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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Big 12 M5: 02.06.14 Edition

Posted by Nate Kotisso on February 6th, 2014

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  1. Last night was the zillionth reason why winning a road game in the Big 12 is a you-know-what. Oklahoma arrived at WVU Coliseum to face West Virginia about 90 minutes before tip-off due to winter weather and still managed to stay in the game. The Mountaineers held the lead for much of the game but a three-point play from Ryan Spangler gave the Sooners a one-point advantage with 1:38 left. That’s when Eron Harris started making all the three-pointers: one that sent the game to overtime with 20.2 seconds left, and two more to put the game away for good. The Mountaineers now have wins against Baylor (losing luster), Kansas State and the Sooners in their last three games. But as we all know, the NCAA Tournament won’t be played at your home arena. A win at Kansas on Saturday would really send a message.
  2. Kansas center Joel Embiid said after its win at Baylor that he is “strongly considering” returning to campus for his sophomore season. The obvious part about this story is how much of this is a non-story. This is as pointless as reporters asking players whether they’re leaving for the NBA mere minutes after their season just ended. But I totally get why ESPN’s Jeff Goodman asked Embiid about his future: He’s gotta write about something, and Lord knows nobody else is asking the question to likely draft picks in early February. Goodman has already cornered the market for the answer from the potential top pick in this June’s draft. Game recognize game, Jeffrey.
  3. Marcus Smart was considered a consensus lottery pick in the 2013 NBA Draft but elected to return to Oklahoma State for his sophomore season. In addition to a possible injury as a downside to coming back to school, Smart’s game is being scouted, analyzed and criticized more than ever before. NBCSports.com’s Rob Dauster brings forth several compelling points about Smart’s poor decision-making at times and how a lack of awareness when it comes to his own strengths and weaknesses can hurt his team’s prospects this season. Beyond that, it could also hurt how NBA teams evaluate him when they’re deciding whether to make him their point guard of the future.
  4. CBSSports.com sat down with Texas head coach Rick Barnes this week and discussed his team’s surprising season, the new athletic director and some other things. One topic of conversation was center Cameron Ridley, who would get my vote for Big 12 Most Improved Player of the Year, if such an award existed. He was a player who was a project in every sense of the word and didn’t really have a set of skills when he stepped onto campus for the first time. Ridley was always an intimidating defender, but now he’s a better finisher around the rim and has vastly improved his conditioning (he has already played more minutes at this point in the season than all of 2012-13). Buzz Williams who?
  5. Former Baylor guard Pierre Jackson was drafted in the second round of last year’s NBA Draft but was subsequently cut from the New Orleans Pelicans in training camp. So now Jackson is venting all of his frustration of being cut on to the entire D-League. On Tuesday night, the Idaho Stampede guard dropped a ridiculous 58 points on 33 shots, grabbed six rebounds and dished out eight assists in a win over the Texas Legends. Jackson is also leading the D-League in points per game (30.2) so far. It’s only a matter time before an NBA team is wise enough to bring him up to the big time.
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Big 12 M5: 02.05.14 Edition

Posted by Nate Kotisso on February 5th, 2014

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  1. Last night posed the opportunity for a letdown with Texas beating league-leading Kansas on Saturday and then turning around to face last-place TCU on the road. The Longhorns trailed by two points at the half and had committed their season average of 10 turnovers to that point, but the second 20 minutes were a completely different story. The Horns regrouped as Jonathan Holmes poured in 17 of his 20 points on their way to their seventh straight Big 12 win. The Horns did all of this without one of their better ball-handlers available, as Javan Felix was out of the lineup due to a concussion he suffered on Saturday. It looks like we’re seeing the young Longhorns grow up right before our eyes.
  2. Kansas’ win over Baylor last night might appear confusing on paper because the Jayhawks won easily despite Andrew Wiggins, Joel Embiid and Wayne Selden Jr. only combining for 23 points on 6-of-22 shooting. But the focus should be on point guard Naadir Tharpe, who had another good offensive game on the road. Oddly enough, Tharpe has had some of his better offensive performances away from Allen Fieldhouse. In the four Big 12 road games where he’s attempted at least one shot, Tharpe is averaging 16.2 points on 22-of-33 from the floor and 10-of-14 from downtown (71.4%). Statistical anomalies: Ya gotta love ‘em.
  3. Oklahoma State‘s defeat to Iowa State on Monday night could not have come at a worse time. The school had dedicated the night to longtime head coach Eddie Sutton; Gallagher-Iba Arena was half-empty; and then there was the whole triple-overtime loss. Sutton took some thinly-veiled shots at the fan base and perhaps even the team while attending the game. “It’s easier to play here [at GIA] now than it was before,” Sutton told the Tulsa World. “It was a lot louder.” Gee, he may have a point there. It is a little embarrassing when the head coach of a team with several NBA Draft prospects has to urge students to come to their games. Guess the thermometer on Travis Ford’s seat is heating back up again.
  4. It seems as though most pundits have Kansas State pegged as NCAA Tournament-bound at this point in the year, but with so many holes in this team can we really be so sure of it? The Wildcats haven’t won any important road games; they are hard to watch on offense; and they also rank dead last in the Big 12 in free throw percentage (64.4%). For a team that beats opponents by keeping games in the 60s, making free throws is all the more vital in creating some late-game separation. If they don’t fix this problem somewhat soon, the Wildcats’ life on the bubble will be a short one and the NIT is where they’ll be headed.
  5. This isn’t news to anyone at all, but Iowa State head coach Fred Hoiberg is very much winning in life. He played in the NBA; he is currently coaching his alma mater (and doing well); and now he is putting up high scores on the Flappy Bird app. Now I’ve heard the Flappy Bird game is the thing kids are into these days but I have no clue how it’s played (how does one go about flapping the bird or does the bird flap you somehow?). In any case, Hoiberg scored a 123 which is apparently very hard to do. More power to him.
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Big 12 Power Rankings: West Virginia Back? Edition

Posted by Nate Kotisso on February 4th, 2014

Rewind to October 2011 when it was announced that West Virginia would become one of the Big 12’s newest members. Within the scope of college basketball, at least, it seemed like a home run addition to the Big 12. The Mountaineers were just a year removed from a Big East Tournament title and an appearance in the Final Four. Unfortunately the Mountaineers’ first season in the Big 12 was less than spectacular. In fact, Bob Huggins lost more games in 2012-13 than he had in any other year as head coach. But could WVU’s recent stretch of success be the breakthrough the program has waited for? Huggins’ team currently stands at 5-4 in the conference, with wins at Baylor and Kansas State in its back pocket and the second half of league play sitting before them. With Kansas, Oklahoma, Iowa State (twice), Texas, and Baylor next up on the schedule, we’ll see how serious this team’s at-large chances are. Below are this week’s rankings. If you disagree with us, let us know.

WVU's Juwan Staten just won Big 12 Player of the Week. He now joins the million other big time PGs in the Big 12. (Cooper Neill/Getty Images)

WVU’s Juwan Staten just won Big 12 Player of the Week. He now joins the million other big time PGs in the Big 12. (Cooper Neill/Getty Images)

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

Comment: “No one expected Kansas to run the table in the Big 12, but the effort at Texas on Saturday was a little concerning. As Bill Self said on Monday, the important thing is to not let one loss turn into two or three.” – Taylor Erickson (@tc_erickson)

2. Texas — 6 points (previous: 3rd; Brian, Nate & Taylor-2nd)

Comment: “While Rick Barnes is rightfully getting a boatload of attention for going from the hot seat to NCOY consideration, he wouldn’t be able to make that journey without vast improvements from Cameron Ridley and Jonathan Holmes, who were two keys to the Longhorns’ upset over Kansas. Texas was the only team that could match up well against Kansas’ size, and they executed about as well as Barnes could have asked.” – Brian Goodman (@BSGoodman) Read the rest of this entry »

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Big 12 M5: 02.04.14 Edition

Posted by Nate Kotisso on February 4th, 2014

morning5_big12

  1. That was some game, eh? Naz Long’s three with 1.4 seconds left in the second overtime helped Iowa State force a third overtime with Oklahoma State last night. There the Cyclones got another clutch trey from Monte Morris and were able to walk out with a 98-97 victory, the program’s first win at Gallagher-Iba Arena in 19 opportunities. Lately it feels like there’s a different Big 12 team every week that needs to start worrying about its NCAA at-large chances. A few weeks ago it was the Cyclones; last week it was Baylor; and this week it looks like it is Oklahoma State’s turn because…
  2. Oklahoma State head coach Travis Ford announced Monday that freshman point guard Stevie Clark has been kicked off the team in the wake of his second arrest since the New Year. Ford released a statement through the university which said: “We care about Stevie and wish nothing but the best for him. We want him to find success in his future, wherever that may be.” Not counting last night’s game, the Cowboys were without Clark’s services during five games this season. The important thing for him now is to find a school where he can focus on his studies, basketball and perhaps most importantly, himself. I hope Clark can do all those things and more when he finds his new home.
  3. Like Clark, Aaric Murray was kicked off of a Big 12 team. But the ex-Mountaineer appears to now have his life in order after transferring to Texas Southern in Houston. Murray told KTRK-TV that he “wanted to quit basketball” after his dismissal, but ex-Indiana and current head coach Mike Davis was willing to take on the senior center to help him get back on track. This season, Murray is averaging 23.8 points, 8.2 rebounds and 2.4 blocks per game for the Tigers and some consider the embattled big man as a possible NBA Draft pick. How does Murray deal with the distractions today? “I just stay out of trouble now,” Murray said. “Yeah this is my last go around, I can’t mess this one up.” This could be Stevie Clark’s story someday.
  4. West Virginia’s 5-4 record halfway through conference play has finally grabbed the attention of the Big 12 offices. Juwan Staten (25.0 PPG, 7.0 APG, 4.0 RPG, 1.5 TOPG) took home Big 12 Player of the Week honors by spearheading the Mountaineers’ recent wins over Baylor and Kansas State. Texas frosh Isaiah Taylor earned the Newcomer of the Week award for his outstanding effort against Kansas. Since the Horns didn’t play a game midway through last week, I thought it’d be fair to include averages from the Baylor and KU games (25.0 PPG, 2.0 SPG, 17-of-32 shooting). Who woulda thunk that the Big 12 had good players besides Marcus Smart in November? I’d hate to have to pick between these two.
  5. Did you think we forgot about youTexas Tech? The Red Raiders logged another conference win on Saturday with a 60-54 win over TCU. Dejan Kravic had his best offensive game of the season, going 7-of-10 for 18 points along with six rebounds and two blocks. The win helped the Red Raiders reach the .500 mark for the year (11-11) and also tied last year’s mark for Big 12 wins (three). It’s a slow build to the top but seeing what Tubby Smith has done with other programs, there’s (finally) reason for some optimism in Lubbock. And no, we’d never forget you, Tech. You still matter to us.
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