Big 12 M5: 12.12.13 Edition

Posted by Brian Goodman on December 12th, 2013

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  1. Friday’s battle between Iowa State and Iowa should be one of the best games of the week. The Cyclones and Hawkeyes are both ranked, which doesn’t happen very often, and there just aren’t many venues that get rocking like Hilton Coliseum can for a big game. One match-up to keep an eye on is the battle between guards Monte Morris and Devyn Marble, not just because of their talents (Morris has done a great job backing up DeAndre Kane, while Marble stars for the Hawkeyes), but because of their close personal ties going back to their time growing up in Michigan.
  2. This one’s slightly dated, but if you haven’t read Gary Parrish’s column from earlier this week defending the track record of Baylor head coach Scott Drew, we definitely encourage you to do so. Some people enjoy being so critical of Drew that they lose track of what he’s accomplished in Waco. Baylor was a college basketball wasteland in the early 2000s, reeling from one of the biggest scandals to ever hit the sport (google Patrick Dennehy) in addition to not having won an NCAA Tournament game in over 50 years, and now they’re one of the game’s few programs that can boast a pair of Elite Eight appearance in the last four years. Some of the wrinkles to Drew’s persona rub people the wrong way, but while that’s understandable, you also have to give the guy his due for what he’s molded mostly out of thin air.
  3. ESPN’s Myron Medcalf wonders where the help is for Kansas’ Andrew WigginsTrust us, he’s not the only one. Wiggins almost single-handedly brought Kansas back to within striking distance in Tuesday’s loss to Florida, but his teammates were nowhere to be found. Without beating the drum any more than we did yesterday, it’s abundantly clear that this team isn’t on the same page. The next chance for Kansas to regain its form comes on Saturday against New Mexico in Kansas City.
  4. Speaking of the Jayhawks playing in their second home at the Sprint Center, it was announced yesterday that Kansas will square off against Utah there on a date to be determined next season. The Utes haven’t been relevant nationally for quite some time, but this season’s edition is off to a solid (albeit somewhat empty) 8-1 start. Larry Krystkowiak’s team only has one senior in its rotation, so it’s a pretty good bet that the team Kansas will play next season will look a lot like the current version of the Utes in terms of personnel.
  5. A defensive breakdown at a crucial point in the game cost West Virginia a valuable win against Gonzaga on Tuesday, according to Mountaineers guard Juwan StatenThe Bulldogs scored on 16 of their final 24 possessions and used a late 13-0 run to race right past Bob Huggins team. Right now, the big-picture issue the Mountaineers have is that they possess the statistical profile of a bubble team, but the resume of a squad that would be pretty clearly out of the field of 64 68 if the NCAAs started today.
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Morning Five: 12.11.13 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on December 11th, 2013

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  1. We would hesitate to call Oklahoma a surprise in the Big 12 since we thought they were pretty good even before the season started. They may not be in the upper echelon of the conference, but they are a step right below that. Now they will have to do it without sophomore guard Je’lon Hornbeak, who will be out for 4-6 weeks after breaking a bone in his left foot. Hornbeak is certainly not a star, but does a little bit of everything averaging 5.7 points, 2.3 rebounds, 2.9 assists and 1.1 steals per game for the team coming off the bench. Fortunately for the Sooners their schedule the next month should be very manageable even without their full roster.
  2. There have been plenty of times where we have discussed players being academically ineligible in this space, but we are having a hard time remembering school disregarding the rules regarding eligibility as blatantly as Southeastern Louisiana did when it allowed 137 athletes to compete while academically ineligible over a period of five years. Yesterday, the NCAA handed down its penalties to the school: probation for four years, a $25,000 fine, reduction in scholarships, and vacate victories from 2005 through 2010. According to the AP, the majority of the violations were in football and men’s basketball. Interestingly those programs were not hit that much harder than the other sports. Although the school did not acknowledge intentionally playing ineligible athletes they admitted a lack of institutional control in allowing those individuals to compete.
  3. Given the way that various governing bodies have handled player eligibility over the years we were surprised to hear that the NAIA agreed to let Cameron Rodriguez, a basketball player at Southwestern College, keep the $20,000 he won hitting a halfcourt shot at an Oklahoma City Thunder game. To his credit, Rodriguez reported the prize to the NAIA as under a strict interpretation of NAIA rules he  did technically use his athletic skills to make money. Of course, when we say keep the money we actually mean that the money Rodriguez won will be used for a scholarship. So technically he isn’t really keeping the money although he could get some nice tax benefits out of it. In an odd way, the NAIA won this battle to as it was able to get the headline it wanted, but still keep the money out of a student-athletes hands by giving it to one of its member institutions.
  4. Some people might think it is too early to consider player of the year candidates, but at the very least it does serve as a good way to analyze who has been performing well this season. So at some level, Kelli Anderson’s Wooden Watch provides some insight into the season thus far. As she points out, Shabazz Napier belongs on the short list of the season’s most significant players based on his contributions to a Connecticut team that has found a way to win several very close games this season. While Napier has played at an extremely high level and has some support around him, he will need his teammates to become more productive if he wants to keep on winning and be a legitimate player of the year candidate at the end of the season.
  5. Yesterday, we mentioned Gary Parrish’s impassioned defense of Scott Drew on the CBS podcast. He followed that up with a full post in which he expounded on the idea that it has become hip to ridicule Drew even if there is no basis to it. We can appreciate Parrish’s sentiment although we are having trouble reconcile it with some of the in-game strategy and adjustments that we have seen from Drew’s teams. Still, Parrish’s point on Drew is well taken as we (mostly joking of course) and others at times may be unjustly harsh on him as his track record so far has been exceptional.
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Big 12 Observations a Month Into the Season

Posted by Taylor Erickson on December 6th, 2013

With a month of action in the 2013-14 college basketball season now under our belts, the natural question becomes what exactly have we learned so far? We’ve been treated to some impressive performances, by both Big 12 teams and individuals, and a good number of less-than-impressive efforts. And while the buzz of Christmas season is firmly upon us, we’re also in the meat of a non-conference slate with several high-profile games involving the Big 12′s elite, allowing us further opportunity to draw more concrete conclusions. For the time being, though, four weeks into the season, here are a few observations worth keeping an eye on.

Smart showed he is human after a sub-par performance against Memphis in the Old Spice Classic (Credit: Orlando Sentinel).

Smart showed he is human after a sub-par performance against Memphis in the Old Spice Classic (Credit: Orlando Sentinel).

  • Marcus Smart is actually human after all.  Seriously, after exploding for 39 points against Memphis, Smart followed that up with 25- and 30-point performances against South Florida and Purdue, and left many in college basketball wondering if he had transformed into some sort of Space Jam Monstar in the offseason. The Oklahoma State point guard struggled in the Cowboys’ second match-up with Memphis, finishing with 12 points and two costly turnovers in a close game down the stretch. I’m not sure there’s another player in college basketball who seems to be better at harnessing his emotions in a positive way than Smart, so if there’s one thing worth betting on this season, it’s that the sophomore from Flower Mound, Texas, will find a way to bounce back quickly from a disappointing performance.

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Big 12 Contenders Slip While Middle Tier Shows Improvement in Holiday Events

Posted by Brian Goodman on December 3rd, 2013

The conclusion of last week’s barrage of holiday tournaments is as good a checkpoint as any to take stock of the Big 12. Overall, it wasn’t a good week for the conference, as its membership failed to pick up a single exempt-event crown despite some great opportunities. The league’s heavyweight contenders sputtered out while teams in the conference’s mid-pack seemed to come away with the biggest boosts going forward. There’s a lot to go over, so let’s take a look at the week that was.

Kansas - The Jayhawks had a frustrating time in the Battle 4 Atlantis, as they failed to make the championship round of the event. Kansas hit some timely shots as it came back against Villanova in the semifinals, but the Jayhawks were done in by a Ryan Arcidiacano three in the final minute. They left the island with a pair of wins, but victories over Wake Forest and UTEP weren’t what Bill Self was counting on as the highlights of the trip; and lukewarm performances by Andrew Wiggins will only fuel the skeptics even though his overall numbers are still very good. The Jayhawks have a high ceiling, but they’re still a ways from reaching it. Kansas buried just 10 three-pointers over three games in the tournament, or, put another way, as many as Chaminade’s Christophe Varidel canned on Monday night alone. The Jayhawks are also allowing far more two-point buckets than even the flimsiest of Bill Self’s defenses have let up. It doesn’t help that KU’s defensive rebounding fell back to earth after an otherworldly start in that category. It isn’t time to panic in Lawrence, but it doesn’t get any easier as Kansas will square off with even higher-profile teams (including Florida and Georgetown) before conference play tips off in January.

Michael Cobbins (right) and Oklahoma State had a rough week in Orlando. (Phelan M. Ebenhack/AP)

Michael Cobbins (right) and Oklahoma State had a tough week in Orlando. (Phelan M. Ebenhack/AP)

Oklahoma State - The Old Spice Classic was one long wake-up call for the Cowboys, a team that hadn’t been seriously tested coming into the event. Sunday’s loss to Memphis, underscored by Marcus Smart‘s inauspicious night, is still fresh in everyone’s mind, but it’s worth pointing out that Oklahoma State had trouble in the first two rounds as well. The Cowboys struggled to put Purdue away, giving up 58 second-half points to the Boilermakers, and on Saturday they had to hold on for dear life against Butler while both teams lit their final possessions on fire. Like their biggest challengers to the Big 12 title, Oklahoma State came home with a pair of wins, but they didn’t do much to inspire confidence going forward.

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Feast Week Mission Briefing: Baylor in the Maui Invitational

Posted by Taylor Erickson on November 27th, 2013

With Feast Week already in high gear, we’re outlining the roads ahead for prominent Big 12 teams involved in neutral site events this week.

What They’ve Done So Far: Baylor entered 2013-14 season sneaking in at #25 in the preseason AP poll, and jumped out to a 4-0 start with a 72-60 neutral site win over Colorado and a 66-64 home win over South Carolina. While neither of these teams are featured in Ken Pomeroy’s top 50, they both provided solid tests for the Bears while working in new point guard Kenny Chery after the departure of standout guard Pierre Jackson a season ago. Baylor followed up its first two wins with a blowout home victory over Louisiana-Lafayette and by squeaking by with a 69-64 home win over Charleston Southern. Center Isaiah Austin was solid on the offensive end for Scott Drew last year, and his work on the defensive end early this season appears to be taking shape after blocking 15 shots in a span of two games.

Baylor finds itself in the Maui Invitational Championship game against Syracuse on Wednesday night.

Baylor finds itself in the Maui Invitational Championship game against Syracuse on Wednesday night.

First Round Recap: After watching fellow Big 12 foe Texas fall in Maui to host school Chaminade a season ago, the Silver Swords certainly had Baylor’s attention entering Monday night. That focus translated into a 93-77 win, despite the fact that Chaminade made 11 first half three-pointers in the contest. A majority of those points from deep came by way of Christophe Veridel, a Florida Gulf Coast transfer who lit the Bears up for 31 points the first 20 minutes of the game before being limited to just 11 second half points. Baylor had a hot shooting night themselves, connecting on 44 percent of shots from behind the arc and led by senior guard Gary Franklin, who paced Scott Drew’s squad with 22 points on 6-of-10 shooting from three. While most teams may have been rattled early on after seeing Veridel unconscious from deep, Baylor showed good poise to weather the early barrage of threes before using their size and athleticism to break the game open in the second half.

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Big 12 M5: 11.11.13 Edition

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 11th, 2013

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  1. USA Today’s Eric Prisbell wrote an interesting column on Saturday in which he indicated that there’s more than meets the eye in the top-heavy Big 12. We may be biased, but we can easily get on board with that opinion. You need not look any further than Friday night when a pair of teams outside of the two getting the most pub had already secured important wins against power-conference foes (Oklahoma topping Alabama and Baylor getting the best of Colorado). Throw in a promising Iowa State team and some of the game’s best coaches at this level and you’d be unwise to limit your opinion to what you see from Kansas and Oklahoma State.
  2. Speaking of the Jayhawks, you wouldn’t know it by looking at the box score from Kansas’ 80-63 victory over Louisiana-Monroe, but heralded freshmen Andrew Wiggins wasn’t as involved as many expected, even given some recent tempering of expectations regarding Wiggins by many in the media. It’s way too early to hit the panic button on either Wiggins specifically or Kansas as a whole, but given how easily Duke disposed of Davidson and that the Jayhawks didn’t pull away against a worse opponent until midway through the second half, it’s reasonable for fans in Lawrence to sense a little bit of concern heading into Tuesday’s match-up with Duke. Just don’t go too far.
  3. Iowa State sophomore Naz Long stepped in and scorched the nets for the Cyclones, hitting eight of 11 shots from beyond the arc as his team dismantled UNC Wilmington Sunday afternoon. Long’s eight makes yesterday matched his output in that category from all of last season. While there’s plenty of firepower up and down the Cyclones’ lineup (transfer DeAndre Kane nearly had a double-double at halftime), Fred Hoiberg may have found a designated gunner to replace the departed Tyrus McGee.
  4. Perhaps no team in the Big 12 had a more disappointing opener than the Kansas State Wildcats, who fell to Northern Colorado at Bramlage Coliseum Friday night. Bruce Weber’s team was without the services of big man Thomas Gipson, who is recovering from a concussion, but while depth isn’t KSU’s strong suit (and with all due respect to the Bears), it’s hard to find a legitimate excuse for Kansas State dropping this one. As it is, the Wildcats will look to recover tomorrow night against Oral Roberts.
  5. The Colorado Buffaloes were just the first in a long line of tournament-caliber teams that will line up against Baylor over the next two months. Head coach Scott Drew is excited to see what his experienced team can do in the Maui Invitational and against Kentucky, and so are we, though we aren’t sure we would sing the same tune if Isaiah Austin and Cory Jefferson had entered the 2013 NBA Draft rather than return to school.
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Breaking Down Colorado vs. Baylor

Posted by AMurawa on November 8th, 2013

It’s New Year’s Day for college hoops fans. To help celebrate, Big Twelve correspondent Brian Goodman (@bsgoodman) and Pac-12 writer Andrew Murawa (@AMurawa) teamed up to offer this breakdown of an interesting opening night game: Colorado vs. Baylor in Dallas.

Baylor will win if… It feeds its stars and contains Colorado’s secondary options. The Bears’ offense under Scott Drew has always been among the nation’s best, and this season should be no different. There may not be a big man in the country that can stretch a defense like Isaiah Austin can, and Cory Jefferson‘s 41-of-56 shooting mark during the NIT should put Colorado on notice. Throw in Brady Heslip‘s three-point prowess and the Buffs will have their hands full. Defensively, it’s hard to say whether Baylor’s guards can contain Spencer Dinwiddie. Heslip has never been known for his defense, Kenny Chery is the Bears’ newest undersized point guard who will be playing his first Division I game, as will heralded freshman tweener Ish Wainright. I’m not sure either of the three can be counted on to keep Tad Boyle‘s emerging star in check, so Baylor’s defensive gameplan should lean more heavily towards containing Colorado’s other options. If Austin, Royce O’Neale and Rico Gathers make Xavier Johnson think twice about driving and keep Josh Scott and redshirt freshman Wesley Gordon from getting easy looks in the paint, it probably won’t matter how well Dinwiddie plays.

Baylor went 13-3 when Cory Jefferson and A Potent Baylor Offense Could Give Colorado's Defense Fits (Kevin Jairaj/USA Today Sports)

Cory Jefferson and A Potent Baylor Offense Could Give Colorado’s Defense Fits. (Kevin Jairaj/USA Today Sports)

Colorado will win if… Their veteran backcourt can make life miserable for a couple of Baylor perimeter guys – Chery and Wainright – who are making their Division I debuts. Between Dinwiddie and his junior backcourt mate Askia Booker, the pair of Colorado guards has been through a lot of battles. Dinwiddie has turned into a rock solid presence at the point, capable of creating for himself or finding his teammates in good position. Booker, however, has taken plenty of heat as a guy who is a bit too wild and a bit too in love with his own jumper. With more offensive weapons on this year’s squad, the hope is that Booker dials back his shot-hunting a bit and dials up his shooting percentages in turn. Either way, both of these guys are capable of causing plenty of trouble for young Bear ballhandlers like Chery and Wainright. In a big game right out of the gate where emotions are high, the calming presence of a pair of backcourt greybeards who have been through their fair share of battles may be enough to tip the scales in the Buffaloes favor. Oh, and not to pile on or anything, but in a battle of wits between Boyle and Drew, gimme Boyle.

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Yes, College Basketball Season is Finally Here

Posted by Taylor Erickson on November 8th, 2013

College hoops fans everywhere, rejoice. Like Harry and Lloyd finally arriving in Aspen, we’re therrre. The anticipation for college basketball season has been building for the past several months, and we can finally take a deep breath and revel in the fact that the official start has arrived. Gone are the days of exhibition games and the abundance of preseason lists and rankings and speculation. Instead, they’re replaced by games that really count, and storylines that actually matter. Your weekends are about to get a lot more intriguing, and your weeknights a lot less boring. From Ames to Austin, Lubbock to Morgantown, and everywhere in between, the Big 12 is chock full of headlines bound to whet your appetite for action on the hardwood. So kick back, relax, and hear us out with a plethora of reasons on why you should be giddy with excitement for another rendition of college basketball.

The Sprint Center will once again host the Big 12 Tournament in March.

The Sprint Center will once again host the Big 12 Tournament in March.

  • For Kansas State fans, it’s a packed house − the Octagon of Doom − and Sandstorm pumping through the PA system so violently you can’t hear yourself think. And the thought of Bruce Weber pulling a purple blazer out of the wardrobe, similar to the orange one he donned at Illinois. Can Shane Southwell become “the man” in Manhattan?  We’ll have to wait and see.
  • In Fort Worth, the reminder of one of the biggest upsets in recent college basketball history has you clamoring for an encore performance again this year. An influx of new talent, and Trent Johnson at the helm provides reason to believe the Horned Frogs can make some noise in the Big 12.
  • Whether it’s a track suit on game day or a letter sweater on media day, there’s no doubt Bob Huggins in comfortable in his own skin. You can bet though, that experiencing his first losing record in nearly 30 years was anything but comforting. The West Virginia head coach is determined to turn things around this year in Morgantown. Is there enough talent this go-round to make the Mountaineers relevant in conference play? Read the rest of this entry »
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Big 12 Preview: Baylor Bears

Posted by Nate Kotisso on November 6th, 2013

This week, the Big 12 microsite will finish previewing each of the league’s 10 teams. Today: Baylor. 

Where We Left Off: They were playing for their NCAA Tournament lives late last season. Baylor faced a tough test in the quarterfinals of the Big 12 Tournament against Oklahoma State — not to mention an 18-point halftime deficit. They managed to trim the Cowboys’ lead to two with seconds remaining but Pierre Jackson’s running three-pointer careened off the mark as the buzzer sounded. The Bears, who had struggled to find consistency all season, hoped their 9-9 record in Big 12 play was enough to prove to the committee they were worthy of an at-large bid. But they were left on the bubble and had to settle for an invitation from the NIT. It was there when we saw the Baylor team most had expected in the preseason, ripping through five games to bring home the first NIT Championship for a Big 12 school. Jackson has since graduated, but a combination of players returning and the addition of several touted incoming recruits could result in a more promising finish this season.

Scott Drew loses his best player from a year ago and could possibly have a better team in 2013-14. (John Sleezer/The Kansas City Star)

Scott Drew loses his best player from a year ago and could possibly have a better team in 2013-14. (John Sleezer/The Kansas City Star)

Positives: Almost everybody’s back! Isaiah Austin put his NBA future on hold by returning to campus after averaging 13 points, 8.3 rebounds and 1.7 blocks per game as a freshman. If there was one thing the 7’1″ Austin could improve on this year, it’s his outside shooting. It’s weird saying that about a center but the outside shot is a potentially lethal weapon of his offensive arsenal (33 percent from three-point range in 2012-13). The most important player returning is Cory Jefferson because his play usually indicated how competitive Baylor was in big games. I attended Texas-Baylor back in January and saw firsthand the kind of monster Jefferson can be when he’s playing his best. His 25 points and 10 rebounds were a big reason why the Bears won that day and went 13-3 in games where Jefferson scored at least 15 points. The best trait of these Bears is their frontcourt. In addition to Austin and Jefferson, Rico Gathers at 6’8″ and 270 pounds was a space-eater on the floor who scored the same amount of points as he did rebounds per game (5.7) off the bench. Their recruiting class also brought in four-star guard/forward Ish Wainwright (6’6″, 245 pounds) of Missouri who turned down offers from Ohio State, St. John’s and Texas to come to Waco; three-star big Johnathan Motley (6’9″, 210 pounds) of Houston decided to come to Baylor despite offers from Marquette, Oregon, Wichita State and his hometown school, Houston. News also came down within the last week that Denver transfer forward Royce O’Neale (11.2 PPG, 5.5 RPG in 2012-13) has been granted a waiver and will play immediately. This might be the best frontcourt in America. Everybody’s favorite Canadian sharpshooter Brady Heslip is also back for his senior season and fellow countryman Kenny Chery is expected to step in as the starting point guard.

Negatives: Pierre Jackson is gone. He was the heart and soul of the team, leading the Bears in minutes played, points, assists and spectacular plays, although I’m sure that last one isn’t a real stat. Another big loss is A.J. Walton, who wasn’t a big offensive presence but did serve in better roles as a second distributor and designated defensive stopper. Who will emerge this year to guard guys like Marcus Smart or quick guards like Naadir Tharpe or Buddy Hield? It might have to be Gary Franklin. With all their depth at the forward and center positions, there are five pure guards on the team and freshman Allerik Freeman‘s hand injury stretches those guards even thinner until his likely return in late November or early December.

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Looking at the Big 12 Non-Conference Tourney Slate

Posted by Taylor Erickson on October 24th, 2013

As the 2013-14 season of college basketball rapidly approaches, along with it comes a plethora of non-conference tournaments in exotic locations all over the map.  From Maui to New York, Anchorage to Puerto Rico, and everywhere in-between, the slate of early season match-ups provide an outstanding opportunity to usher in the new year in college basketball.  Big 12 schools will be in on the act, supplying us with our first real glimpse of what we can expect throughout the season. Let’s take a look at these non-conference contests.

Baylor – Maui Invitational, Maui, Hawaii, November 25-27:  Baylor will head to Maui for what is usually one of the higher profile and entertaining tournaments in the non-conference portion of college basketball.  Scott Drew‘s team will square off with tournament host Chaminade on November 25 as the Bears will try to avoid being the second team from Texas in as many years to fall to the Silverswords (Chaminade knocked off Texas in 2012 by a score of 86-73). Provided Baylor can handle Chaminade, a match-up with a beatable Gonzaga team likely awaits with a showdown against preseason top 10 Syracuse looming.  The battle of zone defenses between ‘Cuse and the Bears would be entertaining, as would Isaiah Austin showing off his range against any holes in Jim Boeheim’s defense.

Baylor Will Be Soaking Up the Sun in Maui this November

Baylor Will Be Soaking Up the Sun in Maui this November

Kansas State – Puerto Rico Tip-Off, Bayamon Puerto Rico, November 21, 22, 24:  The Wildcats wet their feet in Puerto Rico against a deep tournament field with the likes of Michigan, Georgetown, Florida State, and VCU, to name a few.  A quarterfinal match-up against Charlotte on November 21 sits ahead for Bruce Weber’s squad, and a win sets up a potential showdown with Georgetown. While Kansas State enters this season with slightly watered-down expectations after losing Rodney McGruder and Angel Rodriguez from a year ago, a win against the Hoyas could provide the ‘Cats up with a chance to make some noise against Michigan in the finals. Thomas Gipson and Mitch McGary battling down low will certainly not lack for physicality.  Not only would a good showing in Puerto Rico boost K-State’s outlook on the season, but could help enhance the pipeline of Puerto Rican talent to Manhattan that Frank Martin developed during his time with the Wildcats.

Oklahoma – Coaches vs. Cancer Classic, Brooklyn, New York, November 22-23:  Oklahoma kicks off the semifinal round of the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic against Seton Hall at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn on November 22. As we mentioned last week in our Big 12 preseason rankings breakdown, Oklahoma enters the 2013-14 season without 68.7 percent of their scoring from last season with the departure of standouts Romero Osby and Steven Pledger, among others. If Lon Kruger’s group can get by Seton Hall in the semifinal round, a match-up with heavyweight and consensus top five Michigan State awaits in the championship round. The combination of Gary Harris and Adreian Payne will be as good of an inside-out duo as Oklahoma will see for the remainder of the season.

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Big 12 M5: 10.18.13 Edition

Posted by Taylor Erickson on October 18th, 2013

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  1. Remember earlier this week when it was reported by Bleacher Report that adidas and Nike were set to offer Andrew Wiggins a shoe contract in the range of $140 to $180 million upon completion of this season at Kansas?  As it turns out, that story was indeed a hoax.  A report issued on Thursday night by Sole Collector, an insider in the sneaker industry, included a photograph they obtained of the fraudulent offer letter which was both undated and unaddressed discussing the details of the Wiggins “shoe contract”.  How exactly the fake offer was brought to light is still unknown, but the details of the story further underscore the difficulty top recruits face in making decisions as they embark on their professional career.  It’s a sad truth, but many of these young athletes present such a profitable marketing potential that the number of individuals willing to leach themselves on in hopes of cashing out in their own right creates an incredibly dirty and misleading situation.
  2. In an article by NBC Sports exploring non-Jordan Brand or McDonald’s All American freshmen who could make an impact this season, Iowa State shooting guard Matt Thomas was highlighted as a perimeter sharpshooter who could potentially be the best outside shooter in this year’s class.  Thomas will fit perfectly in Fred Hoiberg’s three-point heavy system, and will help fill the void left by former Big 12 sniper Tyus McGee.  Given the national exposure that Hoiberg has generated at Iowa State the past few seasons for his up tempo, run-and-gun style offense, it would not be surprising to some of the top future shooting talent flock to Ames to get in on the action.
  3. Baylor coach Scott Drew announced on Thursday morning that consensus top 100 freshman recruit Allerik Freeman will miss 6-7 weeks with a hand injury. Freeman was expected to bolster the Bears backcourt scoring, and provide yet another skilled piece to compliment the frontcourt duo of Isaiah Austin and Cory Jefferson. An exact return for Freeman will not be determined for several weeks, but any action on or prior to Baylor’s showdown with Kentucky on December 6 will significantly improve Baylor’s chances of competing with the young, but talented Kentucky squad.  Perhaps the most important factor in Baylor’s success this season will be how they adjust to the departure of point guard Pierre Jackson.
  4. USA Today released their preseason coaches poll on Thursday, which featured #6 Kansas followed by Oklahoma State at #12.  Baylor, Iowa State, and Kansas State also received votes, effectively ranking them 26, 41, and 43, respectively. Much of the league’s preseason attention has featured Kansas and Oklahoma State who will anchor the top half of the league all season.  Baylor certainly has the talent to work its way up in the polls, and will have a chance to prove this in their December showdown with Kentucky. It will be interesting to see how Iowa State and Kansas State adjust to significant roster changes and whether they can position themselves in the upper echelon of schools in the Big 12 come March.
  5. In an interesting insight to just how important recruiting is for coaches throughout the nation, Luke Winn’s Sports Illustrated piece on Andrew Wiggins that hit shelves earlier this week explained how Bill Self altered his game plan last March against Texas Tech in an attempt to impress Wiggins during his official college visit at Kansas.  Former Jayhawk point guard Elijah Johnson threw six first half alley-oops as Self felt this both gave Kansas the best chance to win, and also showed Wiggins family what they wanted to see.  While this may not be groundbreaking information for some, it does further highlight just how hard some coaches work to win recruiting battles.  This story naturally begs the question, how much will Self be willing to adjust his game plan this season now that Wiggins has joined the Jayhawks?
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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.

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