Big 12 Power Rankings: We Don’t Know Anything Edition

Posted by Nate Kotisso on December 10th, 2015

Welcome to what is certain to be an exciting and perplexing year of our Big 12 Power Rankings. Most of the fun found in doing weekly power rankings is to watch the progression of each team from December to March. The other fun part is being given the license to be dead wrong in December because conference play hasn’t yet started. Since we’re less than a month away from league play, join us as we are free to drive off of the road with our rankings and crash into as many mailboxes before our front bumper is no longer a front bumper. Remember to buckle up.

We're not sure what Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger is telling his players at this moment. It's likely he is sharing something basketball related here but I wouldn't rule out Kruger explaining to him the lyrics of "Coconut" by Harry Nilsson. (CBS Sports)

We’re not sure what Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger is telling his players at this moment. It’s likely he is sharing something basketball related here but I wouldn’t rule out Kruger explaining to him the lyrics of “Coconut” by Harry Nilsson. (CBS Sports)

Power Rankings

1. Kansas (tie) — 6 points (Brian & Kendall — 1st, Chris & Nate — 2nd). Comment: Bill Self‘s best teams have been known for their intensity and defensive toughness, but this might be the best offensive team he’s ever had in Lawrence. The Jayhawks are shooting a white-hot 47.2 percent from three, mostly without the help of Brannen Greene, whose five-game suspension just ended.” – Brian Goodman (@BSGoodman)

1. Oklahoma (tie) — 6 points (Chris & Nate — 1st, Brian & Kendall — 2nd). Comment: “The Sooners absolutely demolished the Big East’s best team in a convincing 78-55 win over Villanova. Meanwhile, Buddy Hield is taking more shots and knocking them down at a more efficient clip than last season. Barring a major slip up, Oklahoma should enter Big 12 play still undefeated.” – Chris Stone (@cstonehoops) Read the rest of this entry »

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A First Look at Monte Morris’ Role Under Steve Prohm

Posted by Chris Stone on November 16th, 2015

In the lead up to this season, you may have heard a bit about new Iowa State coach Steve Prohm‘s history with point guards. In each of Prohm’s four seasons at Murray State, his point guard led the team in usage rate, a statistic that essentially measures the role of an individual player in the offense. Because point guards are often acting as a facilitator who keeps everyone involved but doesn’t dominate the scoring, this is a bit unusual. For example, Georges Niang led the Cyclones in usage rate last season, and it was a similar story at Kansas with Perry Ellis as the most frequently used player for Bill Self. Prohm, though, has historically found success with point guards that act as dual threats — both scorers and facilitators — within his offensive scheme.

Monte Morris could be poised for an expanded role at Iowa State. (Jay Pickthorn/AP)

Monte Morris could be poised for an expanded role at Iowa State. (Jay Pickthorn/AP)

There were at least one notable offseason hint that suggested junior point guard Monte Morris would get an expanded role this year under his new head coach. In an interview with CBS Sports, Prohm told Jon Rothstein that he had asked both of his now-professional point guards, Isaiah Canaan and Cameron Payne, to discuss his coaching style with Morris. Iowa State’s 68-62 victory over Colorado on Friday night gave us the first opportunity to dissect the role that Morris will potentially play in his new coach’s system, and so far, the returns look promising. Read the rest of this entry »

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Gametime: Previewing Colorado vs. Iowa State

Posted by Andrew Murawa & Brian Goodman on November 13th, 2015

We’re just so excited that games are tipping off today that we had to spend some time thinking about what we’re about to see. As a result, the Pac-12 and Big 12 microsites got together to review this afternoon’s Iowa State vs. Colorado matchup from beautiful downtown Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Ken Pomeroy’s FanMatch system rates this as the second-best contest on opening day (behind only Gonzaga vs. Pittsburgh) and lists Iowa State as a five-point favorite. Below Brian Goodman and Andrew Murawa make a case why either team will walk away from Sioux City with its first victory of the season.

Georges Niang and the Cyclones open up against Washington in a rare Friday afternoon game. (Nirmalendu Majumdar)

Georges Niang and the Cyclones open up against Colorado in a rare Friday afternoon tilt. (Nirmalendu Majumdar/Ames Tribune)

Colorado will win if:

  • It gets good play out of the point guard position. Last year, the Buffaloes’ combination of Askia Booker, Xavier Talton and Dominique Collier combined to lead a Colorado offense that turned the ball over on almost 20 percent of its possessions and struggled mightily to find good looks in the half-court. Forty percent of Colorado’s field goal attempts came at the rim (57th in the nation) but just 45 percent of those came off of assists (166th); 28 percent of its shots came from three (300th) but just 82% of those were assisted (249th). Booker’s now gone — and given that he was about the only Buffs’ player who could consistently find those looks for himself — Talton and particularly Collier are going to need to prove that they can find good looks for their teammates (and themselves, when necessary). Now, if Iowa State under Steve Prohm is anything like it was under Fred Hoiberg, the Cyclones are not going to spend a lot of effort on pressure defense intended to force turnovers. That means that the Colorado point guards could have the best conditions possible to get their season off on the right foot.
  • It’s a new season and all but last year’s Cyclones were Charmin soft inside the paint defensively. Sure, Jameel McKay is a fine shot-blocker, swatting away just under nine percent of opponents’ two-point field goal attempts when he was in the game last season. But if McKay is not busy rejecting opponents, those shots stand a good chance of converting if the ball enters the paint. Last year the Cyclones ranked a paltry 335th in the nation in field goal percentage allowed at the rim. The flip side of that number is that — partially because they allowed so many three-point attempts — they were among the best in the nation in limiting opponents’ looks at the rim. For a team of Buffaloes without many established three-point shooters, the key to victory may be passing up some of those open three-point looks in order to work the ball inside to more efficient inside scorers like Josh Scott and Wesley Gordon.

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Big 12 Preview: Iowa State’s Burning Question

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 9th, 2015

Brian Goodman is the lead correspondent for the Big 12 microsite. You can follow him on Twitter @BSGoodman.

Burning question: With last season’s core still intact and a new coach on the sidelines, how will Iowa State avenge one of the biggest NCAA Tournament upsets in recent memory?

Over the last few years, Iowa State has enjoyed a fantastic revival, with former head coach Fred Hoiberg leading the Cyclones to four consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances for the first time in program history. While the pearl-clutching over the “unwatchability” of college basketball has always been a bit overblown, Hoiberg’s free-flowing, efficient style of offense was a joy to watch. Additionally, the way he fashioned all-conference players from such wayward transfers like Royce White and DeAndre Kane gave his tenure in Ames a nice human interest component to complement his on-court success. Under Hoiberg, Iowa State didn’t succeed in knocking Kansas from the perch of the Big 12, nor did it match Larry Eustachy’s success in March, but it’s crystal clear that he left the program in a far better place than when he found it.

One of the best young minds in college basketball in Fred Hoiberg was replaced with yet another dynamic offensive coach in Steve Prohm.

One of the best young minds in college basketball in Fred Hoiberg was replaced with yet another dynamic offensive coach in Steve Prohm. (Iowa State Athletics)

That goes just as well for the team itself as it does for its relevance in the national picture. After years of flirtation, Hoiberg finally accepted a head coaching job with the Chicago Bulls, and just nine days later, Iowa State hired Steve Prohm to sustain and build the program for the future. While Hoiberg was a great offensive mind, it’s going to be a lot of fun to see what Prohm does with nearly all of Iowa State’s rotation back in the fold. The most fascinating element of Prohm’s first year at Iowa State is how he’ll use point guard Monte’ Morris, and that’s saying a lot for a team that has a consensus preseason All-American (Georges Niang) also in the fold. The coach’s success in developing point guards Isaiah Canaan and Cameron Payne into NBA prospects became his calling card at Murray State, and in Morris, he arguably has the nation’s best ball-handler over the last two years. Canaan and Payne soaked up possessions under Prohm, so it will be interesting to track how much offense Morris initiates this year after so much of the offense in Hoiberg’s system was initiated by Niang.

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Steve Prohm Inherits a Fascinating Situation at Iowa State

Posted by Brian Goodman on June 9th, 2015

It’s not often that a new head coach inherits a team ready to win big right now, but then again, it’s also not often that a successful college coach gets snatched up by a pro team in June, putting his boss in the unenviable position of finding an early summer successor. While former Murray State head coach Steve Prohm doesn’t have many of the characteristics typically found in a new power conference coach — a connection to the school or its recruiting base; a strong reputation among the program’s boosters; a deep NCAA Tournament run to make him an easy sell — nothing in the immediate post-Hoiberg era at Iowa State is typical, and that makes the future in Ames one of the most intriguing situations to monitor heading into next season.

Steve Prohm arrives in Ames with immediate expectations. (Dave Martin/AP)

Steve Prohm arrives in Ames with immediate expectations. (Dave Martin/AP)

Prohm takes the reins of a squad that will likely be among the preseason top 10 in most polls, and one that could ultimately go down as the best in Iowa State basketball history. Because of that, the new head coach will have to answer a number of questions not normally posed to a first-year man. He will of course have the right to bring in his own staff, but in a scenario where the short game for the program is just as important as the long game, he may need to be more careful than in a typical situation. For example, will Prohm retain assistant coach T.J. Otzelberger, a man whom he beat out for the job but also with which the current team is already comfortable? If he doesn’t, or if Otzelberger leaves on his own accord, what kind of impact might that have on the current roster?

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Coaches We Hope Stick Around… But Won’t Blame If They Don’t

Posted by Tommy Lemoine on March 26th, 2015

Ah, late March – the most worrisome time of year. There will be firings, hirings and anxiety over whether several beloved mid-major coaches finally make the leap. Nothing like the smell of pink slips and greenbacks in the morning. With the carousel already fully in motion, let’s take look at a few of the most highly-coveted O26 coaches out there and why they should stay put… but why we also won’t blame them if they leave. [Note: We don’t include Shaka Smart on this list because we hope he’s entering Mark Few O26 lifer-status.]

Gregg Marshall – Wichita State

Here's to hoping Gregg Marshall is a lifer. (David Eulitt / Kansas City Star)

Here’s to hoping Gregg Marshall is a lifer. (David Eulitt/Kansas City Star)

  • He should stay! You know what Wichita State has that Alabama doesn’t (besides Fred VanVleet and Ron Baker, of course)? A Final Four banner. Better yet, two Final Four banners. In fact, the Shockers probably have a better basketball program than the Crimson Tide from top to bottom – history, community support, momentum, etc. – and they don’t fall far behind in terms of compensation, either; Marshall’s base salary is $1.85 million this year, not including incentives. The eighth-year head coach has already led his team to a #1 seed, a Final Four appearance and a Sweet Sixteen, accomplishments he’s sure to build on next season if VanVleet and Baker stick around. Plus, how would he “Play Angry” at a power program? That ethos depends on perceived disrespect and thrives on an underdog mentality, which I’m not sure he could manufacture at a revenue mill like Alabama or Texas.
  • Why we wouldn’t blame him… If someone backed up the Brinks truck and said, “Just give me a price,” how would you react? At some point – regardless of landing spot – the monetary offer becomes too eye-poppingly good to pass up. According to CBS Sports’ Gary Parrish, Alabama is willing to offer Marshall “in excess of $3 million per year,” which would put him among the very highest-paid coaches in the game. If the Texas job opens up, the ‘Horns might offer something similar. That’s serious money and both schools’ available resources can back that up.

Steve Prohm – Murray State

  • He should stay! Cameron Payne – one of the best point guards in college hoops – is only a sophomore. Sharpshooters Jeffery Moss (11.1 PPG) and Justin Seymour (45% 3FG) are also set to return next season. Prohm, who has gone 104-29 since taking over in 2012, should continue winning big for the foreseeable future. Murray State’s fan base is among the strongest at the mid-major level, and the 36-year-old coach signed an extension through 2018 just last summer. Stick around, Steve!

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Murray State Quietly Racing Toward a Special Season

Posted by Tommy Lemoine on February 6th, 2015

After his team’s most recent defeat – a 93-58 beatdown at the hands of Valparaiso – Murray State head coach Steve Prohm did not mince words: “We need to figure out what we need to do to get better. We are struggling – we’re playing terrible. Everybody knows that.” The 35-point drubbing was the Racers’ third-straight loss, an ugly punctuation to an unexpectedly poor start. “This is definitely not the same basketball team that finished the year,” Prohm said. Those statements were made on November 29 – well over two months ago – and it’s safe to say that his team has figured out how to get better. A lot better, in fact. Since losing to the Crusaders just after Thanksgiving, Murray State has reeled off 18 straight victories and put itself in position to become the first team in 11 years to go unbeaten in OVC play. With the conference’s most exceptional player pacing an highly efficient offense, the Racers seem poised to cement themselves in league history. If they can follow that success up with even more in March? Then it might be time to start mentioning Murray State in the same breath as some of the elite mid-major programs in college basketball.

Cam Payne and the Racers have their sites set on something special. (ovcball.net)

Cam Payne and the Racers have their sights set on something special. (ovcball.net)

Murray State’s accomplishments to this point have mostly hinged on its ability to score with ease, a strong suit that begins with point guard Cameron Payne – the clear-cut front-runner for OVC Player of the Year. His dynamic scoring prowess (19 PPG) – quick off the dribble, adept at drawing fouls, proficient from deep – combined with equally-great passing skills (5.9 APG) makes the sophomore an unmatched force in the league. Last season, Eastern Kentucky coach Jeff Neaubauer called Payne “Murray State’s next Isaiah Canaan.” But the sophomore is not alone. Joining Payne in the backcourt are three excellent shooters – T.J. Sapp, Jeffery Moss and Justin Seymour – each of whom shoots better than 40 percent from deep and scores between 8.5 and 11.0 points per night. Down low, the Racers are equipped with arguably the conference’s best big man, 6’8’’ Jarvis Williams (16.1 PPG, 8.6 RPG), whose ability to run the floor – not to mention his great rapport with Payne – make him the perfect five man for Prohm’s uptempo attack (16.6 seconds per offensive possession; fastest in the OVC). Throw in power forward Jonathan Fairell, the fourth-best offensive rebounder in college hoops, and the sum of the parts of Murray State is an offense that might surpass last season’s Belmont group as the most efficient in recent modern OVC history. As it stands, the Racers rank 28th nationally in offensive efficiency (112.4 AdjO), just behind last year’s Bruins (112.9), and with a soft schedule upcoming, Prohm’s group has a great chance to further improve on that number.

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OVC Titans Produced a Mid-Major Classic Thursday Night

Posted by CNguon on February 8th, 2013

David Changas is a RTC correspondent. He filed this report after Thursday night’s OVC battle between Belmont and Murray State in Murray, Kentucky.

It was billed as the game of the year in the Ohio Valley Conference. The league’s perennial power and defending champion taking on the new kid on the block and winner of its first 10 games as a member of the conference. It featured two of the nation’s best guards much of the country has never heard of. While it appeared that Thursday’s matchup between OVC West Division leader Murray State and East Division Leader Belmont would not live up to the hype, a late charge by the Bruins to overcome a 14-point deficit with under 5 minutes to play to tie the game with under a minute remaining allowed it to do just that. Ian Clark, the Bruins’ three-point sharpshooter who came into Thursday’s game making an absurd 51.4% of his three-point attempts, despite attempting nearly 6.5 per game, made three in the final 2:30 to bring the Bruins all the way back from a deficit that grew to 15 points in the second half. But it was Murray State preseason All-American guard Isaiah Canaan who had the final say, as he broke the 74-all tie with a deep three with 35 seconds remaining to put the Racers back on top to stay on their way to a 79-74 victory.

“[Clark] stepped up for his team and I knew we needed it and I stepped up for ours,” Canaan said.

Isaiah Canaan scored 26 points in an impressive outing to help his Murray State squad hand Belmont its first conference defeat (AP)

Isaiah Canaan scored 26 points in an impressive outing to help his Murray State squad hand Belmont its first conference defeat (AP)

While Thursday’s game may have no impact on which team makes the NCAA Tournament – Belmont may be able to make a case for an at-large bid, while Murray State’s resume is not impressive enough to merit such consideration – the game clearly meant a lot to both teams. Before a charged up, partisan CFSB Center crowd of 7,141, the Racers were effective until the final minutes in controlling Clark and his backcourt mate, Kerron Johnson, who sat for the final few minutes because of his ineffectiveness, and exploiting their athletic advantage in the front court on the way to the victory. The Racers have not been nearly as dominant this season as they were last year on their way to a 5-seed in the Big Dance, but they have positioned themselves to make a run in the OVC Tournament championship and their third NCAA Tournament bid in the past four seasons with Thursday’s victory. The game clearly meant a lot to Murray State coach Steve Prohm, who expressed relief and satisfaction with his team’s effort after the game. “We needed this game,” Prohm said. “We needed it to test us and see where we are as a team. There was a different vibe out there tonight, with the crowd, the energy, the emotion, and the big plays.”

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The National Spotlight Is Gone, But Murray State Is Playing On

Posted by BHayes on January 27th, 2013

Bennet Hayes is an RTC correspondent. You can find him @HoopsTraveler on Twitter. He filed this report from Saturday’s game in Jacksonville, Alabama between Murray State and Jacksonville State.

A year ago, I was one of the many that made the journey to tiny Murray, Kentucky, to catch a glimpse of the team that was capturing the imagination of the college basketball world. By the time I arrived in Murray, the Racers had suffered their first loss (after 23 consecutive victories to open the season), but the hype machine was still steadily churning. College basketball’s most notorious hype generator was even in town that weekend; Dick Vitale screamed his way through a fantastic promotion of the Murray State basketball program, but the Racers really needed no help.  Isaiah Canaan boosted his All-American campaign by turning in an utterly brilliant display of marksmanship, the Racers improved to 26-1 by soundly defeating a battle-tested St. Mary’s team, and the 8,500 in attendance felt like it was closer to 20,000 strong that day. Murray had long been a town that loved college basketball and its Racers, but never had it been so articulately announced to the nation as that February afternoon.

Isaiah Canaan’s Presidential Campaign Had More Legs A Season Ago

Fast forward to today. The Racers were once again on my agenda, but this time a long ways from Murray. Jacksonville, Alabama – a small, sleepy town nestled in the Appalachian foothills – was where I had to drive to find Murray State. Steve Prohm’s team arrived with a 15-4 record but left 15-5 as Jacksonville State decided it was finally time to score its first victory over the school since joining the Ohio Valley Conference in 2003. The Gamecocks are no pushover (now 6-4 in a sneaky-good OVC), but Murray State losing conferences games is still a relative novelty. On this day, a Saturday loaded with scores all across the country, the 65-64 final that flashed across tickers went largely unnoticed. When you consider the shock waves a January 26 Murray State loss would have delivered a year ago, it begs the question – where did everyone go?

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2012-13 RTC Conference Primers: Ohio Valley Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on October 23rd, 2012

David Changas is the RTC correspondent for the OVC.  You can follow him on Twitter @dchangas.

Top Storylines

  • Can Murray State Repeat Its Success?  Last year, the Racers took the college basketball world by storm by being the nation’s last remaining undefeated team after starting 23-0. They lose several key contributors, but another run to a second-round NCAA Tournament win is realistic, and coach Steve Prohm proved he can coach in his first season at the helm. Should Murray State win the league’s automatic bid, it likely will not come with a lofty five-seed as it did last year, but any team with potential All-American Isaiah Canaan leading it in March will be dangerous.

Isaiah Canaan Is The Early Favorite For OVC Player Of The Year And Has A Shot At Even Higher Accolades. (Getty Images)

  • Belmont Arrives:  In an effort to raise its overall profile, Belmont left the Atlantic Sun and certainly will add cachet to a league coming off its best year in recent memory. The Bruins have been a dominant force in the A-Sun for the past dozen years, earning the conference’s automatic bid in five of the last seven. Their addition to an already formidable league raises its profile that much more, and though Murray State is the league favorite, Belmont will draw attention to the OVC in this and years to come.
  • Who is Robert Covington? With all of the hoopla surrounding Canaan and Murray State, plus the arrival of Belmont, the player who isn’t the subject of enough discussion is Tennessee State big man Robert Covington. The 6’9″ senior finished third in the league in scoring and second in rebounding last year, and is projected by some to be a second-round pick in the 2013 NBA Draft.  He scores, rebounds, and shoots the three proficiently, and has an NBA physique.  A player of the year caliber season should be expected from Covington, and the presence of NBA scouts will be commonplace at Tiger games.

Reader’s Take

 

Predicted Order of Finish

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