Big 12 Morning Five: 03.15.12 Edition

Posted by dnspewak on March 15th, 2012

  1. Need a rundown of all the Big 12 teams in the tournament? We have got you covered at RTC, of course, but here’s another perspective. This article neatly tells us why each team can either make a run or flame out, and it gives us a final prediction for all six Big 12 teams. The verdict? Missouri will make the Final Four, Baylor will lose in the Sweet 16 and Kansas won’t get past North Carolina in the regional finals. All fair predictions. Let the bracket discussion begin.
  2. Frank Haith used to be a joke. A guy implicated in the Nevin Shaprio scandal. A guy who did nothing at Miami and still got a better job in the Big 12. Remember those days? Probably not, because he’s completely changed himself during the past year. Once hated, he is now beloved. Once questioned, he is now listened to with ultimate authority. Call it a comeback of epic proportions.
  3. We like to talk about Perry Jones a lot, but point guard Pierre Jackson might be the most important player on this team. At least, that’s what Bill Self says. When this team has won, it’s been because of Jackson’s ability to make plays and open the floor with his penetration and passing skills. He’s not underrated per se, but it’s actually easy to forget about his impact because of Jones, Quincy Acy, Quincy Miller, and the rest of the NBA studs in this lineup.
  4. Iowa State has quite the interesting first-round matchup with Connecticut. For as much as the media has criticized the Huskies for falling short of expectations, we’ve all known for quite some time that this is a dangerous team if it reaches its potential. The Cyclones, on the other hand, surprised us by reaching the NCAA Tournament on the back of Fred Hoiberg. In a battle of Underachievers vs. Overachievers, it’ll be interesting to see who comes out on top.
  5. We apologize in advance for this. Yesterday, we posted one of those inane, “Is a loss a good thing?” articles, and we said we were sorry then. Once again, here’s another one of those snoozers. Hopefully, this is the kind of debate that really gets you going. If not, simply move on and proceed with life as planned.
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Night Line: Quincy Acy Keeps Baylor From Falling Apart

Posted by EJacoby on February 21st, 2012

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

Since winning its first 17 games of the season, Baylor has struggled mightily against tougher competition and played mediocre .500 basketball in its past 10 games. Facing a 10-point halftime deficit on Monday night at Texas, it looked as if the Bears were going to drop another game and confirm beliefs that this team lacks the toughness to win big games. But forward Quincy Acy stopped the wheels from falling off, going for 14 of his 22 points in the second half and lifting his team to a 77-72 road win over the Longhorns. While Baylor has been unable to play to its potential in the Big 12, the senior Acy has displayed consistent 100% effort to ensure that his team cannot be counted out just yet. It remains to be seen if Baylor’s talented roster will ever produce elite results, but the leadership from Acy is there to prevent a complete meltdown from occurring.

Quincy Acy is the Heart and Soul of the Baylor Bears (US Presswire/B. Maloney)

From a pure talent perspective, Acy is not even one of the top two forwards on this Baylor team. Freshman Quincy Miller and sophomore Perry Jones III are both projected 2012 NBA Draft lottery picks, according to DraftExpress. While both players have tremendous upside as impact offensive players, both have also struggled to establish themselves as reliable players in difficult games. Miller was a complete non-factor on Monday and failed to score in 22 minutes, while Jones shot 3-14 for just 10 points and three rebounds in another disappointing effort. But team leader Acy was a man among boys in the paint, physically out-working and out-hustling everyone else on the floor for one of the best games of his career. He finished with 22 points and a career-high 16 rebounds to secure a big victory for the Bears that at least temporarily halts concerns that they could be in a major slide heading into the Big 12 Tournament.

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Checking In On… The Big 12 Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on February 20th, 2012

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

Reader’s Take

 

The Week That Was

  • Baylor Falls At Home: Baylor had only lost conference games to Kansas and Missouri, but that changed with a one-point loss at home against Kansas State. Despite Wildcat freshman Angel Rodriguez traveling on an easy layup, Baylor could not win on its last possession when freshman Quincy Miller missed a shot with just seconds left. Baylor didn’t score in the final two minutes of the game, and had a couple of possessions marred by some physical play that went uncalled. The loss drops the Bears into a tie with Iowa State for third in the league.
  • Can The Jayhawks Make A Deep Run?: One of the tenets in picking a national champion is finding a team that is ranked in the KenPom top ten in both offensive and defensive efficiency. At this point, only two teams meet these criteria: Kentucky and Kansas. The Jayhawks are tenth in adjusted offense and fourth in adjusted defense, giving them the ability to play with any team in the nation. Though its offense has been concentrated in Thomas Robinson and Tyshawn Taylor (and lately Jeff Withey), the Jayhawks have good defenders all over the floor, which is exactly how Bill Self likes it. Considering the perception of Kansas coming into the season after losing the Morris twins, Self’s team has come a long way.
  • A Banner Day In Stillwater: Oklahoma State’s Keiton Page had the game of his career, scoring a career-high 40 points in a win over Texas. Page was efficient from the field, going 4-6 from two and 4-8 from three, but he was fantastic from the line, getting to the charity stripe 20 times and making every last one. Page’s shooting percentages have dropped a bit this year as he’s had to take a more active role in the offense, but Saturday was a reminder of what shooting skill the senior has.

Phil Pressey And The Tigers Keep Their Eyes On The Prize As They Battle Kansas In Lawrence This Saturday. (US Presswire)

Power Rankings

  1. Missouri (25-2, 12-2): Missouri has the best offense in the country (by a good margin), but its defense has been just mediocre. The Tigers are now fourth in the Big 12 in defensive efficiency, and have allowed over a point per possession in five of their last six games. Hosting a Kansas State team that struggles to score should give Frank Haith’s crew an opportunity to tighten up its defense.
  2. Kansas (18-5, 8-2): Kansas has never lost to Texas Tech in Allen Fieldhouse, winning this year’s edition by 33 points. Four Jayhawks scored in double figures, including Conner Teahan, who made three of his five threes, which is a huge key for the Jayhawks if they want to advance far in the NCAA Tournament. Probably the player who most delighted the home crowd, though, was walk-on Jordan Juenemann, who scored a career-high 7 points in the waning minutes. Read the rest of this entry »
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Set Your TiVo: 02.08.12 – Rivalry Week Headline Night

Posted by EJacoby on February 8th, 2012

Evan Jacoby is a regular contributor to RTC. You can find him @evanjacoby on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

Here we go, folks. Get ready for one of the very best nights of the college basketball regular season, including two 5-star showdowns. The best rivalry in the sport highlights this slate. We absolutely guarantee some great basketball tonight. Let’s get into the breakdowns:

#7 Kansas at #6 Baylor – 7:00 PM ET on ESPN2 (*****)

Who's Going to Stop Thomas Robinson Tonight for Baylor? (AP Photo/L.G. Patterson)

  • Kansas has lost their last two road games at Iowa State and Missouri despite putting up a great fight in both efforts. Tonight is another opportunity to win a crucial conference road game against a team who they will be competing with for the Big 12 title. They will be looking for the season sweep of Baylor after already thrashing the Bears at home back on January 16. In order to do so, the play of Tyshawn Taylor might be the key. He’s been terrific recently at 18.5 points and 6.5 assists in those two road environments, but late-game turnovers continue to be his bugaboo. Eliminating a mistake or two at the end of the game can be the difference between a win and a loss, especially in this one with such physical front lines that may cancel each other out and leave the guards to decide this one. Along those lines, Thomas Robinson will be defended by any number of physical forwards, but that didn’t stop him from going for 27/14 in the first meeting. Nobody can shut him down when he is on. For Kansas to have an advantage, someone else needs to step up and make big shots, whether it is Conner Teahan, Travis Releford, or Elijah Johnson. They have lacked that unsung hero in road games thus far.
  • It doesn’t feel like Baylor is playing very well right now, yet their talent and depth has continued to carry them through the Big 12 slate with just two losses to top competition. Tonight is a must-win at home to avenge the earlier loss to Kansas and to keep themselves alive in the regular season title hunt. The Bears allow just 39.6% field-goal shooting on the season and will do everything in their power to contain Robinson from going off. Quincy Acy, a stellar defender (2.3 BPG), must have a great game in order to do that. Baylor has more overall scoring talent and will have the advantage if Quincy Miller and Perry Jones III just play to their abilities. At 1.12 points per possession during Big 12 play, Baylor leads the conference in offensive efficiency, but the Kansas defense is the best that they will face. Just like Kansas needs Taylor to step up late, pay attention to how Pierre Jackson performs in this game, the guard who has made nearly all of their big shots this season.
  • This game will be televised on the Deuce, but it’s just as spectacular of a matchup as the one being played simultaneously on ESPN. Baylor is just a two-point favorite at home, as we just don’t know exactly which Bears players will show up in big games. It seems like Kansas can be trusted to play well in this game, but do they have enough impact players to get the road win? I’m predicting a Baylor win by about four to six points as their pieces overwhelm Kansas by the end of the night.

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Big 12 Morning Five: 01.26.12 Edition

Posted by dnspewak on January 26th, 2012

  1. With so many statistics in college basketball, it’s hard to know what’s important these days. That’s why the good people at Basketball Prospectus are here to help us out. Corey Schmidt wrote an interesting piece about “and-ones” in the Big 12 Conference, and they apparently have been very kind to Baylor. Through January 23, only Oklahoma State had a higher and-one field goal percentage than the Bears, though that did not factor into their loss to Missouri over the weekend. It’s also fun to look at the individual numbers: Thomas Robinson, unsurprisingly, leads the league in and-one field goal percentage, followed by Quincy Miller. 
  2. With a lot of depth in the backcourt, Frank Martin has all kinds of options with his Kansas State team. That’s why he has no problem switching starting lineups. Martavious Irving, for example, has been replaced by Angel Rodriguez, but that’s hardly phased the junior guard. Irving, who says it’s an “easy process” coming off the bench, has played unselfishly in two games since losing his starting job and has earned praise from Martin for his willingness to do the little things. As a reserve, Irving says he’s “calmed down” a bit, and it seems to benefit everybody mutually.
  3. Yahoo! Sports’ Big 12 check-in this week focuses on Iowa State‘s NCAA Tournament chances, which actually appear to be in somewhat decent shape right now. The Cyclones need to earn a marquee victory, but they’ve won enough games to at least put themselves in the conversation. Fred Hoiberg has quieted the critics of his program so far this season — they said he was too inexperienced as a head coach, and that bringing in four high-major transfers would not work. He hasn’t exactly proven them wrong yet, but he’s on that track if ISU can steal a few wins over Kansas, Baylor and Missouri down the stretch.
  4. The Cyclones still suffered a disappointing loss to Texas this week, and Royce White says it’s his fault. White made just one of seven free throw attempts in a 62-55 loss, missing his last six shots from the charity stripe. At just a tad better than 53% this season, free throws are White’s biggest weakness this year. By the way, though, he actually had a double-double against UT with 15 points and 15 boards in that game. Royce, it’s hardly your fault.
  5. On the other side, the Longhorns’ star player actually did suffer through a rough night. J’Covan Brown shot 3-16 from the field, but his teammates picked him up in that seven-point win. Myck Kabongo led the team with 13 points and helped get players like Julien Lewis and Sheldon McClellan involved late in the game. Perhaps that’s a sign of a maturing team.
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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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Breaking Down the Monster Matchup: Baylor @ Kansas

Posted by dnspewak on January 16th, 2012

To understand the magnitude of tonight’s Big 12 showdown between Baylor and Kansas, we must backtrack more than six decades into history. In 1950, the Bears won the Southwest Conference under coach Bill Henderson, cementing itself as a national power by reaching its second Final Four in three seasons. The Jayhawks, still five years away from moving into Allen Fieldhouse, shared the Big Seven title with Kansas State and Nebraska.

Sixty-two years later, Kansas has won 28 additional conference championships (along with two national titles). Since 2005, it has earned at least a share of the Big 12 title, as it has not finished worse than 2nd since the turn of the millenium. Baylor, on the other hand, never won another SWC title. And since the inception of the Big 12 in 1996, only Scott Drew‘s Elite Eight team in 2009-10 has even sniffed a championship when it tied for second. In the other 14 seasons, the Bears finished in the upper-half of the league just three times.

Bill Self and Kansas Are No Strangers To Championships

So that’s where we stand on Martin Luther King Day in 2012. With the whole world watching on ESPN’s Big Monday, Baylor has a chance to erase 62 years of history and knock Kansas from the throne of this conference. That is, if it can handle the Phog, where Baylor has never won. Hardly anybody does, after all. But if the first two months of the season has taught us anything, it’s that the Bears aren’t going to roll over on the road. This isn’t the same team that collapsed in 2011-12. With better guard play and a more unselfish offensive attack, Drew’s team has already won at BYU and Kansas State, two of the tougher home venues in college basketball.

The Bears beat Oklahoma State by 40 points on Saturday. They’re undefeated. They have NBA lottery picks up and down the bench and more long, athletic forwards than they know what to do with. But as every hoops analyst has repeated time and time again, “The road to the Big 12 title goes through Lawrence.” That’s why this may be of the more important mid-January games you will see in college basketball.

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Set Your TiVo: 01.16.12

Posted by Brian Otskey on January 16th, 2012

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

The first official “Big Monday” of the year kicks off in a big way with four games on ESPN starting at 3:30 PM EST. We have previewed the two big ones below. Rankings are subject to change with a new RTC Top 25 coming out today.

#17 Louisville at #21 Marquette – 3:30 PM EST on ESPN (****)

  • Marquette has struggled in the first half of its last three games, but it should look to come out with great energy against Louisville, an old Conference USA rival that moved to the Big East with Marquette in 2005. The Golden Eagles have won two straight games with strong second half efforts, but the key in this game will be jumping on the Cardinals from the start. Marquette likely won’t be able to score easily against Louisville’s #12 defense but Marquette can create advantages in other areas. Look for Marquette to push the pace and try to score in transition. The Golden Eagles will likely be out-rebounded so a significant turnover margin in their favor could propel them to a lot of points in transition. Louisville ranks #224 in defensive free throw rate and Marquette shoots 70.5% from the charity stripe. Creating turnovers and getting to the line will take care of any disadvantage on the glass. Darius Johnson-Odom and Jae Crowder do the bulk of the offensive work for the home squad, which averages nine steals per game.
  • The Cardinals really struggle to shoot the basketball as they are ranked #137 in offensive efficiency. To win this game on the road, Louisville will have to put forth one of its best defensive efforts of the season along with crashing the offensive glass when it has the ball. With Gorgui Dieng inside and a number of guards that aren’t afraid to rebound, Rick Pitino’s team has the toughness needed to get second chances around the bucket. It would be nice for the Cardinals if Russ Smith had another game like the 25-point performance on Saturday against DePaul. Smith has been inconsistent, but when he scores he really goes off. A better offensive game from Peyton Sivawould significantly help Louisville’s chances as well. He hasn’t been all that impressive in Big East play, but a smart game from their point guard will make Louisville much tougher to beat. If the Cardinals aren’t turning the ball over, they can control the pace and make it harder for Marquette to score.

    Can Rick Pitino's Team Regroup After A Tough Stretch?

  • Louisville has won six of the past seven games in this series, but may be without its leading scorer, Kyle Kuric. He sprained an ankle last week in practice and his status is questionable for today’s game. If he plays, Louisville won’t have to rely as heavily on the Smith’s for offensive production. In addition to DJO and Crowder, Buzz Williams needs a third scorer to emerge on a consistent basis. Todd Mayo can be that guy, shooting 48% in Marquette’s wins and only 33% in its losses. When Mayo and/or Vander Blue are contributing, the Golden Eagles are one of the tougher teams in America to beat. A smart game plan by Louisville would be to go after those two defensively and try to prevent them from getting touches. Johnson-Odom and Crowder will get their points, but shutting down Marquette’s ancillary pieces is the key to beating them. Louisville was blown out at Providence last week but we expect a better showing this time. Marquette is the favorite, but Louisville could make this a very close game.
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Top Ten Diaper Dandies: Midseason Edition

Posted by zhayes9 on January 13th, 2012

Zach Hayes is an editor, contributor and bracketologist for Rush the Court.

Compiling a list of the nation’s top freshmen in mid-January is admittedly unfair. Whether they’re a high-profile athlete or a science lab dork, ask anyone to reminisce about their first semester at school and the phrase “learning experience” comes to mind. Over the next two months, the grind of conference play will quickly mold youthful freshmen into hardened veterans. As Jeremy Lamb can attest, there’s still plenty of time for collegiate rookies to become a household name.

With that important caveat in mind, let’s gauge where this year’s talented rookies rank in terms of production and instant impact. Not all of the inclusions were ballyhooed recruits and high school All-Americans, but instead I present to you the collection of players who possess the maturation, intelligence and skill level to succeed immediately during such a difficult transition both on and off the court.

Cody Zeller has lived up to the lofty billing

Honorable Mention

Thomas Gipson, Kansas State- Gipson has proven a tremendous frontcourt compliment to the more perimeter-oriented Jamar Samuels, bulldozing opponents with his sturdy 6’7” frame to the tune of 9.2 PPG and 6.3 RPG through his first half season at Manhattan. Gipson ranks in the top-60 in the country in both offensive rebounding percentage and fouls drawn per 40 minutes.

Tony Mitchell, North Texas- Since becoming eligible on December 18 after failing to qualify at Missouri, Mitchell immediately scored in double-figures his first four games at North Texas. His banner performance to date was a 34-point, 16-rebound effort against South Alabama. The former five-star recruit is shooting an efficient 65% from inside the arc.

Quincy Miller, Baylor- The jewel of Scott Drew’s recruiting class may not post the raw numbers of other rookies due to the abundance of talent on his roster, but Miller has shown flashes of a future lottery pick, including a smooth step-back three down the stretch in Baylor’s win over Kansas State this past week. Miller is a versatile matchup nightmare as a double-figure scorer that shoots 35% from three and also snatches over five rebounds per contest.

Eli Carter, Rutgers- Carter didn’t come to Piscataway with quite the sterling reputation of some of his fellow classmates, but he’s been the most productive freshman from day one. Carter uses the most shots and possessions on a per-minute basis on the Scarlet Knights, and as long as he’s scoring over 14 a game, shooting 43% and posting 31/7/7 efforts like he did in their upset over Florida, Mike Rice will keep the green light on.

Tony Wroten, Washington- The Seattle native has been a Jekyll and Hyde act early for an equally enigmatic Huskies team. The turnovers (4.1 per game), defensive lapses and shot selection are sometimes mind-numbing, but you’ll live with some faults when your 6’5” guard is shooting 55% from inside the arc and grabbing 4.6 rebounds per game. Wroten has scored 20+ points in three of his first five conference outings.

10. Rodney Hood, Mississippi State- Dee Bost, Renardo Sidney and Arnett Moultrie receive the bulk of the attention, but Hood has provided a steady and efficient complimentary scoring option for Rick Stansbury. The southpaw is averaging 12.6 PPG on 53% from two and 44% from three and turns the ball over roughly once every 34 minutes. Improve from the charity stripe (59%) and Hood could be an all-SEC contender as soon as next season.

9. Austin Rivers, Duke- If you can filter out all of the unrealistic expectations, Rivers has completed a very respectable first semester serving as Duke’s primary dribble-drive threat and crunch-time scoring option. Rivers leads Duke in scoring, shoots 45% from two, 40% from three and put together 20+ point performances against top-15 Ohio State and Michigan. Look for Rivers to cut down on his turnovers as the game slows down and his decision-making improves.

8. Andre Drummond, Connecticut- Outside of #1 on this list, no player has as much room to grow from now until March as Drummond. Just as impressive as his highlight reel dunks during a 20-point, 11-rebound outing against West Virginia last Monday were two baseline jumpers he nailed during the second half. If Drummond can expand his offensive repertoire to include occasional mid-range/post scoring to compliment his explosiveness and pick-and-roll prowess, Connecticut may emerge as the second best team in the Big East by season’s close.

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Big 12 Morning Five: 1.12.12 Edition

Posted by dnspewak on January 12th, 2012

  1. Did you know that Baylor is apparently “for real”? This lovely website had no less than three articles about the matter — one from yours truly — and now Yahoo! Sports is in on the fun with another piece on the Bears’ early success. It’s pretty easy to see why we’re all so high on Scott Drew‘s team after their win at Kansas State. These Bears appear to be having fun this season, and they’re playing together. Like they really want to win this season, despite all of the future NBA accolades for Perry Jones and everybody else on the roster. Pierre Jackson and Brady Heslip have made major impacts in their first seasons at the guard position, and this team plays its tail off defensively. Final Four, here they come. Why not?
  2. Staying with that BU/KSU game for a moment, Rodney McGruder looked pretty darn good on Tuesday night. He scored 30 points and seems to have emerged as a star, even though he did not get a chance to win the game on the final possession. Frank Martin drew up a play for him, but BU’s defense denied him the ball. Next time KSU is in that situation, you’d better believe it will make sure McGruder has the basketball in his hands. As a strong but explosive wing player, he is a tough matchup for every team, and there’s nothing holding him back from making the All-Big 12 team.
  3. And finally, one last note on that game from Tuesday: Frank Martin is awesome on television. Sure, he’ll violate some FCC rules every once in a while, but Martin’s postgame interview with Fox Sports Net is golden. This blog post we linked to also did not show you the halftime interview, in which Martin seemed almost speechless after his team played poorly for the half’s final six minutes. Hopefully, Martin sticks with this whole coaching thing for a little longer, because we couldn’t bear the thought of missing his interviews.
  4. Nobody noticed Bedlam on Monday outside of the state of Oklahoma, and some people aren’t happy about how the series has collapsed lately. The Oklahoma/Oklahoma State basketball game was actually scheduled near the same time slot as the BCS National Championship game, which shows you how far the rivalry has fallen. It began at 6:00 PM CT on ESPNU; the football game started at 8 PM CT and had hours of pregame coverage beforehand. If you flipped to the game on Monday, you did at least see a decent crowd turn out in Stillwater. So Bedlam has that going for it.
  5. Depending on how old you are, it’s highly probable that you have fond memories of Kansas‘s 2002 Final Four team. Well, members of that team will attend KU’s game with Iowa State on Saturday, but some of the most notable names haven’t confirmed they’ll attend yet. Wayne Simien will be there, but there’s no word on Kirk Hinrich, Nick Collison or Drew Gooden. And what about Roy Williams, people? I’m going to go out on a limb and say the coach won’t be in Lawrence this weekend. Just a hunch. Even if UNC weren’t playing, he might not be so welcome, unless he wears his Jayhawk shirt again.
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Night Line: Baylor Becoming a Complete, Elite Team Before Our Eyes

Posted by EJacoby on January 11th, 2012

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

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

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

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

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Big 12 Weekly Primer: Jan 9 – 11

Posted by dnspewak on January 9th, 2012

Kansas State has a rare opportunity this week to ruin two teams’ undefeated seasons in consecutive games. Just three days after handing Missouri its first loss at Bramlage Coliseum, the Wildcats will host 15-0 Baylor on Tuesday night in a battle of two of the Big 12′s top frontcourts. There are a few other games to keep an eye on this week, too: Oklahoma and Oklahoma State will meet tonight in a Bedlam game, though the series is hardly enticing right now with both programs struggling. And on Wednesday, MU will need to recover quickly from Saturday’s smackdown with Iowa State looming in Ames.

GAME OF THE WEEK

  • Baylor at Kansas State, Tuesday, 7 p.m. CT (Big 12 Network)

Facing an undersized Missouri team this weekend, Kansas State frustrated Ricardo Ratliffe and punished the Tigers with a physical frontline. Jamar Samuels and Jordan Henriquez combined for seven blocked shots and Rodney McGruder attacked the basket at will as Frank Martin‘s team exposed MU’s main weakness in the paint. Unfortunately for KSU, it won’t be able to bully Baylor like that on Tuesday night. The Bears, who have been rebounding better lately, can throw any number of forwards at the Wildcats’ post defenders, including Big 12 Player of the Year candidate Perry Jones and starters Quincy Acy and Quincy Miller. They can’t play effectively unless their guards get them the basketball, though, so  it’s important for Pierre Jackson in particular to play well in a road environment. He has turned the ball over at a fairly alarming rate this year, but he has provided the missing piece for Baylor’s offense this year as a facilitator off the bench. Still, Kansas State’s half-court intensity on the defensive end may give the guards some problems, and this game could turn ugly if they can’t hold on to the basketball. In fact, for all of the talk about the forwards in this game, the guards will make the difference. Brady Heslip can provide BU with another element if his outside shots are falling, and starter A.J. Walton and reserve Gary Franklin cannot be outplayed by Will Spradling, Angel Rodriguez and the rest of KSU’s deep and balanced backcourt. When BU has looked shaky offensively this season (for example, in a two-point win over Mississippi State), turnovers and a lack of ball movement has held it back. Baylor may have been able to edge MSU on a neutral court during a cold shooting night, but it won’t be able to recover from an off game in Manhattan.

Rodney McGruder Is a Difficult Matchup For Baylor

The key individual matchup is… Perry Jones vs. Jordan Henriquez. Filling in for the struggling Thomas Gipson, Henriquez earned the start against Missouri on Saturday and did not disappoint. The seven-footer blocked four shots and played one of his most complete games of the season with 10 points and eight rebounds. Now a junior, Henriquez no longer plays like a project anymore. He has the size and defensive ability to frustrate Jones, who has struggled against elite big men like Arnett Moultrie (MSU) and Kevin Jones (West Virginia) this season.

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