Big 12 M5: 03.21.16 Edition

Posted by Brian Goodman on March 21st, 2016

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  1. After extended struggles in the NCAA Tournament, the Big 12 pulled through by sending three teams — Kansas, Oklahoma and Iowa State — to the Sweet Sixteen for the first time since 2009. What’s particularly interesting about the league’s current standing is that the three teams still alive are the ones we all thought had the best chance to make a run when the season started. It was tough to see Baylor, West Virginia, Texas and Texas Tech lose games they could have (perhaps should have) won, but all in all, Big 12 supporters have to like this year’s results.
  2. With Stephen F. Austin falling in a heartbreaker to Notre Dame on Sunday, you can expect the chatter connecting Brad Underwood to the Oklahoma State job to ramp up over the next couple of days. He checks many of the necessary boxes for the Cowboys: He’s been tremendously successful; he has connections to the area; he worked in the Big 12 earlier in his career and is a hot name who could reinvigorate the program and re-energize the fan base in very short order. We’ll have more on the coaching search in Stillwater a bit later today, but even though Underwood won just a single NCAA Tournament game this year, his potential addition to the program in Stillwater makes a lot of sense.
  3. In other Big 12 coaching news, a report Sunday indicated that Pittsburgh head coach Jamie Dixon is strongly considering a move to take the vacant TCU job. While it isn’t often that you hear of a coach of Dixon’s stature being connected to a program with as little historical success as TCU, there are a few reasons why this could be a reasonable next step for the Horned Frogs. Dixon is a TCU alumnus and the school just unveiled substantial facilities upgrades, and the timing of Trent Johnson’s firing suggests that athletic director Chris Del Conte wants to take an aggressive approach towards escaping the Big 12 basement. The move could also be appealing from Dixon’s side, too. Fan unrest in Pittsburgh is growing as Dixon has turned only two of his 11 NCAA Tournament bids into Sweet Sixteen runs, and, though there’s not much to suggest he’s at risk of termination, the athletic director and chancellor who were in place when he was hired are now gone, so it’s fair to wonder just how much support he has from the current administration. Given all of those circumstances, the TCU job could represent something of an escape hatch. While the Horned Frogs don’t have the most well-regarded program around college basketball, we haven’t seen what they can do with an accomplished leader like Dixon at the helm. It’s also no secret that Texas is loaded with the kind of prep talent that can make TCU competitive with the right coach.
  4. Returning to the league’s NCAA Tournament performance over the weekend, it has to be especially redeeming for Iowa State to have extended its season for at least one more game. While this year’s campaign hasn’t been without its highlights, the Cyclones have just been through the wringer. First, they lost Naz Mitrou-Long eight games into the season. Then they started 1-3 in conference play, dashing hopes of knocking Kansas from the top of the Big 12 mountain and leading to a level of fan criticism that prompted head coach Steve Prohm to delete his Twitter and Facebook accounts. The team then spent a decent chunk of February working through various challenges with Jameel McKay before ultimately finishing fifth in the conference and going one-and-done at the Big 12 Tournament. Flash forward to this past weekend, and the Cyclones delivered one of the most refreshing stretches of play they’ve had all year. While it’s not a huge surprise to see Iowa State in the Sweet Sixteen, that they’ve done so in spite of all the challenges they’ve faced likely makes this run a little more special than it would be otherwise.
  5. The Big 12’s Sweet Sixteen action will tip on Thursday night when Kansas and Maryland meet in Louisville. At first glance, the most intriguing individual matchup in this game centers on how Mark Turgeon’s team will defend Perry Ellis. Doing so is a tall order, but with four regulars at 6’9″ or taller, the Terrapins certainly have the bodies capable of altering Ellis’ inside shots. Part of what makes Ellis such a matchup nightmare, however, is his ability to force opposing big men defend him in space, so it will be interesting to monitor how often Bill Self utilizes Ellis on the perimeter.
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NCAA Bound Big 12 Teams Have Plenty Still to Play For

Posted by Chris Stone on March 9th, 2016

The Big 12 is in a bit of a unique position heading into the conference tournament. The league already appears poised to send seven teams to the NCAA Tournament for the third straight season, so unless something completely unexpected happens, the Big 12 Tournament will have very few, if any, bubble implications this week. The conference’s bottom three teams seem to have their futures largely set in stone as well. Kansas State looks poised for an NIT berth while both Oklahoma State and TCU are largely playing for pride. There will still be plenty on the line in Kansas City this week, as all seven NCAA-bound teams are playing for seeding and geographic considerations. Let’s examine what each of those top seven seeds has to gain over the next five days.

big 12 bracket 2016

The 2016 Big 12 Tournament bracket. (Credit: Big 12 Conference)

1. Kansas – Although Kansas already owns 14 wins against the RPI top 50, the Jayhawks are still in a battle to be the overall #1 seed in next week’s NCAA Tournament. If they can knock off the winner of Kansas State-Oklahoma State in Thursday’s quarterfinals, they’ll have a chance to pick up a couple more impressive victories on Friday and Saturday. In order to get there, head coach Bill Self will hope for continued consistency from center Landen Lucas, someone who has provided the Jayhawks with quality inside minutes late this season.

2. West Virginia – The Mountaineers are currently slated as a #3 seed according to most bracket projections, but assuming Texas Tech defeats TCU in their play-in game, they could pick up as many as three additional RPI top 50 wins to support a #2 seed. West Virginia enters the Big 12 Tournament on a four-game winning streak during which it has made 38.2 percent of its three-pointers. If the Mountaineers can keep up that pace, they’re a very dangerous team.

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Big 12 M5: 02.17.16 Edition

Posted by Chris Stone on February 17th, 2016

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  1. Texas defeated West Virginia on Tuesday evening in Austin, 85-78. Isaiah Taylor led the way with 23 points and freshman Eric Davis added 15 as the Longhorns turned it over just seven times in the win. Texas hasn’t lost a home game at the Erwin Center since December 29 and are one of only two Big 12 teams undefeated at home during conference play. In a league as tightly packed as this one this season, holding serve at home is vital to determining placement in the league standings. The Longhorns will be tested down the stretch, though, with home games still to come against Baylor, Oklahoma and Kansas.
  2. With the Mountaineers’ loss and its Monday night home win over Oklahoma State, Kansas now owns sole possession of first place in the Big 12. The Jayhawks, winners of seven straight, have been bolstered lately by the play of junior forward Landen Lucas. Lucas has collected 36 rebounds in the last three games and now ranks third in defensive rebounding rate (24.2%) and second in offensive rebounding rate (15.0%) in the Big 12. Although Lucas is not going to produce like former bigs Joel Embiid, Jeff Withey and Markieff Morris, Kansas will be happy to get any significant numbers from the center spot given the talent it has at the other positions.
  3. Congratulations are in order for Iowa State forward Georges Niang, who became the Cyclones’ third 2,000-point scorer on Tuesday night (passing his former head coach Fred Hoiberg in the process). Niang also sat down this week for a rather candid Q&A with ESPN’s Jeff Goodman in which he discussed the team’s coaching transition to Steve Prohm, which college basketball player he’d start a team with, and the best trash talkers. Niang is always a joy in interviews and this one is well worth your time.
  4. While Niang delivered 24 points for the Cyclones on Tuesday night, it was Baylor that walked out of the Ferrell Center with a 100-91 overtime win — the Bears’ second victory over an RPI top 25 team this season. Sophomore Johnathan Motley delivered a fantastic performance while senior Rico Gathers missed the game with an illness. Motley tied his career-high in scoring with 27 points on 17 shots and grabbed 10 rebounds. Baylor will have plenty of opportunities to pick up a few more quality wins with four games remaining against ranked opponents, but this one is certain to help its seeding come March.
  5. The final Big 12 game ahead of the regular Saturday slate pits Oklahoma against a rising Texas Tech squad in Lubbock. The Red Raiders are coming off of two straight wins over ranked opponents while the Sooners have lost two of their last three outings. The stakes in this one are high for both teams as Oklahoma needs a win to keep itself in the Big 12 title picture while a victory for Tech would add another big win to its NCAA Tournament resume. The fact that the Red Raiders are even in the bubble conversation after finishing 3-15 in the conference last season is a testament to the job head coach Tubby Smith has done rebuilding the program in such a short period of time.
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Big 12 Power Rankings: Blowing Bubbles Edition

Posted by Nate Kotisso on February 11th, 2016

When the calendar turns to February, it is required that everyone must talk about bubbles. When engaging in bubble talk, we are obliged to have serious discussions about big bubbles, small bubbles, dish soap, glycerin and various bubble wand shapes. But you must also make mention of the nervous teams on the fringe of the NCAA Tournament bracket. Last week, we discussed the Big 12 bubble picture at considerable length. While we thought that teams like Kansas State and Texas Tech still had some life left in them, we weren’t so positive that they could change their fortunes so quickly. Down starting point guard Kamau Stokes, the Wildcats knocked off #1 Oklahoma on Saturday because Wesley Iwundu decided the offense would run through him. (He also accurately decided his man-to-man defense on Buddy Hield would give his team a better chance at slowing down Oklahoma’s potent offense.) The Red Raiders had solid computer numbers going into last night’s game against Iowa State (RPI: 54, non-conference SOS: 59, two RPI Top 50 wins) but a 3-7 conference record is not where a team wants to be in mid-February. Texas Tech then proceeded to take down the Cyclones in overtime, adding another feather in the cap of a potential at-large profile.

Texas Tech head coach Tubby Smith might have received help from above in last night's upset victory over Iowa State. (Michael C. Johnson/USA TODAY Sports)

Texas Tech head coach Tubby Smith may have received some help from above in last night’s upset victory of Iowa State.
(Michael C. Johnson/USA TODAY Sports)

What does this all mean? It means there are 23 days until the final day of the Big 12’s regular season on March 5. Some teams will rise, some will fall, and some will be Kansas. If you are not Kansas, you, a Big 12 conference member, have been sentenced to death in the wings of a flightless bird. They may not fly, but they sure can claw.

All hail the mighty Jayhawk.

The power rankings are below.

1. Oklahoma — 4 points (Chris & Nate — 1st, Brian — 2nd). Comment: “This is the first week that Brian, Chris and myself have not unanimously voted the Sooners No. 1 in quite some time. I might be turning myself into #thatguy, but… something’s clearly up with Oklahoma, right? The Sooners’ somewhat sluggish play might be because of the rough 48-hour turnaround that Saturday-Big Monday games will do to players, but Texas outscoring the Sooners by 14 in the paint isn’t good. Texas owning the paint with just one legitimate big man inside isn’t good. Oklahoma going ice cold late in a game (sans Buddy) in Norman isn’t good. Am I making a bigger deal from probably nothing? Maybe, but then again, maybe not.” – Nate Kotisso (@natekotisso)

2. Kansas — 5 points (Brian — 1st, Chris & Nate — 2nd). Comment: “The much-maligned Landen Lucas was the most active defensive player for Kansas Tuesday night, hauling in 16 rebounds and blocking four shots. It was the first such performance by a Jayhawk since Jeff Withey in the 2013 Round of 32, when Kansas knocked off North Carolina behind Withey’s 16 points, 16 rebounds and seven blocks. It will probably be a while before those two are mentioned in the same sentence again, so Jayhawk fans are advised to print out these rankings and display them in their offices.” – Brian Goodman (@bsgoodman)

3. West Virginia — 9 points (All voted 3rd). Comment: “Has the Big 12 finally discovered some cracks in the Mountaineers’ press? West Virginia’s last eight opponents have all registered turnover rates below the Mountaineers’ season-long defensive average of 26.1 percent. If coaches are doing a better job of scouting West Virginia, and it looks like they are, the Mountaineers will need to find a way to adjust if they want to stay in the thick of the race.” – BG

4. Texas — 12 points (All voted 4th). Comment: “Weird trivia time! Had Texas knocked off the Sooners a few days ago, they would have been just the second Big 12 team since West Virginia and TCU joined the league to win at Baylor, at West Virginia and at Oklahoma in the same season. The first team to pull this off was 2012-13 Kansas State. Perhaps losing in Norman was for the best.” – NK

5. Baylor — 15 points (All voted 5th). Comment: “With Rico Gathers unavailable because of illness, the Bears got pummeled on both backboards against Kansas State Wednesday night, so they turned to an unlikely source for help: the free throw line. While Baylor had excelled at getting to the stripe this season, entering the game ranked second in the Big 12 in offensive free throw rate, they also entered it ranked just sixth in free throw shooting. Led by Lester Medford‘s 11-for-11 effort, though, Baylor calmly hit 29-for-30 attempts in the 82-72 win, quieting the talk of Kansas State’s narrow chances for an at-large bid – at least for now.” – BG

6. Iowa State — 18 points (All voted 6th). Comment: “While Steve Prohm hopes Jameel McKay‘s suspension will help the Cyclones in the long run, it’s certainly not helping in the short run. Without its sole rim protector against Texas Tech on Wednesday, Iowa State blocked just two shots, allowed the Red Raiders to shoot 80 percent (12-of-15) at the rim and hauled in just 62.5 percent of available defensive rebounds.” – BG

7. Texas Tech — 22 points (Chris & Nate — 7th, Brian — 8th). Comment: “It feels like it might be a while before the Red Raiders move up in our rankings because their 4-7 Big 12 record isn’t close enough to .500. But if it does, we’ll gladly oblige an ascension.” – NK

8. Kansas State — 23 points (Brian — 7th, Chris & Nate — 8th). Comment: “From off the bubble to on it to back off it in the span of five days, it’s been a busy week for the Wildcats. Then again, if you told Bruce Weber this time last year that flirting with an at-large bid would constitute a busy week, chances are he’d take it in a heartbeat.” – BG

9. Oklahoma State — 28 points (Brian & Chris — 9th, Nate — 10th). Comment: “From the Kansas win to Monday’s loss at TCU, these last few weeks have encapsulated Oklahoma State’s tenure under Travis Ford: numerous moments of failure mixed in with brief moments of brilliance. The end is near.” – NK

10. Texas Christian — 29 points (Nate — 9th, Brian & Chris — 10th). Comment: “I voted ninth for the Horned Frogs this week because: a) they share identical conference (2-9) and overall records (11-13) with Oklahoma State; and b) they have a head-to-head win over the Cowboys. The climb out of the Big 12 cellar is nearly complete.” – NK

Big 12 Video/GIF of the Week

This week’s winner was a late entry but wound up being the best regardless. With 1:34 left in overtime and two seconds remaining on the shot clock, Texas Tech’s Keenan Evans grabbed the inbounds pass and hoisted a desperation three from the Southwest Texas area of the midcourt map that smoothly banked in. It’s one of those shots that, when it drops, gives your team a boost. For the other team, however, it represents a dagger to the heart. (h/t The Cauldron)

Five Big 12 Games You Better Watch

  1. Saturday: Kansas at Oklahoma (1:30 PM CT, ESPN)
  2. Saturday: Texas Tech at Baylor (7:00 PM CT, ESPNU)
  3. Saturday: Texas at Iowa State (7:30 PM CT, ESPN2)
  4. Monday: Oklahoma State at Kansas (8:00 PM CT, ESPN)
  5. Wednesday: Oklahoma at Texas Tech (8:00 PM CT, ESPNU)
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Big 12 M5: 02.08.16 Edition

Posted by Brian Goodman on February 8th, 2016

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  1. Kansas State shook up the Big 12 with an upset of Oklahoma at Bramlage Coliseum Saturday night. Three-point shooting was the difference as the Wildcats went six of 12 from deep while the Sooners launched themselves into a hole from which they couldn’t recover by making just six of their 24 three-point attempts. Buddy Hield finished with 23 points, but Wesley Iwundu did a really solid job defending him throughout the game, forcing several bad shots by the NPOY frontrunner. The loss drops Oklahoma into a second-place tie in the league, leaving West Virginia all alone at the top. Lon Kruger’s team suddenly has a critical week in front of them, as they’ll host Texas tonight ahead of the sequel to their triple-overtime thriller against Kansas.
  2. The win was huge for the Wildcats, too, as it awakened Kansas State’s hopes for an at-large bid. Bruce Weber‘s team is now 40th in the RPI, although the Wildcats are just 1-9 against the top 25. They are undefeated against teams ranked outside of the top 25, however, and Kansas State’s upcoming schedule gives them a solid shot to bolster the resume. Three of its next five games are at home (against Baylor, Texas and Kansas), while the two road games in that stretch are against a pair of bottom-half teams in Oklahoma State and TCU. If the Wildcats can go 3-2 or better leading into their February 27 trip to Iowa State, those at-large hopes will get very real.
  3. West Virginia had its best offensive performance of conference play against Baylor Saturday night, scoring 1.19 points per possession in an 80-69 win. The Mountaineers’ success was due in large part to a hot night from beyond the arc that saw them make half their tries from long range. Any day is a good day to shoot that kind of percentage, but it was especially helpful on Saturday because West Virginia’s trademark press wasn’t nearly as effective as usual. The Mountaineers generated turnovers on just 14.9 percent of Baylor’s possessions, well off the Mountaineers’ season average of 26.2 percent. Bob Huggins’ team will seek its fifth conference road win of the year tomorrow when it visits Kansas, a team that does a generally solid job holding onto the ball.
  4. Iowa State‘s season hasn’t lacked for drama this year, and that theme continued Friday night when Travis Hines of The Ames Tribune reported that Jameel McKay hadn’t traveled with the team to Saturday’s game against Oklahoma State (which the Cyclones would go on to win). Soon afterward, Iowa State confirmed that McKay had been suspended, and while the player and Steve Prohm gave conflicting messages as to how long the suspension would last, the head coach affirmed after Saturday’s game that the reigning Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year is on the shelf indefinitely. No matter how long the suspension lasts, McKay’s absence leaves a big hole in the Cyclones’ already-thin frontcourt. He isn’t the first player to land in Prohm’s doghouse this season, but he’s one of the team’s most important pieces in its quest to make a run in March. It will be interesting to see if and when he and Prohm can get back on the same page.
  5. Texas took care of business at home against Texas Tech despite Prince Ibeh being saddled with foul trouble for most of the game. They were able to do it with a big game from Javan Felix, who has been a versatile and valuable presence in Shaka Smart‘s first year in Austin. Felix’s ball-handling ability as the off-guard alongside Isaiah Taylor has made him a natural fit in Smart’s offense. The senior has played 75.6 percent of available minutes during conference play, but has turned the ball over on just 9.7 percent of possessions – a big turnaround from last season when he turned the ball over 18.5 percent of the time in conference play despite shouldering a smaller workload in terms of minutes. Felix can still score when called upon (he scored 20 points against Tech on Saturday), but his ability to succeed as both a ball-handler and scorer makes him an important piece of the Longhorns’ attack.
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Big 12 Q&A: Previewing The SEC/Big 12 Challenge

Posted by Greg Mitchell on January 29th, 2016

The SEC and Big 12 regular season races are taking shape, but the leagues take a break on Saturday for the SEC/Big 12 Challenge. This year’s format has all 10 games on the same day and gives the SEC a rare mid-season chance to measure itself against arguably the best conference in the country. It’s also a penny from heaven for teams like LSU and Vanderbilt that are desperate for marquee wins, if they can take advantage. The Big 12 microsite’s Chris Stone (@cstonehoops) was nice enough to catch us up on the Big 12 and preview a few of Saturday’s match ups.

Kentucky will face something familiar in Lawrence: a team that has struggled to find consistent front court production (Photo: KUSports.com).

Kentucky will face something familiar in Lawrence: a team that has struggled to find consistent frontcourt production (Photo: KUSports.com).

It’s almost February and Kansas hasn’t locked up the regular season title. What gives? Is the Jayhawks’ streak actually at risk? 

CS: Very much so. Kansas is now 5-3 in Big 12 play despite having played only the seventh toughest league schedule so far. Bill Self and company still have to travel to Baylor, Oklahoma, and Texas before the season is up. Recent numbers from KenPom suggest the Jayhawks now have only a 10 percent chance of winning at least a share of a 12th straight regular season title. Honestly, that sounds about right.

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Big 12 M5: 01.25.16 Edition

Posted by Nate Kotisso on January 25th, 2016

big12m5

  1. Kansas is struggling a bit right now. I don’t think that’s a large statement to make. Traveling to traditionally noisy road environments (West Virginia, Oklahoma State) only to come away with losses isn’t the biggest deal but when an undermanned-yet-solid Texas team had a real chance of pulling the upset at home, there might be something more to this recent rough patch. Accordingly, Bill Self tinkered with his lineup and rotation on Saturday after tinkering with it Tuesday against the Cowboys. Still, it wouldn’t be the end of the world if they dropped another road contest to a really good Iowa State team later tonight but I’d like to think Kansas fans would sound the alarms if they laid another egg.
  2. Speaking of the Cyclones, Iowa State will host Kansas tonight in a match-up that has become the Big 12’s premier tussle over the past four years. As a line of tents wrap around Hilton ColiseumSteve Prohm has finally been able to build trust and encouragement with his veteran-laden team. It’s more intimidating than it is easy when you think about it. A situation where the players are good, have a years-long way of doing things and then all of a sudden, a new guy is hired from the outside. The players weren’t likely to revolt or be outright disrespectful to Prohm but there did remain a possibility that, while they knew he was successful at his previous stop, Cyclone players could have ran things they way were accustomed to for years under Fred Hoiberg. At last, the coach and his players are mentally one. The implications of this fact now radiate throughout the Big 12.
  3. My main complaint, well the nation’s main complaint, with West Virginia is that they shoot the ball like a 30-second shot isn’t sufficient for their kind of offense. And then a game like Saturday’s comes along. The Mountaineers were already shooting 48.9 percent from the field and 38.8 percent from the perimeter and still trailed Texas Tech by four with under a minute to go. Then, the (TarikPhillip-ing occurred. The junior guard owned the last minute of play when he nailed a three-pointer, converted an old-fashioned three point play, made a dunk and tacked on two of his final three steals on the day. Most bench players don’t get that much activity playing 20 minutes and Phillip did all that — and still finished with 20 points. Because of his effort, West Virginia maintained their four-way tie for first place in the Big 12.
  4. Texas Tech was feisty in their home loss to West Virginia despite learning that sophomore big man Norense Odiase broke his fourth metatarsal bone in his right foot following Tech’s win over TCU and will be in a cast for the next three weeks according to Tubby Smith. Odiase had been growing as a more consistent low-post threat while also adding a jump shot to his arsenal. He was averaging 9 points and 4.4 rebounds in just 19.5 minutes per game. With Oklahoma, Texas and Iowa State as Tech’s three of their next five games, a presence like Odiase’s will be sorely missed in games that will determine their worthiness of an at-large berth.
  5. As Oklahoma‘s dream season rolls on, the athletics department announced late last week one of its faces of the program is coming home. On March 1, Blake Griffin will ride into Norman, as the Sooners take on Baylor, where his No. 23 jersey will be retired. March 1 will almost assuredly be even more emotional as the jersey ceremony coincides with Senior Night where Sooner fans will say goodbye to Buddy Hield, Isaiah Cousins, Ryan Spangler and the rest of the senior class. I have a strange feeling the Lloyd Noble Center will be filled to capacity that night.
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Big 12 Power Rankings: This League Is (Still) Off Its Rocker Edition

Posted by Nate Kotisso on January 22nd, 2016

We’re almost four weeks into league play, which typically means a select group of contenders have asserted themselves and are heading for the summit they call “Conference Champion Mountain.” It’s a grueling hike to the top, but totally worth it once you get up there. You get to look out at the rest of your conference mates with the knowledge that your better was better than their better. You think about that banner you get to hang in your arena’s rafters that will forever stamp just how good your regular season was. Then, all of a sudden, you realize that you’re up really high. You struggle to breathe. Now, you can’t breathe AT ALL. After fighting for breath, you fall off the mountain, not because of the altitude. No. You fall off the mountain because a scrappy No. 14 seed has ended your quest for a national championship before you had a chance to get out of the Tournament’s first weekend.

Or, at least that’s usually how it goes in the Big 12. This season, though, has brought a special kind of craziness – one none of us could have imagined even a few short weeks ago.

Womp womp. (Screengrab via ESPN.com)

Womp womp. (Screengrab via ESPN.com)

This is where we are now, so expect a wild and crazy edition of our Big 12 Power Rankings. Here we go.

Power Rankings

1. Oklahoma — 3 points (All voted 1st). Comment: “The Sooners have two losses in Big 12 play, but both of them came on the road against upper echelon competition. Buddy Hield is continuing to play like a National Player of the Year and he has Oklahoma in position to be KenPom’s favorite in the Big 12.” – Chris Stone (@cstonehoops)

2. Kansas — 6 points (All voted 2nd). Comment: “Defensive struggles were at the heart of Tuesday’s upset at the hands of Oklahoma State, but the Jayhawks have been in a bit of a rut offensively, too, averaging only an even 1.00 point per possession over their last four games. One of the biggest factors has been the regression of Wayne Selden, who is scoring just 9.5 points per contest on 37.8% shooting since opening conference play with 24 and 21-point outbursts. The Jayhawk’s depth, along with Bill Self‘s coaching ability, is strong enough that I trust Kansas to get back on track sooner rather than later.” – Brian Goodman (@BSGoodman) Read the rest of this entry »

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Big 12 M5: 01.22.16 Edition

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 22nd, 2016

morning5_big12

  1. It’s no secret that Kansas has struggled to contain driving guards like Jaysean Tate and Jawun Evans in recent games, and it might not get any easier tomorrow as the Jayhawks welcome Isaiah Taylor and Texas to Allen Fieldhouse. While Texas is merely average when it comes to finishing at the rim, it’s still worth wondering if Taylor, Javan Felix, and Kerwin Roach will test Kansas’ ability to stop penetration early. Saturday’s matchup in Lawrence will also mark Shaka Smart‘s first game against Kansas since that fateful day in San Antonio, so it’s also natural to think about whether both coaches will be a little more amped up than usual for this one.
  2. Two of the Big 12’s three most efficient offenses square off tomorrow when Oklahoma pays a visit to first-place Baylor. While the Bears currently sit alone atop the Big 12 standings, there’s still some skepticism of their record due to their relative lack of marquee wins and the fact that they have had close calls against two of the league’s worst teams. One of the great things about the Big 12’s perennial depth is that there are always opportunities to make statements, and the Bears will have a big shot to quiet their doubters with a win over a top-five team.
  3. Luke Winn of SI.com released his weekly Power Rankings (stay tuned for ours), and his insight into Oklahoma has to do with the performance of the frontcourt core of Ryan Spangler and Kadeem Lattin. The Sooners’ efficiency takes a dive when Spangler and Lattin don’t share the floor, but Spangler has played a whopping 88.6 percent of available minutes in conference play, so effectively, the concerns for Lon Kruger are finding ways to keep Lattin in games and finding the right lineup for those times when the sophomore big man needs to catch a breather.
  4. Iowa State sophomore Hallice Cooke recently put himself in Steve Prohm‘s doghouse by being late to practice one day after Prohm instituted tighter policies for player conduct, but he is hoping to get back at it tomorrow against TCU. With Prohm shortening up his rotation, it may be tough for Cooke to find more than a handful of minutes per game moving forward, but he can start by playing well against the worst team in the conference.
  5. Oklahoma State is flying high after its big win over Kansas, which prompted Tulsa World columnist Darnell Mayberry to compile a list of Travis Ford‘s ten biggest wins in Stillwater. While the Pokes have mostly been an afterthought since the departure of Marcus Smart, one doesn’t have to dig too deep to find some truly impressive wins in Ford’s eight seasons at the helm.
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Big 12 M5: 01.20.16 Edition

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 20th, 2016

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  1. It’s tough enough to win on the road, but it’s even tougher when the home team makes 52.4 percent of its three-pointers. Kansas learned this fact in its 86-67 loss to Oklahoma State in Stillwater Tuesday night, but this was more than just a fluky shooting performance from the Pokes. Oklahoma State outscored Kansas in the paint 22-12 and outrebounded them 38-31, marking the upset as a true team effort. Freshman Jawun Evans continued his quest for conference Freshman Of The Year Honors, turning in his third straight solid performance with 22 points, six rebounds and eight assists to lead the Cowboys. The highly-touted recruit on the other side, Cheick Diallo, made his first career start, but was part of the largely ineffective Jayhawk back line. The victory marked the Cowboys’ third consecutive home win over Bill Self’s team, whose struggles continue to leave the door open for a team like Oklahoma or West Virginia to end their Big 12 title streak.
  2. To that point, the 4-1 Mountaineers will look to avoid falling back into a tie with Kansas and Oklahoma tonight when they host Texas. As successful as West Virginia has been with its pressure defense, you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who’s more familiar with that style of play than Longhorn coach Shaka Smart. We all know about Smart’s success with VCU, but on top of that, he actually consulted West Virginia during last season’s NCAA Tournament when the Mountaineers prepped for their Round of 32 tilt against Maryland (which they won 69-59). West Virginia is favored by a comfortable 12 points tonight, but Texas’ stingy offense, which currently sports the Big 12’s lowest turnover percentage in league play, could make this one closer than Vegas thinks.
  3. Don’t look now, but the roller coaster that is Baylor basketball is on the rise entering tonight’s home game against Kansas State. While the Bears aren’t typically mentioned among the squads with a shot at ending Kansas’ regular season conference title streak (nor should they be, necessarily), they’re tied with West Virginia for first place thanks to some excellent recent shooting and its great rebounding, which has been consistent all season. Meanwhile, Bruce Weber‘s team is still looking for dependability on the offensive end, especially when it comes to shooting. They’ll carry a frosty 47.3 percent team eFG% into the Ferrell Center tonight.
  4. CBS Sports’ Gary Parrish spent some time learning how Iowa State head coach Steve Prohm has managed during Prohm’s up-and-down debut season in Ames. The progression of Iowa State’s campaign to this point has been a little wilder than most expected. Prohm faced some tough criticism after the team’s 1-3 start to conference play, but wins over Kansas State and Oklahoma have put him and the team back on track. While Prohm knew the fierce expectations of the job going in, he’s learning firsthand that following a local icon with a team built to win now is no easy task when it comes to pleasing a die-hard fanbase.
  5. CJ Moore of Bleacher Report took an in-depth look at the rise in the number of one-and-done players entering the NBA Draft and wonders if the 2016 Draft (along with other factors, including but not limited to the NCAA’s recent extension of the declaration window) could turn the tide back towards more players returning to school. While age is still a key factor in the minds of evaluators, at least one pro scout told Moore that there’s still some good value in being able to project a player with four years of college experience under his belt (like Buddy Hield), as opposed to raw freshmen who may have higher upsides but also bring with them a wider swath of possible outcomes.
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Big 12 M5: 01.18.16 Edition

Posted by Chris Stone on January 18th, 2016

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  1. After two straight losses in which Iowa State gave up more than 90 points, the Cyclones picked up a 76-63 road win over Kansas State on Saturday. The lower point total was the product of both the Wildcats’ slower pace of play and a change in Steve Prohm‘s philosophy. After a slow start to conference play, Prohm explained that the Cyclones need to manage games in a way that limits the time they spend on defense. His theory is that Iowa State is so good on offense that the Cyclones would be better off spending a bit more of the game with the ball in their hands. The key, though, will still be for Iowa State to slow down opposing offenses. The Cyclones currently rank 114th in adjusted defensive efficiency–a stat which accounts for the quality of opponent and pace of play–and will be put to the test when Oklahoma comes to Ames tonight.
  2. Speaking of the Sooners, their 70-68 victory over West Virginia reopened the Big 12 race as four teams now sit at 4-1 in the conference. More importantly, though, the win may be a boon for the confidence of sophomore Khadeem Lattin. After missing the front end of a one-and-one that would have given Oklahoma a victory in Allen Fieldhouse two weeks ago, Lattin scored the game-winning bucket against the Mountaineers on a tip-in. “It was like a redemption,” Lattin told the media.
  3. Meanwhile at Allen Fieldhouse, Kansas bounced back from their loss in Morgantown on Tuesday with a 70-63 win over TCU. The Jayhawks’ two freshman big men, Carlton Bragg and Cheick Diallo, both got extended looks against the Horned Frogs. Bragg scored 10 points and grabbed four rebounds in 16 minutes, but it was Diallo’s performance that turned heads. After being featured only sparingly so far this year, Diallo played a season-high 21 minutes against TCU. His nine points, nine rebounds, and five blocks gave fans a taste of what Diallo can offer Kansas going forward. The improvement of the Jayhawks’ two freshman will be a critical component come March and it’s the reason Kansas is viewed as the title contender with the most upside going forward.
  4. Baylor‘s Lester Medford continues to come up big in key moments for the Bears. The senior point guard delivered a huge second half in Baylor’s win over Vanderbilt earlier this season, and on Saturday, he knocked down the game-winning three-pointer against Texas Tech. While most of the focus has been on Kansas, Oklahoma, and West Virginia, the Bears victory quietly pushed them into a four-way tie for first in the Big 12.
  5. Our final note comes from the recruiting world. Last week, four-star center Udoka Azubuike declared his intention to announce his college choice at the Hoop Hall Classic this weekend. Azubuike, who is choosing between Florida State, Kansas, and North Carolina, appeared to be leaning towards the ‘Noles, but by Sunday rumors were swirling that Florida State was out of the picture altogether. As Kansas and North Carolina picked up predictions in 247Sports’ Crystal Ball, Azubuike’s guardian announced that the high school senior would be pushing back his decision. Just the latest in a long line of strange recruiting stories, it looks like this recruiting battle will continue for a while longer.
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Big 12 New Year’s Resolutions: Part I

Posted by Chris Stone on December 30th, 2015

The year 2016 is right around the corner and along with it comes Big 12 conference play, as the league gets underway with six games on January 2. Although we know that only a fraction of people ultimately keep their New Year’s resolutions, we figured it wouldn’t hurt to come up with a few challenges for teams in the Big 12 once the ball drops tomorrow night. This is part one of a two-part series.

Kansas: To give Devonte Graham the praise he deserves

Devonte Graham has brought a number of positive changes to Kansas. (Charles Riedel/The Associated Press)

Devonte Graham has brought a number of positive changes to Kansas. (Charles Riedel/The Associated Press)

The focus on Kansas to this point has reasonably and rightfully been on the improved play of Wayne Selden and the consistent performance of senior forward Perry Ellis. However, the Jayhawks’ most under appreciated asset may well be sophomore point guard Devonte Graham. Graham’s move to the starting lineup has been linked to Selden’s rise because it helped free him up offensively, but Graham has provided much more. The sophomore has helped increase the number of turnovers the Jayhawks are causing on defense while simultaneously decreasing the number of turnovers Kansas commits on offense by reducing his personal turnover rate from 20.1 percent to 9.9 percent. Graham’s sophomore emergence has made the Jayhawks a national title contender and he deserves more praise for the role he’s played.

Iowa State: To find rest and relaxation for the Cyclones’ rotation

Naz Mitrou-Long’s recovery from hip surgery hit the Cyclones hard. With Deonte Burton becoming eligible at semester, it looked like Iowa State was set to have a quality eight man rotation heading into conference play. Now that Mitrou-Long’s season is over, coach Steve Prohm has made it clear that he intends to stick with a seven man rotation for the remainder of the season. Iowa State ranks 347th in percentage of bench minutes played with just 21.4 percent of available minutes coming off the bench. Last season, Wisconsin reached the Final Four with similar numbers, so the limited rotation doesn’t rule out a trip to Houston for the Cyclones, but they’ll need all the rest and relaxation they can get on the way there. Read the rest of this entry »

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