Big 12 Morning Five: 01.09.12 Edition

Posted by dnspewak on January 9th, 2012

  1. Royce White recorded a triple-double on Saturday, which earned him nationwide headlines and thrust him into the Big 12 spotlight. Interestingly, though, another milestone occurred during Iowa State‘s 74-50 victory at Texas A&M. Guard Chris Allen notched his 1,000th career point, and he now has 1,003 after a 10-point performance. The Thousand-Point Club is often the barometer for a solid collegiate career for a scorer, so congratulations to Allen. White’s triple-double was a little more rare, though, as he is just the fourth player in ISU history to ever record one.
  2. In a rebuilding year for Oklahoma, coach Lon Kruger is finding the positives in an 0-2 start to Big 12 play. It’s not easy to face Missouri and Kansas in back-to-back games to open the league season, but the Sooners recovered from a beatdown in Columbia to at least hang with Kansas at home for a bit. They led by a point at halftime thanks to stout defense and resiliency before the game came crashing down during a 29-6 Kansas run to open the second half. One of these days, Oklahoma fans won’t be lauding an 0-2 record and two blowout losses. But for now, the Sooners will have to live with small progress during the rebuilding process.
  3. Staying with the Oklahoma theme, the Sooners will face Oklahoma State in a rather subdued Bedlam series tonight. The game will air on ESPNU near the same time slot as the BCS Championship Game, and both teams look like Big 12 cellar-dwellars at this point. Still, it is Bedlam, and that’s at least worth changing the channel for during football pre-game coverage or early in the first quarter. We will have a full preview of this game later today, but it will be interesting to see what kind of crowd turns out at Gallagher-Iba. Traditionally one of the most intense arenas in college basketball, the OSU fan base has soured a bit lately and attendance hasn’t been stellar. That could change for Bedlam though.
  4. It is not hard to explain why Missouri lost to Kansas State on Saturday. The bigger, more physical Wildcats frustrated Ricardo Ratliffe, pressured them in the half-court, and fed off the energy of the home crowd. Here is a more analytical look at the loss for the Tigers, who dropped their first game of the season. One stat to note in particular is the turnovers. Without glancing at the box score, you might assume that Missouri lost that battle. After all, it did step on the inbounds line a few times and looked generally out of sorts on the offensive end. Turns out, that the two teams tied in that category, but here’s the kicker: Kansas State outscored Missouri 21-11 in points off turnovers. That was an overlooked aspect of this game for sure.
  5. Kansas State got the win it needed against Missouri after a blowout in Lawrence to Kansas on Wednesday, but it faces another tough task with Baylor this week. If you are keeping track, that means the Wildcats do in fact open their Big 12 season with the three clear-cut league contenders in consecutive match-ups. It would have been disastrous for Kansas State to lose all three, so at least it has one win under its belt. Now, go ahead and beat the Bears and maybe we are talking about Kansas State as a possible title contender. It is early, and the 18-game schedule means Kansas State must also prove it can win on the road. But a 2-1 start against Kansas, Missouri, and Baylor would have to put the Wildcats in that conversation.
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Big 12 Morning Five: 01.05.12 Edition

Posted by dnspewak on January 5th, 2012

  1. You’re sick of hearing about Tyshawn Taylor‘s turnovers, and we’re all sick of writing about them. But after Kansas’s point guard turned the ball over eight times in a win over Kansas State last night, we simply cannot ignore the magnitude of the statistic. Sam Mellinger’s column provides the best analysis of Taylor’s situation. Instead of focusing solely on the turnovers, Mellinger argues that both “Good” Taylor and “Bad” Taylor go hand-in-hand at this point. You cannot separate the two identities — as Bill Self says, ““He makes plays you can’t coach, and he makes plays that look like he’s never been coached.” And that, folks, is how you sum up Tyshawn Taylor in 17 words.
  2. Four years ago, writers all across the nation put the spotlight on a young freshman named Kim English, a contributor for an Elite Eight team who was most famous for sleeping at Mizzou Arena in order to get shots up in the morning. But by his junior year, English had transformed from Lovable Kimmie to Frustrating Kimmie. He struggled through a tough 2010-11 campaign, but he’s back on everyone’s good side now. English, who scored 23 points against Oklahoma on Tuesday, is shooting 55% from three-point land and might be the most intriguing revitalization project in college basketball. Frank Haith‘s new coaching style is clearly having positive effects on English in particular, and he looks more energized and athletic this season. He’s throwing down dunks with ease this season, and most importantly, his smile is back.
  3. Speaking of Missouri, we’re a little late here with this news, but redshirt freshman forward Kadeem Green announced his decision to transfer earlier this week. No, Green was not a major contributor for Haith, but he had seen a little more playing time recently as a backup to Ricardo Ratliffe and Steve Moore. Down the road, Green seemed to have a bright future as a shot-blocker with his long wingspan, but he’ll now take those talents elsewhere. Green says he’d like to be closer to his hometown of Toronto, and Columbia, Missouri, is certainly not anywhere near Canada. So although he leaves MU with just two scholarship forwards on the roster, the move is understandable. If Ratliffe or Moore find themselves in foul trouble at the same time, though, Frank is going to wish he had Green at the end of his bench.
  4. SI‘s Seth Davis included a few Big 12 squads in his Buy/Sell article this week, and here’s a big surprise: he’s buying Baylor. So are we. The Bears haven’t played particularly well yet this season, which sounds insane considering they are still undefeated. That’s probably why BU seems to have so much potential. Once Perry Jones finds his game, this team could be every bit as good as the 2009-10 team that reached the Elite Eight. As long as Pierre Jackson shows a little more consistency, BU has the guard play this year to win the Big 12.
  5. Finally, since we’re struggling to find a final piece of news for you, Big 12 country lost a fine man in Gene Bartow. No, Bartow did not coach at a Big 12 school, but he is a Missouri native who coached at several Midwestern schools such as Central Missouri, Valparaiso and Illinois. Bartow, most famous for succeeding John Wooden at UCLA in the late 1970s, is a graduate of Truman State University. He won more than 600 games during his career, and UAB‘s arena is named after him. Even if the Big 12 cannot claim him as its own, it would certainly like to.
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Big 12 Weekend Primer: New Years Weekend

Posted by dnspewak on December 30th, 2011

With holiday bowl games and a national showdown between Louisville and Kentucky on New Year’s Eve, there’s not a whole lot of Big 12 basketball to talk about this weekend. But six league teams will still compete during the next two days, and most notably, undefeated Missouri will hit the road for the first time in 2011-12. And if you’re not interested in watching John Calipari and Rick Pitino scream at each other for 40 minutes on CBS this Saturday, Oklahoma State will host Virginia Tech on ESPN2 during the same time slot.

  • Missouri (12-0) at Old Dominion (6-6), Friday 6 PM CT (ESPN2)

Kim English and the Tigers Still Need to Prove They Can Win on the Road

Eight days ago, Missouri showed its human side for the first time this season. After obliterating the likes of Notre Dame, California and Villanova, the Tigers nearly blew a double-digit lead to Illinois in the second half before recovering for a 78-74 victory in the Braggin’ Rights game in St. Louis. That second half stretch, which featured poor passing, forced shots and turnovers by every player on the floor, marked the first time Missouri had ever looked rattled in a basketball game this season. Though half of the arena was wearing black and gold, the Illinois crowd came alive late in that game, and it was the Tigers’ first experience in a hostile environment. For a team that finished 1-7 on the road in Big 12 play last year, this is the last major concern for Frank Haith to tackle: Can his team win on the road? Old Dominion may be 6-6, but don’t write this off as a down year for Blaine Taylor‘s program. For the uneducated basketball fan, losses to Northern Iowa, Vermont, Fairfield, UCF and Richmond may not look very good, but we know better than that. All six losses for ODU (also including Kentucky) have come against league front-runners with at least outside shots to win their respective conferences. Hosting one of its most important non-conference games in recent memory, Missouri will have to deal with a rowdy and electric crowd in Norfolk. Yes, the Tigers are much quicker, and they obviously have much better guards. There’s a reason Mizzou blasted an even stronger Old Dominion team in Columbia last season. It’s a new season, though, and again, Missouri has no reason to be confident in a road setting until it proves it is not the same team as 2010-11. The formula for an upset here is simple: The Monarchs need to slow the tempo and let their defense go to work. Kent Bazemore is arguably the best defender in college basketball, so expect him to hound Marcus Denmon all night, and ODU has a couple of decent shotblockers in Nick Wright and Chris Cooper. ODU isn’t nearly as big or physical as it was a year ago, but it is still a sound rebounding team that won’t let MU get many second chances. This is a Blaine Taylor team we’re talking about here, after all. If Missouri stays hot from the perimeter, it won’t need to dominate the boards to win. Phil Pressey and Michael Dixon need to initiate the offense like they did in the first half against Illinois, as opposed to that disastrous second-half stretch. If that happens, the looks will be there for Denmon, Kim English and Ricardo Ratliffe.

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Big 12 Morning Five: 12.29.11 Edition

Posted by dnspewak on December 29th, 2011

  1. Though Missouri has appeared immortal during the first two months of the season, a second-half lapse against Illinois last week has at least one writer questioning whether the Tigers’ field goal percentages will hold up throughout the season. Kim English has rebounded from a tough junior season to shoot 53% from three-point range this season, and Ricardo Ratliffe‘s numbers are just absurd (76% from the field). As a team, Missouri has seen enormous jumps in both field goal percentage and three-point percentage, and yes, it would be silly to think that some of these numbers will hold up. Still, even in that swoon in the second half in the Braggin’ Rights game, the issue wasn’t necessarily that MU missed a bunch of open shots. That happened under Mike Anderson a lot, especially on the road. Instead, it seemed that things broke down because of poor passing, no ball movement and a lack of poise. When Frank Haith‘s pick-and-roll offense is really working and the ball is in Phil Pressey‘s hands, he will find guys like Ratliffe, English and Marcus Denmon for a lot of open looks. And that’s partly why these statistics have skyrocketed.
  2. In this era of realigning conferences with complete disregard for geography, it’s refreshing to see that TCU will save a lot of time and money by moving to the Big 12 next season. According to one example in the article, the men’s basketball team will save almost 4,000 miles in road trips next year, and the football and basketball programs (both men’s and women’s) will combine to save about 16,770 miles. That’s a lot of fuel money in the bank, and hey, it can’t be bad for the environment either. And although TCU officials won’t say how much money the school will make from the move, one spokesperson said “it’s no secret” that the university will make a good deal of money off the move.
  3. And if you’re interested in a recap of Texas A&M‘s move to the SEC, here’s a full rundown of the situation. As you can imagine, the sports media talk in College Station was dominated by the SEC during the past year, just as it was in Columbia, Missouri, and every other college town with realignment implications. The article also points out that the SEC stuff overshadowed success from several A&M athletic programs. In fact, the Aggies won three NCAA titles and seven Big 12 titles, but this particular website thought realignment news was more important in 2011.
  4. Oklahoma State needed two overtimes to defeat SMU last night, and the victory wasn’t exactly pretty. But the win is a sign that the Cowboys are not letting transfers dictate this season. Senior Keiton Page, who started at point guard after the defection of both Fred Gulley and Reger Dowell during the past eight days, said his teammates “have been great at keeping their heads up and their emotions high.” That cannot be easy to do amidst all the turmoil, but even freshman point guard Cezar Guerrero, whose playing time will increase dramatically now, says the team chants “1-2-3… family” after every huddle. That’s got to count for something, right?
  5. Residents of Kansas City love to talk about bragging rights between Missouri, Kansas and Kansas State, and that prompted one sports journalist with the Kansas City Star to dedicate a multimedia session to the topic. The Tigers look like the Big 12 favorite right now, and Kansas will certainly be in the mix for an eighth-straight title despite that loss to pesky Davidson. As for Kansas State, the Wildcats may be the most intriguing team in the league right now. After winning the Diamond Head Classic, it’s obvious that Frank Martin‘s team will once again find itself in position for an at-large bid in the NCAA Tournament. As always, it’ll be a fight this winter to see which of the Kansas City-area programs will come out on top.
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The Transfer Effect: What the Statistics Say about Missouri and Iowa State’s Recruiting Methods

Posted by dnspewak on December 27th, 2011

No matter how established the program, every college basketball coach eventually takes a chance on a transfer. Jim Boeheim, for example, plucked Wesley Johnson from Iowa State and turned him into the Big East Player of the Year in 2009-10. Tom Izzo and Mike Krzyzewski’s current rosters both include transfers with Brandon Wood (Valparaiso) and Seth Curry (Liberty), and in 1979, a former Indiana Hoosier named Larry Bird nearly won a title with Indiana State just a few years after quitting basketball (and Bob Knight’s Indiana Hoosiers) altogether.

Hoiberg and Haith Are Recruiting Transfers Heavily to Their Programs

Normally, coaches take one or two transfers at a time to fill immediate holes, but that’s not everybody’s philosophy. Meet Missouri’s Frank Haith and Iowa State’s Fred Hoiberg, a pair of coaches who have abandoned traditional recruiting methods at their new schools in favor of Division I transfers. Haith, hired in April to replace Mike Anderson, is using three open scholarships in 2011-12 on players who will not appear in a single basketball game this season by signing Keion Bell (Pepperdine), Earnest Ross (Auburn) and Jabari Brown (Oregon). Hoiberg, on the other hand, has four transfers on his roster in his second year with the Cyclones: Chris Allen (Michigan State), Chris Babb (Penn State), Royce White (Minnesota), and Anthony Booker (Southern Illinois). The two coaches have energized their fan bases by signing big names from major schools, but Haith and Hoiberg’s recruiting tactics cannot be accurately judged at this point. Iowa State’s Fab Four will begin Big 12 play next month, and Missouri’s three transfers will not all be eligible until December 2012.

Instead of speculating as to whether the two teams will suffer from dreaded chemistry problems with so many transfers, why not crunch the numbers to see if The Transfer Effect really exists? Although finding aggregate data for Division I transfers is virtually impossible, recent anecdotal evidence shows that the recruiting strategy is an enormous risk for both coaches. Seven teams from both the 2008-09 and 2009-10 seasons welcomed three or more transfers to their programs at the same time, and only two teams (San Diego State and UNLV) finished above .500 in league play. Seton Hall, the only power conference team in the group, missed the NCAA Tournament.

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Big 12 Thursday Night Preview: Braggin’ Rights and Tricky Road Games

Posted by dnspewak on December 22nd, 2011

GAME OF THE NIGHT

  • Missouri vs. Illinois, 8 p.m. CST in St. Louis (ESPN2)
From 2000 to 2008, Illinois owned Missouri in the Braggin’ Rights series. Year after year, the Tigers found new ways to lose by mishandling a potential game-tying attempt (2006), slipping on watery residue from the Scottrade Center’s hockey rink on the final possession (2007), and shooting 11% from three-point range (2008). One winter, embarrassed MU fans even dumped popcorn on Quin Snyder‘s head. Yes, the series was that ugly. But two years ago, fate shifted to the Tigers’ side. Missouri dominated from start to finish in 2009, and last season, the Tigers edged Illinois thanks to a late-game collapse by Bruce Weber‘s team. The losing streak is a distant memory and the Tigers own this series now.

That brings us to 2011. No matter how confident MU fans may be with their top-10 ranking, undefeated record and two consecutive series victories, the 24th-ranked Illini will provide Frank Haith with his stiffest test of the season. Missouri has not seen size like this before, and it will need to be creative in guarding 7’1” center Meyers Leonard. The Tigers have handled players like Harper Kamp (California) and Mouphtaou Yarou (Villanova), but Leonard is one of the better forwards the Tigers will see all year. He commands respect in the paint, and he’s also a decent passer with the ability to burn Missouri’s double-teams. As usual, Haith’s team will need to use its speed to burn a slower Illinois team. Against one of the fastest rosters in the country, the Illini have to slow the tempo and let Leonard go to work. Bradley transfer Sam Maniscalco, no stranger to Scottrade after visiting the arena four years in a row for the Missouri Valley Conference tournament, will also need to settle this young team down as the point guard. He’s been a difference-maker this season as one of the most experienced players on Weber’s team, and it is imperative for him to lead by example.

Phil Pressey Will Lead Missouri Against The Illini Tonight

On Missouri’s side, Phil Pressey will have to serve as the catalyst. He’ll never have a strength advantage against any point guard, but he could run into some trouble with Maniscalco (6’0” but strong), Brandon Paul (6’4”) and D.J. Richardson (6’3”). Again, though, his quickness is unmatched by just about everybody in college basketball, and as the Big 12’s assists leader, he can control the game without scoring a point. That’s what Marcus Denmon is for. The senior All-American candidate struggled against William and Mary over the weekend, but he’s allowed an off night every once in awhile. When he’s set, he almost never misses from three-point land, and if he’s on his game, he will be the best player on the floor tonight.

Unless you’ve attended a Braggin’ Rights game in St. Louis, you have no idea how intense the environment is. Haith may have watched last year’s game on tape, but not even he is ready for this atmosphere. There is no non-conference matchup quite like it — the arena is evenly split between Missouri and Illinois fans, and on each basket, one side erupts as if it has won the National Championship. Luckily for the Tigers, they have a more grizzled roster with five seniors, four of whom are now playing in their fourth Braggin’ Rights game.

The key individual matchup is… Meyers Leonard vs. Ricardo Ratliffe. Leonard is the key to this entire contest. Although St. Louis native Tyler Griffey is a starter and key contributor, Leonard is the centerpiece of this team — especially against a smaller opponent in Missouri. If he gets into early foul trouble, Illinois will have a lot of problems since it lacks depth in the frontcourt. Leonard will see double-teams all night when he touches the ball, and Ratliffe will be at least one of those defenders tugging on his jersey for 40 minutes. When Ratliffe has the ball, it will also be interesting to watch how he handles the match-up with Leonard. He scores a lot of his buckets on layups, putbacks and turnaround hook shots off the backboard, but he’s not the kind of player that can always take a 7’1” defender off the dribble and create his own shot. Ratliffe must find a way to utilize his quickness against Leonard, and Phil Pressey must find him on screen-and-rolls since Haith’s offense calls for that play on almost every possession.

Missouri will win if… It scores in transition and forces turnovers. That sounds like a key to the game for a Mike Anderson team, but it’s true for Haith’s team as well. MU is actually converting better in transition than it did a year ago, and that’s what it has to do against Illinois. In his first three wins against Mike Anderson, Bruce Weber did a great job of controlling the tempo and letting his team go to work in the halfcourt. The Tigers don’t utilize full-court pressure anymore, but the basic principles remain: they want to get out and run, and they want to disrupt the opponent defensively. That’s how they dismantled Notre Dame, California and Villanova, and it’s how they must beat Illinois.

Illinois will win if… It makes this game a Big Ten fist fight and stays level-headed. Illinois is bigger and stronger than Missouri at almost every position. It has more physical guards, and it has a more physical frontcourt. If Weber can concoct another game plan to use the shot clock and limit turnovers, the Illini should be able to score at will in the paint and win the rebounding battle. That all hinges on this team’s ability to keep its cool. MU’s defenders will fly all over the place with active hands, trying to deflect every pass in their vicinity. These Illinois guards can counter that by staying poised, and Maniscalco needs to be especially steady here. He’s the guy that everything depends on, even though he’s in his first season playing for Weber. At Bradley, he earned a reputation as a leader and a winner, and he cannot get rattled in the spotlight tonight.

OTHER GAMES TO WATCH
  • Texas Tech at Oral Roberts, 7:05 PM CST
Fresh off a blowout victory at Xavier, Oral Roberts is flying high and should be favored in this game against Tech tonight. ORU is used to knocking off Big 12 foes: in the last decade, it has beaten both Missouri and Kansas. Scott Sutton’s program is the class of the Summit League, and it looks like a contender once against this season at 8-4. Billy Gillispie is still trying to figure things out with this Texas Tech team, as it has failed every test presented to it. Without consistent point guard play and a slump from senior Robert Lewandowski, the Red Raiders must find a way to execute better offensively. Otherwise, it could be a long night in Tulsa.
  • St. Mary’s at Baylor, 9 PM CST in Las Vegas
After winning at BYU, we’re pretty sure Baylor is an elite basketball team. There’s a lot of time for that to change, of course, but Pierre Jackson and A.J. Walton have been lifesavers at the point guard position. This team is finally playing the kind of selfless basketball Scott Drew has been waiting for, and Perry Jones III has lived up to expectations after returning from a suspension. In five games, Jones is averaging more than 16 per game in the scoring department, and he’s shooting nearly 70 percent from the field. If only the Bears could rebound better– BYU’s forwards embarrassed Jones, Quincy Miller and the rest of the crew by grabbing 16 offensive boards. On paper, a team with this size should not allow that to happen. Baylor can redeem itself by keeping Rob Jones off the glass, as he’s averaging 11 rebounds per game for 10-1 St. Mary’s. Jones, the former transfer from San Diego, is undersized at 6’6” but still tenacious on the court. He has grabbed at least 10 boards in all but one game this season, but it’s important to remember that the Gaels’ schedule has not been challenging. They have played only a handful of decent teams: Northern Iowa (win), Denver (loss) and Weber State (win). That’s why this game may actually be more of a test for St. Mary’s than for Baylor.
  • Kansas at USC, 10 PM CST
In a relatively surprising result, USC actually knocked off an improved TCU team by 24 points on Monday, thanks in large part to a 25-point, seven-assist effort by point guard Maurice Jones. With Jio Fontan out for the season, Jones is the most important player on Kevin O’Neill’s roster. Jones is a 5’7” sparkplug with a lot of quickness, so Tyshawn Taylor and his recovering knee better watch out. Still, this Kansas team is too good to lose this game. And the Jayhawks should have a newfound focus after the debacle against Davidson earlier this week. Taylor gets a lot of grief for his high turnover rate this season, but he wasn’t the only problem against the Wildcats. This team just does not execute like most Bill Self teams do, and that has to improve in a Pac-12 road environment tonight. USC does not have a ton of offensive firepower, and it hardly has any threats from beyond the arc. Still, O’Neill’s a good coach who can gameplan against anybody, and his team will have the home crowd in its favor. This won’t be a cakewalk for Kansas.
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Considering the Big 12 Overachievers and Pleasers

Posted by cwilliams on December 20th, 2011

Even though the 2011-12 college basketball season still has its youth, it is already easy to identify some of the individuals who have overachieved this season. Players who, for one reason or another, are not only meeting expectations but blasting through them. Overachievers are on every team and come in all shapes and sizes, but this group has shown through the first month-plus of the season that they will have a major impact on the Big 12 this season. The title of overachiever doesn’t stick with these players forever, though — they either become a star, or are considered an “almost-was.” Here we list the five Big 12 basketball players who are overachieving to this point in the season.

Nobody Likes the Overachievers in College. Except on the Hardwood. (Newson6.com)

  1. Steven Pledger, Oklahoma - While it is probably safe to consider the entire Sooner roster as overachievers due to their impressive 8-1 start, Pledger seems to be the backbone of their success. He has become a proven floor general this season and has almost doubled his points per game from last year, even while averaging fewer minutes.
  2. Jordan Tolbert, Texas Tech – While Tolbert was expected to be one of the Red Raiders’ key freshmen on this team, nobody expected him to be the entire team. Tolbert is leading the Texas Tech in both points per game (14.0) and rebounds per game (6.2), and he dropped 22 against Grambling, 16 against DePaul, and 27 against future Big 12 member TCU. Read the rest of this entry »
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Night Line: Four Guard Attack is Working Wonders for Missouri

Posted by EJacoby on November 23rd, 2011

Evan Jacoby is an RTC columnist. 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 forward Laurence Bowers suffered a season-ending ACL injury in an early practice this season, the preseason buzz surrounding Missouri was quieted a bit. Anytime a team loses its second-leading scorer, it’s a big blow, but Bowers was especially important because of his role as one of the few inside scoring threats on the team. He was also their leading returning rebounder and shot-blocker. But Frank Haith’s Tigers have adapted well to his injury, deciding to go with a four-guard starting lineup in order to get their most effective players on the court regardless of size. The result? Mizzou, under its new and somewhat embattled head coach, is now 5-0 while thrashing Notre Dame and California at the CBE Classic to the tune of 29- and 39-point wins, respectively.

Kim English

Guard Kim English is Excited About Missouri's Hot Start (Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

Saying that Missouri has been impressive through five games is a massive understatement. They just stomped on unbeaten No. 18 California, perhaps the best team in the Pac-12, by 39 points. No, that’s not a typo; thirty-nine points. How’d it happen? For this team, when it rains, it pours, and the Tigers have been liquid from the perimeter all year. Coming into tonight’s game, Mizzou had already been one of the most efficient offensive teams in the nation, averaging 84 points per game while shooting 50% from the field. Those numbers will improve even more after the 92-53 beatdown they just gave to Cal. During the ESPN2 telecast, Dick Vitale noted that the Tigers truly love sharing the ball. There’s nothing that makes a guard-heavy attack run smoother than such a trait. If selfishness could slow the Missouri offense down, unselfish passing makes it go. And Missouri is in full ‘go’ mode early on this season.

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Big 12 Team Previews: Missouri Tigers

Posted by dnspewak on November 9th, 2011

Predicted finish: 5th

2010-11 Record: 23-11, 8-8 (5th, Big 12)

Head coach: Frank Haith, first season

Key losses: Justin Safford (6.4 PPG), Ricky Kreklow (2.1 PPG), Laurence Bowers- (11.6 PPG, injury)

It’s amazing the Missouri Tigers are still standing. After experiencing one of the roughest offseasons in recent memory, it’s a wonder MU didn’t simply fold its basketball program up and leave it for dead. First, in March, head coach Mike Anderson left for Arkansas, just weeks after telling a local sportswriter he planned to retire in Columbia (Firestorm #1). Then, several reporters erroneously reported this spring that athletic director Mike Alden had hired Purdue’s Matt Painter (Firestorm #2); when that didn’t materialize, Alden announced the hiring of Frank Haith, a coach who had gone 43-69 in ACC play at Miami (Firestorm #3). Later in the summer, a Yahoo! Sports investigation of the Hurricanes’ athletic programs accused Haith’s staff of paying $10,000 to a recruit (Firestorm #4), and there’s still no closure on that case. And, last but not least, starting forward Laurence Bowers tore his ACL this fall (Firestorm #5). He’s out for the season. After all that, Missouri is still ranked #25 in the preseason polls. That’s because the Tigers bring back a veteran group, headlined by terrific guard play and Big 12 Player of the Year candidate Marcus Denmon.

Marcus Denmon Is an Unselfish Star. (AP/M. Schiefelbein)

The Stars: It’s rare to find a star like Denmon. He’s one of the nation’s top three-point shooters and can score almost at will, but he’s sometimes criticized for playing too unselfishly. That’s part of his game, though. Denmon rarely forces a bad shot, but when he does, it usually goes in. He scores within the flow of the offense, he passes well, he plays tough defense, he rebounds in traffic, and he hustles his tail off. It’s almost as if Denmon is a star with a role player’s attitude, and that’s exactly the way Frank Haith would prefer it. This team feeds off Denmon’s work ethic and leadership, and his 16.9 PPG and 44.8% from three-point land doesn’t hurt, either.

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The Big 12’s New Faces: Missouri’s Frank Haith

Posted by dnspewak on October 21st, 2011

Frank Haith: The Essentials

  • Previous coaching stop: Miami (FL)
  • Career overview: Assistant coach (1985-2004); head coach at Miami (2004-11)
  • Playing experience: N/A
  • Accolades: ACC Coach of the Year finalist (2007-08)

The Breakdown

Frank Haith isn’t exactly the most popular person in Columbia, Missouri, right now — and he knows it. In his introductory press conference, the new Missouri coach admitted he wasn’t the school’s first choice after finishing 43-69 in ACC play during his six years at Miami.  To make matters worse, he’s now embroiled in the NCAA’s investigation of the Hurricanes. Booster Nevin Shapiro accused him of having knowledge of a $10,000 payment to DeQuan Jones, and he’s pictured at social events with Shapiro.  So that’s been the theme of the 2011 off-season: damage control. Plus, in addition to suffering through a PR nightmare this summer, Haith also just found out this month that his senior forward Laurence Bowers will miss the entire season with an ACL injury.

Frank Haith Walked into a Great Situation at Missouri (Christie Megura)

Welcome to Columbia, coach. Luckily, even without Bowers, Haith has an experienced squad with a real shot at a Big 12 title. Before he cuts down the nets, though, Haith has some work to do. His biggest challenge will be finding a way to adjust Mike Anderson’s players to play a more traditional style. Haith has said he will continue to push the tempo offensively, but he also said he will back off on the all-out pressure defense and will introduce more of a pick-and-roll, inside-oriented offense.  Haith’s personnel could thrive under his system. Point guards Phil Pressey and Mike Dixon might benefit in this offense, and senior Ricardo Ratliffe might be primed for a big year if his guards get him more involved. And with Marcus Denmon and Kim English back in the fold, this is a team that could take off in Haith’s first season.

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2011-12 RTC Class Schedule: Missouri Tigers

Posted by zhayes9 on September 27th, 2011

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

Is it possible for a head coach to be on the hot seat the day of his hiring?

Hook Frank Haith up to a lie detector and the answer would surely be in the affirmative.

Unless there were dozens of prospective candidates that privately turned down Missouri after Matt Painter abstained, Haith was certainly a curious second choice. While Miami doesn’t provide nearly the facilities or unending fan devotion as their ACC counterparts, a 43-69 career conference mark normally doesn’t result in a job upgrade. There’s no captivating NCAA Tournament run to highlight, either; Haith reached one NCAA Tournament in seven seasons at the helm and fell in the second round. In the eyes of Missouri AD Mike Alden, Haith’s wealth of experience as an assistant in the Big 12 at Texas A&M and Texas supersede the aforementioned red flags.

To make matters even more tenuous for the new Missouri coach, Haith’s name was mentioned in Nevin Shapiro’s bombshell allegations regarding the Miami football and basketball programs. Shapiro alleges that Haith had full knowledge of a $10,000 payment from Shapiro to secure the services of heralded recruit DeQuan Jones. Haith claims the allegations are “not an accurate portrayal of my character.” If the accusation did occur, Haith could be terminated for reasons that have nothing to do with conference record or on-court performance.

Despite this doom-and-gloom picture I just painted, there are actually plenty of reasons to be eager for the season to begin in Columbia. This team clearly has the ammunition to win a Big 12 that lacks a clear frontrunner with Baylor’s point guard issues, Kansas more vulnerable than at any time in the last decade and Texas A&M going through a coaching transition. In fact, with eight of their nine main contributors returning, Haith is walking into the best situation of any new head coach.

Haith needs to win at Missouri sooner than later

Team Outlook: There are tantalizing players lining the Missouri roster, but the only way the Tigers can truly make the next step into elite status is by improving their lackluster defense and winning more than one conference road game. A top-15 defensive team in 2010-11, Missouri fell to #65 last season and won just two road contests at Oregon and Iowa State. Hiring a coach whose Miami team placed ninth in the ACC in defensive efficiency is a head-scratcher. Marcus Denmon had a fantastic junior campaign, scoring nearly 17 PPG, shooting 50% from the field, making 45% of his threes and turning the ball over on a meager 8.2% of his possessions. Despite being undersized, Missouri is most effective when Denmon is teamed with Mike Dixon, a plucky 6’1 guard who posted elite assist and steal rates as a sophomore. Kim English has never been a model of efficiency, but he really scuffled shooting the rock in 2011-12 and needs to improve significantly. The frontcourt is bolstered by double-double threat Ricardo Ratliffe and the reliable Laurence Bowers, while Phil Pressey is a sparkplug off the pine. There’s depth, talent and plenty of promise on this roster. Whether they can adjust to a new system and toughen up on the road are lingering questions.

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Set Your Tivo: 02.07.11

Posted by Brian Otskey on February 7th, 2011

***** – quit your job and divorce your wife if that’s what it takes to watch this game live
**** – best watched live, but if you must, tivo and watch it tonight as soon as you get home
*** – set your tivo but make sure you watch it later
** – set your tivo but we’ll forgive you if it stays in the queue until 2013
* – don’t waste bandwidth (yours or the tivo’s) of any kind on this game

Brian Otskey is an RTC contributor.

Two of the top teams in the country are each without a key player tonight, plus one is on the road. How will the personnel losses affect these two deep teams? All rankings from RTC and all times Eastern.

#4 Pittsburgh @ West Virginia – 7 pm on ESPN (****)

The Panthers Will Have To Learn to Live Without Gibbs For a While

The Backyard Brawl, hoops edition, tips off for the 181st time tonight in Morgantown with West Virginia owning a 95-85 series edge. However, Pittsburgh has won seven of the last ten meetings with Jamie Dixon’s program reloading every year of late. This evening the Panthers will be without a key cog in their offense, itself ranked #2 in efficiency. Ashton Gibbs, Pitt’s leading scorer and best three point shooter, is out with a knee injury and will miss up to two weeks. That means Travon Woodall will start at the point guard position and the Panthers’ outstanding depth will be put to the test.

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