allow that to happen to his older sister this time around, so after become approved as a match, he underwent the procedure to remove the kidney on Tuesday and was went back home yesterday. He’ll be back on the sidelines at Memphis very soon, perhaps a few ounces lighter but no worse for the wear. Major props are due for the longtime assistant still looking for his first head coaching job, but if his selflessness in this situation is any indication of his integrity and loyalty, we hope some enterprising school in need of a head coach next April gives him a good look.
  2. While we’re on the subjects of perseverance and selflessness, America’s favorite bench-warmer in last year’s Final Four is well ahead of schedule in his rehabilitation. Kevin Ware, the Louisville guard who broke his leg so horrifically in last year’s Elite Eight contest against Duke, is, according to his head coach, going to be in uniform for the Cardinals’ first regular season game against College of Charleston on November 9. Rick Pitino stopped short of saying that Ware would play in that game, but considering that he’s already been practicing and still has several weeks left to prepare for his return, we’d have to believe that there’s a reasonably good chance that he’ll be play in that game. And while all anybody really wants is for Ware to find his fortitude so that he can contribute again, the fact is that Louisville is a better team when he can bring his energy, speed and defensive intensity off the bench.
  3. For years we’ve derided the fact that what we still call “Midnight Madness” really doesn’t have much in the way of midnight associated with it anymore. For those of you who may not remember how it was named in the first place, it had to do with the NCAA’s mandated start of practice, which for many years was at the stroke of midnight on October 15. In later years the NCAA moved the start date to the weekend closest to October 15, and of course now teams can have it in late September. All this maneuvering has taken some of the fun out of it, so we’re always looking for the new and creative ways that schools choose to celebrate the new season. Cincinnati is one school trying something different. The Bearcats will have their “Midday Madness” next Friday, October 17, at Noon in downtown’s Fountain Square. The event, featuring some light scrimmaging and fan-friendly competitions, will be open to the public and will provide a nice fall afternoon respite for the office drones working nearby. Sure, it’s a little hokey, but it is a creative way to reach fans in a way that UC otherwise wouldn’t. We like it, and wish more schools would follow their lead in coming up with interesting ideas.
  4. Over the last five seasons, Steve Fisher’s San Diego State program has averaged a total of 27 wins per year as he has built the program into one of the very best in the west. He’s done so on the backs of stars such as Kawhi Leonard, Jamaal Franklin, Chase Tapley and a host of others, but none of those players were exceptionally rated prospects when they arrived on campus. That may be changing, with news on Thursday that Rivals.com top-20 recruit Malik Pope (Elk Grove, CA) has committed to SDSU. Kansas and Gonzaga were also in the mix for Pope, but the 6’9″ wing (you read that correctly) was impressed with how Fisher’s program didn’t back off of him when he broke his leg twice in the last eight months (the injuries will cost him his senior year). San Diego State’s class is already among the best in program history, and if the Aztecs lock down their final target, Zylan Cheatham, it would be safe to call this group a top 25 class that would benefit the school for years to come.
  5. The last time Kansas did not win at least a share of the Big 12 regular season title was in 2003-04, Bill Self’s first season in Lawrence. The Jayhawks finished two games behind a Tony Allen and John Lucas III-led Final Four Oklahoma State team. Ten years later, Big 12 coaches are not about to make the mistake of leaving KU off the preseason top line in the league standings, even if the roster features zero returning starters. Oklahoma State, on the other hand, returns five starters to a young squad led by NPOY candidate Marcus Smart. So what did the coaches do? They split the difference. Kansas and Oklahoma State received the same number of votes (77 total, five first place votes each), ensuring that proper respect was given to both the team with the most returning talent and the team with the most incoming talent. It will be a mighty fun race in the Big 12 this season. Oh, and the Rick Barnes dead man walking watch? Eighth.
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Morning Five: 08.08.13 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on August 8th, 2013

morning5

  1. We mentioned in this space yesterday that Jahii Carson along with Marcus Smart were not only two of the best point guards in college basketball, but that they are also both rising sophomores who have already publicly stated that next season will be their last in the amateur ranks. Both players are likely to have All-America campaigns ahead of them, but Smart in particular is on everyone’s short list as a NPOY candidate, and with good reason. The latest published results of a poll of coaches from CBSSports.com staff shows that Smart is the most coveted player in all of the land, coming in with a bit more than one-third of the vote (34%). Next on the list was Creighton superstar Doug McDermott (24%), followed by wunderkind Andrew Wiggins at Kansas (15%). A number of other players received votes, including Ohio State’s Aaron Craft, Michigan’s Mitch McGary and Syracuse’s CJ Fair, but the naming of five other freshmen after Wiggins reveals just how strong this year’s incoming class is perceived to be. One notable omission from the list was Louisville’s Russ Smith (his teammate Montrezl Harrell actually received a vote instead), but as the article notes, the choices make clear that coaches value experience and sustained leadership over unproven (or sometimes unstable) commodities. While all this conjecture is great, it’s ultimately meaningless until we start the games in November.
  2. And what about those games, the reason we all watch these players in the first place? Wednesday was a good day for folks like us — fans of the sport who like to have concrete games on the schedule to sink our teeth into. ESPN released its Big Monday lineup for 2013-14, and the most notable thing about the 16-game set over eight weeks is that the new slot of ACC games at 7:00 PM ET considerably resembles vintage Big East offerings. The Big 12 still carries the 9:00 PM slot (Andrew Wiggins, anyone? Kansas is involved in half of the broadcasts), but half of the ACC Big Monday games will involve teams who were still Big East entities as recently as 40 days ago. One game in particular — Notre Dame vs. Syracuse on February 3 – comes straight from the old Big East rivalry playbook. Welcome to the new ACC, indeed. Now can we get a west coast flavor at Midnight ET to sweeten the deal even further, like we used to have with the Big West and UNLV slotted there once upon a time?
  3. Some other interesting scheduling news hit on Wednesday surrounding the build-up and planning for Super Bowl XLVIII in New York City, as it appears there will be a basketball extravaganza at the World’s Most Famous Arena on the Saturday before the NFL’s title bout. Madison Square Garden, in partnership with Fox Sports 1, will host a hoops triple-header to give people in town for the football game a little something to feast on beforehand. St. John’s will play an as-yet-undetermined Big East opponent in the early afternoon slot (Marquette is rumored to be that team), followed by a blockbuster Georgetown-Michigan State match-up in the late afternoon, and capped off with an NBA tilt between the Knicks and the Miami Heat in the evening. It’s an impressive lineup, for certain, and is suggestive that programmers of college basketball really need to learn to capitalize on those empty weekends starting in late January and through to mid-March… before March Madness hits in earnest and captures the attention of everyone else.
  4. Is it too early to already be looking forward to games the following season? We’re talking about 2014-15 here, but hey, it’s a light news cycle. It’s always, always, always a good thing when top 10 programs meet in non-conference match-ups during the regular season, and it appears we’re going to have a good one when regional rivals Louisville and Indiana will face off in the Jimmy V Classic on December 9, 2014. Although the two rosters are likely to look considerably different than they do even this coming season, both Tom Crean and Rick Pitino are recruiting so well that you can count on this being a fantastic game. Even if it won’t tip off until some 16 months from now.
  5. It must have been Pac-12 preview Wednesday around the interwebs yesterday, as both ESPN.com and SI.com featured the much-maligned basketball league with a summer update post. The WWL’s piece is more comprehensive in scope, but Andy Glockner’s writeup is the better read. They both have high hopes for Sean Miller’s Arizona Wildcats, while agreeing that the league as a whole is once again on the uptick after a period from 2010-12 that was as bad as many have ever seen. There’s a lot of good information in both pieces, though, so we suggest that you check it out lest you find yourself come November wondering why the league has three or maybe even four teams ranked in the preseason AP poll.
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Morning Five: 07.17.13 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on July 17th, 2013

morning5

  1. We’re more than officially in the dog days of summer but only the truly committed scribes work all summer covering the sport we love. Seth Davis is one national commentator who came out of his slumber this week to report from Las Vegas with a Hoops Thoughts column on Michigan’s Mitch McGary. The rising sophomore took the college basketball world by storm last March, going from a role player to a key cog for John Beilein’s national runners-up, but as McGary explained to Davis: “So far I’ve only cracked the glass. Next year I’m trying to break through it.” The piece delves into some of McGary’s lesser-known history, specifically his struggles with academics as a result of ADHD, his workout and diet regimen that he enabled midway through last season to give himself a shot at more mobility (and playing time), and his non-decision to enter his name into the NBA Draft because he simply enjoys college life. Great read, especially in mid-July.
  2. Another likely star returning to school for 2013-14 is Oklahoma State’s Marcus Smart, fresh off a FIBA world championship in the U-19 division. USA Basketball announced its National Team Mini-Roster on Tuesday, and the rising sophomore Cowboy was the only collegian of 29 players selected. The group of mostly young, rising NBA stars will meet in Las Vegas to compete next week, although no roster spots on Team USA are officially up for grabs. This is simply an opportunity for the players to prove themselves against their peers for future international events. Smart of course is unlikely to make the men’s national team roster for the Worlds in 2014 or the Olympics in 2016, but playing against the likes of Ty Lawson, Mike Conley, George Hill, Kyrie Irving, Kemba Walker and John Wall at his point guard position cannot hurt his overall development. Watch out, Big 12.
  3. Louisville‘s visit to meet President Barack Obama will occur next week, on July 23 at the White House. The school waited a bit longer than normal to schedule the event, so that players Montrezl Harrell and Luke Hancock could attend the event after stints in summer international tournaments. While in The District, the team will also make time to tour the Capitol Building with senator and minority leader, Mitch McConnell (R-KY). When McConnell isn’t busy tormenting his Democratic opposition in the back rooms of DC, he spends quite a bit of time in Louisville taking in the Cardinals’ biggest games. Although as far as celebrity fans go, we’ll stick with Ashley Judd 70 miles down the road. Sorry, Mitch.
  4. Tuesday was the start of SEC Football Media Days, and why do we care? Well, in large part because South Carolina head coach and immodest rabble-rouser Steve Spurrier again went on record stating that the entire SEC — according to him, all 28 football and basketball coaches — is in favor of payments to their revenue-producing players. The stipend he mentioned yesterday amounts to approximately $3,600 per player per year and a little over a quarter-million dollars in annual costs — a relative pittance in a business that regularly deals with annual budgets in the eight- and nine-figure range. And why wouldn’t they want to pay players? It would give them yet another carrot in the recruiting wars against some of the smaller schools and conferences, while correspondingly eliminating much of the regulatory nonsense with monitoring and enforcing illegal benefits that amount to a night out for dinner and a movie.
  5. While on the subject of football crossing over with basketball, Colorado quarterback Shane Dillon announced on Tuesday that he is giving up the gridiron effective immediately so that he can pursue his passion on the hardwood at another school. A 6’5″ wing in high school where he averaged a robust 25/12 for Christian High School in southern California, Dillon suffered a shoulder injury and was looking at starting next season third on the depth chart for the Buffaloes. He asked Tad Boyle if he had room for him on his team, but all the scholarships were filled and Dillon isn’t willing to walk on. He’ll look to make his transfer decision in the next few weeks, with a school in the WCC and Big West perhaps his most likely destination.
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Rushed Reactions: #12 Oregon 68, #5 Oklahoma State 55

Posted by rtmsf on March 21st, 2013

RTC_final4_atlanta
RTC is reporting on the NCAA Second Round games at the San Jose pod today.

Three Key Takeaways.

Oregon Is a Dangerous Team As a Clearly Underseeded #12

Oregon Is a Dangerous Team As a Clearly Underseeded #12

  1. The Ducks Were No #12 Seed. And they played like it. From the opening tip of this game, Dana Altman’s team played with a moxie and a poise that said, “no way in hell are we a #12 seed!” A lot of pundits suggested that the Ducks would play today as if they had been slighted, and they did. They stepped on Oklahoma State’s neck early, running out to a 19-12 lead and never really looking back. OSU struggled shooting the ball throughout, ending up with a brick-laying 39% performance. For every mini-run from the Cowboys, Oregon always had some kind of an answer — it was clear to everyone in the building, and many of those were Oregon partisans, that the Ducks were the better team. We’re not sure what the NCAA Selection Committee was thinking with that #12 seed, but this proves even more than before how much of a whiff that decision was.
  2. Marcus Smart, Not Impressive. (note: after the game, Smart’s right hand was wrapped in ice and he said it was “killing him.” – even if the injury gave him problems after that point in the game, he still could have performed better prior to that point) I voted for Smart as the National Freshman of the Year for the USBWA last weekend, and after this performance — 14 points on 5-of-13 shooting, eight rebounds, four assists, five steals, and five turnovers — I’m not sure what to think. He filled the stat sheet, sure, but he never once really wowed me with either his game or his leadership. I know he’s probably capable of much more, but a truly great point guard gives his team what it needs to succeed. Today, Oklahoma State needed him to go off for 25 points because his typical scoring mates such as Le’Bryan Nash (10 points) and Phil Forte (five points) weren’t actively involved.
  3. Dominic Artis is Back and Oregon is a Different Team Because of It. Oregon rose to the top 10 in America driven by its dynamic point guard Dominic Artis before his midseason injury. In the last two weeks as he’s worked his way back into the lineup, he hasn’t looked quite as dynamic or on top of his game as he had before the injury. In the last six games, for example, he had scored a total of 20 points and grabbed two steals. Today against Oklahoma State, though, he scored 13 points and ripped off four steals from a very athletic backcourt. When Artis is performing like this along with contributions from Kazemi and Dotson, Oregon is very tough to beat. Certainly as Oklahoma State found today.

Star of the Game. Arsalan Kazemi, Oregon. If you can forgive his two #rimstuff missed dunks today, he was the best player on the floor for the Ducks. He was obsessively active around the rim on both ends, grabbing a ridiculous 17 rebounds (six offensive) while also going for 11 points in the win. His teammates Damyean Dotson and Dominic Artis were also instrumental to the victory, but Kazemi as the transfer senior wasn’t going to waste his opportunity to get an NCAA win for the first time in his career.

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The RTC Podblast: Episode 14.5

Posted by rtmsf on February 22nd, 2013

Welcome to this week’s RTC Podblast, hosted by Shane Connolly (@sconnolly114). In a week full of competitive and interesting games, the guys focus in on the three biggest of the slate — Michigan State-Indiana, Kansas-Oklahoma State, and Florida-Missouri, while looking ahead to a weekend of action slightly better than last. As always, the weekly outline is below, so feel free to jump around to the place that most suits your interest…

  • 0:00-6:19 – Kansas in the Big 12 Driver Seat Yet Again
  • 6:19-13:45 – Indiana Cements Itself as Top Team
  • 13:45-15:33 – Florida Reminds Us Not to Trust Them
  • 15:33-17:57 – Preview Big Weekend in the A-10
  • 17:57-19:17 – Creighton and Saint Mary’s Headline Last BracketBusters
  • 19:17-20:57 – Another Week Another Exciting MW Game
  • 20:57-23:16 – End of a Big East Battle at the Carrier Dome/Wrap
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Big 12 M5: 12.27.12 Edition

Posted by KoryCarpenter on December 27th, 2012

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  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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RTC Top 25: Week 1

Posted by KDoyle on November 19th, 2012

Week one is in the books. There is already a fair amount of movement within the rankings, as well as a few teams making appearances in the Top 25 after not being on the radar in the preseason. The big story is, of course, Shabazz Muhammad is eligible to play for UCLA. As such, the Bruins rose in the rankings despite a near-miss performance against UC Irvine. Meanwhile, NC State took a significant hit after a blowout loss to Marcus Smart and Oklahoma State. The Cowboys make an appearance in the Top 25 after not even receiving votes in the preseason poll.

This week’s QnD after the jump…

Quick ‘n Dirty Analysis.

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ATB: Oklahoma State’s Freshmen Rise Up, Ohio State’s Scoring Imbalance, and Colorado Flexes Some Muscle…

Posted by Chris Johnson on November 19th, 2012

Chris Johnson is an RTC National Columnist. He can be reached @ChrisDJohnsonn

Your Weekend Lede. Nonleague Tournaments Offer Raw But Exciting Brand of Hoops. The best teams don’t peak in November. They use the non-conference season as a testing lab to kick around various formations and tactical tweaks. They fashion early judgments on rotation splits and playing time allotments. The college basketball season is a process that involves building and maturing over a four-month period, rounding into form around late February, then peaking in time for the postseason. Most squads are far from finished products. So the basketball you see being played in exempted tournaments across the country in recent days isn’t nearly as crisp or fundamentally sound as the fine-tuned brand of tourney hoops. Think of early-season tournaments as more as barometers for improvement: Based off its performance, each team gets a decent sense of the progress of its development, and how much tweaking needs to be done before conference play. Sloppy or not, nonleague play gives us no shortage of storylines. Here are a few that stuck out over this pre Feast-Week weekend.

Your Watercooler Moment. Another Big 12 Contender Throws Its Hat In Ring.

The Cowboys look invigorated by the arrival of Smart, and it showed in Sunday’s big win over NC State (Photo credit: AP)

Talent is the primary governing force of college basketball. It is the lifeblood of any successful team. Sure, you can do without it, but a marginally-talented team will only get you so far. We saw the tremendous implications of talent with last year’s Kentucky team, when three preternaturally-gifted freshmen carried the Wildcats to a national championship. And we saw it Sunday night, when Oklahoma State – led by sophomore forward Le’Bryan Nash and freshman guard Marcus Smart, both top-10 recruits in consecutive years – routed NC State to take first prize in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off. Much was made this preseason about NC State’s talent, and without doubt, the Wolfpack have it in droves. What separated the Cowboys Sunday was their defense. Travis Ford’s team held C.J. Leslie, Lorenzo Brown, Rodney Purvis and the rest of the Wolfpack to just 35.5 percent shooting. Leslie, a likely future first-round draft pick and a popular choice on preseason All American lists and top-player rankings, finished just 1-for-5 from the field with two points. Poor shooting helped doom the Wolfpack, to be sure, but for a team that entered this game missing several key players due to injuries (Brian Williams, John Paul Olukemi) and/or unsuspected departures (Cesar Guerrero), this counts as a massive victory over an ACC contender that the Cowboys can bank for the rest of the season. I’m not sure Ford could have drawn up a more favorable start to his tenure-defining season. If Nash and Smart continue to connect on this level, and the Cowboys can replicate Sunday’s defensive effort to any effect, the Big 12 title race could be more undecided than once believed.

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Morning Five: 11.16.12 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on November 16th, 2012

  1. While one prominent Pac-12 incomer awaits the NCAA’s decision on whether he’ll see the floor this year, another one received his eligibility papers on Thursday. Oregon’s Arsalen Kazemi, a Rice transfer and former all-CUSA forward, has been cleared to suit up for the Ducks effective immediately, which means that we’re likely to see him in uniform against Vanderbilt tonight. The addition of Kazemi to a talented Oregon front line consisting of Tony Woods, EJ Singler and Carlos Emery is a major coup for Dana Altman right at the start of the season. In a league already fighting hard to regain national relevance this season, this good news for Oregon puts the Ducks at the head of the list of about six Pac-12 teams in the second tier behind Arizona and UCLA who realistically have designs on an NCAA Tournament bid.
  2. So Kazemi is in, Shabazz Muhammad is still out, and a whole host of other players around the country are sidelined as well for a number of different reasons. Andy Glockner lists the most prominent of the group and you could probably make a decent run at the national title with several different iterations of the talent sitting on benches around the country right now. From Providence’s Kris Dunn (injury) to Missouri’s Michael Dixon (team suspension) to St. Louis’ Kwamain Mitchell (injury) to Texas’ Myck Kabongo (NCAA investigation) to Miami’s Durand Scott (impermissible benefits) and on and on, many teams around the nation cannot be fairly evaluated at this point in the season because they’re playing at significantly less than full strength. Injuries are an unfortunate byproduct of the game, but many of the players on the list are there because of their own mistakes — here’s hoping all of them make it back into lineups sooner than later.
  3. One player who at the time of this writing we’re crossing our fingers for is Oklahoma State’s JP Olukemi, who left the Cowboys’ game against Akron on Thursday afternoon with a left knee injury that his head coach Travis Ford characterized as not “look[ing] good.” Just two weeks ago Olukemi was given an eligibility waiver by the NCAA that allowed him to play a full season (rather than just the fall semester), and now if worst comes to worst, he might be forced to miss part or all of the entire season. Last year he played in only 13 games before suffering an ACL tear on New Year’s Eve against Virginia Tech, which begs the question whether the basketball gods just don’t want Olukemi to suit up in a Cowboys uniform for some reason.
  4. File this one under the strange intersection of pop culture and (college) basketball: Duke freshman Rasheed Sulaimon accused Lil’ Wayne of  cursing at him during Duke’s win over Kentucky at the Champions Classic on Tuesday night. In a tweet from the young guard after the game, Sulaimon said “Still a @LilTunechi fan but was shook when he cursed me out court side lol. Where the duke love at slime.” With an admission that Sulaimon — who shot 3-of-14 from the field — was “shook” by Weezy’s verbal bombs, ACC coaches from Coral Gables to Chestnut Hill no doubt have already started inviting Lil’ Wayne and his friends as honorary guests at some of their more prominent home games against a team in blue.
  5. The Charleston Classic, Puerto Rico Tip-Off and 2kSports Classic all got under way yesterday (the medal rounds, at least), and the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic will tip off tonight in Brooklyn. With so many brackets and games in far-flung places, you probably need a primer on the top contests to watch this weekend in these events. Ryan Fagan of the Sporting News has us covered, picking out five key games over the next few days that are most worth your time and energy to watch. Or, you could do us one better, and just watch them all — junkies of the world, unite. Have a great weekend, everyone.
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Morning Five: 11.02.12 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on November 2nd, 2012

  1. We don’t typically spend much time talking about exhibition games in this space, but it was somewhat coincidental that each of the nation’s top three teams were in action last night. Indiana, Louisville, and Kentucky each got some work in against Indiana Wesleyan, Pikeville, and Northwood, respectively, with an average margin of victory of 33.0 points between the three games. The top storylines from each game: #1 Indiana was sluggish at the start but oft-injured Maurice Creek returned with a vengeance (12 points in 15 minutes of action); #2 Louisville hung its 2012 Final Four banner and may have found some instant offense in the form of freshman Montrezl Harrell (19 points, 13 rebounds); #3 Kentucky probably isn’t as “awful” as its head coach lets on, as the Wildcats experimented with 12 different lineups including one with a monster frontcourt of Nerlens Noel, Willie Cauley-Stein, and Kyle Wiltjer. And, of course, as you’re reading this, we’re only one week and change from the first official games.
  2. The Pac-12 held its Media Day in San Francisco yesterday, and as always, the only important part of these events (excepting verbal spats between egomaniacal coaches, of course) is when the media releases its preseason predictions. This year’s race is basically a dead heat between Arizona and UCLA, with the Wildcats receiving one more overall vote than the Bruins and the Bruins receiving one more first-place vote than the Wildcats. Let’s hope so, because this league is at its best only when these two traditional powerhouses are perched atop the league. The Bay Areas schools — California and Stanford — came in third and fourth, while last year’s regular season champion, Washington, and Pac-12 Tournament champion, Colorado, rounded out the top six. We’d expect the league to bounce back with at least four NCAA Tournament invitations this season.
  3. Oklahoma State received some excellent news Wednesday in what has been an injury-addled preseason when the NCAA used common sense to rule that talented swingman JP Olukemi will receive a waiver this year to play the entire season for his team. The issue that Olukemi was inadvertently facing was that he had started his NCAA five-years-to-play-four eligibility clock when his prep school’s basketball team shut down in the middle of the year and he continued taking courses at a local community college afterward. Doing the math, Olukemi’s final semester of eligibility would have been this one — meaning that his collegiate career would have ended at the midseason point (December 31, to be precise). The NCAA takes a lot of heat for how it handles its high profile cases, but there are a number of these mid-level cases where the organization generally gets it right. Kudos to them for realizing that the spirit of the rule wasn’t violated here. Plus, Travis Ford really needs him.
  4. Since it’s Friday we’re going to end the week on a positive couple of notes. First, TSN‘s Ryan Fagan profiles the new and often misunderstood South Carolina head coach, Frank Martin. The piece discusses how everyone’s first impression of the coach derives from his fiery demeanor on the court — not to mention the trademarked glare — but once his new players and colleagues quickly realize that Martin is a go-hard perfectionist who demands their best but also has their back, they don’t walk, they run, into his camp. Martin is a very good coach but he’s not a miracle worker, and South Carolina’s goal this season should simply be to become competitive. This program has been in a seemingly endless down cycle since the Eddie Fogler era of the late 1990s, but there is enough fan support and talent base in the area to field a successful program there — it just takes the right kind of hard-headed man to do it. Perhaps someone like Frank Martin.
  5. Next, CBSSports.com‘s Gary Parrish writes about a 20-year old North Carolina Central freshman basketball player by the name of Rashawn King who had leukemia so off the charts that the first time he was tested the medical staff believed that their machines were broken. After endless tests and treatments eventually got his disease under control and into remission, he became involved in the Make-a-Wish Foundation where he initially asked for an opportunity to meet his hero, LeBron James. Something so self-oriented didn’t feel right to him, though, so he changed his wish to throw a lunch party for his over 2,000 friends and classmates at Raleigh’s Middle Creek HS who had painstakingly supported and encouraged him throughout his fight. Last Tuesday, the Foundation made sure that he got to meet LeBron anyway, arranging for his NCCU head coach to drive him to a Miami-Charlotte exhibition game where he met King James, Pat Riley, Coach K, and a number of other hoops honchos. It’s a great story all-around, and one that’ll bring a bit of a tear to your eye — we need more Rashawn Kings in college basketball and sports in general, that’s for sure.
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Big 12 M5: 10.25.12 Edition

Posted by KoryCarpenter on October 25th, 2012

  1. The CBSSports.com crew was at it again on Wednesday, this time ranking the top 50 wings in the country for this season. UCLA freshman Shabazz Muhammad came in at No 1. ahead of Ohio State’s DeShaun Thomas. The Big 12 has four players on the list, three of whom are in the top 15. Oklahoma State sophomore Le’Bryan Nash (13.3 PPG, 5.0 RPG last season) was No. 7 followed immediately by Kansas redshirt freshman Ben McLemore at No. 8. Rodney McGruder of Kansas State (15.8 PPG, 5.2 RPG) came in at No. 14 and Texas’ Sheldon McClellan (11.3 PPG, 3.3 RPG) rounded out the conference at No. 43. All four players have a shot to lead their respective teams in scoring this year as well as challenge for Big 12 Player of the Year.
  2. Andy Glockner unveiled a list of his own on Wednesday. He ranked all 32 Division I conferences and placed the Big Ten on top. The Big 12 showed up on his list at third, one spot behind the Big East. His assessment is spot on to me in that while there’s maybe just one great team – maybe Kansas -- the middle of the pack is tough from Baylor all the way to Oklahoma. TCU and Texas Tech will finish at the bottom and the Jayhawks should win the league again, but it would be hard to argue against any projection of teams in the second through eights positions. Every one of those teams has question marks but every one of them also has a bright spot or two that could lend itself to a good season.
  3. Here’s more from Glockner: A strength of schedule breakdown of a handful of teams this season. He liked Kansas‘ slate, saying “The Jayhawks did what Indiana (and others) should have done: load the schedule with home and quasi-home games, but against capable opposition.” KU’s schedule is highlighted with a game at Ohio State, versus Michigan State in Atlanta in the Champions Classic, Colorado, Washington State, and either Texas A&M or Saint Louis in the CBE Classic in Kansas City. Glockner liked Kansas’ schedule, but he loved Texas’ slate. The Longhorns are in the Maui Invitational, they play UCLA in Houston, Georgetown in New York, and face off with North Carolina and Michigan State. Texas Tech’s schedule, on the other hand, is laughed at, and rightly so. They don’t leave the state of Texas until January 16 and play just three power conference schools — Arizona, Arizona State, Alabama — in the non-conference season.
  4. Bill Self acknowledged his team’s need to replace the toughness that No. 5 pick Thomas Robinson took with him to Sacramento in a kusports.com article Wednesday. Self told the Lawrence Journal-World‘s Gary Bedore that Robinson “gave us an air of toughness. It made other players think they were really tough or fierce because he led by example.” Self added that his team will miss Robinson’s presence initially but believes he’ll have enough players to fill Robinson’s role by year’s end. It’s hard not to agree with Self with his track record of largely unknown role players becoming productive starters nearly every year. I want to say he’ll hit a bump in the road one of these years and won’t have a group capable of sliding in seamlessly, but I can’t. Eight straight conference titles speaks for itself.
  5. Oklahoma State senior Jean-Paul Olukemi is still waiting to hear from the NCAA about his appeal regarding his eligibility. Because he took classes at a junior college in high school, his eligibility began earlier than he realized and is now scheduled to run out after the first semester. “You just hope that people understand that you listen to people who are much older than you and they give you the wrong information because they’re trying to do something to benefit themselves,” Olukemi told the Tulsa World on Tuesday. “I hope they understand it wasn’t something that I did.” Nothing to see here, just case 5,489 of the NCAA potentially hurting a kid’s career over something this silly. Did he take money from an Oklahoma State booster? Did he cheat on a standardized test? No. He took a few college credits in high school. Sure, he should have double- or triple-checked to make sure he was good to go. But the NCAA should realize that neither Olukemi or Oklahoma State gained any athletic advantages in this case. Let the kid play.
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