RTC’s Big 12 Tournament Primer

Posted by dnspewak on March 7th, 2012

Danny Spewak is a Big 12 Microsite writer and will provide wall-to-wall coverage of the Big 12 Tournament from the Sprint Center in Kansas City this weekend. You can follow him on Twitter @dspewak.

After fighting through rush hour traffic and perhaps one of the windiest days in Missouri state history to reach Kansas City, we’re all set to kick off the Big 12 Tournament Wednesday night with a, well, rather bland matchup between Oklahoma and Texas A&M at 6:05 PM. As the weekend wears on, though, the drama will heat up about Missouri and A&M’s betrayal to the SEC, about a potential Border War showdown in the final, and about Texas’ last-gasp desperation to reach the NCAA Tournament. Here’s a team-by-team look at what’s important this weekend, as well as a few predictions (sure to be wrong, knowing our track record) and other analysis.

QUICK HITTERS: The Basics

1. Kansas (26-5, 15-2): For the eighth-straight season, the Jayhawks earned one of the top two seeds in the Big 12 Tournament. Big surprise. Now, it must survive the next three games — and that potential showdown with second-seeded Missouri — to solidify themselves as a top seed in the NCAA Tournament.

2. Missouri (27-4, 14-4): As painful as that overtime loss in Lawrence was on February 25, the Tigers could erase that memory entirely with a Big 12 Tournament championship this weekend. To even reach the title game, though, the Tigers would need to defeat either Texas or Iowa State for the third time this season. And that’s never any easy  thing to do. At least nemesis Kansas State is on the other side of the bracket.

Marcus Denmon Probably Wants Another Shot at Kansas in the Finals

3. Iowa State (22-9, 12-6): Look at that– the Cyclones have cracked the Top 25, another sign of Fred Hoiberg’s masterful coaching job this season. They said The Mayor couldn’t do it — his transfers would blow up in his face and it would doom Iowa State to another finish in the cellar. Hardly.

4. Baylor (25-6, 12-6): Besides a chance to earn more quality wins to improve seeding before Selection Sunday. it’s probably more important for the Bears to simply gain a little positive momentum before the Big Dance. After a blistering start, this team finished 1-5 agains the top three teams in this league and ended the season on a modest 4-4 note. At least one guy doesn’t need any more momentum, however. That’s Pierre Jackson, who torched Iowa State for 35 in a loss.

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Big 12 Morning Five: 02.23.12 Edition

Posted by dnspewak on February 23rd, 2012

  1. It’s hard to believe that Bedlam was last night. In a game that meant almost nothing to either Oklahoma State or Oklahoma‘s lackluster postseason hopes, the Sooners ran away with a 13-point win that at least one writer considered fairly entertaining. That’s the thing about these rivalries. OU has fallen flat in Big 12 play, but it found new life on the defensive end and held the Cowboys to just 12 first half points. Click on that link and look at the face of Romero Osby– you think he’s not excited to beat Oklahoma State? That’s college basketball at its finest, even when the competition on the court doesn’t quite measure up.
  2. Now that Kansas has taken care of business in College Station, it no longer needs to hide behind the “don’t-look-ahead” theory. There’s nothing standing in the way of Missouri now — the Jayhawks can talk about the Tigers all they want. So can columnists, too, especially ones with strong opinions. If you need any proof that this rivalry is bitter, just listen to this writer: “Missouri has never been a good neighbor to Kansas and they still aren’t. Down through the years MU’s hierarchy has caused as many problems as possible for KU — off the field and court.” Harsh. But that’s not all: “Kansas will expose an overrated Missouri team this Saturday in Allen Fieldhouse.” Yep, it’s the Border War all right.
  3. On the other side, Missouri needs to recover from a shocking home loss to Kansas State in this Border War match-up. A Big 12 title isn’t out of the question yet, but the Tigers need to win out to at least earn a share. That begins with Saturday’s game, a tough task considering Missouri hasn’t won in Lawrence since 1999. It’s also the last Border War game ever (for the near future, at least), adding to the stakes and fueling the home crowd.
  4. In light of our selection of Wayman Tisdale to the “Big 12 Mount Rushmore” team, this blog provides a little more analysis into the legend himself. At Oklahoma, Tisdale won three Big Eight Player of the Year awards and earned All-America distinctions as a freshman, sophomore and junior. These days it’s almost unfathomable to think that a player so dominant in his first season in college would actually stay for another year, let alone two. And it’s also interesting to consider that Tisdale’s instant success as a freshman was largely unheard of during that time period. These days, we expect freshmen to contribute and dominate, but Tisdale was one of the first to set that trend.
  5. It wasn’t easy, but Iowa State overcame a sluggish first-half effort to knock off Texas Tech last night in a game it absolutely could not afford to lose. The win gives the Cyclones 10 Big 12 victories, which, as the article mentions, is the first time that’s happened in 10 seasons. The 72-54 final margin is hardly how this game played out, though. Tech led at halftime and hung around for most of the second half, which is good news for Billy Gillispie as he tries to build on the first season of his rebuilding job.
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Big 12 Morning Five: 02.22.12 Edition

Posted by dnspewak on February 22nd, 2012

  1. Too bad Missouri couldn’t follow Bill Self‘s advice. Like any seasoned coach, he’s keeping his team in check before the final Border War game on Saturday by focusing on Texas A&M first. The Tigers, of course, fell victim to Kansas State on Tuesday night, taking a little luster off the matchup this weekend. Still, it will essentially determine the Big 12 regular-season championship, and if Kansas takes care of business against the Aggies it will be in the driver’s seat. Lose that game, though, and they are in the same boat as Missouri.
  2. Who’s responsible for Jeff Withey‘s hot streak lately? In a lot of ways, it’s Withey himself since he is finally playing to his potential. Bill Self can also take a lot of credit for building him from scratch and developing him over the course of a few seasons. But what about Danny Manning‘s role? Apparently, the former Jayhawk star and current assistant has served as a mentor and teacher to Withey this season. Not a bad guy to take advice from.
  3. Texas‘ NCAA Tournament hopes are dwindling by the second, especially after a home loss to Baylor on Monday. The Longhorns still have a chance to win at the Phog to pick up a signature win against Kansas, but that’s a tall task as we all know. This article takes an interesting angle on the matter, though. Is anyone all that upset about Rick Barnes‘ failure to make the NCAAs this season, barring a late surge? According to this particular writer, Barnes is “fighting the indifference that can swallow this sport in this state.” That’s always been a problem in Austin, but for the first time during his tenure, we’re seeing a Barnes team in danger of playing in the NIT.
  4. Royce White has made a name for himself with both his play and his mohawk this season, but behind the scenes he has dealt with a lot of adversity. In this digital age especially, we idolize players and make them into heroes on the basketball court, forgetting their human sides sometimes. White has fought an anxiety disorder for years and takes medication for the issue, something you would never be able to tell by watching his graceful play from the stands or on television. This Des Moines Register article also helps put his arrest at Minnesota in perspective, giving the other side of the story from White’s perspective.
  5. Oklahoma would be elated to make the NIT at this point, but forward Romero Osby has bigger plans. As he points out, Osby played for Mississippi State in 2009 when it won the SEC Tournament to earn an auto-bid to the NCAA Tournament, shaking off a somewhat lackluster regular season. That Bulldogs team was a little better than these Sooners, but the sentiment remains. If Oklahoma can figure out how to play like it did during stretches of November and December– albeit against weaker competition– maybe there’s something to Osby’s optimism.
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Big 12 Morning Five: 02.03.12

Posted by dnspewak on February 3rd, 2012

  1. Frank Martin may be the most entertaining coach in college basketball, but his recent comments may come back to bite him. Martin referred to a late no-call against Iowa State as “an absolute joke,” a phrase he often uses with reporters to describe a variety of situations. Big 12 commissioner Chuck Neinas said he’s “aware of the situation,” which means he’ll review everything and make a decision. That wasn’t the only thing Martin said, though. He continued: “We never shot a free throw. Every time we took a deep breath on the other side Iowa State shot a free throw.” For precedent, the article mentions that former Texas Tech coach Pat Knight once missed a game after his own criticism of referees. That may be in the works for Martin, depending on how lenient Neinas feels here.
  2. Until the Tulsa World pointed it out, we didn’t notice that Oklahoma forward Romero Osby has been wearing a boot since mid-January. Osby said he injured his Achilles, but he’s also said it has improved lately and that the boot is for “precautionary reasons.” It hasn’t seemed to slow Osby at all. Since adding that boot, he has scored in double figures in four of five games, including a double-double against Baylor. Osby has been an important addition for Lon Kruger after transferring from Mississippi State, so it’s important for him to stay healthy and keep producing.
  3. The Big 12 is a three-horse race right now between Kansas, Missouri and Baylor. All three will easily make the NCAA Tournament, and all three could potentially earn a top seed. As for the rest of the league? It’s up in the air at this point. Kansas State and Iowa State look like decent bets to make the NCAAs, and the Cyclones in particular are certainly trending up, although neither is a lock at this point. There’s also still a small chance Texas could find a way into the Dance, although Rick Barnes is in serious danger of missing the tourney for the first time during his stint in Austin.
  4. As for ISU’s situation, players and coaches are trying to not pay attention to the NCAA Tournament talk. The program hasn’t made the Dance since 2004-05, but the chatter is starting to heat up during Big 12 play. Coach Fred Hoiberg said the team has “been great” in staying focused, and Chris Allen said “I try to stay away from predictions.” Iowa State has its signature win over Kansas, but now it must close out the season strong to stay afloat. Whether players want to talk about it or not, the dream is very much alive at this point.
  5. The Border War game between Missouri and Kansas on Saturday may be the most anticipated contest in series history, especially considering it may be the last time the two teams meet in Columbia for the near future. Naturally, MU students are already camping out for College Gameday’s visit on Saturday morning. It’s terrific to see such great fan support, but it begs a serious question: Don’t these people have class? We envy anyone with the ability to skip two days of classes in favor of camping out in a tent outside Mizzou Arena.
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Baylor Rights the Ship, Not About To Collapse Again

Posted by dnspewak on January 25th, 2012

After losing ground in the Big 12 title race by losing to Kansas and Missouri in the span of five days last week, Baylor got back to the basics on Tuesday night in a 77-65 win at Oklahoma. This didn’t look like the same team that lost the rebounding battle in its two previous games, and it didn’t look like the team that showed serious several defensive deficiencies. Instead, the Bears outlasted a pesky Sooner squad by refocusing and playing tougher basketball. Early in the game, Perry Jones looked like a completely different player as he brought more aggression and assertiveness against a decent group of bigs. Thanks to Pierre Jackson‘s penetration skills, Jones got a lot of high-percentage looks and converted nine of 15 field goal attempts on the way to a double-double (21 points, 12 rebounds). That’s the key for Baylor: Great guard play, team ball movement and a big game from Jones.

Scott Drew's Team Rebounded in a Big Way On Tuesday

This was a vintage performance from Baylor offensively, but Scott Drew‘s team’s new commitment to defense and the boards Tuesday night made all the difference. And that’s why any talk of a Baylor collapse this season is unfounded, even after two losses to the league’s best teams last week. Oklahoma’s lack of scorers and three-point shooters kept it from pulling the upset, but the Sooners’ tough night from the perimeter had a lot to do with Baylor’s defense. The Bears’ guards forced Steven Pledger to settle for a lot of threes, and they got a little lucky when Andrew Fitzgerald missed several gimmes in the first half. Romero Osby did his work on the boards, but he’s one of the better individual rebounders in the conference. Otherwise, as a team, Baylor did a better job limiting Oklahoma’s damage on the boards with a +4 margin overall.

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Big 12 Morning Five: 01.23.12 Edition

Posted by dnspewak on January 23rd, 2012

  1. Missouri earned the most important win of its season by knocking off Baylor on Saturday, and it did so by playing harder and tougher than the Bears. The Tigers, who won the rebounding battle despite having only two scholarship forwards on the roster, may have benefited from a reading assignment coach Frank Haith insisted on. Haith made the players read an essay about toughness from Jay Bilas from 2009. It appeared to pay off, according to Kim English. “Size doesn’t matter… Everything evens out in basketball. Height limits speed.” MU improved to 18-1 and now sits a game behind Kansas in the Big 12. The Tigers still need to play at Lawrence in late February, but they’ve already taken road trips to the rest of the teams in the upper half of the league. This league could come down to the final Border War series this year — imagine that.
  2. To this day, it’s hard to forget Mike Gundy‘s tirade at Oklahoma State in defense of a quarterback. Remember? He’s a man, he’s 40, and so on. Well, Travis Ford didn’t live up to that speech in OSU lore this weekend, but he made a similar plea for the critics to lay off senior guard Keiton Page. Page shot just 4-17 from the field, but Ford didn’t care. “This kid is giving it everything he’s got and he can’t even walk the next day. I do not think he gets the respect that he deserves on that court. I just don’t get it; I don’t get it… Keiton Page is phenomenal.” Ford says Page’s production is limited because of the way defenses key in on him, and he’s got a point. But clearly, Ford believes that Page is more important to this program than his shooting percentages would suggest.
  3. Ben McLemore pleaded not guilty to a minor in possession of alcohol charge, which he received back in November. It’s a small offense, but it became an issue when the Kansas freshman missed his court date in December. McLemore is ineligible to play this year, but he apparently did not tell his coaching staff or teammates about the original alcohol charge. He’ll now appear in court again in March. Bill Self says the matter will be handled “internally” — and you know what that means.
  4. Staying with Kansas, you’re probably familiar with the story of Thomas Robinson. College Gameday ran a piece about his tragic situation on Saturday, and various media outlets have told his story after he lost his grandmother, grandfather and mother in the span of a month during the 2010-11 season. Here’s another perspective on Robinson, as told by the Kansas City Star. No matter who you root for, it’s impossible not to pull for Robinson on a personal level. No person should ever have to suffer that kind of loss in such a short period of time.
  5. Lon Kruger is still trying to figure out his Oklahoma team. During this process, Kruger has adapted as a defensive coach, using a zone more frequently with the Sooners this season. Apparently, it’s working. Ever the tactician, Kruger has used it as a change of pace for his normal man-to-man look, and his players have seemed to take a liking to it. “It’s been good for us,” forward Romero Osby said. Guard Steven Pledger said the same thing, mentioning that any defense works as long as you put effort into it. “It doesn’t matter whether it’s man or zone, you have to be active and play hard.”
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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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Big 12 Morning Five: 01.17.12 Edition

Posted by dnspewak on January 17th, 2012

  1. Cameron Clark had a productive freshman season for Oklahoma leading many (like yours truly) to believe he would break out as a sophomore this year. He hasn’t reached star status yet, but Clark is starting to emerge as of late. The 6’6” guard scored 10 points in a win over Kansas State, and his coaches and teammates say they are starting to see him play with more and more confidence as the year progresses. Romero Osby even says Clark is one of the best players on the floor every time he plays a game, which is high praise coming from one of the Big 12′s best rebounders. And here’s an interesting fact: Clark averages 13.1 points per game during Oklahoma wins and just 6.3 points per game in losses. Sounds like he’s a forgotten piece of Lon Kruger‘s team.
  2. In another part of the state, Oklahoma State is trying to find a way to recover from a 40-point beatdown by Baylor this weekend. But at least one writer says we shouldn’t give up the on the Cowboys just yet. No, Oklahoma State won’t compete for a Big 12 title with all of the injuries and transfers it has dealt with so far, but the guy has a point. This team is still 2-2 in the league, and if LeBryan Nash ever emerges as a star, this team could finally find a way to score consistently. This team is already fairly solid defensively, so just a little boost from Nash, Keiton Page and perhaps another option could help Travis Ford at least salvage a post-season berth and winning league record.
  3. Texas is a mainstay in the NCAA tournament. In fact, Rick Barnes has never missed the Big Dance since arriving in Austin 13 seasons ago. That streak may end this season, unless Texas can find a way to finish above .500 in the Big 12 and knock off a few quality opponents. The young Longhorns are still getting inconsistent production out of Myck Kabongo, but you have to think he and the rest of the freshmen on this team will step up to help J’Covan Brown one of these days. Luckily, Texas will still has several contests with Baylor, Kansas, and Missouri looming so it has a chance to improve its resume before March.
  4. After Kansas State‘s loss to Baylor, Frank Martin did not throw his hands in the air and simply attribute the loss to playing against a great team. Instead, he punished a few players (like Angel Rodriguez) by making them run stairs while the rest of the team watched tape. Martin then relegated Rodriguez to the bench against Oklahoma, a game it lost in Norman by nine points– though it was uglier than that margin would suggest. Although Martin’s tactics seem like a little much, the man knows what he’s doing. Last season, after his pre-season top-25 team hit a free-fall in the middle of the season, Martin rallied that group and recovered just fine. Although the 1-3 record in the Big 12 doesn’t look very good, Martin will find a way to turn things around.
  5. The NBA comparisons for Royce White are ridiculous. Fred Hoiberg says he’s Kevin Garnett; Frank Haith says he’s Magic Johnson. And now, Travis Ford says he’s Jamal Mashburn. Ford says White is one of the best ball-handling forwards he’s see in the Big 12, and the guy certainly deserves every accolade opposing coaches give him. But this is starting to get a little wild. Why not let him establish himself instead of placing him on a pedestal next to NBA greats? At least White has a sense of humor about all of this. Remember, he did say that Haith’s comparison to Magic was “outrageous.”
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Big 12 Weekend Primer

Posted by dnspewak on January 13th, 2012

It’s not the best Saturday of all-time in Big 12 hoops. In fact, with only one ranked team in the conference (Kansas State) playing on the road, playoff football may be the better option if you’re looking for dramatic storylines and unpredictable results. If that’s not your thing, though, here’s a look at the admittedly boring match-ups in in the league this weekend.

  • Texas at #9 Missouri, Saturday, 12 p.m. CT (ESPN2)

Myck Kabongo Will Need To Stay Poised in Columbia

A loss in Austin last year snapped Missouri’s three-game winning streak against the Longhorns, but the Tigers shouldn’t have much trouble on Saturday in the teams’ final game in Columbia for the foreseeable future. Missouri may have shut up the critics by winning at Iowa State on Wednesday, but nobody has ever questioned whether this team can win at home. Since 2008-09, the Tigers have lost just three games at Mizzou Arena and normally blow young teams like Texas out of the water on Norm Stewart Court. The Longhorns, who already lost in Ames this year, are also not a very good match-up for Missouri. They don’t have the size to bully the Tigers down low, and their young guards could really struggle with Missouri’s quickness. Look for a rebound game from Marcus Denmon, who shoots lights out at home. Missouri missed his normal production at Iowa State, but it can’t afford many more off-nights from its star.

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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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Ten For Ten: Impressions of Each Big 12 Team From Its Opener

Posted by dnspewak on January 5th, 2012

Congratulations, Big 12 teams. You’ve all now played one-eighteenth of your conference schedule. For the next two months, you will suffer through hard-fought battles week after week until this wild league sorts itself out. After one game, it’s impossible to tell what exactly will happen from now until the first weekend in March. But each Big 12 opener at least gave us a little insight into this crazy conference. In alphabetical order, here’s what you need to know about Opening Week:

  1. Baylor has not played flawless basketball this season, but don’t exactly take that as a criticism. The Bears are undefeated and off to the best start in school history, and yet they still have a lot of room for improvement. Although it handled Texas A&M from start to finish in Waco on Monday, Scott Drew’s team still finished with 16 turnovers and shot just 2-12 from beyond the arc. Guard play in particular was a problem: Pierre Jackson finished with seven turnovers, and Brady Heslip did not score. And yet the Bears’ 61-52 victory was hardly in doubt until a modest comeback by the Aggies at the very end of the game. Perry Jones, who did not play well in a win over Mississippi State on national television last week, redeemed himself with a double-double as BU’s frontcourt overpowered the normally physical Aggies. The guards will make the difference this season for Drew, and though they struggled in the Big 12 opener, that trend should not continue. Jackson, Heslip, A.J. Walton and Gary Franklin are an underrated group.
  2. Iowa State is not a pushover this season. These guys can really shoot the heck out of the basketball, and they won their first Big 12 opener in five seasons by knocking off Texas 77-71 on Wednesday night. Yes, the Longhorns have problems of their own– more on that later– but Fred Hoiberg‘s team defended well, played with outstanding energy and got every shot it wanted on the offensive end. Iowa State made 10-of-21 three-pointers, and not a single trey came from Scott Christopherson, one of the top three-point shooters in Big 12 history from a percentage standpoint. Chris Babb and Anthony Booker combined to make eight of those shots, but forward Royce White controlled this game by getting to the free throw line and posing a matchup problem for UT. The Longhorns are small on the front line, and White exploited them by using his quickness. He announced to the Big 12 that he will not be easy to defend this winter.

    Bill Self's Team Made a Statement On Wednesday Night

  3. Kansas looked like a Big 12 champion again by spanking Kansas State at the Phog on Wednesday night. Sure, the Jayhawks cooled off after building an early 18-point lead, and the Wildcats jumped back into the game in the second half. By the end of the contest, though, KU had run away with this rivalry by beating Frank Martin at his own game. Kansas State thought it could rattle the Jayhawks with its high-pressure style and tenacious rebounding, but Thomas Robinson proved once again that he’s not afraid of anybody. Forget the loss to Davidson. Tyshawn Taylor may turn the ball over too much, and the offense may not always look crisp, but Bill Self‘s team will defend and it will not back down from a challenge. 17 offensive rebounds and a +24 margin on the boards against a Frank Martin team is proof of that. Read the rest of this entry »
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Big 12 Weekly Primer: Week of January 3 – 6

Posted by dnspewak on January 3rd, 2012

With the Big 12 introducing an 18-game schedule for the first time in history, conference play begins a week earlier than usual in 2012. In recent years, the week after New Year’s meant tune-up games with low-major opponents, but this season, Big 12 teams won’t have much time to recover from the holidays. Kansas and Kansas State in particular must be in tip-top shape, as the two state rivals will face each other on Wednesday (January 4).

GAME OF THE WEEK

  • #23 Kansas State (11-1) at #14 Kansas (10-3), Wednesday 7 PM CT

Thomas Robinson Was Unstoppable This Weekend

Kansas State responded from the graduation of Jacob Pullen by ripping through its non-conference schedule, which included wins over Virginia Tech and Alabama, in addition to a Diamond Head Classic championship. The early success has helped Frank Martin‘s team crack the Top 25, but the Wildcats will now face three top-15 teams during the next eight days. It all begins with Kansas at Allen Fieldhouse on Wednesday, marking the first meeting of the season between the two underrated rivals. Kansas State may be overachieving, but the Jayhawks are still finding their way after losing games to Kentucky, Duke and Davidson during the first two months of the season. Bill Self doesn’t have a vintage KU team this season, as it lacks depth and still has not executed all that well offensively. That doesn’t mean these Jayhawks can’t ball, though. They can, especially when Thomas Robinson plays like an animal (30 points and 21 rebounds against North Dakota on Saturday) and Tyshawn Taylor takes care of the basketball. Taylor has heard a lot of criticism for his turnovers, but he may be turning his season around in that department. He led KU to a rout at USC by dishing out nine assists and limiting himself to just two turnovers and he’s averaged just two turnovers per game during the last three contests.

Of course, in those games, Kansas did not face the sort of defense it will see out of Kansas State. Martin’s teams are always defined by their intensity on the defensive end, and this 2011-12 team is no different. The Wildcats are deep, athletic and physical, and forwards Thomas Gipson, Jordan Henriquez and Jamar Samuels can test Robinson on the boards a little better than North Dakota did. Bill Self’s teams will always defend, and despite his relative lack of depth, he has more skilled and proven scorers than KSU with Robinson, Taylor and the emerging Elijah Johnson. But if Rodney McGrudercan play like a star and provide some heroics, his team may hang around at the Phog. The junior guard, who leads his team at 12.5 points per game, scored 28 against Long Beach State during Christmas week to win the Diamond Head Classic.

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