Big 12 Power Rankings: Week Three

Posted by KoryCarpenter on November 28th, 2012

With a couple of weeks of games in the books, we can start getting a good gauge on Big 12 teams this season — not a great gauge this early, but good enough. The three Big 12 writers — myself, Danny, and Nate — will publish our conference power rankings every week. While a team that loses usually drops a few slots in the AP or Coaches Top 25 poll, that might not be the case here. The best teams (in our opinion at least) up until that point in the season will be on top. But don’t expect things to remain stagnant with this group of teams. There aren’t many guarantees other than TCU being pretty bad. Each of our top 10’s will be averaged out with any ties going to the higher ranked KenPom team. We’ll also try to mix it up a bit each week with a theme facing each team — this time around, we examine a player stepping up for each squad, someone who maybe wasn’t expected to shoulder as much of the load as he’s done so far this season.

1) Oklahoma State (5-0, 0-0 Big 12)
Previous Ranking: 6

Oklahoma State makes its debut at No. 1 on our list with a nice win over North Carolina State.

Last Week: W 81-51 vs. Portland State

This Week: Saturday @ Virginia Tech, 2:00 PM CST

  • Rundown: With the return of sophomore guard Le’Bryan Nash and the introduction of freshman point guard and former five-star recruit Marcus Smart, the Cowboys are 5-0 with an impressive upset of then No. 6 North Carolina State on November 18. It’s enough for them to begin the season atop the list.
  • A Player Stepping Up: Junior G Markel Brown: Brown has been a nice complement to the underclassmen duo of Nash and Smart through five games this season. He’s averaging 14.6 PPG, 5.2 RPG, and 2.2 APG including a season-high 23 points on opening night against Portland State.

2) Kansas (5-1, 0-0)
Previous Ranking: 1

Last Week: W 78-41 vs. Washington State, W 73-59 vs. Saint Louis

This Week: W 70-57 vs San Jose State, Friday vs. Oregon State, 7:00 PM

  • Rundown: The Jayhawks should have beaten Michigan State a few weeks ago but struggled down the stretch, eventually losing, 67-64. They’ve also looked less than impressive at times against subpar competition at home. Southeast Missouri State got within striking distance in the second half, Chattanooga held an eight-point halftime lead, and San Jose State lost by only 13 on Monday night in Allen Fieldhouse. Bill Self will have this group improved by conference play, but for now, they’re going to continue to be inconsistent while the freshmen get acclimated.
  • A Player Stepping Up: Senior G Travis Releford: The senior guard was named Big 12 Player of the Week last week after averaging 20 points in wins over Washington State and Saint Louis in the CBE Classic. Never a true first or second option on offense, Releford is Bill Self’s go-to defender on the perimeter and he’s a nearly automatic in transition.

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Ten Tuesday Scribbles: On Realignment, UConn, Maui and More…

Posted by Brian Otskey on November 20th, 2012

Brian Otskey is a regular contributor for RTC. Every Tuesday during the regular season he’ll be giving his 10 thoughts on the previous week’s action. You can find him on Twitter @botskey

  1. As someone who doesn’t watch one minute of college football but loves college basketball to no end, conference realignment frustrates me to no end as you might imagine. It’s actually quite depressing and I hate talking/writing about it. However, it’s a relevant story and must be discussed because of the far-reaching impacts it will have on the sport I love. I realize this is all about “stability,” TV markets and football. It bothers me like nothing else but I accept it. I’m in the minority when it comes to this and the minority holds very little influence in our country. The consequences (both intended and unintended) of realignment for basketball are distressing. The Big East conference, the pre-eminent college basketball league for the last 25 to 30 years, is on life support. The conference I grew up watching, with the best conference tournament of them all, is all but gone. Yes, Connecticut and Louisville are still in the league, but make no mistake, they’ll bolt at the first opportunity they get as we saw this week with Rutgers going to the Big Ten. Once everything shakes out, I find it hard to believe any Big East football program will remain in the league. It simply makes no sense to do so at this point and they’re looking out for themselves in doing so. I don’t blame them. I blame the greedy conference leadership concerned about how many eyeballs the Big Ten Network can draw in New York and New Jersey, the schools who set this in motion (Syracuse and Pittsburgh), and the Big East as a whole for turning down a massive TV deal that could have given the conference a great deal of security. Once the football schools leave, the Big East will be down to seven Catholic basketball-only schools: DePaul, Georgetown, Marquette, Providence, St. John’s, Seton Hall and Villanova. As an alumnus and fan of one of those seven schools, this pains me greatly. I could live with Pittsburgh, West Virginia and Notre Dame leaving the league. The real punch to the gut was Syracuse, a Big East founding member, saying it could find long-term stability in the ACC. The final, fatal blow will be Connecticut and/or Louisville bolting, likely in short order. The basketball-only schools have no leverage and must wait and see as everything crashes around them. Hopefully they get together, keep the Big East name and pick up a few other schools like Butler, St. Joe’s and Xavier. That wouldn’t be a bad league and it would get back to the roots of the Big East, basketball and basketball only.

    The Big East Needs to Find Its Roots in Basketball

  2. How does realignment affect other schools and conferences?  For one, the bottom teams in the ACC may stay there for a very long time. With Syracuse, Pittsburgh and Notre Dame coming in (and possibly Connecticut/Louisville), how will schools like Wake Forest and Boston College compete? There will be a good five or six programs ahead of them each and every year, plus they have to battle it out with the likes of Clemson, Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech just to make it into the middle of the pack. It’s a vicious cycle that will keep programs like these as the bottom of their respective conference for many years to come. They always said it was tough to climb up the Big East ladder but now the ACC is effectively the Big East (six of the ACC’s 14 future members, not including Maryland, will be former Big East schools). It’s going to be extraordinarily tough for schools like Boston College to compete in the revamped ACC. Only the strong shall survive in conference realignment, it seems. As for the Big Ten, the impact isn’t as significant. Penn State, Nebraska and Northwestern will always be among the worst programs in the league but the climb to respectability isn’t as difficult. Look at Northwestern. The Wildcats have never made the NCAA Tournament despite knocking on the door in the last few seasons, showing how it isn’t impossible to climb the conference ladder. Now though, the addition of a similarly starved program at Rutgers and a strong program at Maryland makes it more difficult for Northwestern to make a move. It’s uncertain what Rutgers is getting itself into. The Scarlet Knights haven’t made the NCAA Tournament in 22 seasons but have shown signs of progress under Mike Rice. You have to think it can go either way for Rutgers. The new recruiting avenues can help but the school is already situated in the middle of the talent-rich New York City area. That said, road trips to Wisconsin and Michigan State aren’t as simple as heading over to St. John’s or up to Providence. I’d lean towards Rutgers struggling in the Big Ten. Read the rest of this entry »
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Big 12 Team Previews #3: Texas Longhorns

Posted by dnspewak on November 9th, 2012

Over the next two weeks, we’ll bring you the obligatory team preview here at the Big 12 microsite. Texas at the #3 position is next on our list. 

The Skinny

  • 2011-12 record: 20-14, 9-9
  • Key contributors lost: J’Covan Brown
  • Head coach: Rick Barnes
  • Projected finish: 3rd

And now we play the waiting game. Coach Rick Barnes still has no idea whether star point guard Myck Kabongo will play this season after the NCAA began investigating his eligibility. The situation, which pertains to Kabongo’s relationship with an agent, could not have possibly come at a more crippling time for Texas. Already recovering from the early departure of do-it-all guard J’Covan Brown, the Longhorns cannot afford to lose Kabongo for any amount of time. They’ll need to remake themselves after relying so heavily on Brown a year ago, and their new style of offense — as well as any potential for a Big 12 title run — hinges on Kabongo’s presence. To make matters worse, this is a roster consisting almost exclusively of freshmen and sophomores, so there’s not a lot of room for error.

It’d Be a Problem if Kabongo Can’t Play

The Personnel

Along with Pierre Jackson, Kabongo is one of this league’s most dynamic playmakers at the point guard position. His world-class speed and explosion, coupled with his innate ability to dish out the basketball and makes his teammates better, is the reason his eligibility concerns are so widely publicized right now. If he plays, he’ll change the entire course of Texas’ season. As a freshman, Kabongo arrived on campus with out-of-this-world expectations, and he struggled to acclimate himself at first. His rookie season wasn’t necessarily “rocky,” but it took him all the way until March for his coach to notice a change in maturity and poise at point guard. After the Longhorns’ critical Big 12 quarterfinal victory over Iowa State all but secured an NCAA Tournament berth, Barnes singled out Kabongo as a major factor in the victory from a leadership standpoint. Apparently, it was Kabongo’s idea to put Jaylen Bond in the final minutes of the game, just so UT could switch on ball screens. “Of all the things he’s done this year,” Barnes said after the game, “I’m telling you. He’s heading in the right direction.”

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The Big East’s Top 25 (or so) Non-Conference Games of 2012-13

Posted by Dan Lyons on November 9th, 2012

While Big East basketball is always a spectacle, this conference season has even more added juice with the impending departures of Syracuse, Pittsburgh, and (eventually) Notre Dame.  However, before we get to conference games, the Big East is involved in some really intriguing non-conference games this season. Big East teams will be playing all over the United States, Germany, and on a few aircraft carriers. Let’s take a look at the best that the Big East has to offer in the non-conference slate this season.

Syracuse and San Diego State tip off the season on the deck of the USS Midway this Sunday (AP)

25. Pittsburgh v. Oakland, November 17, 7 PM

The Panthers have a rather light non-conference slate this season, but don’t expect them to look past the Golden Grizzlies. Oakland has a history of playing tough schedules, and won’t be intimidated by the Zoo. Oakland is coming off of a bit of a down year in 2011-12 when they finished 20-16 (11-7), but made the NCAA Tournament in both 2009-10, when they were knocked out in the first round by Pittsburgh, and 2010-11.

24. DePaul @ Auburn, November 30, 9 PM

Look for DePaul to try to do the conference proud when they head down to take on the Auburn Tigers as part of the SEC-Big East Challenge. This DePaul squad should be better than it has been in years past, returning dynamic forward Cleveland Melvin and dangerous guard Brandon Young.  Auburn is coming off of a poor 15-16 season, and could be ripe for a big non-conference road win for the Blue Demons.

23. Rutgers v. Iona, Madison Square Garden, December 8, 9:30 PM

One of these New York metropolitan-area teams is coming off of a great season that ended in a heartbreaking NCAA tournament loss to BYU. The other is continually striving to build its program, and aspires to have such success.  It almost seems backwards that Iona is the more accomplished team at the moment, but isn’t that what makes college basketball so great? A big performance by the Scarlet Knights at the Garden could go a long way in setting the tone for a run at a tournament berth in the Big East.

22. St. John’s v. Detroit, November 13, 2 PM

The Johnnies tip off their season against a very dangerous Detroit squad led by superstar Ray McCallum. St. John’s has a number of impressive young players themselves, and head coach Steve Lavin will return to the sideline after battling cancer last season. While many look forward to what should be a fun match-up between McCallum and D’Angelo Harrison, the St. John’s star was recently benched in the team’s final exhibition for disciplinary reasons. If Lavin continues to have issues with his top guard, it could prove very problematic for the Red Storm next week.

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Big 12 M5: 10.25.12 Edition

Posted by KoryCarpenter on October 25th, 2012

  1. The CBSSports.com crew was at it again on Wednesday, this time ranking the top 50 wings in the country for this season. UCLA freshman Shabazz Muhammad came in at No 1. ahead of Ohio State’s DeShaun Thomas. The Big 12 has four players on the list, three of whom are in the top 15. Oklahoma State sophomore Le’Bryan Nash (13.3 PPG, 5.0 RPG last season) was No. 7 followed immediately by Kansas redshirt freshman Ben McLemore at No. 8. Rodney McGruder of Kansas State (15.8 PPG, 5.2 RPG) came in at No. 14 and Texas’ Sheldon McClellan (11.3 PPG, 3.3 RPG) rounded out the conference at No. 43. All four players have a shot to lead their respective teams in scoring this year as well as challenge for Big 12 Player of the Year.
  2. Andy Glockner unveiled a list of his own on Wednesday. He ranked all 32 Division I conferences and placed the Big Ten on top. The Big 12 showed up on his list at third, one spot behind the Big East. His assessment is spot on to me in that while there’s maybe just one great team — maybe Kansas -- the middle of the pack is tough from Baylor all the way to Oklahoma. TCU and Texas Tech will finish at the bottom and the Jayhawks should win the league again, but it would be hard to argue against any projection of teams in the second through eights positions. Every one of those teams has question marks but every one of them also has a bright spot or two that could lend itself to a good season.
  3. Here’s more from Glockner: A strength of schedule breakdown of a handful of teams this season. He liked Kansas‘ slate, saying “The Jayhawks did what Indiana (and others) should have done: load the schedule with home and quasi-home games, but against capable opposition.” KU’s schedule is highlighted with a game at Ohio State, versus Michigan State in Atlanta in the Champions Classic, Colorado, Washington State, and either Texas A&M or Saint Louis in the CBE Classic in Kansas City. Glockner liked Kansas’ schedule, but he loved Texas’ slate. The Longhorns are in the Maui Invitational, they play UCLA in Houston, Georgetown in New York, and face off with North Carolina and Michigan State. Texas Tech’s schedule, on the other hand, is laughed at, and rightly so. They don’t leave the state of Texas until January 16 and play just three power conference schools — Arizona, Arizona State, Alabama — in the non-conference season.
  4. Bill Self acknowledged his team’s need to replace the toughness that No. 5 pick Thomas Robinson took with him to Sacramento in a kusports.com article Wednesday. Self told the Lawrence Journal-World‘s Gary Bedore that Robinson “gave us an air of toughness. It made other players think they were really tough or fierce because he led by example.” Self added that his team will miss Robinson’s presence initially but believes he’ll have enough players to fill Robinson’s role by year’s end. It’s hard not to agree with Self with his track record of largely unknown role players becoming productive starters nearly every year. I want to say he’ll hit a bump in the road one of these years and won’t have a group capable of sliding in seamlessly, but I can’t. Eight straight conference titles speaks for itself.
  5. Oklahoma State senior Jean-Paul Olukemi is still waiting to hear from the NCAA about his appeal regarding his eligibility. Because he took classes at a junior college in high school, his eligibility began earlier than he realized and is now scheduled to run out after the first semester. “You just hope that people understand that you listen to people who are much older than you and they give you the wrong information because they’re trying to do something to benefit themselves,” Olukemi told the Tulsa World on Tuesday. “I hope they understand it wasn’t something that I did.” Nothing to see here, just case 5,489 of the NCAA potentially hurting a kid’s career over something this silly. Did he take money from an Oklahoma State booster? Did he cheat on a standardized test? No. He took a few college credits in high school. Sure, he should have double- or triple-checked to make sure he was good to go. But the NCAA should realize that neither Olukemi or Oklahoma State gained any athletic advantages in this case. Let the kid play.
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NCAA Investigators Sniffing Around Texas

Posted by dnspewak on October 11th, 2012

There may not be a more valuable player to his team in the Big 12 than Myck Kabongo. He’s not Texas’ leading returning scorer — that’s Sheldon McClellan — nor did he play flawlessly a year ago as a freshman. Regardless, he played a major role in helping the Longhorns sneak into the NCAA Tournament with his improved point guard play and defense during the final month of last season, and the Longhorns will likely live and die with their stud NBA prospect in 2012-13.

That is, if he’s even on the team. A school spokesman told the Associated Press yesterday that the NCAA has questioned Kabongo about his relationship with agent Rich Paul, who represents LeBron James (as well as former Texas players Tristan Thompson and Cory Joseph). The investigation centers around two aspects: 1) Paul’s communication with NBA teams before Kabongo decided not to enter the 2012 NBA Draft; and 2) his role in Kabongo’s all-inclusive trip to Cleveland a year ago. These are not the most serious allegations we’ve ever seen. There are no wire transfers involved, no big bags of money or sketchy suitcases transferred from an agent to a player, no criminal action. This isn’t a Reggie Bush situation, a Fab Five situation or any of the other blatant cheating scandals in the grand history of college sports.

Texas Cannot Afford to Lose Myck Kabongo

That hardly matters, though. If true, Kabongo’s relationship with this agent would compromise his amateur status, and he’d become ineligible to play for Texas. Kabongo would land on his feet and surely jump to the NBA at some point, but his loss would devastate Rick Barnes’ team and set the program back. After relying almost exclusively on J’Covan Brown for offense in 2011-12 and overcoming a lack of depth in the frontcourt, Barnes finally assembled a team with major forces in the paint and several scoring options. This team was built for Kabongo, who won’t need to be a primary scorer. He’s the facilitator of this offense, the guy who can break down defenses and open scoring opportunities for, say, McClellan, or super freshman Cameron Ridley. Without Kabongo, however, this team will have serious issues competing near the top of the Big 12. On a team consisting of almost all freshmen and sophomores, his mere presence keeps the Longhorns running. If he’s ineligible, Barnes might be looking at another difficult season on the NCAA Tournament bubble. That’d be a real shame for a coach who combined such terrific freshman and sophomore classes on this roster.

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Big 12 Summer Update: Texas Longhorns

Posted by dnspewak on August 2nd, 2012

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

2011-12 record: 20-14, 9-9 (6th place, Big 12)

The worst nightmare happened for Texas’ J’Covan Brown: He went undrafted in June. It’s easy to play the role of revisionist historian with regard to Brown’s decision to enter the NBA Draft and skip his final year of school in Austin. In hindsight, though, perhaps he should have stayed in school and tried his luck in 2013. In reality, Brown made the decision with his family in mind. He has a daughter to take care of, and he’ll find a way to make a lot of money playing this game somewhere. After averaging 20.1 points per game as a junior and taking almost all of the shots for the young Longhorns — sometimes earning the team a reputation as a One-Man Show — his decision to bolt for the pros this summer now leaves a major void for Rick Barnes in 2012-13. It would be silly to use the cliched “addition by subtraction” theorem in this situation because Brown was so important and frankly had a terrific junior campaign without much experience surrounding him, but there’s no doubt Barnes will have a different team without him on the court. With heralded point guard Myck Kabongo ready to take a leap in production as a sophomore after growing up considerably by the end of his freshman season, Barnes should have no trouble qualifying for yet another NCAA Tournament. Despite a close call a year ago, he’s still never missed the NCAAs during his tenure at Texas, and even though his team is maddeningly inexperienced, it should certainly make leaps with a stud recruiting class and improving group of sophomores.

Myck Kabongo is The Man On This Team

Summer Orientation: Barnes welcomes six new scholarship freshmen to his roster, headlined by one of the Big 12’s presumed top newcomers in center Cameron Ridley. Say goodbye to last year’s woes of lacking a true post presence. Ridley’s 6’10”, 245-pound frame speaks for itself. So does his game. He’s a traditional center with back-to-the-basket post moves, a rarity in this age of Kevin Durant and European-style hybrids. The Texas native’s decision to stay home changes the dynamics of Barnes’ roster, and so does fellow freshman big Prince Ibeh. He’s considered more of a project than Ridley and has a leaner body type, but he’s another true center who could become a monster if he develops his offensive game. Barnes told ESPN’s Andy Katz this summer that both Ridley and Ibeh are right on track to contribute as freshmen, but that article actually mentions another freshman as the biggest surprise of the off-season. That’s DeMarcus Holland, a 6’3” shooting guard noted by Barnes as performing like an “every day” kind of guy. That’s some of the highest praise a freshman can achieve before stepping on the court, and it’s the kind of comment that leads us to believe Holland could be a valuable reserve in his first season. Point guard Javan Felix will need to grow up quickly in order to backup Kabongo, and three-star small forward Ioannis Papapetrou finds himself in an interesting role as one of the only true wings on this roster. To round out the class, Connor Lammert will fight for minutes in a crowded frontcourt. The 6’7” power forward had a decent outing in a summer All-Star game by scoring 14 points. As is the case for every single team in America with rather large freshmen classes, the Longhorns’ Big Six will have to sort themselves out by the end of the offseason and October practice. Ibeh and Ridley are early bets to see a ton of playing time, but there’s no telling who else will emerge in their rookie campaigns. Overall, though, this appears to be a good group with a lot of potential down the road, and 2012-13 should serve as a solid foundation for this class.

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Insider’s Practice Report: Texas

Posted by dnspewak on March 7th, 2012

Danny Spewak is a Big 12 microsite writer and will provide wall-to-wall coverage from the Big 12 Tournament in Kansas City. You can follow him on Twitter @dspewak

Unlike Iowa State, Texas A&M, and Oklahoma, which ran loose, light-hearteded practices Wednesday morning, the Texas Longhorns looked like a team in desperation mode. Rick Barnes had no time for nonsense this afternoon, not with an NCAA Tournament at-large bid hanging in the balance this week. He screamed at Myck Kabongo several times for not finding the open man in the post (“He’s wide open! Find him!”) and got on walk-on Dean Melchionni for a mistake later in practice (“Shoot it! It’s not that hard!). For almost 40 minutes, the Longhorns scrimmaged with focus, intensity and a mission in mind: beat Iowa State and solidify its spot in the NCAA Tournament. “We’re taking it one game at a time this tournament. Tomorrow is the most important game of the season,” freshman Jonathan Holmes said after practice.

Texas worked on defending Scott Christopherson and the dribble handoff for several minutes

All practice, Barnes repeated over and over again that the team must take away the three-point shot. When J’Covan Brown politely mentioned that harassing shooters on the perimeter would leave defenders one-on-one, Barnes did not care. “You’re playing against the best three-point shooting team in the conference,” Barnes said.  Royce White may be Iowa State‘s leading scorer and star this season, but Barnes and assistant Rob Lanier seemed more concerned about Scott Christopherson and his ability to burn their defense from beyond the arc. “Christopherson, we’re not giving him anything. Anything,” Barnes said during practice. In preparation for Christopherson, Lanier prepped his team on how to defend Iowa State’s dribble handoff. Sheldon McClellan stood in as Christopherson, and Lanier ran drills for about 10 minutes to make sure his players knew how to shut this down. He told his team to hedge hard on the handoff, making sure the help defender “had it under control” before he retreated to cover his own man.

Later in practice, Barnes’ guys ran full court and worked on defending the dribble handoff in a more realistic setting. Take a look at the video below, where McClellan receives a handoff and runs into a help defender.

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Checking In On… the Big 12

Posted by Brian Goodman on December 27th, 2011

Steve Fetch is the RTC correspondent for the Big 12. You can also find his musings online at Rock Chalk Talk or on Twitter @fetch9.

Reader’s Take

 

The Week That Was

  • Kansas Gets Exposed: For the second time in the last four years, Kansas suffered a surprising defeat to an overmatched team in Kansas City. This year’s victor was Davidson, who led nearly all game en route to an 80-74 upset over the Jayhawks. It was the third game this season where Kansas was held under a point per possession. This team might be the worst offensive team Bill Self has fielded at Kansas: there’s no real go-to guy like Marcus Morris, and the Jayhawks don’t have the three-point shooters to keep defenses from collapsing on Thomas Robinson in the middle. The turnovers are also an even bigger problem than last season, without the ability to score nearly at will to compensate.
  • Undefeated Squads Hold Serve: Both of the undefeated teams in the league narrowly retained that status, with Missouri trying valiantly to give Illinois the Braggin Rights game and Baylor doing the same with West Virginia. Frank Haith’s team won a rare close game, eking out a 78-74 win, and Baylor narrowly defeated West Virginia 83-81 in overtime, after which Mountaineer coach Bob Huggins had a rare instance of losing his cool.
  • Kansas State scored a tournament win over the weekend, downing Long Beach State on Christmas night to win the Diamond Head Classic. Angel Rodriguez was the star of the tournament, scoring 17 and 16 in the first two games. Rodney McGruder more than picked up his slack in the championship against Long Beach, scoring 28 on 10-11 shooting.  Kansas State now has a pair of good wins in the non-conference season and look like they will be in the hunt for an NCAA Tournament bid.

The Wildcats Have Plenty of Souvenirs To Bring Home After Winning The Diamond Head Classic. (AP)

Power Rankings

Because the marquee non conference games are virtually over, this week, I thought I’d grade the teams. I’m grading on a curve, so an A for Missouri isn’t the same as one for Kansas State.

  1. Missouri (12-0) – Grade: A. Missouri is 12-0 and while I am still not sure about Frank Haith for the long haul, he has to get credit for coming to Missouri and not changing anything. He recognized what he had in Marcus Denmon, Kim English, and Phil Pressey and let them be who they are. Haith’s Miami teams regularly played games where the pace lingered in the low-to-mid-60s , but this year Missouri is at 70.5 trips per game, basically right in line with where it has been the past three seasons.
  2. Kansas (8-3) – Grade: A-. Kansas sits only at 8-3, but actually are the highest-rated Big 12 team in Ken Pomeroy’s ratings at 8, one spot ahead of Missouri and two ahead of Baylor. Some of that is due to beating a Jared Sullinger-less Ohio State, but a bigger factor has been Kansas’s stifling defense, which has held opponents to just 39.6% shooting from inside the arc. A year after losing two lottery picks and the very solid Brady Morningstar and Tyrel Reed, not to mention second-round pick Josh Selby, Bill Self is in the midst of maybe his best coaching job yet. Read the rest of this entry »
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Set Your TiVo: 12.21.11

Posted by EJacoby on December 21st, 2011

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

After several consecutive slow weeknights, Wednesday night offers some very good games. All eyes should be tuned in, especially, to the ESPN2 early game.

Texas at #4 North Carolina – 7:00 PM EST on ESPN2 (****)

UNC Will Attack Texas With Their Forwards, Tonite on ESPN2 (Getty Images/P. Williams)

  • Since their collapse against NC State on November 21, Texas has won seven straight games by double digits, including some nice wins over Temple and at UCLA. Their talented guard combo of J’Covan Brown and Myck Kabongo is starting to click, with Brown’s numbers up to 19.3 points and 4.3 assists per game and Kabongo at 10.8 points and 6.0 assists per contest. Four of the Longhorns’ five leading scorers are freshmen, including Kabongo and exciting reserve guard Sheldon McClennan. The Longhorns are ranked seventh nationally with 1.18 points per possession and eighth in overall offensive efficiency (117.5). For Texas to hang in this game, they’ll need their young guards to keep scoring at a high rate, and hope to contain UNC’s massive frontcourt from dominating the offensive boards.
  • North Carolina has a massive size, experience, home court, and overall talent advantage in this game, which is why they’re 10-point favorites. Look for the Tar Heels to feature Tyler Zeller and John Henson inside to feast on Texas’s smaller front line. The bigs should be able to control this game on the boards, where UNC ranks 16th nationally in offensive rebounds per game, and number one overall on the defensive glass. Even if Texas’s guards can score effectively, Carolina can counter with its wing scorers of Harrison Barnes, Dexter Strickland, and Reggie Bullock, lead by the nation’s top assist man in Kendall Marshall (10.2 APG).
  • Texas has won four straight games against Carolina since 1995. The Longhorns are playing well and will certainly be ready for this game. But it’s hard to envision UNC losing this one at home given their huge advantage in the paint and with just as many talented guards. Expect a super exciting, high scoring affair between two of the top programs in the country, with Roy Williams’ team coming out on top.

Seton Hall at Dayton – 7:00 PM EST, no TV (***)

  • This is a huge road test for 9-1 Seton Hall, whose only loss came in the finals of the Charleston Classic against Northwestern. Senior Herb Pope has been an absolute stud all year and he leads the Big East in scoring (22.1 PPG) AND rebounding (11.9 RPG). His fellow senior leader, point guard Jordan Theodore, leads the conference in assists with 7.1 per game. Sophomore guard Fuquan Edwin leads the Big East in steals per game with 3.4 per contest. He and Theodore each average about 14 points per game, as well. This dangerous trio will look to lead coach Kevin Willard’s team to a big road win and legitimize their strong start to the season.
  • Dayton is a talented but very inconsistent team. They have strong wins over Alabama, Wake Forest, and Minnesota on their resume, but they also have a shocking home loss to Buffalo by 29 (!) points. They lost road games to Miami (Ohio) and Murray State, as well. First year coach Archie Miller’s team has five players that average nine or more points per game, lead by junior lead guard Kevin Dillard. A transfer from Southern Illinois, Dillard leads the team in scoring (11.9 PPG), assists (5.1 APG), and steals (2.3 SPG).
  • This game is not televised nationally or on ESPN3.com, but be sure to follow along, or even watch if it’s being shown locally. Dayton is a four-point home favorite in this one, but this is anyone’s game. The Flyers have several big home wins and another awful home loss. Seton Hall will look to control the game with the dominant Pope inside, who will be a load to handle for Dayton’s short interior players. I’d take Seton Hall and their experienced leaders to come out with the road win, but this one could go either way.

Middle Tennessee State at Mississippi – 9:00 PM EST on ESPN3.com (***)

  • Middle Tennessee is coming off a big home win over Belmont to push its record to 10-2. They are the class of the Sun Belt Conference, and are only two-point underdogs in this game. When you factor in the three-point cushion given to home teams in Vegas lines, that means MTSU is considered the slightly better team. This is a fair assessment, as the Raiders have an impressive trio of upperclassmen in guard Marcos Knight and forwards LaRon Dendy and J.T. Sulton who all average at least 12 points and 6 rebounds per game. These three all shoot at least 53.6% from the field, as well, which powers the nation’s best field goal shooting team (53.2% as a team for the year).
  • Ole Miss also comes into this game with just two losses, the most recent of which came on Saturday at a pretty good Southern Miss team. Ole Miss features five players that average nine points or more, lead by junior Murphy Holloway’s 10.3 points and 9.5 rebounds per game. Not included in their five leading scorers is new addition Jelan Kendrick, who is now eligible for Mississippi after transferring from Memphis when he was kicked off the team at the beginning of this year. Kendrick is a very talented freshman who could start to make his mark tonight. Andy Kennedy’s team will have the athleticism advantage in this game, such as their 6.2 blocks per game which ranks 13th in the country.
  • This game might be the best of the 9:00PM EST slate, so be sure to have ESPN3 ready on your computer even if you’re tuned in to the television for another game. We expect Ole Miss to take care of business at home, but MTSU will offer a great challenge and could come out with another impressive victory.

Oklahoma State at Alabama – 9:00 PM EST on ESPN2 (***)

  • Oklahoma State comes into this game at 6-4 having lost two straight games. The Cowboys have a collection of talented players but have not found the best way to utilize their pieces; nine different players have been in the starting lineup in the first 10 games. LeBryan Nash, the McDonald’s All-American freshman, is starting to play better of late, seeing his minutes increase in the past three games. He’s now up to 12.7 points and 5.2 rebounds per game for the season. Markel Brown is a talented sophomore guard (9.7 PPG) and Cezar Guerrero is a freshman with a quick trigger that can fill it up in a hurry (7.7 PPG), though takes plenty of questionable shots per game. Upperclassmen Jean-Paul Olekemi (9.7 PPG) and, especially, Keiton Page (12.7 PPG) are the leaders of the team that will look to ignite the upset in this one.
  • Alabama was ranked in the top 15 to begin this month, but the Crimson Tide have suffered three disappointing losses in the past three weeks, albeit to some good teams. Anthony Grant’s team lost at home to Georgetown on a game-winning three from the Hoyas, and they followed that one with two road losses to Dayton and Kansas State. Bama has had trouble scoring in those games. They aren’t a very effective offensive team, with a 104.8 efficiency that ranks 120th nationally. The Tide get it done on the defensive end where they allow an eFG% of 40.6 that is seventh best in the country. Jamychal Green, Tony Mitchell, and Trevor Releford are big time athletes who all average double figure scoring and can lock down defensively.
  • This game is technically not a home game for Alabama, since it is being played in Birmingham as part of the 2011 Legacy Credit Union Holiday Classic. But for all intents and purposes, consider the Crimson Tide the home team as they will draw the much larger crowd in their home state. Bama has fallen victim to a few upsets this season, as they were the favored team in all three of their losses. But don’t expect a repeat in this one, as Oklahoma State is still a work in progress and the solid defense of Alabama should lead them to a victory.

***** – quit your job and divorce your wife if that’s what it takes to watch this game live
**** – best watched live, but if you must, tivo and watch it tonight as soon as you get home
*** – set your tivo but make sure you watch it later
** – set your tivo but we’ll forgive you if it stays in the queue until 201
* – don’t waste bandwidth (yours or the tivo’s) of any kind on this game

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Big 12 Team Previews: Texas Longhorns

Posted by cwilliams on November 9th, 2011

Projected finish: 4th

2010-11 record: 28-8 (13-3)

Head coach: Rick Barnes, 14th season

Key losses: Jordan Hamilton (18.6 PPG), Tristan Thompson (13.1 PPG), Gary Johnson (11.5 PPG), Cory Joseph (10.4 PPG)

The 2009-10 season started out with high hopes and even higher poll rankings for the Longhorns. As we all know, after peaking at #1 in the nation for two consecutive weeks, the Longhorns collapsed in spectacular fashion finishing the season as a one-and-done NCAA tournament team. The 2010-11 campaign was quite the opposite. Expectations were not nearly as high yet the Longhorns thrived without the pressure, reaching a #3 AP poll ranking in February, defeating Kansas in Lawrence, and finishing 2nd in the Big 12. Did I mention that the Longhorns were not even ranked in the preseason AP poll? However, Jordan Hamilton and Tristan Thompson both opted to leave school early to enter the NBA draft so now Rick Barnes has a revamped roster and will have to show that the Longhorns are reloading this season and not rebuilding.

J'Covan Brown Is Expected To Lead This Young Longhorn Team.

The Stars: With Thompson and Hamilton gone, all eyes will be on J’Covan Brown. Brown will be the leader of this young, but talented Longhorn team. Last season, Brown averaged 10.4 PPG. I expect this number to nearly double, as he will be the focal point of this Texas squad. Brown is considered one of the better all-around basketball players in the nation as he can play aggressive defense, has great court vision, and can score in bunches.

The Veterans: Often times, when you see a team with six freshman, you don’t expect there to be much upperclassmen leadership. The Longhorns, however, have a nice balance of both. There are no sophomores on the team, and there are five upperclassmen. The pair of seniors, Clint Chapman and Alex Wangmene, have not exactly put up stellar numbers in their team in burnt orange as neither averaged more than 2.3 PPG. While the juniors and freshman will do the majority of the scoring (a heavy, heavy majority), expect both of these players to be vocal leaders for the youngsters, a task that often goes unappreciated.

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Analyzing the Top Ten Recruiting Classes of 2011

Posted by zhayes9 on October 7th, 2011

Zach Hayes is an editor, contributor and bracketologist for Rush the Court.

In this era of one-and-done, where every touted freshman and blue-chip prospect must lace up the sneakers in college for at least a season, recruiting has never been more important.

As recently as a decade ago, programs were built, legacies were formed and trophies were hoisted on the basis of developing and grooming four-year players. In 2003, freshman Carmelo Anthony bucked that trend by carrying his Syracuse team to a national title. When David Stern instituted an age limit to participate professionally, impact players such as Greg Oden, Kevin Love and Derrick Rose may have only dipped their toes in the collegiate water, but the Final Four berths won’t soon be forgotten.

This upcoming season, college basketball hasn’t been gutted as dramatically as in the past. Assumed lottery picks passed on the immediate NBA riches whether in fears of a prolonged lockout or simply to accomplish goals left unmet. A plethora of battle-tested seniors also make their dramatic return. Despite this welcomed development, freshmen will still have their say in who grabs the four all-important #1 seeds and who ultimately graces the hardwood in Indianapolis next April.

Here are the ten teams primed to receive a substantial contribution from their talented newcomers this upcoming season:

1. Kentucky- Brandon Knight is the latest Calipari-coached freshman to bolt early for the pros. Luckily for Big Blue, their coach’s recruiting skills hasn’t eroded in the least bit. In pretty much any other freshman class in the country, Kyle Wiltjer would top the list; in Lexington, he’s easily the fourth-best rookie on the squad. The headliner is center Anthony Davis, the early favorite to be selected first overall in the 2012 NBA Draft.  The Chicago native reminds many scouts of a young Kevin Garnett with his tremendous versatility, remarkable athleticism and exceptional rebounding abilities. Formerly a lightly-recruited guard prior to a timely growth spurt, Davis is more than comfortable handling the ball around the perimeter. Taking over at point guard for Knight is Marquis Teague, a lightning-fast lead guard and the younger brother of former Wake Forest and current Hawks reserve Jeff Teague. Teague is a better fit for Calipari’s preferred dribble-drive motion offense than the ball-screen dependent Knight. The third potential freshman starter is St. Patrick’s own Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. Gilchrist is an intense competitor and will be absolute joy for Calipari to coach. Witjer should prove a valuable backup big man with a refined perimeter game.

Anthony Davis/kentuckysportsradio.com

2. Duke- Losing your three most productive players – two face-of-the-program seniors and a point guard that just happened to be chosen #1 overall — would result in a multi-year rebuilding process at most schools. Most schools aren’t Duke, and the Blue Devils are once again expected to compete in the top ten. The biggest reason why is Austin Rivers. Easily the best scoring guard in the freshman ranks, Rivers is a legitimate threat to average 17-20 PPG during his first (and likely only) season in Durham. Rivers does possess the ability to create his own shot, but could struggle to get opportune looks until Seth Curry develops a comfort level at point guard. Oak Hill’s Quinn Cook is expected to compete for minutes at the point once he recovers from a knee injury. He appears destined to be Duke’s floor general of the future. Cook is a born leader that has one priority: to create scoring opportunities for his teammates. How deep Coach K opts to utilize his bench will determine the playing time of wings Michael Gbinije and Alex Murphy, along with the third Plumlee brother, Marshall Plumlee. All three will be regular contributors down the road. Once Murphy develops some strength, he could be the best of the lot as a scoring threat with sneaky athleticism.

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