Big 12 Morning Five: 03.14.12

Posted by dnspewak on March 14th, 2012

  1. Here’s a nice breakdown of how the Big 12 could fare in the NCAA Tournament complete with thorough analysis and best/worst-case scenarios. The only criticism we have here is the ceiling for Baylor. The article caps the Bears’ chances at the Elite Eight, and that’s fair considering their inconsistency during Big 12 play. Still, Perry Jones made this a different team in the Big 12 Tournament. This is a team that actually outworked Kansas State in Kansas City, which is the type of effort Scott Drew will need to make a Final Four run. If it all comes together, this team can hang tough with anybody on a neutral floor.
  2. Bill Self‘s team fell short of its goal of cutting down the nets in Kansas City. That’s disappointing for the fans, players and coaches in front of a friendly crowd. But is it a good thing? This is an age-old argument that always makes us laugh. It’s probably never good to lose a basketball game, but let the debate rage on. And read Self’s take on the situation in that article for another perspective.
  3. Remember how hilarious it was when Iowa State hired a guy with no coaching experience to revitalize its program? Not hilarious anymore, as the Cyclones are reaping the benefits with Fred Hoiberg. As well as Frank Haith has coached and as surprising as Missouri‘s run has been, it’s easy to forget what Hoiberg has done with this program in such a short amount of time.
  4. Speaking of Iowa State, here’s a chance to get to know them. If you have followed this league all year like we have, you probably know the potential of this team already. Great shooters. Great star in Royce White. Solid all-around defensive team, solid guard play, and capable of beating anybody. That’s why this is the type of nothing-to-lose eight seed that has traditionally scared the daylights out of people in the NCAA Tournament.
  5. And finally, your boring business news of the day: the Big 12 is working on a multi-billion dollar media deal. This simply reaffirms what we’ve known all along– it’s all about the money. Under this deal with ABC and Fox, each school would receive about $20 million. Not bad, eh?
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Amid Criticism, Baylor Proves Its Manhood

Posted by dnspewak on March 8th, 2012

Danny Spewak is a Big 12 Microsite writer and will provide wall-to-wall coverage of the Big 12 Tournament from the Sprint Center in Kansas City this weekend. He filed this piece after Baylor’s 82-74 victory over Kansas State. You can follow him on Twitter @dspewak.

On the first possession of the game, the man they call “soft” rose high into the air, catching a pass from point guard Pierre Jackson to slam home an alley-oop from the left side of the rim. The team they call “soft” played so tough on Thursday it actually made Frank Martin speechless as he sat on the bench in the final minutes with his chin resting on his left hand in dismay. Baylor isn’t supposed to play like this, not against a Kansas State team that prides itself on physicality and intimidation. And Perry Jones isn’t supposed to play so aggressively, not after every member of the mainstream media ripped him to pieces these past two years for failing to reach his potential. He’s supposed to back down in the face of pressure, especially against a seven-foot behemoth like Jordan Henriquez in the post. But Jones looked every bit like a future NBA lottery pick after that alley-oop just ten seconds into the basketball game. It didn’t matter who guarded him or where he was on the floor. It didn’t matter whether he pulled up from three, from 15 feet or from two inches under the basket. Jones swished everything, scoring 21 of his 31 points in the first half. “I guess I was just in a zone today,” Jones said. “Just being aggressive and more assertive.”

Baylor Played Like Men on Thursday. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

Kansas State looked helpless against Jones and the rest of the Bears’ half-court offense, which Jackson ran by controlling tempo and finding the open man. He finished with eight assists and added 13 points, wowing the Sprint Center crowd with his quickness from end to end. On Thursday, Baylor was the team that dove for loose balls, hustled for offensive rebounds and earned deflections on the defensive end. Backup point guard A.J. Walton, still an important part of this team despite losing his starting spot to Jackson, tallied four steals and harassed the Wildcats all afternoon. “I thought A.J. was huge tonight,” coach Scott Drew said. “Defensively he did a very good job, and those four steals were huge. He guarded without getting in foul trouble.”

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Big 12 Morning Five: 03.02.12 Edition

Posted by dnspewak on March 2nd, 2012

  1. As if Fred Hoiberg needs any more recognition in Ames, fans can now refer to The Mayor as a member of the National High School Hall of Fame. The organization announced it will induct him in the Class of 2012, making him one of 12 new Hall of Famers. Hoiberg’s playing career at Iowa State and in the NBA is well-documented, but it appears he was a pretty darn good high school player too. He won a Mr. Basketball award in Iowa in 1991, averaging nearly 30 points a game. For as many accomplishments as this guy has already in his career, it’s amazing to consider how his legend will grow if this whole coaching thing works out.
  2. We still have one weekend remaining of regular season games in the Big 12, but it’s not too far ahead to look at the Big 12 Tournament. Once again, Kansas City will be the host, and the city has become a mecca of sorts for college hoops in the Midwest. Even with Missouri’s move to the SEC, the city is situated in a market near Kansas, Kansas State, Missouri and Wichita State. If only we could all have moved to KC for the season.
  3. Perhaps then we’d be able to see Tyshawn Taylor more often. The Kansas senior will make his final appearance at Allen Fieldhouse on Senior Day this weekend. If you know anything about Taylor’s career, then you know why this Senior Day has extra emotion to it. Until this season, Taylor struggled to excel to his potential on the court, often butting heads with coach Bill Self. And off the court, Taylor had skirmishes with the football team and social media, making him an obvious target for opposing fans. In the end, though, Taylor figured out how to become a star as a senior. On Senior Day, he’ll get a warm applause from thankful Jayhawk fans for sticking out an up-and-down career.
  4. These days, it’s trendy to call Perry Jones “soft” or “overrated.” That’s what fans and writers do– they make judgments, and they are often relentless. ESPN’s Jason King tries to consider the Jones story from the other side, though. What’s it like to be the next basketball god at such an early age? It has to be difficult for Jones, who by all accounts is a good guy with a good attitude. It’s hard to call his story a “tragedy” because he’ll soon make millions of dollars, but we don’t envy his position.
  5. That’s why Rob Dauster over at NBC Sports is rooting for Jones. It’s nice to see at least one member of the blogosphere show some sympathy. Writers have attacked Jones for two years now, and they won’t stop when he reaches the pro ranks. There are absolutely some criticisms of his game that deserve attention, but he has become the classic victim-of-his-own-success case.
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Morning Five: 03.02.12 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on March 2nd, 2012


  1. With all of the scandals in college sports that seem to occur without the schools suffering significant on-the-field repercussions it is sometimes hard to remember that sometimes programs actually do suffer. Such is the case for Binghamton as Pete Thamel notes. Thamel goes through the program’s decision to chase Division I glory and looks at the result for a program that earned a NCAA bid by winning the America East Tournament leading their fans to rush the court and our site to get its first on-air mention later that night on SportsCenter. This year, the students rushed the court again, but instead of doing it for a coveted NCAA bid it was for their first win of the year after losing their first 27 games.
  2. For college basketball fans, Perry Jones III is one of the most enigmatic players in the country. But as Jason King writes there is more to the Perry Jones story than just what you see on the court. King tells the fascinating story of Jones including his time bouncing between cheap hotels during his senior year of high school because his family could not afford a house. After reading this piece you may still struggle to understand Perry Jones the player, but you will have a greater appreciation of Perry Jones the person.
  3. No coach at a major program utilizes social media quite like John Calipari and his post on “The great myth of our program” is an excellent example. After taking some heat for being labeled as a “one-and-done factory” Calipari took to his blog on his personal site to defend his program and more importantly his kids. We are sure that fans of rival programs will inevitably find a few parts to take issue with, but Calipari’s ability to sell his program is phenomenal. If you want to know why he cleans up on the recruiting trail, you could do a lot worse than to start by reading this piece and getting a sense of how he promotes his program.
  4. In this week’s edition of his power rankings, Luke Winn takes a look at many of the statistics he has tracked all season giving a few interesting updates. However, the one statistic that he cites that is the most interesting to us is one regarding Kentucky and Marquis Teague that he mentioned in a post the day before. All season long, fans and analysts have pointed to Teague’s play as the key to Kentucky’s long-term success. Along with that there has been a sense Kentucky is at its best when they are using their athleticism and getting out and running rather than playing at a slower pace. So it would seem to make sense that Teague and Kentucky would be at their best when they got out and ran except that it does not appear to be the case for Teague. As Winn notes, an analysis done last year showed a similar trend for Brandon Knight so perhaps it is more a reflection of the team, position, and opposition, but it is something worth watching over the next month to see if the narrative fits reality.
  5. Most of the major recruits in the class of 2012 have already committed to their schools and fans of most teams will soon be looking forward to next season. Fans of course are asking the natural questions: what impact will these new faces have and how long will they stay? Drew Cannon of Basketball Prospectus takes a look at the latter by looking at the relationship between class rank and transfer rates. Looking at top 100 recruits from classes from 2002 to 2009, Cannon analyzes how long players who are on their team by the end of their freshmen year stay at the school. While there are a lot of factors involved in these decisions, it is interesting to look at the analysis and the accompanying chart to get a better sense of what you can expect.
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ATB: Tournament Basketball Begins, an RTC Ends Badly, and the Final Big Monday of the Year…

Posted by rtmsf on February 28th, 2012

Tonight’s Lede. Championship Fortnight is under way! With three days still left in February, the Big South Tournament tipped off its opening round at two different campus locations to mark the arrival of the best time of the year. Elimination basketball, baby. Most of the nation is still focusing on the last week of the regular season in the power conferences, and the final Big Monday of the 2011-12 season featured one of the country’s two NPOY candidates in action, an RTC that went oh-so-badly, and an impressive defensive performance by a team we’re having trouble figuring out. Let’s jump in…

See That? Tournament Basketball Has Started... (credit: Big South Conference)

Your Watercooler Moment. When RTCing Goes Very Wrong. You all know our general set of guidelines when it comes to rushing the court. Make it special. Listen to your gut. Full and complete coverage. Easy enough, right? Well, it goes without saying that you shouldn’t be RTCing for any reason until the game is actually over. Delaware State’s fans must not have gotten the memo tonight against Morgan State, and it severely cost them. After a tip-dunk by Tahj Tate gave the Hornets a one-point lead very late in the game, players and fans spilled onto the court in jubilation of the apparent victory. The only problem — there were still 1.1 seconds remaining on the game clock. After a significant delay, the officials levied a delay of game technical foul on Delaware State, allowing Morgan State’s Aric Brooks to hit two free throws to win the game. It’s not very often that MEAC basketball is highlighted on the national stage for something significant — this certainly isn’t the PR hit that the league offices were probably hoping for.

Survive and Advance. Big South. The Big South Tournament got under way on Monday night with High Point overtaking Gardner-Webb, 68-58, and VMI (remember when they could score?) outlasting Radford, 55-53. High Point will advance to play the top seed, UNC-Asheville, on Wednesday night, while VMI will take on the #2 seed, Coastal Carolina.

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Checking In On… the Big 12 Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on February 27th, 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.

The Week That Was

  • Game Of The Year: Kansas was 16:42 away from being swept by Missouri and perhaps letting the Big 12 title slip away. Perhaps recognizing the importance of the last meeting as conference foes, Kansas overcame a 19-point deficit, took the game to overtime, and behind 28 points and 12 rebounds from Thomas Robinson, as well as 24 points and five assists from Tyshawn Taylor, the Jayhawks clinched no worse than a share of their eighth straight Big 12 title and perhaps have the inside track on a #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
  • Wildcats Looking Strong: Kansas State notched a huge win on the road at Missouri last Monday, and coupled with its victory over Baylor on Saturday, it was the first time Frank Martin’s team had beaten top ten teams back-to-back on the road. The Wildcats lost to Iowa State on Saturday, but the wins over Baylor and Missouri perhaps locked them into an NCAA Tournament berth.
  • A Coaches’ League: Frank Haith and Bill Self have gotten a lot of ink for national coach of the year, but the Big 12 Coach of the Year might be Fred Hoiberg. The Mayor has taken Iowa State from the conference basement to a probable NCAA tournament berth, as the Cyclones currently sit in a tie for third in the league. Royce White and Chris Allen have been great as transfers, but it’s Hoiberg who gave them the second chance and has gotten everyone to buy in. Impressive stuff up in Ames.

All Eyes Were On Allen Fieldhouse Saturday, And The Jayhawks And Tigers Delivered A Game For The Ages. (David Eulitt/The Kansas City Star)

Power Rankings

  1. Kansas (24-5, 14-2): The final regular season of the Border War was one of the best ever and with the win Kansas clinched a share of its eighth straight Big 12 title. A win in either of its last two games – at Oklahoma State or at home against Texas – can clinch it outright, continuing perhaps the most underrated streak in sports.
  2. Missouri (25-4, 12-4): In the span of a week, Missouri went from Big 12 favorites to having next to no shot at even winning a share of the Big 12 title. After being ahead by ten points or more for much of the second half, Missouri fans are no doubt questioning Frank Haith’s decision to stall on offense for much of the half (a strategy I tentatively agree with, by the way) as well as the final possession when Missouri did not even get a shot off. They didn’t have a timeout so Haith could not draw up a play, but not having a better option built into the offense there was a bad move. Read the rest of this entry »
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Enough Confusion, NCAA Looks to Trim Down Rulebook

Posted by EJacoby on February 17th, 2012

Evan Jacoby is a regular contributor for RTC. You can find him @evanjacoby on Twitter. 

What is and what isn’t against the NCAA law these days? The line between a ‘good deed’ and a ‘violation’ has become so thin that not even the original lawmakers are able to easily distinguish the difference. And coaches in fierce competition for recruits? Forget about it. There are so many minor rules about extensive contact that it is impossible to police every one of them. That’s why the NCAA is finally working to create a slimmer and more efficient rulebook to make it easier for all parties to follow the rules. We certainly love the thought of trimming down the book, but it will not be an easy task.

The NCAA Rulebook is Far Too Complex to Consistently Enforce

“It’s very complicated to take a 400-plus-page rule book and shrink it down to something sensible, but we’re going to do it,” said NCAA President Mark Emmert last month. The most meaningful idea changes being discussed include making all transfers eligible to play immediately during the next semester rather than having to sit out a full year at their new school. The transfer rule has been noted as unfair for players, considering that coaches are allowed to bolt from school to school whenever they see more money or a better opportunity, but student-athletes need a waiver signed by the school and are required to sit out a full year before they can even join a new team. Another idea being discussed is to allow coaches to talk publicly about unsigned recruits since Twitter and other social media have made it so difficult to track everything being mentioned publicly. It’s unclear if public discussion would even have an influence on recruits’ decisions.

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Big 12 Weekend Primer: Kansas at Missouri

Posted by dnspewak on February 3rd, 2012

With College Gameday in the house, the Big 12 Conference lead on the line and a century-old rivalry nearing its end, the stakes could not possibly be any higher for Saturday night’s Border War showdown between Kansas and Missouri. It’s not just the league’s must-see game this weekend. It’s one of the most important regular-season games of the entire 2011-12 college basketball season, second maybe only to the rematch in Lawrence later this month. As for the rest of the league, Baylor must keep pace with a road game in Stillwater, while Kansas State will look to salvage its season when it hosts Texas A&M. 

GAME OF THE WEEKEND

  • #8 Kansas at #4 Missouri, Saturday, 8 PM CT (ESPN)
Years ago, Missouri earned a notorious reputation for knocking off Kansas in Columbia. In 1997, for example, the top-ranked Jayhawks left the Hearnes Center with a double-overtime loss, a game both programs will likely never forget. In recent years, though, KU has owned Missouri at Mizzou Arena, winning four of the last five contests — with the only loss came in 2009 on Zaire Taylor’s game-winning jumper in the waning seconds. That raises the anticipation for the 2012 version of the Border War, especially considering KU has vowed to discontinue the series because of MU leaving for the SEC. Since Wednesday, students have camped out for the best seats to College Gameday, making its first-ever trip to Columbia for a basketball game. It’s hard to count all of the storylines here, in fact. Both teams are ranked in the Top 10; KU leads Missouri by just one game in the Big 12 standings; they may never play at Mizzou Arena again; and, the entire nation will be watching to see the culmination of 100 years of rivalry.

Jeff Withey Could Be a Difference-Maker Against Missouri (KemperLesnik/B. Spurlock)

Expect some nerves in the first few minutes of the game. But once everyone settles down, this will be a terrific matchup between two teams with All-Big 12 talent at almost every position. We won’t see many substitutions — both Frank Haith and Bill Self play a very short rotation — but fatigue won’t be a factor in a game of this magnitude. For Missouri, it comes down to offensive execution, ball movement and a better defensive effort. Since earning a landmark win at Baylor two weeks ago, the Tigers have not played well in their last three games. First, they blew a late lead at Oklahoma State and allowed one of the league’s worst offensive teams to light them up. Then, last weekend, a poor shooting night kept Texas Tech in contention for much of the game, and on Wednesday, MU needed a game-winner from Michael Dixon to overcome yet another blown lead and a sluggish effort. Against the Longhorns, the Tigers’ lack of size became a major problem in the rebounding department.
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Big 12 Morning Five: 02.02.12 Edition

Posted by dnspewak on February 2nd, 2012

  1. If any team has an excuse to underachieve this year, it’s Texas A&M. Head coach Billy Kennedy has more important things to worry about after learning about his Parkinson’s diagnosis before the season, and Jason King caught up with him in the midst of the Aggies’ disappointing campaign. Kennedy’s story has been publicized for months now, but King tells the story better than anyone else yet has. His depth, detail and raw emotion helps bring out the best in Kennedy’s spirit. On the basketball court, Kennedy said his diagnosis has kept the Aggies behind the curve in the learning process. The 2011-12 season might be a little too late for him to salvage, but Kennedy will eventually get this program going again.
  2. Halfway through the Big 12 schedule, it’s now time to reflect on the first nine games. This particular article doesn’t get very controversial, but the All-Big 12 team is debatable. The “honorable mentions” all have worthy arguments of making the squad, and point guard seems to be a really contentious issue. This writer chose Tyshawn Taylor, but Phil Pressey and Pierre Jackson are basically interchangeable there. And it’s also interesting to see no Marcus Denmon, since the senior guard has lost his swagger a bit during Big 12 play. Also, Ricardo Ratliffe may surprisingly have an argument over Perry Jones, especially considering how much he outplayed the NBA lottery hopeful in Waco. In the end, though, none of this matters. It’s just fun to argue about.
  3. Oklahoma State has always been a basketball school. Nobody used to want to play at Gallagher-Iba Arena, one of the more intimidating venues in college basketball. Students rallied around hoops, not football, and the winter was the most important sports season. That’s not necessarily the case anymore. As with any university, fans will support the most successful team at any given moment. Right now, football has become king in Stillwater. That’s not inherently bad, but it’s also a little sad to see the dwindling support for basketball at OSU. Travis Ford doesn’t need to compete with football for attention, but he’s got to get this program back on track and make GIA a pit again. It’s good for the league, and it’s good for college basketball.
  4. Missouri‘s football program earned a groundbreaking commitment from Dorial Green-Beckham on Wednesday, giving coach Gary Pinkel the top-rated recruit in the nation for the Class of 2012. Great for football, but we’re a basketball site. So why does this story matter? Read the final paragraph: “Green-Beckham said he met Missouri basketball coach Frank Haith during his weekend visit. Green-Beckham said playing basketball in Columbia was a “possibility” and that he would “probably” run track. He has said in the past it was unlikely he would play basketball in college.” Excuse me? Green-Beckham may not be as good at basketball as he is at football, but Rivals.com still rates him as a three-star small forward. And he’d take up a scholarship for football, not basketball. Sign him up if you’re Coach Haith.
  5. Finally, on a lighter note, there seems to be a little bit of a friendly war between Missouri and Kansas students in light of Saturday’s Border War game in Columbia. After MU students created a cheesy but funny video called “We Are Mizzou” — which featured several nerdy rappers — Kansas mocked the MU version with its own rendition. They are both beyond ridiculous, but that’s the point of these things. It’s just sad to think this could be the final time KU and MU students get a chance to go at each other if this rivalry really does end after this season.
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ATB: Iowa State’s RTC, Syracuse’s Goaltend That Wasn’t and Robbie Hummel’s Game Winner…

Posted by rtmsf on January 30th, 2012

This Weekend’s Lede. In the season’s first non-football weekend (if you were watching the Pro Bowl, sorry, we can’t help you), we were left with a bunch of ho-hum games this weekend, but that doesn’t mean that they were unimportant. As of right now, there are approximately 60-70 teams that have a realistic shot at putting a run together the rest of the season to earn one of those elusive 37 at-large bids for the NCAA Tournament. Right now, it’s easier to find teams that don’t deserve an at-large than those that do, but that will probably change as teams separate themselves over the next six weeks. For the time being, here’s what we experienced this weekend…

Your Watercooler Moment. Iowa State RTCs Kansas.

In one of the more predictable situations of a hot team playing great basketball facing a hungry, up-and-coming team needing a statement win in its own building, Iowa State took it to Kansas in the last few minutes of their Saturday matchup, resulting in a major RTC and one of the biggest wins in recent Cyclones basketball history. The Mayor suffered an avalanche of criticism for his lack of coaching experience upon his hire two offseasons ago, but sporting a 5-3 Big 12 record and looking every bit the part of an at-large NCAA team for the first time since 2005, it now appears that it is he who will have the last laugh. The other takeaway from this game is that NPOY candidate Thomas Robinson may have met his Kryptonite, at least at the college level, in the form of ISU’s Royce White. The beastly Cyclone big man outplayed Robinson in both of their matchups this season (18/9/5 assts vs. 13/7 yesterday; 18/17/4 assts vs. 11/14/3 blks two weeks ago), and that’s not an easy task to perform. For our money we’d love to see a Round Three in March in Kansas City at the Big 12 Tournament.

Five More Weekend Storylines.

  • The Goaltend That Wasn’t. With Syracuse up two in the closing seconds of a hard-fought game with West Virginia on Saturday, the Mountaineers’ Truck Bryant fired up this wayward shot from the outside:

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Baylor Rights the Ship, Not About To Collapse Again

Posted by dnspewak on January 25th, 2012

After losing ground in the Big 12 title race by losing to Kansas and Missouri in the span of five days last week, Baylor got back to the basics on Tuesday night in a 77-65 win at Oklahoma. This didn’t look like the same team that lost the rebounding battle in its two previous games, and it didn’t look like the team that showed serious several defensive deficiencies. Instead, the Bears outlasted a pesky Sooner squad by refocusing and playing tougher basketball. Early in the game, Perry Jones looked like a completely different player as he brought more aggression and assertiveness against a decent group of bigs. Thanks to Pierre Jackson‘s penetration skills, Jones got a lot of high-percentage looks and converted nine of 15 field goal attempts on the way to a double-double (21 points, 12 rebounds). That’s the key for Baylor: Great guard play, team ball movement and a big game from Jones.

Scott Drew's Team Rebounded in a Big Way On Tuesday

This was a vintage performance from Baylor offensively, but Scott Drew‘s team’s new commitment to defense and the boards Tuesday night made all the difference. And that’s why any talk of a Baylor collapse this season is unfounded, even after two losses to the league’s best teams last week. Oklahoma’s lack of scorers and three-point shooters kept it from pulling the upset, but the Sooners’ tough night from the perimeter had a lot to do with Baylor’s defense. The Bears’ guards forced Steven Pledger to settle for a lot of threes, and they got a little lucky when Andrew Fitzgerald missed several gimmes in the first half. Romero Osby did his work on the boards, but he’s one of the better individual rebounders in the conference. Otherwise, as a team, Baylor did a better job limiting Oklahoma’s damage on the boards with a +4 margin overall.

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Big 12 Weekend Primer

Posted by dnspewak on January 21st, 2012

For the second time in less than a week, all eyes will be on the Big 12. Missouri and Baylor, both ranked in the top-five, will square off in Waco on Saturday afternoon in college basketball’s prime matchup. Elsewhere, Oklahoma will look to win its third straight game as it heads to College Station, while Kansas will renew its rivalry with Texas in Austin.

GAME OF THE WEEKEND

  • Missouri at Baylor, Saturday, 1:05 p.m. CT (ESPN)

Baylor Will Look to Celebrate Again When it Hosts Missouri(AP/C. Riedel)

The Ferrell Center will host two top five opponents for the first time on Saturday, and it’s not a stretch to say this may be the most important home game in Baylor history. Now in his ninth season, it’s amazing that Scott Drew has built a program prestigious enough to play a game with this kind of national attention. His Bears have not lost at home this season, and Missouri’s only loss came on the road at Kansas State. The Tigers quieted the critics a bit by winning at Iowa State, but they did not look comfortable in Manhattan and fell out of contention in that game immediately. Kansas State’s physical bigs held Ricardo Ratliffe to just one field goal attempt, forcing him into foul trouble and taking him out of the game entirely. And here’s the bad news for Missouri: The Bears’ big men are even more athletically intimidating. Ratliffe and Steve Moore are the only two scholarship forwards on this Missouri roster, but they’ll have to somehow deal with Perry Jones, Quincy Miller and Quincy Acy, not to mention players like Cory Jefferson and Anthony Jones off the bench. If you’re counting, that’s five players taller than 6’7”, and most of them can dunk like they’re playing with a Fisher Price basket. The Tigers simply cannot compete with that kind of size. Perhaps we’ll see a lot of 2-3 zone out of Frank Haith, something he’s not opposed to doing. In fact, Missouri has zoned opponents on many occasions this season, and it’s been effective at times. The problem is, Baylor has the guards this year to deal with any kind of defense. Brady Heslip can burn teams who pay too much attention to the paint, and Pierre Jackson has changed the entire dynamic of this team with his ballhandling, penetration and passing skills. If Heslip can knock down some shots and Baylor dominates the paint, this game could be over by halftime. However, the Bears have trouble holding on to the ball sometimes, and they also did not play very well defensively in a loss to Kansas on Monday. Also, while Missouri may not have played very well in Manhattan, Waco is hardly the same environment. Yes, it’s an enormous game this weekeend. The crowd will not be weak, not by any means. But they don’t make many places like Bramlage Coliseum, and MU has never played well there. It won in Ames, and it should not be taken lightly on the road at the Ferrell Center.

The key individual matchup is… Missouri’s guards against Baylor’s forwards. Missouri is mismatched with every single team it plays. That’s just what happens when you start four guards. Against Baylor, though, that mismatched is magnified. The Bears start Jones, Acy and Miller on the frontline, and they almost always have three bigs on the floor at the same time. Missouri rarely even has both Ratliffe and Moore in the game at the same time. In fact, it’s be physically impossible for the Tigers to play three forwards unless they inserted walk-on Andy Rosburg or former football player Andrew Jones, and that’s not going to happen. But Missouri has compensated all year for this lack of size. On Saturday, it’ll be especially important for Marcus Denmon to try to take advantage of his favorable matchup with his quickness. It’s also important for the Tigers to rebound well as a team and make up for their lack of size with extra effort and energy on the boards.

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