Big 12 Season Wrap: the Highs, the Lows, All the In-Betweens

Posted by dnspewak on April 15th, 2013

In a big-picture sense, the Big 12 provided us with no surprises this season. Kansas won the league again, TCU finished in last place, five teams made the NCAA Tournament, and all was right with the world. It wouldn’t have taken Nostradamus to make those predictions. That doesn’t mean it wasn’t an interesting six months, however. There were flops–most notably from the state of Texas. There were overachievers–most notably from the state of Oklahoma. There were thrilling finishes, blown calls, standout freshmen and that one time Kansas somehow lost to TCU. Oh, and one team even won a championship this season in, well, the wrong tournament.

Game of  the Year: Kansas 68, Oklahoma State 67 (February 20)

This showdown in Stillwater was simultaneously the best and worst game of the Big 12 season. How’s that for logic? After the Cowboys stunned Kansas at Allen Fieldhouse earlier in the winter and literally celebrated by doing back flips on the court, this revenge game took on even more importance in the league standings. Had Oklahoma State won, it would have seized the proverbial driver’s seat along with Kansas State and would have made the Jayhawks’ path to the regular season title very difficult. We had drama. We had overtime. Two, actually. And we had a game-winner in the final minute of regulation by Naadir Tharpe, who shook off a rusty performance to hit the go-ahead jumper with 16 seconds to play. Instant classic, right? Certainly. The problem was, it was perhaps the ugliest game ever played by two top-15 opponents on the same floor. Kansas did not make a field goal in the first overtime and it did not make a field goal in the second overtime until Tharpe’s game-winner. That’s almost 10 minutes of basketball without a basket. In overtime! Overall, the two teams combined to shoot five for 32 from beyond the arc. Ben McLemore played 49 minutes, missed nine of 12 shot attempts and finished with seven points after barely touching the ball in the overtime periods. And that’s the best game of the year? We still stand by our decision. This was the game that changed the complexity of the Big 12 title race, and two free periods of basketball is never a bad thing.

Bill Self Won Another Big 12 Title (Photo credit: AP Photo).

Bill Self Won Another Big 12 Title (Photo credit: AP Photo).

Honorable Mentions:

  • Kansas 108, Iowa State 96 (February 25): Asterisk on this one. Kansas beat Iowa State in Ames — where the Cyclones hadn’t lost in more than a year — but it needed a blown call at the end of regulation to get the opportunity. You remember the situation. Elijah Johnson‘s charging toward the basket with five seconds left in the game, his team trailing by two points. Georges Niang sets his feet and takes what appears to be a pretty standard charge. But there’s no call, the ball bounces on the floor and the officials eventually blow the whistle on Niang during a scramble. That allows Kansas to tie the game and win in overtime behind Elijah Johnson’s epic 39-point performance. The Big 12 would later admit its referees should have called a charge, but that’s a moot point right now. It’s a shame we’ll remember this game as the No-Call Game as opposed to the Elijah Johnson Game.
  • Oklahoma State 74, Baylor 72 (March 14): The Bears needed a victory in this Big 12 quarterfinal to give themselves a chance for an at-large bid in the NCAA Tournament. Then they fell behind by 20 points. Dead in the water. Except Pierre Jackson started raining jumpers and floaters all over the place, and Baylor inexplicably tied the game in the final minute of regulation. But the officials made a controversial foul call (that’s a trend this year, across all conferences) and sent Phil Forte to the line, where he made both. That’s an exciting finish in and of itself. But it got even better: Nobody’s quite sure how it happened, but with just seconds left on a desperation, mad-dash possession, Jackson dribbled straight through two Oklahoma State defenders and found himself absolutely, completely wide open from three-point land. He had a chance to win at the buzzer. No hands contesting him, no defender in sight. He missed. That sent the Bears to the NIT, and at least they won that tournament. But Jackson’s failed buzzer-beater signaled the end of Baylor’s tourney chances, and it was another dark moment during an underachieving season.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Big 12 M5: 02.28.13 Edition

Posted by KoryCarpenter on February 28th, 2013

morning5_big12

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

Biggest Win For Oklahoma Basketball Since… Who Knows?

Posted by dnspewak on January 31st, 2013

Oklahoma nearly blew a 16-point lead on Wednesday night. It turned the ball over 17 times and was outrebounded by 14. Not an absolutely vintage performance against a Baylor team fighting its own issues, but good enough for a 74-71 road victory against one of the league’s better teams. The win solidifies the Sooners’ NCAA Tournament resume and, in most cases, would deserve a pat on the back or modest praise. You know, things like… Nice win. Way to go. Keep up the good work.

Not for this program. For a moment, think back to Jeff Capel’s disastrous break-up with Oklahoma. Think back to the Tiny Gallon accusations of improper benefits, the two straight losing seasons in the post-Blake Griffin era and the overall embarrassment of a once-proud fan base. Consider all of that, and then come back to reality and realize that Oklahoma just won its most important game in years on Wednesday night. Writers like us are often guilty of hyperbole and sensationalism, but Lon Kruger put the Sooners back on the college basketball map tonight. Forget that Baylor wasn’t even ranked, and that nobody’s ever referred to the Ferrell Center in Waco as Cameron Indoor West. It was still Oklahoma’s first true quality victory this season, save for perhaps Oklahoma State earlier this month. It was an example of what this team can do when Wyoming transfer Amath M’Baye is on his game. He scored 20 points tonight, and Steven Pledger broke out in a big way with 20 more of his own. Freshman Buddy Hield played such a terrific basketball game in the backcourt that Kruger didn’t even need our man Sam Grooms (who we’ve so generously supported this season and will continue to do so). There was sharing of the basketball. A 53 percent clip from the field as a team. And a couple of veteran plays by two freshmen — Hield and Je’lon Hornbeak — at the end of the game to seal the win and hold off the Bears.

Remember Blake Griffin? Wednesday Night Might Be OU's Best Win Since He Was There

Remember Blake Griffin? Wednesday Night Might Be OU’s Best Win Since He Was There

Speaking in terms of simply RPI, it is Oklahoma’s best win since February 6, 2010 against Texas, a season in which the Sooners finished with a losing record. For our purposes, let’s call this the biggest win in Oklahoma basketball history since March 27, 2009, when Blake Griffin and his boys smacked around Syracuse in the Sweet Sixteen. It’s been a long four years since that day. Finally, the Sooners are back on track, though it’ll take awhile longer for Kruger to restore that sort of glory. Griffin had a double-double for the Los Angeles Clippers in a victory over Minnesota on Wednesday night, by the way. You could still argue Oklahoma had a better night.

Share this story

Oklahoma A Perfect Example Of How To Schedule Advantageously

Posted by dnspewak on January 15th, 2013

Joe Lunardi released his latest Bracketology rankings this morning, and there’s a surprise team from the Big 12 in the field as a nine-seed: Oklahoma. After complete irrelevance since Blake Griffin jumped to the pros four years ago, Lon Kruger’s team picked up an important Bedlam victory at home over Oklahoma State this weekend and now firmly has itself in the NCAA Tournament conversation. And why not? The Sooners defend pretty well, they’re obviously well-coached, and they have a good mix of young guards to team with veterans Sam Grooms and Steven Pledger. Leading scorer Romero Osby has been a steady senior, Wyoming transfer Amath M’Baye has helped, and Kruger has much more depth and athleticism than a year ago. There’s a lot to like, but despite this weekend’s victory, there’s still a lot to question, too. Oklahoma was embarrassed by Gonzaga in Orlando during the Old Spice Classic. It also lost at Arkansas, dropped a home game to Stephen F. Austin, and did not have a quality victory over a projected NCAA Tournament team until knocking off the Cowboys. You can count Texas A&M as a decent victory after Elston Turner and the Aggies dismantled Kentucky at Rupp Arena, but the Wildcats have their obvious problems and Lunardi does not have A&M in the field at this point.

Oklahoma's Scheduling Has it In Good Position

Oklahoma’s Scheduling Has it In Good Position

Bottom line is, Oklahoma’s resume isn’t staggering. Strangely, though, not only are the Sooners included in the NCAA Tournament field, but they’re actually quite safe as a projected nine seed. There’s a simple explanation for all of this: the RPI! Oklahoma is a top-15 team in the RPI right now and top-10 in strength of schedule, which is downright stunning considering the competition level hasn’t seemed all that demanding to this point. This team doesn’t have many quality wins, it has really only played one elite team in Gonzaga, and it scheduled four teams from the Southland Conference during non-conference play. Makes you wonder whether somebody did the math wrong.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Lon Kruger Listened to Us, and Sam Grooms Helped OU Win

Posted by dnspewak on January 13th, 2013

Lon Kruger doesn’t need our basketball advice. The man was a two-time Big Eight Player of the Year at Kansas State in the early ’70s, and as a head coach, he’s won more than 500 games and reached a Final Four in 1994 with Florida. Oh, the dude coached the Atlanta Hawks once, too. Point is, Kruger knows what the heck he’s doing, and we’re guessing he doesn’t develop his scouting reports and pre-game preparations based on advice from idiots like myself.

So no, I don’t think he read my article published this Monday, in which I pleaded with the Oklahoma head coach to give senior point guard Sam Grooms more minutes. I wrote that article earlier this week because I could not offer any plausible reason for why Kruger had played Buddy Hield, Je’lon Hornbeak and Isaiah Cousins — three freshmen guards — ahead of the Big 12’s leading returning assists man. Here’s a guy with an absurd assist-to-turnover ratio, no defensive liabilities and no reason to be in the doghouse, and yet Kruger opted to cut Grooms’ minutes in half from a year ago and replace him in the starting lineup through the first 13 games of the season. The Sooners weren’t playing poorly, but I didn’t see any significant improvement overall from a year ago. Scratch head and repeat. What in the world was Sam Grooms doing on the bench?

Lon Kruger Gave Sam Grooms The Most Playing Time He'd Seen All Year (Las Vegas Review)

Lon Kruger Gave Sam Grooms The Most Playing Time He’d Seen All Year (Las Vegas Review)

For the 14th time this season, Grooms sat on the bench to start the game Saturday in another edition of the Bedlam series. Oklahoma threw the first punch against rival Oklahoma State at home by knocking down perimeter jumpers and keeping the Cowboys’ high-flying wings out of the paint. With Grooms playing reserve duty, the Sooners opened up a 32-18 lead. Who needs Grooms now? Hield was playing terrific basketball in his first Bedlam game, and OU’s offense seemed to be clicking even without Grooms. Suddenly, though, the shots weren’t falling anymore. The Cowboys began to attack the rim and get to the free throw line, and that 14-point lead had turned into a 50-45 lead with 11:50 remaining in regulation.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Why it’s a Travesty OU’s Sam Grooms Isn’t Seeing More Time

Posted by dnspewak on January 7th, 2013

When the Big 12 released its 2011-12 All-Conference teams last March, it included a who’s who of elite, nationally-recognized point guards. Tyshawn Taylor of the national runner-up Kansas Jayhawks made the first team. The dynamic Pierre Jackson of Baylor made the second team. Missouri’s Phil Pressey, the league’s leader in assists, made the third team, star Texas freshman Myck Kabongo earned an honorable mention, and the voters even named MU’s Michael Dixon the Sixth Man of the Year.

Why Has Grooms' Time Decreased This Season?

Why Has Grooms’ Time Decreased This Season?

Sam Grooms did not make that list. At all. Not even an honorable mention for the Oklahoma point guard. And when the 2012-13 preseason awards came out this fall, he didn’t make that list, either. Jackson and Kabongo did, but the Big 12’s returning leader in assists was nowhere to be found. Entering this season, it seemed perplexing how much people ignored Grooms and discarded him as a second-rate point guard in this league. Other than Pressey, who moved on to the SEC and was named that league’s preseason Player of the Year, no player in the Big 12 averaged more assists than Grooms a year ago when he dropped six dimes per game. His assist-to-turnover ratio was a stunning 3:1. When Big 12 play heated up, the junior college transfer emerged as a true floor general in spite of his team’s inability to win a basketball game. The statistics tell the entire story. In a five-game stretch last February against the likes of Kansas, Iowa State, Missouri, Texas Tech and Texas, he dished out 43 assists against 11 turnovers and even notched a career-high 17 points against the Tigers. Lon Kruger told a local newspaper Grooms was doing a “terrific job.” Even though Oklahoma’s season ended with a thud with a loss in the opening round of the Big 12 Tournament, it was clear Grooms had nothing to do with the Sooners’ slide. On the contrary: He was the bright spot on a 15-16 team. His command for the point guard position and feel for the game was all so promising as Kruger attempted to build for the future. Nobody knew much about Grooms, but we did. I even named him the eighth-best player in the entire conference as he entered his senior year.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Big 12 Power Rankings: Week Five

Posted by KoryCarpenter on December 10th, 2012

Kansas State jumps into the third spot in this week’s ranking and the top three teams remain at one loss for the year. Texas continues its free fall without Myck Kabongo, the middle of the pack teams played like middle of the pack teams this week, and Texas Tech and TCU are still looking up at the rest of the Big 12 from a deep, deep hole.

1) Kansas (7-1, 0-0)
Previous Ranking: 1

Last Week:  W 90-54 vs. Colorado

This Week: Saturday vs. Belmont, 6:00 PM CST

Bill Self’s Jayhawks are Atop the Big 12 Power Rankings for the Second Straight Week. (AP)

  • Rundown: The loss to Michigan State is getting further into the rear view as the Jayhawks have now won six in a row. They struggled 10 days ago against Oregon State but a week of practice seemed to help, and they ran Colorado out of the gym Saturday in Allen Fieldhouse. Finals are over this week, and these next few weeks of winter break are usually when Bill Self implements most of his offense and prepares his teams for their annual Big 12 title runs.
  • They Could Use Help From: Freshman F Perry Ellis: Ellis is averaging 5.9 PPG and 3.6 RPG. He’s only a true freshman and expectations aren’t high this season, but another reliable scorer next to Jeff Withey would be a boost for a Kansas offense that has struggled at times.

2) Oklahoma State (7-1, 0-0)
Previous Ranking: 2

Last Week: W 61-49 vs. South Florida, W 62-42 vs. Missouri State

This Week: Sunday vs. Central Arkansas, 3:00 PM

  • Rundown: Oklahoma State rebounded from its loss to Virginia Tech to beat South Florida and Missouri State last week, but the loss to the Hokies is a bit of a head-scratcher. Junior guard Markel Brown continues to impress, though, averaging 14.0 PPG and 4.9 RPG. The Cowboys should clean up with their next three games: Central Arkansas, Texas-San Antonio, and Tennessee Tech.
  • They Could Use Help From: Senior G Jean-Paul Olukemi: With the additions of Le’Bryan Nash and Marcus Smart the last two seasons, it’s not shocking that Olukemi’s offensive numbers have dipped. But he’s capable of scoring at a better clip, and the Cowboy offense (158th in the country with 69.4 PPG) could certainly benefit from.
Share this story

Big 12 Team Preview #8: Oklahoma Sooners

Posted by KoryCarpenter on November 2nd, 2012

Over the next two weeks, we’ll bring you the obligatory team preview here at the Big 12 microsite. Oklahoma at the #8 position is next on our list.

The Skinny

  • 2011-12 record: 15-16, 5-13 Big 12
  • Key Contributors Lost: None
  • Head Coach: Lon Kruger
  • Projected Finish: 8th

Lon Kruger Enters His Second Season With the Sooners (Photo by ISportsWeb)

Every school in the country is one hire away from success or mediocrity. Take Kentucky’s handoff from Tubby Smith to Billy Gillispie to John Calipari, for example. So when Oklahoma fired Jeff Capel in 2011, two years after guiding the Sooners to the Elite Eight but failing to survive a tumultuous 2010-11 season, no one could really tell where the basketball program was headed. They had been to three Elite Eights since the turn of the century but it was nothing that could protect them from the wrath of a potentially bad hire. But in came Lon Kruger, the career journeyman who has coached in the Mountain West, Big 12, Big Ten, SEC, and the NBA. He took Florida to the 1994 Final Four and will surpass the 500-win mark this season. Last season in year one in Norman, the Sooners went 10-2 in the non-conference season thanks to a slate against teams like Idaho State and Santa Clara but struggled in the Big 12, finishing eighth and missing the postseason for the third straight year. There were a few bright spots between all the losses, though, like the 13-point victory over in-state rival Oklahoma State or the season sweep of Kansas State, an NCAA Tournament team. Luckily for the Sooners, they’re in a considerably better spot this season than Texas Tech and TCU, four should-be wins in the conference. Here’s why: Kruger returns every major contributor off last season’s team. Experience matters — just look at Missouri’s regular season last year. That experience could have a big effect on the program going forward as well. With four seniors in the starting lineup, an impressive season could boost Kruger’s recruiting going forward, which was so-so this year.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Big 12 M5: 11.02.12 Edition

Posted by dnspewak on November 2nd, 2012

  1. There’s nothing necessarily new on the Myck Kabongo front, but Texas coach Rick Barnes gave a solid  and obligatory “no comment” to the media on Thursday. The NCAA is still investigating the possibility of improper conduct with an agent and his loss would obviously cripple the Longhorns. Barnes may have essentially said nothing about Kabongo’s situation and eligibility — “we won’t even discuss it,” he said — but we all know he’s feeling the pressure here. If Kabongo can’t play, freshman Javan Felix is next in line, but that’s a nightmare scenario. This team already must remake itself without last year’s star, J’Covan Brown, and remember, Barnes also has a roster filled with exactly zero scholarship upperclassmen. This team is built around Kabongo, and it is critical he suits up this season.
  2. We’re not always huge fans of slideshows, but this list of the top 10 players in the Big 12 is good for a little preseason discussion. It differs slightly from our rankings, which we released more or less as a joke in October. Our lists share eight of 10 players, though, disagreeing only on Ben McLemore and Steven Pledger, who both still finished in the top-15 of our rankings. It’s interesting that their list considers Pledger the top player on Oklahoma, though. Sure, he’s the leading scorer and a fine shooting guard, but Sam Grooms averaged 6.0 assists per game, for pete’s sake — he’s the leading returning assists man in the conference. What’s a guy gotta do to get some love around here?
  3. Goodness gracious. It’s another Marcus Smart article. This time, however, it’s absolutely worth your time. Oklahoma State coach Travis Ford praised Smart’s maturity for the 800th time this preseason, but this piece goes a little more in-depth into Smart’s life story. It discusses his family life, his personal tragedy, and his relationship with best friend and current OSU teammate Phil Forte. As solid a job as YahooSports‘ Jeff Eisenberg did with this story, it hasn’t blown up on a national stage quite yet — there are only five comments at the bottom of the page, and most of them disparage Travis Ford and threaten to fire him if he doesn’t win this season. Typical.
  4. Travis Ford has other problems to worry about than the fans, though. How about the fact that he’s dealing with even more injuries? Brian Williams is out for the year, and now Michael Cobbins recently left an exhibition game with a toe injury. Plus, J.P. Olukemi and Philip Jurick aren’t playing right now. It’s not time for a widespread panic yet, of course; as Ford puts it, “Eventually, they’re all going to get out there and play, except for Brian.” Still, at the very least, it’s an annoyance for a team that cannot afford any more injuries.
  5. Uh oh, Longhorn Network: You’ve got a competitor. TexasTech.TV is coming for you, according to an announcement by the school on Thursday. Seriously, though, this is actually a sweet deal for Red Raiders fans, especially those living out-of-state. The only problem is that it costs $9.95 a month, but that’s the way the world works these days.
Share this story

The Most Ridiculous Top 100 Player Ranking You’ve Ever Seen: Big 12 Style

Posted by dnspewak on October 17th, 2012

CBS Sports made an ambitious attempt earlier this month at ranking the top 100 players in college basketball, a fun but mostly impossible task good for heated debate and preseason discussion. At the risk of seeming unoriginal, it gave us the bright idea at this microsite to attempt something similar — a top 100 list of Big 12 players, which essentially spans almost every single player on all 10 rosters. Before you proceed, please understand this list is simply for fun. It’s not intended to be taken completely seriously, but it’s supposed to offer a guideline for the talent in this league from top to bottom. Direct all complaints to Danny Spewak (@dspewak), the genius who decided to write this. I’m looking forward to the criticism. 

1.    Pierre Jackson, Baylor (PG): The preseason Big 12 Player of the Year was, inexplicably, not a unanimous choice on the all-conference team, which is almost as bizarre as his coach not starting him until Big 12 play a year ago.

2.    Jeff Withey, Kansas (C): Considered replacing Jeff Withey with FakeJeffWithey at this spot because the latter has more Twitter followers.

3.    Rodney McGruder, Kansas State (G): If he ever finds himself nostalgic for a Frank Martin tirade, at least he’ll have this to look forward to during his senior year.

4.    Myck Kabongo, Texas (PG): Had his family not chosen to mis-spell his first name, he’d probably be number one on the list.

5.    Marcus Smart, Oklahoma State (G): I’ve never seen him play, but I’ve read more than enough sappy articles about his intangibles to know he’s a Smart pick in the top five.

6.    Le’Bryan Nash, Oklahoma State (G): Travis Ford just read the past two selections and had a heart attack.

7.   Isaiah Austin, Baylor (C): Unlike the Kabongos, the Austin family spelled its son’s first name correctly, something Isiah Thomas cannot brag about.

8.   Sam Grooms, Oklahoma (PG): Averaged more assists per game than Pierre Jackson, but since he doesn’t score much, he’s obviously a bad basketball player.

 9.  Aaric Murray, West Virginia (C): It won’t get you cool points to know he’s a good player now because he doesn’t play for La Salle anymore.

10.  Will Clyburn, Iowa State (F): Everybody wants him to be Royce White, but he doesn’t have a Mohawk, so that really won’t work.

Someone Decided The Big 12 Pre-Season POY Wasn’t Good Enough to Be First Team All-Big 12.

11. Rico Gathers, Baylor (F): The mere thought of lifting weights with this guy scares me.

12.  Ben McLemore, Kansas (G): His Rivals.com profile has as many stars (4) as the IKU constellation (I had to Google that).

13.  Jordan Henriquez, Kansas State (C): Averaged about two-and-a-half blocks per game, but he should play with a handicap because of his 7’6’’ wingspan.

14.  Elijah Johnson, Kansas (G): His first name is not mis-spelled, it’s just cool.

15.  Steven Pledger, Oklahoma (G): He scores the basketball.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Big 12 Summer Update: Oklahoma Sooners

Posted by dnspewak on July 18th, 2012

In an effort to remind you that college basketball does in fact exist during the summer, Big 12 microsite writers Danny Spewak (@dspewak) and Jeremy Pfingsten (@jeremylp21) will roll out three summer updates per week during the next month. The goal is to compile every bit of news and information from the summer months for each team and package it into neat, easy-to-read capsules for your convenience. Next on the list — Danny’s update on Oklahoma. 

Oklahoma Sooners

2011-12 Record: 15-16 (5-13)

Lon Kruger isn’t used to losing. He reached a Final Four at Florida, an Elite Eight at Kansas State, and qualified for seven combined NCAA Tournaments at Illinois and UNLV. This man has been everywhere and won everywhere — well, except for that failed NBA experiment with the Atlanta Hawks — but his first season at Oklahoma did not fare so well. After making promising progress against a fairly weak non-conference slate, Kruger’s team fell flat in Big 12 play. His tactical ability and coaching expertise allowed a roster with a few decent parts to hang tough for the most part, but an eighth-place finish and a losing record will not sit well with Kruger this summer. This is not a program in turmoil anymore, though, no matter how bad the record looks from a year ago. Kruger will indoctrinate his first true recruiting class this summer to mix with the return of his entire starting lineup. His cast of newcomers include a few stud freshman and, most importantly, Wyoming transfer Amath M’Baye, who just might be the biggest story of the whole summer in Norman.

Lon Kruger Has An Impressive Track Record

Summer Orientation: The early reviews on M’Baye are already flattering. The Wyoming transfer, who started every game as a sophomore in 2010-11, is an impact newcomer in every sense of the phrase. He brings worldly experience to the Sooners, having lived in France, Senegal, California and, of course, Wyoming. But his skills are as intriguing as his background. Kruger said M’Baye polished his game considerably as he sat out in 2011-12, improving as both a ball-handler and perimeter player. He’s no longer just a 6’9” forward with a mid-range game and post skills. Now, Kruger said he’s combining that tall, lanky frame with an ability to attack off the dribble and use his elite athleticism to his advantage. His teammates have had nothing but praise for M’Baye, who averaged 12.0 points per game as a sophomore, since he arrived on campus last year. Andrew Fitzgerald called him “very athletic and really competitive” while practicing against him last year, and says he “could be one of the best players in the Big 12.” It is easy to overrate Division I transfers, but M’Baye appears to add a new element to Oklahoma because of his unique versatility as an inside-outside type swingman.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

The Final Game: How a Star and a Walk-On Finished Their Careers in Kansas City

Posted by dnspewak on March 28th, 2012

Danny Spewak is a Big 12 Microsite writer. He wrote this piece after covering the first two days of the Big 12 Tournament in Kansas City.  You can follow him on Twitter @dspewak.

One senior exits the court at the Sprint Center with 53 seconds remaining, walking gingerly toward his coach as an entire arena stands to applaud his four years of contributions. He will be remembered in college for playing more minutes than any player in program history — 4,322 to be exact. He is a former high school legend who set a state record for most points in a single season, once totaling 61 points in a single contest. He is a star and always will be. A name nobody around his parts will or could ever forget.

A night earlier, another senior enters the court at the Sprint Center with 21.2 seconds remaining on the clock, jogging toward his teammates as a few supporters in the stands politely applaud his four years of contributions. He will be remembered in college for hardly ever playing any minutes — 111 to be exact. He is a former high school point guard who won a 2008 state title without even scoring five points per game for his team, a man who has never been a star and never will be. A name most people around his parts will immediately forget.

T.J. Franklin and Keiton Page played their last games in Kansas City, Mo. (Photos by Oklahoma Sooners and NewsOK.com)

From a statistical standpoint, Keiton Page and T.J. Franklin could not possibly be any different. At the same time, they could not possibly be more alike. They are two seniors beloved by their teammates and coaches. They are two seniors considered within their respective programs as unquestioned leaders, guys who always say and do the right thing. They are two seniors who represent the best of college athletics.

This is not a story just about a household name and a walk-on. It is a story about two seniors who saw their careers end in the span of 24 hours in Kansas City, Missouri. A story about what it’s like to pour your entire life into one sport and see it all evaporate in the matter of two hours. A story about how Page and Franklin are entirely different and yet entirely the same. Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story