Checking In On… The Big 12 Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 16th, 2012

Steve Fetch is the RTC correspondent for the Big 12. You can also find his musings online at Rock Chalk Talk or on Twitter @fetch9.

Reader’s Take


The Week That Was

  • Two Big 12 teams notched their first wins of the conference season this week with Oklahoma defeating Kansas State and Texas A&M downing Texas Tech. Andrew Fitzgerald had a season-high 21 points to key Oklahoma’s first win as the Sooners overcame a double-double from Rodney McGruder. A&M meanwhile overcame a poor day on the glass to beat Texas Tech with five players in double figures. It doesn’t get any easier for the Aggies, as they have Missouri and Kansas in their next three games.
  • The conference’s two top defenses will meet tonight in Allen Fieldhouse when unbeaten Baylor visits Kansas. The Bears are allowing 0.908 points per possession and a 44% eFG, each mark bested only by Kansas. The Jayhawks are allowing opponents only 0.839 points per trip and an eFG allowed of 38.2%. They both have been very accomplished in Big 12 play offensively as well, but I wouldn’t expect it to be a very high-scoring affair on Big Monday.
  • At roughly the halfway point, the Big 12 leader in both points per game and points per 40 minutes is Texas junior J’Covan Brown. Brown is scoring 19 points per game and 22.9 points per 40 minutes. Brown has grown into and embraced his role as a scorer, going from playing in 53% Texas’s minutes last year to over 80% this year, and from taking roughly a fourth of the shots available all the way up to nearly a third this season.

Monday's Showdown Pitting Perry Jones And The Bears Against Kansas In Allen Fieldhouse Could Be The Best Game Of Conference Play. (Aiken/Getty)

Power Rankings

  1. Baylor (17-0, 4-0): The Bears narrowly avoided their first loss of the year by surviving 75-73 at Kansas State. Lest you wonder about them getting caught looking ahead to the showdown with the Jayhawks on Monday, they thumped Oklahoma State 106-75 over the weekend. While NBA scouts must be drooling about seeing Perry Jones match-up with Thomas Robinson, I’m more interested in the guards: Pierre Jackson has gotten a lot of ink lately for his stellar play (and it’s warranted, as he’s shooting 49% from three and has the 24thbest assist rate in the country), but he’ll have to go up against some good defensive guards for the Jayhawks, and with Jackson turning it over at a rate of 30% that could provide some easy buckets for the Jayhawks.
  2. Kansas (14-3, 4-0): The Jayhawks trailed nearly all game on Saturday against Iowa State (looking ahead to the Baylor game perhaps?) before finally pulling away at the end to win 82-73. Tyshawn Taylor had a career-high 28 points, and chipped in six assists and four steals. After the game, Iowa State’s Chris Allen was none too complimentary, remarking “I honestly can say that we did what we had to do to win,” Allen said. “I don’t want to make any excuses, but you watched the game like we all watched the game. It’s our fault we let the refs keep them in the game and had a couple of (bad) calls that kind of made us sink down a little bit.” Not that this is the be all end-all method of determining referee favoritism, but the Cyclones actually attempted one more free throw than the Jayhawks, and that was even with the intentional fouling at the end as Iowa State tried to play catch-up late. Read the rest of this entry »
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Night Line: Baylor Becoming a Complete, Elite Team Before Our Eyes

Posted by EJacoby on January 11th, 2012

Evan Jacoby is an RTC columnist and contributor. You can find him @evanjacoby on Twitter. Night Line will run on weeknights during the season, highlighting a major storyline development from that day’s slate of games.

When Kansas State walloped previously undefeated Missouri last weekend, it looked like the Big 12 was shaping up as a jumbled mess of strong teams, without a clear favorite. K-State had a chance to stake its own claim atop the conference ladder with another home game on Tuesday night, but the Baylor Bears came through Bramlage Coliseum and had other ideas. Baylor remained undefeated by surviving the road test, 75-73, and in the process perhaps established itself as one of the top teams in the country and clear Big 12 front-runners. At 16-0 with several good road wins (BYU, Northwestern, and now K-State), neutral court victories (St. Mary’s, West Virginia), and the talent to match any team in the country, Baylor needs to be considered an elite team along with the likes of Syracuse and Kentucky.

Pierre Jackson Helps Complete Baylor and Make Them an Elite Team (US Presswire)

We’ve all known that Baylor has some of the best athletes in college basketball, led by the talented underclassmen forward combination of Perry Jones III and Quincy Miller. Jones (13.4 PPG), Miller (11.1 PPG), and senior leader Quincy Acy (12.1 PPG) have all performed admirably offensively this season to match their expected high-level contributions on the defensive end. But the emergence of point guard Pierre Jackson has completely changed the look of Scott Drew’s team. Jackson, who is still not in the starting lineup, came off the bench and recorded a double-double in Tuesday’s win over Kansas State, going for 10 points and 11 assists in 33 minutes, while also chipping in five boards and two steals. Jackson was playing at the junior college level last year, and the transfer is now on the Bob Cousy Award list as one of the 20 best points guards in America. While not the greatest ball-handler or passer in the traditional sense, he’s become the strong guard that the Bears lacked last season and most pundits feared they would again this year. Jackson upped his season averages to 11.9 PPG, 4.9 APG, 3.0 RPG, 1.8 SPG, and 51% field goal shooting after the crucial win on Tuesday. With depth in both the frontcourt and backcourt as well, Baylor has become a complete team right before our eyes.

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Set Your TiVo: 01.02.12

Posted by Brian Otskey on January 2nd, 2012

Brian Otskey is the Big East correspondent for RTC and a regular contributor. You can find him @botskey on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

It’s a relatively light night of hoops but two interesting games in the South should have your attention this evening.

Texas A&M at #5 Baylor – 7:00 PM EST on ESPNU (***)

  • The Baylor Bears keep winning as they head into a conference showdown with in-state rival Texas A&M tonight. This figures to be a good match-up for Baylor although it needs to ensure it controls the pace. Texas A&M gets 65.2% of its points from two-point range (third in the nation) but interior defense happens to be Baylor’s biggest strength. The Bears allow only 39.3% shooting from inside the arc with Perry Jones III and company patrolling the paint. Defensively, look for Scott Drew’s team to try to pick up the pace and pressure Texas A&M’s guards. The Bears force a turnover 24.6% of the time although both teams don’t handle the ball particularly well.
  • Texas A&M is not comfortable playing at a faster pace but therein lies the dilemma. The Aggies don’t run efficient enough half court offense to succeed in a slower-paced game, especially against the strong Baylor defense. Billy Kennedy’s team should take a page out of Louisville’s playbook against Kentucky. A&M should pressure Baylor and try to get turnovers at certain times, but not throughout the entire game. Texas A&M may actually hurt itself while trying to force Baylor into turnovers, something that will speed up the game where the Bears’ superior athletes can take over. Texas A&M has to establish Ray Turner and David Loubeau inside while Khris Middleton uses his versatility to stretch Baylor’s defense, opening up seams. Getting Elston Turner going from long range would also be advantageous for A&M, a team that doesn’t rely much at all on the trifecta. Turner had 20 points on 3-5 shooting from deep in a loss against Florida last month.
  • For Texas A&M to have a chance on the road, it must rebound, rebound, and rebound some more in addition to controlling pace. If the Aggies don’t score inside off second chance opportunities or in transition, Baylor will win this game easily. Keep an eye on Baylor’s perimeter shooting. Texas A&M ranks #6 in three-point defense and will look to shut down Brady Heslip and Pierre Jackson. Even if the Aggies are successful in that regard, they need to do a whole lot more to pull the upset.

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Pierre Jackson: Baylor’s Unlikely Answer in the Clutch

Posted by Brian Joyce on December 29th, 2011

On a team with pre-season All American Perry Jones III, senior Quincy Acy, and heralded freshman Quincy Miller (one of the nation’s most talked about frontlines), Baylor relied on 5’10” junior college transfer Pierre Jackson to beat Mississippi State on Wednesday night. Beating the Bulldogs did not come easily as the Bears struggled to find their shooting stroke in the midst of a defensive slugfest. The #5 team in the country shot 21.4% from the field in the last 20 minutes, but somehow, Baylor found a way to win. The Bears found Jackson.

Pierre Jackson goes up for two to win the game for Baylor (Credit: AP photo/Matt Strasen)

Jackson started out the game with 10 points on four of six shooting, but would miss his first six shots of the second half including a layup that would have tied the game with 2:25 on the clock. Even after his poor start in the last twenty minutes of the game, he wasn’t afraid to have the ball in his hands with under a minute to play and a tie ball game. Neither was his coach.

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Set Your TiVo: 12.28.11

Posted by EJacoby on December 28th, 2011

Evan Jacoby is an RTC columnist and contributor. You can find him @evanjacoby on Twitter. See the bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

Tonight’s action offers a variety of 4-star matchups, including some exciting conference openers and one of the last top-25 non-conference showdowns. Carve out some time tonight to catch these great games.

Perry Jones and Undefeated Baylor Face Their Final Non-Conference Test Tonight Against Mississippi State (AP/T. Gutierrez)

#12 Georgetown at #10 Louisville – 7:00 PM EST on ESPN2 (****)

  • One of the biggest surprises in the country thus far, Georgetown is now looking to prove it can hang with the top teams in the Big East. Given how the Hoyas have played recently, they should have a great chance to add another impressive win to their resume tonight in the KFC Yum! Center. Georgetown has already won a true road game over then-top-15 Alabama, and tonight it heads west looking to rely on a veteran big three that have been consistent all year. Hollis Thompson and Jason Clark are getting it done from the perimeter, each averaging about 15 points per game and hitting exactly two three-pointers per game to lead the team from deep. Henry Sims, the most unlikely assist man in the nation, has executed his point forward role to perfection in Coach Thompson III’s Princeton-style offense. Sims leads the team with 3.7 assists and 1.6 blocks per game while continuing his low-post impact to the tune of 12.5 points and 5.5 boards per contest. If Georgetown can continue its current pace of 1.16 points per possession, which is ninth best in the country, then they will have a shot to pull off the road win tonight.
  • Before taking on Kentucky later this week in a massive in-state powerhouse showdown, Louisville has this fierce test to begin Big East play. Rick Pitino’s team has been well-prepared all season leading to an undefeated record, but they have been vulnerable at home and have nearly been upset several times at the Yum! Center. The Cardinals, though, continue to collect wins thanks to a spectacular defensive effort. Louisville’s defensive efficiency of 83.0 is the fifth-best number in the nation, and they are also ranked top-10 defensively in field goal percentage, true shooting percentage, points per possession, and rebounding. Coach Pitino will run out a nine- or ten-man rotation and look to speed up the Hoyas’ efficient offense by implementing high pressure and different defensive looks throughout the night. How guards Kyle Kuric, Russ Smith, Chris Smith, and Peyton Siva shoot from behind the arc will be the key to the Cardinals’ offense.
  • This should be a tremendous game, as two red-hot conference foes do battle with their conflicting styles of play. Louisville is a five-point favorite at home, and their depth across the board will give them an advantage tonight. But the Hoyas are able to counteract any opponent’s strengths when their offense is clicking. Keep an eye on who can establish their style of play early in the game.
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Set Your TiVo: 12.23.11

Posted by Brian Otskey on December 23rd, 2011

Brian Otskey is the Big East correspondent for RTC and a regular contributor. You can find him @botskey on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

Las Vegas is the place to be on this Friday night before Christmas. Sin City hosts three quality basketball games at two different venues this evening .

California @ #20 UNLV – 5:00 PM EST on CBS Sports Network (****)

Moser Has Been Outstanding in a UNLV Uniform (LV Sun/S. Morris)

  •  Chace Stanback was simply fantastic for the Runnin’ Rebels on Monday against Louisiana-Monroe, scoring 29 points on 10-13 shooting (including 8-9 from downtown). UNLV needs its swingman to have another solid game against a very good California team. The Rebels play fast and shoot lots of threes but Mike Moser can have the biggest impact on the game in the post. When Moser is playing well, it’s so much easier for Dave Rice’s team to get open looks from deep. Playing that inside-outside game with good distributors at the guard position in Anthony Marshall and Oscar Bellfield, UNLV has no problem getting into an up-and-down game where it’s often easier for them to make shots in transition. The Rebels are a well-balanced team capable of hanging plenty of points on the opposition.
  • California has been dealing with plenty of health issues recently. Senior leaders Jorge Gutierrez and Harper Kamp have been fighting illnesses while Richard Solomon is out with a stress fracture. Gutierrez and Kamp should play tonight and that will be important as the Golden Bears need to show poise in a tough environment on the road. Guards Gutierrez and Justin Cobbs need to play smart and control the tempo by protecting the ball and running efficient half court sets. Cobbs had 25 points on 10-12 FG against UC Santa Barbara on Monday for the 10-2 Golden Bears. California doesn’t shoot many threes but Allen Crabbe is a big time deep threat for Mike Montgomery. The budding sophomore hits on 45.8% of his triples and represents a major threat to a UNLV defense ranked #205 against the three-ball.
  • Cal’s two losses have come against the better teams on its schedule. This is another chance for the Golden Bears to prove they’re the best team in a watered down Pac-12, something they’ve yet to do in convincing fashion. California has a strong interior defense led by Kamp and freshman David Kravish, although the absence of Solomon could cause problems if Cal’s big men get in foul trouble. Cal needs to control the backboards against Moser and company. If Gutierrez and Cobbs can control tempo, Cal will have a good chance to pull off the road victory. One area to watch is if Cal can keep UNLV off the foul line. The Golden Bears have the #4 defensive free throw rate, an important statistic against a Rebels team that shoots 73.4% from the stripe. With all of that being said however, it’s hard to predict a Golden Bears victory in what should be a raucous Thomas and Mack Center. California hasn’t proven it can win a big game yet and until they do, UNLV has to be the choice.

#5 Baylor vs. West Virginia (at Las Vegas, NV) – 9:00 PM EST on ESPN (****)

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Unselfish Play Represents a Fresh Start For Baylor

Posted by rtmsf on December 5th, 2011

Bill Hupp is a freelance sports writer and proud Missouri alumnus living in Chicago. Follow him on Twitter (@Bill_Hupp) for his thoughts on college and pro hoops, food, Russian nesting dolls and life. He filed this report from Sunday’s game between Baylor and Northwestern.

With five of the nine players in their rotation standing 6’7″ or taller, it’s understandable why Baylor’s imposing interior garnered most of the preseason attention. The unknown element coming into 2011-12 was the Bears’ backcourt. It’s still early, but Baylor’s solid guard play thus far has helped vault them from a Top 25 team to their highest ranking in school history (No. 7) and the favorite to win the Big 12. Playing their first non-conference true road game in nearly two seasons against a solid Northwestern squad on Sunday, Baylor used a 19-5 run to end the first half as they coasted to a 69-41 win.

Baylor's Athletic Size and Length Confounded Northwestern (AP Photo/C. Cherney)

Baylor (7-0) spent nearly all game in an extended 2-3 match-up zone with 6’9″ Quincy Miller and 6’11” Perry Jones III on the wings.  Their length and athleticism clearly bothered the Wildcats, who shot an abysmal 24 percent from the field and had long droughts of 5:45, 6:21 and 6:37 between field goals during the game. When NU did get into the lane, 6’7″ Quincy Acy was usually waiting, swatting six of Baylor’s nine total blocked shots. That shot blocking-prowess allowed their guards to extend their zone pressure out onto the perimeter. As expected, Baylor also dominated down low on offense, outscoring the ‘Cats 46-12 in the paint.  When point guard AJ Walton wasn’t driving into the lane and tossing lobs for Acy to throw down, Pierre Jackson was getting to the basket off the bounce and scoring. The diminutive 2011 National JUCO Player of the Year has poured in at least 16 points in each of the past three games and seems to be hitting his stride in Waco.

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Set Your TiVo: 12.02.11 – 12.04.11

Posted by Brian Otskey on December 2nd, 2011

Brian Otskey is the Big East correspondent for RTC and a regular contributor. You can find him @botskey on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

As we move into December, the first big Saturday of the year (highlighted by the battle in Lexington) is now upon us. Not to mention we get a nice preview of things to come on Friday evening.

#6 Florida @ #3 Syracuse – 7 PM EST Friday on ESPN (*****)

  • Syracuse has three distinct advantages in this game despite playing a top ten opponent. One is home court, two is height, and three is depth. The Orange have taller players at every position, one through five, and Jim Boeheim can go a legitimate ten deep into his bench. Against a Florida team that will be without forward Erik Murphy, Syracuse may be able to overwhelm the guard-heavy Gators. The key for the Orange will be defense. The 2-3 zone creates a fantastic match-up given Florida’s preferred style of offense, shooting lots of threes. If the Orange can be active and extend the perimeter of the zone, Florida will have a tough time.
  • The key for Florida is simple: make threes. To do that however, the Gators must establish Patric Young early and often. Playing without Murphy, Young is Florida’s only reliable post player. If he can’t get going, Syracuse won’t have to worry about extending the zone and leaving holes in the middle. If Young gets off to a fast start, the Orange will have to respect his presence by packing its defense in a bit more inside the arc. That will give Florida’s dynamic guards the opportunity to make shots. With Kenny Boynton and Mike Rosario both shooting almost 50% from deep and two other Gators lurking as potential snipers, Syracuse doesn’t want to be forced to do that.

Can UF Establish Patric Young Inside To Give Its Shooters Room?

  • It’s always fun when a team that relies heavily on guards and the three point shot gets together with a team that plays almost exclusively zone. The Syracuse defense will tempt Florida to shoot the deep ball all night but Florida must work for open shots by establishing Young and some sort of an inside-out game. Keeping the zone off balance and moving the ball effectively are always keys to finding open shots. Defensively, Florida has to do better. Syracuse is much more efficient on that end of the floor while the Gators rank a pedestrian 52nd in the nation. Although three point shooting is the big key in this game, Florida’s defense could cost them in a tight game.
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RTC Summer Updates: Big 12 Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on August 10th, 2011

With the completion of the NBA Draft and the annual coaching and transfer carousels nearing their ends, RTC is rolling out a new series, RTC Summer Updates, to give you a crash course on each Division I conference during the summer months. Our latest update comes courtesy of our Big 12 correspondent, Evan Pfaff.

Reader’s Take

Summer Storylines

  • Round Robin Scheduling – For the first time since the Big 12 was formed, the conference will implement full round-robin scheduling, meaning each school will play a home-and-home with each of the other nine schools in the conference.  In the past, schools played the teams in their division in a home-and-home, but only played schools in the other division once per season, switching home courts every year.  That meant the epic battles between the Texas Longhorns and Kansas Jayhawks happened only once per regular season, and whichever school hosted the game had a monumental advantage over the other.  With a full round-robin format, not only will each school play two additional conference games, but seeding will be based more on outcomes on the floor than the scheduling fates.
  • Reloading Talent – The Big 12 is used to replacing an enormous amount of talent. In 2010, ten Big 12 players were taken in the NBA Draft.  Two months ago, the Big 12 cupboards were once again raided, as seven players heard their names called. The conference should again be stacked and we might hear as many as ten names called on draft day 2012. From incoming freshmen like Baylor’s Quincy Miller, Texas’ Myck Kabongo and Oklahoma State’s LeBryan Nash, to returning stars like Kansas’ Thomas Robinson, Baylor’s Perry Jones III and Texas A&M’s Khris Middleton, the Big 12 should again be a breeding ground for NBA rosters.
  • New Coaches… EVERYWHERE.  Change is inevitable in college athletics, but stability at the top usually translates into success on the floor. So it is eye opening that from Mike Anderson and Mark Turgeon leaving to Pat Knight and Jeff Capel being shown the door, the Big 12 had a 40% coaching turnover this summer. Now with Frank Haith, Billy Kennedy, Billy Gillispie and Lon Kruger roaming Big 12 sidelines, the conference has some questions to answer. Can Missouri conform to a set offense? Can A&M meet high preseason expectations under new management? Do Billy Clyde Gillispie and Lon Kruger have another run left in them?

Kansas head coach Bill Self has a tall task in front of him after losing most of the punch from last season's potent lineup.

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