Big 12 M5: 12.18.2014 Edition

Posted by Brian Goodman on December 19th, 2014

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  1.  Iowa State‘s defense will get a lift this weekend from transfer Jameel McKay, who is finally eligible after transferring from Marquette and sitting out the last two semesters. A 6’9″ forward, McKay possesses a 7’4″ wingspan, which should come in handy for a Cyclone team that’s currently dead last in the conference in blocks percentage and offensive rebound percentage. Prior to his short stint with the Golden Eagles, McKay played alongside Cyclone forward Dustin Hogue at Indian Hills Community College. According to Fred Hoiberg, McKay will come off the bench, but even as a secondary member of Iowa State’s rotation, McKay’s ability to alter shots and preserve possessions with his offensive rebounding should give the Cyclones’ attack a new dimension.
  2. Perhaps the biggest name to hit the transfer market recently is former Duke forward Semi Ojeleye, who is now getting the full-court press from Kansas State. There are two major connections between Ojeleye and the Wildcat program: He hails from Ottawa (Kan.), which is just 80 miles from Manhattan, and his brother, Victor Ojeleye, was a walk-on from 2008 to 2012. There’s just one issue for Kansas State – They don’t have a scholarship available. The Wildcats inked three high school commits from the 2015 class to prepare for the loss of Thomas Gipson, Nino Williams and outgoing transfer Jack Karapetyan. Sometimes, these things have a way of working themselves out, but since Ojeleye and his AAU coach have also received inquiries from the likes of Wisconsin, Kansas and Wichita State, something would have to develop quickly for him to end up a Wildcat.
  3. Everyone is still getting used to the idea of TCU being a competitive team, including its local media. The Horned Frogs are one of just nine undefeated teams left in Division I, but they’ve partially arrived at that point by way of easy scheduling by head coach Trent Johnson. Still, these are games that previous TCU teams were losing, so credit is due. Their chances of making the NCAA Tournament will boil down to how they fare in conference play, and in that regard, their backs will be against the wall as they were in their first two seasons of Big 12 membership, but even this level of relevance can be nothing but a good thing for the conference.
  4. While Kansas‘ offensive struggles are a touch misplaced (they currently rank 14th in the country in adjusted offense), they could stand to improve, and as the Lawrence Journal-World‘s Tom Keegan writes, freshman big man Cliff Alexander could be the answer, or at least an answer as the Jayhawks look to get better over Winter Break. Alexander can be foul-prone, but it’s been frustrating to also see his minutes limited by Bill Self’s preference towards experience even though guys like Jamari Traylor and Landen Lucas are less talented. We’re anticipating Alexander to get more chances with Kansas’ non-con schedule softening up as it nears its end, but it’s up to him to make the most of those opportunities.
  5. The Big 12 roars into the weekend on an absolute tear, having won its last 22 games by an average of 19.6 points. While some of the conference’s opponents in that time never stood a chance to be competitive, the streak also includes some impressive road wins over power conferences and victories over solid mid-major teams, too. There are three big threats tomorrow, though: Maryland pays a visit to Oklahoma State; A Washington team on the rise which will square off against Oklahoma in Las Vegas tomorrow, and a solid NC State team will take a crack at West Virginia at Madison Square Garden. Given the strength of the conference, everyone else should have no trouble taking care of business.
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Big 12 M5: 12.17.14 Edition

Posted by Brian Goodman on December 17th, 2014

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  1. We lead with a thorough analysis from Bleacher Report‘s CJ Moore on how the mock draft culture impacts its key stakeholders from NBA prospects and their families to college coaches to pro scouts to the work of people such as ESPN’s Chad Ford and DraftExpress‘ Jonathan Givony. We recommend you read the entire article, which is couched in Kelly Oubre‘s scenario with Kansas, because Moore does a fantastic job of seeking out the most relevant angles, but it’s especially interesting to hear how head coach Bill Self feels about the mock draft dynamic; Some of his objections are valid, even though they can also be interpreted as self-serving. Ultimately, I think Givony’s response that it’s up to each individual to form their own opinion and that it’s not right for coaches to conflate one person’s thoughts with the community’s as a whole is fair as well.
  2. West Virginia‘s struggles in its first two seasons of Big 12 membership dimmed the national spotlight on the Mountaineers, which was unfortunate for many reasons. Of course, I wanted to see West Virginia be as competitive in their new home as they were in the Big East, but lower on the list, their diminished relevance provided fewer opportunities for a good-old-fashioned Bob Huggins rant to make the rounds. That ended Monday night and into Tuesday, though, when the 61-year-old vet sounded off on his radio show after Marshall head coach Dan D’Antoni accused him of being “afraid” to play the Thundering Herd twice a year (D’Antoni’s comments were sparked by a close loss to the Mountaineers on Sunday). Huggins is right to be incensed at D’Antoni’s comments both as one of the most fearless head coaches in the game and as the leader of a West Virginia program that has much more to lose than they have to gain by repeatedly playing a mediocre team like Marshall. It isn’t very often that we see coaches react so emotionally and honestly, so when the opportunity presents itself, it’s definitely worth checking out.
  3. Every season, there’s a handful of players you swore have been in college forever. This season, that hypothetical roster includes guys like Oklahoma State forward Le’Bryan Nash, who was a highly-touted recruit expected to not be long for college, but is nonetheless still at it in Stillwater. Despite being the only top-15 recruit from the high school Class of 2011 still in college, Nash is at peace with his position as the leader of a talented Cowboy squad. In speaking to CBSSports.com‘s Gary Parrish, Nash admitted that he has flirted with declaring for the NBA Draft each offseason since his arrival. According to head coach Travis Ford, Nash chose to return for his senior season so he could take ownership of the Cowboys. So far, the decision has worked out for all parties involved, as Nash is currently the second-leading scorer in the Big 12 with an efficient 17.7 points per game on 11 shots per contest. There’s no doubt that his presence has given Oklahoma State someone to rally around and lead them to a bounceback season. Staying on campus for all four years isn’t what Nash had in mind, but to his credit, he’s adapted well, so it’s tough not to find yourself rooting for him.
  4. In a game that was never really a game, Oklahoma trounced in-state foe Oral Roberts 85-53 in front of a light home crowd. The Golden Eagles were simply no match for the Sooners’ attack, which was able to put up a high scoring total despite getting only three points from the free throw line. Buddy Hield led Oklahoma with 16 points, while Ryan Spangler dominated the glass and Jordan Woodard had eight assists — in other words, the Sooners stuck to their blueprint, though in fairness, Oral Roberts was playing its third game in four days. We may not have learned much about the Sooners in this one, but Saturday’s matchup against Washington in neutral Las Vegas should be more revealing.
  5. On a minor note, the end of the semester has come, and that means certain players concluding that their current schools aren’t doing the trick for them. To that end, we learned yesterday that former Texas guard Damarcus Croaker and former Iowa State guard Sherron Dorsey-Walker will look for new homes. Croaker, a two-guard, averaged 9.5 minutes per game this season, but failed to see any court time in the Longhorns’ biggest games. He’s looking to transfer closer to his native Orlando so he can be with his young son. Dorsey-Walker, most notably, was Fred Hoiberg’s first redshirt player, but struggled to gain a foothold in the Cyclone rotation in each of his two eligible seasons. With a more talented guard in Oregon State transfer Hallice Cook set to play next season, the writing appeared to be on the wall. Dorsey-Walker may have been an afterthought in Iowa State’s rotation, but had offers from Michigan and Indiana (among others) as a recruit, so it will be interesting to see who takes him in.
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Weekly Primer: Don’t Sleep on Mid-December Games

Posted by Henry Bushnell on December 16th, 2014

Every Monday (sometimes Tuesday), Henry Bushnell will provide a look ahead at the week to come. He’ll discuss the week’s top storylines, preview the three most prominent and compelling games, put a giant or two on upset alert, and decide which teams are in desperate need of a big week.

It’s a cold, dark Monday night in December. The holiday scent is in the air. Subpar football unwillingly seeps out of a TV. Winter threatens to envelop us – if it hasn’t already done so. On this cold, dark Monday night in December, college basketball doesn’t really matter. Or at least it seems like it doesn’t. The Monday evening slate is tinged with irrelevance. Duke sleepwalks over Elon, and not many take note. The sport still lurks in the distance. Lenses are still out of focus.

Exam Weeks Around the Nation Building Young Minds

Exam Weeks Around the Nation Building Young Minds

But this, my friends, is a time as important as any in college basketball. When the final weekend of February rolls around, we’ll be scrutinizing teams inside and out, but December matters too. Just ask a team like Cal, which barely missed out on the NCAA Tournament a year ago. Analysts rued their March losses to Arizona State and Utah, but how about that December loss to UC Santa Barbara? That hurt too. Or ask Southern Miss, which built up a solid résumé, but was left to wonder what might have been if it hadn’t slipped up against Western Kentucky during the week before Christmas. On that same day, December 18, 2013, NC State toppled Tennessee. The Wolfpack made the field as one of the last four teams in. That’s not a coincidence.

Don’t ignore this week. Even with those lenses somewhat out of focus, the results will come into plain sight soon enough. It doesn’t matter how you win; your performance doesn’t have to be aesthetic. Just get the job done. Statements can be made. They will not be forgotten.

Three for the Money

North Carolina vs. Ohio State | Saturday, 1:00 PM, CBS

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Big 12 M5: 12.15.14 Edition

Posted by Brian Goodman on December 15th, 2014

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  1. The Big 12 enjoyed an exceptionally strong weekend as the conference went 10-0 with an average margin of victory of 15.6 points. Included were three blowouts on the road (Iowa State at Iowa, Oklahoma at Tulsa, and Oklahoma State at Memphis), and the highlight of the week was Kansas beating Utah in Kansas City despite blowing a 21-point lead and losing Devonte’ Graham to a toe injury. There are still a few teams that need to prove themselves — and even the good ones still have some things to sort out — but we saw the Big 12 continue to distance itself from the rest of the country with an impressive weekend performance.
  2. Meanwhile, it’s mid-December and we haven’t seen Kansas put two good halves together all season, but this is an instance where it helps to have context. The Jayhawks are one of just seven teams to rank in the KenPom top 15 in both adjusted offensive and defensive efficiency, and they’re doing so despite facing the what has been to this point the nation’s toughest schedule. Still, as Sam Mellinger of The Kansas City Star writes, the lack of an overpowering post presence is forcing Bill Self to get more creative than he’s ever had to, but those are college basketball first-world problems. One possible solution is to give Cliff Alexander a longer leash to learn on the fly. While the freshman big man isn’t yet very skilled, he appears to be the best answer to the question facing the Jayhawks.
  3. A few days after needing a late defensive stand to beat lowly Bradley, Kansas State cruised in a 20-point win over Savannah State yesterday. A groin injury to Stephen Hurt and early foul trouble for Thomas Gipson forced Bruce Weber to shuffle his lineup in a way that he probably didn’t intend, and the result was reserve forward Brandon Bolden receiving a career-high 16 minutes. We’ve talked about the Wildcats’ struggles to get key resume wins, so we won’t rehash them here, but they do have a couple of opportunities coming up in the form of a de facto home game this Saturday against Texas A&M and a New Year’s Eve tilt against Georgia.
  4. Without Marcus Smart and Markel Brown in the lineup, Oklahoma State has had to face a learning curve when it comes to establishing offense outside of Le’Bryan Nash and Phil Forte. But as John Helsley of NewsOK.com writes, a stingy defense has helped the Cowboys bide their time waiting for those threats to develop. Defense has been a strength of Travis Ford’s last few teams, so it shouldn’t come as a big surprise to see the Cowboys defending well, but a fast start on defense has been paramount to the success of this squad.
  5. We’ll leave you with a couple of big Vines from the weekend’s action: Oklahoma State forward Michael Cobbins catching big air against Memphis, and Iowa State star Georges Niang kissing the Carver-Hawkeye Arena crowd goodnight as the Cyclones put the final touches on a rivalry win. Who do you think is going to produce the most share-worthy moment this week?
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Oklahoma Quietly Taking Care of Business

Posted by Eli Linton on December 14th, 2014

While Texas and Kansas have hogged the Big 12 spotlight so far, Oklahoma is starting to demand some attention of its own. Lon Kruger’s squad, which came into last week ranked #16 in the country, visited Tulsa on Saturday afternoon and left with an easy 87-68 win. Oklahoma appears to have its best team since Blake Griffin was running the show. The Sooners’ defense is performing at a top-10 level this season, holding every team they’ve faced to fewer than 70 points, 36 percent from the field and 28 percent from three. That stingy defense is the main reason they continue to climb the national rankings and are demanding respect in such a competitive conference.

Lon Kruger

Lon Kruger has the Sooners playing very good basketball right now. (AP)

The strength of Oklahoma comes from its starting five. If it has been a while since you’ve seen the Sooners play, here’s what you can expect:

  • Ryan Spangler is a Gonzaga transfer who plays physical defense in the post. He’s a great athlete who shoots a high percentage. He’s shot 50 percent or better in 32 of his 40 games at Oklahoma, and he’s shooting 64 percent from the field this season. Spangler is disruptive on defense and has a lot of athleticism for a big man.
  • Senior forward TaShawn Thomas is another quick, athletic forward who rounds out the Sooners’ frontcourt. He can put the ball on the floor and play great defense on the perimeter. Thomas was the MVP against Tulsa, shutting down their shooters on the three-point line all afternoon. When he rotated down into the post, there was just no way the Hurricane were going to score driving the lane. Tulsa started settling for the more inviting mid-range jumpers instead of attacking the glass. Thomas ended the night with 25 points, five rebounds, and three blocks to go along with his stellar defensive performance. “We realized that we need to get the ball in to TaShawn and Ryan a lot more,” Kruger said afterward. “Last game, Ryan had a big game against Missouri. TaShawn had a big game today. We had gotten away from that balance, and Ryan and TaShawn help us get back to it and I like the results much better.”

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How Much Does Houston Miss TaShawn Thomas and Danuel House?

Posted by Mike Lemaire on December 10th, 2014

As always, KenPom.com did the heavy lifting on the numbers.

Almost two years ago to the day, I penned a column on how much Houston missed its leading scorer, Joseph Young. Young had transferred to Oregon after the school fired his father from the position of Director of Basketball Operations and he is still lighting it up for the Ducks this season. Today I am going to revive the main idea of the column — that is, how much does Houston miss said player — and just plug the newer transfers in. Last season, junior TaShawn Thomas and sophomore Danuel House were far and away the best players on a very mediocre Houston team. Thomas led the team in nearly every category while shooting almost 60 percent from the field, and House was a close second in scoring and rebounding as well as the team’s most versatile two-way player. Unfortunately for Houston, both of those stars are playing college basketball elsewhere this season. Thomas is just across the state border at Oklahoma and House is even closer at Texas A&M.

TaShawn

Thomas Has Struggled This Season, But Houston Would Still Love To Have Him. (Nate Billings/The Oklahoman)

The circumstances surrounding Thomas’ and House’s decisions weren’t nearly as interesting as the ones in Young’s case, even though new coach Kelvin Sampson tried very hard to keep the duo around. But the impact of the loss of the two players is effectively greater because we are taking about two all-league talents instead of one, and because the Cougars may have had an outside shot at the NCAA Tournament this season with them in the lineup.

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Big 12 M5: 12.08.14 Edition

Posted by Brian Goodman on December 8th, 2014

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  1. Early Sunday morning, Kansas forward Jamari Traylor was arrested for interfering with the duties of a police officer as authorities responded to an incident at a Lawrence bar. While Traylor wasn’t a highly-regarded recruit when he arrived on campus, he hasn’t developed all that much and it should be noted that he has a history of less-than-great behavior. Still, with two games this week against prominent big men in Georgetown’s Joshua Smith and Utah’s Jakob Poeltl, this is an especially inopportune time to get into trouble. If Bill Self decides to hand Traylor a suspension, Landen Lucas and Hunter Mickelson figure to be the most likely candidates to absorb his minutes, although Self may simply give a bigger workload to Cliff Alexander after the freshman logged an impressive game against Florida on Friday.
  2. Speaking of that Florida win, it wouldn’t have been possible without sophomore Wayne Selden snapping out of his season-long scoring funk. Rustin Dodd of The Kansas City Star thoroughly breaks down the myriad ways in which he turned the tables against the Gators, whether it was by attacking the rim or hitting his jumpers. As mentioned in the point above, the road doesn’t get easier for Kansas anytime soon, so it will be interesting to see if Selden can keep things rolling offensively.
  3. While Oklahoma has had a nice start to the season, the Sooners haven’t looked like the team many expected in the early going (us included). Last season’s potent offense wasn’t all there, but the defense appeared to be much improved. On Friday night, however, Oklahoma’s attack was much more balanced as they blew out a bad Missouri team at the Lloyd Noble Center. The Sooners have this week off for exams, but they have an interesting road test on tap Saturday, when they travel to play a Tulsa team that beat the same Creighton squad that dropped Oklahoma a few weeks ago.
  4. Through the first few weeks of the season, the Big 12 has gotten off to a great start (more on that in a minute), but if any team has been a disappointment, it’s been Kansas State. The Wildcats already have four losses, including one to Long Beach State and two others to average Pittsburgh and Tennessee squads. It’s worth pointing out that some of the team’s struggles have come under tough circumstances: The loss to the Panthers came in the consolation bracket of the Maui Invitational, when both teams were running on fumes and playing for the third straight day; and Saturday’s game against Tennessee wouldn’t have been scheduled at all had it not been fueled by ESPN’s presentation of the Big 12/SEC challenge. That’s not to excuse Kansas State’s lackluster body of work – those games are part of the deal of being in a big conference – but context always helps. The results are the results, though, so with their biggest non-conference tests now behind them, it will be important for Bruce Weber‘s team to maximize a Big 12 slate filled with opportunity to build a reasonable case for an at-large bid.
  5. Due to final exams, the slate is quiet this week, though road games for Kansas and Iowa State (at Georgetown and Iowa, respectively) will breathe some life into the schedule. That said, it’s a good time to evaluate the conference as a whole, and the Big 12 looks terrific through three and a half weeks. The conference has wins over Michigan State, UConn and Arkansas, with two of those wins coming away from campus. Additionally, the league has no truly inexcusable losses, and while that may not sound like much at first blush, it’s more than the other power conferences around the country can say. The Big 12’s success is also evident in the computer ratings, as seven of the conference’s ten teams rank in KenPom’s top 27, and five rank in Sagarin’s top 20. For the unlikely cherry on top, perennial doormat TCU will probably be undefeated when conference play revs up next month. Of course, it’s silly to expect the Horned Frogs to carry those results very far into conference play, but it is a sign that there will be very few off nights in the Big 12, which has a clear edge in the national picture over the bloated ACC and Big Ten.
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Big 12 M5: 12.05.14 Edition

Posted by Kory Carpenter on December 5th, 2014

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  1. The Naismith Trophy Top 50 watch list was released on Wednesday, and the Big 12 had nine players make the cut. They are: Kansas’ Cliff Alexander, Wayne Selden and Perry Ellis, Kansas State’s Marcus Foster, Oklahoma’s Buddy Hield, Iowa State’s Georges Niang, West Virginia’s Juwan Staten, and Texas’ Isaiah Taylor and Myles Turner. Some of these guys have better chances of winning the trophy than others; for example, it’s hard to imagine Selden or Hield doing so after poor shooting starts this season, but the freshman Turner could very well win this award. Turner is seventh in the nation in block percentage (16%) and has blocked at least five shots in three games already. Ellis hasn’t been too bad, either, as the senior is averaging 15.3 PPG and 7.0 RPG and ranks eighth on Ken Pomeroy’s National Player of the Year watch list.
  2. Gary Parrish over at CSBSports.com updated his Top 25 (And One) yesterday (like he does every morning) and Kansas (#8) and Texas (#9) each jumped up a spot in his daily rankings. West Virginia (#18) and Oklahoma (#19) were the other two Big 12 schools on his list, but all this will change soon. Kansas takes on Florida tonight in Allen Fieldhouse; Texas takes on No. 1 Kentucky in Lexington; and West Virginia lost at home to LSU last night. Oklahoma should take care of Missouri tonight in Norman, and Kansas will probably win a close one against the Gators. Texas is the team I’m most intrigued about, though — if the Longhorns play Kentucky close or somehow manage to win the game, they might be reasonably considered the favorites to win the Big 12 this season.
  3. Will the Big 12 win the SEC/Big 12 Challenge? ESPN‘s Andy Katz thinks so, and he doesn’t think it will be close. Texas Tech started things off with an ugly 46-44 win over Auburn on Wednesday night, and the Big 12 went 3-1 last night: TCU beat Ole Miss; Baylor beat Vanderbilt; and Iowa State beat Arkansas. LSU was the lone SEC school to pick up a win after beating West Virginia in Morgantown. Things pick up tonight, with the elite programs battling it out. I think Kansas and Oklahoma help improve the Big 12’s lead while Kentucky beats Texas by 10 points.
  4. There was always a distinct possibility that Iowa State would run Arkansas out of the gym last night. The Razorbacks play as quickly as almost anybody (12th in the country in adjusted tempo) and rely on turnovers via their full-court press to fuel their offense. If that doesn’t happen, though, a team like Iowa State can thrive. That’s exactly what happened as the Cyclones dropped 95 points on the Hawgs in a 95-77 win. Bryce Dejean-Jones and Georges Niang combined for 53 points in one of the fastest games of the season, and the Cyclones improved to 5-1.
  5. Last night was definitely a big setback for a rising West Virginia team. The Mountaineers came into their meeting with LSU undefeated, were up five points at halftime, and led by as many as 14 points in the second half. However, a layup by Josh Gray with 7.3 seconds left gave the Tigers the 74-73 win. West Virginia was ranked #16 going into the game but they will probably drop significantly next week as a result. Depending on what happens with LSU, this could end up being a costly loss for the Mountaineers down the road. LSU’s best win before last night came against UMass earlier this week, and they have already dropped games to Old Dominion and Clemson.

 

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Grading the Big 12’s Feast Week Performances

Posted by Brian Goodman on December 1st, 2014

With much of the Big 12 participating in competitive, neutral-court tournaments last week, we were able to get a solid litmus test for most of the conference’s squads. All in all, the league had a good showing, but it wasn’t spectacular. Here are some grades relative to how each team was expected to perform during Feast Week:

  • Texas (wins vs. St. Francis and UConn): A. In the Longhorns’ first action since Isaiah Taylor broke his wrist (minus the game against Cal the following night at MSG), Rick Barnes’ team rolled over the Red Flash without a problem, as they were paced by Myles Turner’s 25 points, nine rebounds and three blocks. All they did was follow that up by handing UConn its first non-conference loss at Gampel Pavilion since 1993, when current Husky guard Sam Cassell, Jr.’s dad helped Florida State beat UConn in Storrs. Big ups go out to Jonathan Holmes, who, with this game-winner from Sunday, is now shooting an eye-popping 61.9% from distance.
Jonathan Holmes' late heroics in Storrs kept Texas undefeated.

Jonathan Holmes’ late heroics in Storrs kept Texas undefeated. (Getty)

  • Kansas (wins over Rhode Island, Tennessee and Michigan State in the Orlando Classic): A-. After the big Kentucky loss, Kansas’ last game against venerable competition before the holiday weekend, the Jayhawks had their fair share of unanswered questions. With this still being the first week in December, the rotation still has some kinks to iron out, but fans should be happy about Perry Ellis‘ improved rebounding to complement his scoring ability as well as Frank Mason‘s overall progress, though I’m still a little bearish because we’ve seen both these movies before and because I’m not sure Michigan State is all that good. The keys moving forward are whether Ellis and Mason can maintain that level of play, and whether Bill Self‘s leash on Cliff Alexander has truly lengthened. It would also be helpful if Wayne Selden could bust out of a big scoring funk (6.8 PPG on 24.1% shooting over his last four games).

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Feast Week Mission Briefing: Oklahoma in the Battle 4 Atlantis

Posted by Chris Stone on November 26th, 2014

In a loaded Feast Week of action, several Big 12 schools will head to a neutral site to take on all comers and hopefully build their resumes. Let’s take a look at each, this time with Oklahoma in the Bahamas.  

Catching Up: Oklahoma opened its season led by an impressive performance from junior Buddy Hield. Hield, a likely All-Big 12 first teamer, scored 25 points and hit seven 3-pointers in the Sooners’ 25 point win over Southeastern Louisiana. However, Oklahoma stumbled on the road against Creighton in their second game when they gave up an 18 point lead in the second half and fell to the Bluejays in Omaha. OU bounced back against Northwestern State behind 20 points from junior Isaiah Cousins. The addition of TaShawn Thomas gave the Sooners one of the best starting fives in the Big 12 and although Thomas hasn’t lived up to the expectations yet (averaging just 8.0 points 4.3 rebounds per game), expect him to get acclimated to coach Lon Kruger’s system in the near future.

Buddy Hield will lead Oklahoma into the Battle 4 Atlantis

Buddy Hield will lead Oklahoma into the Battle 4 Atlantis

Opening Round Preview: Oklahoma opens the tournament on Wednesday afternoon when they square off with Steve Alford’s UCLA squad.  Alford has his team playing well and ranked in both of the top 25 polls. The Bruins have started the season with one of the top 10 offenses in the country according to KenPom with five players averaging double figure points through four games. Two of those players, Bryce Alford and Norman Powell, are scoring over 20 points per game. The good news for Oklahoma is that the Bruins have played one of the worst schedules in Division I so far. UCLA’s first four games rank 328th in strength of schedule according to KenPom. On the other side of the ball, Oklahoma should be able to challenge the perimeter players of UCLA with the likes of Hield, Cousins, and Jordan Woodard. The Sooners possess the outside shooting (40.9 percent on 3-pointers) to challenge the Bruins should Steve Alford choose to play zone and are balanced enough with the addition of Thomas against a man-to-man defense. With two high powered offenses, this contest will likely be a fan-pleasing, high-scoring affair. A win would bolster the resume of either team and, in particular, would be a great way for the Sooners to bounce back from their defeat at Creighton.

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RTC Top 25: Week One

Posted by Walker Carey on November 24th, 2014

Week one is in the books and what a week it was. One of the great things about college basketball is that many of the elite teams play other elite teams early in the season, and that is what happened at the Champions Classic in Indianapolis last Tuesday. First, #2 Duke led the entire way in scoring a comfortable 11-point victory over #19 Michigan State, and in the nightcap, #1 Kentucky showed everyone why it will be the story of the year in college basketball, as the Wildcats thoroughly dismantled #11 Kansas. Duke’s win over Michigan State paired with its weekend victories over Temple and Stanford have the Blue Devils all the way up to the second slot in this week’s RTC25. #1 Kentucky remains in the top spot, but its style points in demolishing a talented Kansas squad earned the Wildcats every one of our pollsters’ number one votes. Outside of Kentucky, the team of the week had to be #7 Gonzaga, who rose from #11 after it impressively handled previously-#22 SMU and dominated its way to a 52-point thrashing of Saint Joseph’s.

This week’s Quick N’ Dirty after the jump…

Screen Shot 2014-11-24 at 9.21.01 AM

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Oklahoma’s TaShawn Thomas Ruled Eligible With Huge Big 12 Implications

Posted by Chris Stone on November 17th, 2014

On the eve of Oklahoma’s first regular season game, Jon Rothstein of CBS Sports announced via Twitter that the NCAA issued a ruling regarding the eligibility of Houston transfer TaShawn Thomas. In a move that has massive implications for the top of the Big 12, the NCAA granted Thomas a waiver to play immediately, ruling him eligible for the entire 2014-15 season. The addition of the 6’8″ power forward will be welcome in Norman after the team lost seniors Cameron Clark and Tyler Neal from last year’s 23-10 team. Thomas, who transferred from Houston after the termination of head coach James Dickey, figures to be a starter for the Sooners in a loaded Big 12 race despite a subpar four-point, four-turnover opening game on Sunday.

TaShawn Thomas was ruled eligible by the NCAA on Saturday night

TaShawn Thomas was ruled eligible to play for Oklahoma by the NCAA on Saturday night

For head coach Lon Kruger, the addition of Thomas provides the Sooners with a talented forward to pair with junior Ryan Spangler in the frontcourt. During his junior season at Houston, Thomas averaged 15.4 points and 8.1 rebounds per game, so he will provide Oklahoma with a legitimate go-to scoring option on the blocks. According to hoop-math.com, Thomas took nearly 60 percent of his field goals at the rim last season and converted a superb 73.1 percent of them. The second team All-AAC forward also brings a defensive presence that should significantly help the Sooners in the paint. Thomas averaged 2.7 blocks per game last year, rejecting a robust 8.5 percent of opponents’ shots while he was on the floor. That rim-protection will be valuable for a team that finished 91st in adjusted defensive efficiency and blocked only 10.2 percent of opponents’ shots last season.

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