Rushed Reactions: #8 Gonzaga 85, #9 Oklahoma State 77

Posted by Andrew Murawa on March 21st, 2014

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Rush the Court will be providing wall-to-wall coverage of each of the NCAA Tournament from each of the 13 sites this year. Follow our NCAA Tourney specific Twitter accounts at @RTCeastregion, @RTCMWregion,@RTCsouthregion and @RTCwestregion.

Three Key Takeaways.

Przemek Karnowski's Ability To Score Inside Gave Gonzaga A Presence Oklahoma State Couldn't Match (Donald Miralle/Getty Images)

Przemek Karnowski’s Ability To Score Inside Gave Gonzaga A Presence Oklahoma State Couldn’t Match (Donald Miralle/Getty Images)

  1. Battle of Match-ups. Coming into tonight’s game, each team had an apparent strength against the opponent. Gonzaga had a bunch of frontcourt size in Sam Dower and Przemek Karnowski to throw at an undersized Oklahoma State front line. Meanwhile, there was no apparent solution on the Gonzaga roster for having to check both Marcus Smart and Markel Brown. The Cowboys were able to get plenty of offensive production out of their duo (to the tune of 43 points), but Gonzaga’s ability to throw the ball into Karnowski and suck the Oklahoma State defense into the paint provided a big advantage in the early part of this game.
  2. Gonzaga Balance. The Bulldogs feature excellent balance on the basketball court. They’re #16 in the nation in defensive efficiency and #46 in offensive efficiency. They’ve got two frontcourt guys at 6’9” or bigger who average at least double-figures and a trio of solid veteran backcourt players. Today, that balance was on full display. The Zags were able to throw the ball into Karnowski on a regular basis and get buckets, but when they needed a big play to stop a run, guys like Kevin Pangos and Gary Bell Jr. were there to knock in big jumpers. With 11 minutes left and Oklahoma State on a 7-0 run, Bell stepped into a three, and then mere seconds later, Pangos turned a steal into a layup to stop the bleeding. With 7:47, a Pangos three did much the same. The Bulldogs’ ability to get production from both inside and outside was the difference against a backcourt-heavy Cowboy team. Read the rest of this entry »
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NCAA Game Analysis: Second Round, Friday Afternoon

Posted by Brian Otskey, Andrew Murawa, Walker Carey & Bennet Hayes on March 21st, 2014

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Half the day is in the books, and eight teams are headed home. We may not know what the Thursday evening sessions might have in store for us, but we can be confident in thinking there will be lots of excitement. Let’s continue our analysis of all of today’s games with the evening slate of eight contests.

#3 Duke vs. #14 Mercer – Midwest Region Round of 64 (from Raleigh, NC) – at 12:15 PM EST on CBS

Parker and Duke Face Mercer Today

Parker and Duke Face Mercer Today

Last season, the Atlantic Sun Tournament champions advanced to the Sweet 16. Mercer will try to repeat that accomplishment this season, but winning Friday’s game against Duke will be a very tall task. Duke forwards Jabari Parker and Rodney Hood lead a very talented Blue Devils squad that is an elite scoring team. There are no teams with close to Duke’s talent in the Atlantic Sun so Mercer has no basis for comparison leading into Friday afternoon’s action. Another thing that is working against Mercer is its lack of NCAA Tournament experience. The Bears have not been to the tournament since 1985. On the other hand, Duke has played in every NCAA Tournament since 1995. If Mercer is able to keep it close Friday, it will be because of its strong offense going up against an iffy Duke defense. Mercer averages an impressive 79.5 points per game and is shooting 47.5% from the field. Bears senior guard Langston Hall has been an impressive player throughout his collegiate career and his ability to make plays will be paramount to the team’s fortunes Friday. Mercer is a scrappy bunch that can keep it close in the first half, but expect Duke’s talent to take over in the second half and lead the Blue Devils to a comfortable victory.

The RTC Certified Pick: Duke

#6 Baylor vs #11 Nebraska – West Regional Second Round (at San Antonio, TX) – 12:40 PM ET on truTV

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Will Oklahoma State’s Up and Down Season Lead to Dallas?

Posted by Kory Carpenter on March 21st, 2014

For teams receiving at-large bids in the NCAA Tournament, there isn’t a worst spot to land than an #8 or #9 seed. Because unless your postseason goals begin and end with winning one game, your March dreams more often than not will be dashed in the first weekend. Since the tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985, #1 seeds have reached the Sweet Sixteen almost 85 percent of the time. Nine-seed Oklahoma State will be facing those odds this weekend in the San Diego pod. They face #8 seed Gonzaga Friday afternoon and would more than likely see #1 seed Arizona in the Round of 32 should they get past the Bulldogs. That game is a tossup, but we’re talking ceilings here and the biggest obstacle to Oklahoma State reaching its ceiling will be waiting for them in the Round of 32.

Can a resurgent Marcus Smart lead Oklahoma State to the Final Four? (Stephen R. Sylvanie/USA TODAY)

Can a resurgent Marcus Smart lead Oklahoma State to the Final Four? (Stephen R. Sylvanie/USA TODAY)

For most #9 seeds, their realistic ceiling is playing the #1 seed close. But Oklahoma State isn’t your typical #9 seed. The Cowboys began the year with Big 12 title and Final Four hopes. But they lost their leading shot-blocker, junior forward Michael Cobbins, for the season with an achilles tear on Dec. 30. Sophomore guard Marcus Smart’s meltdown against Texas Tech led to a three-game suspension in early February, which came in the middle of a seven-game skid that had people questioning if the Cowboys would even make the NCAA Tournament. But Smart has played better than he had all season since returning on February 22, averaging 18.7 PPG and 6 APG. His team is 5-2 in that stretch with losses in overtime against Iowa State and Kansas. Oklahoma State has its flaws. Travis Ford isn’t the best in-game coach in the world and they are one of the smallest teams in the country. But their talent far exceeds their resume, and therefore, their seed.

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Bracket Prep: West Region Analysis

Posted by Andrew Murawa (@AMurawa) on March 17th, 2014

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Throughout Monday, we will roll out our region-by-region analysis on the following schedule: East (10:00 AM), Midwest (11:00 AM), South (1:00 PM), West (2:00 PM). Here, Andrew Murawa (@amurawa) breaks down the West Region from top to bottom. Also, be sure to follow our RTC West Region handle on Twitter for continuous updates the next two weeks (@RTCwestregion).

You should also check out our upcoming RTC Podblast with Andrew breaking down the West Region, which will drop both on the site and on iTunes Tuesday.

West Region

Favorite: Arizona, #1, 30-4. The Wildcats are the nation’s best defensive team – this is beyond debate. In 34 games to this date, they’ve allowed teams to score better than a point per possession just six times all year (and seven times they’ve held their opponent to less than 0.8 points per possession). They’ve got freshman Aaron Gordon, who is on the short list of most versatile defenders in the nation, capable of guarding players from power forward to point guard. Likewise, guys like Nick Johnson, T.J. McConnell and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson are terrific athletic defenders, while sophomore Kaleb Tarczewski is a rugged rim protector. Point is that it is going to be very hard for any opponent to score consistently on this team. Throw in the fact that the Wildcats are a quality offensive team as well (only six times all season have they scored less than a point per possession in a game) and that they’re playing arguably their best ball of the season at the right time for rising star Sean Miller, and the West is theirs to win.

Arizona Earned A #1 Seed In The West Region And Fortunate Geographic Placement

Arizona Earned A #1 Seed In The West Region And Fortunate Geographic Placement. (AP)

Should They Falter: Wisconsin, #2, 26-7. Aside from a head-scratching downturn in the middle of the season when the Badgers lost five out of six games, Bo Ryan’s squad has been excellent. Only once in the last 12 seasons has Wisconsin had a more efficient offense (2011, and even then, it is a razor-thin margin), but what is different about this team is an increased tempo, a sparkling shooting percentage, and a complete avoidance of turnovers. However, all of this offensive wonderment does not come without a price, as this is also the worst Badgers team on the defensive end in those same dozen years, with the team – especially in that bad stretch in January – failing to contain dribble penetration and regularly getting scorched. This happened again this past weekend against Michigan State, so the Badgers are not here without concerns. But in a region where there are few teams without some blemishes, the Badgers are the safest bet – beyond Arizona – to wind up in Dallas.

Grossly Overseeded: BYU, #10, 23-11. Let’s just refer back to 2012 in the West region and read what I wrote then. Sure, some of the details have now changed, but the gist of this is the same: Why is BYU in the field again? They’ve got a solid win over Gonzaga, they beat Stanford and Texas in the non-conference. Sure. But all of those good spots are balanced out by atrocious losses to Loyola Marymount, Pepperdine, Portland and Pacific. There aren’t a ton of other great options to go into BYU’s spot, for sure, and rewarding them for playing a tough non-conference slate is fine. But if anything, the Cougars should have to win their way into the field of 64 by getting through the First Four in Dayton.

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Big 12 M5: 03.17.14 Edition

Posted by Kory Carpenter on March 17th, 2014

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  1. The Big 12 was considered by many to be the best conference in the country this season, and that might have been validated when seven of its 10 schools made the NCAA Tournament yesterday. The 70 percent acceptance rate was higher than any other conference, and as Wendell Barnhouse at Big12sports.com points out, it is the only power conference without a team seeded lower than ninth. As Committee chairman Ron Wellman explains to Barnhouse, Big 12 teams playing so many top-50 RPI teams this season helped improve resumes and likely pushed a potential bubble team like Oklahoma State into the field.
  2. If you like NCAA Tournament committee conspiracy theories, Gregg Doyel has an interesting article here on just that topic. Other than the NBA Draft, the NCAA Tournament selection and bracketing process brings out as many conspiracy theorists as any sporting event. Doyel brings up a few interesting points in this year’s bracket, namely that #1 seed and untested Wichita State will potentially face an underseeded #4 Louisville team just 90 minutes from its campus in the Sweet Sixteen, while #6 seed Baylor gets two de facto home games in San Antonio in the first two rounds. Me? I don’t buy them. There are so many interesting potential match-ups (Wichita State vs Kansas State in the Round of 32, as Doyel also points out) that you’re going to get a few of them. The law of averages tells us that. Besides, when the committee had the perfect chance to put Border Civil War members Kansas and Missouri against each other in the Round of 32 last season, #1 seed Kansas was in the South region while #9 seed Missouri was in the Midwest. No conspiracy there.
  3. Seven-seed New Mexico quickly became many people’s upset pick when a potential rematch against #2 seed Kansas became a possibility in the Round of 32. And with the way the Jayhawks have been playing without Joel Embiid in the lineup, it certainly makes sense. Kansas beat New Mexico 80-63 back in December thanks to Embiid’s 18 points, six rebounds, and four blocks, and as Rustin Dodd points out, the Lobos are hot right now. Ten-seed Stanford isn’t, however, and the Cardinal looks to be a better match-up for Kansas in the round of 32.
  4. ESPN’s Eamonn Brennan takes a look at all 68 teams in the NCAA Tournament and puts them into  categories ranging from bracket busters to favorites, and a few places in-between. Kansas State, Texas and Baylor fell in the “High-Major Meh” category, and it’s hard to argue with him. I don’t see any of those three teams surviving the first weekend. He has a little more faith in Oklahoma, thanks in large part to head coach Lon Kruger. Kansas is just outside the “Favorites” group because of the uncertainty of Joel Embiid’s back injury.
  5. One of the best players in the Big 12 is preparing for the first NCAA Tournament game of his career, and it has been a long time coming. But I’m not talking about freshmen Andrew Wiggins or Marcus Foster. Rather, Iowa State guard DeAndre Kane played four seasons in relative obscurity at Marshall before transferring to Iowa State for a fifth season. He led the Cyclones to the Big 12 Tournament championship and a #3 seed as the Cyclones have become a trendy pick to advance to the second weekend and beyond.
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NCAA Tournament Instareaction: Big 12 Teams

Posted by Brian Goodman & Taylor Erickson on March 16th, 2014

Sunday night, the Big 12 realized the rewards of an outstanding 2013-14 season. Back in November, the league was expected to top out at five NCAA bids, but a league record-tying seven schools heard their names called on Selection Sunday. The conference’s selection of NCAA Tournament participants run the gamut from national title contender (Kansas, if the Jayhawks live long enough to see the return of Joel Embiid) to trendy second weekend picks like Iowa State, Baylor and Oklahoma State, to a trio that not only outperformed preseason expectations but cemented their standings without needing extra wins over this weekend to do so (Texas, Kansas State and Oklahoma). The league may not have a team that you can feel great about locking in for an appearance in Dallas in early April, but you can say the same thing for most power conferences around the country.

Can the Jayhawks get past New Mexico in the second round if they'll need to do so without Joel Embiid? (USA Today)

The Jayhawks have national title aspirations, but can they get past a potential match-up against New Mexico without Joel Embiid? (USA Today)

Kansas (Brian Goodman)

  • Seed: #2 South
  • Quick First Round Preview: Kansas will square off against the 15-seed Eastern Kentucky Colonels, winners of the Ohio Valley Conference Tournament. The Jayhawks shouldn’t have much trouble handling them — even without Joel Embiid in the lineup — but Jeff Neubauer’s senior-laden team operates with the nation’s fourth-best effective field-goal percentage (57 percent) and turns opponents over at a rate of 24.2 percent.
  • Intriguing Potential Future Matchup: A second-round match-up against New Mexico will await the Jayhawks provided both teams take care of business. Bill Self‘s team beat Craig Neal’s in Kansas City just three months ago, but New Mexico forward Cameron Bairstow didn’t have much trouble against Kansas’ front line even with Embiid, as he led the Lobos with 24 points in the losing effort.
  • Final Word: The Jayhawks reap the rewards of their historically intense non-conference schedule and relative walk to their 10th straight Big 12 regular season title with favorable placement in St. Louis, just a five-hour drive from Lawrence. Traveling Jayhawks fans will be in for a treat, as they can catch Wichita State, Kentucky and fellow Big 12 member Kansas State all under one roof.

Iowa State (Kory Carpenter)

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Rushed Reactions: #10 Kansas 77, Oklahoma State 70 (OT)

Posted by Greg Mitchell on March 13th, 2014

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Here are three key takeaways from Kansas’ thrilling win over Oklahoma State in the Big 12 quarterfinals.

Andrew Wiggins is heating up at the right time for Kansas (sportschump.net).

Andrew Wiggins is heating up at the right time for Kansas (sportschump.net).

  1. How about that for a follow up performance from Andrew Wiggins? After scoring 41 in a loss to West Virginia last Saturday, the freshman scored 30 points on 9-of-17 shooting in his third, and likely final, game against Oklahoma State. For most of the game the Cowboys did a good job in taking the baseline away from Wiggins and forcing him to beat them with his jump shot. And beat them he did, going 3-of-6 from three, and hitting a stepback jumper to tie the game at the end of regulation. Wiggins found more space going to the rim in the second half, and finished off an elevator of an alley-oop. He was also tasked with guarding Markel Brown the majority of the game, and forced the senior into a 5-of-13 shooting afternoon. This occurred after Brown had an efficient 20 points on 5-of-9 shooting the night before. In these last two games Wiggins has played the type of basketball that can carry a team deep into the postseason. That’s pretty good timing on his part.
  2. Wiggins took the headlines today, but the bigger story is how Kansas fared against a quality opponent without Joel Embiid in the lineup. Tarik Black and Jamari Traylor combined for 21 rebounds, 13 points and two blocks, and production like that will go a long way in allowing the Jayhawks to weather the absence of the seven-foot difference-maker. It’ll need to be an all hands on deck mantra for the Kansas big men, and it was this afternoon. Embiid is a dynamic defensive player, but Kansas may feel his loss just as much on the offensive end. Foul trouble limited Perry Ellis to just eight second half minutes, and without him in the game the Jayhawks had no one to draw the Cowboys’ defensive attention in the low post. If not for Wiggins’ scoring heroics, Kansas likely wouldn’t have been able to weather the Oklahoma State comeback. Though raw offensively, Embiid still demands attention, and that will be missed for as long as he’s out.
  3. Number one seeds now might be able to breathe a sigh of relief. The Cowboys’ late season surge (with wins over Kansas and Kansas State), paired with their solid performance this afternoon, may have served to bump them off of the rumored #8/#9 seed line. Given their star power and reputation going into the season, it wouldn’t be surprising if the committee gives them the benefit of the doubt this weekend. That’s good news for any potential top seed. As Bill Self said after the game, if the Cowboys avoid foul trouble, they are good enough to play with just about anyone in the country. Neither Brown nor Marcus Smart shot the ball well today, but Le’Bryan Nash displayed why he’s a such a tough match-up problem. He’s developed into a capable low post scorer, but by nature is more of a slasher. Contending with both of these styles is a tough task for any big man attempting to guard him.

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Oklahoma State & Baylor Shored Up NCAA Bids Wednesday in KC

Posted by Greg Mitchell on March 13th, 2014

Call it redemption, call it taking care of business. Whatever you call it, Oklahoma State flew by its first round test last night at the Sprint Center by beating Texas Tech 80-62. Back in October, having to suit up on the tournament’s first night would’ve seemed ridiculous for a team picked to share the regular season Big 12 title. But here the Cowboys were, needing to beat Texas Tech to set up a Thursday afternoon rubber match with Kansas. Even more, the Cowboys didn’t want to test the committee and pick up loss number twelve to a team with a RPI north of 100. Recent wins over Kansas and Kansas State cured a lot of ills, but beating the Red Raiders was the surest path to a stress-free Selection Sunday.

Oklahoma State forced Texas Tech into 17 turnovers, including six steals by Marcus Smart (okstate.com).

Marcus Smart’s six steals helped Oklahoma State dispatch Texas Tech in the first round of the Big 12 tournament (okstate.com).

The Cowboys were able to do just that by attacking the basket early in the game and building a lead Texas Tech would never threaten. The Red Raiders got off to an 8-0 start, but the Cowboys punched back with a 26-5 run keyed by multiple and one’s. Attacking the basket would be a theme for the entire night, as Oklahoma State got to the free throw line 26 times in the first half, and 37 times for the game. This ability to grind out offensive possessions and create easy looks should allow the Cowboys to weather poor shooting spells in any tournament-setting, and makes them a dangerous team going forward. Marcus Smart, LeBryan Nash and Markel Brown are all in the top ten in the Big 12 in free throw makes too.

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Big 12 M5: 03.13.14 Edition

Posted by Brian Goodman on March 13th, 2014

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  1. Season accolades continued to roll in on Tuesday, as Andrew Wiggins was named as a second team All-American by the United States Basketball Writers Association. Wiggins is joined by fellow Big 12 member and countryman Melvin Ejim as well as Cleanthony Early, C.J. Fair and Sean Kilpatrick. Wiggins carries season averages of 16.8 points and 5.9 rebounds per game into the Big 12 Tournament, and he may have to bump that production even higher if Kansas is to overcome the loss of Joel Embiid this weekend and beyond.
  2. More reports continue to swirl around the back of Embiid. It was revealed yesterday that the big man dealt with similar (though not identical) back problems this time last year as a senior at The Rock School in Gainesville, Florida. While every situation is different, it’s worth pointing out that Emeka Okafor went through a similar pattern of rest and rehab to how the Jayhawks are treating Embiid and returned in time to lead Connecticut to the 2004 national championship. We wouldn’t expect Kansas’ situation to pan out the same way, but would it be that big a surprise if it did?
  3. Yesterday, we brought up the under-the-radar status of Marcus Foster, who has thrived even without the spotlight of Wiggins, Embiid or any of the rest of the country’s top freshmen. While Foster could break out nationally with a big postseason, it’s also worth bearing in mind that as a freshman, he isn’t used to his season running this long. Foster has learned what the college grind is all about, largely thanks to having upperclassmen like Shane Southwell, Will Spradling and Omari Lawrence along for the ride. You may remember that Foster was once a highly sought-after recruit, but conditioning problems led many prolific programs to pull back in their pursuit. Foster rewarded Bruce Weber’s loyalty by shedding some weight, and he’s enjoyed a great first year.
  4. Marcus Smart tends to get the majority of attention for Oklahoma, and most of the time, it’s well-deserved. However, there’s a very good argument to be made that it’s actually Markel Brown who is the leader of the Cowboys. The shooting guard endured two straight seasons where Oklahoma State missed the NCAA Tournament, and has improved every year he’s been on campus. After the Cowboys fell into an early 8-0 hole against the Red Raiders last night, Brown snapped his teammates out of the funk with long-range bombs, defensive stops and a highlight-reel dunk, just as he has most of the last two seasons. A much bigger test comes this afternoon in Oklahoma State’s rubber match against Kansas.
  5. With Oklahoma State’s win over Texas Tech last night, we bid farewell to the Red Raiders. At the time, Tubby Smith‘s acceptance of the job last spring was a head-scratching move, and we will still need a couple of years to see if he can recruit and develop enough talent to crack the occasional NCAA Tournament field, but this season, Tech was a much tougher out than many expected. The Red Raiders delivered upset wins over Baylor, Oklahoma State, Oklahoma, and Texas, and were competitive in losses to Kansas and Kansas State.
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Burning Questions Going into the Big 12 Tournament

Posted by Brian Goodman on March 12th, 2014

The 2014 Phillips 66 Big 12 Championship is finally here, and the action begins at 6:00 CST tonight from Sprint Center in downtown Kansas City. To get you up to speed, our microsite team runs down the most important storylines around the conference.

Brian Goodman (@BSGoodman): We begin with Oklahoma State and Baylor as they look to take the final steps toward redemption. It’s been a longer road for both teams than we expected at the start of the season. The Cowboys endured a seven-game losing streak earlier this season, punctuated by Marcus Smart‘s three-game suspension for shoving a fan, and looked dead to rights just three weeks ago. Since then, not only has Smart returned, but he’s playing perhaps his best ball of the season, and the Pokes are riding high, having won four of their last five contests. In the other game tipping off tonight, Baylor will aim to remove any remaining doubt regarding their bubble status. After a 10-1 start to the season, the Bears went on to drop eight of their first ten conference games. The roller coaster went back up, though, with a 7-1 stretch to end the regular season (including a sweep of Kansas State). Considering their current resumes, Oklahoma State and Baylor may some wiggle room should they be forced to head back early to their respective campuses, but at the same time, it would be unwise of them to extend the bubble conversation by going one-and-done. Do the Cowboys and Bears take care of business? What happens on Selection Sunday if either team gets bounced before Friday’s semifinals?

Baylor guard Kenny Chery has provided a calming presence at the point. (Getty)

Baylor guard Kenny Chery has provided a calming presence at the point. (Getty)

Nate Kotisso (@natekotisso): It’s safe to assume that Baylor and Oklahoma State are firmly in the field of 68. Baylor saved their season just in time to finish 9-9 in the league and own eight RPI Top 50 wins, four of them coming on road or neutral floors. Normally, I would say the Bears could get away with losing their first game in the Big 12 tournament, but when the opponent is TCU, the last thing you want your resume to have is an “L” to a team with an RPI in the 200s. Oklahoma State is in a similar spot playing Texas Tech tonight. Could they get in with a loss? It depends, but they should take care of the Red Raiders to rid themselves of any nerves on Selection Sunday.

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Big 12 M5: 03.10.14 Edition

Posted by Brian Goodman on March 10th, 2014

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  1. The Kansas City Star reported that Kansas center Joel Embiid is in California getting a second opinion on his lingering back problems. Embiid has already missed three games due to back ailments and has been hampered in others, and his status for the Big 12 Tournament and beyond is in significant doubt. It would be a shame for the freshman to miss out on the most important games of his collegiate career, but it looks like Bill Self will have to hope for the best and plan for the worst as the Jayhawks look to get their postseason house in order.
  2. Iowa State forward Melvin Ejim has enjoyed a terrific season to this point, and his efforts were rewarded on Sunday by the league’s coaches, who tabbed him with the Big 12 Player Of The Year honor. Ejim finished the season ranked second in the conference in scoring (18.2 PPG) as well as rebounding (8.6 RPG), and his regular season campaign was highlighted by a 48-point outburst against TCU back on February 8. He’s a very deserving candidate, and there are legitimate cases for several other players as well. The RTC Big 12 Microsite contributors will have more on Ejim, Andrew Wiggins, DeAndre Kane and several other top performers later today.
  3. Whether you roll your eyes at Marcus Smart‘s flopping or embrace it as just one more thing by which to remember the season, there’s no doubt that the Oklahoma State point guard has garnered his share of headlines. When the Cowboys paid a visit to Hilton Coliseum on Saturday, Iowa State students mocked Smart in a coordinated effort to try to distract him at the free throw line by dramatically falling into their seats. They had instructions printed out and everything. Cyclone fans have earned a deserving reputation as some of the most hostile and passionate ones in the conference, so while Smart or Travis Ford may not have appreciated their idea of fun, it’s another reminder of how it’s not just the players and coaches that make college basketball worth following.
  4. There are zombies descending on Kansas City. No, The Walking Dead hasn’t suddenly changed locations, but the resurrected versions of Oklahoma State and Baylor are on the prowl and looking to do some damage this week, as detailed by USA Today’s Nicole Auerbach. After miserable starts to conference play, the Cowboys and Bears revived their NCAA Tournament chances with strong finishes to the regular season. Both teams are good bets to lock down bids regardless of what happens at the Sprint Center this week, but losing their first games and putting their fate in the hands of the selection committee would not be advisable for either squad.
  5. It’s been a rough go for Trent Johnson and TCU this season. A laundry list of injuries has hampered Johnson’s rebuilding effort, and despite fielding a promising big man in freshman Karviar Shepherd, the Horned Frogs couldn’t avoid becoming the first Big 12 team in 10 years to go winless in conference play. TCU dropped to 0-18 in league action, ending the regular season with a 30-point shellacking at the hands of Oklahoma. Johnson’s team will look to play spoiler when it faces a Baylor squad looking to cement an NCAA Tournament bid Wednesday night in Kansas City.
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Big 12 Weekend Preview: Conference Flirting With History

Posted by Brian Goodman on March 7th, 2014

Even without a clear national title contender beyond Kansas, it’s impossible to deny that this season has been hugely successful for the Big 12. No matter what you value, the conference has it.

  • Top-shelf NBA Draft talent (Andrew Wiggins, Joel Embiid, Marcus Smart)
  • Fantastic upperclassmen (Melvin Ejim, Markel Brown, Juwan Staten, Cory Jefferson, Cameron Clark)
  • Impact transfers (DeAndre Kane, Ryan Spangler, Tarik Black)
  • Coaches who have done remarkable jobs getting their teams to buy in (Bill SelfRick BarnesFred Hoiberg and Lon Kruger)
The Big 12 is trending towards history, and we're not talking about Kansas' vice grip on the crown. (John Rieger/USA Today Sports)

The Big 12 is trending towards history, and we’re not talking about Kansas’ vice grip on the crown. (John Rieger/USA Today Sports)

That’s not to say that the season hasn’t had its low points (Marcus Smart getting popped for three games after shoving a fan; West Virginia shooting itself in the foot with early season losses; TCU’s continued struggle to make any discernible noise), but all in all, it’s been a fantastic year for the Big 12. The most impressive thing about the conference, however, doesn’t have as much to do with the here and now as it does with what could be on Selection Sunday: A league record-tying seven NCAA Tournament bids.

At the beginning of the season, most prognosticators pegged the Big 12 as a five-bid league. Granted, at the time, Oklahoma State and Baylor weren’t believed to be the teams that would need wins at the end of the regular season to earn bids, but that’s how things have shaken out as Kansas State, Texas and Oklahoma have overachieved as the Cowboys and Bears struggled. But with Travis Ford and Scott Drew’s teams now clicking again, the odds of the conference squeezing not five, not six, but seven teams into the NCAA Tournament, are rising. If seven bids come to pass, it would tie a league record set in 2010, but if we’re nitpicking, seven bids in 2014 would be even more impressive than seven bids in 2010, and I’ll explain why.

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