ACC Exam Week: Grading Out the 15 Schools

Posted by Lathan Wells on December 11th, 2014

It’s Exam Week in the Atlantic Coast Conference, so what better time than the present to analyze the basketball aptitude of the 15 member institutions? Below we present three groupings: the teams representing the head of the class; those with the potential to improve on their early season results; and the disappointments. There’s no sliding scale to our grading system, so the teams were evaluated on how they have performed no matter their preseason expectations (sorry, tough professor).

Top of the Class

  • Duke has earned nothing shy of an A+ thus far, playing like a team that’s clearly a national title contender. The freshmen and veteran holdovers have meshed beautifully, and the Blue Devils’ 8-0 record includes a quality win over Michigan State as well as a very impressive defeat of fellow contender Wisconsin on the road.
  • Louisville is having no problem representing its new conference in an 8-0 start, save for a head-scratching 45-33 win over Cleveland State. Knocking off Ohio State in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge as well as wins over Minnesota and Indiana leave the Cardinals looking like a contender for the crown too. Montrezl Harrell has been as good as advertised, and the long-awaited emergence of Wayne Blackshear makes this a very dangerous team.
  • Notre Dame sure missed Jerian Grant down the stretch last season. Now that its leading man is back from suspension, the Irish have started off hot. They’re a one-point loss to Providence from being 10-0 and they can present a quality win by virtue of besting Michigan State. Four double-figure scorers contribute to the 10th highest-scoring offense in the country at 85.1 points per game.
Coach Mike Brey and the Fighting Irish are thrilled to have Jerian Grant back (USAToday Sports)

Coach Mike Brey and the Fighting Irish are thrilled to have Jerian Grant back (USAToday Sports)

  • Could Virginia actually be better than last year’s conference championship-winning team? The Cavaliers have let Justin Anderson loose, and he has been nothing short of a star to pair along with Malcolm Brogdon. They’re still one of the best defensive teams in the country and have shown they can win playing multiple styles, counting road wins over Maryland and VCU already on the resume.
  • Miami is probably the pleasant surprise of the conference thus far, sporting a 9-1 record and earning a spot few saw coming in the national rankings. We’ll excuse the hiccup against Wisconsin-Green Bay (the same team that nipped Virginia early last year) since the Hurricanes have already beaten Florida and Illinois. Transfers Angel Rodriguez and Sheldon McClellan have allowed the other players who were asked to do too much last season to return to more comfortable supporting roles.

Those With Potential

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Battle of Unbeatens: Key Questions in Illinois vs. Miami

Posted by Brendan Brody and Lathan Wells on December 2nd, 2014

As the ACC and the Big Ten teams get together on the hardwood this week, the ACC and Big Ten microsites (Brendan Brody and Lathan Wells, specifically) have also decided to team up to break down some of the key questions for a few of the games. What follows is a look at tonight’s Top 25 battle between two unbeatens: the 6-0 Illini and the 7-0 Hurricanes.

Brendan Brody: After a mediocre 17-16 mark last year, Miami is back in the Top 25 with Big 12 transfers Angel Rodriguez (Kansas State) and Sheldon McClellan (Texas) deservedly getting most of the credit. Let’s talk about how other key players like Tonyi Jekiri and Manu Lecomte have also had an impact, and how they will affect the outcome of this game.

Tonye Jekiri has been a defensive force so far for Miami. (Gerry Broome, AP)

Tonye Jekiri has been a defensive force so far for Miami. (Gerry Broome, AP)

Lathan Wells: Lecomte looks much more comfortable playing off the ball and allowing Rodriguez to run the show this season. The result is enormously efficient basketball, as he is averaging 13.3 PPG and shooting 56.7 percent from the field. If Rodriguez and McClellan are being stifled, he offers a third excellent perimeter scoring option. Jekiri, to his credit, has blossomed into a force around the basket, averaging just shy of 11 rebounds and 2.6 blocks per game. For a team relying on consistent guard and perimeter play, he has helped to keep the Hurricanes balanced. While it’s true Rodriguez and McClellan are driving Miami’s hot start, don’t be surprised if Lecomte comes up with a few key baskets or if Jekiri helps keep Miami on the plus-side of the rebounding margin. Illinois hangs its hat on defense first, but the Illini rank fifth in the country in averaging 90 points per game. How will they handle a lower scoring contest if Miami is able to slow things down?

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ACC Stock Watch – Week One

Posted by Lathan Wells on November 21st, 2014

Each week here at the microsite we’ll take a look at which ACC teams and players are trending up, down, or remaining flat. It’s still very early in the season, but there are some trends to be gleaned from the first week of opening games. Let’s take a look below:

Trending Up

  • Duke. Despite all of the preseason hype placed on Duke’s freshmen (Jahlil Okafor in particular) and speculative questions about overall team chemistry, the Blue Devils have looked the part of a title contender thus far. Their blowouts over Presbyterian and Fairfield may not have convinced anyone, but their wire-to-wire victory over Michigan State showed that Duke is already in top form.
  • Miami. The Hurricanes’ early returns on their big-name transfers have been outstanding. Sheldon McClellan (from Texas) is putting up 11.0 points and 5.3 rebounds per game through two contests, and former Kansas State point guard Angel Rodriguez is not only averaging a team-high 18.3 points per contest, but he also hit the game-winning three over rival Florida that ended the Gators’ 33-game home winning streak. Pretty solid start for Jim Larranaga’s newcomers.
Angel Rodriguez has brought pleasant early returns for Miami (USA Today Sports)

Angel Rodriguez has produced pleasant early returns for Miami (USA Today Sports)

  • Virginia Tech. Why are the Hokies trending up when they only have wins over Maryland-Eastern Shore and Liberty? Well, go back in time one year ago and Virginia Tech had just lost its season opener to South Carolina Upstate. At a minimum, Buzz Williams has his team beating the teams it should beat, something last year’s group couldn’t boast. Freshman Justin Bibbs’ solid start to the season has been a pleasant surprise as well.

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ACC M5: 11.19.14 Edition

Posted by Lathan Wells on November 19th, 2014

morning5_ACC

  1. Syracuse.com: It is well-known that the Syracuse basketball and football programs have been under NCAA scrutiny for a while now. Other than eligibility concerns surrounding Fab Melo, though, there hasn’t been much information about what the alleged transgressions were. Recent news of a link between a YMCA in Oneida and Orange athletes has brought to light some of the other issues the school is contending with. Questions are being asked about internship programs that athletes supposedly completed at the Y, administered by graduate students. Additionally, a former supervisor at this YMCA was sued for siphoning money from the organization into a private account. That supervisor, Jeff Cornish, had no previous ties to Syracuse but has been seen with former stars Carmelo Anthony and Hakim Warrick, among others, at various times over past years. If nothing else, this helps to clarify some of what Syracuse is experiencing, and the possible issue with the internships draws some resemblance to the paper classes scandal at North Carolina, although on a much smaller scale.
  2. ESPN: Angel Rodriguez‘s name was everywhere in the past 24 hours, thanks to the game-winning three pointer he nailed that ended Florida’s 33-game home winning streak. Miami is largely dependent on Rodriguez and Sheldon McClellan, both transfers, to make this a much-improved Hurricanes team. Rodriguez’s heroics led ESPN.com‘s Myron Medcalf to delve into whether transfers like those two are a good thing for college hoops. Medcalf notes that some players transfer, even multiple times, for purely selfish reasons, but said that he regarded Rodriguez and N.C. State’s Trevor Lacey as examples of players who had good reasons to move on to a new school. Clearly some of the best transfer talent in college basketball can be found in the ACC this season.
  3. Fayetteville Observer: One of the key takeaways from N.C. State’s win over Hofstra on Monday night was the offensive production of Lennard Freeman. The Wolfpack’s frontcourt was always going to be a focal point this year due to its relative youth, and, so far, early results are mixed. Kyle Washington and BeeJay Anya, the two frontcourt players most projected to make the biggest impact, performed poorly in that contest. If Freeman can have more nights like he did against Hofstra (nine points, 13 rebounds) it would go a long way towards helping head coach Mark Gottfried develop the impact frontcourt he’s desires. Overall, though, all three of his big men need to play integral roles each and every night for the Wolfpack to have a successful season.
  4. The Courier-Journal: In short, Montrezl Harrell is a beast. His 30-point, seven-rebound performance in Louisville‘s opener over Minnesota was jaw-dropping not so much because of his production but how he produced it. Harrell, always a monster around the rim, displayed a newfound ability to hit jump shots from deep (3-of-4 from three-point range) that he did not have last season. As Gary Parrish from CBSSports.com noted, “Suddenly, it appears this physical specimen and unique athlete is now also capable of scoring 20-feet from the basket. That, I think, makes him nearly impossible to guard…” Harrell’s opening-night salvo earned him the ACC Player of the Week award and placed him atop the first Player of the Year rankings from ESPN.com, CBSSports.com, and CollegeSportsMadness.com. Oh, and he followed that great game up with 15/7 in game number two against Jacksonville State.
  5. Richmond Times-Dispatch: As noted before here on RTC, there are low expectations for Virginia Tech this season. When a win over Maryland-Eastern Shore in the season opener is a relief, it really hits home from a reality perspective. As the author writes, the standout from that game was freshman Justin Bibbs. Bibbs’ 15 points and two assists were a welcome sight for Hokies fans unsure of what all of these newcomers would mean for the team this year (four true freshmen played in the team’s opener). Devin Wilson was really the only sure thing on the roster returning, but if the Hokies have some under-the-radar talent among their newcomers, perhaps Buzz Williams’ reclamation project in Blacksburg won’t take as long as most thought. Bibbs certainly gave everyone a reason to get excited over the weekend.
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Hurricane Angel: Rodriguez Buys a Big Resume Win

Posted by Matt Patton on November 18th, 2014

Down fifteen in the second half on the road against a top-10 team, Miami looked finished last night. But Kansas State transfer Angel Rodriguez had different ideas. Rodriguez dominated the last nine minutes, scoring 22 points including the Hurricanes’ final 11 of the game. His heavily contested triple with 18 seconds remaining won the game, and in so doing gave a lot of credence to those of us who were already bullish on Miami during the preseason (ahem). The win comes with an asterisk: Florida’s frontcourt was in awful shape. Devon Walker and Dorian Finney-Smith were injured, and fellow ACC-departure Alex Murphy won’t become eligible until January. Sophomore forward Chris Walker was also still suspended. This left Billy Donovan with no depth to speak of, so he started walk-on Jake Kurtz alongside Jon Horford underneath. But this was still a huge win for Miami, showing that Rodriguez has emerged as a bona fide leader. And most importantly, no one will remember all of Florida’s injuries in four months. This is the kind of win that looks great on a March resume and gets a middling ACC team into the Big Dance.

Miami's season is looking up thanks to Angel Rodriguez's hot second half. (photo credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY)

Miami’s season is looking up thanks to Angel Rodriguez’s hot second half. (photo credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY)

In retrospect, it should have been obvious that Rodriguez would take over this year. He was a prolific scorer who managed to have strong efficiency numbers despite poor field goal percentages at Kansas State. And he’s exactly the piece Miami was missing last season (no offense to Rion Brown). Manu Lacomte has a lot of potential, but he’s not the focal point of an offense. That said, Rodriguez is a mercurial player. It’s easy to forget that he started 1-of-6 for two points in the first 31 minutes of the game (he finished with a 6-of-8 run, including five made threes). He will have some nights where the shots just aren’t falling, and the only other player on the team who looks capable of lighting up the scoreboard is Texas transfer Sheldon McClellan. McLellan had a quiet game last night, but he scored 19 points in the Hurricanes’ season opener on Friday against Howard. Like Rodriguez, he’s not an efficient shooter, but he makes his money at the foul line. He also does a much better job in holding onto the ball.

When it’s all said and done, Jim Larranaga needs to find some balance or Miami will be a roller coaster team this season. The squad is still very young across the roster and it relies heavily on two players who haven’t shot the ball consistently over the course of their careers. This win over Florida, though, shows that Miami has major heart. It also shows that there’s legitimately good reason to be excited about the middle of the ACC pack this season. Most importantly, thought, it gives Miami what should be a great win to present to the Selection Committee in March. And that’s what everybody is playing for.

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What’s on the Mind of the 15 ACC Programs Right Now

Posted by Lathan Wells on October 17th, 2014

With the start of the ACC college basketball season rapidly approaching, allow us to put on our psychoanalyst’s hat to determine what’s on the mind of each of its 15 member programs right now. Some are of the optimistic variety, while others are fearful at what they see lying ahead. All of them, though, are hoping to contribute to discussions lauding the ACC as the nation’s preeminent college basketball conference this year. Let’s jump into each program alphabetically.

  • Boston College: Blind optimism. The reality is that the Eagles, even with an all-ACC caliber star in Olivier Hanlan, are likely one of the three worst teams in the conference. But there’s a new coach around in Jim Christian, and thanks to the usual roster turnover, few remaining pieces to recall the 8-24 debacle of a year ago. Buying in to a new coach and system may not be a problem, but production on the court will continue to be.
  • Clemson: Loss. That loss is a huge one, in the departure of NBA draft pick K.J. McDaniels, who was their best player on both sides of the ball last year and led the team in four statistical categories. A 10-win improvement from the year before earned Brad Brownell a six-year contract extension, but how will this team score enough to win even if it replicates its defensive success of a year ago?
Jim Christian's hopes a clean slate and overhauled roster reverses BC's fortunes (credit: bostonherald.com)

Jim Christian hopes a clean slate and overhauled roster reverses BC’s fortunes (credit: bostonherald.com)

  • Duke: Motivation. Not just because of a stellar recruiting class that includes their first dominant center in some time in Jahlil Okafor and the overall potential to be in the mix for a championship. There’s also the internal motivation for Quinn Cook to keep a hold on the starting point guard role in light of the arrival of stud freshman Tyus Jones, and Rasheed Sulaimon’s motivation to show that an early-season slump last year (temporarily earning him a place in Coach K’s doghouse) was an aberration. Oh, and that first round NCAA Tournament loss to Mercer could light a fire of some sort, too.

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Morning Five: 06.18.13 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on June 18th, 2013

morning5

  1. There are a lot of appealing things about Miami. Outside of the great weather, beaches, warm weather, “scenery”, and the best pro basketball team on the planet there is also plenty of playing time available after the Hurricanes lost their six leading scorers from last year’s ACC Championship team. The latest player to decide to pack his bags for Coral Gables is Sheldon McClellan, who chose Miami over Oregon, Marquette, and LSU. Unlike Donovan Kirk (graduate student waiver) and Angel Rodriguez (seeking a hardship waiver), McClellan will have to sit out next season. When McClellan is able to play, he and Rodriguez could form one of the more potent backcourts in college basketball although McClellan will need to become a more efficient player (shot just 38.2 percent from the field while scoring 13.2 points per game last season) if the Hurricanes are to come close to the success they experienced this past season.
  2. It has been several weeks since news broke that Trevor Lacey was transferring to North Carolina State, but Lacey insisted it was not a done deal. Now it appears that Lacey is officially headed there as sources told CBS Sports that Lacey had sent in his paperwork to North Carolina State. Lacey may have some holes in his game, but he is about as close to a sure thing as you can have for a transfer as he averaged 11.3 points and 3.2 assists per game playing for Alabama. The timing of Lacey’s transfer should work out well for the Wolfpack who are expected to be down next year, but should return most of their team for the 2014-15 season when Lacey will be eligible again.
  3. It seems like we have a weird transfer story fairly frequently in the off-season, but Jermaine Marshall‘s tale is unique even among the those stories. In May, Marshall left Penn State saying that he was planning on pursuing a career overseas. Yesterday, he announced that he will actually be looking to transfer to another school for his final year of eligibility. Marshall, who averaged 15.3 points per game last season, should be a hot commodity on the transfer market even if he put up his numbers on a bad team.
  4. Many consider the 1996 Kentucky Wildcats one of the best teams in college basketball history and a good case can be made for them being the best team of the post-Wooden era. While there were many memorable players on that team one of the most popular among fans was Walter McCarty. So when McCarty’s NCAA Championship and special commemorative ring from that team appeared on eBay it surprised many Kentucky fans. It turns out that the rings ended up on the site in what has been described as a “Misunderstanding with [a] family member”[Ed. Note: I hate when that happens.] Although we would assume that McCarty’s career NBA salary of $15,217,495 would be more than enough to sustain him to this point we have seen many athletes (and individuals from other endeavors) blow through ten times that money. We hope the reports are true and McCarty is not trying to unload the rings for financial reasons.
  5. We were a bit surprised to see Andy Glockner write a pair of columns about luck without utilizing Ken Pomeroy’s “Luck” data heavily, but his columns on the teams that he expect to have better luck and worse luck next season is still an interesting read. Although the column does not rely on advanced metric it does go into detail about why the teams should expect to have a better or worse record next season even if it has nothing to do with fortune or misfortune.
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Texas Sophomore Myck Kabongo Will Enter the NBA Draft

Posted by Nate Kotisso on April 13th, 2013

You could see this coming from a mile away. Texas sophomore guard Myck Kabongo announced his intention to enter this June’s NBA Draft, foregoing his final two years of eligibility in Austin. When he arrived on campus in 2011, Kabongo was a five-star prospect according to recruiting services like Scout, ESPN and Rivals. He made an immediate impact, averaging 9.6 points, 3.0 rebounds and 5.2 assists per game in 34 starts for a Texas team that slid into the NCAA Tournament as a #11 seed.

He gone. (TexasSports.com)

He’s gone. (TexasSports.com)

His second season didn’t start off the way he would have liked. The NCAA investigated Kabongo for receiving an impermissible payment related to an offseason workout hosted by Rich Paul, an agent to former Longhorns Tristan Thompson and Cory Joseph. Kabongo was ruled ineligible for the first 23 games of the regular season but made the most of what little playing time he had, averaging 14.6 points, 5.0 rebounds, 5.5 assists and 2.0 steals per game, all career highs. So why would he even consider a return for a junior campaign? Sheldon McClellan, the team’s second-leading scorer at 13.5 points per game, has already decided to transfer. Javan Felix, who filled in for Kabongo as a starter this season, will get plenty of competition from two incoming freshman players in Kendal Yancy-Harris and Isaiah Taylor at the point guard slot. But Texas has other issues, most notably the lack of shotmakers on the team except for Julien Lewis. On the inside, Cameron Ridley has shown very little offensively and his overall impact on games has been disappointing for a player with his size.

The winner in all of this is obviously Kabongo because he’ll get drafted and become a multi-millionaire. The loser is Texas, which is facing another season where the NCAA Tournament looks unlikely unless some surprises step up unexpectedly from Rick Barnes’ roster.

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Assessing the Season: Texas Longhorns

Posted by Nate Kotisso on April 11th, 2013

As the season winds down and Big 12 teams continue to find themselves eliminated from the post-season, we’re taking a look back on a team-by-team basis at the 2012-13 season. Next up: the Texas Longhorns.

Final Record: 16-18 (7-11)

The Expectations: All Texas fans have ever known under Rick Barnes is that they’re eventual shoe-ins for the NCAA Tournament. But even the most optimistic of fans realized that this year would be the toughest he’s ever had in Austin. Gone was their 20 PPG scorer from 2011-12, J’Covan Brown, who decided to pursue a professional career after his junior year. What remained was a rotation that was talented and highly-recruited but was also consisted of a bunch of freshmen and sophomores. Heading into the start of team practice, fans were cautiously optimistic with both Myck Kabongo and Sheldon McClellan pegged for breakout sophomore campaigns.

This season was a surprise to Longhorns fans and head coach Rick Barnes. (Eric Gay/Associated Press)

This season was a surprise to Longhorns fans and head coach Rick Barnes. (Eric Gay/Associated Press)

The Actual Result: When teams started practicing in early October, that’s when news broke that the NCAA was investigating Kabongo. The allegations were that Kabongo had received impermissible benefits from Rich Paul, the agent to former Longhorns Tristan Thompson and Cory Joseph as well as LeBron James. Kabongo attended an offseason workout in Cleveland and his travel considerations were (allegedly) paid for by Paul. While Kabongo was investigated, Texas didn’t take any chances in playing a possibly ineligible player. The season commenced and Texas’ offensive struggles were noticeable from the get-go. The Horns suffered an embarrassing loss to Division II Chaminade and struggling USC at the Maui Invitational. There was also the 41-point effort against Georgetown, but after that game it seemed like Rick Barnes’ team was turning the corner. It lost a two-point decision to über-talented UCLA down in Houston and beat Texas State seven days later by double digits.

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Big 12 M5: 01.31.13 Edition

Posted by Nate Kotisso on January 31st, 2013

morning5_big12

  1. Oklahoma finally had a chance to score a road win against Baylor that would boost their average tournament profile. So they grabbed a hold of this game early and never let go. The Sooners marched into Baylor’s Ferrell Center and handed the Bears their third home loss of the season (they’ve got six total). They got an outstanding effort from Amath M’Baye but I’m giving major props to a upperclassmen I expected a lot more from during his senior season. I pictured Steven Pledger being a serious contender for player of the year in the Big 12 but his six minute drop in playing time has seen his shooting and scoring numbers take a hit in 2012-13. Last night:  20 points, 6-for-12 shooting, made three threes, had two steals, five assists and one turnover. He made three free throws down the stretch to clinch it for Oklahoma. This game goes to show that he’s better than his season stats would tell you.
  2. Iowa State tried to make history last night, and they came close, but it just wasn’t to be. Again. The Cyclones had not won a game at Gallagher-Iba Arena in a quarter of a century and now they will have to wait another year to rewrite history. They led for a little over half of the game before losing it in an interesting final seconds of regulation. If the original call of a foul plus a 1-and-1 opportunity for Chris Babb stood firm, we could be talking a game that went to overtime and possibly a streak that could be no more. But as players and coaches will tell you, it’s never a good idea to let the referees decide the end of a game. They’ll move on and face Baylor Saturday who ironically enough have never won a game at Hilton Coliseum. Go figure.
  3. Yes it was super frosh Marcus Smart who hit the game-winner last night and had another typical superb game,  but his high school teammate is deserving of some attention tooPhil Forte stands just five feet, eleven inches tall and knows if he wasn’t a gym rat, there’s a chance he wouldn’t be playing Division 1 hoops. His tireless work ethic has earned him starters’ minutes as of late, going over 30 in four of the last five games. Last night, Forte chipped in with 17 points and four steals. It won’t be long before people outside Stillwater will realize that Forte is actually not related to former Cowboy Keiton Page.
  4. We knew it was going to get ugly in Manhattan. What hampered Texas this time? Offense again. All the Longhorns could get was 19 in the first half while K-State happened to score 19 more than UT. The Horns turn the ball over more than anyone (16 turnovers/game) in the Big 12. Wouldn’t you know it, the Wildcats would win the turnover battle 17-6.  Sheldon McClellan described this season better than anyone after the game: “Demoralizing.” At this point Rick Barnes’ only hope this spring is if he can find a way land Julius Randle for next year’s recruiting class.
  5. Kansas State absolutely would have taken a win by any means necessary after losing twice last week. While the game was never in doubt, backup forward Thomas Gipson played like there was no tomorrow. After starting the last 13 games for the Wildcats, Gipson found himself coming off the bench. He took the demotion in stride, scoring 17 points and pulling down seven boards in 21 minutes. For Gipson, there was also some added meaning for playing on January 30th. “I think that today, my real motivation was that today was my sister’s (Jade Middleton) birthday and she passed about a year ago and I just used that as my reason to play hard. I should play like that every day.” At least he’s willing to admit he doesn’t play to his potential. Now it’s time to buck that trend.
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Big 12 Power Rankings: Week 12

Posted by KoryCarpenter on January 28th, 2013

Right when we thought a team might overtake Kansas in the Big 12 standings (or our power rankings, at least), Kansas State went out and lost two in a row last week, first to Kansas at home and then at Iowa State on Saturday. Both were close games with the Wildcats losing by a combined 10 points, but they lost two games on the Jayhawks in the Big 12 race and fell into a third place tie with Iowa State and Oklahoma. Baylor has quietly started 5-1 in conference play, but the easier part of their schedule is now behind them. The Bears have already swept TCU and have another win over Texas Tech in Lubbock (but hey, that’s more than Iowa State can say). And about those Jayhawks — they are due for a loss, aren’t they? They have been winning close games for the last month it seems. We’ve spiced up the rankings this week with a team’s projected NCAA Tournament seed from Bracket Matrix. Instead of picking a random bracketologist’s numbers, how about averaging out a bunch of mock brackets? The guys at Bracket Matrix do that so we don’t have to, and as many people have been saying lately, there looks to be six NCAA Tournament teams from the Big 12 this year.

The Kansas Offense Hasn't Been Pretty In January, But The Defense Has Helped Keep Their Winning Streak Alive.

The Kansas Offense Hasn’t Been Pretty In January, But The Defense Has Helped Keep Its Winning Streak Alive.

1) Kansas (18-1, 6-0 Big 12)
Previous Ranking: 1
Projected NCAA Seed: #1

Last Week: W 59-55 at Kansas State, W 67-54 vs Oklahoma

This Week: Tonight at West Virginia, 8:00 PM CST, Saturday vs Oklahoma State, 3:00 PM

  • Rundown: The Jayhawks have won 17 straight since losing to Michigan State in November but the offense has disappeared in January. They are averaging 62.2 PPG in their last five games, leading to a KenPom Adjusted Offensive Efficiency of #18. And as we pointed out here, teams that finish outside the top #25 in that category rarely make the Final Four.
  • Cause For Concern: The offense, of course. Last season, point guard Tyshawn Taylor was always there to clean up an ugly offensive possession with a drive to the basket. This team has had point guard issues most of the year. Starter Elijah Johnson has been more of an off-guard during his career and backup Naadir Tharpe is trigger-happy. Freshman Ben McLemore averages 16.2 PPG, but with a shooting percentage of 51%, he needs to take over more games than he does. He’s the best player on the team and one of the five best in the country, so an average of 10 shots a game isn’t enough.

2) Baylor (14-5, 5-1)
Previous Ranking: 3
Projected NCAA Seed: #9

Last Week: W 64-54 vs Oklahoma State, W 82-56 at TCU

This Week: Wednesday vs Oklahoma, 6:00 PM, Saturday at Iowa State 7:00 PM

  • Rundown: The days of losing to teams like Charleston and Northwestern look to be behind them, but the schedule certainly picks up the rest of the way. Eight of their last 12 games are against teams projected to make the NCAA Tournament. The emergence of freshman center Isaiah Austin will help, though. Austin has scored double figures in each of his last 10 games going back to December 12.
  • Cause For Concern: We all know what the Bears are by now, a talented, underachieving squad that could fall on its face in the first round of the Tournament or make the Elite Eight. From where they stand now, the worst thing that could happen to Baylor — or any team for that matter — is to land in the #8/#9 game and play a #1 seed in the second round.

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Big 12 Conference Call: January 12 Edition

Posted by Nate Kotisso on January 12th, 2013

Welcome to the first Conference Call of conference play! We are one full week into the Big 12 season and you can already put each team into one of four boxes: the you’ll-know-how-they-finish box (Kansas, TCU and Texas Tech), the disappointment box (Texas, West Virginia), the surprise box (Kansas State) and the don’t-know-where-to-put-them box (Iowa State, Oklahoma State, Baylor and Oklahoma). Today, we discuss the futures for some of these teams, some of the disappointing players and much more. 

Things have been a-ok for Bruce Weber and Kansas State (Associated Press)

Things have been a-ok for Bruce Weber and Kansas State (Associated Press)

  1. Two of the league’s biggest disappointments, West Virginia and Texas, played an ugly basketball game Wednesday with the Mountaineers prevailing in OT. Which team will hear its name called on Selection Sunday?
  2. Iowa State was a bank shot three away from picking up a huge win vs Kansas in Lawrence. What do we make of the Cyclones this season?
  3. If you were to stop the season right now, which Big 12 coach would be the first to get fired?
  4. Which player has been the biggest disappointment this season?
  5. Divisional round of the NFL playoffs are Saturday and Sunday. Who ya got?

*****

1. Two of the league’s biggest disappointments, West Virginia and Texas, played an ugly basketball game Wednesday with the Mountaineers prevailing in OT. Which team will hear its name called on Selection Sunday?

  • KC: Both teams will hear their names called on Selection Sunday when the NIT picks the scraps off the table. Even if you assume Myck Kabongo will return to his old self immediately next month, the Longhorns will be lucky to be above .500 at that time and Kabongo isn’t good enough to change that ship’s course. And again, that’s assuming he will be great from the get-go, and I don’t think that will be the case. With no marquee wins on the schedule, West Virginia probably needs 12 more wins this season — giving them 20 — to make the dance. You have to jump through a few mathematical hoops to find 12 more wins on their schedule at this point.
  • DS:  I’d be surprised if either West Virginia or Texas even make the NIT. The first half of the season has been a disaster for both squads. It’s been so bad, in fact, that both teams are ranked outside of the top 100 in the RPI. I mentioned earlier this week that it’d be silly to even attempt to determine what Texas must do from this point forward to make the NCAA Tournament. That’s how far off the bubble the Longhorns are right now, and the same goes for West Virginia. Look at the Mountaineers’ “resume,” if you even want to call it that. There’s that one-point win against a Virginia Tech team that has lost four straight games by a combined 96 points. Oh, and Bob Huggins‘ team also beat a better-than-you-might-think Eastern Kentucky team at home. So there’s that, too. Texas, meanwhile, is hanging its hat on a home win over a North Carolina team that’s crumbling by the day, and Myck Kabongo won’t return from suspension until mid-February. There are Great West teams with more compelling CBI resumes than Texas and West Virginia right now. Well, almost.
  • NK: Regardless of how this season was going to turn out for the Mountaineers, they weren’t going to be anything like last year’s team. That squad had Tournament-tested guys like Darryl “Truck” Bryant and Kevin Jones. Now with those players gone, Deniz Kilicli, Aaron Brown and Jabarie Hinds were supposed to assume bigger roles this season, but in turn, they are having worse seasons this year than last. For some reason, I can’t close the door completely on Texas. Javan Felix has proven he is more than just a back-up point guard in Kabongo’s absence. Though he needs to make shots at a higher percentage, Sheldon McClellan is a better number one option than anyone West Virginia has. I don’t think either team will make the Tournament now but I’d say Texas has better odds of making it than WVU.

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