Big 12 Morning Five: 03.14.12

Posted by dnspewak on March 14th, 2012

  1. Here’s a nice breakdown of how the Big 12 could fare in the NCAA Tournament complete with thorough analysis and best/worst-case scenarios. The only criticism we have here is the ceiling for Baylor. The article caps the Bears’ chances at the Elite Eight, and that’s fair considering their inconsistency during Big 12 play. Still, Perry Jones made this a different team in the Big 12 Tournament. This is a team that actually outworked Kansas State in Kansas City, which is the type of effort Scott Drew will need to make a Final Four run. If it all comes together, this team can hang tough with anybody on a neutral floor.
  2. Bill Self‘s team fell short of its goal of cutting down the nets in Kansas City. That’s disappointing for the fans, players and coaches in front of a friendly crowd. But is it a good thing? This is an age-old argument that always makes us laugh. It’s probably never good to lose a basketball game, but let the debate rage on. And read Self’s take on the situation in that article for another perspective.
  3. Remember how hilarious it was when Iowa State hired a guy with no coaching experience to revitalize its program? Not hilarious anymore, as the Cyclones are reaping the benefits with Fred Hoiberg. As well as Frank Haith has coached and as surprising as Missouri‘s run has been, it’s easy to forget what Hoiberg has done with this program in such a short amount of time.
  4. Speaking of Iowa State, here’s a chance to get to know them. If you have followed this league all year like we have, you probably know the potential of this team already. Great shooters. Great star in Royce White. Solid all-around defensive team, solid guard play, and capable of beating anybody. That’s why this is the type of nothing-to-lose eight seed that has traditionally scared the daylights out of people in the NCAA Tournament.
  5. And finally, your boring business news of the day: the Big 12 is working on a multi-billion dollar media deal. This simply reaffirms what we’ve known all along– it’s all about the money. Under this deal with ABC and Fox, each school would receive about $20 million. Not bad, eh?
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Bracket Prep: South Region Analysis

Posted by KDoyle on March 12th, 2012

Throughout Monday, we will roll out our region-by-region analysis on the following schedule: East (9 AM), South (11 AM), Midwest (2 PM), West (4 PM). Here, Kevin Doyle breaks down the South Region from top to bottom. Also, be sure to follow our RTC South Region handle on Twitter for continuous updates the next two weeks (@RTCsouthregion).

You can also check out our RTC Podblast with Kevin breaking down the South Region here.

South Region

Favorite: #1 Kentucky (32-2, 16-0 SEC). Shouldn’t really need much of an explanation here. The most talented team in the nation — unquestionably — the Wildcats will be the odds-on favorite to not just emerge from the South Region, but also to cut down the nets in New Orleans. Anthony Davis and Terrence Jones spearhead a terrifyingly good starting five.

The Length And Athleticism Of Terrence Jones and Kentucky Are Just One Of Many Issues That Teams Face

Should They Falter: #2 Duke (27-6, 13-3 ACC). Austin Rivers does not play like a typical freshman and while Duke has its flaws on defense (perimeter defense, especially), the Blue Devils are more apt to make a run to the Final Four due to their balance on offense. Rivers and Seth Curry are prolific shooters/scorers in the backcourt, while the Plumlee brothers make for a formidable frontcourt. Much of Duke’s success hinges on junior Ryan Kelly’s health (sprained ankle). Kelly, while not a lockdown defender by any means, is 6’11″ and really helps in defending the three-point line for Duke. Even without a healthy Kelly, Duke still has an easier road to the Sweet Sixteen than other contenders in the South Region.

Grossly Overseeded: #11 Colorado (23-11, 11-7 Pac-12). Clearly, the committee thought higher of the Pac-12 than many others did. First, there was much debate whether this power six conference — far from “powerful” this season — would even receive an at-large bid, but they did in California. Secondly, Colorado was not on anybody’s radar prior to the Pac-12 Tournament as it stood at 19-11 with seven losses in conference play. Yet, winning the conference tournament propelled Colorado to a very respectable seed at #11. Many prognosticators had the Buffaloes at a #13 seed going into Selection Sunday.

Grossly Underseeded: #14 South Dakota State (27-7, 15-3 Summit). It is too big of a stretch to say that South Dakota State is “grossly” underseeded, but I do believe they were worthy of a #13 seed. When comparing the Jackrabbits to the #13 seed in this region, their resume is every bit as good, if not better, than New Mexico State: SDSU has a better overall record, higher RPI, more wins against the Top 100 RPI, and a more challenging non-conference schedule. Not to mention South Dakota State’s thrashing of Washington 92-73, even though the Huskies are not a Tournament team, is very impressive.

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Facing Its Own Mortality, Texas Finds a Way To Stay Alive

Posted by dnspewak on March 9th, 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. He filed this piece after Texas’ 71-65 victory over Iowa State. You can follow him on Twitter @dspewak.

There was a moment early in the second half Thursday night when it appeared Texas and its three freshmen starters would unravel in its most important game of the season. Trailing by 11 with 18:22 remaining in its NCAA Tournament life, the Longhorns looked like the team that fell apart in a 19-point loss at North Carolina in late December. Like the team that lost six of its first nine Big 12 games by an average of 4.6 points.

Rick Barnes Got His Team To Respond in the Second Half.

Then, something clicked. “We’re not young anymore,” freshman point guard Myck Kabongo said. “We’ve grown up. We’ve shown strides, every single one of us.” With Kabongo running the show, the Longhorns sliced their way to the rim and denied the Cyclones’ looks from beyond the arc by eliminating dribble penetration. J’Covan Brown, the league’s leading scorer, began to abuse Chris Allen. As Iowa State’s layups rimmed out and its guards turned the ball over, the Longhorns’ threes began to fall. And just like that, Texas saved its NCAA Tournament hopes with a 71-65 victory in one nine-minute stretch. “That’s the ball game. They made big plays. I thought we put our heads down a little bit as a team,” coach Fred Hoiberg said. “They made big plays down the stretch and we didn’t.”

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Insider’s Practice Report: Texas

Posted by dnspewak on March 7th, 2012

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

Unlike Iowa State, Texas A&M, and Oklahoma, which ran loose, light-hearteded practices Wednesday morning, the Texas Longhorns looked like a team in desperation mode. Rick Barnes had no time for nonsense this afternoon, not with an NCAA Tournament at-large bid hanging in the balance this week. He screamed at Myck Kabongo several times for not finding the open man in the post (“He’s wide open! Find him!”) and got on walk-on Dean Melchionni for a mistake later in practice (“Shoot it! It’s not that hard!). For almost 40 minutes, the Longhorns scrimmaged with focus, intensity and a mission in mind: beat Iowa State and solidify its spot in the NCAA Tournament. “We’re taking it one game at a time this tournament. Tomorrow is the most important game of the season,” freshman Jonathan Holmes said after practice.

Texas worked on defending Scott Christopherson and the dribble handoff for several minutes

All practice, Barnes repeated over and over again that the team must take away the three-point shot. When J’Covan Brown politely mentioned that harassing shooters on the perimeter would leave defenders one-on-one, Barnes did not care. “You’re playing against the best three-point shooting team in the conference,” Barnes said.  Royce White may be Iowa State‘s leading scorer and star this season, but Barnes and assistant Rob Lanier seemed more concerned about Scott Christopherson and his ability to burn their defense from beyond the arc. “Christopherson, we’re not giving him anything. Anything,” Barnes said during practice. In preparation for Christopherson, Lanier prepped his team on how to defend Iowa State’s dribble handoff. Sheldon McClellan stood in as Christopherson, and Lanier ran drills for about 10 minutes to make sure his players knew how to shut this down. He told his team to hedge hard on the handoff, making sure the help defender “had it under control” before he retreated to cover his own man.

Later in practice, Barnes’ guys ran full court and worked on defending the dribble handoff in a more realistic setting. Take a look at the video below, where McClellan receives a handoff and runs into a help defender.

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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.


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 Season Recap and Postseason Preview

Posted by Brian Goodman on March 7th, 2012

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

Conference Tournament Preview

The big attraction this year for many fans is the chance to see one more KansasMissouri battle before the Tigers leave for the SEC. If Kansas reaches the final, they will likely be a #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, and there’s still a chance Missouri can nab one if they win the Big 12 Tournament as well. Given the general lack of depth on both teams it might behoove them to lose early and rest up for the NCAA Tournament, but their competitiveness and seed chasing will probably lead to one last matchup.

Let's Go For a Third, Shall We? (AP)

The Big 12 has likely locked up five bids in the tournament, with a sixth possibly going to Texas. The Longhorns will need to beat Iowa State Wednesday night to have a shot, and with how soft the bubble is this year, that will probably be enough.

Elsewhere, Baylor can potentially get a #3 seed if they make a run (though with their new uniforms I am wondering if there is a way we can keep them out of the postseason altogether) and Iowa State can probably get away from the dreaded #8/#9 game if they do so as well. Kansas State‘s seeding could range widely depending on its performance this week, but the Wildcats are soundly in the Dance.

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Big 12 Morning Five: 03.05.12 Edition

Posted by dnspewak on March 5th, 2012

  1. The Big 12 awards are out, so let the heated debate begin. We will release our own picks soon, but the one head-scratcher here is the Coach of the Year award. Bill Self and Fred Hoiberg shared the honor, and both are more than deserving choices. Still, Frank Haith‘s absence makes little sense to anybody associated with the league, much less Missouri people. After the adversity his team faced– from the Shapiro allegations at Miami to Laurence Bowers’ injury– he has to be the hands-down choice. Right? Maybe we are off-base here. If so, let us know in the comment section below. Frankly, though, the Coach of the Year award should be renamed the “Coach of the Most Surprising Team” award. At the conference and national level, the award simply goes to the coach of a team that overachieved– as if he explains the unexplainable. So as much as we may quibble about Haith here, who cares? Picking the best coach in the league is an almost impossible task.
  2. Texas is in desperation mode against Iowa State in the first round of the Big 12 Tournament, but it has learned that Alexis Wangmene will miss the rest of the season with a wrist injury. Good luck guarding Royce White now, Longhorns. And that’s pretty much all we will say about that.
  3. Here’s a shocker: Iowa State spent $420,000 on guarantee games to bring inferior opponents into Hilton Coliseum this year. This article from The Des Moines Register gives us an inside look at how athletic directors make scheduling decisions, and though it’s not the most revolutionary piece, it’s still interesting to consider the process from this perspective. It’s also interesting to see how much costs have increased for guarantee games. Look at Greg McDermott‘s comments at the end of the article–guarantee games are no longer a cheap deal for anybody.
  4. Read this lead and tell us what you think. We didn’t realize this, but Oklahoma hasn’t had a winning season since Blake Griffin left. That’s not very long ago– 2009, to be exact– but it’s a little longer than we realized. This program has taken a nosedive, but a strong showing at the Big 12 Tournament might carry a little momentum into next year.
  5. Oklahoma State needs a point guard. Bad. Really bad, even. It’s been such an issue lately for Travis Ford, especially this season, when Fred Gulley and Reger Dowell both transferred before Big 12 play even began. That switched Keiton Page to the point, but he’s going to graduate. So that leaves Cezar Guerrero, who just may be the most important player on the Cowboys next year. No pressure though, young man.
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Big 12 Morning Five: Leap Day Edition

Posted by dnspewak on February 29th, 2012

  1. Before the season began, Iowa State was one of the Big 12’s most intriguing cases. After a losing season, coach Fred Hoiberg banked on four transfers to lead him to the promised land. It worked. The Cyclones are all but headed to the NCAA Tournament now, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t still an underdog. Royce White, a major part of Team Transfer this year, say it’s a role the team enjoys playing. That’s a good thing, especially since ISU will visit Missouri on an emotional Senior Day tonight.
  2. Hoiberg isn’t the only coach not afraid to take transfers. His opponent tonight, Frank Haith, has a Team Transfer of his own set to become eligible for the 2012-13 season. Of course, I wrote about this very topic a few months ago, and it’s interesting to revisit. In terms of “The Transfer Effect,” Iowa State has clearly reaped the benefits of Division I transfers. Maybe it will work for Haith, too. We’ll just have to find out.
  3. In addition to several transfers, MU will also welcome back Laurence Bowers to its frontcourt next season. Unfortunately, that’s because he’s sitting out this season with a knee injury. The forward will now watch his fellow senior class compete at Mizzou Arena for the last time tonight, and it has to be difficult to watch his graduating class move on without him. He says the ride this year has been somewhat bittersweet, only because he cannot compete against Big 12 foes with seniors Kim English, Marcus Denmon, Steve Moore and the rest of the team.
  4. Sick of Iowa State/Missouri talk? So are we. With a disappointing Big 12 season winding down, Oklahoma fans may be looking to next season— and Amath M’Baye in particular. His teammates and coaches love him, and they say he’ll make a major impact when he becomes eligible next season after transferring from Wyoming. M’Baye, who averaged double figures with the Cowboys, seems to be able to do just about everything on a basketball court. With the bulk of a young team returning next year, M’Baye may be the missing piece for Lon Kruger.
  5. Here’s an interesting nugget: Apparently Kansas and Nebraska have been in very preliminary talks to start up a non-conference game in the near future. Scroll down to the bottom of this article to learn a little more. It sounds like the two sides had simply talked casually about the possibility, and it’s not going to happen as of right now. Still, considering KU’s refusal to play Missouri because it left the Big 12, it’s odd to read that the school still considered playing the Cornhuskers of the Big Ten.
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Checking In On… the Big 12 Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on February 27th, 2012

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

The Week That Was

  • Game Of The Year: Kansas was 16:42 away from being swept by Missouri and perhaps letting the Big 12 title slip away. Perhaps recognizing the importance of the last meeting as conference foes, Kansas overcame a 19-point deficit, took the game to overtime, and behind 28 points and 12 rebounds from Thomas Robinson, as well as 24 points and five assists from Tyshawn Taylor, the Jayhawks clinched no worse than a share of their eighth straight Big 12 title and perhaps have the inside track on a #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
  • Wildcats Looking Strong: Kansas State notched a huge win on the road at Missouri last Monday, and coupled with its victory over Baylor on Saturday, it was the first time Frank Martin’s team had beaten top ten teams back-to-back on the road. The Wildcats lost to Iowa State on Saturday, but the wins over Baylor and Missouri perhaps locked them into an NCAA Tournament berth.
  • A Coaches’ League: Frank Haith and Bill Self have gotten a lot of ink for national coach of the year, but the Big 12 Coach of the Year might be Fred Hoiberg. The Mayor has taken Iowa State from the conference basement to a probable NCAA tournament berth, as the Cyclones currently sit in a tie for third in the league. Royce White and Chris Allen have been great as transfers, but it’s Hoiberg who gave them the second chance and has gotten everyone to buy in. Impressive stuff up in Ames.

All Eyes Were On Allen Fieldhouse Saturday, And The Jayhawks And Tigers Delivered A Game For The Ages. (David Eulitt/The Kansas City Star)

Power Rankings

  1. Kansas (24-5, 14-2): The final regular season of the Border War was one of the best ever and with the win Kansas clinched a share of its eighth straight Big 12 title. A win in either of its last two games – at Oklahoma State or at home against Texas – can clinch it outright, continuing perhaps the most underrated streak in sports.
  2. Missouri (25-4, 12-4): In the span of a week, Missouri went from Big 12 favorites to having next to no shot at even winning a share of the Big 12 title. After being ahead by ten points or more for much of the second half, Missouri fans are no doubt questioning Frank Haith’s decision to stall on offense for much of the half (a strategy I tentatively agree with, by the way) as well as the final possession when Missouri did not even get a shot off. They didn’t have a timeout so Haith could not draw up a play, but not having a better option built into the offense there was a bad move. Read the rest of this entry »
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Tubby Smith Needs To Catch A Break

Posted by Deepak Jayanti on February 24th, 2012

Winters in Minnesota are all about highs and lows not just temperature wise, but also with their basketball team. The Golden Gophers had their lows during the Dan Monson era from 2000 to 2007 because they only made it to one NCAA tournament. It wasn’t all Monson’s fault as he was trying to rebuild a program dealing with probation assessed due to the actions of Clem Haskins, the prior coach. But when Tubby Smith was brought in from Kentucky to replace Monson, the fans had certain expectations.  Smith did not disappoint as he led the Gophers to the Big Dance three out of the first four seasons in Minneapolis. The fan base could feel the momentum shift at the turn of the decade after some tough winters. Smith recruited a top 25 class and the athleticism of the players was very obvious on the court. But similar to the temperatures, the program dropped again after those high points over the last couple seasons. Arguments could be made that Tubby Smith’s coaching has not been up to par but several events that led to the Gopher letdown were out of his control– on and off the court. Let’s examine a couple of those factors and understand how Smith dealt with them.

Tubby Smith Has Had A Rough Time With Injuries To His Star Players


The stage was set for potential disappointment in 2010 when 6’8″ forward Royce White transferred to Iowa State. White joined other transfers such as Michigan State’s Chris Allen to play for Fred Hoiberg and the Cyclones. White is having a fantastic season – 12.9 PPG, 9.1 RPG, and 5.0 APG. In addition to White, the list of transfers includes Devoe Joseph to Oregon and Colton Iverson to Colorado State.  Joseph has Oregon sitting on the bubble for an NCAA tournament bid in a weak Pac-12 conference but his services would have certainly helped Tubby Smith’s team. He is averaging 16.3 PPG and Smith caught a fair amount of heat in 2011 when Joseph chose to leave Minnesota. Royce White’s case was a little different because of several off the court issues but nonetheless, Smith was counting on him to have a good career in Minneapolis and it fell short. Smith’s recruiting classes were very good and the performance of his ex-players shows that he knew what he was doing but for several other reasons, he couldn’t hold the team together. Is he to blame for all of the transfers? Not necessarily. Players don’t always pan out the way you expect them to, but the best you can do is bring them into the program and try to keep them away from trouble and focused on basketball.

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