Assessing the Season: Kansas State Wildcats

Posted by dnspewak on March 28th, 2013

As the season winds down and the Big 12 teams continue to find themselves eliminated from the postseason, we’re taking a look back at the 2012-13 campaign on a team-by-team basis. Next up: Kansas State. 

Final Record: 27-8 (14-4)

The Expectations: Frank Martin’s bizarre decision to take a job at South Carolina left the Wildcats searching for a suitable replacement. They settled on former Illinois coach Bruce Weber, who’d just been fired in Champaign. He was an intriguing coach because of his success at Southern Illinois and, of course, that Final Four run at Illinois and subsequent NCAA Tournament berths, but his tenure with the Fighting Illini ended on bad terms. In a way, though, he seemed like a perfect fit for Kansas State because of his similar intensity to Martin. He doesn’t appear as mentally insane on the sideline, but he’s a fiery defensive teacher and it was clear that the transition wouldn’t be difficult on that end. Once several Kansas State players announced they’d stay and play for Weber, it looked like he had a nice roster that could compete. Rodney McGruder was primed for a big senior year. There was a lot of size, a number of good guards and a rising star in Angel Rodriguez. If Kansas State could learn Weber’s patented motion offense and stick with the same defensive intensity it had under Martin, maybe Weber could win a lot of games. But there was no guarantee.

Bruce Weber Had a Nice First Season (photo credit: Getty Images).

Bruce Weber Had a Nice First Season (photo credit: Getty Images).

The Actual Result: The best-case scenario occurred in Manhattan. During the first two months of the season, KSU stayed in the background by beating up on bad teams and failing to win neutral-site games against Michigan and Gonzaga (in Seattle). Nobody knew what to think of the Wildcats — that is, until they beat Florida in Kansas City. Game on. From there, Weber’s team took off. There were some initial growing pains offensively, but from a defensive and rebounding standpoint, there were few teams better in America. Kansas State lost only six games during the regular season, four of which (Kansas twice, Michigan and Gonzaga) came against teams who’d been ranked No. 1 at some point this season. The other two came against Oklahoma State and Iowa State, both of whom wound up in the NCAA Tournament as well. Kansas State technically shared the Big 12 title, but it lost both regular season games to the Jayhawks and then fell to them again in the Big 12 title game. Nobody can take that shared title away from the Wildcats, though, and the 14-4 record is proof they had a really, really good season. But Weber even admitted after the Big 12 Tournament that beating Kansas is the next logical step. The La Salle mishap in the Second Round of the NCAA Tournament last Friday will overshadow this team’s many accomplishments, but there shouldn’t be many complaints. It’s just difficult to see the winningest senior class in Kansas State history fall flat like that.

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Rushed Reactions: #12 La Salle 63, #4 Kansas State 61

Posted by Brian Goodman on March 22nd, 2013

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Brian Goodman is an RTC correspondent. He filed this report after the Round of 64 NCAA Tournament game between #4 Kansas State and #12 La Salle in Kansas City. 

Three Key Takeaways:

  1. Explorers hang on after furious Kansas State comeback. La Salle hit their first three-pointer to start the game and used a balanced attack to race out to a 15-4 lead six minutes into the game. Kansas State’s offense eventually got out of neutral, but the Explorers had an answer seemingly every time and went into the locker room with a 44-26 lead. So what changed at the break?  After an ineffective first half, Thomas Gipson was pulled out of the lineup and replaced with Jordan Henriquez, a more active big man than the bulkier Gipson. Henriquez made an instant impact, collecting offensive rebounds, freeing Rodney McGruder and Shane Southwell with screens and going up strong whenever he had the ball close to the hoop. On defense, he was just as controlling, swatting shots and forcing La Salle to change angles mid-drive, and the Wildcats erased the Explorers’ 18-point lead in 13 minutes. The Wildcats led late in the game until … 

    Jerrell Wright did a little bit of everything for La Salle Friday afternoon. (AP)

    Jerrell Wright did a little bit of everything for La Salle Friday afternoon. (AP)

  2. The Wildcats unraveled in the final thirty seconds. While going up for a rebound, Henriquez committed a tough but decisive foul, going over Jerrell Wright’s back. Wright calmly buried both free throw attempts in front of a hostile backdrop to retake the lead, and Henriquez missed a close look on the next possession. After fouling again, Wright hit one of two free throws to give Kansas State one last shot. La Salle forced Angel Rodriguez to drive awkwardly along the baseline and missed the close look, though Weber tried to call timeout.
  3. Contrary to the halftime deficit, Kansas State showed signs of life late in the first half. The Wildcats had a disappointing first half, but Weber’s team did score 15 points in the final 7:30 in the first half, led by Shane Southwell’s sharp outside shooting. Getting stops was the issue, as Ramon Galloway, Sam Mills and Jerrell Wright kept answering. Fortunately, that late offensive efficiency carried the wave in the second half, but to say that a comeback came out of nowhere would be to lose sight of the fact that it could have easily been a much steeper mountain to climb for Kansas State.

Star of the Game: Jerrell Wright – 21 points, 6-of-6 FG, 9-0f-10 FT, eight rebounds, zero turnovers. Wright gave Kansas State’s defense headaches throughout the first half, playing a vital important in the Explorers’ hot start. Though Wright isn’t immune to criticism in dissecting the Wildcats’ comeback, he’s also deserving of plenty of credit for hitting three crucial free throws in a hostile environment to propel La Salle to a third game later this weekend. Credit also goes to Jordan Henriquez, whose double-double in the losing effort gave Kansas State every chance it needed.

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Kansas Wins Because It Guards, Plain and Simple

Posted by dnspewak on March 16th, 2013

Danny Spewak (@dspewak) is a Big 12 microsite writer. He filed this from the Big 12 Championship game in Kansas City.

Clank, clank, clank. In an arena jam-packed to the rafters and charged with as much emotion as any game in college basketball this season, the most prominent sound during the first half of the Big 12 Tournament title game at the Sprint Center was the sound of those clanks that Kansas State heaved repeatedly at the basket. After taking an 11-8 lead against Kansas with 11:55 to play in the half, the Wildcats did not make another field goal during the next 17 possessions. They were 0-of-11 from the field during that stretch. Five turnovers. Heroically, they trailed by just eight points at the break, but they were already buried. Once the Jayhawks found their groove offensively in the second half, Kansas State never kept pace and eventually fell, 70-54.

Kansas Added More Hardwood To Its Collection

Kansas Added More Hardwood To Its Collection

You don’t want to see the final statistics for Bruce Weber’s team. “The best thing we did was shoot free throws,” Angel Rodriguez said, “and we shot 50 percent. That says a lot.” Rodney McGruder had a simple diagnosis for the anemic offense. “It wasn’t really their defense,” McGruder said. “We missed easy baskets at the rim.” The second part of that statement is correct. Kansas State missed more open shots than an overweight, middle-aged man trying to play a game of H-O-R-S-E, especially during the drought in the first half. But McGruder is wrong about the first part — there’s another reason his team couldn’t score, and it wasn’t self-inflicted. “Our first shot defense was about as good as it’s been all year long,” coach Bill Self said. As always, it was a collective effort for Kansas. Jeff Withey, the Big 12’s leading shot blocker, finished with only one block, but he teamed with Kevin Young and Perry Ellis to bother the Wildcats’ on the interior with their length.

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Kansas State Advances, Sets Up Epic KC Showdown With KU

Posted by dnspewak on March 16th, 2013

Danny Spewak (@dspewak) is a Big 12 Microsite writer. He’s in Kansas City covering the Big 12 Tournament this weekend.

Kansas and Kansas State tied for the Big 12 regular season championship. Technically. “We’re conference co‑champs,” coach Bruce Weber said. Fair enough. Both teams finished 14-4 in league play. Identical record means co-champs. Awards all around, everybody gets a trophy, let’s all go get some pizza after the game. Still, co-champ label or not, any person with even the slightest bit of logical reasoning can figure out who really won this league. Kansas won the regular season title. It played Kansas State at home and won. It played Kansas State on the road and won. That’s two games, both at two different sites, and two victories for the Jayhawks. If ever there were a tiebreaker to crown a true champion, that’d be it. Of course, it allowed Kansas to seize the top seed in the Big 12 Tournament, so it’s not as though those two victories were meaningless.

It's Part Three of Jayhawks and Wildcats in KC Tomorrow Night

It’s Part Three of Jayhawks and Wildcats in KC Tomorrow Night

So it’s settled. The Kansas Jayhawks are the Big 12 champions. For now, at least. That could change on Saturday afternoon, when the two teams face each other in the Big 12 Tournament title game at the Sprint Center on national television. This is an unprecedented event for Kansas City. If you’re not from the area or not familiar with the makeup of the sports culture here, allow us to break it down for you. There’s Missouri, Kansas and Kansas State, all within two hours of driving distance from Kansas City. They all bitterly compete for media coverage, and it’s a rite of passage as a fan to complain about the lack of attention from the newspapers. Kansas fans call the Kansas City Star the “MU Star”. Missouri fans call it the “KU Star.” Those two teams don’t play each other anymore, but there’s been talk among fans that the programs should set up a series at the Sprint Center on an annual basis. Good luck with that, folks.

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Big 12 M5: 03.15.13 Edition

Posted by Nate Kotisso on March 15th, 2013

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  1. The last game of Thursday’s session was perhaps the best. Oklahoma State survived a massive collapse to outlast the desperate Baylor Bears, 74-72. The Cowboys led by as many as 20 points late in the first half yet the Bears chipped away at the lead until they got it to a four-point deficit with 25 seconds left in regulation. BU’s Gary Franklin then tied it seconds later on a four-point play from the corner. After the Cowboys nailed two subsequent free throws, Pierre Jackson, who was all types of awesome in scoring 24 of his 31 points in the second half, missed a potential game-winner at the buzzer. Now what? The good in this is that we’ll get a look at Oklahoma State-Kansas State Version 3.0 as both teams split the regular season series. The bad news is of course that Baylor’s chances at an at-large bid is all but shot at this point. It looks like it’ll be the third time in the Scott Drew era that Baylor will miss the NCAA Tournament a year after making it. 
  2. We had a comeback attempt to close out the night but there was an actual one much earlier in the day. Iowa State found themselves down 14 early, and even 11 points halfway through the second half, only to take down the Sooners, 73-66. A storyline that won’t get much attention is the exchange senior guard Korie Lucious had with his coach Fred Hoiberg. Hoiberg benched Lucious in the second half mainly due to his poor shooting (0-of-8). After the move, the Cyclones began to make their comeback and during a subsequent timeout, Lucious told Hoiberg to “keep going with these guys” because they had “a great flow going.” It turned out to be the right thing to do and now ISU gets its third shot at nailing down a win vs. Kansas.
  3. Jordan Tolbert’s layup with 3:11 left in the first half cut the Kansas lead to two over Texas Tech and signaled to the Jayhawks that they weren’t running away with the game any time soon. And then KU ran away with it. Ben McLemore was doing plenty of Ben McLemore things, scoring 24 points and hitting 8-of-12 from the field, four of those on three-pointers. Bill Self emptied out his bench later in the game and gave us a chance to see some Jayhawks who will make bigger impacts on future teams. Freshmen Anrio Adams went for 11 points in just five minutes and Perry Ellis had his second good game in a row, totaling eight points and seven rebounds. It’s only a matter of time before these guys win a Big 12 title of their own.
  4. Kansas State shot only 40% as a team, grabbed the same number of rebounds as Texas, missed eight free throws, and still beat the Horns by 17. Wait, what? It’s just another win in a long line of uninteresting and non-flashy wins for the Wildcats, who now improve to 26-6 on the season. Rodney McGruder poured in an efficient 24 points (10-of-20), eight of those coming on a K-State 10-0 run to give the Wildcats a double digit lead for good. He also pulled down seven rebounds. They’re still under the radar, aren’t they? Give it a week.
  5. Why does Marcus Smart wear #33? There is an answer and it further amplifies the kind of person this young man is. The number three has special meaning in his family. His three older brothers all wore three when they played in high school and that includes Smart’s half-brother Todd Westbrook, who was the first to don the number. Westbrook lost his long battle with cancer in 2004 at the age of 33. This surprises no one. You might think I’m going overboard with this but we don’t just need more Marcus Smart like prospects in college basketball, we need more Marcus Smart like people on this planet. I bet John Wooden would’ve loved to coach this kid.
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Rushed Reactions: Kansas State 66, Texas 49

Posted by dnspewak on March 14th, 2013

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Danny Spewak (@dspewak) is a Big 12 microsite writer. He filed this report after the Kansas State-Texas game in Kansas City this evening.

Three Key Takeaways:

Kansas State Inched Closer to a Big 12 Title

Kansas State Inched Closer to a Big 12 Title

  1. Rodney McGruder, aka The Zone Buster: Against Texas’ active 2-3 zone, McGruder was unstoppable. The Wildcats weren’t flawless, and they weren’t always able to get the ball inside, but they knocked down enough three-pointers to pull away from the Longhorns. Credit McGruder for that, as he made four threes and finished with 20 points on 10-of-20 shooting. Much like Kansas’ Ben McLemore in the earlier quarterfinal, McGruder had to make up for a relative lack of scoring production by his teammates. Angel Rodriguez helped, scoring 13 points and finding holes in the zone to finish with five assists, but this was McGruder’s game.
  2. Kansas City, Here We Come (Back): Following the Big 12 Tournament this weekend, the Sprint Center will host an NCAA Tournament pod next weekend. There’s no doubt Kansas State wants to make a trip back to Kansas City to play in these friendly confines in the second and third rounds, but it needed a strong showing this weekend to convince the selection committee it deserves the advantage. This quarterfinal victory was a start. Two more victories should all but lock up a return to Kansas City, but nothing’s guaranteed with the committee. Still, it’s hard to envision it sending KSU anywhere but KC if it wins the Big 12 title this weekend.
  3. Myck Kabongo Needs Help: Kabongo scored two points this evening. He missed all five shots he took from the field, turned the ball over five times and could not pull Texas out of a severe scoring drought late in the second half. In perhaps his final collegiate game, that’s something Kabongo will have to live with. In his defense, though, he’s simply under too much pressure to perform, considering the youth of his teammates and complete lack of scoring options around him. This team runs through him. He has the ball in his hands at all time, and even when he’s penetrating and creating, nobody can knock a shot down. He had seven assists, but he could have had 15. That has to take a toll on the sophomore point guard. This team has played drastically better with him in the lineup, so it’s hard to blame him for any of Texas’ woes tonight.

Star of the Game: Rodney McGruder led all scorers with 24. Rodriguez was the only other Wildcat in double figures. He shot the ball well, rebounded the ball well and scored from everywhere on the floor. Easy choice here for Star of the Game.

Sights and Sounds: Kabongo’s leadership is noticeable this season. His coaches praised his attitude during the suspension this year, and it’s obviously carried over to the court. On Thursday, all he did was talk. And we mean that in the best way possible. He talked on defense, got in his teammates faces and always had his mouth moving. He’s grown up, and he’s the clear leader of this team. The Longhorns don’t have the experience or personnel for it to matter, but credit Kabongo for growing as a person over the last year or so.

Wild Card: KSU’s D.J. Johnson played big tonight– in every sense of the word. He made all four of his field goals, scored eight points in 15 minutes and threw down a thunderous putback in the second half. On a night where Thomas Gipson struggled and even badly airballed a jumper, Johnson was a nice surprise for Bruce Weber.

What’s Next: Kansas State advances to play either Baylor or Oklahoma State in the semifinals on Friday.

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Set Your DVR: Weekend Edition

Posted by bmulvihill on March 8th, 2013

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

With the first tickets to the Big Dance being given out this weekend and regular season titles still up for grabs in the Big East, Big Ten, ACC, and A-10, it should be one amazing weekend of college hoops. It’s the most amazing time of the year, so sit back and enjoy. Let’s get to the breakdowns!

#17 Syracuse at #6 Georgetown – 12:00 PM EST, Saturday on ESPN (****)

Better Make It a Double.

Boeheim is looking for answers at Syracuse.

  • Syracuse broke a three-game losing streak this week against DePaul while Georgetown lost for the first time in 11 games against Villanova. With the loss, the Hoyas dropped into a three-team tie for first place in the Big East with Marquette and Louisville. The Orange have struggled recently and had a tough time against the Hoyas defense two weeks ago at the Carrier Dome. Jim Boeheim’s team only went 4-20 from downtown and could not get anything going from their guards. The Hoyas struggled on offense as well but were able to rely on Otto Porter once again who put in 33 points. In order for Syracuse to snap out of this funk, they need to get more production from guards Brandon Triche and Michael Carter-Williams. If both players can take better shots by driving the ball to the hoop, we will see a completely different Syracuse team. Georgetown put Villanova on the foul line 42 times earlier this week. Given the size of Triche and Carter-Williams, both players should be going straight to the basket in an attempt to draw fouls or get lay-ups. Keep a close on both players, as they are the keys to this game. If they are settling for jumpers, Syracuse is going to struggle again.

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Kansas State Is Primed For a Deep Run in March, So Start Paying Attention

Posted by Nate Kotisso on March 6th, 2013

What more does Kansas State have to do to get people to care about them this season? It seems nothing about this Wildcats’ team screams elite. They are tied for first in a down Big 12, they hired a then-unpopular coach last March, they don’t score a bunch of points like Oklahoma State, and they don’t even have the best player in their league. Yet here they are, currently ranked in the top-10 of both polls.

Kansas State is a sleeper. With that said, everybody's still sleeping on them. (Tony Gutierrez/AP)

Kansas State is a sleeper. With that said, everybody’s still sleeping on them. (Tony Gutierrez/AP)

This season didn’t get off to the start K-State would have liked. Yes, the Wildcats ran through their first few games with ease but star Rodney McGruder initially struggled to find his place in Bruce Weber’s motion offense. In the first five games, McGruder averaged just 10 PPG while shooting 39 percent from the field and 13 percent from behind the arc. He didn’t have his best game until the Wildcats played USC Upstate on December 2. Only then did McGruder begin to find his place: 22 points on 8-of-16 shooting to go along with seven rebounds. Since then, the talented senior has had some big games (28 points vs Oklahoma State), but he doesn’t need to carry the offensive load (seven points in a win at Oklahoma) to ensure a Wildcat victory.

Kansas State’s rise also coincides with the coming of age of point guard Angel Rodriguez. Not only has he cut down on turnovers and become one of the more underrated passers in college basketball, he is also becoming a viable second offensive option, averaging 11 points per contest. Another reason for their rise could be Weber’s decision to bring Thomas Gipson off the bench. Gipson averaged 6.8 PPG in the first 19 games of the season as a starter; coming in as a sub, Gipson has averaged 10.3 PPG in the last 11 games.

Everyone knew how relentless Frank Martin was with his teams defensively. Last year’s team that lost in the Third Round of the NCAAs gave up 64.1 points per game. That’s a nice, low number isn’t it? Going into last night’s game against TCU, Weber had this group giving up 62.7 points per game. To put that in perspective, K-State’s Elite Eight team in 2009-10 gave up a surprising 70.8 points per game. Is Weber doing Frank Martin better than Frank Martin? It sure looks that way.

None of this has surprised me and it shouldn’t have surprised anyone else either. With Jamar Samuels gone, the Wildcats had 10 scholarship players returning with a new head coach who had once led his team to a national championship game. Four of their five losses have come against teams currently ranked in the AP Top 10 — twice to Kansas (#4), as well as Michigan (#7) and Gonzaga (#1). They have wins over Florida and Oklahoma State but what separates them from other teams is that their best player doesn’t necessarily have to perform his best for them to win. Plus, in a season where the national title race is an open field, a veteran, defensive-oriented team like Kansas State’s chances of a Sweet Sixteen or more is likely to occur.

tried to warn folks back in November but it hasn’t really resonated with America yet. That’s ok. I’m sure K-State prefers the life of being a sleeper anyway.

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Big 12 M5: 03.04.13 Edition

Posted by dnspewak on March 4th, 2013

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  1. It’s a big night for Kansas, and it’s not necessarily because the Jayhawks host Texas Tech in their quest for yet another Big 12 regular season title. Perhaps more importantly, the program welcomes Andrew Wiggins to town for an official visit. Kansas has a lot of competition for Wiggins, the top-rated recruit in the Class of 2014. His parents both attended Florida State, and he’s also narrowed his list to Kentucky and North Carolina. The 6’7” wing has a brother with Kansas roots– Nick Wiggins plays for Wichita State. Right now, Andrew Wiggins plays at Huntington Prep in West Virginia, but he is originally a native of Canada.
  2. You’ve heard a lot about Kansas’ streak of Big 12 titles, but Sam Mellinger does a nice job of providing some real perspective on just how dominant this team has been over the past decade. Sixty total players have participated in this string of league titles, and it’s that sort of culture that has allowed Kansas to rebound from a difficult mid-season swoon to take control of this conference. The players expect to win this league, and they take pride in making sure it happens, year in and year out. That’s a bit of a lost art in this day and age, where we often emphasize the NCAA Tournament over regular season accomplishments.
  3. The league race isn’t over yet, though, thanks in part to Rodney McGruder. If you missed this ending to the Kansas State/Baylor game in Waco on Saturday, you missed one of the wild finishes in Big 12 play so far. McGruder hit a three-pointer at the buzzer after the Wildcats got possession of the ball under their own basket with exactly one second to play. The events leading up to that will surely keep Scott Drew up at night. Drew’s team had the basketball with one second to play, and he then inserted Jacob Neubert to inbound the ball with a baseball-like heave. Neubert hadn’t played all game, and he threw the ball high out of bounds at the other end of the court. That gave KSU the ball in prime position for the game-winner. It helped Kansas State keep pace with Kansas, and it punished the Bears’ NCAA Tournament chances.
  4. Oklahoma had an interesting weekend. The Sooners shot 34 free throws in a statement win over Iowa State. That’s a good number in and of itself, just simply to attempt that many shots from the line. But guess what: Oklahoma also made 34 free throws. Thirty-four attempts; 100 percent from the line. The first question on everybody’s minds after a performance like that is whether that sort of thing has ever happened in a game before. Turns out, the Sooners tied a record set by UC Irvine in 1981 and Samford in 1990. As you probably guessed, it doesn’t happen very often.
  5. West Virginia isn’t the worst team in the league, but it’s not having a terrific season by any stretch of the imagination. And even though just about everybody figured the Mountaineers would get waxed in Lawrence this weekend, that didn’t make the 91-65 loss any easier for Bob Huggins to handle. Huggins didn’t have any golden quotes after the game, but a few of his freshmen are already looking toward next season and vowing to make changes. We thought after last year’s debacle against Gonzaga in the NCAA Tournament that this team would be different, but that didn’t happen. Maybe 2013-14 will really be the year Huggins gets it right again and creates that tough, knock-you-out culture that has won him so many games during his career.
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Big 12 M5: 02.28.13 Edition

Posted by KoryCarpenter on February 28th, 2013

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  1. Not only is the Kansas State senior class working on one of the school’s best seasons in over three decades, but they just became the school’s all-time winningest group of seniors with 97 victories and counting. The trio of Jordan Henriquez, Rodney McGruder and Martavious Irving are three wins away from K-State’s first conference regular season title since 1977, and if that happens, it will break the school’s all-time conference win record of 14. The Wildcats are currently 12-3 in the Big 12 and are tied with Kansas in first place. If they can take care of Baylor and TCU, the season finale against Oklahoma State in Stillwater would be one of the biggest regular season games in Kansas State history.
  2. Every team in the country is working for something right now. For schools like Texas Tech and West Virginia, it’s probably getting the players ready for next season. For Baylor or Iowa State, assuring a spot in the NCAA Tournament is the primary goal. But for teams like Oklahoma State, seeding in the Big Dance is the focus as the regular season draws to a close. The Cowboys still have a slender shot at the Big 12 championship, but the most likely scenario is a third place finish. They end the season against Texas, at Iowa State and play host to Kansas State on March 9. The latest Bracket Matrix outlook has them as a #5 seed, but they could probably jump to as high as a #3 seed if they win those three games and win the Big 12 Tournament, which would likely mean three wins against Kansas and Kansas State.
  3. The story of Bill Self’s 500th career victory was quickly lost in the shuffle of overtime, questionable officiating and rowdy Iowa State fans Monday night. Self is the ninth fastest Division I coach to reach 500 wins and the third Kansas coach — joined by Phog Allen and Roy Williams — to reach the milestone. Self has said a few times this season that he has no intentions of coaching long enough to break any wins records, but he is certainly on pace to get in the neighborhood of the all-time greats if he decides to stay in the game long enough. He has an 83.7% winning percentage at Kansas and has averaged 29.9 wins per season while there. As pointed out here, he could reach 1,000 wins in 15 years if he averages just three more wins per season through the age of 65.
  4. Baylor freshman center Isaiah Austin could easily end up being an All-American during his career in Waco, but he probably won’t be around long enough to see that happen. Austin is saying all the right things right now, like how he’s focused on getting the Bears into the NCAA Tournament and having success there, not the looming decision to stay or leave. The team seemed like a lock to earn an NCAA bid a month ago, but they have now lost six out of nine and are in danger of landing on the wrong side of the bubble on Selection Sunday just a bit over two weeks away. Whether the Bears make the NCAA Tournament or not, don’t expect to see Austin in yellow and green next season unless the Kings finally become the Sonics and select him in this summer’s NBA Draft.
  5. Sam Grooms hasn’t had the best sendoff in his final season at Oklahoma, averaging 4.3 PPG as a senior. It’s a small dip from last season as the Sooners guard has struggled with his confidence at times this year. “I would second-guess myself all the time before I shot and it didn’t turn out well,” Grooms recently told John Shinn of the Tahlequah Daily Press. Grooms averaged 17.6 PPG in a recent three-game stretch against Oklahoma State, Texas Tech and Baylor, two Sooner wins. Grooms isn’t the best or most important player on the Oklahoma roster, but a productive final month of his college career could assure his team a spot in the NCAA Tournament and perhaps a couple of wins if they get there.
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Big 12 Power Rankings: Week 14

Posted by KoryCarpenter on February 11th, 2013

It’s not too early to call tonight’s game between Kansas and Kansas State the Game Of The Year in the Big 12. Not with first place on the line and a chance for K-State to put the Jayhawks two games back with only seven games remaining. As for our rankings, there was a big shakeup this week with teams #1-#6, as each squad in that group either moved up or down from last week’s list. Most notable was the ascent of the Wildcats, who take the top spot for the first time this season. I decided to hold off on the Bracket Matrix Projected NCAA Tournament Seeds this week because it hasn’t been updated since Saturday’s games.

Rodney McGruder Needs A Big Game Tonight Against Kansas In Allen Fieldhouse (AP)

Rodney McGruder Needs A Big Game Tonight Against Kansas In Allen Fieldhouse (AP)

1) Kansas State (19-4, 8-2 Big 12)
Previous Ranking: 2

Last Week: W 68-59 at Texas Tech, W 79-70 vs. Iowa State

This Week: Tonight at Kansas, 8:00 PM CST, Saturday vs. Baylor, 6:00 PM

  • Rundown: They earned the split with Iowa State with a 79-70 win over the Cyclones on Saturday and have now won four in a row and 12 of their last 14. Rodney McGruder carried K-State with 22 points and five assists against Iowa State on Saturday and averaged 20 points per game this week. If he continues on that pace coupled with Kansas’ recent struggles, a road-team split with the Jayhawks isn’t out of the question.
  • Reason to be optimistic: They’re playing solid defense as of late, holding three of their last four opponents under 60 points, and any concerns with Frank Martin’s players not buying into Bruce Weber’s system are long gone at this point. Not only has McGruder stepped up offensively, but sophomore guard Angel Rodriguez averaged 16.5 PPG last week as well.

2) Oklahoma State (17-5, 7-3)
Previous Ranking: 3

Last Week: W 69-67 (OT) vs. Baylor, W 72-59 at Texas

This Week: Wednesday at Texas Tech, 6:00 PM, Saturday vs. Oklahoma, 12:30 PM

  • Rundown: The Cowboys have been a little unlucky in that their two biggest wins — vs. North Carolina State in November and at Kansas last week — were quickly watered down. North Carolina State, then #6 in the country, lost two games later to Michigan. Kansas dropped two more games in a row, including to dreadful TCU, after losing to OSU. Even so, the Cowboys have won six out of seven games thanks to junior guard Markel Brown, who has averaged 16.7 PPG in that stretch.
  • Reason to be optimistic: Oklahoma State has more NBA talent than any other team in the Big 12. Coupled with the confidence they undoubtedly have gained with their recent wins against Iowa State, Kansas, and Baylor, the Cowboys could be quite dangerous in March.

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Big 12 Conference Call: February 9 Edition

Posted by Nate Kotisso on February 9th, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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