Looking Ahead To The Big 12’s Most Important Games This Weekend

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 17th, 2014

This week has been highly entertaining for Big 12 fans. Whether it’s Kansas winning in a return to Hilton Coliseum, Kansas State putting the clamps on Oklahoma‘s high-energy offense, or the most recent development — Texas Tech springing the biggest upset of league play by beating Baylor on Wednesday night — storylines have emerged with each passing game. No school has played more than four games yet, but the Jayhawks are the only team still unscathed in conference play. After a quiet Thursday and Friday, the action resumes tomorrow with four match-ups that will have big implications on the conference race as well as teams’ NCAA Tournament resumes going forward.

It's been a long team since a visiting player won two games in Allen Fieldhouse.  Will Marcus Smart pull it off? (Stephen R. Sylvanie/USA TODAY)

It’s been a long time since a visiting player won two games in Allen Fieldhouse. Will Marcus Smart pull it off? (Stephen R. Sylvanie/USA TODAY)

Oklahoma State at Kansas (4:00 EST, CBS) – Remember way back in October when Marcus Smart had some interesting — if correct — things to say about Andrew Wiggins? It feels like ages ago, but two of the conference’s best players will finally get a chance to battle it out on the court. Most recently on Wednesday, Smart continued to make his case as the Big 12 POY with a great night against TCU (20 points, eight rebounds, five assists) as the Cowboys rolled the Horned Frogs, while Wiggins posted 17 points and 19 rebounds against Iowa State in a performance that still left some wanting more. Kansas will have its massive homecourt advantage behind it in this one, and the Jayhawks’ frontcourt has to be licking its chops at the idea of battling the Michael Cobbins-less Oklahoma State forwards on the glass. If Brian Williams and Kamari Murphy can’t get comfortable inside, the Cowboys will need to make up for the shortfall in other ways, whether through Smart rising to the occasion,  Phil Forte raining threes, Le’Bryan Nash putting up one of his patented hyper-efficient scoring nights, or some combination of the three.

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The Quiet Cowboy: Markel Brown Keeps Producing For Pokes

Posted by Bennet Hayes on December 23rd, 2013

We all know Marcus Smart. We first met him last winter, when he was busy terrorizing Big 12 opponents as a freshman. However, it turned out we didn’t know everything about Marcus back then, because he wound up shocking us all in April with his decision to eschew the NBA Draft for a year. But boy, have we had the chance to get to know him all over again this winter. By virtue of conducting Oklahoma State’s red-hot start, Smart’s name has dominated headlines for the past six weeks, and rightfully so. After all, among the many individual stretches of Smart’s dominance was this display. And this shot. Many will tell you he is the current favorite for National POY, and if you feel like arguing with them, good luck. So far, Smart has been that good.

Markel Brown -- Not Marcus Smart -- Took Center Stage For The Cowboys On Saturday Night

Markel Brown — Not Marcus Smart — Took Center Stage For The Cowboys On Saturday Night

But hiding somewhere behind the nation’s love affair with Marcus Smart – a fling I’m OK with, for the record – is a pretty freaking good basketball team. That basketball team improved to 11-1 on Saturday night in Las Vegas, dispatching a solid Colorado club (now 10-2) in the process. Smart was his typically proficient self (18 points, three assists), but that night served to remind us that he has some pretty capable teammates as well. Phil Forte, owner of the nation’s third-best individual efficiency rating entering the night, made four threes en route to a 16-point effort. Le’Bryan Nash pitched in with 15 points of his own, and did a little bit of everything else, contributing six rebounds, two assists, two steals, and three LOUD blocks. But of all the Cowboys who contributed to the cause, it was senior Markel Brown who offered the biggest lift. The senior scored 23 points, grabbed 11 rebounds, and even chipped in three assists: a domineering effort, indeed, and on a sizable stage. If you didn’t know all that much about the Pokes before Saturday night, Brown’s performance surely rated as eye-catching. But if you did? Just another lethally efficient demonstration from one of the nation’s most underrated players.

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Previewing Saturday’s Oklahoma State vs. Colorado Match-up

Posted by Brian Goodman & Andrew Murawa on December 21st, 2013

There are a lot of interesting non-conference battles around the country this weekend prior to a holiday break for most schools. Big 12 correspondent Brian Goodman (@bsgoodman) and Pac-12 writer Andrew Murawa (@AMurawa) teamed up to offer this breakdown of one of them: Colorado vs. Oklahoma State in Las Vegas, Saturday 8:30 PM PST on ESPN2.< Oklahoma State will win if… It capitalizes on its huge advantage offensively and stays out of foul trouble. We haven’t heard a ton about Oklahoma State lately because they haven’t had a marquee match-up since Thanksgiving weekend, but the offense has continued to cruise. Marcus Smart, Markel Brown and Phil Forte are doing their thing. On top of that, Le’Bryan Nash has bought in and been a key contributor as of late, averaging 17.3 points per game over his last three contests. This isn’t a good match-up for Colorado because the skill at which they excel the most, defensive rebounding, has a strong chance of being neutralized by one of the best scoring attacks in the country. There aren’t many areas where the Buffaloes will have an edge, but they do get to the line often. Michael Cobbins will need to keep up-and-coming sophomore Josh Scott in check because he’s a very good ball-handler and along with Askia Booker and Spencer Dinwiddie, can make Oklahoma State pay from the stripe.

Marcus Smart Will Be A Priority On Both Ends of The Court for Both Teams Saturday Night (AP Photo).

Marcus Smart Will Be A Priority On Both Ends of The Court for Both Teams Saturday Night (AP Photo).

Colorado will win if… It takes lessons from what Memphis did to Oklahoma State, and it gets a little bit of luck. Clearly, the game plan against Smart all season has been to keep him out of the lane as much as possible and make him shoot jumpers. If Smart can get into the paint, he is deadly — not only in creating shots for himself, but in creating shots for his teammates. If you can keep him shooting jumpers, not only is he still a work in progress there, but he is very much trying to prove that such progress has been made. In his first appearance against Memphis, his jumper was in full effect, as he knocked down five threes in a dominant performance. In the second go-round, he was 0-for-5 from deep and limped home to a 12-point performance. In other words, keep Smart shooting jumpers and trust your scouting report that they largely don’t go in. While the Buffaloes are primarily going to plan man defense, if Tad Boyle thinks a zone will give his guys a better chance at accomplishing that, he’ll give it a try. The Cowboys are still good enough defensively to cause problems for the Buffs even without Smart scoring prolifically, but getting OSU’s best player out of his comfort zone will go a long way towards giving CU a chance.

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Big 12 M5: 11.14.13 Edition

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 14th, 2013

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  1. Oklahoma State freshman Stevie Clark is adjusting quickly to the college game. Clark has put up some very efficient numbers in the early going, averaging 12 points and seven assists in just 21 minutes of action per game. If he can maintain a similar level of production behind Marcus Smart as the Cowboys’ schedule toughens up, Clark will have a great case for being the league’s best sixth man. Oklahoma State is still searching for answers down low, but between Smart, Clark, Markel Brown and Phil Forte, the Cowboys have an embarrassment of riches in their backcourt.
  2. Iowa State continues to receive outstanding contributions from its newcomers, but Tuesday night, it was junior forward Dustin Hogue who stepped up for Fred Hoiberg’s team by chipping in 13 points on just six shots to go along with eight rebounds and two steals against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi. The Cyclones will be without Melvin Ejim against Michigan this Sunday in Ames, but encouraging performances throughout ISU’s roster this week and an amazing homecourt advantage could give them just what they need to beat the Wolverines.
  3. The Kansas Jayhawks have found production on their bench to weather early storms of foul trouble, according to Blair Kerkhoff of The Kansas City Star. Frank Mason and Brannen Greene are just two players who tend to get lost in the shuffle behind KU’s star-studded starting lineup, but they’ve provided huge minutes in supporting roles as the season has lifted off. As freshmen, they’ll only get better, so opponents shouldn’t expect a huge drop-off when Andrew Wiggins and Wayne Selden need to catch a few breathers.
  4. There were no surprises in Lawrence on National Signing Day Wednesday. Kelly Oubre, who committed to the Jayhawks earlier this semester, sent in his NLI, cementing his pledge to play for Kansas next season. Oubre figures to take Andrew Wiggins’ place in the KU rotation as an explosive, long-armed wing. Kansas remains in the hunt for Jahlil Okafor and Tyus Jones, who will announce their decisions at the same time on Friday afternoon.
  5. Kansas State bounced back from an ugly early loss to Northern Colorado by taking care of Oral Roberts in a 71-63 win Wednesday night. Freshman Marcus Foster joined some esteemed company, becoming the first Wildcat freshman since Michael Beasley to score 25 points in a game. Head coach Bruce Weber has repeatedly insisted that his veterans need to lead offensively, and while that’s certainly an understandable sentiment, there are no sure things in his lineup. It would be wonderful for Kansas State if Shane Southwell, Will Spradling and Thomas Gipson could be counted on for 40 combined points on a nightly basis, but in the meantime, our unsolicited advice to Bruce Weber is to take your points wherever you can get them.
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Big 12 Team Preview: Oklahoma State Cowboys

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 7th, 2013

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

Where We Left Off: After a crushing loss to an under-seeded Oregon team in the NCAA Tournament, Marcus Smart made the pain go away for OSU fans, shocking Stillwater and the rest of the college basketball world by announcing his return for the 2013-14 season. That news briefly led prognosticators to peg the Cowboys as the most realistic challenger to dethrone Kansas atop the standings, but then Andrew Wiggins committed to the Jayhawks. Now, not only do we have a bona fide conference race, but a POY race too. The product is a scenario where each team’s destiny, whether you’re talking about the conference title race or the bigger picture of the NCAA Tournament, could very well hinge on how their respective stars perform.

Travis Ford has all the pieces he needs to make a serious run at Kansas. (Getty)

Travis Ford has all the pieces he needs to make a serious run at Kansas in the standings. (Getty)

Positives: Smart may be the heart and soul of Travis Ford‘s team, but Oklahoma State wouldn’t be a Final Four contender without a very good supporting cast. It isn’t without flaws (more on that in a bit), but there may not be a team in the country that can match Oklahoma State’s backcourt tandem of Smart and Markel Brown. While the former is a surefire lottery pick, the latter has improved every season he’s been on campus. He can still destroy a rim as ferociously as he did in his earlier years, but he’s upped his stroke from the free throw line as well as beyond the arc while lowering his turnover rate despite more possessions every season. There isn’t much more you could want from a four-year player. Phil Forte gives the Cowboys a one-dimensional but very capable long distance bomber, and junior wing Le’Bryan Nash is a refined three-point stroke away from being a total match-up nightmare.

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Big 12 M5: 10.14.13 Edition

Posted by Brian Goodman on October 14th, 2013

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  1. A big part of Iowa State‘s rise under Fred Hoiberg has come from the Cyclones’ ability to trump expectations and get the most out of its talent. After ISU outperformed predictions in the last two seasons, the league’s coaches are done sleeping on them.  Big 12 coaches pegged Iowa State to finish fourth in Thursday’s preseason poll after being tabbed eighth in 2011 and 2012. The Cyclones enter this season hoping to do something they haven’t done since 1997: make the NCAA Tournament for a third straight time. With the transfers that made up the core of Hoiberg’s teams the last two seasons now graduated, the vast majority of ISU’s roster will consist of players “The Mayor” recruited out of high school. Fourth place in the conference is definitely a reasonable goal for Iowa State this season, and it’s not difficult to see them finishing ahead of preseason third-place pick Baylor if things break just right.
  2. Yahoo! Sports‘ Jeff Eisenberg compiled a list of 10 freshmen capable of making big impacts in 2013-14 and you’ll never guess which Kansas newcomer topped the list (OK, you probably will). It’s worth noting that no other Big 12 freshman cracked Eisenberg’s rankings, but we like to think of that as a testament to just how good the freshman class is nationwide. Still, just because they didn’t make the list doesn’t mean you shouldn’t keep an eye on other young Big 12 rising talents like Joel EmbiidAllerik FreemanElijah Macon, Wayne Selden and Ishmail Wainwright. Still, Andrew Wiggins is the gem of the league’s incoming class and is just another reason why we can’t wait for the opening tip.
  3. It was announced late last week that two Big 12 teams, Kansas and Kansas State, will hold open scrimmages for their fans. The Jayhawks will open the Allen Fieldhouse doors this Saturday, giving fans who were shut out of “Late Night In The Phog” earlier this month a second chance to see the 2013-14 squad. Kansas State, which didn’t hold a late night event of its own, will also host an open scrimmage on Saturday. The Wildcats aren’t quite looking at a full-on rebuild, but losing Angel Rodriguez, Jordan Henriquez and Rodney McGruder will hurt the defending co-Big 12 champions. Still, with the official start of practice coming earlier this season, the wait until the first regular season games lengthens so public practices are a great opportunity for teams to inject some extra anticipation into their devoted fan bases.
  4. If all goes according to plan this season for Marcus Smart, Markel Brown and Travis Ford (and even if it doesn’t), Oklahoma State will need to rebuild in a hurry to stay in the conversation atop the Big 12 moving forward. The Cowboys took one step toward that goal on Saturday when they received a verbal commitment from recruit Mitch Solomon, a 6’9″ power forward who is considered the best 2014 prospect in Oklahoma. Solomon, along with shooting guard commitment Jared Terrell, gives the Cowboys a very solid foundation from which to reload. In 2014, we’d expect Le’Bryan Nash, Michael Cobbins and Phil Forte to be the leaders, allowing the incoming freshmen to be eased into supporting roles and gradually move up from there.
  5. Late last week, UNLV announced that it will partner with Kansas for a home-and-home series beginning in Lawrence in the 2014-15 season, with a return trip to Las Vegas planned for the 2016-17 campaign. Neither Dave Rice nor Bill Self have ever been shy about assembling tough non-conference schedules, so while we aren’t too surprised at this development, we’re nevertheless thrilled to pencil in a pair of must-watch games for the future. The Runnin’ Rebels have more to gain from ambitious scheduling than the Jayhawks due to the difference in competition their respective leagues provide, although Kansas will benefit as well. It’s also worth noting that a trip to Las Vegas gives the Jayhawk coaching staff a convenient opportunity to check out some of the recruits at nearby Findlay Prep, which churns out blue-chip prospects on an annual basis. We’re still waiting on the announcement of that annual Kansas-Missouri series, by the way…
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Big 12 Season Wrap: the Highs, the Lows, All the In-Betweens

Posted by dnspewak on April 15th, 2013

In a big-picture sense, the Big 12 provided us with no surprises this season. Kansas won the league again, TCU finished in last place, five teams made the NCAA Tournament, and all was right with the world. It wouldn’t have taken Nostradamus to make those predictions. That doesn’t mean it wasn’t an interesting six months, however. There were flops–most notably from the state of Texas. There were overachievers–most notably from the state of Oklahoma. There were thrilling finishes, blown calls, standout freshmen and that one time Kansas somehow lost to TCU. Oh, and one team even won a championship this season in, well, the wrong tournament.

Game of  the Year: Kansas 68, Oklahoma State 67 (February 20)

This showdown in Stillwater was simultaneously the best and worst game of the Big 12 season. How’s that for logic? After the Cowboys stunned Kansas at Allen Fieldhouse earlier in the winter and literally celebrated by doing back flips on the court, this revenge game took on even more importance in the league standings. Had Oklahoma State won, it would have seized the proverbial driver’s seat along with Kansas State and would have made the Jayhawks’ path to the regular season title very difficult. We had drama. We had overtime. Two, actually. And we had a game-winner in the final minute of regulation by Naadir Tharpe, who shook off a rusty performance to hit the go-ahead jumper with 16 seconds to play. Instant classic, right? Certainly. The problem was, it was perhaps the ugliest game ever played by two top-15 opponents on the same floor. Kansas did not make a field goal in the first overtime and it did not make a field goal in the second overtime until Tharpe’s game-winner. That’s almost 10 minutes of basketball without a basket. In overtime! Overall, the two teams combined to shoot five for 32 from beyond the arc. Ben McLemore played 49 minutes, missed nine of 12 shot attempts and finished with seven points after barely touching the ball in the overtime periods. And that’s the best game of the year? We still stand by our decision. This was the game that changed the complexity of the Big 12 title race, and two free periods of basketball is never a bad thing.

Bill Self Won Another Big 12 Title (Photo credit: AP Photo).

Bill Self Won Another Big 12 Title (Photo credit: AP Photo).

Honorable Mentions:

  • Kansas 108, Iowa State 96 (February 25): Asterisk on this one. Kansas beat Iowa State in Ames — where the Cyclones hadn’t lost in more than a year — but it needed a blown call at the end of regulation to get the opportunity. You remember the situation. Elijah Johnson‘s charging toward the basket with five seconds left in the game, his team trailing by two points. Georges Niang sets his feet and takes what appears to be a pretty standard charge. But there’s no call, the ball bounces on the floor and the officials eventually blow the whistle on Niang during a scramble. That allows Kansas to tie the game and win in overtime behind Elijah Johnson’s epic 39-point performance. The Big 12 would later admit its referees should have called a charge, but that’s a moot point right now. It’s a shame we’ll remember this game as the No-Call Game as opposed to the Elijah Johnson Game.
  • Oklahoma State 74, Baylor 72 (March 14): The Bears needed a victory in this Big 12 quarterfinal to give themselves a chance for an at-large bid in the NCAA Tournament. Then they fell behind by 20 points. Dead in the water. Except Pierre Jackson started raining jumpers and floaters all over the place, and Baylor inexplicably tied the game in the final minute of regulation. But the officials made a controversial foul call (that’s a trend this year, across all conferences) and sent Phil Forte to the line, where he made both. That’s an exciting finish in and of itself. But it got even better: Nobody’s quite sure how it happened, but with just seconds left on a desperation, mad-dash possession, Jackson dribbled straight through two Oklahoma State defenders and found himself absolutely, completely wide open from three-point land. He had a chance to win at the buzzer. No hands contesting him, no defender in sight. He missed. That sent the Bears to the NIT, and at least they won that tournament. But Jackson’s failed buzzer-beater signaled the end of Baylor’s tourney chances, and it was another dark moment during an underachieving season.

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Big 12 Conference Call: February 9 Edition

Posted by Nate Kotisso on February 9th, 2013

Welcome to another edition of our Big 12 Conference Call! This week has been some kind of something hasn’t it? We have seen TCU take down Kansas in perhaps the biggest upset in the Big 12 era as well as Baylor and Oklahoma’s attempts to play themselves off the tournament bubble. There are bigger questions that loom too. Who has the inside track for Big 12 Coach of the Year? And, if Kansas continues to slide, who will win the Big 12? Today, we’ll hit on those topics and more. 

1. Kory predicted the Jayhawks to fall to Oklahoma State on Saturday and we all know what happened at TCU on Wednesday. Is their Big 12 title hopes in jeopardy?

2. If Kansas doesn’t win the Big 12 title, who will sit atop the conference standings at the end of the year?

3. Imagine yourself on this year’s NCAA Tournament Committee and you’re forced to choose Baylor or Oklahoma to put in the field of 68. Which team would you go with and why?

4. Who do you like to win Big 12 Coach of the Year?

5. Which of the three Texas schools will have the highest finish — UT, Tech or TCU?

******

An unreal night in the Metroplex. (Rodger Mallison/Fort Worth Star-Telegram)

It was an unbelievable night in the Metroplex. (Rodger Mallison/Fort Worth Star-Telegram)

1. Kory predicted the Jayhawks to fall to Oklahoma State on Saturday and we all know what happened at TCU on Wednesday. Is their Big 12 title hopes in jeopardy?

KC: Absolutely. With the way Kansas had been playing in January, the loss to Oklahoma State was coming. The Cowboys have plenty of talent and nobody was going to go undefeated in the Big 12 this season, anyway. But the loss to TCU -ranked lower in kempom than the likes of Quinnipiac and Yale- is the worst Kansas loss since before Larry Brown was coaching in the 80’s. Point guards Elijah Johnson and Naadir Tharpe shot a combined 5-for-27 with three assists against the Horned Frogs. In his last eight games, Johnson has more turnovers (28) than assists (25). If that doesn’t trouble you, nothing will.

NK: Most definitely. Kory hit the nail on the head — a slip up was bound to happen. To be truthful, I didn’t see one of this magnitude. Their loss to TCU Wednesday has gone down as easily the biggest upset in the Big 12 era in my opinion. The Jayhawks could only win in spite of their point guard problems for so long. And now in a time where a team like Kansas is supposed to separate themselves from the rest of their conference mates, they find themselves in a tighter league race. At least it’s better for the fans of other teams.

DS: They’re in a heck of a lot more jeopardy than they were a week ago, that’s for sure. And yet the Jayhawks still sit tied atop the league with Kansas State, and they own the tiebreaker with that win in Manhattan. So forget the TCU debacle. With half of the Big 12 schedule left to play, Bill Self once again has his team in position to win a regular season title. Kansas has serious issues on the offensive end, and it’s hard to envision this team doing a ton of damage in March, but it’s still the class of the Big 12. With Self’s track record, I’m expecting to see vintage Kansas show up against the Wildcats on Big Monday. But that game in Norman is a tough one this weekend.

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Big 12 M5: 01.31.13 Edition

Posted by Nate Kotisso on January 31st, 2013

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  1. Oklahoma finally had a chance to score a road win against Baylor that would boost their average tournament profile. So they grabbed a hold of this game early and never let go. The Sooners marched into Baylor’s Ferrell Center and handed the Bears their third home loss of the season (they’ve got six total). They got an outstanding effort from Amath M’Baye but I’m giving major props to a upperclassmen I expected a lot more from during his senior season. I pictured Steven Pledger being a serious contender for player of the year in the Big 12 but his six minute drop in playing time has seen his shooting and scoring numbers take a hit in 2012-13. Last night:  20 points, 6-for-12 shooting, made three threes, had two steals, five assists and one turnover. He made three free throws down the stretch to clinch it for Oklahoma. This game goes to show that he’s better than his season stats would tell you.
  2. Iowa State tried to make history last night, and they came close, but it just wasn’t to be. Again. The Cyclones had not won a game at Gallagher-Iba Arena in a quarter of a century and now they will have to wait another year to rewrite history. They led for a little over half of the game before losing it in an interesting final seconds of regulation. If the original call of a foul plus a 1-and-1 opportunity for Chris Babb stood firm, we could be talking a game that went to overtime and possibly a streak that could be no more. But as players and coaches will tell you, it’s never a good idea to let the referees decide the end of a game. They’ll move on and face Baylor Saturday who ironically enough have never won a game at Hilton Coliseum. Go figure.
  3. Yes it was super frosh Marcus Smart who hit the game-winner last night and had another typical superb game,  but his high school teammate is deserving of some attention tooPhil Forte stands just five feet, eleven inches tall and knows if he wasn’t a gym rat, there’s a chance he wouldn’t be playing Division 1 hoops. His tireless work ethic has earned him starters’ minutes as of late, going over 30 in four of the last five games. Last night, Forte chipped in with 17 points and four steals. It won’t be long before people outside Stillwater will realize that Forte is actually not related to former Cowboy Keiton Page.
  4. We knew it was going to get ugly in Manhattan. What hampered Texas this time? Offense again. All the Longhorns could get was 19 in the first half while K-State happened to score 19 more than UT. The Horns turn the ball over more than anyone (16 turnovers/game) in the Big 12. Wouldn’t you know it, the Wildcats would win the turnover battle 17-6.  Sheldon McClellan described this season better than anyone after the game: “Demoralizing.” At this point Rick Barnes’ only hope this spring is if he can find a way land Julius Randle for next year’s recruiting class.
  5. Kansas State absolutely would have taken a win by any means necessary after losing twice last week. While the game was never in doubt, backup forward Thomas Gipson played like there was no tomorrow. After starting the last 13 games for the Wildcats, Gipson found himself coming off the bench. He took the demotion in stride, scoring 17 points and pulling down seven boards in 21 minutes. For Gipson, there was also some added meaning for playing on January 30th. “I think that today, my real motivation was that today was my sister’s (Jade Middleton) birthday and she passed about a year ago and I just used that as my reason to play hard. I should play like that every day.” At least he’s willing to admit he doesn’t play to his potential. Now it’s time to buck that trend.
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Big 12 Conference Call: December 6 Edition

Posted by Nate Kotisso on December 6th, 2012

Welcome to our second installment of the Big 12 Conference Call here on the microsite. Danny (@dspewak), Kory (@Kory_Carpenter) and Nate (@natekotisso) are back to answer the tough questions in the league, and lord knows there’s plenty of them. Today, they’ll discuss Baylor’s struggles, Colorado’s return to Allen Fieldhouse, sixth man of the year as of now and much more. 

As Drunk Joe Namath would say, Big 12 basketball is “struh-guh-ling.”

Here are this week’s five questions:

  1. The Big 12 has only two teams ranked in the AP and coaches’ polls. What do we make of this?
  2. Colorado will make its first return to Allen Fieldhouse Saturday since leaving for the Pac-12. Will the Buffs beat KU?
  3. Which Baylor team are we going to see more of this season, the team that lost to College of Charleston and Northwestern at home or the team that ended Kentucky’s 55-game home winning streak?
  4. If you had to pick a sixth man of the year right now, who would it be?
  5. If there was a non-conference game with a Big 12 team you’d like to see live, which would it be?

***

1. The Big 12 has only two teams ranked in the AP and coaches’ polls. What do we make of this?

  • Danny Spewak: It’s been a difficult first few weeks for the Big 12. Texas has crashed and burned without Myck Kabongo. Baylor, save for that win at struggling Kentucky, has been perplexing. Kansas State had only one attempt to prove itself on a major stage, and it lost to Michigan by double-digits. At this point, you’ve had only one team overachieve (Oklahoma State) and really only one team (Kansas) play to expectations. Thus, two representatives in the Top 25.
  • Kory Carpenter: Baylor would have been firmly in the Top 25 had they not lost to the College of Charleston. Coupled with the losses to Colorado and Northwestern and it doesn’t make up for the nice win over Kentucky on the road. No one else on the outside of the Top 25 has beaten a team with a pulse. Oklahoma’s best win is over an awful West Virginia team, Kansas State’s crowning jewel is a three-point win over Delaware, and Iowa State lost to the two ranked teams they’ve played. Until the resumes improve, there’s no reason any of the other eight teams should be ranked.
  • Nate Kotisso: You guys hit the nail on the head. Other than Oklahoma State, the Big 12 has floundered in important non-conference games. Watching Baylor defeat Kentucky on Saturday was more about UK losing than the Bears winning. Kentucky had 16 more offensive rebounds and turned the ball over fewer times than Baylor, yet their horrid shooting lost the game. K-State still has tests coming later in the month and with Rodney McGruder playing better, there’s a chance for them to slide into the rankings before New Year’s. Oklahoma is 6-2 but they have yet to register an impressive win outside of West Virginia. And geez the Mountaineers are a whole other story. But you gotta stay positive, you guys.

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Big 12 Summer Update: Oklahoma State Cowboys

Posted by dnspewak on August 7th, 2012

In an effort to remind you that college basketball does in fact exist during the summer, Big 12 microsite writer Danny Spewak (@dspewak) will roll out three summer updates per week during the next month. The goal is to compile every bit of news and information from the summer months for each team and package it into neat, easy-to-read capsules for your convenience. The final team on the list — Oklahoma State.

2011-12 record: 15-18, 7-11 (7th place, Big 12)

While his peers in the coaching community were chasing recruits this summer and lounging by the pool, Travis Ford took the stand during a rape trial to testify on behalf of a former player. This wasn’t about basketball anymore. This was about the life of Darrell Williams, facing a prison sentence after two women at a party accused him of groping them in 2010. The soaring expectations in 2012-13, thanks to the arrival of freshman star Marcus Smart and the return of sophomore Le’Bryan Nash, would have to wait. Ford argued for Williams’ innocence on the stand, and several former teammates attended the trial. The defense argued that the two women may have misidentified Williams, but that didn’t convince a jury. It convicted the forward on two counts, sending him into an uncontrollable sob as police escorted him out. Williams was never a star, and he had not played since February 2011. Still, this is not your average legal situation. That kind of thing happens all the time — like this weekend, when police arrested Cowboys’ center Philip Jurick for marijuana possession. In those situations, programs discipline, suspend and move on. When a former player heads to prison on a rape conviction, though, it takes a little while to recover. So that’s where Travis Ford sits with this Oklahoma State program right now. After a traumatic whirlwind of a summer, he must now find a way to recover from the graduation of heart-and-soul guard Keiton Page and transform this collection of individually talented parts into a winning team. It’d be nice, too, if he could find a viable point guard.

For All The Criticism, It’s Easy To Forget Nash Won Freshman of the Year Honors in 2011-12

Summer Orientation: Everybody knows Marcus Smart. Just ask Billy Donovan and Mark Few about the OSU freshman, who wowed them at the U-18 Championships this summer. “He was our leader from the moment the players introduced themselves,” Few told CBS’ Gary Parrish. “He’s one of the best kids I’ve ever been around — and that includes all the Zags I’ve coached.” That single quote from Few sums up Marcus Smart at the most basic level. He may be a McDonald’s All-American with NBA talent, and he may be a scoring guard with ungodly physical gifts and slashing ability. That’s all great, but it’s not even what Smart is known for. He’s known as a leader. Clutch. A playmaker. The kind of guy who prides himself on his instincts, defensive prowess, smarts and basketball savvy rather than his point-per-game average. These are the qualities that have Travis Ford gushing about his freshman, to the point where he’s already anointing Smart as a team leader after he excelled in individual workouts this summer. Perhaps we’re reading too much into the Rivals.com star rankings and the spectacular performance at the U-18 games, and maybe all of this talk of early leadership and the “ultimate teammate” is overkill for a guy who hasn’t stepped on the court yet. The beauty of the situation for Smart and the Cowboys, though, is that he’s not necessarily counted on to carry this team. Le’Bryan Nash often had those expectations as a freshman a year ago, but his decision to return for his sophomore year means the two highly-touted talents can feed off each other.

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Big 12 Morning Five: 01.16.12 Edition

Posted by dnspewak on January 16th, 2012

  1. In a sign of the times at Texas Tech, coach Billy Gillispie praised his walk-ons for their second half performance at Texas A&M after the conclusion of the 67-54 loss. On the road against one of the Big 12’s biggest disappointments, the Red Raiders used Clark Lammert and Luke Adams after halftime, and they combined for 17 points. “It came down to pride,” Lammert said. That doesn’t appear to be a major problem for this team, though, and Gillispie says the rest of the guys are “trying like crazy.” That’s a good start at least.
  2. Oklahoma State lost to undefeated Baylor this weekend. That surprised nobody. But the 105-65 margin? That’s a little concerning even for a crumbling Oklahoma State team playing on the road against the league’s best team. Ford says his team needs to move on and try to learn from the experience, which had to be humbling for these Cowboys. Interestingly, Markel Brown did say Baylor “could be beat” after the game though he did also offer words of respect. Sure, Baylor can be beat. But not by Brown’s team.
  3. Despite the ugly loss, the future looks bright for Oklahoma State thanks to a few incoming recruits. Marcus Smart and Phil Forte sat down with The Oklahoman to talk about that future and they will be catalysts in trying to right the ship for Travis Ford. Smart is the more heralded recruit, but he and Forte are good friends that go way back. So far back, in fact, that most refer to them as brothers. That family tie may come in handy next season.
  4. Frank Martin‘s post-game comments keep getting better and better. After Saturday’s loss to Oklahoma, Martin lashed out at the world: ““That’s why I tell you to not look at a team’s record,” Martin said. “Did Oklahoma look like an 0-3 team in conference play today? Did they look like a team that scored 48 points their last game out?” He has a point. Lon Kruger is one of the league’s most respected veteran coaches, and he’s going to get things rolling in Norman eventually. He also has a decent core this year that has the potential to play well at home and spring a few upsets as it did on Saturday.
  5. And staying with Oklahoma, Kruger says the Kansas State win was big for his program in the early stages of the rebuilding process. Sure, Oklahoma played reasonably well in the non-conference, but it still lost an ugly game to Saint Louis and blew a lead at Cincinnati. Then, after an 0-3 conference start, it appeared the Sooners may fall apart. But they’ve changed their approach lately, and as Kruger says, they are playing with a tougher attitude. Kruger’s not all that pleased yet, however. “We’re not anywhere near Big 12 (tough), physical and aggressive… We need to be a lot more physical, be a lot tougher.”
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