Big 12 Power Rankings: Kansas State’s in First Place??? Edition

Posted by Nate Kotisso on January 19th, 2015

The Big 12 is weird. It doesn’t even have twelve teams in it. This brown-suited man is their commissioner. Kansas State‘s best player was benched in its conference opener, a loss; and now, the same team that was 7-7 two weeks ago occupies first place in the whole dang league. Aside from weird, the Big 12 is still a very deep basketball league. Kansas State’s place atop the standings is evidence of this fact. But where did the Wildcats’ 4-1 start originate? Better end-game execution? A little bit, yes. Better effort on both ends of the floor? That’s part of it. But the transformation of K-State began with a change in mindset from their benched star, Marcus Foster. Foster came into his sophomore season with lofty expectations after bursting onto the scene last year. Some of those expectations were self-imposed and his focus was to meet them instead helping toward the greater good of the team. “Sometimes you do think to the future,” Foster told The Wichita Eagle last week. “You think about, maybe I can play in the NBA and maybe I need to start doing this. But I think my mindset is back to worrying about today and getting better at what you need to get better at every day. That is all it took for me to get in a few good games.” Following that January 3 loss to Oklahoma State, Foster scored 23 off the bench to help defeat TCU, hit the game-winning three at Oklahoma, led his team in scoring (14) and assists (four) to get by Texas Tech, and grabbed three steals in the weekend’s upset over Baylor. There is still a lot that this team’s resume needs between now and Selection Sunday, but as long as Foster continues to focus on the greater good over self, his team will have a chance. And that’s all it needs, really.

It's not hard to look for the key to K-State's 4-1 start: Marcus Foster. (AP/Charlie Riedel)

It’s not hard to look for the key to K-State’s 4-1 start: Marcus Foster. (AP/Charlie Riedel)

Power Rankings

  1. Iowa State — 3 points (All voted 1st). Comment: “The Cyclones finally delivered the first punch in their attempt to end The Streak (TM). Three of their next four games come at home with the only road trip in that stretch set to take place at Texas Tech. This means that there’s a decent chance Fred Hoiberg’s team comes to Lawrence for the return game with a stellar 7-1 league record. However, if the first two weeks of Big 12 play have taught us anything, it’s that holding the fort in this conference is anything but a given.” – Brian Goodman (@BSGoodman)
  2. Kansas — 6 points (All voted 2nd). Comment: “The Jayhawks have the top-ranked offense and defense during conference play and only lost by five on the road at Iowa State. They could get back to the top spot with wins over Oklahoma at home and Texas on the road this week.” – Chris Stone (@cstonehoops) Read the rest of this entry »
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Big 12 M5: 01.19.15 Edition

Posted by Nate Kotisso on January 19th, 2015

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  1. If you check to see who sits atop the Big 12 standings today, you’ll probably think there must be some mistake. But no, that is indeed Kansas State, winners of their last four after hanging on against Baylor, leading the league with a 4-1 record. While this start to their conference schedule is welcomed, we can’t ignore the fact that the Wildcats are returning seven of their top nine rotation players from last season. The problem is it’s January 18 and they have no margin of error. Their next four games to end January are as follows: at Iowa State, vs Oklahoma State, vs West Virginia and at Kansas. If they finish the month undefeated, their at-large status will improve. Personally, I’d like to see it all in the name of chaos.
  2. Saturday was a monumental day in the history of TCU basketball. Not only did they end a 23-game Big 12 losing streak which dated back to March 2013 but it was also their first ever road win in Big 12 play. As our Brian Goodman pointed out, winning a road conference game can do wonders for your KenPom profile. It’s little milestones like these that can change an entire culture around a program in so many ways. Eventually we’ll reach a point in the future when TCU puts together a winning streak in the Big 12 or contend for the NCAA Tournament without any of us batting an eye at the accomplishment. Someday soon.
  3. The most entertaining game of the weekend was undoubtedly Kansas-Iowa State on Saturday night. The Jayhawks were always a few possessions away from taking the lead away from the Cyclones but anytime KU strung baskets together, ISU was able to come back on the next possession and beat defenders down the floor for transition buckets. After being called out during the week by Bill Self, Perry Ellis answered the bell early but was unable to take the game over due to foul trouble and Frank Mason was perhaps even better than Ellis all game long. But Monte Morris did a little bit of everything (11 points, seven rebounds, three steals) while he continued his ungodly assist-to-turnover pace by piling on 10 dimes with just two turnovers. Can the Big 12 Tournament final get here already?
  4. Musiq Soulchild released the single “B.U.D.D.Y.” from his album Luvanmusiq eight years ago this month. Were you aware that the song was dedicated to Oklahoma guard Buddy Hield? Well, it wasn’t but it would’ve made for a fascinating story! Had this had been true and he did learn the song was dedicated to him before tipoff of #Bedlam, it would have been clear what inspired Hield to go 10-for-10 from the floor including 6-for-6 from three in the Sooners’ drubbing of Oklahoma State. In any case, Hield was stellar once again and OU gets revenge for their football team’s loss to the Cowboys last month.
  5. Jonathan Holmes summed up best Texasmindset going into Saturday’s game vs the Mountaineers, I think: “West Virginia wanted to come out and punk us, and we couldn’t let that happen.” And so, the Horns, who would have been the original punkees, instead became the punkers and made West Virginia the punkees following an 18-2 Texas run in the first half. Halfway through the second half, the Mountaineers were all punked out and the Horns ran away with the game. Holmes struggled shooting but was able to put his head down, drive to the basket, draw fouls and make 11-for-12 from the free throw line while also grabbing 11 rebounds. What lies ahead for UT is a game against TCU tonight in Fort Worth. Someone’s one-game winning streak will sadly come to an end.
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Big 12 Power Rankings: TCU, We Hardly Knew Ye Edition

Posted by Nate Kotisso on January 13th, 2015

TCU basketball is back! Or, at least, not where they used to be! The Horned Frogs went a perfect 13-0 in non-league play by beating up on bad opponents through the first two months of the season. Still, it was a welcome change for a team that typically struggles against anyone above, on or below their level of play. As a result, Associated Press voters rewarded TCU with a Top 25 ranking in December, a cool but misguided notion. Trent Johnson’s club won’t be a contender for Big 12 titles just yet, but it is taking the necessary steps into becoming a competitive program. They’ll likely win a handful of games in Big 12 play, and they’re making inroads in recruiting the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. For those reasons alone, the perception of the program will change and, who knows, perhaps in a few years we’ll be talking about TCU as a perennial NCAA Tournament team.

Guard Kyan Anderson has been a big part of TCU basketball's transition from doormat to competitive. (Steve Nurenburg/Fort Worth Star-Telegram)

Guard Kyan Anderson has been a big part of TCU basketball’s transition from doormat to competitive. (Steve Nurenburg/Fort Worth Star-Telegram)

Power Rankings

  1. Kansas — 3 points (All voted 1st). Comment: “The Jayhawks opened their Big 12 slate with a close road win at Baylor and followed that up with a 32-point thrashing of Texas Tech at home. Kansas leads the league in offensive efficiency and defensive field goal percentage through two games. Plus, Bill Self’s squad is the 10-time defending champion.” – Chris Stone (@cstonehoops)
  2. Iowa State — 6 points (All voted 2nd). Comment: “In a game where they committed 27 fouls and 18 turnovers, the Cyclones found a way to win at a West Virginia team with similar aspirations. If Kansas and Iowa State can remain undefeated until Saturday night, the winner of that game will have our top spot in next week’s rankings.” – Nate Kotisso (@natekotisso)
  3. Oklahoma — 9 points (All voted 3rd). Comment: “The Sooners have issues of their own, as they need to get Isaiah Cousins and Jordan Woodard back on track. Still, they’re just two big Marcus Foster plays away from being undefeated, so it’s hardly time to sound any alarms.” – Brian Goodman (@BSGoodman) Read the rest of this entry »
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Oklahoma’s Blowout of Texas Might Disrupt Big 12 Hierarchy

Posted by Nate Kotisso on January 6th, 2015

Nate Kotisso is a Big 12 microsite writer for Rush The Court. He covered Oklahoma-Texas in Austin last night. You can follow him on Twitter @natekotisso.

We are four days into the start of Big 12 play, so naturally, now is the time to make quick declarations on how the conference will ultimately shake out. Until we make new ones on Saturday, that is. The box score will tell you that the Sooners played their most complete game of the season against one of their toughest opponents on Monday night. While it was an impressive victory, the reality is Oklahoma dominated Texas defensively in the first half and coasted in the second. The Sooners forced nine of Texas’ 12 turnovers, scored 11 points off those turnovers, outscored the Horns in the paint by 10, and held the Longhorns to 14 points total — all in the first 20 minutes. At the break, Texas was left with six players each making one field goal to account for their 6-of-30 shooting, while the Sooners’ Ryan Spangler and Buddy Hield equaled that number with three makes apiece. Their size advantage on Texas’ guards with Hield and Isaiah Cousins allowed the duo to shoot over them to the tune of 4-of-10 from the perimeter.

Texas guard Demarcus Holland attempts to grab the ball on this Longhorn possession. However, the game was out of UT's reach as they lost by 21. (Brendan Maloney/USA Today Sports)

Texas guard Demarcus Holland attempts to grab the ball on this Longhorn possession. However, the game was out of UT’s reach as they lost by 21. (Brendan Maloney/USA Today Sports)

Another important piece to this game for Oklahoma was the emergence of TaShawn Thomas. It’s common knowledge that the addition of Thomas has strengthened the team’s defense to a level that hasn’t been seen during head coach Lon Kruger‘s tenure in Norman. Competing against the athletic size of Cameron Ridley, Jonathan Holmes, Prince Ibeh and Connor Lammert, Thomas posted 15 points on 6-of-12 shooting and 10 rebounds, four of them offensive. While not nearly as efficient on the offensive end, Thomas contributed 12 points, 11 rebounds and led all players in offensive rebounds (four), two blocked shots and one nasty dunk that thwarted any chance of a Longhorns’ comeback early in the second half. The Sooners seem to have Texas’ number of late, winning four of the last five games in the series. Oklahoma has also recorded wins in Austin in consecutive seasons for the first time since the program last did so during the 2000-02 seasons. Read the rest of this entry »

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Big 12 M5: 12.22.14 Edition

Posted by Nate Kotisso on December 22nd, 2014

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  1. Like Baylor, Texas Tech and TCU, it’s been difficult to pinpoint just how good Oklahoma State can be this season. The Cowboys had a golden opportunity to turn heads with nationally-ranked Maryland invading Gallagher-Iba Sunday afternoon but were unable to come away with a profile-building win. Kyle Porter at Pistols Firing performed the autopsy of the game, and unfortunately for OSU fans, there were some familiar themes that led to the loss. With Terps leading scorer Dez Wells sidelined with a wrist injury, this was OSU’s last shot at a quality non-conference win. KenPom has Oklahoma State’s non-conference schedule ranked at 219th with their best win against a disappointing Memphis team and a blowout loss to South Carolina who was picked to finish 12th in a mediocre SEC. That’s … not good.
  2. Heading into this week, nine of 351 Division 1 schools are undefeated in college basketball and TCU is still the Big 12’s lone representative in that respect. The Horned Frogs improved to 11-0 after thrashing Texas-San Antonio on Saturday, their sixth game won by a margin of 15 points or more. Most people are talking about whether or not Kentucky can finish the season 40-0. How long should we wait until TCU joins the conversation? (Is this thing on? *taps mic*).
  3. You might be hearing this for the first time in your life but Iowa State secured a commitment from a high-level transfer on Saturday. The transfer is Deonte Burton who comes to Ames by way of Marquette where he spent his first year-and-a-half of eligibility with the Golden Eagles. This season, the sophomore Burton averaged 6.4 points on 47.2 percent shooting from the field and 40 percent from three in just over 16 minutes per contest. Burton will have two-and-a-half years of eligibility remaining beginning in December 2015.
  4. Conference realignment has not stopped Texas A&M from scheduling old foes from the Big 12. The Aggies faced Baylor on December 9 and did battle with Kansas State Saturday night in Kansas City. It would be easier to say that K-State had this game won from the opening tip, shooting 61 percent from the floor, but this Vine from K-State forward Wesley Iwundu is the best recap anyone could offer. Enjoy it in all its majesty. (H/T Octagon of Doom)
  5. Texas Tech has quietly gotten off to a 9-1 start heading into this week’s Continental Tires Las Vegas Classic. The tournament, which starts tonight, is comprised of Boise State, Houston, Loyola (IL) and the Red Raiders. Sure, they have played a mostly pillowsoft schedule but considering their only loss came in overtime at LSU on November 18 (who would later beat West Virginia in Morgantown) and an overall weak field, TTU is in a position to potentially leave Las Vegas with a tournament championship. The Red Raiders play Loyola (IL) tonight and the winner of that game will face the winner of Boise State-Houston Tuesday night for the tournament title.
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Big 12 M5: 11.21.14 Edition

Posted by Nate Kotisso on November 21st, 2014

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  1. Texas sputtered to start the 2K Sports Classic and found themselves down six at the break. They went into locker room and proceeded to dominate the Hawkeyes in the second half 47-27 and won the game by 14. Perhaps the biggest headline to emerge from this is the status of sophomore point guard Isaiah Taylor who injured his left wrist late in the game. UT should take this injury seriously even if it is a minor one. Any time Taylor misses would be harmful to a team that has had its offensive woes. Rick Barnes told ESPN after the game that he asked Taylor “if I would kiss it to make it feel better, and he said it would. And I kissed it but I don’t guess it worked.” This brings up another important point: Kissing boo-boo’s heal when a mother is doing the kissing. Boo-boo kissing is a fruitless endeavor for fathers and/or Division I coaches. (Division II coaches? Maybe.) I don’t have much data supporting this hypothesis but I’m pretty sure it’s foolproof.
  2. West Virginia-George Mason was one of those games Thursday where I had to do a double take on its final score because the deficit was large. Yes, the Mountaineers beat the Patriots by 26 points. You could have missed the game, looked at the final stats and concluded that the Patriots made this loss greater than it should have been. The Patriots turned the ball over 24 times compared to WVU’s 12 and missed 16 of their 32 free throws. This isn’t to say that George Mason would have won the game (they wouldn’t have) but I am saying they did more things to hurt themselves than to help. Kudos to the ‘Eers for capitalizing on their mistakes and for also getting back to winning games Huggy’s way (11 more offensive rebounds than GMU). A great thing about these tournaments is that we’ll get a better frame of reference of teams’ long-term success afterwards. The deeper WVU advances, the more serious I’ll take them as an at-large bid.
  3. So…are we gonna talk about Oklahoma’s massive collapse at Creighton on Wednesday night? When Ryan Spangler hit a three to bump the Sooner lead to 18 early in the second half, Creighton called timeout and I turned the game off. It was remarkable to see the Sooners start the way they did in a notoriously loud building like the Qwest Center is. But Creighton came out of the timeout and upped their defensive pressure on the Sooners. Soon, the game began to swing in the Bluejays’ favor. Oklahoma won’t see a crowd like this one until it plays Kansas and Iowa State in conference action. At least there’s time enough time between now and then to fix those problems.
  4. The Lawrence Journal-World’s post-mortem of Tuesday’s Kentucky-Kansas points out one very big advantage for the Wildcats: Kentucky was bigger. It’s an obvious point Tom Keegan makes but the Wildcats are going to have the best frontcourt in the game every time it steps on a basketball floor. The closest resemblance to a Kentucky team in the Big 12 is Texas but I don’t think size poses much of a problem across the league. Most teams aren’t Texas and don’t have the size that the Longhorns possess. I wouldn’t freak out too much, Kansas fans.
  5. Two future neutral-court fields were announced on Thursday. The 2015 edition of the Charleston Classic’s headliner will be the reigning ACC champion Virginia but otherwise doesn’t generate much interest. The rest of the field is made up of Oklahoma State from the Big 12, Ole Miss, Bradley, George Mason, Towson, Long Beach State and Seton Hall. Meanwhile, the 2015 Puerto Rico Tip-Off will bring in Texas Tech, Miami, Mississippi State, Butler, Missouri State, Utah, Minnesota and Temple. The possibilities for games here are more intriguing than Charleston. Utah and Miami appear to be likely NCAA Tournament teams this season, Fran Dunphy and Temple usually put good teams together and the potential for a Tubby Smith vs his old school match-up will turn a few heads. This will be a good field.
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Big 12 M5: 03.07.14 Edition

Posted by Nate Kotisso on March 7th, 2014

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  1. Adidas revealed new uniforms that 10 of its member institutions will wear just in time for the NCAA Tournament. Two of those schools participating will be Kansas and Baylor of the Big 12, assuming the Bears get in. Cool, huh? Because it gets progressively worse from here. Kansas’ uniform looks similar to a look the Jayhawks have worn in the past, but Baylor’s jersey is perhaps the worst of all — highlighter yellow, which has become an unofficial school color in recent years. But here’s where it gets loony: Their familiar “Sic ‘Em Bears” slogan is scrawled across the front. Then there were these photos of ex-Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III “rocking out” the new look on Twitter. To borrow a line from Golden God Dennis Reynolds, everyone at adidas was on the gas and nobody was on the brakes. I mean, Indiana and Notre Dame are getting NCAA Tournament jerseys? Have they even looked at the Big Ten or ACC standings? Major face-palm, guys.
  2. First he told ESPN’s Jeff Goodman that he might come back for a sophomore season. Now Joel Embiid took to Twitter on Thursday to reflect on Wednesday’s win, saying he “can’t wait to be a senior.” Embiid doesn’t seem like the trolling or misleading type, but we’re so used to college players changing their minds that we expect it to happen every time. What if he’s actually serious and he does come back for a sophomore season? Then a junior year? And a senior year? Two things will happen: We’ll be treated to several more years to watch a blossoming player become great, and in the end, we’ll feel like cynical jerks for ever doubting him. Come to think of it, that doesn’t sound so bad. I’ll take more college Embiid and the accompanying cynicism, please.
  3. Things could get weird Saturday as Iowa State plans to have its “Senior Day” to honor players which include once former and current guard Bubu Palo. However, the Des Moines Register talked to Palo and he’s taking a mature approach towards the situation, which has understandably put coach Fred Hoiberg in an awkward spot heading into the game against Oklahoma State. “Coach Fred has been great throughout this,” Palo told the Register. “I wouldn’t want people to think that he’s depriving me of a senior moment.” Another reason Palo would be fine with not playing Saturday is because he’s seeking a potential sixth year of eligibility from the NCAA. Playing any minutes from now until the end of the season could severely lessen his chances of getting an extra year on the team. With Kane departing, Palo could be the starting point guard next year if Hoiberg doesn’t have anyone else coming in.
  4. It’s hard to believe, but Scott Drew is tied for the second-longest tenured head coach in the Big 12. Drew went on CBS Sports Radio Thursday morning and said that this conference season is the best he has “been a part of” in his 11 years at Baylor. It certainly beats his first few seasons in Waco. All kidding aside, Drew is right. There’s a strong possibility that the league can get seven teams into the field of 68 this year, and that would tie a conference high that was set when seven of 12 teams made the 2010 NCAA Tournament. The Big 12 has had at least four teams make the NCAAs in each of the last 17 years. None of the ACC, Big Ten, Pac-10/12, Atlantic 10, SEC, Mountain West and Missouri Valley conferences can make that claim. But seven making the Dance in the current 10-team format would be all the more impressive.
  5. The r/CollegeBasketball page has brought this video to our attention. In it is a slow motion replay of Marcus Smart attempting to slap Wesley Iwundu after the two unintentionally bumped chests during Monday’s Kansas State-Oklahoma State game in Stillwater. It appears Smart had clear intent to slap Iwundu but he just missed as he was trying to get open elsewhere on the floor. It isn’t known if the Big 12 is reviewing this play or whether the league will hand down a punishment on the matter, but it’s one thing if the conference comes out and says they didn’t find anything incriminating on the play and quite another to not comment on it at all. It wouldn’t reflect well on the Big 12, however, if the league remains completely quiet about this.
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Big 12 M5: 03.04.14 Edition

Posted by Nate Kotisso on March 4th, 2014

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  1. Senior Night did not disappoint the Oklahoma State faithful on Monday. The Cowboys added another RPI top-50 win, defeating Kansas State 77-61 in Stillwater. Markel Brown had a stat-sheet stuffer kind of night with 15 points, five rebounds, five assists, three steals and two blocks. Fellow “senior” Marcus Smart scored 16 of his 18 points in the second half. This comes roughly 48 hours after Smart poured in 20 in the final 20 minutes of Saturday’s win against Kansas. Despite Gallagher-Iba Arena’s full capacity being 13,611, the estimated attendance for last night’s game was just 9,500. And that was with the help of OSU students getting in free with student IDs. Come on, y’all could have done better than that.
  2. Smart’s big second half against the Jayhawks propelled the Pokes to a huge win Saturday and now his third Big 12 POTW award of the season. We also can’t argue with Smart’s performance versus TCU last Monday, nailing five threes on his way to 17 points. With the year Iowa State’s DeAndre Kane is also having, it feels like he’s taking some kind of hardware every week. Kane averaged 20.5 points, 9.5 rebounds and 4.5 rebounds per game to win Big 12 NOTW while recording his sixth double-double of the season in a win over West Virginia. This marks the sixth week in which Kane has won player or newcomer of the week honors this season. I hope we can see both these guys play professionally.
  3. We have an update in our continuing coverage of Backgate 2014: Kansas coach Bill Self announced that center Joel Embiid will not play in the last two regular season games as he rests a back injury he re-aggravated in Saturday’s loss to Oklahoma State. Self said an MRI was done on Embiid’s lower back and the staff came to the conclusion that “rest is the best remedy.” They plan on evaluating Embiid again before the Big 12 Tournament, and are open to sitting him longer if he’s still feeling tightness, but Self doesn’t see it getting to that point. Now we’ll likely get a look at senior Tarik Black, whose starting spot was taken by Embiid earlier in the season. Let’s see if he’s got any more Mozgov dunks left in him.
  4. It’s been a nice comeback season for Rick Barnes and Texas basketball but since a 9-3 start in Big 12 play, the Horns have dropped three of their last four games. Granted, all of those were roadies against likely NCAA Tournament teams but it’s not exactly encouraging if you weren’t competitive in two of those games. “I thought our guards were too tentative,” Barnes said. Even with the emergence of sophomore Cameron Ridley as a consistent contributor, Barnes expected more from his guards. “I told those guys [the guards], you should be out there playing H-O-R-S-E, because everyone is guarding him.” Barnes knows that this is just one of the many speed bumps you reach when you’re coaching an inexperienced yet hungry basketball team. Mistakes will be made but so will the corrections.
  5. It seemed like the bubble talk around West Virginia has cooled in the last 10 days or so but the West Virginia Gazette is still holding out hope for an at-large bid. The reality is the Big 12 likely has six teams that make good cases for at-larges and may have seven if Baylor takes care of business this week. Despite an 8-8 conference record, WVU lacks quality road wins in Big 12 play; have a mix of missed opportunities in non-conference play (vs. Gonzaga, Wisconsin, at Missouri); bad losses (at Virginia Tech, vs. Purdue) and not-so-hot computer numbers (RPI: #89, SOS: #55). An eighth bid from West Virginia probably won’t come unless the Mountaineers were to win out this week and make it to the final of the Big 12 championship game. But hey, stranger things have happened…
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Big 12 M5: 03.03.14 Edition

Posted by Nate Kotisso on March 3rd, 2014

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  1. Oklahoma State fans were asking this question following the Cowboys’ win over Kansas on Saturday: “Is it safe to come back out?” It appears to be, fans. After everything the team dealt with since the start of 2014, OSU notched a Paunch Burger-sized victory over the Big 12 leading Kansas Jayhawks 72-65. The three-headed monster of Marcus Smart, Le’Bryan Nash and Markel Brown combined to shoot 15-for-30 from the floor, 23-for-29 from the line, 58 points, seven steals and seven blocks. While this was a major boost to a tournament profile that sorely needed one, they aren’t out of the woods just yet. They have Kansas State coming into Gallagher-Iba Arena on Big Monday. One would think a win tonight locks up an at-large bid for good.
  2. Should we/Kansas fans/NBA scouts begin worrying about the health of Joel Embiid? Last month, he missed a week and a game with nagging back and knee injuries suffered in the West Virginia win on February 8. Embiid left Saturday’s game holding his back and after some stretching checked back into the game. Bill Self addressed Embiid’s injury in his postgame press conference, saying he “only tweaked his back” and has “no idea” how it will affect him going forward. Ultimately Embiid’s back could be much ado about nothing but at the same token, it was a problem weeks ago and it’s a problem right now. Stay tuned. You know lottery teams will be.
  3. While Kansas State’s tournament resume lacks any quality wins outside of Kansas state lines, you gotta hand it to them for taking care of business on their home court (and Wichita). Iowa State was the latest club to enter the “Octagon” and leave doomed, falling 80-73 on Saturday. The ISU win all but clinched an at-large bid for the Cats who now sport victories over George Washington, Gonzaga, Texas, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Kansas. If anything, the 2013-14 Wildcats have proven that you can go home again. And again. And again. And again. But seriously, it would be a mistake if they were left out of the field of 68.
  4. A great thing about this Big 12 season was the rekindling of the Red River Rivalry in hoops. Sorta. Oklahoma finished off Texas 77-65 in Norman. We knew going in that Texas had the height advantage so to combat this OU relied on what they do best: hit three-pointers. In fact the Sooners hit ten of them. With the win, Oklahoma became the only Big 12 team to sweep their season series against UT. In addition to that, this season marked the first time in the Big 12 era where the Sooners swept the Horns and the Oklahoma State Cowboys. How about the job Lon Kruger has done this season? He loses five of his top eight scorers from last year’s team and are somehow averaging 11 points more than a season ago.
  5. Baylor fans: Your team may be on the brink of history! But it wouldn’t be anything to stick your chest out over. Baylor enters the final week of the regular season at 7-9 in conference play and still is in contention for an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament. With their strong RPI and strength of schedule numbers, there is a chance for the Bears to be the first-ever Big 12 team to make the tournament with a sub-.500 league record. The Bears have a winnable home game against Iowa State on Tuesday followed by the regular season finale versus K-State in the Little Apple. Assuming they win one of those two; grouped in with their quality wins over Kentucky, Colorado, Dayton, Kansas State and Oklahoma State (twice); BU would make a strong case to take up one of those coveted 37 at-large spots.
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Who Won The Week? Louisville, Marcus Smart, Michigan and The Citadel…

Posted by Kenny Ocker (@kennyocker) on February 28th, 2014

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

We’ve got more to get to here than usual, so we’ve got a special extended-yet-abbreviated edition of WWTW on tap today.

WINNER: Louisville

Russ Smith won Louisville's game over Cincinnati on Saturday with a late jumper. (AP)

Russ Smith won Louisville’s game over Cincinnati on Saturday with a late jumper. (AP)

Your defending national champions – remember them? – are rolling at just the right time in the season. They went into Cincinnati and handed the Bearcats their first home loss of the season Saturday, 58-57, with a Russ Smith dagger – remember him? – then followed that up by blowing out woebegone Temple 88-66 on Thursday.

Sophomore Cardinals forward Montrezl Harrell thrived this past week, as he has since the dismissal of Chane Behanan, scoring 21 points in both games. Going forward, the Cardinals have games left at Memphis and SMU, followed by a home game against Connecticut. Though they’re tied with Cincinnati at the top of the American and on a seven-game winning streak, we’ll know much more about Louisville by the time the conference tournament rolls around.

(Related winners: Smith; Harrell. Related losers: Cincinnati, which squandered its chance at an outright AAC championship by losing at home; Temple, which had its first 20-loss season in school history thanks to Louisville.)

LOSER: Saint Louis

The Billikens, which had been one of America’s last four teams undefeated in conference, took one of the most befuddling losses of the whole season, falling 71-64 on Thursday to a Duquesne team that had won four Atlantic 10 games in Jim Ferry’s two seasons in Pittsburgh. What had been one of the nation’s top 10 shooting defenses gave up an effective field goal rate of 50.7 percent, including 14-0f-18 shooting and 7-of-9 three-pointers by Dukes guards Micah Mason and Jerry Jones. And against one of the nation’s 10 worst defenses vs. three-point shooting, Saint Louis only made 4-of-23 shots from beyond the arc. The Billikens have a top-five defense nationally according to KenPom.com, but their offense ranks 169th in efficiency. Then again, defense wins championships, right?

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Big 12 Power Rankings: Texas Tech Relishing Spoiler Role Edition

Posted by Nate Kotisso on February 17th, 2014

We’re nine days removed from The Shove Heard ‘Round the World but if you look close enough, something good did come out of that. With help from Tech’s athletic department, Red Raider fans sold out United Spirit Arena that night and stormed the floor as their Red Raiders scored an upset win over the Cowboys but they didn’t stop there. Last Wednesday night saw Tech go stormin’ into Norman and shock Oklahoma on their home floor. On Saturday they made things close at Iowa State before the Cyclones pulled away late, winning by six. But what does it all mean? It means opponents can’t pencil in Tech as a win anymore. TTU’s five conference wins are already the most since the 2010-11 season, the last of Pat Knight’s tenure. With Tubby Smith’s hiring making him the fourth Texas Tech coach in as many seasons, it must be swell for Red Raider fans knowing their program is finally moving in the right direction. And now our rankings:

Tubby Smith has guided the Red Raiders to five conference wins, the most since 2010-11. (Justin Hayworth/Associated Press)

Tubby Smith has guided the Red Raiders to five conference wins, the most since the 2010-11 season. (Justin Hayworth/Associated Press)

1. Kansas — 4 points (previous: 1st; All voted KU first)

Comment: “Kansas better be careful this week. They’ll have Texas coming into Lawrence for the rematch on Saturday but the Jayhawks can’t overlook those pesky Red Raiders on the road tomorrow. Classic trap game.” – Nate Kotisso (@natekotisso)

2. Texas — 8 points (previous: 2nd; All voted UT second)

Comment: “The Longhorns outscored the Cowboys and Mountaineers by a staggering 0.26 points per possession. However, both games were at home. Texas now stares down a stretch of three roadies in four games, and the locations couldn’t be any less desirable for them: Allen Fieldhouse, Hilton Coliseum and the Lloyd Noble Center.” – Brian Goodman (@BSGoodman)

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Big 12 Power Rankings: Implosion in Stillwater Edition

Posted by Nate Kotisso on February 10th, 2014

How was your weekend?

Because it wasn’t such a great one for anyone affiliated with Oklahoma State’s men’s basketball program. Marcus Smart’s three-game suspension was handed down on Sunday, meaning the potential lottery pick will be unavailable in a crucial contest Tuesday at Texas followed by grudge matches against Oklahoma and Baylor. Lost in all the Marcus Smart-Jeff Orr confrontation talk and ESPN’s redundant wall-to-wall coverage of it is the future of Cowboys’ head coach Travis Ford. It wouldn’t surprise me if he were a nervous wreck with all the pressure — lofty preseason expectations; the injury of a key inside player; dismissal of another guy; and now this. Ford seemed to get choked up during his press conference on Sunday while defending his star guard’s character, but that isn’t the only reason he almost lost it in front of the assembled media. He knows that his job is in jeopardy. And that’s a hard thing to swallow as a coach — knowing that you are expected to win now and things aren’t working out in your favor. Our weekly Big 12 power rankings continue on, regardless.

Travis Ford and Marcus Smart share the weight of a basketball program on their shoulders. (Tori Eichberger/AP Photo)

Travis Ford and Marcus Smart share the weight of a basketball program on their shoulders. (Tori Eichberger/AP Photo)

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

Comment: “The Jayhawks weren’t going to go undefeated in the Big 12 and they’ll likely lose at least one more game. But with a two-game lead on Texas with eight games to go, their 10th consecutive conference title is almost in the bag.” – Kory Carpenter (@Kory_Carpenter)

2. Texas — 8 points (previous: 2nd; Brian, Kory, Nate & Taylor-2nd)

Comment: “Similar to the way Texas manhandled Kansas last weekend, it wasn’t surprising that the Longhorns lost but it was surprising to see just how badly Kansas State took it to them.  Home games this week against a struggling Oklahoma State team and West Virginia are big before road trips to Ames and Lawrence next week.” – Taylor Erickson (@tc_erickson)

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

Comment: “Lost in the shuffle of everything Marcus Smart was Melvin Ejim’s career day against TCU. I’m just going to leave this shot chart of his here.” (h/t to CBSSports.com) – Brian Goodman (@BSGoodman)

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