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 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 Kansas-Missouri 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

Transfers

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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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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Checking In On… the Big 12 Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on February 13th, 2012

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

Reader’s Take

 

The Week That Was

  • Baylor Drops From Contention: The Big 12 separated at the top this week as Baylor lost both to Kansas and Missouri. Perry Jones III, who is talked about as a probable lottery pick next June, disappeared this week, scoring five points on 1-8 shooting against Kansas and four points on 2-12 shooting against Missouri. Jones, like the rest of his teammates, has a ton of talent, but doesn’t appear to have the toughness necessary to compete at the highest level.
  • A Third Weapon for Kansas: When the weekly conference awards are announced, Jeff Withey may be the fourth different Kansas player to be named Big 12 Player of the Week this season. Withey had a career-high 25 points against Baylor on Wednesday and followed it up with a great game against Oklahoma State, with 18 points, 20 rebounds, and seven blocks in Lawrence on Saturday. Everyone knows what Thomas Robinson has done, and Tyshawn Taylor’s putting up solid lines lately, but Withey’s emergence gives Kansas maybe the best post combo in the country.
  • Red Raiders Hit The Win Column: The Red Raiders, who were 0-11 in conference play going into the weekend, got an early Valentine’s Day present, beating Oklahoma 65-47 at home. Javarez Willis scored 21 points and Robert Lewandowski had 16, but it was the Red Raiders’ defense that stole the show: Texas Tech held Oklahoma to just 0.73 points per possession and forced them to turn it over on a quarter of their possessions.

Kansas' Jeff Withey Builds A Case For Most Improved Player. (AP)

Power Rankings

  1. Missouri (23-2, 10-2): Missouri survived a scare on Monday when Oklahoma guard Steven Pledger’s three at the buzzer rimmed out (it didn’t stop him from celebrating a bit early, though). They’ll get the opportunity to avenge one of their conference losses this week when Oklahoma State comes to town. I’m assuming they’ll shoot a bit better than 48% from two and 21% from three in that one.
  2. Kansas (18-5, 8-2): It was a tale of two halves on Saturday, as Kansas completely destroyed Oklahoma State in the first half, jumping out to a 51-24 lead after 20 minutes. But they came out lethargic in the second and struggled with Oklahoma State’s press, turning it over regularly and getting outscored by 12. Kansas used its size advantage well that day, grabbing over half of its misses and limiting Oklahoma State to just a 13.2% offensive rebounding rate. The one negative for Kansas as of late has been their inability to take care of the ball: their turnover rate is sixth in the Big 12. Read the rest of this entry »
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Checking In On… the Big 12 Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on February 6th, 2012

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

Reader’s Take

 

The Week That Was

  • Fever Pitch, Columbia: The game of the year so far in the league ended with Missouri beating its archrival Kansas. The game was unfortunately marred by a questionable late charge call against Thomas Robinson as well as a 20-10 foul disparity favoring the home team, which has taken subsequent discussion away from the fantastic basketball that was played. Marcus Denmon had 29 points, shooting 6-9 from three, and Robinson had 25 points and 13 rebounds as each team showed why they’re among the best in the country. This might be the last meeting between the two schools in Missouri with the Tigers now moving to the SEC. Some fans of both schools want to see the rivalry saved, but, in basketball at least, it doesn’t make much financial or competitive sense for Kansas to play Missouri. Another sad consequence of conference realignment greed, but perhaps talks will revitalize after heads cool.

Missouri Turned Up The Volume For The Gameday Crew. (Rich Sugg/Kansas City Star)

  • Bears Try To Keep Pace: By holding serve, Baylor has crept back into the discussion, and the Bears are tied for the conference lead at 8-2 (there’s no head-to-head tiebreaker in the standings). They won by a total of seven points last week over Oklahoma State and Texas A&M so they certainly haven’t been impressive, but both wins came on the road and any road win is a good win. They still host Kansas and play at Missouri, so they are in control of their own destiny in the Big 12 race.
  • Jury Still Out On Haith: Ken Pomeroy wrote an interesting post last week regarding Frank Haith’s deployment of a zone defense in the final possession against Texas. Haith has gotten a lot of Coach of the Year support, but I think it is a bit overblown. As Pomeroy notes, if Texas had scored on the final possession, people would be killing Haith for deviating from the norm. Also, it was his attempt to kill the clock starting with over four minutes left that let the Longhorns back in it in the first place. Also, though Texas looked a bit confused, Rick Barnes still had a timeout left and somehow chose not to use it. Perhaps he thought he would get six in the next game. Haith has done a good job not upsetting things in Missouri to be sure, but remember that Bruce Weber went to a national championship game in his second season at Illinois.

Power Rankings

  1. Missouri (21-2, 8-2): Marcus Denmon broke out of his slump in a big way on Saturday. The senior came into the contest against Kansas shooting under 30% from three in Big 12 play, but he hit six of his nine shots from deep en route to a game-high 29 points. The 6’3” guard also led the team with nine rebounds and has established himself as one of the best rebounding guards in the country. Read the rest of this entry »
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Big 12 Morning Five: 02.06.12 Edition

Posted by dnspewak on February 6th, 2012

  1. In the aftermath of Missouri‘s victory over Kansas on Saturday, The Sporting News helps keep the win in perspective. Yes, the Tigers could not afford to lose the final home game against the Jayhawks with the series ending after 2011-12, and they could not afford to slip in the Big 12 standings. By all accounts, it was a monumental win. But it’s also a long season, something Bill Self knows very well. “I’m leaving here disappointed we lost, but I’m leaving here knowing we’ve got a good team.” On the Missouri side, Kim English tried not to oversell the win either: “Just a game we needed to win to continue our quest to win the Big 12.” The storylines are now all set for the February 25 rematch, a game that actually could define the season for both programs.
  2. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch had a different take on MU’s win, as Bryan Burwell accurately captured the drama and hype of the whole weekend. It’s interesting to note here that Hubert Davis, no stranger to raucous crowds after his career at North Carolina, said the atmosphere was as charged as any he’d ever experienced. That’s high praise for MU. But we also think Davis would say the same thing if he attends the Border War rematch in three weeks.
  3. After a midseason surge, Oklahoma has now fallen back to earth. The Sooners have lost four of five games, but there’s a formula to get Lon Kruger’s team back on track. A couple of things stand out here. First, the writer has advocated for Cameron Clark as a permanent bench player, an issue we’ve written extensively about this year. Also, he says the Sooners should use more zone to hide their lack of depth and utilize Romero Osby better offensively. Perhaps the most interesting part of the article is the idea that Carl Blair should handle the ball more in order to give starting point guard Sam Grooms a break. Ballhandling may be OU’s biggest concern, so maybe Kruger will heed this advice. Or not. Either way, he knows what he’s doing — we’re sure of that.
  4. Missouri and Kansas aren’t the only rivals ending their series after the season. Texas and Texas A&M are experiencing the same thing with the Aggies leaving for the SEC, and one writer took a look back at the most memorable games of the last 30 years. You’ll surely remember some of the games included from the past decade, especially the 2006 and 2007 matchups. In the first of those two, ice-in-the-veins point guard Acie Law made a buzzer-beater, and in the rematch the next season, Kevin Durant overcame Law’s heroics in an overtime win. Enough of this nostalgia. Play each other, people!
  5. Royce White’s terrific season has earned him some national buzz, meaning he’s now showing up on the NBA’s radar. According to Jalen Rose, though, White should stay in school. Rose said the forward would be a Player of the Year candidate next season, and it’s hard to disagree with him. White’s rise to the top has been amazing — and fast. We knew he could play when he attended Minnesota as a blue-chip recruit, but nobody could have envisioned the kind of production he’s putting up as a Cyclone this season.
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Night Line: Royce White’s Special Season Carrying Cyclones

Posted by EJacoby on February 1st, 2012

Evan Jacoby is an RTC correspondent and regular contributor. You can find him @evanjacoby on Twitter. Night Line will run on weeknights during the season, highlighting a major storyline development from that day’s slate of games.

In search of their first NCAA Tournament bid since 2005, Iowa State is doing exactly what they need to do to make a statement to the selection committee. On Tuesday night, the Cyclones withstood a valiant effort from visiting Kansas State to come away with a 72-70 win, just four days after knocking off No. 4 Kansas in the same building. Royce White’s game-winning jumper completed a massive second-half comeback and has given Iowa State a two-game cushion in fourth place in the Big 12 as well as a spot on the right side of the bubble for now. Fred Hoiberg’s team is now 16-6 overall, 6-3 in conference, and has one of the best all-around forwards in the entire country. White has been an efficient machine all season long, and he’s now doing it against top competition and in clutch moments. Given how he and his team are playing, it’s going to be tough to keep Iowa State out of the NCAA Tournament.

Royce White is Giving Iowa State Fans Reason to Celebrate (AP Photo/ J. Hayworth)

Royce White was a top 30 recruit two seasons ago and never played for Minnesota before deciding to transfer. After sitting out last season, the sophomore forward has been a dominant force in his first season in Ames, and doing so in a non-traditional manner. Before Tuesday, White was averaging just 13.6 points per game (still a team-high), but he was also the team leader in rebounds (9.6 RPG), assists (4.5 APG), steals (1.1 SPG), blocks (1.1 BPG) and field-goal percentage (53.6%). His all-around game is reminiscent of the kind of production that Draymond Green puts forth for Michigan State, yet White has seemed to get less recognition throughout the season. With another huge night on Tuesday, which included the game-winning basket with two seconds to play, that should no longer be the case.

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Big 12 Morning Five: 02.01.12 Edition

Posted by dnspewak on February 1st, 2012

  1. It’s been awhile since we’ve touched on realignment talk, and that’s probably a good thing. During the offseason, it dominated college basketball discussions and seemed to drive us all nuts. After a few months off, though, the topic is back at the forefront. Big 12 officials recently met to discuss the future, and CBS’s Brett McMurphy laid out the possibilities in his latest column. It’s interesting to consider a few of the candidates, including BYU, which has already has shifted from the Mountain West to the West Coast Conference/football independent. There’s also talk of Louisville joining forces with the Big 12… or, it’s possible the league could stay at 10 institutions. Whatever happens, you’ll probably hear these rumors heating up again this summer.
  2. In other boring institutional news, the Big 12 is still searching for a commissioner to replace Dan Beebe. According to CBS, there are at least four candidates in the running for the position. None are household names, but one person caught our eye: Jack Swarbrick. The name shouldn’t sound familiar, but his affiliation should — he’s currently the athletic director at Notre Dame. That program, of course, has been involved in several Big 12 rumors in the past several months. Does this mean anything? Probably not. But it’s something to think about.
  3. It’s only a matter of time before Royce White becomes nationally acclaimed for his breakout season at Iowa State. Especially after his team’s win over Kansas, the Cyclones are starting to make a name for their program under Fred Hoiberg. White’s the big man on campus right now, and he’s just trying to deal with the pressure as it builds. ISU hasn’t made the NCAA Tournament since 2005, so it’s up to White and his crew to change the culture this year in Ames — for good.
  4. On the other hand, Bill Self has never had to change the winning culture at Kansas. He has continued the program’s storied tradition ever since he arrived in Lawrence, and even in a supposed “down year,” he’s got the Jayhawks right in the thick of the Big 12 race. It’s not as though KU’s success this season has surprised us, though. Forget the fact that even Self had concerns about this team heading into the season. It was obvious that Thomas Robinson would shine with more playing time, and it was pretty obvious that the Jayhawks wouldn’t miss a beat. Now, they’ve got to knock off Missouri on Saturday to really show the league who’s in charge.
  5. Depending on your athletic experience, you may have had to add weight or gain muscle mass at some point in your life. It’s a fun idea — to eat anything and everything in front of you– but it’s also a very difficult reality. Michael Cobbins is trying to accomplish that goal right now for Oklahoma State, and he’s totally committed. As in six protein shakes-a-day committed. Since redshirting last season, he says he’s gained 30 pounds. It appears to be helping. His improvement this year is drawing rave reviews from coach Travis Ford, who says he “can’t say enough good things about Mike.”
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