RTC Conference Primers: #28 – Southland Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on October 6th, 2011

Zach Birdsong of The Houstonian is the RTC correspondent for Southland Conference. You can find him on Twitter at @zachbird_nerd

Readers’ Take I

Top Storylines

  • McNeese State Returns Championship Squad: Last season, the McNeese State Cowboys finished conference play with an 11-5 record. That was enough to claim the regular season league title, but the team was knocked out of the conference tournament by UT-San Antonio. McNeese returns eight players from last year’s team, though, including team MVP and All-Southland Conference forward Patrick Richard. With an experienced team, the Cowboys are hoping to break through to win the conference tournament and get to the Big Dance for the first time in ten years.
  • A Knight In Sight: Pat Knight, son of legendary head coach Bobby Knight, was signed as Lamar‘s new head coach. After being fired from Texas Tech back in March, the Cardinals signed him to take over the program in April. With a new setting and bringing his Big 12 experience to the Southland, it will be interesting to see if Knight can improve on last season’s disappointing 7-9 finish.
  • Bearkats Move On Without ClavellSam Houston State will be without star forward and Southland Conference Player of the Year Gilberto Clavell, as he graduated in May. Clavell averaged 19.5 points per game and 7.3 rebounds per game last season. Head coach Jason Hooten will be bringing in a younger team as he looks to limit any slippage as a result of Clavell’s departure.

Pat Knight Is Ready To Lean In For His First Season At The Helm Of Lamar's Program.

Predicted Order of Finish

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Morning Five: 06.13.11 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on June 13th, 2011

  1. One of the main topics of discussion that has come out of the NBA Finals has been the continuing confounding play of LeBron James. There have been several theories proposed about why James has apparently failed to live up to the hype on the NBA’s biggest stage. Some of the theories are personal (founded on such flimsy rumors that we won’t even reprint them here) while others are about his willingness to assert himself as the dominant presence on the team. One of the more controversial (yet non-libelous) theories from this weekend was that LeBron’s failures are due to not having learned under the crucible of the NCAA Tournament. The theory, which was proposed by Mike DeCourcy, sparked a minor firestorm on Twitter over the weekend. Although another editor on the RTC Twitter feed appears to have agreed with DeCourcy, the opinion is not universal among the RTC chiefs. While I can agree that James and some other prep-to-pros might have had improved areas of their game playing at the college level I have a hard time using a sweeping statement that says that everybody (or even James) would necessarily have been better off having experienced college basketball (yes, it hurts to say that as a college basketball site). For every flaw in LeBron’s game that we can see (there aren’t many) we can point to twice as many in most four-year college players who played under some of the finest coaching minds that college basketball has seen. While DeCourcy’s argument will spark some debates it is too simplistic to really capture the difference between the prep-to-pros and the 4-year players.
  2. Speaking of college players making the transition to the pros, it appears that several of the biggest names in college basketball last season are having difficulty adjusting to the rigors of the NBA Draft work-out sessions. We have heard many reports of prospects dropping out of workouts followed by reports that the prospect had already been given a guarantee at a higher spot. Unless those prospects are Kyrie Irving or Derrick Williams don’t buy into any reports of a guarantee this year. The post also has some interesting notes on Kawhi Leonard and Brandon Knight as well as a few other players.
  3. The saga of Tony Woods seems like it won’t end. The former Wake Forest forward who was dismissed from the team after a domestic violence charge has been drawing a lot of attention from some big names like Kentucky, Louisville, and Texas. However, some analysts (Rick Bozich in particular) think that the hype for Woods has been way overblown and some teams will be lucky to have not signed him. Any team would welcome some with the talent of Woods, but the question becomes is whether the potential off-court trouble is worth it. That is a question the various coaching staffs will need to answer themselves.
  4. Tennessee went before the NCAA over the weekend and one of the people called to speak was former coach Bruce Pearl. The testimony, which is essentially sealed for now, will be the only meeting between the two sides before the NCAA hands down its penalties later this summer. This was important not only for the entire Tennessee athletic department, but also Pearl, who many expect will receive the show-cause penalty, which has served as the death knell for many promising coaching careers.
  5. Just when you thought all of the recruiting for the class of 2011 was done it turns out that yet another previously committed player has reopened his commitment. This time is was Merv Lindsay, who had orally committed to Texas Tech back in April before Pat Knight was fired. Lindsay visited Kansas on Friday and reportedly enjoyed his visit there. Although Lindsay doesn’t have the typical pedigree for a Jayhawk recruit (wasn’t even in the Rivals top 150) Bill Self has an open scholarship after DeAndre Daniels decided to go to UConn so Lindsay may end up playing in Lawrence if he decides the place is right for him.
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Conference Report Card: Big 12

Posted by Brian Goodman on April 25th, 2011


 

 

Brian Goodman is an RTC editor and contributor.

Year In Review

Before the start of the season, pollsters bought into Kansas State as the sexy pick to take the Big 12 in 2011 on the heels of an Elite Eight appearance in 2010. The Big 12 was not overly impressive in non-conference play, as the Wildcats fell hard to Duke in a de facto home game in Kansas City, and Missouri did the same against Georgetown in one of the more thrilling matchups of the early season.

As league play began, the preseason #3 Wildcats disappointed, starting 2-5, and the usual stalwarts of the Big 12, Kansas and Texas, rose to the top. After topping the Jayhawks at Allen Fieldhouse in January, the Longhorns looked to be in the driver’s seat, especially after Kansas was blindsided at Bramlage Coliseum to give Texas a two-game lead. However, Rick Barnes‘ team suffered another late-season collapse, going 2-3 to finish the regular season while the Jayhawks dusted off the competition to pull ahead to take their seventh straight conference crown.

Elsewhere in the conference, the Wildcats bounced back to end the season in third place. The middle of the conference wasn’t settled until the latter stages of the season with Missouri falling lat and Texas A&MColorado and Nebraska treading water. Baylor underachieved, given the talented personnel in Waco, and Oklahoma State never really looked in sync. OklahomaTexas Tech and Iowa State all had awful seasons to finish at the bottom of the standings.

In the conference tournament final, Kansas played its best basketball of the season, topping Texas to gain some revenge entering the Big Dance. Colorado was snubbed on Selection Sunday despite beating Kansas State three times, but the Big 12 still managed to get five teams into the NCAA Tournament. However, only the Jayhawks made it out of opening weekend alive, and they fell short of expectations as they lost to Shaka Smart and the Rams’ reign of BCS destruction.

KU's front line of Thomas Robinson (left) and the Morris twins evolved into a strength, and the Jayhawks struggled most when they weren't utilized on offense. (AP/Jamie Squire)

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Pat Knight Headed To Lamar

Posted by nvr1983 on April 5th, 2011

While most of the media’s attention was directed at NC State‘s curious decision to hire former Alabama head coach Mark Gottfried another school was making a significant hire. Lamar will likely never command the same attention that an ACC school like NC State does, but the Cardinals appear to be set to announce that former Texas Tech coach Pat Knight will be their next coach in a press conference this afternoon. Although much of Knight’s reputation comes from his much more successful father (do we even have to name him?), the addition of a coach who has experience at the Big 12 level is a significant pick-up for a team in the Southland Conference.

Pat Knight will have lower expectations, but it is time for him to make a name for himself

Knight took over the reins at Texas Tech during the 2007-08 season when his father abruptly retired. The Red Raiders struggled to a 4-7 finish that season, but did show some signs of life including an 84-75 win over 22nd-ranked Kansas State in Knight’s third game as head coach and an 83-80 win over 5th-ranked Texas a few games later. Unfortunately for Knight the highlights in Lubbock were few and far between. In his three full seasons at Texas Tech he only finished with a winning record once (19-16 in the 2009-10 season when he made his only postseason apperance winning one game in the NIT before bowing out in the quarterfinals) and compiling a record of 50-61 overall and 16-42 in the Big 12 never finishing higher than 9th (he did finish 7th in the season he partially coached).

As for Lamar the school does have some basketball tradition having won the Southland several times (most recently in 2008), but the team finished 13-17 last year and just 7-9 in conference (tied for second to last). The team does return some firepower in Mike James (12.5 PPG, but with 52 in a game against Louisiana) and Anthony Miles (11.9 PPG with a more consistent scoring pattern than James) as both will be seniors next season. The question is whether Knight can turn around this program with significantly lower expectations than he had in Lubbock and help resurrect his career. The issues of location (let’s be honest Lubbock isn’t the most desirable location for most players) shouldn’t be as much of a disadvantage in the Southland Conference where Beaumont, Texas won’t be as relatively unattractive and Knight will not have more traditional powers competing for the same players as he has. Knight will probably get several more attempts as a head coach even if he fails here because that is just the way that athletic directors work (safer to hire a failed coach than to hire someone who hasn’t failed), but if he wants to build his own legacy apart from his father

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Conference Tournament Daily Diaries – Wednesday

Posted by Brian Goodman on March 10th, 2011

RTC is pleased to announce that we’ll be covering all of the major conference tournaments this year — the ACC, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-10, and SEC — in addition to the strongest two high-middies, the Atlantic 10 and the Mountain West.  Each day for the rest of this week, we’re asking our correspondents to provide us with a Daily Diary of the sights and sounds from the arena at each site.  Equal parts game analysis and opinion, the hope is that this will go beyond the tiresome game recaps you can find elsewhere and give you an insightful look into Championship Week.  Today’s coverage:  Big East and Big 12.

Big East Tournament – by Rob Dauster

  • Georgetown cannot win without Chris Wright. Simply put, they are a different team without him in the lineup. The offensive creativity is not there, obviously, but the Hoyas seems to lack leadership, composure, and intensity. UConn didn’t just outplay the Hoyas tonight. They outworked them. They beat them up in the paint. They got to the offensive glass. They got all the loose balls. That, as much as anything, is why Georgetown lost this game by halftime.
  • In the press conference after the game, Jim Calhoun was asked about why Kemba Walker wasn’t a unanimous first team all-Big East selection, and he responded “I think someone took a five month vacation and forgot to tell us.” I can get on board with Kemba Walker not being the player of the year. I thought Ben Hansbrough deserved it. But to say that this kid wasn’t one of the six best players (yes, the Big East has a six-person first team) is just ludicrous.
  • The referees did a piss-poor job at the end of the Rutgers-St. John’s game. They missed an over the back that allowed DJ Kennedy to get another shot at shooting free throws  with five seconds left. They missed a foul on the inbounds pass to Gil Biruta at mid court. And they missed a travel and an out of bounds call on Justin Brownlee before the game was actually over. That said, the refs didn’t cost Rutgers the game. They cost the Scarlett Knights a shot at a prayer to win the game. Its still inexcusable, but there is a big difference.
  • Seeing St. John’s, a team that beat Georgetown, Pitt, Notre Dame, Duke, and UConn at the Garden, struggle with Rutgers was worrisome. The Johnnies played terrific basketball in the month of February, winning seven of their last eight games. What people forget is that this team also lost five of six right before that. Today, at least, it appeared as if the Johnnies were regressing to the mean.
  • Yancy Gates was a top 25 recruit coming out of high school. He hasn’t put up the numbers that you generally expect from a 6’10, 260-lb kid that is a top 25 recruit. That is more an issue of effort than of talent. When Gates plays like he did tonight — scoring 25 points against a good front line of Jarrid Famous and Gus Gilchrist, he is as good as any big man in the Big East.
  • I will freely admit that this game struggled to hold my attention. It was not pretty. It was over before the half was over. The South Florida and Cincinnati cheerleaders were quite attractive, and the internet at MSG is strong enough this season that I can stream games online, which means that I spent quite a bit of time watching the exciting LIU-Robert Morris NEC title game. That said, I did look up for long enough to see a Cincinnati male cheerleader drop one of the female cheerleaders during one of their maneuvers. She was fine. I laughed.
  • Marquette locked up a tournament bid with this win tonight, if they hadn’t already done so. And I, for one, am glad.  This is a fun team to watch. They play hard, they run the floor, they get out and defend, and they have a number of versatile options offensively.
  • Darius Johnson-Odom will get the credit for this win, as he hit two enormous threes down the stretch to win the game. But Junior Cadougan was the hero, finishing with 15 points, five assists and just one turnover. His stats don’t represent his influence, either. Every play that was made, he seemed to be a part of, whether it was the defense forcing a steal, the offense getting a rebound, or the Golden Eagles coming up with a loose ball.
  • I cannot figure West Virginia out. This is team is just too inconsistent, and I get the feeling that there are internal issues. Casey Mitchell and Deniz Kilicli played just 29 minutes tonight, combined, despite the Mountaineers playing like garbage on the offensive end in the second half. Just a game removed from Kevin Jones getting 11 offensive rebounds on his own, WVU managed just nine as a team. Pick them at your own risk next week.

Big 12 Tournament – by Brian Goodman

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Big 12 Wrap & Tourney Preview

Posted by Brian Goodman on March 9th, 2011

Owen Kemp of Rock Chalk Talk and SB Nation Kansas City is the RTC Correspondent for the Big 12 Conference. With tournament action set to tip from Kansas City on Thursday, get set with RTC’s postseason preview and regular season recap.

Postseason Preview

  • Headed into the Big 12 Tournament, Kansas State is widely considered the hottest team in the conference and is looking square in the face of a semifinal matchup against the Kansas Jayhawks that could be the game of the tournament.   That of course assumes the Wildcats get past potential quarterfinal opponent Colorado, who recorded a regular season sweep of Kansas State.
  • On the bottom half of the bracket, the Longhorns might have to take another shot from Baylor, TexasA&M and/or Missouri in order to play on Saturday.  The Longhorns are a collective 5-0 against these teams during the regular season and all four teams, including Texas, are playing to improve their tourney seed.
  • The reality is that the NCAA Tournament impacts some, but really doesn’t mean much to others.  Barring a minor miracle, Texas Tech, Oklahoma, OklahomaState and Iowa State are teams whose fans will be done following this weekend, unless you consider the NIT or CBI worth watching.
  • The Kansas Jayhawks are a lock for a #1 seed and even a quarterfinal upset wouldn’t change that.  The Jayhawks aren’t likely to pack up and leave without a fight, but the results this weekend just aren’t that important for anything more than bragging rights.
  • Baylor and Nebraska are two teams that need a deep run to jump back on the bubble and the two teams that cannot afford a first or even second round loss if they want to be considered.  A semifinal run by either and they can start making their case to the committee.
  • For the rest, it’s playing for seed.  Colorado probably needs to avoid a first round upset, but beyond that, wins by the Buffs, Missouri, Texas A&M, Texas and Kansas State all serve as arguments for a higher seed in the NCAA tournament.  For Texas, it’s probably a two-seed if they play well, a three if they do not.  A&M probably falls in the 4-6 range.  Missouri probably goes as high as a #6 and as low as a #10.  Colorado is looking at something in the 10-12 range while Kansas State could jump quite a bit if they win the tournament and possibly work their way back to a #5 or six seed looking most likely at this point.
  • The Big 12 Tournament has different meanings for different teams, but it’s a weekend that definitely holds March ramifications for many, considering the parity across college basketball in 2010-2011.

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Morning Five: 03.08.11 Edition

Posted by jstevrtc on March 8th, 2011

  1. He’ll coach in the Big 12 Tournament, but after that, you can run down the curtain on the Pat Knight era at Texas Tech. The school released Knight on Monday after a three-year run that resulted in no NCAA Tournament trips and an overall 50-60 record. Now, we know in terms of basketball tradition, Texas Tech is not Indiana, but following Bobby Knight at any coaching job is certainly an unenviable position, and we’re intrigued to see how Pat does as the top dog someplace where his father’s influence never reached, a place where he can stake his own claim and not be known simply as the default-hire son of the legend who preceded him. The linked article also explains how Knight the Younger knew this was coming.
  2. Knight is unfortunately not the only coach to endure the fall of the axe (or at least the prod in the back) on Monday. Pat Kennedy resigned at Towson after seven seasons; Kirk Earlywine was dismissed from Eastern Washington; and Kennesaw State released Tom Ingle, citing academic shortcomings of Ingle’s players rather than the 8-20 record posted by the Owls this season (Ingle was 248-215 overall). That’s the only negative about March: coaches lose jobs, and the coaching carousel begins.
  3. On a much lighter note, for any coach who finds him/herself without employment over the next few weeks, for renewal of purpose, we submit this story from Jeff Goodman about Greg Lansing. He’s headed to the Tournament as the honcho at Indiana State, tournament champions from the Missouri Valley Conference. Just a few years ago, he was fired from his  assistant position by Steve Alford when the two were at Iowa. There’s also an interesting tidbit in there about the positive omen Lansing received on Saturday, the day before his squad beat Missouri State for the MVC tournament title.
  4. Texas is taking some punches from hoops fans everywhere, these days. Not surprising, when you consider that they dropped three of their last five games this season, and upon remembering that Hindenberg of a stretch run last year. A burnt child shuns fire, after all. But if you think the late-season missteps this year indicate a return of last season’s problems, senior Gary Johnson says it’s a mistake, but invites you keep on thinking that if you wish. Others within the Texas basketball family evidently join him in that sentiment, and contend that UT is still a national title contender.
  5. Big game in the Ivy League tonight, as Princeton travels to Penn for the last game of the Ancient Eight’s regular season. If Penn wins, Harvard clinches the Ivy title and goes to their first NCAA Tournament in 65 years. If Princeton wins, the Tigers would sit tied atop the league table with Harvard and force a one game playoff (which would be played at Yale) on Saturday. If that’s not cool enough for you, tonight’s Princeton-Penn game is at The Palestra — the home of the Quakers, and one of the most regal, venerable buildings in our sport (P.S.: we can’t wait to get there!).
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Madly Spins The Carousel: An Early Look At Coaches On The Hot Seat

Posted by jstevrtc on February 28th, 2011

Walker Carey is an RTC contributor.

There is much uncertainty surrounding the status of several high profile coaches around the country. While Wyoming’s Heath Schroyer, Stetson’s Derek Waugh, Georgia State’s Rod Barnes, and Monmouth’s Dave Calloway have been the only head coaches this season to already receive their pink slips or be asked to step down, there are definitely more changes that will come at the end of the season. The challenging part of the coaching carousel is determining what coaches will be fired.

Sidney Lowe Is Feeling the BTUs In His Office Chair And Spot On the Bench

In an attempt to determine what coaches should be considered on the chopping block, one can rate a coach’s chance of dismissal by three criteria: (1) There must be considerable fan disdain, (2) There should be a degree of waffling administrative support, and (3) There must be a pattern of losing over an extended period of time. If a coach meets all three then a coaching change is extremely likely. If a coach meets two of the three there still exists a good chance that a change would be made. If a coach only meets one then it is a safe bet that he will be given more time to turn things around.

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Checking in on… the Big 12

Posted by Brian Goodman on February 28th, 2011

Owen Kemp of Rock Chalk Talk and SB Nation Kansas City is the RTC correspondent for the Big 12 Conference.

A Look Back

This week in the Big 12 featured another upset on top along with a fair amount of jockeying in the middle as the tournament bubble becomes more and more crowded. Monday night, the Kansas Jayhawks squared off against the Oklahoma State Cowboys in their last Big Monday appearance.  The news of the day surrounding the Jayhawks was the suspension of junior starting point guard Tyshawn Taylor.  Taylor remains with the team and the violation is viewed as minor, but the fact that Kansas is dealing with another player missing time down the stretch is a bit of a concern.  As for the game on the court, Kansas didn’t skip a beat and Taylor’s replacement, Elijah Johnson, scored 15 points including a perfect 4-4 performance from beyond the arc.

Tuesday featured the Iowa State Cyclones heading on the road to take on the Longhorns.  The game was never really in doubt, as Texas eventually won by 23 and got back on track following the loss to Nebraska.

Wednesday was a day that had the potential to separate those on the bubble and those slowly falling off.  Missouri faced off against Baylor in a game the Bears could have used in a big way.  However, the impressive run of the Tigers in Columbia continues and after keeping it close for a time Baylor fell apart.  For Mizzou, it was an 18-point win to move the Tigers into fourth place in the Big 12 standings.

Elsewhere, Colorado kept their slim hopes alive with a close win over Texas Tech in Lubbock.  The three-point road win moved the Buffaloes to 6-7 in the conference and 17-11 overall and while the win on its own wasn’t enough to put Colorado back in the conversation, what they would accomplish later in the week was.

The big matchup on the night featured a trip by the Kansas State Wildcats into Lincoln where Nebraska and Kansas State were both battling for more stable footing.  The Wildcats entered the game considered a team in pretty good position as far as a tournament bid, but Doc Sadler’s Husker team had a chance to boost their hopes in a big way with a win.  The game was close throughout but the Huskers could never get enough consistency on the offensive end as Kansas State would win by four.

Rounding out the Wednesday action was an easy win by Texas A&M over Oklahoma in College Station.  The Aggies have quietly separated themselves in the three spot in the league, but with two tough late season tests, Kansas State and Missouri could easily threaten that.

Saturday is always the premier day of the week in the Big 12, and just like last Saturday, the Texas Longhorns fell in an upset on the road.  Despite jumping out to a 22-point lead, the Longhorns couldn’t hold off a monster day from guard Alec Burks as Tad Boyle’s Buffaloes made their most convincing argument for the tournament bubble in a win.  As for the loss, it means that the Longhorns now sit tied with the Kansas Jayhawks on top of the league as Kansas handled Oklahoma on the road and both teams sit 12-2.

Outside of the Texas upset, there were two more minor upsets in the league when Texas A&M lost to Baylor in Waco and the Missouri Tigers fell in Manhattan.  The win by Kansas State doesn’t come as much of a surprise, as Frank Martin’s team is playing very well of late and looks like a team recovering from rock bottom in early January.

The three upsets mean that the three through seven spots in the conference are separated by just two games and all seven teams, including Colorado and Baylor, now have a very real opportunity to make a late push for another large Big 12 representation in the NCAA Tournament.

Power Rankings

Quick Disclaimer: Power rankings are not meant to be a poll.  They are meant to reflect who is playing the best basketball at a given time.

 1. Kansas (27-2, 12-2) – Kansas continues to be extremely efficient offensively and the door is now reopened for a seventh straight conference title.

2. Texas (24-5, 12-2) Texas loses for the second consecutive Saturday against a team in the league with a below .500 record.  The Longhorns have a few chinks in the armor of late, especially on the offensive end, but they still control their own destiny in terms of winning the league.

3. Kansas State (20-9, 8-6) One month ago, the Wildcats looked like they could very easily find themselves in the NIT.  In the last month, Jacob Pullen has started to play like the POY candidate that many expected and while Kansas State was probably overrated to start the year, they have fought their way back to reality and that puts them as a pretty good team that can make some noise in March.

4. Texas A&M (22-6, 9-5) – A&M has been flying under the radar of late and at the moment, they hold the third position in the standings, giving them that all important first day bye.  Overall though, they haven’t been as impressive as some so it drops them down a bit in the power rankings.

5. Missouri (22-7, 8-6) – Can a team win the tourney when they have been so bad away from home all year?  Honestly, Missouri does seem to sneak up on people in March so they are tough to count out, but the difference between at home and on the road is staggering.

6. Colorado (18-11, 7-7) – Colorado went from a team looking to be down for the count to a team firmly on the bubble with what amounts to a fairly impressive resume.

7. Baylor (18-10, 7-7) – Baylor continues to be as up and down as ever.  The win over Texas A&M keeps them in the hunt, but the team is definitely at risk of going from Elite 8 to NIT.

8. Nebraska (18-10, 6-8) – The loss to Kansas State is one that can be lived with, but losing to Iowa State all but ruins the Huskers hopes for a tournament bid.

9. Oklahoma State (17-11, 5-9) The Cowboys had a strong non-conference season, but they haven’t put together the conference resume to make a play.  The good news is that of the bottom four teams, the Cowboys might have the brightest future.

10. Texas Tech (12-17, 4-10) Tech didn’t win but they were close in both contests.  That’s just enough to keep them ahead of Oklahoma.  It’s still fairly amazing that Pat Knight’s name rarely comes up in any discussion of coaches on the hot seat.

11. Oklahoma (12-16, 4-10) – Another week, another two losses.  The common theme when you look at the two teams at the bottom of the Big 12 is a complete lack of depth.  The good news is that both OU and ISU look to have pieces in place to improve.

12. Iowa State (15-14, 2-12) – The Cyclones snag a second win this week and send the Huskers limping to the Big 10.

A Look Ahead

This week is HUGE for the Big 12, starting with the two teams battling it out up top.   The Texas Longhorns have games against red-hot Kansas State and a trip to Baylor remaining on the schedule.  After two consecutive Saturday losses, the confidence isn’t as high in Austin and a possible one-seed and the Big 12 title are very much at stake.

Meanwhile, the biggest competition for Texas, the Kansas Jayhawks, have two pretty tough matchups themselves.  First off the Texas A&M Aggies head into Lawrence for senior night where Kansas hasn’t lost in a very long time. The game that could be the do-or-die moment will come next Saturday when Kansas heads into Columbia where Missouri is a different team and the Tigers will be fired up as they look to keep their bitter rival from winning or sharing the league for a seventh straight season.

Tuesday night features a winnable game and really a must-win game for current bubble team Baylor.  The Bears head on the road to Stillwater and need to get a win over the Cowboys.

Wednesday night is huge for the Colorado Buffaloes as they head on the road to Ames in a game that could secure a .500 conference record.  Like Baylor, this is a must win for the Buffaloes as they currently sit on the bubble with the chance to close out strong.

Saturday, the league wraps up the regular season with Texas taking on Baylor and Kansas and Missouri locking horns, though a Nebraska/Colorado tilt could be just as big in the overall conference picture heading into March.

It’s been an incredibly balanced and unpredictable year across the Big 12 and the final week has storylines building for multiple teams.  Now it’s just a matter of who rises to the challenge.

Player of the Year Watch: One week left and the preseason pick has surged back to the front of the pack, a darkhorse candidate puts his name back in the mix and the two players on teams battling it out at the top continue to put forth a strong argument.

Marcus Morris, Kansas – (19 PPG, 7.6 RPG): Morris is one of the most efficient offensive players in the country and he has the chance to lead his team to a seventh consecutive league title and a number one seed in the NCAA Tournament.

  1. Jacob Pullen, Kansas State – (21.8 PPG, 3.4 APG): Pullen is coming on strong at just the right time and might mean more to his team of late than anyone in the league.  If voting were today, Pullen would have to like his chances. How much should voters penalize him for his team’s slow start?
  2. Jordan Hamilton – (18 PPG, 7.9 RPG): Hamilton shoots just 7-24 in a loss to Colorado.  The game is another signal that as Jordan Hamilton goes offensively, so goes the fate of the entire Longhorn attack.
  3. Alec Burks, Colorado – (20.3 PPG): Burks is an impressive offensive player and without him, Colorado isn’t even close to the bubble.  He’s a big time talent and led his team to a big time win over #5 Texas.
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Best and Worst Coaching Jobs This Season

Posted by zhayes9 on January 21st, 2011

Zach Hayes is an editor, contributor and bracketologist for Rush the Court.

Ultimately, it comes down to the players.

Any humble coach will admit, even after accomplishing such feats as a conference title, Final Four berth or national championship, that players decide the outcome of games. Dean Smith repeatedly refused to take credit for his endless list of achievements, constantly effusing praise towards his players during his historic run on the sidelines at North Carolina. Just last season, Mike Krzyzewski raved about the growth of his team and his three seniors on the podium in Indianapolis following his fourth national championship as Duke head coach.

Still, coaches are far from meaningless, especially in collegiate athletics. They’re in charge of developing their kids from freshmen to seniors, running practices and infusing life lessons, recruiting and scheduling, managing fragile egos and making vital in-game adjustments. Coaches are the face of the basketball program and responsible for the accomplishments and failings of said program. Albeit a tricky exercise filled with plenty of variables, let’s try to highlight some of the best and worst coaching jobs of the college basketball season thus far and the reasoning for why these 12 coaches deserve either a heaping piece of the blame pie or an even larger slice of the glory.

UL's success has turned Pitino-related attention from off to on the floor

Best Coaching Jobs

Rick Pitino- One of the premier programs in college basketball, Louisville has faced seemingly endless hardships and obstacles since their Elite Eight berth in 2009. Despite star center Samardo Samuels bolting early and the loss of senior backcourt cogs Edgar Sosa and Jerry Smith, the Cardinals sit at 15-3 (4-1) in the vicious Big East. But the loss of Samuels was just the beginning of the nightmare: heralded recruit Justin Coleman didn’t quality academically, Memphis transfer and impact shooter Roburt Sallie lost his case for immediate eligibility and starting power forward/leading returning scorer Jared Swopshire needed season-ending surgery on his groin. Overcoming such odds is a challenge, but the coaching genius of Pitino, a hectic full-court press that often masks talent disparity and the three-point heroics of Preston Knowles have the 15th-ranked Cardinals achieving what even the most ardent ‘Ville supporter couldn’t have imagined during a supposed rebuilding season. Give Pitino tons of credit for keeping the ship afloat.

Seth Greenberg- The preseason top 25 Hokies haven’t lit the world on fire this season. They sit at a pedestrian 12-5 (3-2) with decent wins against Oklahoma State, Florida State and at Maryland and blown opportunities against quality opponents along the way. It could have been so much worse given the vast number of injuries that Virginia Tech has sustained, though. Third leading scorer Dorenzo Hudson and expected frontcourt contributors J.T. Thompson, Cadarian Raines and Allan Chaney are all gone. Greenberg has had to manage with a rotation about six or seven deep and also dealt with moving little-used sophomore guard Erick Green to the full-time role of point guard in order for Malcolm Delaney to operate off the ball. Green has blossomed and the Hokies appeared to be an NCAA team with a statement double-digit win last night at Maryland. Not many programs could have overcome such a breadth of injuries up front.

Randy Bennett- Saint Mary’s isn’t Duke, Kansas or Ohio State. Losing all-WCC center and team leader Omar Samhan (21.3 PPG, 10.9 RPG) and not missing a beat is a daunting task for a program located in Moraga, Calif. Utilizing an Australian pipeline second to none in the sport, Bennett and his lethal backcourt tandem of Mickey McConnell and Matthew Dellavedova have the Gaels ranked despite the subtraction of Samhan. Non-power conference NCAA Tournament mainstays like Butler, Gonzaga and Xavier are known for perennially replacing key contributors while other programs take 2-3 seasons to reload. Players like Rob Jones and Mitchell Young stepping in seamlessly for Samhan shows that Bennett is building something awfully similar in the Bay Area.

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ATB: It’s Jimmer’s World, We’re Just Living In It

Posted by rtmsf on January 12th, 2011

The Lede.  The schedule was light on this particular January night, but the storylines were not.  The nation’s top two scorers did their thing on opposite sides of the country, drawing favorable comparisons to the epic battle between Duke’s JJ Redick and Gonzaga’s Adam Morrison a few years ago.  There were a couple of overtime games between old rivals, and even an RTC (whether it was warranted is open for debate).  No matter where you live, you’re probably socked in by snow (48 states have the white stuff on the ground right now) so there’s no excuse for you to have missed anything.  There’s simply not much better than being in a warm gym on a cold winter’s night during conference play, but we suppose that one of things would be if you were on your own couch able to flip back and forth between games.  Let’s see what happened out there tonight, starting with this…

Your Watercooler MomentJimmer’s 47 Points Lights the World on Fire.  And it wasn’t even his career high (remember last year’s 49-point explosion at Arizona?).  BYU’s Jimmer Fredette continued to make his case for NPOY with a 47-point conflagration in his biggest rival’s house tonight — at Utah.  How ridiculously on fire was he tonight?  He had 32 points by the half, and if you watch the above video where he hits a 40-footer at the buzzer, you’ll note that even the Ute fans were cheering his performance. In one of the bitterest rivalries in the country, greatness is still recognized.  Here’s his line for tonight: 16-28 FG, 6-9 3FG, 9-9 FT for 47 points, four rebounds, six assists and two steals.  Yes, somehow Fredette managed to find time to triple the assist output of the entire Texas Tech team this evening.  While his output tonight wasn’t his career high, it was notable in that it pushed him above 2,000 points for his career at BYU, joining Danny Ainge, Michael Smith and Devin Durrant in that elite group.  What else can be said about this guy?  It’s not just that he scores, it’s that he does it in ways that we haven’t seen regularly since the halcyon days of Redick/Morrison, with guys pulling up just beyond the hash mark and draining bombs like they were free throws.  He has become must-watch television for any college basketball fan this year in much the same way as those two, and if you can’t find something to like in his story, then we’re afraid that we simply can’t help you to enjoy this sport.  Tonight Jimmer became the top candidate for NPOY in a crowded race; it’s now up to Nolan Smith, Jared Sullinger, Kemba Walker and the rest to respond — your turn, fellas.

One final note: It’s nice to see the national media giving Fredette his dues and propers.  Scott Van Pelt interviewed him on SportsCenter tonight as their lead-in.  Here is that interview.

Tonight’s Quick Hits

  • Sparty Turnaround? Michigan State could not afford to lose to Wisconsin at home tonight, and thanks to a 9-0 closeout run to send the game to overtime, they managed to avoid just that by winning the game in the extra period.  There was an air of desperation in the final minutes of this one tonight, as with another loss Tom Izzo’s team would have dropped to 10-6 and 2-2 in the Big Ten.  Instead, MSU’s unlikely comeback against a team that simply doesn’t make many mistakes will serve to inspire confidence in a team that has had its confidence battered and bruised so far this season.  Still, we wouldn’t read too terribly much into this — some writers may think this could change the direction of the Spartan season in some significant way, but we won’t buy into that.  The Spartans are the flawed but talented team that they are, and nobody should expect that they’re going to now go on some ten-game winning streak as a result of tonight.  They’re just not that kind of a team.
  • The Ivy League.  The more ACC wins that Boston College notches (the Eagles moved to 3-0 tonight with a home win over NC State), the better the Ivy League looks.  After all, the Ancient Eight has a 2-0 record against the Eagles this season, with both Harvard (for the third year in a row) and Yale taking out Steve Donahue’s team this year.  As we mentioned in today’s All in the Family post, BC has a reasonable shot to get to 5-0 in the conference before taking a loss.  The Eagles’ next two games are at Miami (FL) and versus Virginia at home.  BC’s statistical profile is a little lot ridiculous — they’re the fourth most efficient offensive team in America, but #200 on the other end of the court.  The only power conference teams worse than BC in that regard are Arizona State, Auburn and Wake Forest.
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Checking in on… the Big 12

Posted by Brian Goodman on December 13th, 2010

Owen Kemp of Rock Chalk Talk and SB Nation Kansas City is the RTC Correspondent for the Big 12 Conference.

A Look Back

  • The run of non-conference tune-ups continues around the league, with teams facing a smattering of lower tier programs as is customary for this time of year. Still, an increasing number of compelling matchups are developing.  In-state rivalries, top-25 matchups, overtime excitement and a statement game all make an appearance in this week’s look back.  The first big game of the week in the Big 12 came as part of the Jimmy V Classic in Madison Square Garden.  Kansas and Memphis took to the court as top 15 opponents, but at the end of the day, a Memphis team that is very young looked very young and Kansas walked away with the win in its first matchup with a ranked opponent.  It was a game that was expected to kick off a great week of Big 12 basketball, but the majority of the excitement ended up kicking off a day later.
  • On Wednesday, the Big 12 slate featured six games. Texas Tech’s struggles continued with a loss to TCU, the same TCU that would get throttled by Nebraska later in the week.  The seat in Lubbock could be getting very hot for Pat Knight.  The Red Raiders sit 5-5 and it’s not looking like expectations will be met.  In Colorado, the Buffaloes played in-state rival Colorado State.  As in many rivalries, the game was a back and forth overtime thriller.  Tad Boyle and Colorado continue to look like a team beginning to find themselves and the win in overtime was a good test for CU.  On that same night, Vanderbilt took a trip to Columbia and battled Missouri into their second overtime contest of the year.  Marcus Denmon continues to make a name for himself in the early going. He was instrumental in the second half of the contest after a very slow start.  In classic Missouri fashion, the game ultimately ended on a Denmon steal that led to a layup on the other end with only seconds remaining.
  • In a rare Friday night contest, the Iowa State Cyclones went into Iowa City and took a game from Iowa.  The win moves the Cyclones to 8-2 and further legitimizes the team as a potential surprise success story in coach Fred Hoiberg’s first year.  Junior guard Scott Christopherson led the charge with 30 points and is looking like one of the most improved players in the league early.
  • Saturday saw eight teams in action and the Big 12 finished the day with eight wins.  The big one on the day took place in College Station, where Mark Turgeon and the Aggies made a statement with a win over #22 Washington as part of the Big 12/Pac-10 Hardwood Series.  The Aggies have looked better than expected in the early going, and this game more than solidified the team as a tournament player and further speaks to the job that Turgeon is doing at Texas A&M.
  • Late Sunday, it was announced that Wally Judge will be out of action indefinitely for Kansas State, with Frank Martin citing personal reasons. His absence does nothing to quell the inconsistencies in the Wildcats’ frontcourt.

Power Rankings

  1. Kansas (9-0) –  All week, Kansas coach Bill Self has not been particularly pleased with his team’s performance.  The knock on the Jayhawks is that they don’t know how to put teams away.  Despite all that, they’re winning games by wide margins and doing so while playing at less than their potential. Christmas will come early for Jayhawk fans, when stud recruit Josh Selby becomes fully eligible at the end of the week against USC.
  2. Texas A&M (9-1) – A&M has been answering the bell in the early going.  This week’s win against Washington made a statement that they are a team to be reckoned with in the Big 12 South. Khris Middleton and David Loubeau are leading the way, with perimeter contributions from Nathan Walkup.
  3. Kansas State (9-1) – Kansas State seems like a team struggling to live up to their preseason hype just a bit.  They’re a talented group, Frank Martin has proven his abilities as a coach, but they just haven’t quite clicked on a night in night out basis.  The loss of Denis Clemente might be the source of some of the problems, but it’s a long season and it’s a group that works too hard not to eventually find the answer.
  4. Missouri Tigers (8-1) – Missouri continues to play in some of the more exciting games of the early season.  After coming up short against Georgetown, the Tigers met Vanderbilt in an overtime contest that the Tigers would win by three.  Probably the biggest news in Columbia is the emergence of two leaders, Marcus Denmon in the backcourt and Ricardo Ratliffe in the frontcourt.  These two have the ability to lead Missouri to a conference title, but it’s still a work in progress.
  5. Baylor (6-0) – The Bears took an entire week off.  They currently sit as the only team to have played fewer than nine games in the nonconference and Scott Drew has done very little to challenge his team.  Struggling Gonzaga pays a visit to Dallas at the end of the week, where Baylor will look to score a win in the alumni stronghold.
  6. Texas (7-2) – The loss to USC has raised questions and scaled back expectations a bit in Austin. This week, a big win over a cupcake opponent and just a week from now, the Longhorns get an opportunity to make a statement with games against North Carolina and Michigan State.  That stretch of games a year ago signaled the beginning of the infamous slide.
  7. Oklahoma State (9-1) – The Cowboys continue to cruise through the non-conference and they are a team that has the makeup to compete with the other Big 12 South players.  Travis Ford has things going in Stillwater and Marshall Moses is playing like a man possessed, more than doubling his production from a season ago.
  8. Iowa State (8-2) – Fred Hoiberg is getting it done in Ames.  The team moves to a surprising 8-2 after wins against Southeast Missouri, Iowa and Texas Southern.  Scott Christopherson is third in the country in triples made (35), sporting a fiery 59.3% clip from deep. Freshman Melvin Ejim is proving to be a difference-maker early for the Cyclones.
  9. Colorado (5-3) – Colorado won in overtime against in state rival Colorado State.  The concern is that the bigs for Colorado State had a field day.  The Buffaloes have the horses in the backcourt, but on the interior, they have a lot to prove.
  10. Nebraska (8-2) – Another week, another two wins for Doc Sadler and the Cornhuskers.  The 11-man rotation in Lincoln is starting to turn a few into believers, but have been light on notable wins.  This is a team that can probably compete in the middle tier of the conference, but they lack a go-to player (different players have lead the team in scoring in each of the Huskers’ last five games) and the overall talent to get over the hump.
  11. Texas Tech (5-5) – At this point, about the only thing keeping Tech above Oklahoma is that they’ve at least been competitive in losing.  It will be interesting to see if Pat Knight can keep his team on board or if as the seat gets hotter, is this a team that packs it in.
  12. Oklahoma (5-5) –  Two wins this week, which was a much-needed change following a five-game skid dating back to the week before Thanksgiving.  This is still a team with a fragile psyche, but one positive is the emergence of Andrew Fitzgerald as a team leader in the frontcourt.  A year ago, Fitzgerald was a minor role player, but he now plays more than 30 minutes a game and leads the team in both scoring and rebounding.

A Look Ahead

  • A very slow week in the league as is often the case when students are in the middle of finals.  The light at the end of the tunnel does exist however, and it comes in the form of a ten-game schedule next Saturday.
  • Kansas State heads to Florida in a Power Six matchup to highlights the day.  Frank Martin has taken steps in the early going to challenge his basketball team, and this is another game that will help develop the toughness that Martin and the Wildcats take such pride in.
  • Two other matchups that had a little more fanfare a few weeks ago include Baylor taking on Gonzaga in Dallas and Texas heading to North Carolina to battle the Heels in Greensboro.  To start the season, Gonzaga and UNC were top 15 teams.  Both have struggled and fallen off.   This will still be one of Baylor’s biggest early season tests and for Texas, it represents an opportunity to make a few more believers as they sit almost a year removed from the beginning of last season’s collapse.
  • The biggest story on Saturday has to be the debut of top ranked freshman Josh Selby in Lawrence when the Jayhawks take on the USC Trojans.  The Jayhawks have been a pretty good team in the early going and all eyes will be on KU to see how the team dynamic changes with the addition of Selby.

Stats, Quotes and Other Notables

  • “To all the fans that jump on and off the bandwagon who think we suck, go cheer for somebody down the road then” – Jacob Pullen, calling out Kansas State fans who are expressing frustration over some of the early-season growing pains.
  • 5.8 Seconds.  – Time left on the clock when Marcus Denmon came up with a steal and a game-clinching layup to beat Vanderbilt in overtime.
  • 27-20 – The Big 12’s all time record in the Big 12/Pac-10 Hardwood series which concluded its final year on Saturday.
  • 7-12 -  Scott Christopherson’s three point field goal line from Friday nights win over ISU in-state rival Iowa.

Player of the Year Watch

  • Jacob Pullen – (16.3 PPG, 4 APG, 40% FG) Even.  Pullen called out a fanbase and seems to have a little fire in his belly.  Keep an eye on his upcoming games, a focused senior leader can be a very good thing.
  • Marcus Morris – (16.9 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 64% FG) Even.  Morris added five assists, two blocks and two steals to his versatile array of production this week when the Jayhawks took on Memphis. A knee injury sustained against Colorado State gave fans a scare, but he later returned.
  • Alec Burks – (20.5 PPG, 48% FG) Even.  Burks had a big game in a win over Colorado State.  If he can improve his numbers from behind the arc, he’s got the rest of his game going well enough to be a problem for just about anyone.
  • Jordan Hamilton – (20 PPG, 7.0 RPG) Trending down.  Other Longhorns are stepping up to the plate and the big numbers that were coming early have leveled off a bit as the team has settled in.
  • LaceDarius Dunn – (22.7 PPG, 4.3 RPG, 3.3 APG, 53% FG) Even.  No change, no games.  Baylor sat idle all week.
  • Marcus Denmon – (16.4 PPG, 1.7 SPG, 51% 3P%) Even.  Denmon was the man of the hour in the Tigers win over Vanderbilt.  19 second half points and a late steal to secure the win just a day after his cousin was shot and killed in Kansas City.
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