Checking In On… The Big 12

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 30th, 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

  • Jayhawks Tumble In Ames: Kansas lost its first conference game, losing 74-62 to Iowa State in Ames. Kansas didn’t make many shots and sent the Cyclones to the foul line, but what will undoubtedly make Bill Self the angriest is the general lack of effort. Kansas had the second-lowest offensive rebound rate of Self’s tenure, and there were multiple times when a lone Cyclone got a loose ball despite three Jayhawks being around it. It certainly won’t be a fun couple of practices for the Jayhawks this week as they get prepped for Missouri.
  • Nash Bash: Like Kansas, Missouri was bitten by the upset bug, losing 79-72 in Stillwater. LeBryan Nash had by far the best game of his college career, pouring in 27 points on 12-18 shooting (3-4 from three), and the Cowboys held Missouri to just 4-19 shooting from distance. Missouri probably has the best offense in the country, but it is so dependent on jump shots that when they have an off night in that department, they seem to be a bit more vulnerable to an upset than the best offense in the country should be.
  • White Shows His Stripes: ESPN had a very nice story on Iowa State forward Royce White, highlighting some of the issues he has had in his life with anxiety. White had numerous criminal and other behavior issues while at Minnesota and while his anxiety should not be used as a blanket excuse, it is yet another caution that we as fans should not make our minds up about a player’s character without knowing the full story.

After Spinning His Wheels For Most Of The Season, LeBryan Nash Raised The Roof In Stillwater. (AP)

Power Rankings

  1. Kansas (17-4, 7-1): The Jayhawks remain in first in the rankings due to their loss being “better” than Missouri’s. They are just now hitting the meat of their conference schedule, with three of their next five games on the road at Missouri, Baylor, and Kansas State. Winning all three of them will all but lock up the conference title for Kansas, but if they play like they did in Ames they will be lucky to win one of them, and their streak of Big 12 titles could be over.
  2. Missouri (17-2, 4-1): The Tigers, as I mentioned above, rebounded nearly half of their misses at Baylor over the weekend and shot 68% from two, with Ricardo Ratliffe scoring 27 points on 11-14 shooting.  All season, they have struggled rebounding and at defending the two-point shot, so questions about how they will react when faced with size in the tournament are still valid, but they answered some of those questions on Saturday. Read the rest of this entry »
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ATB: Iowa State’s RTC, Syracuse’s Goaltend That Wasn’t and Robbie Hummel’s Game Winner…

Posted by rtmsf on January 30th, 2012

This Weekend’s Lede. In the season’s first non-football weekend (if you were watching the Pro Bowl, sorry, we can’t help you), we were left with a bunch of ho-hum games this weekend, but that doesn’t mean that they were unimportant. As of right now, there are approximately 60-70 teams that have a realistic shot at putting a run together the rest of the season to earn one of those elusive 37 at-large bids for the NCAA Tournament. Right now, it’s easier to find teams that don’t deserve an at-large than those that do, but that will probably change as teams separate themselves over the next six weeks. For the time being, here’s what we experienced this weekend…

Your Watercooler Moment. Iowa State RTCs Kansas.

In one of the more predictable situations of a hot team playing great basketball facing a hungry, up-and-coming team needing a statement win in its own building, Iowa State took it to Kansas in the last few minutes of their Saturday matchup, resulting in a major RTC and one of the biggest wins in recent Cyclones basketball history. The Mayor suffered an avalanche of criticism for his lack of coaching experience upon his hire two offseasons ago, but sporting a 5-3 Big 12 record and looking every bit the part of an at-large NCAA team for the first time since 2005, it now appears that it is he who will have the last laugh. The other takeaway from this game is that NPOY candidate Thomas Robinson may have met his Kryptonite, at least at the college level, in the form of ISU’s Royce White. The beastly Cyclone big man outplayed Robinson in both of their matchups this season (18/9/5 assts vs. 13/7 yesterday; 18/17/4 assts vs. 11/14/3 blks two weeks ago), and that’s not an easy task to perform. For our money we’d love to see a Round Three in March in Kansas City at the Big 12 Tournament.

Five More Weekend Storylines.

  • The Goaltend That Wasn’t. With Syracuse up two in the closing seconds of a hard-fought game with West Virginia on Saturday, the Mountaineers’ Truck Bryant fired up this wayward shot from the outside:

Read the rest of this entry »

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Morning Five: 01.27.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on January 27th, 2012

  1. We all love college basketball — otherwise, you’re not reading this sentence and we’re not writing it. But do you ever wonder how the game matches up against the rest of the major American sports in terms of its popularity? Luckily for us, the Harris Poll annually measures exactly that thing, publishing its results in Sports Business Daily.The methodology of this poll is not all that sophisticated — the one question asked of 2,237 adults was to name their favorite US sport — but if you buy what they’re selling, college hoops at 5% is roughly equal in popularity to the NBA (5%), but is far behind the sporting goliath known as the NFL (36%) and has some ground to make up on MLB (13%), college football (13%), and NASCAR (8%). Since Harris didn’t ask people to list, for example, their top five favorites in popularity, it’s not really a true approximation of the sport’s popularity, but it’s worth noting nevertheless.
  2. In this interview with Gene Wojciechowski about his new book, The Last Great Game: Duke vs. Kentucky and the 2.1 Seconds That Changed Basketball, here is his answer as to why the Elite Eight battle between the two titan programs was so epic: “Because it was Kentucky vs. Duke, Pitino vs. Krzyzewski, the soon-to-be-called Unforgettables vs. the virtually unbeatables of Duke. Because the game was played at an incredibly high level from start to finish. Because it went to overtime. Because you need a calculator to add all the great shots down the stretch and during OT. Because a Final Four was at stake. Because Kentucky was back from the near-dead and Duke was going for dynasty status.” Yep, that pretty much sums it up, with one additional caveat: David vs. Goliath — Kentucky wasn’t given a chance by anybody to win that game. Young folks, here’s your assignment: Read Wojciechowski’s book, then re-watch the game from start to finish. After that, if you can make an argument for a more compelling game in the last 35 years of college basketball, let us know.
  3. Player quote of the year? NC State got pummeled by North Carolina last night in Chapel Hill, the eleventh loss in a row for the Wolfpack to its hated rival a few miles up the road. After the game, NCSU junior Scott Wood (0-5 himself) expressed his frustration with continually losing to the Heels with a rather vivid analogy: “I don’t know. Has your wife ever cheated on you… (pause)… that’s probably how frustrated it would be.” We cannot speak from experience, but we’d imagine that Wood is suggesting a level of frustration suitable for medication. The Heels will pay NC State a return visit to Raleigh on February 21 — maybe by then Wood will have been re-educated by NC State brass to not actually speak his mind in public (although we appreciate the honesty, frankly).
  4. One of the chic picks for an upset this weekend is Iowa State hosting Kansas at Hilton Coliseum in Ames Saturday. With the Cyclones currently at 4-3 in the Big 12 race with wins at home already over Texas and Oklahoma State, it’s certainly a reasonable choice. If Iowa State manages to pull off the shocker, there’s no doubt that its big man, Royce White, will play a major role in the win. Myron Medcalf writes that the huge space-eater in the paint is dominating this season after a long layoff in large part because he’s learned to handle the anxiety that has at times caused him severe emotional problems in the past. It’s a very enlightening read, and for a player whose problems have inspired more ridicule than sympathy, perhaps provides some context to many of the negative stories surrounding this kid.
  5. It’s Friday which means that Luke Winn‘s power rankings are out for this week. A few of teaser jewels from this version: Kentucky may not be the best defensive team in the SEC, much less the nation; Missouri’s Ricardo Ratliffe is nothing if not consistent; Nike’s new uniforms are not only spacey but can elicit “super-sick dunks”; and, Vegas isn’t as smart as everybody thinks it is (well, at least when it comes to San Diego State’s travel woes). Enjoy.
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Big 12 Morning Five: 01.26.12 Edition

Posted by dnspewak on January 26th, 2012

  1. With so many statistics in college basketball, it’s hard to know what’s important these days. That’s why the good people at Basketball Prospectus are here to help us out. Corey Schmidt wrote an interesting piece about “and-ones” in the Big 12 Conference, and they apparently have been very kind to Baylor. Through January 23, only Oklahoma State had a higher and-one field goal percentage than the Bears, though that did not factor into their loss to Missouri over the weekend. It’s also fun to look at the individual numbers: Thomas Robinson, unsurprisingly, leads the league in and-one field goal percentage, followed by Quincy Miller. 
  2. With a lot of depth in the backcourt, Frank Martin has all kinds of options with his Kansas State team. That’s why he has no problem switching starting lineups. Martavious Irving, for example, has been replaced by Angel Rodriguez, but that’s hardly phased the junior guard. Irving, who says it’s an “easy process” coming off the bench, has played unselfishly in two games since losing his starting job and has earned praise from Martin for his willingness to do the little things. As a reserve, Irving says he’s “calmed down” a bit, and it seems to benefit everybody mutually.
  3. Yahoo! Sports’ Big 12 check-in this week focuses on Iowa State‘s NCAA Tournament chances, which actually appear to be in somewhat decent shape right now. The Cyclones need to earn a marquee victory, but they’ve won enough games to at least put themselves in the conversation. Fred Hoiberg has quieted the critics of his program so far this season — they said he was too inexperienced as a head coach, and that bringing in four high-major transfers would not work. He hasn’t exactly proven them wrong yet, but he’s on that track if ISU can steal a few wins over Kansas, Baylor and Missouri down the stretch.
  4. The Cyclones still suffered a disappointing loss to Texas this week, and Royce White says it’s his fault. White made just one of seven free throw attempts in a 62-55 loss, missing his last six shots from the charity stripe. At just a tad better than 53% this season, free throws are White’s biggest weakness this year. By the way, though, he actually had a double-double against UT with 15 points and 15 boards in that game. Royce, it’s hardly your fault.
  5. On the other side, the Longhorns’ star player actually did suffer through a rough night. J’Covan Brown shot 3-16 from the field, but his teammates picked him up in that seven-point win. Myck Kabongo led the team with 13 points and helped get players like Julien Lewis and Sheldon McClellan involved late in the game. Perhaps that’s a sign of a maturing team.
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Big 12 Morning Five: 01.24.12 Edition

Posted by dnspewak on January 24th, 2012

  1. Hello, USA Today: Missouri has earned some national headlines with its #2 ranking this week, the highest the program has appeared in the polls in about a decade. You are already familiar with the story, but USA Today breaks down the situation for the rest of America’s casual sports fans. After rehashing the off-season saga of Mike Anderson and Frank Haith and the injury to Laurence Bowers, it’s incredible the Tigers have taken the nation by storm like this. Now, they will need to top it off by defeating Kansas and winning the Big 12 in its final season in the league.
  2. Finishing above .500 in college basketball is not necessarily an accomplishment, especially for a Big 12 team with several guarantee games on the non-conference schedule. But Oklahoma State has still finished with a winning record for 23 seasons, and that streak is in jeopardy this year. At 9-9, Travis Ford has five freshmen and only eight scholarship players. With two transfers and a knee injury to J.P. Olukemi, it’s understandable that Ford may have a down year. With big-time recruits coming in, though, there won’t be any excuses in 2012-13.
  3. Tyrus McGee is the forgotten newcomer for Iowa State, but the league honored him by naming him Big 12 Rookie of the Week. McGee is quietly providing Iowa State a hot hand from the perimeter. The junior college transfer is shooting 46% from three and has scored 17 and 20 points in his last two respective games. Oh, and he hit a combined 11 three-pointers in those two games. Not too bad for a guy who plays in the shadows of Royce White, Scott Christopherson, and Chris Allen among others.
  4. Texas A&M wing Khris Middleton did not play last night against Kansas after suffering a knee injury over the weekend. Middleton did miss several games in non-conference play with a knee injury, but this incident does not seem all that serious. Coach Billy Kennedy says he will probably be back soon, and he certainly needs him. Middleton is by far the top offensive option on a team that has struggled to score all season.
  5. Oklahoma is probably the most interesting team in this league right now. Lon Kruger‘s team isn’t dead yet, but it needs to shore up a few things in order to become a contender. The end of the article focuses on Steven Pledger and Cameron Clark in particular. Pledger is Oklahoma’s leading scorer, as he’s having a breakout season. Teams have figured him out a bit during Big 12 play, but this writer urges Kruger to keep feeding Pledger the ball. And Clark, who’s sort of an enigma after a promising freshman season, has started coming off the bench recently. As the article mentions, “If Clark ever reaches his full potential it could take the Sooners to another level.” For Kruger, that will have to happen sooner rather than later.
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Checking In On… the Big 12 Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 23rd, 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

  • Bears Dropped At Home: Baylor’s Big 12 title hopes took a huge hit this week, losing at Kansas and at home to Missouri. Though they are just two games back of leader Kansas and play both the Jayhawks and Tigers again, their Big 12 title odds are down to just 3.8% according to teamrankings.com and some questions probably need to be asked of Scott Drew. Baylor settled for jumpers time and time again against Missouri and let the Tigers rebound nearly half of their misses; inexcusable numbers for a team with the size that Baylor has.
  • Frank Martin Hands Down Punishment: Kansas State’s big front line took a hit this past week when they suspended junior Jordan Henriquez indefinitely. Henriquez wasn’t a big offensive threat, averaging 7.1 points per game in under 20 minutes per game, but he was very good on the glass at 11.9%, which ranked third on the team, and was their best defensive rebounder as well. With the Wildcats ranking seventh in Big 12 play in defensive rebounding, Henriquez’s absence will be felt.
  • What Can Brown To For You?: Last week, I highlighted the good side of J’Covan Brown, so this week the bad: Brown helped Texas come back from an 18-point deficit against Kansas over the weekend, but proceeded to shoot them out of the game, making only four of the 18 two-point shots he took on Saturday. Myck Kabongo had a rough game and the Horns lack someone other than Brown who can create his own shot so it’s understandable that he’d shoot that much, but he did them no favors this weekend.

Kim English, Phil Pressey and Ricardo Ratliffe Brimmed With Confidence As They Toppled Baylor On Saturday. (Tony Gutierrez/AP)

Power Rankings

  1. Kansas (16-3, 6-0): On the one-year anniversary of his mother’s death, Thomas Robinson turned in a very good performance with 17 points and nine rebounds to keep the Jayhawks unbeaten in Big 12 play. After the game, he had the early frontrunner for heartbreaking quote of the year, saying: “No disrespect intended, but that’s something I have to live with every day… For the media, it’s an anniversary.” Robinson’s main focus this year has been to take care of his little sister, Jayla, and with him projected to be a high lottery pick, that certainly looks to be a goal that can be accomplished, but even if not, a scholarship fund has reached roughly $300,000 in donations from fans. Read the rest of this entry »
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Big 12 Morning Five: 01.18.12 Edition

Posted by dnspewak on January 18th, 2012

  1. Fred Hoiberg has injected new life into the Iowa State program this year as the Cyclones and Royce White in particular are starting to make headlines with their pesky play. They nearly knocked off Missouri at home, and they led Kansas at the Phog for a stretch during the second half. But don’t expect a celebration for moral victories in Ames any time soon. As Scott Christopherson puts it, “Oklahoma State does not care that we played Kansas tough at Kansas… Actually, nobody really cares.” That’s harsh, but it’s the mindset Christopherson and ISU need to have for the rest of the season. Hanging tough isn’t good enough in major Division I basketball– that’s what gets coaches fired and players scrutinized.
  2. Three Big 12 basketball players have made the Mid-Season Watch List for the Wooden Award, and none of the names will surprise you: Perry Jones (Baylor), Marcus Denmon (Missouri), and Thomas Robinson (Kansas). Overall, 25 players made the list, and the vote will not take place until March. Compared to Denmon and Jones, Robinson probably has a better shot at this national award, but all three will be in the mix for Big 12 Player of the Year and All-Conference honors.
  3. A little SEC news may have some collateral damage for the Big 12. Apparently, the SEC may be interested in using Kansas City as a possible host for the men’s basketball tournament in March. Obviously, that would conflict with the Big 12 men’s basketball tournament, which is slated to stay in the city for the time being. There’s no definitive answer on this issue right now, but it underscores a larger point: conference realignment is taking a toll on every team in every conference, and the arguments aren’t over at this point.
  4. With all of its injuries and personnel issues, it’s easy to forget about Oklahoma State. At 2-2, though, it’s not as though the Cowboys’ Big 12 season has been a disaster thus far. Yes, the 41-point loss to Baylor does not look good, but Travis Ford‘s teams have made a habit of storming back during his tenure. That’s not to say this Oklahoma State team will replicate that success, of course. Ford’s early teams had an emotional leader in Byron Eaton and a never-say-die attitude. Perhaps Keiton Page is the next candidate to lead Oklahoma State to the promised land– the NCAA Tournament– in his senior season.
  5. In desperate need of quality wins right now, Texas will travel to Kansas State in a game both teams need to win to salvage their seasons. The Longhorns are in danger of missing the NCAA Tournament for the first time in more than a decade. They will have to deal with Kansas State’s energetic home crowd, and the Wildcats cannot afford to drop another home game. At 1-3, it’s already been a rough start for Frank Martin‘s team. Things could get ugly in Manhattan if that record falls to 1-4.
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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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Checking In On… The Big 12 Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 16th, 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

  • Two Big 12 teams notched their first wins of the conference season this week with Oklahoma defeating Kansas State and Texas A&M downing Texas Tech. Andrew Fitzgerald had a season-high 21 points to key Oklahoma’s first win as the Sooners overcame a double-double from Rodney McGruder. A&M meanwhile overcame a poor day on the glass to beat Texas Tech with five players in double figures. It doesn’t get any easier for the Aggies, as they have Missouri and Kansas in their next three games.
  • The conference’s two top defenses will meet tonight in Allen Fieldhouse when unbeaten Baylor visits Kansas. The Bears are allowing 0.908 points per possession and a 44% eFG, each mark bested only by Kansas. The Jayhawks are allowing opponents only 0.839 points per trip and an eFG allowed of 38.2%. They both have been very accomplished in Big 12 play offensively as well, but I wouldn’t expect it to be a very high-scoring affair on Big Monday.
  • At roughly the halfway point, the Big 12 leader in both points per game and points per 40 minutes is Texas junior J’Covan Brown. Brown is scoring 19 points per game and 22.9 points per 40 minutes. Brown has grown into and embraced his role as a scorer, going from playing in 53% Texas’s minutes last year to over 80% this year, and from taking roughly a fourth of the shots available all the way up to nearly a third this season.

Monday's Showdown Pitting Perry Jones And The Bears Against Kansas In Allen Fieldhouse Could Be The Best Game Of Conference Play. (Aiken/Getty)

Power Rankings

  1. Baylor (17-0, 4-0): The Bears narrowly avoided their first loss of the year by surviving 75-73 at Kansas State. Lest you wonder about them getting caught looking ahead to the showdown with the Jayhawks on Monday, they thumped Oklahoma State 106-75 over the weekend. While NBA scouts must be drooling about seeing Perry Jones match-up with Thomas Robinson, I’m more interested in the guards: Pierre Jackson has gotten a lot of ink lately for his stellar play (and it’s warranted, as he’s shooting 49% from three and has the 24th-best assist rate in the country), but he’ll have to go up against some good defensive guards for the Jayhawks, and with Jackson turning it over at a rate of 30% that could provide some easy buckets for the Jayhawks.
  2. Kansas (14-3, 4-0): The Jayhawks trailed nearly all game on Saturday against Iowa State (looking ahead to the Baylor game perhaps?) before finally pulling away at the end to win 82-73. Tyshawn Taylor had a career-high 28 points, and chipped in six assists and four steals. After the game, Iowa State’s Chris Allen was none too complimentary, remarking “I honestly can say that we did what we had to do to win,” Allen said. “I don’t want to make any excuses, but you watched the game like we all watched the game. It’s our fault we let the refs keep them in the game and had a couple of (bad) calls that kind of made us sink down a little bit.” Not that this is the be all end-all method of determining referee favoritism, but the Cyclones actually attempted one more free throw than the Jayhawks, and that was even with the intentional fouling at the end as Iowa State tried to play catch-up late. Read the rest of this entry »
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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.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Big 12 Alley-Oops and Airballs: Week Nine

Posted by cwilliams on January 13th, 2012

Big 12 Alley-Oops and Airballs is a weekly article examining what’s hot and what’s not in Big 12 basketball.

Another week of Big 12 college hoops is in the books, and the contenders are separating themselves in the standings from the pretenders. Still, there are a few middle-dwellers that I cannot figure out. Iowa State has a great coach, a star player, and a winning conference record. However, they lack a marquee win, and have still not shown they can defeat a better team. J’Covan Brown continues to lead Texas to an impressive record, but is relied upon too heavily. The youngsters in burnt orange need to mature, and fast, if they want to make a run at the conference crown.

Royce White Enjoying the Hilton Magic. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

Alley-Oops

  • Kansas: The Jayhawks are hot, and getting hotter. Kansas recently cracked the Top 10, and judging by their schedule, Kansas might not leave it the rest of the season. They are undefeated in conference play, Thomas Robinson is playing some of the nation’s best basketball, and even Tyshawn Taylor has found a way to reduce his amount of turnovers in recent games.
  • Frank Martin: While it’s easy to argue Frank Martin’s placement in this category due to the Wildcats 1-2 record in conference play, Martin might be doing his best coaching job yet this season. After a frustrating loss to Kansas, Martin fired up his boys and executed a perfect game plan against Missouri, handing the Tigers their first loss. Three days later, Kansas State continued their brutal conference start by hosting Baylor. Martin and the Wildcats gave the Bears their toughest test of the season, and narrowly lost by two. There’s no such thing as a good loss, but the way Kansas State played against the undefeated Bears, there was a lot of good to take from the game.
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Set Your TiVo: 01.11.12

Posted by EJacoby on January 11th, 2012

Evan Jacoby is an RTC columnist and contributor. You can find him @evanjacoby on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

Will the number one team in the land survive a rivalry road test? Can Missouri bounce back from its recent beatdown to win an away game? Here’s what to expect from two Top 10 teams in tough spots tonight:

#1 Syracuse at Villanova – 7:00 PM ET on ESPN2 (***)

Can Villanova Save Its Season Tonight by Beating #1 Syracuse? (AP Photo)

  • Undefeated Syracuse comes into this game playing as well as any team in the country, but their toughest away games of the season have been at NC State and Providence, so they’re not exactly road tested. The Orange will certainly have the advantage in this one, as their 2-3 zone defense has been incredibly effective this season at forcing turnovers and limiting paint opportunities. Nova’s a team that struggles in these two areas to begin with, and also a team that fires up a lot of threes (over 20 per game) at a low conversion rate (30%, ranked in the bottom 50 nationally). If Syracuse simply executes defensively and forces the Wildcats into a three-point barrage, they’ll have a huge advantage. Jim Boeheim’s team will come at Villanova with their deep array of weapons, where Kris Joseph (14.1 PPG) and Dion Waiters (12.5 PPG) should have opportunities to score in transition and on the wings against Villanova’s poor perimeter defense.
  • Villanova is in the midst of a year to forget, but they can change the outlook of the entire season with a win tonight. The Wildcats are dying for a victory of this caliber, and fans must be fired up in Philadelphia’s Wells Fargo Center for this rivalry home game against the number one team in the land. If the Wildcats are going to have a chance to win, they need to stop chucking up threes, especially in this game against a zone defense that will encourage them to shoot from the outside. Maalik Wayns and Dominic Cheek each attempt over four three-pointers per game and both are shooting under 30% from deep! Instead, these talented guards need to play off of each other. Wayns (17.4 PPG, 4.75 APG) is one of the quickest guards in America and can penetrate the teeth of a zone defense, and from there he must make good decisions and find teammates moving amongst the trees for good shot opportunities. Jay Wright’s team also must stay out of foul trouble and defend the perimeter if they want to have a chance.
  • This seems like an uneven matchup on paper, but it could be a serious trap game for Syracuse. They haven’t yet played a good conference team on the road, and Villanova is a rival who will be fired up for this one. If Nova can find early success against the Syracuse zone, then they could have a chance in this one.
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