Big 12 Morning Five: 02.02.12 Edition

Posted by dnspewak on February 2nd, 2012

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

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 30th, 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

  • Jayhawks Tumble In Ames: Kansas lost its first conference game, losing 74-62 to Iowa State in Ames. Kansas didn’t make many shots and sent the Cyclones to the foul line, but what will undoubtedly make Bill Self the angriest is the general lack of effort. Kansas had the second-lowest offensive rebound rate of Self’s tenure, and there were multiple times when a lone Cyclone got a loose ball despite three Jayhawks being around it. It certainly won’t be a fun couple of practices for the Jayhawks this week as they get prepped for Missouri.
  • Nash Bash: Like Kansas, Missouri was bitten by the upset bug, losing 79-72 in Stillwater. LeBryan Nash had by far the best game of his college career, pouring in 27 points on 12-18 shooting (3-4 from three), and the Cowboys held Missouri to just 4-19 shooting from distance. Missouri probably has the best offense in the country, but it is so dependent on jump shots that when they have an off night in that department, they seem to be a bit more vulnerable to an upset than the best offense in the country should be.
  • White Shows His Stripes: ESPN had a very nice story on Iowa State forward Royce White, highlighting some of the issues he has had in his life with anxiety. White had numerous criminal and other behavior issues while at Minnesota and while his anxiety should not be used as a blanket excuse, it is yet another caution that we as fans should not make our minds up about a player’s character without knowing the full story.

After Spinning His Wheels For Most Of The Season, LeBryan Nash Raised The Roof In Stillwater. (AP)

Power Rankings

  1. Kansas (17-4, 7-1): The Jayhawks remain in first in the rankings due to their loss being “better” than Missouri’s. They are just now hitting the meat of their conference schedule, with three of their next five games on the road at Missouri, Baylor, and Kansas State. Winning all three of them will all but lock up the conference title for Kansas, but if they play like they did in Ames they will be lucky to win one of them, and their streak of Big 12 titles could be over.
  2. Missouri (17-2, 4-1): The Tigers, as I mentioned above, rebounded nearly half of their misses at Baylor over the weekend and shot 68% from two, with Ricardo Ratliffe scoring 27 points on 11-14 shooting.  All season, they have struggled rebounding and at defending the two-point shot, so questions about how they will react when faced with size in the tournament are still valid, but they answered some of those questions on Saturday. Read the rest of this entry »
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Set Your TiVo: 01.30.12

Posted by Brian Otskey on January 30th, 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.

Pittsburgh finally won two games last week and will look to win its third in a row at the Backyard Brawl in Morgantown. In Austin, Texas looks to stun highly-ranked Missouri. Rankings are subject to change with a new RTC Top 25 coming out today.

Pittsburgh at #22 West Virginia – 7:00 PM EST on ESPN (****)

  • After getting hosed by the referees at Syracuse, West Virginia returns home on Monday night to face rival Pittsburgh. While the Panthers have won two straight games after losing eight in a row, the Mountaineers remain a strong favorite despite Tray Woodall’s return to the Pitt lineup. The Panthers look like a different team with a healthy Woodall in the fold and Bob Huggins’ team will have to come up with a strong defensive effort in order to limit the Pitt point guard from getting into a flow. West Virginia’s two-point defense is not good, ranked #239 in Division I. If Woodall and Ashton Gibbs can get inside, Deniz Kilicli and Kevin Jones will have a hard time defending Nasir Robinson (9-9 FG vs. Georgetown) and Lamar Patterson. West Virginia’s biggest defensive strength is guarding the three-point line (25.9% in Big East play). If the Mountaineers can shut down Gibbs company from deep, they will have an easier time defending the paint and keeping the Panthers off the offensive glass, where they rank #1 in the nation.

    Huggins and the Mountaineers Will Be Fired Up After Their Controversial Loss at Syracuse

  • Pittsburgh’s offense has run much smoother with Woodall back but the biggest change might be defensively. The Panthers held Georgetown to 60 points and 47.5% interior shooting (below Pitt’s 51% in Big East play), something that will be very important against Jones and a West Virginia team that struggles from deep. If Pitt can force Truck Bryant into a bad shooting night (he’s had many of those), the Panthers will be in the game for all 40 minutes. Defending Jones is a very difficult task but Jamie Dixon just might be content to let Jones get his points and focus on shutting down Bryant and West Virginia’s young supporting cast. The Mountaineers need contributions from players like Gary Browne and Jabarie Hinds in order to win consistently.
  • This is the 183rd meeting between these longtime rivals. Pittsburgh won both meetings last year and has won 16 of the last 23. We have a feeling this game will be closer than some might think. The Panthers look like a different team with Woodall back and healthy but West Virginia has the best player on the floor in Jones. Offensive rebounding is going to be the key in this game. Neither team defends the paint well but each crashes the offensive glass with authority. Pittsburgh has had problems with turnovers but that may not be the case with Woodall running the show. If West Virginia can’t create turnovers, it will have to score in the half court against a team playing with some renewed confidence. Call us crazy but we think Pitt has a legitimate chance to win this game. This one will come down to offensive rebounding and the play of Jones and Bryant.

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Big 12 Morning Five: 01.25.12 Edition

Posted by dnspewak on January 25th, 2012

  1. During the past month, the folks at Ballin’ is a Habit have taken a cross-country road trip to visit 13 college basketball venues across the Midwest. It’s a hoops fan’s dream trip — when I ran into them in Springfield during a Creighton-Missouri State game last week, I even told them how jealous I was of their month-long trek. From Nashville to Assembly Hall, they’ve been everywhere. And most recently, they made a stop at Allen Fieldhouse, where they caught up with KU’s Connor Teahan. The piece outlines his journey beginning in high school, when most of his scholarship offers consisted of Missouri Valley Conference schools. Now a senior, Teahan has cracked the rotation for a Top 10 team and one of the most historic programs in college basketball. If you’re a fan of the underdog story, BIAH’s feature is worth a read.
  2. Talk radio is terrific for controversy, and that’s exactly what former UMKC coach Rich Zvosec stirred up after saying Laurence Bowers‘ injury was “addition by subtraction” for Missouri this season. He attributed MU’s success to its four-guard lineup, and he claimed that Bowers would only disrupt this unique style. We see his point, but that’s still a ridiculous position to take. How could losing an All-Big 12 forward ever be a good thing? Even with Bowers in the lineup, Missouri would still be faster than just about every team in the nation. It would still shoot lights out from three and run an efficient half-court offense. That’s because the players have rallied around Frank Haith to play unselfish, inspired basketball. Sure, the four-guard lineup helps, but that’s not why MU beat Baylor last Saturday. That happened because Ricardo Ratliffe came to play and the Tigers’ outrebounded and out-toughed the Bears. You think having Laurence Bowers blocking shots, rebounding and providing post depth wouldn’t help this team? C’mon, Coach Z.
  3. Frank Martin announced Tuesday night the reinstatement of Jordan Henriquez, who could not practice with the team for the past six days because of “conduct detrimental to the team.” We’re still not sure what that phrase means, but Martin attempted to explain it, saying the junior center “just lost his focus and needed time to understand his priorities.” Whatever he did, the junior center and KSU’s best shot-blocker is now back in action. He still may not play against Texas Tech tomorrow night, but the Wildcats shouldn’t have much trouble without him in Lubbock. If they do, then they’ve got bigger problems than Henriquez’s detrimental conduct.
  4. In this age of lame student sections, Kansas actually pulled out a decent Billy Cundiff reference during some free throws in the Jayhawks’ win over Texas A&M on Monday. The Aggies still shot 7-11 from the line, so it didn’t exactly have the desired effect. Still, credit those guys for coming up with something at least somewhat original, although it certainly does not top the time Missouri’s student section made blow-up versions of these incriminating pictures of a future NBA Rookie of the Year in a win over Oklahoma in 2009. That’s still an all-time favorite to this day.
  5. Staying with Missouri, here’s yet another look at the Tigers’ resurgence under Frank Haith. This time, the guys at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch conduct a roundtable about Haith’s success, and there’s nothing new here. Missouri is ranked higher than its been in a decade, and after a tumultuous offseason and the departure of Mike Anderson. Like we’ve been saying for a while, as long as MU keeps winning, expect these articles to keep rolling out.
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Checking In On… the Big 12 Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 23rd, 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

  • Bears Dropped At Home: Baylor’s Big 12 title hopes took a huge hit this week, losing at Kansas and at home to Missouri. Though they are just two games back of leader Kansas and play both the Jayhawks and Tigers again, their Big 12 title odds are down to just 3.8% according to teamrankings.com and some questions probably need to be asked of Scott Drew. Baylor settled for jumpers time and time again against Missouri and let the Tigers rebound nearly half of their misses; inexcusable numbers for a team with the size that Baylor has.
  • Frank Martin Hands Down Punishment: Kansas State’s big front line took a hit this past week when they suspended junior Jordan Henriquez indefinitely. Henriquez wasn’t a big offensive threat, averaging 7.1 points per game in under 20 minutes per game, but he was very good on the glass at 11.9%, which ranked third on the team, and was their best defensive rebounder as well. With the Wildcats ranking seventh in Big 12 play in defensive rebounding, Henriquez’s absence will be felt.
  • What Can Brown To For You?: Last week, I highlighted the good side of J’Covan Brown, so this week the bad: Brown helped Texas come back from an 18-point deficit against Kansas over the weekend, but proceeded to shoot them out of the game, making only four of the 18 two-point shots he took on Saturday. Myck Kabongo had a rough game and the Horns lack someone other than Brown who can create his own shot so it’s understandable that he’d shoot that much, but he did them no favors this weekend.

Kim English, Phil Pressey and Ricardo Ratliffe Brimmed With Confidence As They Toppled Baylor On Saturday. (Tony Gutierrez/AP)

Power Rankings

  1. Kansas (16-3, 6-0): On the one-year anniversary of his mother’s death, Thomas Robinson turned in a very good performance with 17 points and nine rebounds to keep the Jayhawks unbeaten in Big 12 play. After the game, he had the early frontrunner for heartbreaking quote of the year, saying: “No disrespect intended, but that’s something I have to live with every day… For the media, it’s an anniversary.” Robinson’s main focus this year has been to take care of his little sister, Jayla, and with him projected to be a high lottery pick, that certainly looks to be a goal that can be accomplished, but even if not, a scholarship fund has reached roughly $300,000 in donations from fans. Read the rest of this entry »
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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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Set Your TiVo: 01.20 – 01.22

Posted by Brian Otskey on January 21st, 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.

Cincinnati and Vanderbilt will look to keep rolling but a Big 12 clash highlights Saturday’s slate.

#5 Missouri @ #3 Baylor – 2:00 PM EST Saturday on ESPN (*****)

This Clash Between Big 12 Powers Offers a Contrast in Strengths

  • This game could really come down to which team imposes its will. For Missouri, it would love nothing more than to speed the game up, force turnovers and not let Baylor get set in its half court defense. Missouri’s strength is its guard play. Frank Haith employs a four-guard lineup and it has worked wonders this season. The Tigers have shot the ball very well this season and that’s going to have to continue on the road in Waco. Missouri has struggled against teams with bigger front lines so its guards must shoot well if penetration is cut off and Ricardo Ratliffe is limited inside by Baylor’s trees. Kim English, Michael Dixon and Marcus Denmon can flat out shoot the basketball and Haith will need all three contributing in order to beat Baylor. It will be a bonus if Ratliffe can get anything going inside but Mizzou’s guards must continue to make shots in a tough environment.
  • Baylor is the stronger team inside and Scott Drew knows it. Getting Perry Jones III to assert himself in the paint along with Quincy Acy could be the key for the Bears in this game. Baylor will have the home crowd and energy behind itself and capitalizing on that is going to be very important against a team that loves to speed you up and force turnovers. In order for Jones and Acy to get the ball, Baylor’s guard play must be up to the task. Missouri will pressure Pierre Jackson and A.J. Walton all game because the Tigers need to run up the turnovers and transition points in order to offset what should be a significant Baylor edge on the glass. If Baylor can slow the game down a bit, limit turnovers and get the ball inside, it should be on its way to a win. If Jones III and Acy are hot in the paint, that will open up Brady Heslip and Jackson from deep. Jackson does so much for this team with penetration, passing and shooting ability but Heslip is great spotting up or coming off a screen. Baylor has multiple weapons of varying height, something Missouri may have a very hard time dealing with.
  • As we said, Missouri must speed the game up and create turnovers against the turnover-prone Bears. Ratliffe is a very good post player but we’re not sure if he’s going to be able to score consistently as the only Mizzou big man against Baylor’s immense height in the paint. If Missouri can’t get anything inside it must knock down deep shots and get to the free throw line. The Tigers shoot 77.6% from the charity stripe and that could end up being their most efficient way of scoring against Baylor aside from the three ball. Baylor didn’t defend well against Kansas but Missouri was exposed in a tough environment at Kansas State. If Baylor is physical and sticks to the game plan of good half court offense, the Bears should win. Missouri should play better in its second time on the road against a very good team but you have to favor Baylor at home given the size mismatch.

Cincinnati @ West Virginia – 3:00 PM EST Saturday on ESPNU (****)

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Big 12 Morning Five: 1.20.12 Edition

Posted by dnspewak on January 20th, 2012

  1. Surprise! Kansas is the only undefeated team remaining in the Big 12 and has already defeated one of its main rivals for the league title (Baylor) at home. That leaves Kansas in a strong position in the conference right now, although it’s still too early to hang any banners. The Jayhawks still need to travel to Waco, Columbia, Manhattan, and Ames, but Bill Self’s teams have traditionally played well on the road. As even Self has admitted, though, this year’s team is not a vintage Kansas team, so it will be interesting to keep an eye on how this team fares. After seven years of either sharing or winning the Big 12 outright though you have to give the Jayhawks the benefit of the doubt here. It’s unlikely this team, which still features a Wooden Award front-runner in Thomas Robinson, will fall apart on tough road environments.
  2. Sometimes, it’s nice to have a little fun with All-Conference teams. Commentator Mitch Holthus put together several different teams, all of which had nothing to do with basketball. We don’t have any arguments with most of his picks, but where is Ricardo Ratliffe on the WWE team? He’s as chiseled as it gets in the Big 12. And with regards to that coaching card game, let’s try to find a spot for Fred Hoiberg. Just to liven things up a bit.
  3. Frank Haith would also have an interesting story to tell at that card game if Holthus selected him. You are probably sick of reading the Frank Haith reclamation stories, but it has been awhile since we have posted one. And this article is particularly well-written, weaving his days at Miami along with the scandal and the controversial hiring at Missouri. If the Tigers keep winning, you will be reading a lot more of these pieces especially from the national media. Haith is an underdog, and that is something America will never have enough of.
  4. Oklahoma did not begin Big 12 play with a bang, but it could actually take control of fifth place in the Big 12 with a win this weekend at Texas A&M. It’s a winnable game for the Sooners, who have won two straight league games after an 0-3 start. It’s only a matter of time before Lon Kruger works his magic, and there’s no reason this team can’t sneak into at least the NIT. Steven Pledger is learning to deal with the pressure of expectations, according to the article, and Andrew Fitzgerald and Romero Osby can cause a lot of problems for Big 12 teams when they play well. Kruger’s program will only continue to improve given time, but his first team isn’t a pushover by any means.
  5. And staying with the Sooners, sophomore Cameron Clark is embracing his new role as a reserve. Clark seemed like a definite starter heading into the season, but Kruger’s decision to bring him off the bench has helped his game. Clark scored 10 points in 14 minutes against Kansas State and added 10 against Texas Tech. That’s the sign of a mature player. Clark probably did not expect to lose his starting role, but he’s responding well to his coach’s decision whether he likes it or not. One day, Clark will probably find his way back into the starting lineup. For now, though, OU will be just fine if he keeps up this kind of production.
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Checking In On… The Big 12 Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 16th, 2012

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

Reader’s Take

 

The Week That Was

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

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

Power Rankings

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

Posted by EJacoby on January 12th, 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.

If Missouri is going to be a serious contender by the end of this season, they’re going to need to win several games in the fashion that they did on Wednesday night. Playing with just five available players in the final minutes and with their leading scorer having an off night, the No. 9 Tigers still found a way to pull out a road win over streaking Iowa State in Ames. Mizzou was coming off a 16-point loss in Kansas State’s raucous arena in their last game, so defeating ISU under adverse conditions was huge for this team’s confidence. “We had a tough loss at Kansas State, and when we came back the next day in practice, the whole week we focused on being mentally tough,” said senior Matt Pressey, and that toughness is exactly what carried the Tigers to the 76-69 victory. While tougher challenges lie ahead, Missouri found out on Wednesday that they can win on the road even when things don’t go their way, a great sign going forward.

Matt Pressey Showed Big Time Toughness in Mizzou's Win Over Iowa State (AP Photo)

Everything went right for Missouri during non-conference play, to the point where many pundits thought they were playing better than anyone in the country. The Tigers were dominant in victories over Cal, Notre Dame, and Villanova, and also defeated Illinois in the Braggin’ Rights game on way to a 13-0 start. But reality has quickly struck for Mizzou, who, in addition to getting spanked by K-State in its first conference road game, found out that freshman Kadeem Green requested to transfer out of the program. Though not a major contributor, Green was part of Frank Haith’s eight-man rotation as the third big man alongside star forward Ricardo Ratliffe and reserve Steve Moore that could bang inside and grab some boards (he averaged 3.4 rebounds in 10 games). Now, Haith plays just seven guys per night, only two of whom stand taller than 6’8”, so there will be plenty of times when the undersized Tigers have little margin for error against their opponents.

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Set Your TiVo: 01.11.12

Posted by EJacoby on January 11th, 2012

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

Will the number one team in the land survive a rivalry road test? Can Missouri bounce back from its recent beatdown to win an away game? Here’s what to expect from two Top 10 teams in tough spots tonight:

#1 Syracuse at Villanova – 7:00 PM ET on ESPN2 (***)

Can Villanova Save Its Season Tonight by Beating #1 Syracuse? (AP Photo)

  • Undefeated Syracuse comes into this game playing as well as any team in the country, but their toughest away games of the season have been at NC State and Providence, so they’re not exactly road tested. The Orange will certainly have the advantage in this one, as their 2-3 zone defense has been incredibly effective this season at forcing turnovers and limiting paint opportunities. Nova’s a team that struggles in these two areas to begin with, and also a team that fires up a lot of threes (over 20 per game) at a low conversion rate (30%, ranked in the bottom 50 nationally). If Syracuse simply executes defensively and forces the Wildcats into a three-point barrage, they’ll have a huge advantage. Jim Boeheim’s team will come at Villanova with their deep array of weapons, where Kris Joseph (14.1 PPG) and Dion Waiters (12.5 PPG) should have opportunities to score in transition and on the wings against Villanova’s poor perimeter defense.
  • Villanova is in the midst of a year to forget, but they can change the outlook of the entire season with a win tonight. The Wildcats are dying for a victory of this caliber, and fans must be fired up in Philadelphia’s Wells Fargo Center for this rivalry home game against the number one team in the land. If the Wildcats are going to have a chance to win, they need to stop chucking up threes, especially in this game against a zone defense that will encourage them to shoot from the outside. Maalik Wayns and Dominic Cheek each attempt over four three-pointers per game and both are shooting under 30% from deep! Instead, these talented guards need to play off of each other. Wayns (17.4 PPG, 4.75 APG) is one of the quickest guards in America and can penetrate the teeth of a zone defense, and from there he must make good decisions and find teammates moving amongst the trees for good shot opportunities. Jay Wright’s team also must stay out of foul trouble and defend the perimeter if they want to have a chance.
  • This seems like an uneven matchup on paper, but it could be a serious trap game for Syracuse. They haven’t yet played a good conference team on the road, and Villanova is a rival who will be fired up for this one. If Nova can find early success against the Syracuse zone, then they could have a chance in this one.
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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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