Big 12 M5: 11.14.14 Edition

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 14th, 2014

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  1. Yesterday, we talked about Iowa State‘s plans to play in a neutral court event next Thanksgiving. Late Thursday night, we learned about another team planning ahead. In 2016, Kansas will tip off its season against Indiana from a military base in Pearl Harbor as part of the Armed Forces Classic. One of the biggest ongoing storylines in college basketball is how the sport can better market the start of the season, and while this event doesn’t always have the fanfare of the Champions Classic or some of the other 24-Hour Marathon battles, it has helped bring the start of the season to the national spotlight.
  2. Oklahoma State blog Pistols Firing has 20 predictions for the Cowboys’ season. As discussed in our conference preview Thursday, we aren’t very high on Travis Ford’s team, we can definitely see some of the more positive predictions coming true, such as OSU outperforming its expectations to finish sixth, Le’Bryan Nash making first-team all-conference and Travis Ford holding onto his job.
  3. Outside of the conference, tonight’s Louisville-Minnesota match-up is getting headlines as it pits Rick Pitino against his son, Richard, but right here in the Big 12 is another father-son battle as Tubby Smith and the Texas Tech Red Raiders will open their season against his Smith’s son, G.G. Smith, who is making his head coaching debut with Loyola (Maryland). Smith cut his teeth with the Greyhounds as an assistant under former Loyola head coach Jimmy Patsos for six years.
  4. Remember last year when Kansas State lost three of its first five games (including its debut against Northern Colardo) leading to some warranted bubble conversation before Thanksgiving even hit? The Wildcats will look to avoid a similar fate when it tips off against Southern Utah tonight. As the 342nd-ranked team in the country according to KenPom, we don’t expect the Thunderbirds to pull this season’s opening night upset, but the Wildcats should now know more than anyone how important it is to take care of business early in the season.
  5. For a program the reached the Sweet 16 last year, there hasn’t been much chatter around Baylor. Part of that is because the Bears lost what had been the cornerstones of their program over the last two years in Cory Jefferson, Isaiah Austin and Brady Heslip, and another part of that is because the Bears don’t have the incoming star power that Kansas, Texas and Iowa State has. Still, Scott Drew is excited for the lights to come on tonight when his team squares off against McNeese State, as he should, because the Bears still have a lot of remaining talent in Rico Gathers, Kenny Chery, Royce O’Neale, Taurean Prince and redshirt freshmen Johnathan Motley and Al Freeman.
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Big 12 Season Preview: Baylor Bears

Posted by Nate Kotisso on October 30th, 2014

Throughout the preseason, the Big 12 microsite will preview each of the league’s 10 teams, from worst to first. Today: Baylor.

Baylor Bears

We’re seven months removed from the 2013-14 season ending and I still feel as if Baylor underachieved. The Bears had a lot of the qualities that normally consist of a Final Four-type team: NBA talent, experience, rebounding, good-enough defense. They were brilliant in non-league action, started 2-8 in conference play, went on a late run, and finished with a loss to Wisconsin during the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament. Most are unsure of what to expect from Baylor this time around — the Bears were picked sixth in the Big 12 preseason coaches poll, marking the second time in the last seven seasons that the Bears have been picked to finish outside of the Big 12’s top four. Scott Drew’s team was picked 10th in 2009-10 and eventually found itself in the Elite Eight. But now, three of the Bears’ top scorers are gone and a slew of young players will take over in an, gulp, odd-numbered NCAA Tournament year.

Scott Drew goes into the 2014-15 season with the task of replacing three starters. (USA Today Sports Images)

Scott Drew goes into the 2014-15 season with the task of replacing three starters. (USA Today Sports Images)

Strengths: The Bears lost Isaiah Austin and Cory Jefferson yet the bigs they’ll have available still appear worthy of opponents’ game-planning. Let’s start with junior Rico Gathers, who managed to average the same number of points as rebounds (6.4) off the bench. It’d be silly to expect anything other than the 6’8″, 280-pound Gathers be a bully down low by giving him starter’s minutes. Perhaps the biggest question mark lies with redshirt freshman forward Jonathan Motley. Motley has bulked up with 15 pounds of muscle and will be counted on as the defensive enforcer that Austin and Jefferson have been over the past two seasons. On the wing, having Royce O’Neale grab a guaranteed five rebounds at 6’6″ isn’t too shabby either. It also helps to have a senior point guard like Kenny Chery returning in a deep point guard league like the Big 12. Read the rest of this entry »

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Big 12 M5: 10.24.2014 Edition

Posted by Brian Goodman on October 24th, 2014

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  1. It’s been a rough week for complementary players in the Big 12. We’ve talked about D.J. Johnson and Georgois Tsalmpouris being hobbled to various degrees, and Thursday, it was announced that Iowa State transfer Hallice Cooke (formerly of Oregon State) will miss the season to repair cartilage tears in both of his hips. Cooke’s injury won’t have too big an impact this year, as he wasn’t going to play anyway due to NCAA transfer rules, but now, he won’t even be able to practice with his new team. Cooke will have three years of eligibility left starting with the 2015-16 season.
  2. Kansas State guard Marcus Foster admitted that being snubbed by Kansas as a prospect is a motivating factor as he looks to live up to high expectations as a sophomore for the Wildcats this season. In case you aren’t familiar, Foster was a highly sought-after guard before he let his conditioning fall by the wayside. Bruce Weber stuck with him, though, and Kansas State was rewarded for their loyalty with a commitment and the best season from a freshman Wildcat since Michael Beasley. Foster is getting some attention as a Big 12 Player Of The Year Candidate, so it will be interesting to see if he gets off to a fast start next month.
  3. Cliff Alexander and Myles Turner were mentioned by NBC’s College Basketball Talk among 20 impact freshmen around the game this year. Both Alexander and Turner have tremendous strength that should help them power to the basket on offense, but like the vast majority of freshmen at any level of college hoops, both are a little rough around the edges. It will be a lot of fun to see how they match up come conference play, as those tilts could very well decide the fate of the Big 12 race.
  4. This week had been a little quiet on the Baylor front, but not anymore. Late Thursday night, Scott Drew reeled in his fourth commitment of the 2015 class when 6’3″ guard Wendell Mitchell gave a verbal commitment to the Bears. Depending on which scouting service you prefer, Mitchell checks in with either three or four stars. While Baylor hasn’t landed a big fish in the class quite yet, they have some solid pieces on the way and remain in the hunt for the services of 5-star big man Skal Labissiere.
  5. Tubby Smith‘s first season as the head coach of Texas Tech saw his team spring a few upsets, topping Oklahoma State, Oklahoma and Texas during conference play. While there are seven new players on the squad, Smith is hopeful that the team will build on last year’s experience and become a more competitive squad in 2014-15. The ceiling for this team remains limited, but as our Nate Kotisso relayed earlier this week, they have a deep pool of guards that can help lead them to a finish around .500 in league play if things break right.
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Big 12 Media Day Recap: A Photo For The Ages

Posted by Nate Kotisso on October 16th, 2014

If you haven’t heard, Kansas City’s a happening place these days. Aside from that ALCS thing in town yesterday, the Big 12 also held its annual men’s basketball media day at the Sprint Center (here’s all that stuff, if it tickles your fancy). It was your run-of-the-mill media day: Reporters asked bland questions, players and coaches gave calculated answers, and no one really learned anything new. The apex of the festivities came, however, when the Big 12’s Twitter account tweeted out a group photo will all 10 of the conference’s head coaches. Here it is below:

Bask in all its glory (photo via @Big12Conference on Twitter)

Bask in All of its Glory (photo via @Big12Conference)

Instead of breaking down the nonstop action from media day, the following were the “thoughts” that went through each coach’s mind at the time the above photo was taken.*

  • Baylor’s Scott Drew: “I hate coming here when the Tournament is in an odd-numbered year. (sighs) OK, what should I do here, hands together or apart? Together? Apart? Wait, did I use all my timeouts yet? [camera takes photo] Ah heck, they’re apart.”
  • Iowa State’s Fred Hoiberg: “Put me in the back, will ya? That’s fine. I’ll end up dreamier than I was before.”
  • Kansas’ Bill Self: “Really wanted to wear Wiggins’ draft day suit again. Knew I shouldn’t have had that glass of butter with dinner.”
  • Kansas State’s Bruce Weber: (chuckles to himself) “I can’t believe Ford was in ‘The 6th Man.’ That’s the best movie of all-time! I bet that made a heckuva lot of money in theaters!”
  • Oklahoma’s Lon Kruger:  “I would take another coaching job right now if it meant I didn’t have to take this photo.”
  • Oklahoma State’s Travis Ford: “This contract I have means that I’m pretty much bulletproof. I could pull down Drew’s pants right now and I’d STILL get that check next week. [mulls it over] Nah, I won’t do that to ‘em. He’s probably worried that he has to call a timeout here or something.”
  • Texas’ Rick Barnes: “I bet if I left media day, traveled the world and missed the entire year, we’d still have a better record than the football team.”
  • TCU’s Trent Johnson: “I don’t know why this camera guy told me to move this far up. He could have gotten a much better shot of me if I stood at half-court like I wanted.”
  • Texas Tech’s Tubby Smith: “I should have been more direct with people calling me Orlando instead of Tubby.”
  • West Virginia’s Bob Huggins:  “I don’t think anyone here gets my E. Gordon Gee Halloween costume.”

*thoughts confirmed by unnamed sources

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No Matter What Happens Tonight, Scott Drew Deserves a Fair Shake

Posted by Brian Goodman on March 27th, 2014

Ever since Baylor blew the doors off of Creighton on Sunday, the public tide has started to turn in Scott Drew’s favor. He hasn’t shaken all of the criticisms — that he’s underachieved with top-flight talent in previous seasons and that he’s toed a fine line with his recruiting strategies (as if other programs don’t)  — but with every postseason win he continued to chalk up, the noise has definitely quieted. On Wednesday night alone, CBSSports.com‘s Dennis Dodd and Yahoo!‘s Jeff Eisenberg posted columns detailing why the doubters have it all wrong about Drew. While Dodd and Eisenberg aren’t the first to defend the Baylor head coach, their points remain that regardless of what you think about his tactics, the results he’s produced deserve acclaim among some of the best coaching jobs in the country — no matter what happens tonight against Wisconsin.

No matter what happens tonight, it's time to evaluate Scott Drew with fairness. (AP)

You don’t have to like Scott Drew, but it’s past time to evaluate his tenure at Baylor with fairness. (AP)

The Bears are one win away from a chance to play in the Final Four for the third time in five seasons, so if they beat the Badgers this evening, they’ll have cracked the Elite Eight with three very different teams. While one of the prevalent knocks on Drew is that last season’s group — which had a similar look and feel to this year’s team in terms of roster construction — failed to make the NCAA Tournament, it’s also true that three of his best players this season were guys who were passed over by bigger programs. In other words, if you’re going to penalize Drew for missing out on a Dance card with Isaiah Austin, Cory Jefferson and a senior Pierre Jackson, that’s fine; but if you’re going to do that, it’s only fair to also credit him for getting the most out of Kenny Chery and Royce O’Neale and parlaying that player development into postseason success. Going back even further, he’s offset the lukewarm contributions of hyped recruits Perry Jones and Quincy Miller by getting great value from low-level prospects like Jackson, Quincy Acy and Ekpe Udoh, all three of whom are now playing professionally.

Even if Drew loses tonight, he’ll still find himself among rarefied air in the coaching community. Only six other programs have made the Sweet Sixteen three times in the last five years: Arizona, Florida, Kentucky, Louisville, Michigan State and Wisconsin. Not Kansas, not Duke, not Syracuse, not Connecticut. Not bad for a guy who arrived in Waco 11 years ago with the unenviable task of rebuilding a D-I program from essentially scratch. No matter what the narrative says you should think about him, stop thinking it. The guy can coach.

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NCAA Tournament Game Analysis: Sweet Sixteen, Thursday Night

Posted by Andrew Murawa (@amurawa) & Bennet Hayes (@hoopstraveler) on March 27th, 2014

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Andrew Murawa (@amurawa) is the NCAA Tournament’s West Region correspondent, and Bennet Hayes (@hoopstraveler) is the NCAA Tournament’s South Region correspondent. Make sure to also follow @RTCSouthRegion and @RTCWestRegion for news and analysis from Memphis and Anaheim throughout the weekend.

Tonight we tip off the Sweet Sixteen with games from the South Region in Memphis, TN, and the West Region in Anaheim, CA. Here are the breakdowns for tonight’s games.

#10 Stanford vs. #11 Dayton — South Region Sweet Sixteen (at Memphis, TN) — 7:15 PM ET on CBS

Nobody expected the Flyers or Cardinal to be in this spot, but one of the two teams will be a game away from the Final Four after Thursday night. This battle between party crashers doesn’t figure to be the most entertaining Sweet Sixteen matchup when it comes to talent and overall quality of basketball, but after Stanford knocked off New Mexico and Kansas by a combined eight points, and Dayton defeated Ohio State and Syracuse by a mere three total points, we should at least be able to count on this game being a tight one. KenPom doesn’t disagree, as his predictor foresees a one-point final margin. Stanford is the team on the right side of that predicted final score, and despite displaying maddening amounts of game-to-game inconsistency all season long, I can’t find a way to disagree that it will be the Cardinal advancing to the regional final.

Sweet 16 Participants For The First Time In 30 Years, Dayton Will be Flying High When They Arrive In Memphis On Thursday Night, But Can Their Magical Ride Live On For Another Night?

Sweet  Sixteen Participants For The First Time In 30 Years, Dayton Will be Flying High When They Arrive In Memphis On Thursday Night, But Can Their Magical Ride Live On For Another Night?

Both these teams are double-digit seeds that the FedEx Forum could have never seen coming, but the narrative surrounding the two teams this week has pegged Dayton as the truer “Cinderella.” Vegas oddsmakers have also pegged the Flyers as a three-point underdog, and there’s also that three-decade Sweet Sixteen drought that lends itself to the role of plucky little David. But before recognizing that Stanford is hardly akin to Goliath, let’s also take a second to note that this Dayton team is more accomplished than many surprise second-weekend visitors of NCAA Tournaments past. They were the best team in the Atlantic 10 from February on (a league that sent six teams to this Tournament), have gone 12-2 in their last 14 games, and were one point and a late collapse away from beating Baylor in the Maui Invitational (they wound up beating Cal by 18 in the third place game). Their inclusion in this NCAA Tournament hung in the balance all season, but they’ve proven they belonged – both before and after admission was granted.

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NCAA Regional Reset: West Region

Posted by Andrew Murawa (@amurawa) on March 25th, 2014

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Andrew Murawa (@amurawa) is the NCAA Tournament’s West Region correspondent, which begins Thursday night at Honda Center in Anaheim with Baylor vs. Wisconsin followed by San Diego State vs. Arizona. The South Regional Reset published earlier today and the East and Midwest Resets will release tomorrow. Make sure to also follow @RTCWestRegion for news and analysis from Anaheim throughout the week.

New Favorite: Arizona, #1, 32-4. Meet the new boss, same as the old boss. The Wildcats looked a little shaky in what turned into just a nine-point win in their round of 64 game against Weber State, but they really did little this weekend to change the popular notion that the Wildcats are not only the strong favorite in this region, but a legitimate contender for the national championship.

Arizona Did Little In The First Weekend To Make Us Second Guess Their Status As National Championship Contenders (Christian Petersen, Getty Images)

Arizona Did Little In The First Weekend To Make Us Second Guess Their Status As National Championship Contenders. (Christian Petersen, Getty Images)

Horse of Darkness:  Wisconsin, #2, 28-7. The Badgers took a 12-point deficit into the half against Oregon in the round of 32, getting lit up to the tune of somewhere in the neighborhood of 1.48 points per possession by a great offensive team for 20 minutes. But coming out of the locker room, they made a commitment to getting the ball inside on offense and getting back and challenging jump shooters on the defensive end. The adjustment turned into less than a point per possession in the second half for the Ducks, while the high-scoring Badgers were the one that turned in 1.5 points per possession. The Badgers have proven their ability to score in bunches this season, but if they can play defense like they did in the second half against Oregon, they’re going to be a real tough out.

Biggest Surprise (1st Weekend): Creighton Getting Demolished. The simple fact that Baylor advanced over Creighton isn’t all that shocking. But the manner in which it happened was stunning. Creighton shoots five-of-24 from three against the Baylor zone? A sketchy Baylor defense hold the nation’s best offensive team below a point per possession? Doug McDermott’s college career ends with just a 15-point performance? Stunning.

Completely Expected (1st Weekend): Mostly Chalk. Three of the top four seeds advanced to the Sweet Sixteen, and the one upset based on seed-line probably isn’t that much of an upset at all, as Baylor crushed Creighton to earn its 12th win in the last 14 games.

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Three Thoughts on Baylor’s Blowout Win Over Texas

Posted by Brian Goodman on March 14th, 2014

The match-up for the Big 12 Tournament final was set in Friday’s nightcap, which saw Baylor dismantle Texas 86-69 in Kansas City. The Bears continued their strong play of late after their midseason struggles, and as a result, they’ll attempt to become the first team to take the Big 12 Tournament crown by winning four straight games. Oddly enough, Baylor was the last team to attempt to pull off that feat in 2009, but the Bears fell to Missouri.

Baylor Outraced Texas on This Night

Baylor Outraced Texas on This Night

  1. Baylor continues to add strength to its resume. In early February, Baylor’s resume was falling apart. Wins over Kentucky and Colorado were neutralized by losses to Texas Tech and West Virginia, and a cloud of panic and disappointment started to settle above Waco when the Bears lost eight of their first 10 conference games. Now, though, Baylor has reeled off 10 wins in its last 11 games to silence the skeptics (of which there are certainly many). Not only is Baylor firmly off the bubble, but the team’s stock is rising rather quick. It isn’t difficult to picture enough things breaking for them to enter NCAA Tournament play as a #5 seed, provided they take care of business against Iowa State in the final. So what’s been the difference?
  2. The Bears’ offense is clicking. On Friday night, the Bears’ offense registered 1.37 points per possession, its highest mark since a 1.42 PPP showing at West Virginia on February 22. All told, Baylor’s offense has tallied at least 1.04 points per possession in each of its last 12 outings, while their defense has been steady if unspectacular. Cory Jefferson has come on especially strong and was fantastic tonight, notching a double-double with 20 points and 13 rebounds against Texas’ strong interior defense. Combine Jefferson with Isaiah Austin, one of the country’s top three-point shooters in Brady Heslip, and a highly capable supporting cast, and the result is a combination that is good enough to beat any team in the country. Read the rest of this entry »
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Big 12 M5: 03.14.14 Edition

Posted by Brian Goodman on March 14th, 2014

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  1. Kansas State went one-and-done in the Big 12 Tournament, but they’re still headed for the Big Dance in what was supposed to be a down year. As much as yesterday’s loss to Iowa State hurts, that’s a pretty good situation to be in as a program, writes Sam Mellinger of The Kansas City Star. On Sunday, the Wildcats will crack the field for the fifth consecutive season, establishing a new program record for sustained success. Cynics may point to the fact that only two of those five bids belong to Bruce Weber, but to focus on that would be to lose sight of the mediocrity in which the program toiled until the last seven or eight seasons. Don’t hang your heads, Wildcats fans.
  2. ESPN‘s Myron Medcalf writes that everyone who keeps harping on Andrew Wiggins to show some emotion might be better served just calming down and appreciating the star freshman for what he is. It’s tough to disagree. There are plenty of guys playing this week and next who will gladly pop their collar after hitting a big shot, stare down their opponent or give a primal “AND-ONE” scream when driving to the bucket, but there aren’t many guys who will put up 71 points on 35 shots in the space of two games with his team’s game-changing center glued to the bench with a bad back. There are no more than eight chances left to see Wiggins do his thing at this level, so my advice is to sit back and enjoy it.
  3. Oklahoma was also sent home packing Thursday when the Sooners fell 78-73 to Baylor. Oklahoma simply dug themselves too big hole, falling behind by as many as 21 points. They would go on to mount a comeback, but came no closer than four points from tying the Bears in Kansas City. The Sooners should settle into the bracket around the five-seed line, while the Bears added a little more juice to their resume.
  4. The night ended with Texas snuffing out whatever fire was left from West Virginia’s upset win over Kansas last Saturday by blowing out the Mountaineers, 66-49. The game started with Texas racing out to a 12-0 start and nothing went right for the Mountaineers on either end. While West Virginia was a longshot for a bid coming into last night’s game, it was highly disappointing to see them come out as flat as they did with their season on the line.
  5. The best way to sum up Thursday’s action is that for the most part, the cream rose to the top. For all the talk about this being a wide-open tournament, three of the top four teams in the standings will play in tonight’s semifinals and even though Baylor was seeded seventh, the Bears have been playing much better lately than that seed suggests. Tonight should be another exciting slate of hoops: The teams with the league’s two best resumes square off at 6:00 CST, and in the nightcap, we’ll see a battle between two coaches in Rick Barnes and Scott Drew who have fought through multiple rounds of criticism (some deserved, some not) and have their squads playing some pretty good ball right now.
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Big 12 M5: 03.07.14 Edition

Posted by Nate Kotisso on March 7th, 2014

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  1. Adidas revealed new uniforms that 10 of its member institutions will wear just in time for the NCAA Tournament. Two of those schools participating will be Kansas and Baylor of the Big 12, assuming the Bears get in. Cool, huh? Because it gets progressively worse from here. Kansas’ uniform looks similar to a look the Jayhawks have worn in the past, but Baylor’s jersey is perhaps the worst of all — highlighter yellow, which has become an unofficial school color in recent years. But here’s where it gets loony: Their familiar “Sic ‘Em Bears” slogan is scrawled across the front. Then there were these photos of ex-Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III “rocking out” the new look on Twitter. To borrow a line from Golden God Dennis Reynolds, everyone at adidas was on the gas and nobody was on the brakes. I mean, Indiana and Notre Dame are getting NCAA Tournament jerseys? Have they even looked at the Big Ten or ACC standings? Major face-palm, guys.
  2. First he told ESPN’s Jeff Goodman that he might come back for a sophomore season. Now Joel Embiid took to Twitter on Thursday to reflect on Wednesday’s win, saying he “can’t wait to be a senior.” Embiid doesn’t seem like the trolling or misleading type, but we’re so used to college players changing their minds that we expect it to happen every time. What if he’s actually serious and he does come back for a sophomore season? Then a junior year? And a senior year? Two things will happen: We’ll be treated to several more years to watch a blossoming player become great, and in the end, we’ll feel like cynical jerks for ever doubting him. Come to think of it, that doesn’t sound so bad. I’ll take more college Embiid and the accompanying cynicism, please.
  3. Things could get weird Saturday as Iowa State plans to have its “Senior Day” to honor players which include once former and current guard Bubu Palo. However, the Des Moines Register talked to Palo and he’s taking a mature approach towards the situation, which has understandably put coach Fred Hoiberg in an awkward spot heading into the game against Oklahoma State. “Coach Fred has been great throughout this,” Palo told the Register. “I wouldn’t want people to think that he’s depriving me of a senior moment.” Another reason Palo would be fine with not playing Saturday is because he’s seeking a potential sixth year of eligibility from the NCAA. Playing any minutes from now until the end of the season could severely lessen his chances of getting an extra year on the team. With Kane departing, Palo could be the starting point guard next year if Hoiberg doesn’t have anyone else coming in.
  4. It’s hard to believe, but Scott Drew is tied for the second-longest tenured head coach in the Big 12. Drew went on CBS Sports Radio Thursday morning and said that this conference season is the best he has “been a part of” in his 11 years at Baylor. It certainly beats his first few seasons in Waco. All kidding aside, Drew is right. There’s a strong possibility that the league can get seven teams into the field of 68 this year, and that would tie a conference high that was set when seven of 12 teams made the 2010 NCAA Tournament. The Big 12 has had at least four teams make the NCAAs in each of the last 17 years. None of the ACC, Big Ten, Pac-10/12, Atlantic 10, SEC, Mountain West and Missouri Valley conferences can make that claim. But seven making the Dance in the current 10-team format would be all the more impressive.
  5. The r/CollegeBasketball page has brought this video to our attention. In it is a slow motion replay of Marcus Smart attempting to slap Wesley Iwundu after the two unintentionally bumped chests during Monday’s Kansas State-Oklahoma State game in Stillwater. It appears Smart had clear intent to slap Iwundu but he just missed as he was trying to get open elsewhere on the floor. It isn’t known if the Big 12 is reviewing this play or whether the league will hand down a punishment on the matter, but it’s one thing if the conference comes out and says they didn’t find anything incriminating on the play and quite another to not comment on it at all. It wouldn’t reflect well on the Big 12, however, if the league remains completely quiet about this.
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Three Thoughts on Baylor’s Win Over Iowa State Last Night

Posted by Taylor Erickson on March 5th, 2014

In the moments following his team’s win over Iowa State on Tuesday night, Baylor head coach Scott Drew was asked if that performance against the Cyclones put his team into the NCAA Tournament, to which Drew responded, “Absolutely. No question.” Baring a dreadful performance in the Bears’ last game on Saturday at Kansas State and an disappointing early exit in the Big 12 Tournament, it seems like Drew’s statement is spot on. That in itself is crazy to think about; a team that looked all but dead in the water at 2-8 in conference play with little emotional desire to turn things around has done exactly that, winning six of its last seven and positioning the squad for a bid on Selection Sunday. It’s also worth mentioning that for all the criticism Scott Drew took while his team floundered to start conference play, he too is responsible in large part for its February resurgence and should receive due credit. For the Cyclones, it was another road loss in a league that offers very few chances to get a win away from home, but make no mistake about it, Fred Hoiberg’s squad will not be an easy out in postseason play. Here’s three observations from last night’s contest.

Baylor-Iowa State

Cory Jefferson and Baylor Appear to be Back in the NCAA Tournament’s Good Graces

  1. Aside from Kansas, Baylor has perhaps the best combination of frontcourt size and skill on both ends of the floor, and this was certainly the case on Tuesday night. The length of Cory Jefferson and Isaiah Austin inside held the Big 12’s leading scorer, Melvin Ejim, to just six points, far from his average of 18.3 points per game in league play. Ejim’s teammate Georges Niang also had a difficult night, contributing only four points in the contest, also well below his league average. The duo of Jefferson and Austin combined to score 20 points themselves, but most importantly, controlled the paint. What was most interesting about this game was the fact that Baylor allowed Iowa State to shoot 41 percent from beyond the arc — connecting on 12 three-pointers — but that wasn’t enough to keep pace for the Cyclones with two of their stars failing to show up. It’s almost as if Drew’s game plan was to make Iowa State beat the Bears from the outside, and it seems to have been effective as the Cyclones converted better from distance than they did inside the arc (39 percent). Read the rest of this entry »
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Three Thoughts on Baylor’s Monday Night Win Over Oklahoma State

Posted by Taylor Erickson on February 18th, 2014

Take a trip back in time to January 3, 2014. Baylor had just demolished lowly Savannah State at home in its final tune-up before conference play. Scott Drew’s team was 12-1, ranked 9th in the nation with neutral site, non-conference victories over a Spencer Dinwiddie-led Colorado team and a Kentucky squad that was ranked 3rd at the time. Baylor looked like one of the Big 12’s elite, possibly capable of threatening Kansas’ nine-year reign atop the league. On that same evening in early January, Oklahoma State was preparing for its first conference game of the season — a road contest at an up-and-down Kansas State group looking for a win to ignite its start in league play. The Cowboys, much like their fellow Big 12 competitors from Waco, had raced out to a 12-1 record to begin the season, and found themselves ranked 6th in the nation after non-conference victories over Memphis and the same Colorado team. Marcus Smart was averaging over 17 points per game, and perhaps even more so than Baylor, Travis Ford’s team looked like it had a legitimate shot to take down the then-shaky Jayhawks.

With a thin Oklahoma State front line, Baylor big men Corey Jefferson and Isaiah Austin proved too much inside.

With a thin Oklahoma State front line, Baylor big men Corey Jefferson and Isaiah Austin proved too much inside. (Waco Tribune-Herald)

At that time, a mid-February Big Monday battle in Waco between these two teams looked like must-see television. Boy, how quickly things can change. Instead of a match-up that could have (should have?) had serious league title implications, this game instead featured the eighth and ninth teams in the Big 12 standings, fighting for their NCAA Tournament lives. The winner of last night’s game would move to three games back of .500 in conference play; the loser would stare at a 4-9 record and the notion of having to win every game left just to break even. What took place for the better part of 30 minutes on Monday night looked exactly like a contest between two bottom-dwellers, regardless of the names on the fronts of the jerseys. And if that wasn’t enough, a comedy of head-scratching coaching decisions down the stretch left most observers wondering what the heck they just witnessed. Nevertheless, a 70-64 overtime win for Baylor proved to be a tremendous feat for a team clinging to hopes of an at-large bid. Here are three thoughts on the showdown that was in Waco Monday night.

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