Big 12 M5: 12.16.13 Edition

Posted by Kory Carpenter on December 16th, 2013

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  1. If you missed Iowa State’s annual game against Iowa Friday night, you missed a great one. Both teams were ranked for the first time in what seems like forever (26 years), and the sold-out Hilton Coliseum crowd was rewarded with an 85-82 Cyclones’ win over the Hawkeyes. Georges Niang had 24 points, telling Bobby La Gesse of the Ames Tribune: “I felt like it was my night.” Iowa State improved to 8-0 with the win and barring a home upset against George Mason or Northern Illinois over the next two-plus, will enter 2014 and Big 12 play undefeated.
  2. If you haven’t seen Kansas center Joel Embiid’s Hakeem Olajuwon/Dream Shake impression yet, drop what you’re doing and watch the GIF at the bottom of this SI.com piece, or check out the full video here. It’s amazing that Embiid was a soccer player until just a few years ago who is still relatively new to playing basketball. He shot up the recruiting rankings during his last year of high school and is shooting up NBA mock drafts this season. Don’t be shocked if he becomes a top-three pick next summer.
  3. Marcus Smart appears to have changed his game following Oklahoma State’s loss to Memphis two weeks ago. “I’m just trying to focus and make sure I don’t force a lot of things because I do have a talented group of guys around me,” he told John Helsley of The Oklahoman after the Cowboys’ 70-55 win over Louisiana Tech Saturday. Smart had 13 points, five assists, and four steals in the win.
  4. CBSSports.com NBA writer Matt Moore updated his 2014 mock draft over the weekend and Andrew Wiggins fell to the second pick overall behind Duke freshman Jabari Parker. Joel Embiid was fourth, Marcus Smart seventh, Wayne Selden eighth, Perry Ellis 25th, and Isaiah Austin 29th. Second round selections included Cory Jefferson at 44th and Le’Bryan Nash at 51st. Moore had this to say about Nash, the former five-star recruit: “Such a highly touted high school player doesn’t seem to have enough to offer a sure player to make a roster, but he’s not bad enough to fall out of the draft completely, right?”
  5. Andrew Wiggins and Joel Embiid have gotten most of the national spotlight this season, and rightly so, as both players are likely top-five picks. But it’s no coincidence that as Perry Ellis goes, so go the Jayhawks,  Jeff Borzello at CBSSports.com writes. As he notes, Ellis has struggled in Kansas’ bad games and been great in big wins, most notably his 24-point, nine-rebound performance in the Jayhawks’ 94-83 over Duke last month.
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College Basketball by the Tweets: Some Good Tuesday Night Games

Posted by David Harten on December 11th, 2013

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“Quality over quantity” might be the best way to describe Tuesday night in college basketball. A majority of schools are in finals week, and as a result, players need their study time. So that means rest. Or easy opponents. Or both. But that wasn’t the case with No. 13 Kansas and No. 19 Florida yesterday. It’s safe to assume that these two schools aren’t in finals prep this week, so they took the opportunity to play each other in Gainesville. Jayhawks coach Bill Self went with four freshmen in the starting lineup. It perhaps wasn’t the greatest of ideas against the Gators’ dual point guard system, but it was the Gators’ zone that stifled Joel Embiid, Perry Ellis and most of the rest of the Jayhawks, leading to a 67-61 win. This prompted a short debate about KU’s offense versus the zone.

Part of the situation with Self seemed weird. Why start four freshmen? It almost seemed like a move that Chuck Daly would make, a la the 1992 Dream Team’s scrimmage against that college all-star team (although I’d be willing to bet Self wouldn’t throw the game.) Maybe it was a move to prepare the Jayhawks’ youth for the conference season, when trips to Manhattan, Stillwater, Ames and Norman await.

That youth showed early for Kansas, who allowed the Gators to go on an blistering 21-0 run. Andrew Wiggins keyed a near comeback, bringing his team back to within range before Florida held them off. For the most part, Kansas was sloppy with the ball, couldn’t shoot and was horrible defensively.

It all added up to a 67-61 loss. Read the rest of this entry »

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Previewing Saturday’s Kansas/Colorado Battle

Posted by Brian Goodman (@bsgoodman) & Andrew Murawa (@AMurawa) on December 6th, 2013

There are a lot of interesting non-conference battles around the country this weekend in advance of finals coming up in the next few weeks. Big 12 correspondent Brian Goodman (@bsgoodman) and Pac-12 writer Andrew Murawa (@AMurawa) teamed up to offer this breakdown of one of them: Kansas at Colorado, Saturday 1:15 PM MST on ESPN2.

Kansas will win if… it gets its offense back in order. After beating Wake Forest last week, the Jayhawks turned in underwhelming performances against Villanova and UTEP, shooting less than 40 percent from the field in both games. The reasons behind Kansas’ struggles have gravitated from the odd setting of the Battle 4 Atlantis, to KU’s inexperience, to the fact that Andrew Wiggins played through illness. Bill Self weighed in earlier this week and felt as though last month’s win over Duke “spoiled them a little,” perhaps leading to a more passive attitude than what we’re used to seeing out of Self’s teams. Regardless of what you want to point to as the biggest factor, the Jayhawks need to get their scorers out of their recent funks, and the best way for them to do that is to go inside and test Josh Scott and Wesley Gordon early. If Perry Ellis, Wiggins and Joel Embiid establish inside dominance in the first half, it will go a long way toward opening cleaner looks behind the three-point line, an area where the Jayhawks are much better than what they showed in three games in the Bahamas.

Andrew Wiggins And Company Will Look To Bounce Back From Last Weekend's Disappointment With A Road Win At Colorado

Andrew Wiggins And Company Will Look To Bounce Back From Last Weekend’s Disappointment With A Road Win At Colorado

Kansas will lose if… its backcourt struggles. We haven’t hit winter break yet, but Bill Self is already shaking up his lineup, opting to start freshman Frank Mason over junior Naadir Tharpe, per KUSports.com. Normally, going with potential over experience would be more of a shock, but on this team, in this season, what’s one more freshman being elevated into a more prominent role? Mason has opened eyes in the early going with his fearlessness despite standing just 5’11”, and while he isn’t a pass-first point guard (at least not yet), he can find the open man when defenses collapse on him. The point guard spot hasn’t been a gaping liability for the Jayhawks, but history suggests that Kansas’ best teams have featured floor generals with more of a bulldog mentality in the mold of Sherron Collins or Tyshawn Taylor, and that’s what Mason can provide. Will he embrace that role from the get-go, or will the minutes still shake out to more of a committee setup? While the Jayhawks have talented creators up and down their roster, they’ll be reliant on passers to deliver the ball in high-percentage spots until those playmakers gain the confidence and aggression necessary for Kansas to reach its potential. That’s where Askia Booker and Spencer Dinwiddie can cause problems against a less-experienced guard like Mason. Mix in the altitude and the knowledge that a young Kansas team will be playing its first true road game of the season and we could have a surprise on our hands.

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Feast Week Mission Briefing: Kansas in the Battle 4 Atlantis

Posted by Kory Carpenter (@Kory_Carpenter) on November 27th, 2013

With Feast Week already in high gear, we’re outlining the roads ahead for prominent Big 12 teams involved in neutral site events this week.

What They’ve Done So Far: The #2 Kansas Jayhawks have played as well as fans could have expected through four games this season. They have beaten three cupcakes by 22.3 PPG and knocked off then-#4 Duke at the Champions Classic in Chicago. The inside-out combination of sophomore forward Perry Ellis and freshman guard Andrew Wiggins is averaging 16.8 PPG, freshman center Joel Embiid showed flashes of greatness in his 16-point, 13-rebound performance against Iona, and the Jayhawks lead the country in field goal shooting at 56.8 percent. The one major concern heading into the season — point guard play — has been anything but a problem early. Junior Naadir Tharpe is averaging 6.7 APG with a 3.3 to 1 assist-to-turnover ratio, and freshman backup Frank Mason has been nearly as impressive, playing 18 MPG and averaging 8.3 PPG, 3.5 APG, and just 0.5 turnovers per game. Bill Self has about 87 different lineups he can throw out at anytime — he can go big, small, fast or slow and there isn’t much of a dropoff between each combination. The Jayhawks are deeper than any team Self has had; they have three potential one-and-done freshmen in the starting lineup in Andrew Wiggins, Wayne Selden and Joel Embiid; and, they have veterans like Naadir Tharpe and Perry Ellis to guide the youngsters. It’s not too early to say Final Four or Bust with this team.

Andrew Wiggins Leads Kansas To The Bahamas This Week.

Andrew Wiggins Leads Kansas To The Bahamas This Week.

First Round Preview Wake Forest is 5-0 but the competition has been less than stellar in that record. Wins over Colgate, VMI, Presbyterian, Jacksonville, and The Citadel aren’t proper warm-ups for a Top 25 team, much less a team as talented as Kansas. Defensively, the Jayhawks will need to slow down sophomore guard Codi Miller-McIntyre, who leads the Demon Deacons with 18.6 PPG and 4.8 APG. He opened the season with four straight 20-point games and is the focal point for the Deacons’ offense. Rebounding will be key in this first round match-up. Wake Forest is currently second in the nation with 49.2 RPG, but Kansas is grabbing 83 percent of its opponents’ misses, fifth best in the country. The Demon Deacons aren’t far behind themselves at 81 percent.

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Big 12 M5: 11.19.13 Edition

Posted by KoryCarpenter on November 19th, 2013

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  1. Iowa State senior Melvin Ejim and Kansas underclassmen Perry Ellis and Andrew Wiggins earned Big 12 weekly honors, which were announced on Monday. Ellis, a sophomore forward, scored 24 points in last week’s win against Duke. Wiggins was named Big 12 Newcomer of the Week after finishing with 22 points against Duke. Ejim, a senior forward, made his season debut against #7 Michigan Sunday afternoon and led all scorers with 22 points and nine rebounds.
  2. Iowa State head coach Fred Hoiberg couldn’t have asked for a better visit from Rivals.com’s #7 overall player Rashad Vaughn last weekend. It was capped with an impressive 77-70 win over #7 Michigan Sunday afternoon in Hilton Coliseum. Vaughn told Randy Peterson of the Des Moines Register that the relationships he builds with coaches and schools will be a big factor in his recruitment, and the fact that Hoiberg played major college ball seems to be a positive for the Cyclones. Vaughn has offers from fellow Big 12 schools Baylor and Kansas as well as North Carolina and a handful of others. For the Big 12’s sake, Vaughn moving to Ames would be great for the league.
  3. Bill Self didn’t expect his team to jump Louisville for the #2 spot in this week’s AP poll, less than a week after knocking off #4 Duke in Chicago. “That doesn’t make any sense to me,” he told the Kansas City Star’s Rustin Dodd Monday. Actually, it makes plenty of sense. The only thing worse than preseason rankings is voters hesitating to move teams down just because they won. National rankings should be based on resumes, not how your ballot looked last week. If Kansas has a better resume than Louisville when the ballot is due, the Jayhawks should be ahead of them.
  4. Oklahoma signed three recruits on signing day last week and as Ryan Aber points out, head coach Lon Kruger filled the holes he needed to fill to keep the momentum going around the Sooner basketball program. Two of the players, Dante Buford and Khadeem Lattin, are in the Rivals Top 150 for the class of 2014 and both players should make immediate impacts in the front court for the Sooners next season as freshmen.
  5. If West Virginia plans on bouncing back after last season’s forgettable showing, Eron Harris and Juwan Staten will have to play big roles offensively. They did just that on Sunday in a 96-83 win over Duquesne in Morgantown. The defense left a lot to be desired, but 61 combined points from Harris and Staten was more than enough for the Mountaineers. As Staten told Garrett Cullen here, the new hand checking rules should help both players immensely this season.
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Kansas Lands Alexander, Misses On Jones & Okafor

Posted by Taylor Erickson on November 15th, 2013

It’s official. Cliff Alexander, a 6’9″ power forward from Curie (Chicago) High School, is headed to Kansas next season.

Alexander Is Headed to Kansas Next Season

Alexander Is Headed to Kansas Next Season

In a ceremony at his high school on Friday afternoon, Alexander announced his commitment to Bill Self and the Jayhawks for the 2014-15 season, joining fellow top prospect and Kansas commit Kelly Oubre, a 6’7″ swingman from Sugar Land, Texas, via Findlay Prep in Las Vegas. Alexander is a physical athlete that plays above the rim and will be expected to make an instant impact in Lawrence next season. The Chicago big man was believed to be solid on Kansas just a few short weeks ago, but gained momentum to Illinois as of late when many believe Kansas backed off on Alexander in an attempt to focus their efforts on Jahlil Okafor, Rivals’ number one ranked recruit in this year’s class. It was believed that Alexander’s long-standing relationship with former Illini assistant and current Kansas assistant coach Jerrance Howard, coupled with the fact that his girlfriend plays basketball for the Jayhawks, would be enough to lure the talented big man to Kansas. If current Kansas center Joel Embiid bolts for the NBA after this season, as many anticipate, Alexander will easily help fill the void and solidify the Kansas frontcourt along side sophomores Perry Ellis and Jamari Traylor next year. Landing Alexander continues Self’s recent success on the recruiting trail after hauling in the second ranked class in 2013 with Andrew Wiggins, Wayne Selden and Embiid, among others. The combination of Alexander and Oubre, along with the Jayhawks’ returning talent next season should have Bill Self’s squad poised once again as a legitimate title contender in March 2015. Read the rest of this entry »

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Takeaways For Kansas From Last Night’s Champions Classic

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 13th, 2013

It’s amazing what happens when you put aside the dizzying NBA Draft gossip and just roll out the ball and let two of the nation’s best teams go at it for 40 minutes, isn’t it? For all the hedges and qualifiers about taking the games with a grain of salt, last night’s Champions Classic nightcap was an absolute blast to watch (at least after you got past the 53 fouls that were called). So what did we learn about the Jayhawks during their 94-83 victory over Duke?

Andrew Wiggins Used a Great Second Half to Lead KU to Victory Over Duke

Andrew Wiggins Used a Great Second Half to Lead KU to Victory Over Duke

  • Andrew Wiggins Will Be Just Fine: Bill Self‘s freshman phenom was much more active Tuesday night than he was in Kansas’ season opener last Friday. Wiggins took a seat on the bench for nearly half of the first stanza after picking up his second foul with 9:30 left, but he still finished with 22 points and eight rebounds against the Blue Devils. All night long, he made excellent cuts, drew attention in the post, hit jumpers and skied for boards. Oh, and he played a huge role in closing out a key win on a neutral court for the Jayhawks with everyone in America watching. It’s too simplistic to reduce the Champions Classic finale to a matter of who was better between Wiggins and Jabari Parker, because they were both fantastic in their own ways. But if this is the starting point for the trajectory of Andrew Wiggins, it’s downright terrifying to think of what he could be in four months, let alone three years.

  • Young Bigs Show Development – Tarik Black and Jamari Traylor were mostly non-factors on Tuesday night, but Perry Ellis and Joel Embiid showed what they’re capable of doing inside. Ellis, who was snubbed on the handful of top-100 lists that were released by various media this preseason, displayed an improved arsenal of range and dribbling ability, finishing strong in transition as well as the half-court on his way to a team-high 23 points. We’re not sure if 20-point games should be expected from Ellis on a regular basis, but given Kansas’ mechanical ability to churn out highly skilled big men, we wouldn’t blame you if you bet on it. Meanwhile, Kansas’ Cameroonian freshman showed off some advanced ball-handling skills, feeding both Wiggins and role player Brannen Greene with a couple of impressive dishes in the first half. Typically, passing is one of the last skills that big men perfect on the developmental curve, and it usually doesn’t mature all that much in college, so it was a very nice surprise to see an otherwise raw freshman like Embiid drop a few dimes.

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Rushed Reactions: Jabari Parker Makes His Case To Be #1 But So Does Kansas

Posted by nvr1983 on November 13th, 2013

Coming into this season we found it strange that nearly every media outlet was ignoring Jabari Parker, who was a Sports Illustrated cover boy and the #1 player in the class of 2013 for much of his time in high school. We figured it was the explosiveness of Andrew Wiggins, the raw power of Julius Randle, or the rustiness that Parker showed recovering from a foot injury to explain his absence from much of the discourse. Perhaps it was a combination of all three. Regardless of what led the media to forget about Parker, his play tonight should remind everybody that the race for the #1 spot in the 2014 NBA Draft is still a three-player race.

Jabari Played Great In His Homecoming, But Was Overshadowed

Wiggins is an obvious choice given his unmatched athleticism. Randle makes a strong case with his ability to dominate around the basket. The case for Parker is a little more complex in that he is a more complete player right now than the other two. He does not have one skill that will take your breath away, but he does nearly everything well. Whether it is driving to the basket, finishing a dunk that reminds you of Grant Hill in the 1991 National Championship game, hitting almost every kind of jumper imaginable, or defending a potential NBA center in Joel Embiid despite being nearly half a foot shorter, Parker exhibits everything you would expect from a future NBA star. And for much of tonight it appeared that he was going to make Chicago his city as he had done for his four years at Simeon. Unfortunately for the Duke freshman and the locals who came out to support him, Bill Self and the Jayhawks had a very different narrative to write tonight.

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20 Questions: Which Returning Player Makes The Leap?

Posted by Bennet Hayes on November 8th, 2013

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There has never been a more opportune time for the player waiting in the wings. With transfers more prevalent than ever, the one-and-done era in full swing, and each new college basketball season bringing a brand new landscape with it, we have become accustomed to seeing fresh faces starring in old places. Needless to say, that leaves a pretty sizable group of candidates to choose from when answering the question of which returning player will make the leap this year. LaQuinton Ross looks ready to shoulder the scoring load at Ohio State. Talented sophomore T.J. Warren could develop into a leader in the absence of Leslie, Brown and co. at NC State. A star turn seems in order for Sam Dekker at Wisconsin. The list could go on and on. But if we are taking just one crack at this, Kansas’ Perry Ellis very well could be the player who makes the most significant leap.

Perry Ellis' Will Find Himself With A Vastly Expanded Role For The Jayhawks In 2013-14

Perry Ellis Will Find Himself With A Vastly Expanded Role For The Jayhawks In 2013-14

Rumor has it that Kansas has a freshman by the name of Andrew Wiggins who figures to be a pretty integral piece to the Jayhawk puzzle (and a preseason First Team All-American), but don’t be shocked if Ellis winds up being nearly as valuable to the KU cause as the prodigiously gifted freshman. Ellis, a consensus top-40 recruit coming out of high school, averaged just 13.6 minutes per contest as a freshman. He still managed to post averages of 5.8 PPG and 3.9 RPG in limited minutes, and the only Jayhawks with a higher offensive rating (per KenPom) than Ellis’ 114.1 were Ben McLemore and Travis Releford. It’s no secret that the past six months have seen the Kansas roster undergo quite the transformation. Ellis will undoubtedly see a significant increase in minutes as a result. A simple extrapolation of last season’s numbers (to his expected minutes this year) would qualify as a solid leap for the sophomore, but we can expect even more. As Bill Self’s best post scoring option this season, Ellis will see much more of the offense run through him than a year ago, when Jeff Withey dominated those touches. Wiggins will clearly claim the featured role in the Jayhawk offense, but we have already seen an expanded role for Ellis in Kansas’ two preseason games, where he averaged 14.5 points and 7.5 rebounds per game.

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Big 12 Team Preview: Kansas Jayhawks

Posted by KoryCarpenter on November 8th, 2013

This week, the Big 12 microsite will finish previewing each of the league’s 10 teams. Today: Kansas.

Where We Left Off: With seven minutes left in its Sweet Sixteen match-up with Michigan, Kansas led by 14 points. With 21 seconds left, the lead had dwindled but the Jayhawks still held a controlling five-point lead. Not long after that, Michigan guard Trey Burke’s last-second three-pointer sent the game to overtime, and the Wolverines held on to win the game, 87-85. That game was a microcosm of Kansas’ season, with senior point guard Elijah Johnson committing five turnovers without tallying a single assist. All five starters either graduated or, in freshman guard Ben McLemore’s case, declared for the NBA Draft. At the time, the nation’s No. 2 recruiting class – led by five-star recruit Wayne Selden – softened the blow of another tough March loss for Bill Self. But a little less than two months later, everything changed when No. 1 overall recruit Andrew Wiggins committed to Kansas and transformed this year’s team from a top-25 squad into national title contenders.

Andrew Wiggins Has A Lot Of Reasons To Be Smiling These Days.

Andrew Wiggins Has A Lot Of Reasons To Be Smiling These Days.

PositivesThe Jayhawks have more talent and balance than almost any team in the country. Andrew Wiggins is the CBSSports.com Preseason Player of the Year, an AP First-Team All-American, and the projected No. 1 pick in next summer’s NBA Draft. He’ll be joined on the perimeter by the No. 12 overall player in the 2013 class, Wayne Selden, forming one of the best backcourts in the country. Freshman center Joel Embiid has only been playing basketball for a few seasons but skyrocketed up the recruiting rankings during his senior year, ending up at 25th overall and a projected lottery pick next summer. He’s unlikely to even start at the beginning of the season. That looks to be Memphis transfer Tarik Black, who graduated early and is able to play immediately at Kansas. Even with three potential lottery picks in the starting lineup, Bill Self has said that sophomore forward Perry Ellis could lead the team in scoring. I wouldn’t bet on that, but Ellis did come on strong late last season, leading the team with 14.3 PPG in the Big 12 Tournament. There isn’t a big dropoff when Self looks to his bench, either. Three freshmen – Brannen Greene, Conner Frankamp, and Frank Mason - were four-star recruits and will be fighting for playing time this season on the perimeter behind Selden and Wiggins.

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Big 12 Microsite Roundtable: Preseason All-Conference And POY Selections

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 7th, 2013

After a seven-month wait, we can taste the start of the season. We tasked the four Big 12 Microsite contributors – Kory Carpenter, Taylor Erickson, Brian Goodman and Nate Kotisso – with selecting their own all-conference teams and backing up their selections. For the sake of transparency, they are as follows:

All-Conference Picks

Right away, there’s a clear consensus on three players, with all four contributors agreeing that Andrew Wiggins, Marcus Smart and Isaiah Austin are the toast of the conference:

  • On Andrew Wiggins (TE): “There’s a chance by the end of the season we could be looking at a conference with the two best players in college basketball, period. Going with Wiggins here isn’t a knock on Marcus Smart, because I do think Smart will once again be fantastic, but Wiggins will be the best player on the conference’s best team. Both players come into this season with an extraordinary amount of pressure, and if the preseason banter between the two is any indication, we should be in for one heck of a season.”
  • On Wiggins (KC): “There has been some Andrew Wiggins backlash the last few months from people looking to be contrarian. ESPN’s Jeff Goodman picked not one, but TWO freshmen (Jabari Parker and Julius Randle) on his First Team All-American ballot. That was foolish, and so would picking against Wiggins for Big 12 Player of the Year. Marcus Smart is great, Wiggins is greater.”
  • On Marcus Smart (NK): “Smart is a once-in-a-blue-moon type of player who led the Cowboys in points, assists and steals last season. He also tied for second on the team in rebounds per game with 5.8 as the starting point guard. He’s got a basketball IQ that’s off the charts and is an incredibly selfless person on and off the floor. Clark Kellogg’s definition of a ‘stat-sheet stuffer’ was meant for players like Marcus Smart.”
  • On Isaiah Austin (BG): “As was the case with Marcus Smart, Isaiah Austin returned to school despite a very promising draft projection. His three-point accuracy can be a deadly weapon, and because of his height (7’1″), very few players will be able to disrupt his shot. Closer to the hoop, his reach makes him a target for easy baskets both on set plays and putbacks. If Baylor manages to shake things up at the top of the conference, he’ll be a huge reason why.”

Meanwhile, Nate Kotisso explains why Cory Jefferson could also be in line for some accolades: 

  • “Consistency will be the key this season. Baylor went 13-3 last season in games where Jefferson scored 15 points or more. We hope to see the same Jefferson that lit up the NIT.”

Taylor and Brian went slightly off the beaten path, giving preseason props to two of the country’s biggest sleepers:

Overlook Markel Brown at your own peril.

Overlook the Cowboys’ Markel Brown at your own peril.

  • On Markel Brown (BG): “Brown is a dangerously underrated player. While I enjoy watching hyped-up draft prospects as much as anyone, there’s something about the four-year player who constantly improves that will always get my attention. Casual fans may see Brown as a novelty dunking machine, but once you catch him in action over a longer stretch or dig into his numbers, you’ll see that there’s so much more to his game than that. While he isn’t shy about attacking the hoop with a level of authority completely atypical for a 6’3″ guard, Brown also provides value from the three-point line and can even hang on the defensive glass. I’m done sleeping on him and you should be, too.”
  • On Perry Ellis (TE): “While there’s certainly a case that could be made for putting Cory Jefferson here, I think it becomes difficult to recognize a team that won’t finish in the top two in the conference with two All-Big 12 selections. Ellis has been under the radar heading into this season after closing out last year with strong performances down the stretch and in the Big 12 Tournament for Kansas. While the trio of freshmen at Kansas are generating most of the buzz, I think there’s a good chance Ellis could lead the Jayhawks in scoring this year.”
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2013-14 RTC Preseason All-America Teams

Posted by Walker Carey on November 5th, 2013

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With the season tipping off Friday night, there’s no better time to roll out our preseason First, Second, and Third All-America Teams. More than anything, these three groups of outstanding players are here to foster and encourage discussion. Our crack panel of eight national columnists provided ballots over the last week or so, and this, perhaps unsurprisingly, is where we ended up.

First Team All-America

team1Andrew Wiggins, Kansas (unanimous) – Wiggins begins his career in Lawrence as one of the more ballyhooed freshmen in recent memory. The 6’8″ swingman, who was unanimously considered the top player in the Class of 2013, committed to Kansas in April following a recruiting process that was primarily kept close to the vest. While some of the hype surrounding the dynamic freshman may be a bit overblown, it is impossible to deny Wiggins’ credentials, as he was named 2013 Naismith Prep Player of the Year, 2013 Gatorade National Player of the Year, and Mr. Basketball USA. Wiggins has already acknowledged that he would like to be a one-and-done and enter the 2014 NBA Draft, so it is logical to see why expectations are so high in Lawrence this season.

Factoid: It is not exactly a surprise that Wiggins is a top-flight athlete when you consider the fact that his father, Mitchell Wiggins, had a lengthy professional basketball career and his mother, Marita Payne-Wiggins, won two silver medals for Canada as a sprinter in the 1984 Summer Olympic Games.

Doug McDermott, Creighton (unanimous) – McDermott’s ability to score from anywhere on the court makes him one of the most feared offensive players in the country. It is rare for a two-time First Team All-American to return to school, but that is the case with McDermott, who spurned the NBA to return for his senior season in Omaha. With Creighton making the big move from the Missouri Valley to the Big East this season, the Bluejays are going to be counting on him to fill the stat line each night out – and McDermott is good enough to come through for them.

Factoid: Due to Creighton guard Grant Gibbs receiving a rare sixth-year of eligibility from the NCAA (and thus, needing a scholarship), McDermott will be an extremely talented walk-on for the 2013-14 season.

Marcus Smart, Oklahoma State – The reigning Big 12 Player of the Year shocked the basketball world when he announced in mid-April that he would return to Stillwater for his sophomore season. The Flower Mound, Texas, native is widely considered the best returning player in all of college basketball. Smart brings a little bit of everything to the floor. His 6’4″ frame is elite for the point guard position and he uses that size as well as any perimeter player in the country. The leadership and intangibles that Smart provides are also second to none. After Oklahoma State finished third in the Big 12 during Smart’s freshman season, it is projected to contend with perennial powerhouse Kansas for the conference crown this season.

Factoid: Making its first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2010, Oklahoma State’s stay in the 2013 event was a short one. The Cowboys, a five-seed, were upset in the Round of 64 by 12-seed Oregon. This loss affected Smart’s decision to return to school, as the setback helped him realize he was not ready to be one-and-done in a Cowboy uniform.

Russ Smith, Louisville – Smith returns to Louisville for his senior season looking to lead the Cardinals to a repeat as national champions. “Russdiculous” is coming off a season that saw him average 18.7 points per game and take home the Most Outstanding Player of the Midwest Regional. While Smith gets a majority of his attention for his performance on the offensive end of the court, he is also a defensive stalwart who keys the relentless full court pressure of the Cardinals. Even though Smith certainly figures to be Louisville’s most explosive player this season, you better believe he will still at times do some things on the court that will drive Rick Pitino crazy.

Factoid: Smith spent his fall interning with WHAS-TV in Louisville, working local high school football games on some Friday nights.

Julius Randle, Kentucky – Kentucky coach John Calipari brought in one of the best recruiting hauls in history for this season and the star of the class is the ultra-athletic Randle. The Plano, Texas, native arrived in Lexington as the second-best prospect in the Class of 2013 – only behind Andrew Wiggins – and early returns on Randle as a Wildcat forward have been overwhelmingly positive. Randle’s talent level is so elite that ESPN‘s Jeff Goodman declared in late September that he would take Randle over Wiggins with the first pick in the 2014 NBA Draft.

Factoid: Randle missed three months of his senior season at Prestonwood Christian due to a fractured foot, but he was able to return in time to lead the school to a Texas state championship.

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