Checking In On… the Big 12 Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 23rd, 2012

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

Reader’s Take

 

The Week That Was

  • Bears Dropped At Home: Baylor’s Big 12 title hopes took a huge hit this week, losing at Kansas and at home to Missouri. Though they are just two games back of leader Kansas and play both the Jayhawks and Tigers again, their Big 12 title odds are down to just 3.8% according to teamrankings.com and some questions probably need to be asked of Scott Drew. Baylor settled for jumpers time and time again against Missouri and let the Tigers rebound nearly half of their misses; inexcusable numbers for a team with the size that Baylor has.
  • Frank Martin Hands Down Punishment: Kansas State’s big front line took a hit this past week when they suspended junior Jordan Henriquez indefinitely. Henriquez wasn’t a big offensive threat, averaging 7.1 points per game in under 20 minutes per game, but he was very good on the glass at 11.9%, which ranked third on the team, and was their best defensive rebounder as well. With the Wildcats ranking seventh in Big 12 play in defensive rebounding, Henriquez’s absence will be felt.
  • What Can Brown To For You?: Last week, I highlighted the good side of J’Covan Brown, so this week the bad: Brown helped Texas come back from an 18-point deficit against Kansas over the weekend, but proceeded to shoot them out of the game, making only four of the 18 two-point shots he took on Saturday. Myck Kabongo had a rough game and the Horns lack someone other than Brown who can create his own shot so it’s understandable that he’d shoot that much, but he did them no favors this weekend.

Kim English, Phil Pressey and Ricardo Ratliffe Brimmed With Confidence As They Toppled Baylor On Saturday. (Tony Gutierrez/AP)

Power Rankings

  1. Kansas (16-3, 6-0): On the one-year anniversary of his mother’s death, Thomas Robinson turned in a very good performance with 17 points and nine rebounds to keep the Jayhawks unbeaten in Big 12 play. After the game, he had the early frontrunner for heartbreaking quote of the year, saying: “No disrespect intended, but that’s something I have to live with every day… For the media, it’s an anniversary.” Robinson’s main focus this year has been to take care of his little sister, Jayla, and with him projected to be a high lottery pick, that certainly looks to be a goal that can be accomplished, but even if not, a scholarship fund has reached roughly $300,000 in donations from fans. Read the rest of this entry »
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Big 12 Morning Five: 01.23.12 Edition

Posted by dnspewak on January 23rd, 2012

  1. Missouri earned the most important win of its season by knocking off Baylor on Saturday, and it did so by playing harder and tougher than the Bears. The Tigers, who won the rebounding battle despite having only two scholarship forwards on the roster, may have benefited from a reading assignment coach Frank Haith insisted on. Haith made the players read an essay about toughness from Jay Bilas from 2009. It appeared to pay off, according to Kim English. “Size doesn’t matter… Everything evens out in basketball. Height limits speed.” MU improved to 18-1 and now sits a game behind Kansas in the Big 12. The Tigers still need to play at Lawrence in late February, but they’ve already taken road trips to the rest of the teams in the upper half of the league. This league could come down to the final Border War series this year — imagine that.
  2. To this day, it’s hard to forget Mike Gundy‘s tirade at Oklahoma State in defense of a quarterback. Remember? He’s a man, he’s 40, and so on. Well, Travis Ford didn’t live up to that speech in OSU lore this weekend, but he made a similar plea for the critics to lay off senior guard Keiton Page. Page shot just 4-17 from the field, but Ford didn’t care. “This kid is giving it everything he’s got and he can’t even walk the next day. I do not think he gets the respect that he deserves on that court. I just don’t get it; I don’t get it… Keiton Page is phenomenal.” Ford says Page’s production is limited because of the way defenses key in on him, and he’s got a point. But clearly, Ford believes that Page is more important to this program than his shooting percentages would suggest.
  3. Ben McLemore pleaded not guilty to a minor in possession of alcohol charge, which he received back in November. It’s a small offense, but it became an issue when the Kansas freshman missed his court date in December. McLemore is ineligible to play this year, but he apparently did not tell his coaching staff or teammates about the original alcohol charge. He’ll now appear in court again in March. Bill Self says the matter will be handled “internally” — and you know what that means.
  4. Staying with Kansas, you’re probably familiar with the story of Thomas Robinson. College Gameday ran a piece about his tragic situation on Saturday, and various media outlets have told his story after he lost his grandmother, grandfather and mother in the span of a month during the 2010-11 season. Here’s another perspective on Robinson, as told by the Kansas City Star. No matter who you root for, it’s impossible not to pull for Robinson on a personal level. No person should ever have to suffer that kind of loss in such a short period of time.
  5. Lon Kruger is still trying to figure out his Oklahoma team. During this process, Kruger has adapted as a defensive coach, using a zone more frequently with the Sooners this season. Apparently, it’s working. Ever the tactician, Kruger has used it as a change of pace for his normal man-to-man look, and his players have seemed to take a liking to it. “It’s been good for us,” forward Romero Osby said. Guard Steven Pledger said the same thing, mentioning that any defense works as long as you put effort into it. “It doesn’t matter whether it’s man or zone, you have to be active and play hard.”
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Big 12 Weekend Primer

Posted by dnspewak on January 21st, 2012

For the second time in less than a week, all eyes will be on the Big 12. Missouri and Baylor, both ranked in the top-five, will square off in Waco on Saturday afternoon in college basketball’s prime matchup. Elsewhere, Oklahoma will look to win its third straight game as it heads to College Station, while Kansas will renew its rivalry with Texas in Austin.

GAME OF THE WEEKEND

  • Missouri at Baylor, Saturday, 1:05 p.m. CT (ESPN)

Baylor Will Look to Celebrate Again When it Hosts Missouri(AP/C. Riedel)

The Ferrell Center will host two top five opponents for the first time on Saturday, and it’s not a stretch to say this may be the most important home game in Baylor history. Now in his ninth season, it’s amazing that Scott Drew has built a program prestigious enough to play a game with this kind of national attention. His Bears have not lost at home this season, and Missouri’s only loss came on the road at Kansas State. The Tigers quieted the critics a bit by winning at Iowa State, but they did not look comfortable in Manhattan and fell out of contention in that game immediately. Kansas State’s physical bigs held Ricardo Ratliffe to just one field goal attempt, forcing him into foul trouble and taking him out of the game entirely. And here’s the bad news for Missouri: The Bears’ big men are even more athletically intimidating. Ratliffe and Steve Moore are the only two scholarship forwards on this Missouri roster, but they’ll have to somehow deal with Perry Jones, Quincy Miller and Quincy Acy, not to mention players like Cory Jefferson and Anthony Jones off the bench. If you’re counting, that’s five players taller than 6’7”, and most of them can dunk like they’re playing with a Fisher Price basket. The Tigers simply cannot compete with that kind of size. Perhaps we’ll see a lot of 2-3 zone out of Frank Haith, something he’s not opposed to doing. In fact, Missouri has zoned opponents on many occasions this season, and it’s been effective at times. The problem is, Baylor has the guards this year to deal with any kind of defense. Brady Heslip can burn teams who pay too much attention to the paint, and Pierre Jackson has changed the entire dynamic of this team with his ballhandling, penetration and passing skills. If Heslip can knock down some shots and Baylor dominates the paint, this game could be over by halftime. However, the Bears have trouble holding on to the ball sometimes, and they also did not play very well defensively in a loss to Kansas on Monday. Also, while Missouri may not have played very well in Manhattan, Waco is hardly the same environment. Yes, it’s an enormous game this weekeend. The crowd will not be weak, not by any means. But they don’t make many places like Bramlage Coliseum, and MU has never played well there. It won in Ames, and it should not be taken lightly on the road at the Ferrell Center.

The key individual matchup is… Missouri’s guards against Baylor’s forwards. Missouri is mismatched with every single team it plays. That’s just what happens when you start four guards. Against Baylor, though, that mismatched is magnified. The Bears start Jones, Acy and Miller on the frontline, and they almost always have three bigs on the floor at the same time. Missouri rarely even has both Ratliffe and Moore in the game at the same time. In fact, it’s be physically impossible for the Tigers to play three forwards unless they inserted walk-on Andy Rosburg or former football player Andrew Jones, and that’s not going to happen. But Missouri has compensated all year for this lack of size. On Saturday, it’ll be especially important for Marcus Denmon to try to take advantage of his favorable matchup with his quickness. It’s also important for the Tigers to rebound well as a team and make up for their lack of size with extra effort and energy on the boards.

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Big 12 Morning Five: 1.20.12 Edition

Posted by dnspewak on January 20th, 2012

  1. Surprise! Kansas is the only undefeated team remaining in the Big 12 and has already defeated one of its main rivals for the league title (Baylor) at home. That leaves Kansas in a strong position in the conference right now, although it’s still too early to hang any banners. The Jayhawks still need to travel to Waco, Columbia, Manhattan, and Ames, but Bill Self’s teams have traditionally played well on the road. As even Self has admitted, though, this year’s team is not a vintage Kansas team, so it will be interesting to keep an eye on how this team fares. After seven years of either sharing or winning the Big 12 outright though you have to give the Jayhawks the benefit of the doubt here. It’s unlikely this team, which still features a Wooden Award front-runner in Thomas Robinson, will fall apart on tough road environments.
  2. Sometimes, it’s nice to have a little fun with All-Conference teams. Commentator Mitch Holthus put together several different teams, all of which had nothing to do with basketball. We don’t have any arguments with most of his picks, but where is Ricardo Ratliffe on the WWE team? He’s as chiseled as it gets in the Big 12. And with regards to that coaching card game, let’s try to find a spot for Fred Hoiberg. Just to liven things up a bit.
  3. Frank Haith would also have an interesting story to tell at that card game if Holthus selected him. You are probably sick of reading the Frank Haith reclamation stories, but it has been awhile since we have posted one. And this article is particularly well-written, weaving his days at Miami along with the scandal and the controversial hiring at Missouri. If the Tigers keep winning, you will be reading a lot more of these pieces especially from the national media. Haith is an underdog, and that is something America will never have enough of.
  4. Oklahoma did not begin Big 12 play with a bang, but it could actually take control of fifth place in the Big 12 with a win this weekend at Texas A&M. It’s a winnable game for the Sooners, who have won two straight league games after an 0-3 start. It’s only a matter of time before Lon Kruger works his magic, and there’s no reason this team can’t sneak into at least the NIT. Steven Pledger is learning to deal with the pressure of expectations, according to the article, and Andrew Fitzgerald and Romero Osby can cause a lot of problems for Big 12 teams when they play well. Kruger’s program will only continue to improve given time, but his first team isn’t a pushover by any means.
  5. And staying with the Sooners, sophomore Cameron Clark is embracing his new role as a reserve. Clark seemed like a definite starter heading into the season, but Kruger’s decision to bring him off the bench has helped his game. Clark scored 10 points in 14 minutes against Kansas State and added 10 against Texas Tech. That’s the sign of a mature player. Clark probably did not expect to lose his starting role, but he’s responding well to his coach’s decision whether he likes it or not. One day, Clark will probably find his way back into the starting lineup. For now, though, OU will be just fine if he keeps up this kind of production.
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Checking In On… The Big 12

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 9th, 2012

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

Reader’s Take

 

The Week That Was

  • Missouri played a relatively soft non-conference schedule, and got dominated in a tough road environment losing by 16 at Kansas State. All year long people, questioned whether the Tigers had the toughness inside to be one of the elite teams in the country. In Manhattan they grabbed only 21% of their available offensive rebounds and allowed the Wildcats an offensive rebounding rate north of 40%. What’s more, 6’3” Marcus Denmon was the team’s leading rebounder in the game.
  • Lon Kruger’s Oklahoma Sooners sprinted out to a 10-2 record outside of league play, but reality set in a bit for the Sooners as Big 12 play started, losing 87-49 at Missouri and 72-61 at home against Kansas. Oklahoma is getting 18 points per game from Steven Pledger but only have two other players scoring over 8.5 per contest. They are also struggling defensively, allowing just under a point per possession this year against a fairly soft schedule.
  • The Big 12 has been much better than expected this year as they are ranked second according to the Pomeroy rankings. The Big 12 has five teams in the top 30, which is second only to the Big 10 who has 6. Even the Big East, with 16 teams, has only five. It has been the five teams (Kansas, Missouri, Baylor, Kansas State, and Texas) that I expected to carry the load, but it nonetheless has been impressive what the Big 12 has done this year.

McGruder & The Wildcats Took Down The Tigers After Losing At Allen Fieldhouse. (AP)

Power Rankings

  1. Baylor (15-0, 2-0): Baylor almost suffered a potential Big 12 title-killing defeat this weekend, beating Texas Tech by only 13 on Saturday, pulling away late. The Bears turned it over 14 times in a 64 possession game, which is right in line with their season average. If their turnover rate, which ranks 235th nationally, doesn’t improve, I can’t see them competing for the Big 12 title, especially because their quality of competition will increase.
  2. Kansas (12-3, 2-0): The Jayhawks jumped out to a big lead against rival Kansas State and, though it got close in the second half, they managed to win by 18 points, a win that looked even better after what Kansas State did to Missouri. Thomas Robinson continues to be fantastic, with a 15/14 effort against the Wildcats, but the Jayhawks’ best player has been someone most fans haven’t heard much from. More on him later. Read the rest of this entry »
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Ten For Ten: Impressions of Each Big 12 Team From Its Opener

Posted by dnspewak on January 5th, 2012

Congratulations, Big 12 teams. You’ve all now played one-eighteenth of your conference schedule. For the next two months, you will suffer through hard-fought battles week after week until this wild league sorts itself out. After one game, it’s impossible to tell what exactly will happen from now until the first weekend in March. But each Big 12 opener at least gave us a little insight into this crazy conference. In alphabetical order, here’s what you need to know about Opening Week:

  1. Baylor has not played flawless basketball this season, but don’t exactly take that as a criticism. The Bears are undefeated and off to the best start in school history, and yet they still have a lot of room for improvement. Although it handled Texas A&M from start to finish in Waco on Monday, Scott Drew’s team still finished with 16 turnovers and shot just 2-12 from beyond the arc. Guard play in particular was a problem: Pierre Jackson finished with seven turnovers, and Brady Heslip did not score. And yet the Bears’ 61-52 victory was hardly in doubt until a modest comeback by the Aggies at the very end of the game. Perry Jones, who did not play well in a win over Mississippi State on national television last week, redeemed himself with a double-double as BU’s frontcourt overpowered the normally physical Aggies. The guards will make the difference this season for Drew, and though they struggled in the Big 12 opener, that trend should not continue. Jackson, Heslip, A.J. Walton and Gary Franklin are an underrated group.
  2. Iowa State is not a pushover this season. These guys can really shoot the heck out of the basketball, and they won their first Big 12 opener in five seasons by knocking off Texas 77-71 on Wednesday night. Yes, the Longhorns have problems of their own– more on that later– but Fred Hoiberg‘s team defended well, played with outstanding energy and got every shot it wanted on the offensive end. Iowa State made 10-of-21 three-pointers, and not a single trey came from Scott Christopherson, one of the top three-point shooters in Big 12 history from a percentage standpoint. Chris Babb and Anthony Booker combined to make eight of those shots, but forward Royce White controlled this game by getting to the free throw line and posing a matchup problem for UT. The Longhorns are small on the front line, and White exploited them by using his quickness. He announced to the Big 12 that he will not be easy to defend this winter.

    Bill Self's Team Made a Statement On Wednesday Night

  3. Kansas looked like a Big 12 champion again by spanking Kansas State at the Phog on Wednesday night. Sure, the Jayhawks cooled off after building an early 18-point lead, and the Wildcats jumped back into the game in the second half. By the end of the contest, though, KU had run away with this rivalry by beating Frank Martin at his own game. Kansas State thought it could rattle the Jayhawks with its high-pressure style and tenacious rebounding, but Thomas Robinson proved once again that he’s not afraid of anybody. Forget the loss to Davidson. Tyshawn Taylor may turn the ball over too much, and the offense may not always look crisp, but Bill Self‘s team will defend and it will not back down from a challenge. 17 offensive rebounds and a +24 margin on the boards against a Frank Martin team is proof of that. Read the rest of this entry »
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Checking In On… the Big 12 Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 2nd, 2012

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

Reader’s Take

 

The Week That Was

  • The Big 12’s feel-good story has to be Texas Tech freshman Luke Adams. Adams was born almost entirely deaf with only about 10% hearing in his left ear. Thanks to cochlear implants however, he is hearing nearly completely normally now. He has been effective in limited playing time as well, shooting 46% from three and 78% from the free throw line to go with a 24.4% assist rate. Although he was the leading scorer in Class 3A in Texas last year, his scholarship options were limited due to his size. He chose to walk on at Tech and based on his early performance, he could be a nice shooter off the bench for them in the coming years.
  • Thomas Robinson had the performance of the week in the Big 12 scoring 30 points and grabbing 21 rebounds against North Dakota. It was first 30 point 20 rebound game for a Kansas player since Wayne Hightower did it against Missouri 50 years ago, and it was just the sixth time in the history of the Big 12 a player has had a 30 and 20 game. Robinson joins elite company including Blake Griffin, Kevin Durant, and Michael Beasley in the conference’s 30-20 club.
  • For the second week in a row, the two Big 12 unbeatens stayed that way by the narrowest of margins. Baylor beat Mississippi State in Dallas, despite what a cynic would call their best efforts to give it away, and Missouri picked up a nice true road win, going to Old Dominion and surviving, 75-68. Interestingly, they both had to fight the crowd a bit: Old Dominion was at home and has a nice atmosphere at the Constant Convocation Center, but the crowd in Dallas was pitiful for the Baylor-Mississippi State game. Playing in front of a stale crowd is probably good preparation for the NCAA Tournament, but it makes for some awful regular season basketball.

Cynics Will Be Quick To Point Out That It Came Against North Dakota, But Thomas Robinson Posted One Of The Top Single-Game Performances In Big 12 History Saturday. (Credit: Reed Hoffmann/AP)

Power Rankings

  1. Missouri (13-0): Although their offense is fantastic, I think it is officially time to start worrying about Missouri’s defense. They have allowed over a point per possession in back-to -back games, and almost did earlier in the month to lowly Kennesaw State. Frank Haith has generally had good defenses considering the talent he had at Miami so I think they can get the ship righted but it still is a potential red flag for the Tigers if they want to win the Big 12.
  2. Baylor (13-0): I promised I would put Baylor at the number two slot if they beat Mississippi State, but yikes. After squeaking out a two-point win in Dallas in which they tried their hardest to let the Bulldogs get out of there with the win, it probably will be a one week stay at the 2 slot. All of Baylor nation seems to have Pierre Jackson fever, as last year’s highest ranking junior college player scored 14 points against Mississippi State and has a 63.5% eFG on the season. But to temper those expectations a bit, I don’t think you can win the Big 12 title with a point guard who has a turnover rate of 30.4%. It is true that he will get more comfortable with the offense as the season goes on, but he will also be playing much tougher opponents. Read the rest of this entry »
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Big 12 Weekly Primer: December 28-29

Posted by dnspewak on December 28th, 2011

GAME OF THE WEEK

  • #11 Mississippi State at #6 Baylor, Wednesday, 8 PM CT in Dallas (ESPN2)

Scott Drew's Team Is Flying High Heading Into Tonight's Game

At 12-0 and fresh off a Las Vegas Classic sweep of St. Mary’s and West Virginia, there’s not a whole lot left for Baylor to prove. The 6th-ranked Bears seem to have it all: dominant bigs, freakish athleticism, terrific dunkers and, most importantly, steady guard play. Junior college All-American Pierre Jackson, Boston College transfer Brady Heslip and junior A.J. Walton have formed a strong trio in the backcourt, and they’re helping Perry Jones and the crew lead the way in the paint. Cal transfer Gary Franklin has also impressed since gaining eligibility, as he’s turned the ball over just once in four games. That’s a striking contrast from last season, when Scott Drew wasted a boatload of NBA talent due to poor guard play and other issues. Baylor still has some work to do in the rebounding department, and it also turns the ball over a bit too much at times. But those are kinks Drew will work out during the course of the season, and they shouldn’t hold Baylor back against Mississippi State. In many ways, the Bulldogs are a mirror image of Baylor. They have a dangerous frontcourt duo in Arnett Moultrie and Renardo Sidney, but Rick Stansbury’s guards have stepped up to help the Bulldogs to a 12-1 start. Dee Bost may be this team’s most important player as both a scorer and leader of the offense, and it’s going to be up to him to make smart decisions on a semi-neutral floor in Dallas tonight. Let’s not be silly here, though. This game will be won in the paint, and it all depends on which stars show up to play. Jones had a lot of questions to answer this season after a somewhat disappointing freshman season, but he has looked like a new man so far in 2011-12. That’s also an accurate description for Moultrie, who has embraced his role as the enforcer in Starkville after two modest seasons at UTEP. In his first year of eligibility, Moultrie has already recorded seven double-doubles, and he’s both getting to the line (6.0 attempts per game) and converting his free throws (88.3 percent). Against Jones, Quincy Miller, Quincy Acy and the other forwards with giant wingspans on the Baylor roster, Moultrie has a chance to prove his worth on national television.

The key individual matchup is… Dee Bost vs. A.J. Walton/Pierre Jackson/Gary Franklin. Jackson has not started a game this year, and Franklin just became eligible four games ago, but they’re both stealing time away from starter A.J. Walton at the point. It’s not a bad problem for Drew to have, since all three are playing reasonably well. It’s no secret who runs the show for Mississippi State, though. Dee Bost will likely attempt the most shots for the Bulldogs tonight, he’ll lead the team in assists and he will also be the most disruptive defensive presence on the floor. After all, he’s in the top-10 all-time in steals at Mississippi State, which means Walton, Jackson and Franklin better take care of the basketball. The elite forwards in this game cannot get to work unless the point guards play well. For Bost, that means taking good shots. When MSU plays well, it’s usually because Bost finds a groove and plays within the offense. But when Bost struggles– say, like his 2-9 effort in a loss to Akron or a 4-16 performance in a near-collapse at Detroit– this team is in trouble. It will be interesting to see who Drew leans on at his point guard spot. Franklin and Jackson actually played more minutes than Walton in the team’s overtime win against West Virginia, and Jackson starred in that game with 23 points and a tying three-point in the final minute.

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Considering the Big 12 Overachievers and Pleasers

Posted by cwilliams on December 20th, 2011

Even though the 2011-12 college basketball season still has its youth, it is already easy to identify some of the individuals who have overachieved this season. Players who, for one reason or another, are not only meeting expectations but blasting through them. Overachievers are on every team and come in all shapes and sizes, but this group has shown through the first month-plus of the season that they will have a major impact on the Big 12 this season. The title of overachiever doesn’t stick with these players forever, though — they either become a star, or are considered an “almost-was.” Here we list the five Big 12 basketball players who are overachieving to this point in the season.

Nobody Likes the Overachievers in College. Except on the Hardwood. (Newson6.com)

  1. Steven Pledger, Oklahoma - While it is probably safe to consider the entire Sooner roster as overachievers due to their impressive 8-1 start, Pledger seems to be the backbone of their success. He has become a proven floor general this season and has almost doubled his points per game from last year, even while averaging fewer minutes.
  2. Jordan Tolbert, Texas Tech – While Tolbert was expected to be one of the Red Raiders’ key freshmen on this team, nobody expected him to be the entire team. Tolbert is leading the Texas Tech in both points per game (14.0) and rebounds per game (6.2), and he dropped 22 against Grambling, 16 against DePaul, and 27 against future Big 12 member TCU. Read the rest of this entry »
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Big 12 Morning Five: 12.20.11 Edition

Posted by dnspewak on December 20th, 2011

  1. If you’re like us, you may have skipped last night’s Davidson/Kansas matchup in favor of other activities. Hey, after all, it appeared the Wildcats would be outclassed, having lost by 23 in their last outing at Charlotte. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why they don’t play basketball on paper: Davidson upset KU 80-74 last night at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, making those of us that missed the game do a double-take. This isn’t the first time a revamped Bill Self team has dropped a headscratcher at the Sprint Center, though. Back in 2008-09, the Jayhawks lost to Massachusetts in the same building after losing their entire starting lineup from a national title squad. The loss isn’t good news for Kansas, but it’s not the end of the world either. At the very least, Tyshawn Taylor returned from his injury to finish with seven assists — although you can’t ignore his five pesky turnovers.
  2. Stepping away from the court in Lawrence for a moment, the Kansas City Star had a nice breakdown of the men’s basketball program’s role at the KU. The school’s struggling football program actually brought in about $2 million less than the basketball program, and that’s not surprising considering the historical precedent. Basketball will always be king at Kansas — always. And as Self puts it, “men’s basketball has to be good here… Has to be. We don’t talk about it, but I think (the players) understand that.” That’s a pretty telling quote from the man in charge.
  3. Missouri may be 11-0 and ranked in the top 10, but the focus shifted to the future on Monday with the announcement that former Oregon five-star recruit Jabari Brown will join the Tigers next year. Brown bolted from Eugene after just two games out west, and he’ll likely be eligible to play in December 2012. Frank Haith’s 2012-13 roster is starting to get interesting. He already added two transfers in Keion Bell (Pepperdine) and Earnest Ross (Auburn), so he’ll have a lot of new faces from a lot of different places (pun intended). That’s always a risk, as we’ve seen with Iowa State, but there’s no doubt that Missouri will have a lot of talented basketball players in the fold next year as well.
  4. With a young squad, Travis Ford is finding out during the non-conference season that he’s got a lot of questions to answer. At 6-4, Oklahoma State most recently dropped a game in Oklahoma City to New Mexico, and the team seemed out of sync for the better part of the game. This team is one of the most athletic in the Big 12, and LeBryan Nash is one of the league’s most gifted players. Still, there’s just something off about Ford’s team right now. Without consistent point guard play from a variety of candidates, the Cowboys looked frustrated against the Lobos. It got to the point where ESPN commentator Doug Gottlieb even suggested moving Keiton Page to the point, although it sounded as if Ford has ruled that out as an option.
  5. The other program in the state of Oklahoma is doing just fine, though. Oklahoma is off to an 8-1 start and recently rallied for a victory against Houston, and that’s a good sign for this revitalized group under Lon Kruger. The Sooners fell behind in the second half but stormed back, thanks in large part to 31 points and a double-double from Steven Pledger. If there’s one theme to this season for OU, it’s change. Pardon the cliche, but this team plays with a whole different attitude under its new head coach. The Houston win is just another example that this program appears ready to turn the corner.
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Checking In on… the Big 12 Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on December 19th, 2011

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

Reader’s Take

 

The Week That Was

  • Denmon Scorching: The Big 12 Player of the Year race will come down to who does what in conference play, but at the midseason point I would be hard-pressed to pick anyone other than Missouri’s Marcus Denmon. The senior is averaging 19.6 points per game, and is doing it extremely efficiently, with a 52.8% eFG. He’s also getting to the line a decent amount, and shooting 91.7% once he gets there. Despite taking more shots than anyone on the team, and using his fair share of possessions, Denmon has been great at taking care of the ball as well: his 4.2% turnover rate is best in the entire country. Not only is he the best player in the league at this point, he might be the best in the country entering conference play.
  • Coaches Jockeying: Coach of the Year, on the other hand, is a much more muddled situation. At Kansas, Bill Self has taken a Kansas team savaged by graduations and early departures and led them to a 7-2 record, including a big win over Ohio State. There were some snickers when Missouri hired Frank Haith, but the Tigers are 11-0 and will likely be favored in their next month’s worth of games. Frank Martin has taken a Kansas State team without much offensive talent but has ridden defense to a 7-1 record, including a win over a good Alabama team. Their lone loss came in double overtime to future conference foe West Virginia.
  • Tolbert Under The Radar: While Quincy Miller, Deuce Bello, and LeBryan Nash have received more publicity and probably have brighter NBA futures, how about some love for Texas Tech’s Jordan Tolbert? He’s taking 34.1% of the team’s shots while on the floor, but has not wilted in the face of having to carry an offense as a freshman. Quite the opposite in fact as he’s shooting 63% and drawing an impressive five fouls per 40 minutes. Once at the line, he’s shooting 83.3%. He also leads the Red Raiders in both offensive and defensive rebounding percentage. Texas Tech probably will finish last in the league this year, but it won’t be because of Tolbert.

Marcus Denmon Is Setting Nets Ablaze With His Shooting, But Will It Continue Into League Play?

Power Rankings

  1. Missouri (10-0): The Tigers start 10-0 for the first time since joining the conference. They haven’t played the toughest of non-conference schedules, however, and will be trying to avoid a repeat of last year’s second half swoon when they lost eight of their final 14 games. I mentioned how great Marcus Denmon has been already, but don’t sleep on Kim English either: the senior is shooting 52.5% from three and has the tenth-best eFG in the country.
  2. Kansas (7-2): Kansas didn’t play last week due to pesky finals week, but while they will be hoping for good news off the court in the form of good grades, it looks like they will get a piece of good news on the court as senior guard Tyshawn Taylor, who had surgery on a torn meniscus and was expected to be out a minimum of two weeks, is now expected to play in Kansas’s game Monday against Davidson. Thomas Robinson had a similar procedure as Jayhawk with a comparable recovery time, for what it’s worth. Read the rest of this entry »
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New Look Oklahoma Sooners Thriving Under Lon Kruger

Posted by dnspewak on December 15th, 2011

Nobody’s going to hang a banner at the Lloyd Noble Center for Oklahoma‘s modest 7-1 start, especially considering the Sooners’ non-conference strength of schedule ranks 100th in the nation. Keep in mind that OU has not yet played a true road game. It lost to the best team on its schedule (Saint Louis) by 20 points. It arguably has not faced an NCAA Tournament team yet and its second-leading scorer transferred earlier this month.

But so what? Compared to last season’s 14-18 campaign, these Sooners are playing with an entirely different attitude on both ends of the floor under first-year head coach Lon Kruger. Despite the slip-up against SLU in the 76 Classic finals, Oklahoma appears to have improved in almost every facet of basketball, thanks in part to a higher overall level of maturity and the addition of two impact transfers. Kruger’s team manhandled Arkansas and Washington State, and it overpowered a good Santa Clara team by dominating the rebounding margin.

Oklahoma Already Has Half As Many Wins As 2010-11

From both a basketball and statistical standpoint, Oklahoma is a new team with point guard Sam Grooms (junior college) and forward Romero Osby (Mississippi State). It’s not hyperbole to suggest they are both lifesavers at their respective positions, and they’ve filled missing links by contributing in other areas besides scoring. Grooms, for example, doesn’t look to score much, but that’s not his role on this team after unseating Carl Blair as the starting point guard. Instead, he’s found his groove as the lead guard by deferring to Steven Pledger, who is enjoying a breakout junior season. Pledger has averaged nearly 18 points per game without forcing anything, and a lot of that has to do with Grooms’ efficiency at the point guard spot. Pledger also has less pressure thanks to the productivity of a several other scorers like Osby, Andrew Fitzgerald, Cameron Clark and, most recently, Tyler Neal, whose minutes have skyrocketed after Calvin Newell‘s transfer. The individual scoring totals for these players don’t matter much, though. Most importantly, with Grooms leading the way, Kruger’s team shares the ball, takes good shots, and has limited its turnovers. That’s a complete turnaround from the 2010-11 season, when the Sooners ranked dead last in the Big 12 in several offensive categories.

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