Rushed Reactions: #7 San Diego State 70, #10 Oklahoma 55

Posted by Brian Otskey on March 22nd, 2013

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Brian Otskey is an RTC correspondent. He filed this report after the Round of 64 NCAA Tournament game between #7 San Diego State and #10 Oklahoma in Philadelphia. You can also find Brian at @botskey.

Three key takeaways:

  1. The Mountain West picks up a much-needed win. In what has been an otherwise disappointing tournament for MWC teams, one of the conference’s better clubs was able to get on the board and advance. The win move the Mountain West’s record to 2-3 and the Aztecs have the potential to do even more with a tough (but still a #15 seed) Florida Gulf Coast team waiting in the wings on Sunday. Colorado State is the only other remaining standard bearer for the Mountain West and will go to battle in an interesting game with Louisville on Saturday. Given what has transpired and the matchups ahead, San Diego State is likely the final hope for the Mountain West.

    Surprise, surprise, Steve Fisher has his team playing well in the NCAA Tournament. Fisher's squad advanced to the Round of 32 Friday evening. (AP)

    Surprise, surprise, Steve Fisher has his team playing well in the NCAA Tournament. Fisher’s squad advanced to the Round of 32 Friday evening. (AP)

  2. San Diego State was impressive defensively. The Aztecs have been a good defensive team all year but they did a fantastic job shutting down second-leading scorer Steven Pledger and the Oklahoma supporting cast. San Diego State has the #15 defensive efficiency in America and it showed tonight. The Aztecs don’t have many players with a lot of height on their team but most of them have great length and quickness, something that bothered the Sooners all night long. Oklahoma shot just 39.7% and scored only 22 points in the second half as the Aztecs locked in defensively. San Diego State also dominated the glass, 40-29, the final task in closing out defensive possessions.
  3. It was a good year for Oklahoma. Lon Kruger got what had been a deflated Oklahoma program into the NCAA Tournament in only his second season in Norman. However, Kruger will lose three of his key player in Romero Osby, Steven Pledger and Andrew Fitzgerald. The recruiting class coming in is decent but it’s not going to make a huge difference next season. The Sooners may take a step back in 2013-14 but this season was still a strong building block for the future. Kruger has had success pretty much everywhere he has coached so I’d expect Oklahoma to continue to improve its program in the years to come after a successful 2012-13 campaign.

Star of the Game: Romero Osby, Oklahoma. Although it was in a losing effort, Osby poured in 22 points on 9-of-15 shooting, single-handedly keeping the Sooners within striking distance for the majority of the game. San Diego State did a great job on Pledger and nobody else could get it going for OU. If it was not for Osby, this would have been a big time blowout.

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Oklahoma Has a Favorable Match-up in its First Tournament Game Since 2009

Posted by Nate Kotisso on March 20th, 2013

Jeff Capel had it working in Norman. Building off the success of his predecessor Kelvin Sampson, Capel took the Sooners to consecutive  NCAA Tournament appearances in 2007 and 2008. Heading into practice, the 2008-09 season had all the makings of a season to remember. The Sooners boasted the future #1 pick of next year’s NBA Draft coupled with Willie Warren, a McDonald’s All-American from Dallas, not to mention the return of veteran contributors Taylor Griffin and Tony Crocker. They won 30 games that year before eventually losing in the Elite Eight to eventual national champion North Carolina.

Since 2009? Nothing.

For the first time since this guy suited up, the Sooners are dancing. (Joe Murphy/Getty Images)

For the first time since this guy suited up, the Sooners are dancing. (Joe Murphy/Getty Images)

But it was only a matter of time before a program like Oklahoma would rise again. Lon Kruger, known as a fixer of ailing programs, has the Sooners dancing in just his second season in Norman. As the Sooners hovered around the middle of the Big 12 this year, they were searching for a leader and found it in senior Romero Osby, He’s playing the best basketball of his career, and I believe that had he not made the step from role player to lead, the Sooners may have been on the outside looking in with this Tournament. After struggling to start the year, another senior, Stephen Pledger, has turned it on as well. Oklahoma finds itself as the #10 seed in the South Region paired with #7 seed San Diego State. As a result, OU can conceivably win its first foray back into the Madness since those Griffin brothers were still wearing red uniforms together.

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Biggest Win For Oklahoma Basketball Since… Who Knows?

Posted by dnspewak on January 31st, 2013

Oklahoma nearly blew a 16-point lead on Wednesday night. It turned the ball over 17 times and was outrebounded by 14. Not an absolutely vintage performance against a Baylor team fighting its own issues, but good enough for a 74-71 road victory against one of the league’s better teams. The win solidifies the Sooners’ NCAA Tournament resume and, in most cases, would deserve a pat on the back or modest praise. You know, things like… Nice win. Way to go. Keep up the good work.

Not for this program. For a moment, think back to Jeff Capel’s disastrous break-up with Oklahoma. Think back to the Tiny Gallon accusations of improper benefits, the two straight losing seasons in the post-Blake Griffin era and the overall embarrassment of a once-proud fan base. Consider all of that, and then come back to reality and realize that Oklahoma just won its most important game in years on Wednesday night. Writers like us are often guilty of hyperbole and sensationalism, but Lon Kruger put the Sooners back on the college basketball map tonight. Forget that Baylor wasn’t even ranked, and that nobody’s ever referred to the Ferrell Center in Waco as Cameron Indoor West. It was still Oklahoma’s first true quality victory this season, save for perhaps Oklahoma State earlier this month. It was an example of what this team can do when Wyoming transfer Amath M’Baye is on his game. He scored 20 points tonight, and Steven Pledger broke out in a big way with 20 more of his own. Freshman Buddy Hield played such a terrific basketball game in the backcourt that Kruger didn’t even need our man Sam Grooms (who we’ve so generously supported this season and will continue to do so). There was sharing of the basketball. A 53 percent clip from the field as a team. And a couple of veteran plays by two freshmen — Hield and Je’lon Hornbeak — at the end of the game to seal the win and hold off the Bears.

Remember Blake Griffin? Wednesday Night Might Be OU's Best Win Since He Was There

Remember Blake Griffin? Wednesday Night Might Be OU’s Best Win Since He Was There

Speaking in terms of simply RPI, it is Oklahoma’s best win since February 6, 2010 against Texas, a season in which the Sooners finished with a losing record. For our purposes, let’s call this the biggest win in Oklahoma basketball history since March 27, 2009, when Blake Griffin and his boys smacked around Syracuse in the Sweet Sixteen. It’s been a long four years since that day. Finally, the Sooners are back on track, though it’ll take awhile longer for Kruger to restore that sort of glory. Griffin had a double-double for the Los Angeles Clippers in a victory over Minnesota on Wednesday night, by the way. You could still argue Oklahoma had a better night.

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Big 12 M5: 01.31.13 Edition

Posted by Nate Kotisso on January 31st, 2013

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

Posted by dnspewak on January 15th, 2013

Joe Lunardi released his latest Bracketology rankings this morning, and there’s a surprise team from the Big 12 in the field as a nine-seed: Oklahoma. After complete irrelevance since Blake Griffin jumped to the pros four years ago, Lon Kruger’s team picked up an important Bedlam victory at home over Oklahoma State this weekend and now firmly has itself in the NCAA Tournament conversation. And why not? The Sooners defend pretty well, they’re obviously well-coached, and they have a good mix of young guards to team with veterans Sam Grooms and Steven Pledger. Leading scorer Romero Osby has been a steady senior, Wyoming transfer Amath M’Baye has helped, and Kruger has much more depth and athleticism than a year ago. There’s a lot to like, but despite this weekend’s victory, there’s still a lot to question, too. Oklahoma was embarrassed by Gonzaga in Orlando during the Old Spice Classic. It also lost at Arkansas, dropped a home game to Stephen F. Austin, and did not have a quality victory over a projected NCAA Tournament team until knocking off the Cowboys. You can count Texas A&M as a decent victory after Elston Turner and the Aggies dismantled Kentucky at Rupp Arena, but the Wildcats have their obvious problems and Lunardi does not have A&M in the field at this point.

Oklahoma's Scheduling Has it In Good Position

Oklahoma’s Scheduling Has it In Good Position

Bottom line is, Oklahoma’s resume isn’t staggering. Strangely, though, not only are the Sooners included in the NCAA Tournament field, but they’re actually quite safe as a projected nine seed. There’s a simple explanation for all of this: the RPI! Oklahoma is a top-15 team in the RPI right now and top-10 in strength of schedule, which is downright stunning considering the competition level hasn’t seemed all that demanding to this point. This team doesn’t have many quality wins, it has really only played one elite team in Gonzaga, and it scheduled four teams from the Southland Conference during non-conference play. Makes you wonder whether somebody did the math wrong.

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Big 12 Conference Call: January 12 Edition

Posted by Nate Kotisso on January 12th, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Big 12 M5: 11.29.12 Edition

Posted by Nate Kotisso on November 29th, 2012

  1. Last night, Oklahoma traveled to play Oral Roberts for the first time since 1995. It wasn’t easy for the Sooners as they would have to overcome a 10-point deficit to win, 63-62. Freshman Buddy Hield scored all 11 of his points in the second half while Steven Pledger hit the game-winning bucket with 1:12 left. This game was chock full of noteworthy trivia. OU’s win ended Oral Roberts’ 24-game winning streak at the Mabee Center dating back to 2010 and head coach Lon Kruger won his 499th game as a collegiate coach. Man, how good is basketball in the state of Oklahoma right now?
  2. West Virginia has had a real bad start to its season as currently the only Big 12 team with a losing record. They could really use a gimme game and coming to the Mountaineers’ rescue was Virginia Military Institute. WVU took down VMI 94-69 in its home opener and their transfers took center stage. Juwan Staten led all scorers with 18 and was one of seven guys to score in double figures for WVU despite playing a lighter rotation due to injuries. Matt Humphrey was held out of the game with what Bob Huggins calls a “tweaked shoulder.” Meanwhile, Kevin Noreen and Dominique Rutledge both suffered ankle injuries early and did not return. Nothing is known about their severity. The important thing, WVU fans, is that your ‘Eers aren’t deceiving you: West Virginia won a basketball game!
  3. By now you know the Big 12’s flirtation with Louisville was just that — flirting — and the Cardinals are officially joining the ACC. The always-opinionated coach at Kansas, Bill Self, threw in his two cents on the changing landscape of conference affiliation and what it means for the Big 12 going forward. The fact of the matter is the Big 12 doesn’t need to expand. They have their $2.6 billion TV deal with ESPN and Fox signed for the next 13 years, and as far as deals go for 10-team leagues, this is the best they could have gotten. Schools would see expanding as cutting further into each school’s money pie. But I’d like to see them expand in order to stay competitive with bigger leagues like the B1G and the ACC. Whatever the Big 12 does, expand or keep the status quo, they can’t go wrong as long as nobody else jumps ship.
  4. After learning about Rodney McGruder’s struggles in the new Kansas State offense after the NIT Tip-Off, he’s singing a different tune now. McGruder says he’s feeling a comfort level in Bruce Weber’s motion offense after sitting down with coaches and getting to the root of his problem. Teammate Will Spradling said after Wednesday’s practice that during their scrimmage, “he [McGruder] kind of took over as the scorer he was last year. I think he’s getting more comfortable and confident.” Once everyone, not just McGruder, gets a more firm grip on the offense, this Kansas State team will be a dangerous one.
  5. The Texas Longhorns have gotten off to a less than ideal start to the season with Myck Kabongo sidelined, their struggles out in Maui, and their stale, turnover-prone offense. But one bright spot on the team has been the growth of Jonathan Holmes as a player from a year ago. He’s tied for the lead in the conference in rebounds per game (9.2 RPG) and Holmes had a nice stat line vs Sam Houston State: 11 points, eight boards, two blocks, two steals in a season-high 30 minutes of action. Rick Barnes went as far as saying, “You can count on him [Holmes] every night.” Hop on the Holmes bandwagon while there’s still room.
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Big 12 M5: 11.12.12 Edition

Posted by KoryCarpenter on November 12th, 2012

  1. This could be a big week for Bill Self and his 2013 recruiting class. The Jayhawks were recently named a finalist for 2013 recruit Joel Embiid, a four-star, 7’0″ center out of Gainesville, Florida. Last week, Embiid announced via Twitter that he was cutting his list to Kansas, Texas, and Florida. All three schools visited Embiid at The Rock School in Gainesville last week and he’s expected to make his announcement on Thursday. Kansas, who already has a loaded 2013 recruiting class (led by five-star guards Wayne Selden and Brannen Greene, as well as four-star guard Conner Frankamp), could solidify its case for the nation’s second-best class (behind Kentucky, of course) with a commitment from the big man. With the school’s track record of putting skilled bigs in the NBA as well as the talent on the perimeter he would be playing with, it’s hard to see Embiid not ending up in Lawrence next season.
  2. In case you missed it, the guys over at Busting Brackets previewed the Big 12 last week. They discussed everything from the number of Big 12 teams making the NCAA Tournament (five) to their conference Player of the Year (Baylor’s Pierre Jackson) to the Most Disappointing Team (West Virginia.) There were a few surprises, like having Oklahoma State in the NCAA Tournament but not West Virginia nor Iowa State. Largely unknown Oklahoma shooting guard Steven Pledger made their First Team All-Conference list, as well as West Virginia forward Deniz Kilicli. Perhaps most surprising, though, was seeing TCU and Texas Tech with a projected eight conference victories combined. I for one don’t know where they’ll be getting all of those wins unless they’re able to schedule each other more than twice this season.
  3. After the opening weekend of games, the CBSSports.com crew updated their Top 25 (and one) ranking, with three Big 12 teams making the cut. Kansas dropped from second to fourth after its less than impressive 19-point victory over Southeast Missouri State — the Jayhawk offense looked awful for large stretches of the game, not surprising considering the losses of Tyshawn Taylor and Thomas Robinson. Tuesday’s game in the Champions Classic against Michigan State might have to be shown in black and white. Baylor took a surprising fall from No. 7 to No. 17 after two convincing wins over Lehigh and Jackson State, while West Virginia debuts on the list at No. 25 in waiting to open the season tonight at Gonzaga. Why did Baylor fall again?
  4. Speaking of West Virginia, tonight’s game at Gonzaga kicks off ESPN’s annual 24-hour college basketball marathon, which starts around midnight ET in Spokane and takes us everywhere from a late game in Hawaii to a 7:00 AM start at Rider. There’s 11 total games playing back-to-back throughout the day, finishing with the Champions Classic Tuesday night in Atlanta, with Kansas and Michigan State squaring off in the Georgia Dome before Duke and Kentucky complete the Marathon late Tuesday night. If you can, try staying up for all 11 games. There’s something strangely entertaining about watching a late-night game in Hawaii immediately before a pre-dawn tipoff four time zones away in New Jersey.
  5. Sports Illustrated‘s Richard Deitsch has a good college basketball viewing guide here. He touches on a few Big 12-related topics, like the change in the Big Monday telecast as Fran Fraschilla takes over for Bob Knight alongside Brent Musberger. Knight wasn’t bad on the Big Monday games, but he’s old and a bit difficult to follow these days — Fraschilla’s an obvious upgrade. CBS will continue its nationally-aired Saturday afternoon games, with two games featuring Kansas (at Ohio State on December 22 and vs. Temple on January 6). The coolest bit of information Deitsch shared comes from ESPN, who will apparently have at least one game per day — outside of only five days — from now until March 10.
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Big 12 Team Preview #8: Oklahoma Sooners

Posted by KoryCarpenter on November 2nd, 2012

Over the next two weeks, we’ll bring you the obligatory team preview here at the Big 12 microsite. Oklahoma at the #8 position is next on our list.

The Skinny

  • 2011-12 record: 15-16, 5-13 Big 12
  • Key Contributors Lost: None
  • Head Coach: Lon Kruger
  • Projected Finish: 8th

Lon Kruger Enters His Second Season With the Sooners (Photo by ISportsWeb)

Every school in the country is one hire away from success or mediocrity. Take Kentucky’s handoff from Tubby Smith to Billy Gillispie to John Calipari, for example. So when Oklahoma fired Jeff Capel in 2011, two years after guiding the Sooners to the Elite Eight but failing to survive a tumultuous 2010-11 season, no one could really tell where the basketball program was headed. They had been to three Elite Eights since the turn of the century but it was nothing that could protect them from the wrath of a potentially bad hire. But in came Lon Kruger, the career journeyman who has coached in the Mountain West, Big 12, Big Ten, SEC, and the NBA. He took Florida to the 1994 Final Four and will surpass the 500-win mark this season. Last season in year one in Norman, the Sooners went 10-2 in the non-conference season thanks to a slate against teams like Idaho State and Santa Clara but struggled in the Big 12, finishing eighth and missing the postseason for the third straight year. There were a few bright spots between all the losses, though, like the 13-point victory over in-state rival Oklahoma State or the season sweep of Kansas State, an NCAA Tournament team. Luckily for the Sooners, they’re in a considerably better spot this season than Texas Tech and TCU, four should-be wins in the conference. Here’s why: Kruger returns every major contributor off last season’s team. Experience matters — just look at Missouri’s regular season last year. That experience could have a big effect on the program going forward as well. With four seniors in the starting lineup, an impressive season could boost Kruger’s recruiting going forward, which was so-so this year.

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Big 12 M5: 11.02.12 Edition

Posted by dnspewak on November 2nd, 2012

  1. There’s nothing necessarily new on the Myck Kabongo front, but Texas coach Rick Barnes gave a solid  and obligatory “no comment” to the media on Thursday. The NCAA is still investigating the possibility of improper conduct with an agent and his loss would obviously cripple the Longhorns. Barnes may have essentially said nothing about Kabongo’s situation and eligibility — “we won’t even discuss it,” he said — but we all know he’s feeling the pressure here. If Kabongo can’t play, freshman Javan Felix is next in line, but that’s a nightmare scenario. This team already must remake itself without last year’s star, J’Covan Brown, and remember, Barnes also has a roster filled with exactly zero scholarship upperclassmen. This team is built around Kabongo, and it is critical he suits up this season.
  2. We’re not always huge fans of slideshows, but this list of the top 10 players in the Big 12 is good for a little preseason discussion. It differs slightly from our rankings, which we released more or less as a joke in October. Our lists share eight of 10 players, though, disagreeing only on Ben McLemore and Steven Pledger, who both still finished in the top-15 of our rankings. It’s interesting that their list considers Pledger the top player on Oklahoma, though. Sure, he’s the leading scorer and a fine shooting guard, but Sam Grooms averaged 6.0 assists per game, for pete’s sake — he’s the leading returning assists man in the conference. What’s a guy gotta do to get some love around here?
  3. Goodness gracious. It’s another Marcus Smart article. This time, however, it’s absolutely worth your time. Oklahoma State coach Travis Ford praised Smart’s maturity for the 800th time this preseason, but this piece goes a little more in-depth into Smart’s life story. It discusses his family life, his personal tragedy, and his relationship with best friend and current OSU teammate Phil Forte. As solid a job as YahooSports‘ Jeff Eisenberg did with this story, it hasn’t blown up on a national stage quite yet — there are only five comments at the bottom of the page, and most of them disparage Travis Ford and threaten to fire him if he doesn’t win this season. Typical.
  4. Travis Ford has other problems to worry about than the fans, though. How about the fact that he’s dealing with even more injuries? Brian Williams is out for the year, and now Michael Cobbins recently left an exhibition game with a toe injury. Plus, J.P. Olukemi and Philip Jurick aren’t playing right now. It’s not time for a widespread panic yet, of course; as Ford puts it, “Eventually, they’re all going to get out there and play, except for Brian.” Still, at the very least, it’s an annoyance for a team that cannot afford any more injuries.
  5. Uh oh, Longhorn Network: You’ve got a competitor. TexasTech.TV is coming for you, according to an announcement by the school on Thursday. Seriously, though, this is actually a sweet deal for Red Raiders fans, especially those living out-of-state. The only problem is that it costs $9.95 a month, but that’s the way the world works these days.
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The Most Ridiculous Top 100 Player Ranking You’ve Ever Seen: Big 12 Style

Posted by dnspewak on October 17th, 2012

CBS Sports made an ambitious attempt earlier this month at ranking the top 100 players in college basketball, a fun but mostly impossible task good for heated debate and preseason discussion. At the risk of seeming unoriginal, it gave us the bright idea at this microsite to attempt something similar — a top 100 list of Big 12 players, which essentially spans almost every single player on all 10 rosters. Before you proceed, please understand this list is simply for fun. It’s not intended to be taken completely seriously, but it’s supposed to offer a guideline for the talent in this league from top to bottom. Direct all complaints to Danny Spewak (@dspewak), the genius who decided to write this. I’m looking forward to the criticism. 

1.    Pierre Jackson, Baylor (PG): The preseason Big 12 Player of the Year was, inexplicably, not a unanimous choice on the all-conference team, which is almost as bizarre as his coach not starting him until Big 12 play a year ago.

2.    Jeff Withey, Kansas (C): Considered replacing Jeff Withey with FakeJeffWithey at this spot because the latter has more Twitter followers.

3.    Rodney McGruder, Kansas State (G): If he ever finds himself nostalgic for a Frank Martin tirade, at least he’ll have this to look forward to during his senior year.

4.    Myck Kabongo, Texas (PG): Had his family not chosen to mis-spell his first name, he’d probably be number one on the list.

5.    Marcus Smart, Oklahoma State (G): I’ve never seen him play, but I’ve read more than enough sappy articles about his intangibles to know he’s a Smart pick in the top five.

6.    Le’Bryan Nash, Oklahoma State (G): Travis Ford just read the past two selections and had a heart attack.

7.   Isaiah Austin, Baylor (C): Unlike the Kabongos, the Austin family spelled its son’s first name correctly, something Isiah Thomas cannot brag about.

8.   Sam Grooms, Oklahoma (PG): Averaged more assists per game than Pierre Jackson, but since he doesn’t score much, he’s obviously a bad basketball player.

 9.  Aaric Murray, West Virginia (C): It won’t get you cool points to know he’s a good player now because he doesn’t play for La Salle anymore.

10.  Will Clyburn, Iowa State (F): Everybody wants him to be Royce White, but he doesn’t have a Mohawk, so that really won’t work.

Someone Decided The Big 12 Pre-Season POY Wasn’t Good Enough to Be First Team All-Big 12.

11. Rico Gathers, Baylor (F): The mere thought of lifting weights with this guy scares me.

12.  Ben McLemore, Kansas (G): His Rivals.com profile has as many stars (4) as the IKU constellation (I had to Google that).

13.  Jordan Henriquez, Kansas State (C): Averaged about two-and-a-half blocks per game, but he should play with a handicap because of his 7’6’’ wingspan.

14.  Elijah Johnson, Kansas (G): His first name is not mis-spelled, it’s just cool.

15.  Steven Pledger, Oklahoma (G): He scores the basketball.

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Critiquing the Preseason All-Big 12 Awards

Posted by Nate Kotisso on October 10th, 2012

College basketball’s back, baby.

But how do we know when it’s actually back? The 24-Hour college hoops marathon? Please. Midnight Madness? Not a chance. You know the season’s here when the coaches do the pointless deed of releasing their preseason all-conference awards. Feel the excitement!

Are the coaches always spot-on with their picks? Lord no but they mean well… usually. There’s a lot of good here but it has its share of stuff to pick at. So I present to you a critique of the preseason all-Big 12 awards.

Pierre Jackson has rightfully earned the Big 12 preseason player of the year award. (Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Here, I find it easier to start off with the good stuff first. So let’s start at the top with Player of the Year, Baylor’s Pierre Jackson. Initial reaction is: nicely done, guys. A quick guard who took the league by storm blowing past defenders, shooting a cool 40% from three-point land, and squeezing in a highlight dunk or two. Scott Drew couldn’t be happier with his senior point guard’s emergence as a big-time player especially going into a season with three fewer NBA Draft picks than a year ago.

Much like the freshman of the year award, Newcomer of the Year is one of the hardest to choose. Last year the coaches masterfully selected Iowa State’s Royce White, who ended up being a first-round pick in June’s NBA Draft. This time around the coaches went with Oklahoma’s Amath M’Baye, a 6’9″ transfer from Wyoming. You may have never heard of the man before but after some help from YouTube, M’Baye could best be described as an athletic freak of nature. NBADraft.net has him going as a mid-second rounder in 2013. His numbers suggest that he’s not a natural scorer and has been horrid from three-point territory. Given his long frame, he seems to play like a guard stuck in a forward’s body.

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