Big 12 M5: 12.07.15 Edition

Posted by Nate Kotisso on December 7th, 2015

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  1. It’s the Monday following the announcement of this year’s College Football Playoff participants so it must be time to talk Big 12 expansion again, right? Unlike last year, however, the league might be forced to expand sooner rather than later. It was expecting a motion to deregulate conference championship games in football to pass next month, but the Big Ten has stepped in with a “last-minute amendment” that might hurt the 10-team conference’s chances of hosting such a game in 2016. Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby said he wouldn’t want to be forced to expand the league but admitted that it “could end up that way.” Expansion in football would directly affect basketball, of course, possibly enhancing or diluting the product depending on which direction it goes.
  2. Baylor football had a rough go of things on Saturday, but the men’s basketball team turned those fortunes around Sunday night against #16 Vanderbilt. The Commodores went on a 17-0 run early in the second half to go up 10 but the Bears stormed back to tie the game at 52 with 8:40 to play. From then on, both teams traded body blows in what became a 40-minute basketball masterpiece that Baylor won, 69-67. Taurean Prince scored 30 points in front of over 30 NBA scouts and we all watched Lester Medford (15 points on 6-of-12 shooting) make big shot after big shot to nail it down for the Bears. This appears to be a strong profile-building win for Baylor.
  3. Darker days are approaching for Oklahoma State, if they aren’t here already. After losing at home to Tulsa for the first time since 1985, the Cowboys fell even lower on Saturday as they lost to Missouri State (1-5 record, ranked 239th on Kenpom), 64-63. It was Missouri State’s first win against a Division I opponent this season. For the Cowboys, this marked the first time they have dropped two consecutive non-conference home games since, you guessed it, 1985. Meanwhile, Oklahoma State is still without top scorer Phil Forte indefinitely as Travis Ford has said that his status could be “day to day, week to week” or “month to month.” And the Sugar Bowl won’t be for another three-and-a-half weeks, huh? Yikes.
  4. Oklahoma will take on Villanova tonight in a highly-anticipated top 10 showdown between potential Final Four teams. The game will of course be played at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii on the 74th anniversary of Japan’s infamous attack on the United States that thrust the country into World War II. Head coach Lon Kruger spoke on the significance of their visit to Hawaii as an opportunity for his players to learn more about an important part of America’s history.
  5. Despite dealing with eligibility concerns with two players and an early transfer, Texas Tech head coach Tubby Smith has been forced to shorten his rotation in two ways: personnel and height. It seems to have worked thus far. The Red Raiders are 5-1 on the young season with their only loss coming against a Utah team they hung with for much of that game. Zach Smith and Norense Odiase have emerged as the two stalwarts down low while guard Keenan Evans has made strides as a scorer in his second season. The danger with a short rotation is when those players reach a point somewhere in conference play when they run out of gas and start putting forth weaker efforts. That’s something Smith will have to keep an eye on as the season progresses.
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Big 12 M5: 12.02.15 Edition

Posted by Brian Goodman on December 2nd, 2015

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  1. After a long, long wait, freshman Cheick Diallo finally made his debut for Kansas as the Jayhawks rolled to a 94-61 win over Loyola (MD). It took Diallo a few minutes to get comfortable on the floor, but as we predicted yesterday, he looked every bit like the rim protector and finisher the Jayhawks desperately need, finishing with 13 points, six rebounds and four blocks in 16 minutes of action. He also committed four fouls, showing that he’s far from a finished product, but he was otherwise fantastic. What stuck out most about him was how increasingly confident he appeared with every successive trip down the floor. By the end of the night, he was hyping up the crowd, hitting pull-up jumpers and showing off on coast-to-coast dunks. Yes, Loyola was picked to finish in the bottom half of the Patriot League this season, but Diallo clearly showed what the fuss was all about. He’ll have his growing pains, batching him progress with Kansas (and vice versa) this season is going to be a lot of fun.
  2. Texas avoided another early loss last night, needing overtime to beat UT-Arlington, but the Longhorns showed that Diallo isn’t the only uber-athlete in the Big 12. Freshman Kerwin Roach provided the biggest highlight of the evening, as he’s now the clubhouse leader for dunk of the year with this posterization of Mavericks’ guard Jorge Bilbao. (Prayers.). While Shaka Smart certainly enjoyed the play, he is more concerned with his team’s lack of focus on the glass, as the Longhorns were outhustled 49-35 in that department.
  3. Monte’ Morris continued his personal showcase in Iowa State‘s 84-54 romp over North Dakota State, going for 18 points, five rebounds and six assists against the Bison. There was a scary moment in the first half as Georges Niang went down holding his right knee. He had to be helped off the court, but fortunately, he returned to the game after being diagnosed with just a contusion. Niang went on to reassure the Cyclone faithful by kickstarting a 9-0 Iowa State run that put Iowa State ahead at halftime. Iowa State has one more tune-up against Buffalo before they square off with in-state rival Iowa next Thursday.
  4. Perhaps taking a page from Kansas’ playbook, Oklahoma State is rolling with a two-point guard lineup for now as Phil Forte continues to recover from an elbow injury and Tavarius Shine nurses a right shoulder bug. Sophomore Tyree Griffin and freshman Jawun Evans combined for 14 assists in last Friday’s win over Long Beach State, but they’ll face a big test tonight when 4-2 Tulsa comes to town. The Cowboys’ small lineup is made smaller with 6’2″ Jeff Newberry playing out on the wing, but the Pokes seem to be holding things together as they slowly get back to full strength.
  5. Texas Tech‘s frontcourt took a hit when it was announced on Tuesday that sophomore Isaiah Manderson had the team to continue his basketball career elsewhere. Manderson was a cog in the Red Raiders’ interior last season, playing in all 31 regular season games, contributing 4.4 points and 2.7 rebounds per game. His role figured to increase this season after he played well during Tech’s Canadian tour over the summer, but it wasn’t meant to be. A 6’10”, 255-pound center, Manderson played his high school ball in Florida and had offers from four SEC schools, so it will be interesting to see if he resurfaces in that conference.
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Big 12 M5: 11.30.15 Edition

Posted by Chris Stone on November 30th, 2015

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  1. Perhaps it’s because they stayed home over Thanksgiving, but it feels like Oklahoma has flown under the radar during the season’s opening stages. The Sooners have been every bit as good as expected, though maybe even better. Buddy Hield has been fantastic and they’re getting the inside play they need from Ryan Spangler and Khadeem Lattin, but I may be most impressed by Oklahoma’s defense, which has just been outstanding in the early going. On Sunday, the Sooners forced Wisconsin into its worst shooting day in nine years en route to a 65-48 win. While the Badgers aren’t what they’ve been over the last few years, everyone can agree that allowing 23.5 percent shooting against them should turn some heads. Oklahoma’s December 7 showdown with Villanova is an absolute must-watch game.
  2. Iowa State point guard Monte’ Morris continues to have increased success under Steve Prohm, as he put together another standout performance over the weekend in the Cyclones 84-73 victory over Illinois in the Emerald Coast Classic final. So far in his career, Morris has floored us with his vision and scoring ability, but he flashed a new dimension on Saturday night as he pulled down a career-high nine rebounds, all on the defensive end. While no one should ever mistake the undersized Morris for an answer to the Cyclones’ challenges inside, it has to be inspiring for Prohm to know that his floor general doesn’t mind battling it out with high-major bigs.
  3. A 2-3 start isn’t what Texas had in mind to begin the season, but while it isn’t time to panic, it isn’t unreasonable to have some concerns. The biggest trouble spots have been the Longhorns’ inability to finish (50.4% FG at the rim), generate transition offense and pull down defensive rebounds. While losses to a mediocre Washington team and a rebuilding Michigan squad won’t look good on the resume in March, it’s important to bear in mind that the Longhorns have played just one home game. Shaka Smart was thrown right into the fire by having to open the season in China with three games against competitive teams in the Bahamas shortly after, but with a much more favorable schedule coming over the next two weeks, the Longhorns need to start finding their footing. For what it’s worth, I think they will.
  4. Everyone is excited to see how quickly Cheick Diallo will make an impact for Kansas, but there’s another newcomer a little further off the radar to whom people should already start paying attention. Oklahoma State forward Chris Olivier has been a godsend for the Cowboys. The Eastern Illinois transfer is averaging 13.8 points, 4.3 rebounds, and 2.3 blocks per game off the bench and has committed just two turnovers in 121 minutes of run. He’s been efficient at the rim (66.7% FG) as well as on jump shots (52.2%) and is drawing fouls all over the place. The toughest part of the Cowboys’ non-conference schedule is still ahead of them with meetings against Tulsa, Minnesota and Florida on tap for December, so it’s important to contextualize Olivier’s performance, but for the time being, he’s been a huge boost, especially with Phil Forte nursing an elbow injury.
  5. After last Tuesday’s meltdown against North Carolina, the young Kansas State Wildcats were faced with the potential of letting another late lead slip away, but they held on to beat South Carolina State 68-66 on Sunday to move to 5-1 on the year. Senior Justin Edwards led the way with 18 points, including four clutch free throws, to go with eight rebounds and six assists. As they have been all season, the Wildcats cleaned up on the glass, but sloppy play down the stretch almost turned this one into the latest in a series of awful non-conference losses for Kansas State over the years. Edwards, Wesley Iwundu and company get thrown right back into the mix with a home tilt against Coppin State sandwiched by road games at Georgia and Texas A&M over the next two weeks.
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Big 12 M5: 11.27.15 Edition

Posted by Chris Stone on November 27th, 2015

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  1. After falling to intrastate rival Texas A&M in the opening round of the Battle 4 Atlantis, Texas bounced back in its revenge game against Washington. The key to the Longhorns’ ultimate success this year may be senior big man Cameron Ridley. Entering the season, Ridley was expected to be the player most likely to struggle with the transition to Shaka Smart’s system, but he’s proving everyone wrong. As we mentioned on Monday, Ridley has instead become a focal point of the Longhorns’ offense. His usage rate is up six percent from last season and his per 40 minutes numbers (20.7 points and 16.3 rebounds per game) are impressive. The one concern is that the senior is struggling to adjust to the new rules, fouling out in the Longhorns’ two losses. But assuming the big man can find a way to stay on the floor, it’s clear that he’ll be an important piece for Texas this season.
  2. Another Big 12 big man putting together an incredible run early this season is West Virginia’s Devin Williams, as the junior scored 23 points and grabbed 12 rebounds in a 67-59 victory over Richmond in Thursday’s semifinals of the Las Vegas Invitational. “The turning point was every time we threw it to Devin Williams,” head coach Bob Huggins said after the game. “He was just great, scoring for us. And when we missed, he was rebounding. He was terrific.” Williams has recorded a double-double in all five of the Mountaineers’ games this season.
  3. After a woeful performance against Michigan State last week in the Champions Classic, many analysts rightfully questioned Wayne Selden’s role in Kansas’ offensive attack. The junior shot just 3-of-12 from the field with only one assist against the Spartans, but what a difference a week makes. After a victory over Vanderbilt in the finals of this week’s Maui Invitational where the junior wing averaged 19.3 PPG and shot 71 percent from three-point range, Selden was named Co-MVP of the tournament (along with teammate Frank Mason). While those numbers won’t hold up over the course of the full season, it looks like the controversial player is returning to the form he found in South Korea during the World University Games. This development certainly makes him the “ultimate X-factor” for a team that, with the addition of freshman big man Cheick Diallo, can certainly challenge for a national title.
  4. Five Big 12 teams will hit the floor today. Baylor should cruise against Arkansas State; Oklahoma State returns to Stillwater for the second game of its back-to-back with Long Beach State; and Iowa State faces Virginia Tech prior to its potential NCAA Tournament rematch with UAB on Sunday. The two most interesting contests belong to Texas and West Virginia, however — two teams looking to pick up some resume-building wins. The Longhorns will take on Michigan in the fifth-place game at the Battle 4 Atlantis while the Mountaineers get San Diego State in the Las Vegas Invitational final. Both teams are expected to finish in the middle of the pack in Big 12 play, so picking up a couple of solid non-conference victories will be key to their NCAA Tournament hopes.
  5. Finally, one interesting statistical note coming out of the first two weeks of the season. While Big 12 football is known nationally for its lack of defense, that shouldn’t be the case when it comes to basketball. All 10 of the league’s teams rank among the top 100 of KenPom’s adjusted defensive efficiency ratings, and seven of those are currently in the top 40. If even the bottom of the league is playing good defense, we could be setting up for an exciting conference season that features a number of nail-biting contests that come down to one play.
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Big 12 M5: 11.23.15 Edition

Posted by Chris Stone on November 23rd, 2015

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  1. It’s been an eventful weekend for Cheick Diallo‘s eligibility struggle. After he was allowed to travel to Maui on Friday with the Jayhawks, Bill Self opened up to the media about the process the school has endured to clear the big man. So far, Kansas has hired two separate investigative firms, visited Diallo’s high school on six different occasions, and sent a letter listing 19 shortcomings with the NCAA’s investigation. As of Sunday morning, Kansas still had not heard from the governing body regarding its most recent efforts. What happens next is really anybody’s guess, but the Mali native is with the team on island and is presumably ready to go should he get cleared sometime during the tournament.
  2. After hanging tough against Utah before losing last Thursday, Texas Tech bounced back with a pair of wins to finish fifth in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off. The Red Raiders knocked off Mississippi State and their highly touted freshman Malik Newman on Friday before defeating Tubby Smith‘s former school, Minnesota, on Sunday. For his part, Smith seems very happy with his position, telling the media, “I’m really happy we were able to come to a place like Texas Tech where they’ll celebrate you and not just tolerate you.” With a roster showing promise, the Red Raiders are poised to improve their Big 12 record this season, something that should give Texas Tech fans more reasons to celebrate Tubby’s team.
  3. There was also some recent cause for celebration in Austin, as Shaka Smart picked up his first win as the Texas head coach when the Longhorns defeated Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, 67-56, in their home opener. They were led by big man Cameron Ridley, who scored 14 points on 6-of-8 shooting from the field and pulled down 14 rebounds. After shedding some pounds in the offseason, Ridley is becoming a focal point of Smart’s attack and it has become clear that he intends to keep feeding him the ball going forward. Getting the senior some high percentage looks is a priority for a team that is shooting just 34.4 percent on two-point attempts through two games.
  4. Travis Hines at the Ames Tribune took an opportunity to draw some early conclusions about Iowa State, and one of the things he noticed is just how much balance with which the Cyclones are playing through 80 minutes of game action. Iowa State so far has four players with usage rates higher than 20 percent, suggesting that they’re generously spreading the love on offense. The one starter not above that mark? Senior Georges Niang. But make no mistake, the team still knows Niang is its rock. “It’s good to have the foundation,” Naz Mitrou-Long said, “and Georges has been our guy for that for the last couple years.”
  5. Despite missing three rotation players, Oklahoma State eked out a victory over Long Beach State on Sunday to finish third in the Charleston Classic. The Cowboys led by seven points with 39 seconds remaining when Jawun Evans picked up a personal foul and Chris Olivier was hit with a technical. Long Beach State would get it to within a single point as a result, but four clutch free throws by Tyree Griffin sealed the game for the Cowboys. Interestingly enough, the two teams will turn right around and play again on Friday in Stillwater, but this time Oklahoma State figures to be closer to full strength.
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Ranking the Big 12’s Non-Conference Schedules

Posted by Nate Kotisso on November 20th, 2015

Breaking down non-conference schedules are a strange thing to do but I enjoy watching the inter-conference challenges or anytime a Duke plays a Kentucky. If you gave me a fresh list of every high-major program’s non-conference schedule each week, that would be enough for me. Yes. They wouldn’t even have to play the actual games or put them on TV. I would simply be satisfied looking at the schedules themselves because my idea of how those games would play out are perfect and infallible. The best players would score the most points with a side of all the ridiculous buzzer-beaters you can eat. But first, a few notes about these rankings.

Games Like These Are Great For College Basketball (USAT Images)

Games Like These Are Great For College Basketball (USAT Images)

  1. The rankings will go from #10 to #1, representing the range from the weakest non-conference schedule to the strongest.
  2. The rankings do not represent where each team will finish in conference play. Seriously, it’s not that. Don’t be the person who thinks it is.
  3. Arkansas-Pine Bluff appears on three of the Big 12’s 10 non-conference schedules. If a plan is in the works for this program to be added to the Big 12, that’d be amazing. [starts up online petition]
  4. This ranking system is science. Pure science. Take this to a lab. It all checks out.

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Big 12 M5: 11.20.15 Edition

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 20th, 2015

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  1. Early this morning, the NCAA cleared Kansas center Cheick Diallo to fly with the team to the Maui Invitational. Diallo still hasn’t been cleared to play, which is an important distinction for obvious reasons, but at least the possibility exists for the star freshman to suit up if he’s cleared between now and next Wednesday. Whether and when that actually happens is still anyone’s guess, but this seems like a step in the right direction for both the Mali native and his team. Diallo would hardly be a cure-all for Kansas’ woes, but his athleticism and size can help defend the paint, which is something (though not the only thing) Kansas needs in order to realize its aspirations of a deep NCAA Tournament run.
  2. Sticking with the Jayhawks, Scott Phillips of NBCSports.com was in Chicago for Kansas’ Champions Classic loss to Michigan State on Tuesday, and he has some interesting thoughts on Wayne Selden‘s polarizing tenure and ruminations on how the junior could best be utilized. If you watched the game, you saw Selden look completely out of sorts, going 3-of-12 from the floor to finish with an inefficient 12 points in his first major test since the World University Games. Selden’s inconsistency, especially against quality opponents, makes it fair to wonder if the Jayhawks have another solution to their stagnant offensive play in freshman Carlton Bragg. Bragg’s play in practice has drawn rave reviews, and he’s shown that he might be able to hold his own in his limited minutes.
  3. The first in-season edition of Luke Winn’s Power Rankings at SI.com is out, and it features Kansas as well as Oklahoma. We’ve spent a considerable amount of time discussing the Jayhawks already, so I’d like to focus on Winn’s thoughts on the Sooners for a bit. Like him, we’re intrigued by the possibility of Isaiah Cousins and Jordan Woodard splitting duties at the point to add some variety to the Sooners’ offense. We all know about All-American candidate Buddy Hield and how the team needs to find some consistent help for Ryan Spangler, but Cousins and Woodards’ effectiveness beyond Hield’s outbursts will be crucial to keeping opposing backcourts on their toes.
  4. Oklahoma State took care of Towson in its Charleston Classic opener yesterday, but the 69-52 victory came at a cost. As Phil Forte battled for a loose ball, a Towson player landed on his left side, causing his left elbow to hyperextend. Forte spent much of the rest of the game on the bench, and although the injury doesn’t seem too serious, it appears as if the Cowboys may have to finish the weekend tournament without him. There are a couple of silver linings here, however. First, the Cowboys shouldn’t need Forte in the lineup to beat a rebuilding George Mason squad. Secondly, transfer forward Chris Olivier has stepped up to average 15.0 PPG in just 56 total minutes of action this season. That the injury happened on the first day of a tournament where the rounds are played on consecutive days makes for some bad timing, but hopefully Oklahoma State’s sharpshooter is back in action soon.
  5. Texas Tech wasn’t particularly close to the NCAA Tournament’s at-large picture before last night’s 73-63 loss to Utah in Puerto Rico, but the Red Raiders still may end up kicking themselves for dropping this one. They shot terribly from three-point range in the first half and didn’t do a good job of attacking the rim, but thanks to some fortune on jump shots and Jakob Poeltl running into foul trouble, Tubby Smith’s team was able to hang around in this game much longer than expected. Eventually, though, Poeltl righted himself and the Red Raiders were unable to keep Utah guard Lorenzo Bonam from getting into the teeth of the defense. This was ultimately a missed opportunity, but Texas Tech’s effort did nothing to dissuade us from the notion that they’ll be one of the more improved teams in the Big 12 this season.
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Holiday Tournament Previews: Puerto Rico Tip-Off & Charleston Classic

Posted by Andy Gripshover on November 19th, 2015

One of the true beauties of non-conference play in November is all of the various tournaments and the match-ups that they enable. With multiple events tipping off this weekend, let’s start this series of previews by analyzing two of the bigger annual events — the Puerto Rico Tip-Off (bracket) and the Charleston Classic (bracket).

Puerto Rico Tip-Off

Potential top-10 pick Jakob Poeltl and Utah headline a strong Puerto Rico Tip Off tourney. (AP)

Potential top-10 pick Jakob Poeltl and Utah headline a strong Puerto Rico Tip-Off. (AP)

  • Favorite: Utah. Just about everyone other than Delon Wright and Dallin Bachynski is back, and Brandon Taylor can fill enough of Wright’s shoes without making the team so reliant on any one player. Arizona is the Pac-12 favorite by default this season but it’s looking incredibly wide open after that and it ultimately may come down to the Utes defending their second-place crown against upstart Cal.
  • Darkhorse: Butler. It’s Butler in a tournament setting — you’re not quite sure you see the Bulldogs coming but you’re not surprised when they do. Roosevelt Jones (yes, he’s still there) and Kellen Dunham (yep, him too) lead a team that dropped a Big East record 144 points on The Citadel transitioning from Chuck Driesell (344th in adjusted pace last year) to Duggar Baucom (the former VMI coach who was perpetually first)
  • Most on the line: Miami, Minnesota, Temple. The Hurricanes might be the most interesting team in this tournament. That’s not a surprise considering they were also one of the most interesting teams for most of last season. Will they be the “winning at Cameron by 16” Miami or the “losing at home to Eastern Kentucky” Miami? Probably somewhere in-between. The Gophers are entering Year Three of the Richard Pitino Experiment, but closed Year Two by losing six of their final eight games. They’ll be eager to get off to a good start. The Owls couldn’t keep it close with a Marcus Paige-less UNC team in Annapolis and they have as much on the line as any team this weekend by virtue of their status as annual NCAA bubble candidates.

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Big 12 M5: 11.16.15 Edition

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 16th, 2015

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  1. Kansas had no problem whatsoever handling Northern Colorado to open the season on Friday night, blowing out the Bears 109-72. The Jayhawks’ scoring output was their highest since the famous Elijah Johnson game at Iowa State in 2013 (although that game needed overtime). Everyone played a role in Friday night’s win, but the most impressive performance came from wing Brannen Greene, who went a perfect 5-of-5 off the bench from deep. Like most players whose value is tied up in his ability to make three-pointers, Greene is streaky, so whether he carries his hot start into tomorrow night’s Champions Classic meeting against Michigan State will be something to monitor.
  2. Another big story on Opening Night was the inaugural game of the Shaka Smart era at Texas, but it wasn’t quite the start fans had in mind as the Longhorns fell to Washington in a sloppy, foul-plagued rockfight in Shanghai. The game’s 83 possessions were the most for Texas in a regulation game since a close loss to an uptempo BYU team in in 2013. Havoc is of course Smart’s favored style of play and brand — and there’s no reason to doubt that it will take off once he has his own players in the fold — but in the meantime, it’s also fair to question whether pushing the pace is the best idea for a Longhorns group prone to suspect shot selection.
  3. When it comes to the teams who have the best shot of snapping the Jayhawks’ long streak of 11 straight conference titles, an overwhelming majority of the talk has centered on Oklahoma and Iowa State. However, Baylor could be right there with those two schools if its 97-55 dismantling of a decent Stephen F. Austin team is a sign of its long-term potential. We wouldn’t expect the Bears to consistently post eFG% rates in the high 70s as they did in Friday night’s victory, but the big win should serve as a new reminder to not sleep on Scott Drew’s squad this season.
  4. Speaking of Big 12 contenders, Oklahoma was idle over the weekend, but the Sooners will face a tough opener on the road Tuesday night as they travel to face Memphis. The Tigers under Josh Pastner have been competitive over the last few years but their fan base has grown impatient with the team’s inconsistency and lack of postseason success. Still, Memphis features a deep rotation inside that could make scoring difficult for Buddy HieldRyan Spangler, Khadeem Lattin and JeMuni McNeace.
  5. Lastly, the handful of Big 12 coaches facing the most pressure this season enjoyed worry-free debuts. To start off, Bruce Weber‘s new-look Kansas State squad beat a terrible Maryland-Eastern Shore team. Wesley Iwundu probably isn’t cut out to play a starring role on a good Big 12 team, but he looked the part on Friday, scoring an efficient 23 points on just 13 shots. Freshman Barry Brown was very good as well, posting 17 points in his collegiate debut. Meanwhile in Stillwater, Oklahoma State cruised to a 91-57 win over Tennessee-Martin. The Cowboys were on fire the whole game in a way we haven’t seen in a while, as their scoring efficiency of 1.34 PPP was better than any single performance from last season. Phil Forte scored 24 points on nine shots to lead the way. The Pokes have a few more cupcakes before the schedule starts to heat up, so we’ll see if they can continue to be effective.
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Preseason Storylines in the Big 12

Posted by Brian Goodman on October 26th, 2015

Brian Goodman is the lead Big 12 correspondent for Rush The Court. You can follow him on Twitter @BSGoodman.

For a few years now, the Big 12 has been big on regular season success but short on NCAA Tournament results. Last season marked the third straight year in which the conference failed to send a single team to the Elite Eight despite propelling at least half its membership to the Big Dance. Those who are skeptical of the Big 12 due to its lackluster March results will probably remain so, but if that’s your outlook, you’re missing out, because the reality is that this league is once again poised to be the toughest conference in the country. With that, here are the top storylines worth monitoring as season tip-off draws near.

After two years of inconsistent play, is Wayne Selden ready to erupt?

After two years of inconsistent play, is Wayne Selden ready to erupt?

Kansas Looks to Maintain its Dominance – As a blueblood program that has carried the Big 12 basketball flag for nearly a dozen years, it would be silly to start with any other team but the Jayhawks. Kansas competed in the World University Games in July, giving us a precursory glimpse of how the team might look this season. Wayne Selden was especially fantastic in the event, with some of his success due to his placement on the wing rather than the two-guard position where he spent most of his first two seasons. Bill Self is currently planning to use his junior in a similar fashion this year, but whether Selden finds the same success in the college environment as he did in international play is something worth monitoring. Additionally Kansas has more depth down low and on the wing than most people realize, but if Cheick Diallo is eventually cleared to play by the NCAA, his presence on the interior would likely put the Jayhawks over the top when it comes to reversing the Big 12’s postseason fortunes.

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Former Oklahoma State Guard Suing Travis Ford, School

Posted by Brian Goodman on September 8th, 2015

We’ve come upon the strangest story to hit the Big 12’s offseason. Former Oklahoma State guard Stevie Clark, once viewed as the heir to Marcus Smart’s title as floor general before falling out of favor quickly after his arrival in the fall of 2013, is suing the school, its Board of Regents and Cowboys head coach Travis Fordaccording to TulsaWorld.comThe suit lays out a wide variety of allegations from Clark’s brief time with the Cowboys, including:

  • Various promises to Clark by Ford, including a sports car, that were not delivered.
  • “Hazing and disrespect” by Marcus Smart, which, when reported to Ford, led to Ford forcing Clark to take behavioral medication without his consent, lest Clark be barred from practicing with the team. According to Clark’s lawyer, the medication led to depression and suicidal thoughts.
  • Clark being scapegoated in favor of starting players when marijuana was found in his room.
  • Oklahoma State preventing Clark from transferring to a Division-I school after his dismissal; Clark went on to enroll at juco powerhouse Indian Hills Community College, but left the school in 2014.
Oklahoma State head coach Travis Ford faces a strange but serious set of allegations claimed by former Cowboy guard Stevie Clark. (Mark D. Smith/US Presswire)

Oklahoma State head coach Travis Ford faces a strange set of allegations claimed by former Cowboy guard Stevie Clark. (Mark D. Smith/US Presswire)

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Big 12 Way-Too-Early Power Rankings

Posted by Brian Goodman on April 15th, 2015

Depending on how you judge such things, the Big 12 either had a great year in sending seven teams to the NCAA Tournament and finishing first in all the relevant computer rankings, or a miserable one, propelling just two teams to the Sweet Sixteen and missing out on the Elite Eight and beyond entirely for the third straight season. As we’ve said for some time now, it’s silly to let NCAA Tournament results determine your assessment, but the hive mind will continue to pick at the conference’s March shortcomings until the Big 12 breaks through. The good news for the league, though, is that the top teams appear to be retaining most of their best players, and Kansas, Iowa State, Texas and Baylor are still in the running for some of the nation’s top prep talents as well as a handful of graduate transfers who could step in and make immediate impacts. Add it all up and the league should be poised to take a step forward in 2015-16. Here’s how we see things shaking out next season.

1. Kansas

This is what a coach can get away with when you dominate the Big 12 like Bill Self has done at Kansas. (Denny Medley/USA Today Sports)

Al jokes aside, the Big 12’s postseason prospects have to start with Bill Self (Denny Medley/USA Today Sports)

  • Key Departures: Kelly Oubre, Cliff Alexander
  • Key Returnees: Perry Ellis, Wayne Selden, Frank Mason, Devonte’ Graham, Landen Lucas, Brannen Greene, Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk
  • New Arrivals: Carlton Bragg
  • Summer Storyline: The Jayhawks in a down year still won the Big 12, but last year illuminated how vulnerable they are when they don’t have an elite rim-protector inside. To that end, Kansas could really use the services of 6’10” Charlotte transfer Mike Thorne, a physical, productive post threat on both ends of the floor. Bill Self’s program also remains in the running for highly-touted recruits Cheick Diallo, Malik Newman and Jaylen Brown.

2. Iowa State

  • Key Departures: Bryce Dejean-Jones, Dustin Hogue
  • Key Returnees: Georges Niang, Monte’ Morris, Naz Long, Jameel McKay, Abdel Nader
  • New Arrivals: Hallice Cooke, Deonte Burton (transfer)
  • Summer Storyline: Between the annual rumors of Fred Hoiberg leaving for the NBA and Iowa State’s presence on the transfer market, the summer is always a busy time but this offseason has already been more dramatic than usual. St. John’s poaching of top Iowa State assistant Matt Abdelmassih could hurt the Cyclones more than many seem to be noticing. He already flipped former JuCo signee Darien Williams to the Red Storm, and Iowa State’s chances of landing Cheick Diallo, for whom Abdelmassih was the lead recruiter, also took a serious hit. Despite those recruiting challenges, the Cyclones will return most of their offensively gifted core, but questions will remain on defense. Read the rest of this entry »
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