No Matter What Happens Tonight, Scott Drew Deserves a Fair Shake

Posted by Brian Goodman on March 27th, 2014

Ever since Baylor blew the doors off of Creighton on Sunday, the public tide has started to turn in Scott Drew’s favor. He hasn’t shaken all of the criticisms — that he’s underachieved with top-flight talent in previous seasons and that he’s toed a fine line with his recruiting strategies (as if other programs don’t)  – but with every postseason win he continued to chalk up, the noise has definitely quieted. On Wednesday night alone, CBSSports.com‘s Dennis Dodd and Yahoo!‘s Jeff Eisenberg posted columns detailing why the doubters have it all wrong about Drew. While Dodd and Eisenberg aren’t the first to defend the Baylor head coach, their points remain that regardless of what you think about his tactics, the results he’s produced deserve acclaim among some of the best coaching jobs in the country — no matter what happens tonight against Wisconsin.

No matter what happens tonight, it's time to evaluate Scott Drew with fairness. (AP)

You don’t have to like Scott Drew, but it’s past time to evaluate his tenure at Baylor with fairness. (AP)

The Bears are one win away from a chance to play in the Final Four for the third time in five seasons, so if they beat the Badgers this evening, they’ll have cracked the Elite Eight with three very different teams. While one of the prevalent knocks on Drew is that last season’s group — which had a similar look and feel to this year’s team in terms of roster construction — failed to make the NCAA Tournament, it’s also true that three of his best players this season were guys who were passed over by bigger programs. In other words, if you’re going to penalize Drew for missing out on a Dance card with Isaiah Austin, Cory Jefferson and a senior Pierre Jackson, that’s fine; but if you’re going to do that, it’s only fair to also credit him for getting the most out of Kenny Chery and Royce O’Neale and parlaying that player development into postseason success. Going back even further, he’s offset the lukewarm contributions of hyped recruits Perry Jones and Quincy Miller by getting great value from low-level prospects like Jackson, Quincy Acy and Ekpe Udoh, all three of whom are now playing professionally.

Even if Drew loses tonight, he’ll still find himself among rarefied air in the coaching community. Only six other programs have made the Sweet Sixteen three times in the last five years: Arizona, Florida, Kentucky, Louisville, Michigan State and Wisconsin. Not Kansas, not Duke, not Syracuse, not Connecticut. Not bad for a guy who arrived in Waco 11 years ago with the unenviable task of rebuilding a D-I program from essentially scratch. No matter what the narrative says you should think about him, stop thinking it. The guy can coach.

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Big 12 M5: 02.06.14 Edition

Posted by Nate Kotisso on February 6th, 2014

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  1. Last night was the zillionth reason why winning a road game in the Big 12 is a you-know-what. Oklahoma arrived at WVU Coliseum to face West Virginia about 90 minutes before tip-off due to winter weather and still managed to stay in the game. The Mountaineers held the lead for much of the game but a three-point play from Ryan Spangler gave the Sooners a one-point advantage with 1:38 left. That’s when Eron Harris started making all the three-pointers: one that sent the game to overtime with 20.2 seconds left, and two more to put the game away for good. The Mountaineers now have wins against Baylor (losing luster), Kansas State and the Sooners in their last three games. But as we all know, the NCAA Tournament won’t be played at your home arena. A win at Kansas on Saturday would really send a message.
  2. Kansas center Joel Embiid said after its win at Baylor that he is “strongly considering” returning to campus for his sophomore season. The obvious part about this story is how much of this is a non-story. This is as pointless as reporters asking players whether they’re leaving for the NBA mere minutes after their season just ended. But I totally get why ESPN’s Jeff Goodman asked Embiid about his future: He’s gotta write about something, and Lord knows nobody else is asking the question to likely draft picks in early February. Goodman has already cornered the market for the answer from the potential top pick in this June’s draft. Game recognize game, Jeffrey.
  3. Marcus Smart was considered a consensus lottery pick in the 2013 NBA Draft but elected to return to Oklahoma State for his sophomore season. In addition to a possible injury as a downside to coming back to school, Smart’s game is being scouted, analyzed and criticized more than ever before. NBCSports.com’s Rob Dauster brings forth several compelling points about Smart’s poor decision-making at times and how a lack of awareness when it comes to his own strengths and weaknesses can hurt his team’s prospects this season. Beyond that, it could also hurt how NBA teams evaluate him when they’re deciding whether to make him their point guard of the future.
  4. CBSSports.com sat down with Texas head coach Rick Barnes this week and discussed his team’s surprising season, the new athletic director and some other things. One topic of conversation was center Cameron Ridley, who would get my vote for Big 12 Most Improved Player of the Year, if such an award existed. He was a player who was a project in every sense of the word and didn’t really have a set of skills when he stepped onto campus for the first time. Ridley was always an intimidating defender, but now he’s a better finisher around the rim and has vastly improved his conditioning (he has already played more minutes at this point in the season than all of 2012-13). Buzz Williams who?
  5. Former Baylor guard Pierre Jackson was drafted in the second round of last year’s NBA Draft but was subsequently cut from the New Orleans Pelicans in training camp. So now Jackson is venting all of his frustration of being cut on to the entire D-League. On Tuesday night, the Idaho Stampede guard dropped a ridiculous 58 points on 33 shots, grabbed six rebounds and dished out eight assists in a win over the Texas Legends. Jackson is also leading the D-League in points per game (30.2) so far. It’s only a matter time before an NBA team is wise enough to bring him up to the big time.
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An Unexpected Detour For PJ Hairston on His Way to the NBA

Posted by Chris Kehoe on January 15th, 2014

Most every high school star and prominent AAU recruit dreams of the traditional ascent to the professional ranks. That typically includes playing for a shoe-sponsored AAU team, getting recruited at the highest level, and ending up at a powerhouse program before their name is called at the NBA Draft. However, as history shows us, only a small fraction of these players make the big time, and often it can be some of those who were least expected to do so. For some prominent collegiate stars, there might be a number of road bumps and bouts with adversity standing in the way of their ultimate dreams.

PJ Hairston is missed dearly in Chapel Hill (Getty)

PJ Hairston is missed dearly in Chapel Hill. (Getty)

Anyone familiar with ACC basketball this season has heard ad nauseam about the P.J. Hairston scandal and the hits that UNC’s basketball program has taken as a result. Regardless of what occurred and how it was handled, it is clear that his collegiate playing days prematurely came to an end. As a result, Hairston and his team of advisors and family recently made it known that he plans to spend the rest of the season in the NBA’s Developmental League (D-League). Hairston is not eligible to be called up to the NBA (if a team was so inclined) in the 2013-14 season, but he will be allowed to put his name among the entrants for the 2014 NBA Draft.

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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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Assessing the Season: Baylor Bears

Posted by KoryCarpenter on April 11th, 2013

I don’t know who Baylor’s biggest basketball rival is, but I imagine whoever it was laughed at the Bears for winning the NIT last week — something about being the 69th best team in the country. Of course there are worse things than winning the NIT –  like losing in the NIT — so the Bears have that going for them. But those taunts from rival fans still have some merit. For schools like Memphis (2002 champs) or Wichita State (2011), winning the NIT can become a stepping stone to bigger and better things. But for big boy schools, schools like Baylor with top recruits falling off the bleachers, it’s hard to gauge how it feels to win its last game of the year and not capture the National Championship. In its 74-54 NIT championship game win over Iowa, Baylor played a former five-star center (Isaiah Austin), an honorable mention All-America guard in Pierre Jackson, and a quartet of former four-star recruits. That roster lost 14 games this season (including a 9-9 mark in conference play) and couldn’t beat out teams like La Salle and Ole Miss for an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament. There was no reason the Bears should have been in the NIT in the first place, but for the sake of this column, we’ll take a look at the highs and lows of the 2012-13 Baylor Bears.

It Wasn't the Championship Baylor Wanted, But the NIT Was a Nice Consolation Prize

It Wasn’t the Championship Baylor Wanted, But the NIT Was a Nice Consolation Prize

Highs

  • Beating Kentucky in Rupp Arena, December 1: In early December, Kentucky wasn’t the team that would eventually fall to Robert Morris in the opening round of the NIT. Or at least, that wasn’t yet the perception. The Wildcats were #8 in the country at the time and pundits still believed their band of high school All-Americans could make another deep run in the NCAA Tournament. Baylor’s patented zone frustrated the Kentucky freshmen into a 29.6% shooting performance from the field. Pierre Jackson scored 17 points as the Bears rebounded from their loss to Charleston in the game prior.
  • 86-79 Overtime Win Over Texas, January 5: With a tough non-conference season then behind them, the Bears avoided back-to-back losses with an overtime win over Texas in the Big 12 opener thanks to big games from Cory Jefferson and Pierre Jackson, who combined for 49 points.
  • Senior Night Win over Kansas, March 9: Losers of eight of their previous 11, the Bears still had a chance to deny Kansas the outright regular season conference title on its Senior Night. That’s exactly what they did after Pierre Jackson scored 28 points and added 10 assists to give Kansas its worst loss in five years.

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Big 12 M5: 04.03.13 Edition

Posted by Nate Kotisso on April 3rd, 2013

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  1. Another day, another win for the Baylor men. The Bears took care of BYU for the second time this season with a 76-70 win in the NIT semifinals. Cory Jefferson had his third consecutive 20-point effort in the NIT with 21. It also makes the Bears 7-0 in games where Jefferson scores 20 or more points. Senior Pierre Jackson had 24 points and 10 assists which happens to be his third straight game with at least 20/10. (How Jackson didn’t even get an AP All-American Honorable Mention is beyond me.) When the Bears play Iowa for the NIT championship on Thursday, it’ll be the second NIT title game in the Scott Drew era. They played another Big Ten team in 2009 — Penn State — when the Bears were at the time led by Curtis Jerrells and LaceDarius Dunn.
  2. The Iowa State athletic department announced Tuesday that it has discovered an impermissible number of phone calls were made and text messages were sent between 2008 and 2011. ISU then self-imposed penalties on itself for the 2011-12 academic year which included a reduction in the number of coaches traveling to recruit potential prospects as well as a reduction of phone calls and text messages over a four-month span. The school has also asked the NCAA to place it on probation though details were not released. Another thing we don’t know yet is which sports committed these violations. The NCAA still has the power to place additional restrictions on ISU on top of those already self-imposed. There’s still a lot to be determined in this case so stay tuned for more.
  3. TCU made news on the recruiting trail yesterday as the Horned Frogs picked up a commitment from 2013 forward/guard Hudson Price. Price, the son of four-time NBA All-Star guard Mark, pledged for TCU, spurning offers from schools like Saint Louis, Vanderbilt, and Miami (FL). Price is described as an excellent three-point shooter but at 6’6″ and 210 pounds, he isn’t afraid of taking it to the rim either. The addition of Price shores up an already solid class for Trent Johnson led by Karviar Shepherd (four-star) and Brandon Parrish (three-star).
  4. As you might know, the mayor of #DunkCity Andy Enfield was hired (perhaps misguidedly) to be the new head coach at Southern California. Now who will replace him? Here’s a list of potential candidates with a couple of names that Big 12 folks should recognize. The first is Jeff Capel, the former Oklahoma coach and current Duke assistant. He doesn’t make any sense for FGCU seeing how he doesn’t have any known connections in Florida, and he could get a better offer than an A-Sun job. The other possibility is Texas assistant Russ Springman, which makes more sense. He worked with Billy Donovan at Florida as a graduate assistant strength and conditioning coach, but if he were offered the job, he’d take it in a heartbeat. These next few weeks or months may be the only time in world history where a job in Fort Myers looks more attractive than one in Austin.
  5. It was a year ago yesterday when Kansas State hired Bruce Weber to be its new coach, replacing South Carolina-bound Frank Martin. Bring On The Cats did a very cool thing by archiving fans’ comments on the hire only to revisit them after a full calendar year has passed. What surprised me the most was even before Martin bolted, some fans already sensed that he was beginning to lose his team. Sure there were a fair share of fans who were angry at first but even they cooled off and came to the conclusion that reason will prevail. Wonder what they’ll say next April 2.
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Big 12 M5: 03.27.13 Edition

Posted by dnspewak on March 27th, 2013

morning5_big12

  1. Oklahoma was a pleasant surprise this season. Lon Kruger worked his magic to lead a struggling program to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since Blake Griffin roamed the streets of Norman, so it’s fair to call the Sooners classic overachievers. As the article points out, there were a number of bright spots during the 2012-13 campaign. Romero Osby’s production increased as a senior. Buddy Hield became the team’s best defender and became quite the character in the locker room. Kruger transformed a losing mentality into a winning one almost overnight, but it wasn’t all good news this season. There were some negatives. The end of the season wasn’t good, for starters, but despite a late road loss to TCU and no postseason victories in either the Big 12 or NCAA Tournaments, the Sooners created momentum for next season, if such a thing even exists.
  2. Baylor doesn’t have any momentum, not after a fairly disastrous season that saw the Bears fall all the way to the NIT. Still, maybe Scott Drew’s team can at least salvage some pride this March. It continues this evening with a quarterfinal game against Providence. Baylor didn’t crash and burn in the traditional sense — it was on the bubble all the way through the Big 12 Tournament, after all — but that’s not good enough for a team with this much talent. Not with blue-chip freshmen in the frontcourt, the best player in the league in Pierre Jackson, and a dead-eye shooter in Brady Heslip. No matter how far Baylor advances in the NIT, that “what if” will linger into next November.
  3. Naadir Tharpe is a sophomore. He really is. For all the expectations, criticism and attention, it’s easy to forget he hasn’t even wrapped up his second full season of Division I basketball. That’s life at Kansas, though, which is why he’s playing such a key role on this team right now. Alongside senior Elijah Johnson, Tharpe has also carried the brunt of criticism from fans and writers for Kansas’ occasional offensive lapses and point guard problems. But that didn’t happen during the Jayhawks’ dominant second half against North Carolina this weekend, and it’ll need to stay that way as this team advances into the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament.
  4. Texas Tech might need a new basketball coach if it doesn’t retain interim head coach Chris Walker, so it’s reaching out to various candidates. The results are not good so far. Southern Illinois’ Barry Hinson, an odd candidate considering he finished in last place of the Missouri Valley in his first year in Carbondale, said he has no interest. And New Mexico State’s Marvin Menzies said the exact same thing. Texas Tech isn’t the best job in the league, but the school has lured Bob Knight and Billy Gillispie to coach there in the last decade. Those are big names — especially Knight. It remains to be seen whether the TTU program can catch a big fish again this time around.
  5. Fred Hoiberg knows all about being awesome at things. Especially basketball. So he’s going to coach an All-Star game at the Final Four, featuring some of the best seniors in college basketball. It’ll be a nostalgic event for Hoiberg, who played in this same All-Star game as an Iowa State senior in the 1990s. See how he’s gone full circle?
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Rushed Reactions: Oklahoma State 74, Baylor 72

Posted by dnspewak on March 14th, 2013

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Danny Spewak (@dspewak) is a Big 12 microsite writer. He filed this report after Oklahoma State’s 74-72 victory over Baylor in the Big 12 quarterfinals.

Three Key Takeaways:

Tough, Tough Loss For the Bears; What Now?

Tough, Tough Loss For the Bears; What Now?

  1. So Close: It was a worst-case scenario for Oklahoma State. Pierre Jackson was wide open, and he was about to let it fly. For the win. “I wasn’t real excited about watching him run down the court wide open,” OSU coach Travis Ford said afterward. It seemed like fate. The shot would save Baylor’s NCAA Tournament at-large hopes. Jackson had already scored 31 points, most of which came during a frantic comeback from a 20-point deficit, and he was about to prove to the world how much of a travesty it was to leave the Big 12′s leading scorer and assists man off the all-Big 12 First Team. Except he missed. Pierre Jackson’s game-winning attempt, which he took on the move after splitting a few Oklahoma State defenders, did not fall, as fate would have it. “I feel like I let them down a little bit,” Jackson said. He didn’t. His performance was nothing short of legendary late in the second half, as he made tough shot after tough shot in crunch time. But the Cowboys survived, and the loss probably relegates the Bears to the NIT. Marcus Smart said he had one thought as he watched Jackson’s shot: “Oh crap.” Baylor was in that position after Phil Forte drained two controversial free throws, thanks to a foul call on Deuce Bello that may or may not have been legitimate. If you listen to Twitter, the whistle was an abomination. Regardless, Baylor got bounced from Kansas City, and it’s hard to imagine this team grabbing a bid on Sunday.
  2. Any Chance On Selection Sunday? Travis Ford said after the game that Baylor passed the “eye test.” It’s easy for an opposing coach to say that after a victory, though. Take a look at this team’s overall resume, and there’s just not enough there. Winning at Rupp, at least this year, won’t do it alone. Beating Kansas and Oklahoma State (in Waco) won’t do it alone, either. The Bears needed this, and they didn’t get it. “Of course it’s going to be very disappointing [if we don't get in],” Jackson said. “We can’t do anything about it.” After the game, Drew made his plea to the selection committee by pointing to an example from two years ago. “I think the perfect example is VCU. People were like, ‘why did they get in?’ Well, the committee knew they were a Final Four-type team,” Drew said. “I think we can beat anybody in the country. That means we can play in the Final Four.”
  3. Too Little, Too Late: Baylor nearly completed a thrilling comeback. That’s great and all, but the Bears could not have looked any worse in the first half. They trailed by double digits right out of the gate, got beaten to every loose ball and looked like they wanted to be anywhere but at the Sprint Center. It’s commendable that they fought back, yes, but this was a microcosm of Baylor’s season. It beat Kansas on the final day of the regular season, but it’s about an overall body of work. In a basketball game, it’s about how you play for 40 minutes, and the Bears just dug themselves in too deep of a hole.

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Big 12 M5: 03.14.13 Edition

Posted by Nate Kotisso on March 14th, 2013

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  1. The first set of fireworks at the Big 12 tournament were set off last night as Texas Tech beat West Virginia 71-69. After losing a 14 point lead earlier in the game, junior Dejan Kravic’s putback with 0.4 seconds left was enough for the Red Raiders to live to play another day. For Tech, third time’s the charm seeing how they lost both of their regular season meetings with the Mountaineers. A dramatic win like this can only help the chances for interim head coach Chris Walker to get the full-time gig. The job would be essentially his if Texas Tech would somehow upset Kansas later on today.
  2. Staying with the Red Raiders and this story is a real head scratcher. Remember Trency Jackson? He was a junior college transfer who started 11 games for them this season. Upon his transfer, Jackson obtained a special waiver because he “didn’t have enough transferable hours Texas Tech was willing to accept in advance of enrolling.” Usually in a case like this, the academic adviser at the transfer’s new school would be notified of this and would hatch a plan with the transfer to get those hours squared away. But that never for happened for Jackson. He was suspended for being academically ineligible but the problem was Texas Tech never told him he was until after the spring semester begun. It seems that Tech REALLY dropped the ball here and now will be interesting to see how this lack of oversight will affect Chris Walker’s prospects of getting the head coaching job. Jackson has since transferred to Western Kentucky and will hopefully be eligible to play by December.
  3. Texas closed up the night with a 70-57 win over TCU. The game was further proof that, even against a team like the Horned Frogs, Myck Kabongo makes a world of difference for the Longhorns. Kabongo made the most impact for his team, totaling 16 points, four rebounds and six assists. UT also got major contributions off the bench from sophomores Julien Lewis (19 points) and Sheldon McClellan (12 points). I feel like had Texas had the luxury of Kabongo all season long, they’d be in contention for an at-large bid (they’ve gone 6-3 since his return). Texas has to deal with Kansas State coming up tonight.
  4. On Wednesday afternoon, Jeff Goodman sized up each Big 12 coach’s hot seat on a scale of one (meaning they’re safe) and ten (meaning they best be looking for a new job). According to Goodman, every coach is essentially safe and much of that has to do with the unique situations going on in the league: Texas missing the tourney for the first time since the late 90s, Travis Ford finally cashing in on his talented basketball team, Trent Johnson’s first year at TCU etc. The only man truly coaching for a job is Chris Walker of Texas Tech as they look for a permanent leader going forward. Hopefully, we’ll see all 10 coaches return next season.
  5. Congratulations to Baylor’s Pierre Jackson who was named the District VII player of the year by the U.S. Basketball Writers Association. Those not familiar with the “District VII” distinction (as I wasn’t), District VII is in reference to all Division I basketball programs housed in the states of Texas, Arkansas and Louisiana which means Jackson was voted the best player in those states. He is not the first Bear with All-District VII honors in consecutive season (Curtis Jerrells, Lawrence Roberts and Darryl Middleton were the others) but he is the first player from the school to be named District VII Player of the Year. Freshman Isaiah Austin also joined Jackson as a first team All-District VII honoree.
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The Big 12 Tournament, Broken Down

Posted by dnspewak on March 13th, 2013

The Big 12 Tournament begins this evening with a highly-anticipated, once-in-a-lifetime showdown between 13-18 West Virginia and 10-19 Texas Tech. That’s followed by Texas vs. TCU, another elite matchup that might force the people of Texas to actually tune away from spring football practice and watch basketball. Doubtful. Even though conference tournament play-in rounds are often painful, the rest of the Big 12 Tournament may be as entertaining as ever in 2013.

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Kansas won the league again, but it has company this year in the form of Kansas State, which technically shared the championship despite getting swept by the Jayhawks. Oklahoma State could win it. Iowa State, Oklahoma and Baylor are fighting for their NCAA Tournament lives. There are several important storylines — like the potential of Kansas vs. Kansas State, Part III — and a lot of candidates to cut down the nets. Here’s a few of the reasons you need to tune in this weekend:

The Favorites Are All Vulnerable

The Big 12 is a simple conference this season. There are four bad teams. There are three decent teams on the bubble. Then, there are three ranked teams that make up the top of this league: Kansas, Kansas State and Oklahoma State. The first two were “co-champs,” and the latter has the league Player of the Year in Marcus Smart. Bill Self told the Topeka Capitol-Journal that six teams in this league could win the tournament title, but realistically, these are the three teams you would want to put your money on. They’re all flawed in their own ways. Kansas, for example, sometimes forget how to score and looked bewildered in a 23-point loss at Baylor in the season finale. Read the rest of this entry »

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Big 12 NCAA Resumes: Baylor Bears

Posted by Nate Kotisso on February 27th, 2013

Over the next few weeks, we’ll break down where each Big 12 bubble team stands in terms of its current NCAA Tournament resume. This time: the Baylor Bears, who are trying to make back-to-back NCAA appearances for the first time in the Scott Drew era. 

  • Current Record: 16-11, 7-7 in the Big 12
  • RPI: 64
  • SOS: 32
Baylor's at-large opportunities are waning. (Getty Images)

Baylor’s chances at an at-large bid are waning. (Getty Images)

As is the case with most bubble teams, it’s been an up-and-down year for the Baylor Bears. The talent is there: upperclassmen, versatile big men, a dead-eye shooter and a Big 12 POY candidate. Despite a couple of brain-farts at home and maybe head coach Scott Drew, there’s still a chance to sneak into the Dance. SI’s Andy Glockner, CBS’ Jerry Palm and ESPN’s Ben Franklin all have the Bears on the outside at this point, but I’m going to do my best to try to make an unbiased case for them.

Case For An At-Large Bid: Gotta give Baylor this: They really challenged themselves in the non-conference season. They participated in the Charleston Classic that featured teams like Colorado and St. John’s. They took trips to difficult environments like Gonzaga and Kentucky. To top it off, they scheduled two home games versus 2012 Tournament teams Lehigh and BYU. (Which makes me wonder: How are strength of schedules calculated exactly?) They played Gonzaga tough on the road and lost while beating fellow bubble teams BYU, St. John’s and Kentucky at Rupp Arena. Meanwhile in conference play, they have a 10-point win against Oklahoma State which is looking better by the week.

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Set Your DVR: Weekend Edition

Posted by bmulvihill on February 15th, 2013

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Brendon Mulvihill is an RTC contributor. You can find him @TheMulv on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

While there may not be as many marquee match-ups this weekend, the games in the Big East, MW, and Big Ten are extremely important to their conference races. It’s nail biting time for college hoops fans across the country as teams play for their tourney positioning. Should be a good weekend of hoops, so let’s get to the breakdowns!

#16 Georgetown at Cincinnati – 9:00 PM EST, Friday on ESPN (****)

John Thompson III Has His Hoyas Playing At A High Level (Getty)

John Thompson III Has His Hoyas Playing At A High Level (Getty)

  • Georgetown is in a three-way tie at the top of the Big East with Syracuse and Marquette after the Orange lost at UConn on Wednesday. At this point though, half the conference still has a chance to catch them. Despite their inconsistency, Cincinnati is still one of those teams. The Bearcats have been living and dying by the three-point shot. In their last three games, they were 3-13 against Providence, 4-25 against Pitt, and 12-25 against Villanova. It’s fairly easy to tell which games they won and which they lost (losses to Providence and Pitt with a win against Villanova, in case it wasn’t clear). In Big East play, Cincinnati shoots 43% of its field goal attempts from beyond the arc, while only making 30.5% of them. If you recall, Michigan looked like this in the past and had a tough time being consistent, as well. Georgetown will allow teams to get off three-point shots, but teams are only making 28.8% of those shots in the Big East. If you follow Ken Pomeroy, he will tell you the former is more important, so watch closely to see if the Bearcats can take advantage by actually knocking down the deep ball. The Hoyas length may be tough to shoot over, however. Speaking of length, 6’8″ Georgetown forward Otto Porter is on fire recently. Porter is averaging 18.5 points in his last nine games. Not coincidentally  the Hoyas are 8-1 in that stretch. The Cincinnati defense is struggling to stop teams from scoring in the paint, so look for Porter to have another big game. If the Bearcats can’t stop Porter and they can’t make threes, they are going to have a tough time winning.

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