Your Way-Too-Early 2014-15 Big 12 Power Rankings

Posted by Brian Goodman on April 9th, 2014

While the Big 12 catapulted a league-record seven teams into the Big Dance this season, the absence of a Final Four team among the ranks marked the latest in a series of missed opportunities for the conference to assert itself in the national conversation. The NCAA Tournament is chaotic by nature, but failing to send a single team to the final weekend eight times in the last 10 years is not the kind of distinction that the league’s administrators and coaches pride themselves on. Still, the Big 12 remains a very good league, and even though the statuses of a few NBA Draft hopefuls remain up in the air, there’s enough continuity remaining for us to ballpark the conference’s pecking order heading into next season. This is far from a predicted order of finish, but in the second week of April, here is how we think things stand.

1. Kansas

Betting against Kansas to win the Big 12 is a fool's errand, but if they want to make noise in March, they need to resolve their point guard issues.

Everyone knows that betting against Kansas to win the Big 12 is a fool’s errand, but if the Jayhawks want to make noise next March, they need to resolve their point guard issues.

  • Departures of Note: Andrew Wiggins, Tarik Black, Joel Embiid (probable)
  • Notable Returnees: Perry Ellis, Wayne Selden, Conner Frankamp, Naadir Tharpe, Brannen Greene, Jamari Traylor, Frank Mason
  • New Additions: Kelly Oubre, Cliff Alexander, Hunter Mickelson (Arkansas transfer)
  • Outlook: The back line should be very solid once again, especially if the Jayhawks can land Myles Turner. That possibility only figured to be an option if Joel Embiid left, and all indications are that the Cameroonian center will announce his departure later today. Perhaps of greater note is that there’s no imminent cure for the Jayhawks’ backcourt problems, though they do have options in Mason and Frankamp.

2. Texas

  • Departures of Note: None
  • Notable Returnees: Cameron Ridley, Jonathan Holmes, Isaiah Taylor, Javan Felix, Conner Lammert, Prince Ibeh
  • New Additions: Jordan Barnett, Obinna Oleka (JuCo transfer)
  • Outlook: The Longhorns figure to return everyone from the cohesive group that got Rick Barnes comfortably off the hot seat and in the direction of conference Coach Of The Year accolades. Texas will be good again next year, but swaying the commitment of in-state standout big man Myles Turner could provide the program the opening it needs to dethrone Kansas.

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Oklahoma State & Baylor Shored Up NCAA Bids Wednesday in KC

Posted by Greg Mitchell on March 13th, 2014

Call it redemption, call it taking care of business. Whatever you call it, Oklahoma State flew by its first round test last night at the Sprint Center by beating Texas Tech 80-62. Back in October, having to suit up on the tournament’s first night would’ve seemed ridiculous for a team picked to share the regular season Big 12 title. But here the Cowboys were, needing to beat Texas Tech to set up a Thursday afternoon rubber match with Kansas. Even more, the Cowboys didn’t want to test the committee and pick up loss number twelve to a team with a RPI north of 100. Recent wins over Kansas and Kansas State cured a lot of ills, but beating the Red Raiders was the surest path to a stress-free Selection Sunday.

Oklahoma State forced Texas Tech into 17 turnovers, including six steals by Marcus Smart (okstate.com).

Marcus Smart’s six steals helped Oklahoma State dispatch Texas Tech in the first round of the Big 12 tournament (okstate.com).

The Cowboys were able to do just that by attacking the basket early in the game and building a lead Texas Tech would never threaten. The Red Raiders got off to an 8-0 start, but the Cowboys punched back with a 26-5 run keyed by multiple and one’s. Attacking the basket would be a theme for the entire night, as Oklahoma State got to the free throw line 26 times in the first half, and 37 times for the game. This ability to grind out offensive possessions and create easy looks should allow the Cowboys to weather poor shooting spells in any tournament-setting, and makes them a dangerous team going forward. Marcus Smart, LeBryan Nash and Markel Brown are all in the top ten in the Big 12 in free throw makes too.

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Big 12 M5: 03.10.14 Edition

Posted by Brian Goodman on March 10th, 2014

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  1. The Kansas City Star reported that Kansas center Joel Embiid is in California getting a second opinion on his lingering back problems. Embiid has already missed three games due to back ailments and has been hampered in others, and his status for the Big 12 Tournament and beyond is in significant doubt. It would be a shame for the freshman to miss out on the most important games of his collegiate career, but it looks like Bill Self will have to hope for the best and plan for the worst as the Jayhawks look to get their postseason house in order.
  2. Iowa State forward Melvin Ejim has enjoyed a terrific season to this point, and his efforts were rewarded on Sunday by the league’s coaches, who tabbed him with the Big 12 Player Of The Year honor. Ejim finished the season ranked second in the conference in scoring (18.2 PPG) as well as rebounding (8.6 RPG), and his regular season campaign was highlighted by a 48-point outburst against TCU back on February 8. He’s a very deserving candidate, and there are legitimate cases for several other players as well. The RTC Big 12 Microsite contributors will have more on Ejim, Andrew Wiggins, DeAndre Kane and several other top performers later today.
  3. Whether you roll your eyes at Marcus Smart‘s flopping or embrace it as just one more thing by which to remember the season, there’s no doubt that the Oklahoma State point guard has garnered his share of headlines. When the Cowboys paid a visit to Hilton Coliseum on Saturday, Iowa State students mocked Smart in a coordinated effort to try to distract him at the free throw line by dramatically falling into their seats. They had instructions printed out and everything. Cyclone fans have earned a deserving reputation as some of the most hostile and passionate ones in the conference, so while Smart or Travis Ford may not have appreciated their idea of fun, it’s another reminder of how it’s not just the players and coaches that make college basketball worth following.
  4. There are zombies descending on Kansas City. No, The Walking Dead hasn’t suddenly changed locations, but the resurrected versions of Oklahoma State and Baylor are on the prowl and looking to do some damage this week, as detailed by USA Today’s Nicole Auerbach. After miserable starts to conference play, the Cowboys and Bears revived their NCAA Tournament chances with strong finishes to the regular season. Both teams are good bets to lock down bids regardless of what happens at the Sprint Center this week, but losing their first games and putting their fate in the hands of the selection committee would not be advisable for either squad.
  5. It’s been a rough go for Trent Johnson and TCU this season. A laundry list of injuries has hampered Johnson’s rebuilding effort, and despite fielding a promising big man in freshman Karviar Shepherd, the Horned Frogs couldn’t avoid becoming the first Big 12 team in 10 years to go winless in conference play. TCU dropped to 0-18 in league action, ending the regular season with a 30-point shellacking at the hands of Oklahoma. Johnson’s team will look to play spoiler when it faces a Baylor squad looking to cement an NCAA Tournament bid Wednesday night in Kansas City.
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Big 12 M5: 02.18.14 Edition

Posted by Kory Carpenter on February 18th, 2014

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  1. With a healthy Joel Embiid in the lineup, Kansas is a national title contender. Without their 7’0” freshman center from Cameroon, however, the Jayhawks would be fortunate to make the Elite Eight. Embiid has become the most important player on Bill Self’s team this season. So when a few nagging injuries finally caught up with him in last week’s loss to Kansas State, it was wise of Self to sit his big man against TCU on Saturday. He looks to be back in the lineup for tonight’s game versus Texas Tech, so it’s safe to say that his recent knee and back problems were nothing a little time off couldn’t fix. At least that’s what Jayhawks fans everywhere are hoping.
  2. As Ken Corbitt points out here, Bruce Weber doesn’t generally like to foul when down three points late in the game. And whether he was a proponent of that strategy or not, Corbitt correctly points out that Kansas State’s double-overtime loss Saturday to Baylor wasn’t a good time to foul anyway. Baylor was down three but shot the ball too soon for Kansas State to foul. The Bears kept grabbing offensive rebounds, though, and in the confusion, Brady Heslip ended up with the ball and drained a three-pointer to send the game to its first overtime. If you’re going to foul, its best to do so with under six seconds remaining. There is no game-planning strategy available for an early three-point attempt followed by multiple offensive rebounds and a kick-out three.
  3. If you watched last night’s Baylor vs. Oklahoma State game on ESPN, you might recall that they showed a Big 12 Tournament bracket if the season had ended today. Last night’s opponents would be the #8/#9 match-up while Texas Tech – yes, Texas Tech — would be the No. 7 seed. The Red Raiders are currently 5-7 in league play and KenPom has the team as just five-point underdogs tonight against Kansas. A lot of that has to do with two people: head coach Tubby Smith and senior forward Jaye Crockett. Smith admits that he felt the need to win Crockett over after he was hired last year. It seems to have worked, as Texas Tech sits at 13-12 overall and should manage to win enough games to play in some sort of postseason tournament next month.
  4. Speaking of Baylor and Oklahoma State, last night’s game prompted both teams to appear on CBSSports.com’s most recent “Poppin’ Bubbles” segment. As Jeff Borzello points out, Baylor now has five top-50 wins this season and is riding a three-game winning streak. The Bears are 17-9 and could realistically get to 20 wins if we include the Big 12 Tournament. Oklahoma State, on the other hand, has lost seven straight games with and without Marcus Smart in the lineup. They have two winnable games coming up against Texas Tech and TCU, but end the season against Kansas, Kansas State and Iowa State. The Cowboys might be NIT-bound.
  5. Like every other Big 12 team has experienced at some point, Oklahoma is entering a brutal stretch of games, beginning this weekend. The Sooners will face Kansas State, travel to Kansas and play host to Texas in a span of eight days. At 19-7 overall, the Sooners look to be on the right side of the NCAA Tournament bubble, but a late-season losing streak (no matter how much the committee claims recent performances don’t carry more weight) could hurt their chances next month. They end the season at TCU, but the aforementioned trio of games followed by West Virginia should keep Sooners fans on their toes for now.
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Big 12 M5: 02.12.14 Edition

Posted by Brian Goodman on February 12th, 2014

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  1. After Kansas’ loss to Kansas State on Monday, Bill Self said that Jayhawks center Joel Embiid could miss some time to focus on recuperating from knee and back injuries. Embiid played just 18 minutes in the loss at Bramlage Coliseum, and the Wildcats exploited his health problems to attack the paint effectively. Embiid hasn’t officially been ruled out for Saturday’s game against TCU, but Self noted Tuesday that “he has no strength” and “he winces when he moves.” The Jayhawks will need their future lottery pick back and at 100 percent if they are to live up to expectations, but it appears they have a little bit of wiggle room to take it easy with their big man in the short term as they face a relative lag in the Big 12 schedule with the Horned Frogs and Red Raiders next on the docket.
  2. Speaking of the Wildcats, Kansas State head coach Bruce Weber is doing a fantastic job of shaking the critics who believe that the second-year head coach can’t win with his own players, and guard Marcus Foster might be the poster boy for the campaign. The Texas native took home National Freshman Of The Week honors for his 34-point outburst against Texas last Saturday, and legitimized it by following up that game with a team-leading 20 points against the Jayhawks on Monday. The Wildcats aren’t a Tournament lock just yet, but they’re getting close, and their standout freshman is a big reason why.
  3. Texas took it to the short-handed Oklahoma State Cowboys throughout an 87-68 win that wasn’t even that close. Javan Felix led the way for the Longhorns, scoring 27 points and hitting six out of eight three-pointers. Perhaps even more impressive was the fact that Texas led comfortably despite being without leading scorer Jonathan Holmes, who missed Tuesday’s game with a knee injury. With the win, Texas picked up a half-game on Kansas in the league standings, while the Cowboys fell firmly onto the bubble. We can only assume that Travis Ford is counting the hours until Marcus Smart can return to game action.
  4. Suffice it to say that Iowa State head coach Fred Hoiberg has had better weeks. Following a gut-punching blowout at the hands of West Virginia, the Cyclones lost out on the services of Rashad Vaughn, a highly-touted guard prospect from Henderson, Nevada. Vaughn opted to stay close to home, announcing his intentions on Tuesday to attend UNLV and play for Dave Rice. While the Cyclones will lose DeAndre Kane at the end of the season, they still still figure to be in good shape moving forward with Matt Thomas, Monte Morris, Naz Long and Sherron Dorsey-Walker comprising what should be a highly formidable backcourt.
  5. TCU has an opportunity to turn their 0-10 ship around when the Horned Frogs welcome Baylor to Fort Worth tonight. Trent Johnson’s team has been outrebounded in nine of its last ten games, but Baylor’s rebounding core has left a lot to be desired, considering the athleticism of guys like Isaiah Austin and Rico Gathers. Both teams could use a kickstart; The last time either team won consecutive games, Oregon and Ohio State were undefeated, Spencer Dinwiddie was healthy, and Michael Cobbins had only missed one game due to his torn Achilles.
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We Salute You: Paying Homage to the Nation’s Winless Teams in League Play

Posted by Kenny Ocker (@kennyocker) on February 4th, 2014

Kenny Ocker (@kennyocker) is a national columnist for Rush The Court and spent way too much time on these articles.

With the calendar turned to February and the meat of conference play upon us, the most dominant and least effective teams are showing their colors against equal competition. And with the halfway point of conference season rapidly approaching for many – and already here for others – now is a good time to take stock of both teams that are undefeated in conference and those who have yet to win a game. Today’s installment takes a look at the less fortunate teams among us, ranked from least to most likely to not win a game in conference play.

Note: All statistics dutifully harvested from kenpom.com.

Princeton (12-5, 0-3 Ivy League)

T.J. Bray and Princeton winless? Probably not. (AP)

Although things have been a struggle lately for T.J. Bray and Princeton, the chances of the Tigers going winless is zero. (AP)

  • Odds: 0.0 percent chance to go winless
  • Most likely wins: February 8 at home vs. Cornell, 97 percent; March 7 at Cornell, 91 percent
  • Biggest strengths: Top 15 in field-goal shooting, top 10 in defensive rebounding nationally
  • Achilles’ heel: Field-goal defense in bottom 100 nationally
  • Key player: Senior guard T.J. Bray (17.8 points per game, 5.7 assists per game, 55 percent field goal shooting; the nation’s most efficient player to use more than 20 percent of available possessions.)
  • Outlook: Perhaps it’s not fair to start off with an Ivy League team, given that the Tigers are only three games into their conference slate. But few teams have had more surprising collapses than Princeton, which squandered a 9-2 non-conference slate and talk of a possible two-bid Ivy League by losing games against Penn, Harvard and Dartmouth. Here’s the thing: Each game was on the road; Penn is an ancient rival; Harvard has athletes unlike the conference has seen in a generation; and Dartmouth, well, there’s probably not a ready-made excuse for that one, although it did happen in overtime. To get an NCAA Tournament bid now, though, the Tigers have to sweep their next 11 games and hope the Crimson lose twice aside from the teams’ head-to-head February 22 matchup, and then beat them in a one-game neutral-site playoff. That’s a tall order, even for one of the nation’s best offenses, and the one that shoots more three-pointers than any other. But failing to win a game in the Ivy League is not in question here. Read the rest of this entry »
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Big 12 Power Rankings: The Schedule Gauntlet Continues

Posted by Taylor Erickson on January 21st, 2014

Another week goes by in the gauntlet that is the Big 12, as the league strives to establish its claim as the top conference in all of college basketball with six spots in the latest AP poll. Kansas continues to play very well, having navigated its incredibly difficult stretch to begin conference play unscathed, and managing to build a two-game lead on every team other than Kansas State. Speaking of the Wildcats, with road games at Texas and Iowa State this week, we’ll soon have a much better idea of how legitimate Bruce Weber’s squad really is. Iowa State has stumbled after a strong start, and unfortunately its schedule won’t be any easier with its next four games coming against ranked teams. The middle of the league continues to look like a logjam, with four schools – Oklahoma, Kansas State, Baylor, and Texas – all ranked between 39th and 44th by Ken Pomeroy.

After dropping three in a row, Naz Long and Iowa State are left searching for answers.

After dropping three in a row, Naz Long and Iowa State are left searching for answers.

Here’s a look at how our Big 12 contributors - Kory CarpenterBrian Goodman, and Taylor Erickson - rank each school heading into the third full week of conference play.

1. Kansas — 3 points (previous: 1st; Brian-1st, Kory-1st, Taylor-1st)

Comment: “Bill Self’s team hasn’t taken very good care of the ball in its last three games, but you always prefer to learn those lessons while winning, as the Jayhawks have. If Kansas puts it all together — and chances are they will — look out.” – Brian Goodman

2. Oklahoma State — 6 points (previous: 3rd; Brian-2nd, Kory-2nd, Taylor-2nd)

Comment: “Yes, they lost to Kansas State, but the Cowboys are a better team and have a higher ceiling than the Wildcats. Their second half against Kansas Saturday showed us they can play with anyone in spurts.” – Kory Carpenter

3. (Tie) Iowa State — 11 points (previous: 2nd; Brian-3rd, Kory-5th, Taylor-3rd)

Comment: “The Cyclones are reeling after dropping three in a row, learning life on the road in the Big 12 is brutal. They have a full week off before taking on Kansas State at home next weekend. A dose of Hilton Coliseum might be exactly what is needed to get DeAndre Kane and company back on track.” – Taylor Erickson

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Big 12 M5: 01.15.14 Edition

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 15th, 2014

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  1. Kyle Ringo of The Dagger writes that Kansas is rounding into form, and after Monday’s takedown of Iowa State despite 24 turnovers, it’s hard to deny that the Jayhawks are beginning to click. It feels like we’ve all seen this movie before: Kansas stumbles just enough in the early going for many among the media to ponder whether this will finally be the year that someone else takes the Big 12, only for Bill Self and company to knock some sense into all of us by MLK Day. We may be just two weeks into conference play, but the Jayhawks appear to be showing all the doubters why they continue to receive the benefit of the doubt when it comes to predicting the Big 12′s pecking order.
  2. Tying up one final loose end from Monday’s marquee battle, Sports Illustrated‘s Brian Hamilton contends that Iowa State needs to improve its shooting if it wants to stay in contention. Based on the Cyclones’ 31.4 percent performance from the floor, it’s reasonable to come to that conclusion, but it also makes sense to simply chalk up their bad shooting night to a sterling defensive effort on the part of the Jayhawks. It would be helpful if ISU could challenge more shots in the paint, but since it isn’t realistic to expect Melvin Ejim and Georges Niang to sprout four inches overnight, Fred Hoiberg will have to rely on what he has it his disposal, which, as a reminder, isn’t so bad.
  3. Yesterday, we talked about Kansas State needing to keep Cameron Clark from going off on Wednesday, and judging by Clark’s 1-of-9 evening at Bramlage Coliseum (and a 72-66 victory for the Wildcats), it’s safe to say that Bruce Weber’s team executed its game plan to perfection. The win was an important one for K-State, in need of a bounceback win over a fellow bubble team after the beating handed down by the Jayhawks on Saturday. Somewhat suddenly, the Wildcats find themselves at 3-1 in conference play with a pair of very winnable games (vs. West Virginia and at Texas) coming up next.
  4. It may be hard to tell due to TCU‘s health problems, but the Horned Frogs are improving, according to the Star-Telegram’s Stefan Stevenson. While season-ending injuries to Devonta Abron and Aaron Durley have kept TCU from reaching its potential, they aren’t of much solace to head coach Trent Johnson. Still, there are silver linings in Amric Fields and Jarvis Ray’s development, and Kyan Anderson is an under-the-radar point guard. While no one expects them to beat Oklahoma State tonight, it will be interesting to see whether the Horned Frogs can make it somewhat competitive.
  5. Lastly, Baylor‘s athletic department will host a rally tomorrow in support of both its nationally-ranked basketball teams. As part of the festivities, the general public is encouraged to bring new or gently-used coats to donate to local homeless shelters, and Whataburger will provide nourishment to students. Hey, anytime we can plug a charity effort while buzz-marketing a regional fast food chain, we have to do it.
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Big 12 M5: 01.08.14 Edition

Posted by Nate Kotisso on January 8th, 2014

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  1. Just how good is Iowa State? That’s the question Rob Dauster over at College Basketball Talk is asking after the Cyclones pulled away from Baylor in the second half to win the battle of top 10 teams, 87-72. DeAndre Kane had his best game on the biggest stage of the season to date: 30 points, eight rebounds, nine assists and five steals. Dauster believes the Cyclones are a very good team but not a top 10 team. His points are valid — the Michigan and BYU wins don’t have the same cachet now as they did in November, and their best wins (Iowa and Baylor) came at the impregnable Hilton Coliseum. Regardless of what anyone thinks about them, the Cyclones are now one of only five undefeated teams in college basketball along with Arizona, Syracuse, Wisconsin and Wichita State.
  2. When a team commits 18 turnovers in a conference game, it usually spells doom for the road team. Kansas State was that road team on Tuesday night and still somehow emerged with an 18-point win over TCU, 65-47. The difference for the Wildcats was winning the rebounding edge over the Horned Frogs by 16 boards. “They are not a good rebounding team,” forward Thomas Gipson said. “They play hard and everything, but we really wanted to emphasize our rebounding against them. I feel like we did a good job with that.” Now Kansas State’s winning streak is at 10 games, its longest since the Elite Eight season of 2009-10. Their buddies from Lawrence will be their next opponent on Saturday.
  3. Jerry Palm’s latest bracketology has seven Big 12 teams in the field of 68. Think about that: 70 percent of an entire conference is projected to make the NCAA Tournament. What a number, considering that the Big East’s 11 bids in 2011 accounted for 68.8 percent of that conference. According to Palm, Kansas State and Texas were selected as First Four teams headed to Dayton, Ohio. If they were picked as two of the final teams in, I wouldn’t be so sure if I’d take both. While Kansasa State has recorded its best wins (Ole Miss, Gonzaga, George Washington, and Oklahoma State) within the state of Kansas, those wins are collectively better than Texas’, which pretty much starts and ends with North Carolina in Chapel Hill. But that’s why the season doesn’t end on January 8. Who knows, maybe at season’s end the Big 12 will have seven resumes that are worthy of NCAA Tournament bids.
  4. On Monday, Kansas State’s Marcus Foster picked up Big 12 Newcomer of the Week honors, but the accolades don’t stop there. In a collaboration between the Wayman Tisdale Award and CBSSports.com, Foster has won the Wayman Tisdale National Freshman of the Week for his play against George Washington and Oklahoma State. This is certainly a breath of fresh air when you consider that the award seemed like it’d be passed around between Jabari Parker, Aaron Gordon, Tyler Ennis, Andrew Wiggins and the Kentucky freshmen. Hooray for three-star recruits!
  5. West Virginia has missed some opportunities to rack up important wins in non-league play but leading scorer Eron Harris is encouraged by the team’s 2-0 start in the Big 12. Yes, those two wins came against Texas Tech and TCU both of which have worse overall records than the Mountaineers. It doesn’t seem to make a difference to Harris. “I don’t care what team you’re playing in the Big 12, it’s a tough conference,” Harris told MetroNews. “It’s significant.” Their first non-Texas opponent will come Saturday when WVU takes on Oklahoma State in Morgantown. We’ll see if things really are different.
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The Best Of 2013 In College Basketball

Posted by Bennet Hayes on December 31st, 2013

With 2013 winding to a close, it’s time to take a look back at the year that was in college basketball. There were too many memorable moments to recount ‘em all, but here’s our honor roll for the last calendar year — a list laced with games, plays, and performances that will long struggle to escape our memory banks.

Best Game: Michigan vs. Kansas, NCAA Tournament, Sweet Sixteen

Trey Burke's Last-Gasp Sweet-16 Heroics Will Surely Be One Of 2013's Prevailing Memories

Trey Burke’s Last-Gasp Sweet-16 Heroics Will Surely Be One Of 2013′s Prevailing Memories

Gonzaga-Butler may have given us the best final seconds of regulation (see below), and Louisville-Notre Dame definitely donated the most riveting 25 minutes of action after regulation, but when talking games of the year, Michigan vs. Kansas was simply unmatched when it came to elevated stakes and elite talent. We won’t soon forget Trey Burke’s comeback-capping, game-tying three to force overtime, but it would be a shame if that’s all that lived on from this classic. Sweet Sixteen match-ups between national title contenders don’t come around every March; would you have bet against Kansas to get to Championship Monday if Burke’s three hadn’t found the bottom of the net on that Friday night?

Honorable Mention: Gonzaga at Butler, Louisville at Notre Dame.

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Big 12 Power Rankings: Kansas State’s Going Streaking

Posted by Nate Kotisso on December 24th, 2013

It feels like an eternity ago since Kansas State stumbled out of the gates. They’ve since dealt with injuries — most notably to Thomas Gipson — as the Wildcats got off to a 2-3 start. Soon, Gipson returned to form and with some help from freshman Marcus Foster, the Wildcats have now won six in a row including wins over Ole Miss and Gonzaga. K-State placed seventh in our power rankings last week.  Where does Bruce Weber’s team stand a week later?

Someone has just entered the conversation for Big 12 Coach of the Year again...and it's Bruce Weber. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner

Someone has just entered the conversation for Big 12 Coach of the Year again: Bruce Weber. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)

1. Oklahoma State (11-1, 5 points). Comment: “While I think Kansas will ultimately be the better team in the end, the Cowboys are still the better team right now. The combination of Marcus Smart and Markel Brown is as difficult of a backcourt as you’ll see in the nation. ” – Taylor Erickson (@tc_erickson)

2. Kansas (8-3, 9 points). Comment: “Huzzah to the mainstream media for steering clear of the ‘no place like home’ headline bait provided by the Jayhawks’ whipping of Georgetown in the first game played at Allen Fieldhouse in nearly a month.” – Brian Goodman (@BSGoodman)

3. Iowa State (10-0, 12 points). Comment: “Every time the Cyclones score 90 points in a game, an angel gets its wings. Probably.” – Nate Kotisso (@natekotisso)

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Big 12 M5: 12.23.2013 Edition

Posted by Brian Goodman on December 23rd, 2013

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  1. The rapid maturation of Kansas center Joel Embiid was on display once again in the Jayhawks’ big win over Georgetown on Saturday. Embiid scored 17 points on just four shots, harassing the Hoyas into foul trouble throughout the game. Without injecting his draft stock into the conversation, it remains downright scary where Embiid could be come March if he continues to develop at the current rate.
  2. Oklahoma State coach Travis Ford acknowledges how good his team already is, but like any coach in the country right now, he knows that there’s plenty of room for improvement. The Cowboys have continued to roll along and still figure to contend for the Big 12 crown, but unlike Kansas, Iowa State and even Baylor, Oklahoma State hasn’t grabbed many national headlines away from their home court. That’s not always a bad thing, though, as pressure to perform can derail a lot of teams.
  3. West Virginia has had plenty of chances to make a positive statement this season, but while they were never expected to live in the upper echelon of the Big 12, their season so far has been a complete dud. Sunday’s home loss to Purdue just put the Mountaineers under more pressure to overachieve once conference play gears up, and Bob Huggins won’t argue that his team still has plenty of work to do.
  4. A concerted effort to be more aggressive on the glass has been big for Kansas State after a rough start to their season, and it paid dividends once again in the Wildcats’ big weekend win over Gonzaga. Bruce Weber’s team collected at least 71 percent of available defensive rebounds for the third straight time on Saturday, and with a limited scoring arsenal at their disposal, preventing second-chance buckets will be one of the keys if the Wildcats are to win an uphill battle towards an at-large bid.
  5. TCU point guard Kyan Anderson was crucial as he helped dig his team out of a double-figure deficit against Tulsa over the weekend. Oddly, of the Horned Frogs’ seven wins against D-I opponents this season, two of them have come over the Golden Hurricane, which plays in a different conference. TCU is unlikely to find many Tulsas lying around the Big 12 this season, however, so it’s a good thing they were able to get those two wins.
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