Three Schools Looking to End Tourney Droughts

Posted by Shane McNichol on January 30th, 2017

So much of this season’s focus has zeroed in on college basketball’s blue-blooded programs, both those holding true to their stature and those that are floundering. But although their names are not as sexy, this season’s early group of bubble teams features a handful of programs that have little to no recent experience in the NCAA Tournament. For coaches at these schools, climbing the mountain to March Madness can be a veritable game-changer. As we slowly turn the corner into February and the last six weeks before Selection Sunday, fans, coaches, alumni and general observers should all keep a close eye on Northwestern, Virginia Tech and TCU to see if they can end their long droughts by closing the deal.

Is Another Chicago Curse About to End? (USA Today Images)

  • Northwestern. With a 7-2 Big Ten record and its first AP Top 25 ranking in seven years, Northwestern is finally in position to end the other less-publicized Chicago area losing streak. Though there have been a few close calls over the course of the last decade, head coach Chris Collins seems to have the group of Wildcats that will break through. His team currently ranks 29th in the RPI, having gone 18-4 against a schedule that KenPom rates as the 67th toughest in college basketball. The selection committee values road wins and Northwestern has answered this season by winning four of its first five Big Ten away games. Hopes are high in Evanston, and with nine games left in the Big Ten season, it would take a fairly monumental collapse for Collins’ team to play its way out of the Big Dance.

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Ranking the Big 12’s Non-Conference Schedules

Posted by Nate Kotisso on November 20th, 2015

Breaking down non-conference schedules are a strange thing to do but I enjoy watching the inter-conference challenges or anytime a Duke plays a Kentucky. If you gave me a fresh list of every high-major program’s non-conference schedule each week, that would be enough for me. Yes. They wouldn’t even have to play the actual games or put them on TV. I would simply be satisfied looking at the schedules themselves because my idea of how those games would play out are perfect and infallible. The best players would score the most points with a side of all the ridiculous buzzer-beaters you can eat. But first, a few notes about these rankings.

Games Like These Are Great For College Basketball (USAT Images)

Games Like These Are Great For College Basketball (USAT Images)

  1. The rankings will go from #10 to #1, representing the range from the weakest non-conference schedule to the strongest.
  2. The rankings do not represent where each team will finish in conference play. Seriously, it’s not that. Don’t be the person who thinks it is.
  3. Arkansas-Pine Bluff appears on three of the Big 12’s 10 non-conference schedules. If a plan is in the works for this program to be added to the Big 12, that’d be amazing. [starts up online petition]
  4. This ranking system is science. Pure science. Take this to a lab. It all checks out.

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Big 12 Media Day Recap: A Photo For The Ages

Posted by Nate Kotisso on October 16th, 2014

If you haven’t heard, Kansas City’s a happening place these days. Aside from that ALCS thing in town yesterday, the Big 12 also held its annual men’s basketball media day at the Sprint Center (here’s all that stuff, if it tickles your fancy). It was your run-of-the-mill media day: Reporters asked bland questions, players and coaches gave calculated answers, and no one really learned anything new. The apex of the festivities came, however, when the Big 12’s Twitter account tweeted out a group photo will all 10 of the conference’s head coaches. Here it is below:

Bask in all its glory (photo via @Big12Conference on Twitter)

Bask in All of its Glory (photo via @Big12Conference)

Instead of breaking down the nonstop action from media day, the following were the “thoughts” that went through each coach’s mind at the time the above photo was taken.*

  • Baylor’s Scott Drew: “I hate coming here when the Tournament is in an odd-numbered year. (sighs) OK, what should I do here, hands together or apart? Together? Apart? Wait, did I use all my timeouts yet? [camera takes photo] Ah heck, they’re apart.”
  • Iowa State’s Fred Hoiberg: “Put me in the back, will ya? That’s fine. I’ll end up dreamier than I was before.”
  • Kansas’ Bill Self: “Really wanted to wear Wiggins’ draft day suit again. Knew I shouldn’t have had that glass of butter with dinner.”
  • Kansas State’s Bruce Weber: (chuckles to himself) “I can’t believe Ford was in ‘The 6th Man.’ That’s the best movie of all-time! I bet that made a heckuva lot of money in theaters!”
  • Oklahoma’s Lon Kruger:  “I would take another coaching job right now if it meant I didn’t have to take this photo.”
  • Oklahoma State’s Travis Ford: “This contract I have means that I’m pretty much bulletproof. I could pull down Drew’s pants right now and I’d STILL get that check next week. [mulls it over] Nah, I won’t do that to ’em. He’s probably worried that he has to call a timeout here or something.”
  • Texas’ Rick Barnes: “I bet if I left media day, traveled the world and missed the entire year, we’d still have a better record than the football team.”
  • TCU’s Trent Johnson: “I don’t know why this camera guy told me to move this far up. He could have gotten a much better shot of me if I stood at half-court like I wanted.”
  • Texas Tech’s Tubby Smith: “I should have been more direct with people calling me Orlando instead of Tubby.”
  • West Virginia’s Bob Huggins:  “I don’t think anyone here gets my E. Gordon Gee Halloween costume.”

*thoughts confirmed by unnamed sources

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Big 12 Power Rankings: Iowa State Takes Our Top Spot

Posted by Nate Kotisso on January 6th, 2014

We took the week of New Year’s off for our Big 12 power rankings and all of us learned a lot about ourselves and the world. We’ve found that there are too many networks airing the Tournament of Roses Parade, Mark Dantonio and Rich Homie Quan are becoming best friends, and the top seven in the Big 12 basketball race will shuffle a lot between now and Selection Sunday. The four of us were all in agreement with Iowa State as the best team in the league right now and teams ranked #8-#10. Agree or disagree with us? Let us know in the comments.

1. Iowa State — 4 points (previous: 3rd)

Comment: “The Cyclones just keep on rolling. I still worry about their inability to force turnovers, but they have the fewest questions of any team among the Big 12 contenders right now.” – Brian Goodman (@BSGoodman)

Fred Hoiberg still has alma mater undefeated entering league play. (Ames Tribune)

Fred Hoiberg still has alma mater undefeated entering league play. (Ames Tribune)

2. Baylor — 10 points (previous: 4th)

Comment: “Kenny Chery might be the most underrated and efficient player in the Big 12. A point guard shooting 50.5 percent from the floor is rarely heard of at the college or pro level. He also averages more assists (5.2 APG vs 4.0) and fewer turnovers (2.1 TOPG vs 2.9) than Marcus Smart. What a find for Scott Drew.” – Nate Kotisso (@natekotisso)

3. Kansas — 12 points (previous: 2nd)

Comment: “I’m resisting the urge to really hammer Kansas for its loss on Sunday to San Diego State. The schedule has been far too difficult for this young team. Unfortunately, it doesn’t get much easier to start the Big 12. This team needs confidence, badly.” – Taylor Erickson (@tc_erickson)

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Evaluating Big 12 Non-Conference Schedules: The Good, Bad & the Ugly

Posted by Nate Kotisso on November 5th, 2013

It’s safe to say that the three teams in the Big 12 that should feel somewhat good about making the NCAA Tournament this season are Kansas, Oklahoma State and Baylor. Outside of that, who can tell? That’s what make non-conference schedules so vital to Kansas State, Iowa State or another possible surprise team. My definition of a strong non-conference schedule is one where a team is in a preseason tournament with at least two NCAA-level teams, one or two true road games in difficult environments, and a minimum of one home game against a likely Tournament team. I’m more lenient toward home games because most of them need to be gimme games or are set apart for smaller schools within a state. So from the teams that matter to the teams that won’t, here they are: the good, the bad and the ugly non-conference schedules in this season’s Big 12.

Phew! It's just Bill Self's index finger. (AP Photo)

Bill Self does a terrific impression of everyone who has Kansas on their non-league schedule. (AP Photo)

The Good

  • Kansas: They have the most talented team in the Big 12, but perhaps more importantly, the most difficult non-conference schedule to boot. Luckily for the fifth-ranked Jayhawks, they will participate in a Champions Classic where they will face Duke, ranked one spot ahead of them in the preseason AP poll. A surprising low point on the schedule is the Battle 4 Atlantis Tournament. That tournament’s championship game gave us Louisville-Duke last year, a precursor to their eventual Elite Eight match-up. But looking at this year’s field gives the impression that it’s Kansas’ event to lose. The greater litmus test for this team will come between December 7-14. In that span KU will face Colorado, Florida in the Big 12/SEC Challenge, and New Mexico — all away from Allen Fieldhouse. There may not be a more demanding week in non-conference action for any team in America. And on top of that they’ll play Georgetown and San Diego State in the Phog before league play begins. Wouldn’t it be great if all big-time coaches were as ambitious with their scheduling as Bill Self?
  • Baylor: The first thing that jumps out immediately is the Bears’ season opener against Colorado. This is an incredible get considering the Buffaloes could very well be the best team Tad Boyle has had in Boulder as well as the fact that it’s an on-campus game. During the week of Thanksgiving, the Bears participate in this year’s EA Sports Maui Invitational, usually perceived as the preseason’s most prestigious tournament. Assuming it wins the whole thing, Baylor would presumably have to go through the likes of Gonzaga and Syracuse to do so — two teams ranked in the AP Top 25. They wouldn’t have much time to regroup, because a little more than a week later, they’ll have a date with top-ranked Kentucky on December 6 in Arlington. After winter break, the Bears will face Northwestern State, a team that won its conference tournament last season and led the nation in scoring. Baylor ends its slate with a game against an Oral Roberts program that has won 20+ games in three of its last four seasons. The Bears make a good case for the toughest non-Big 12 schedule but a lack of true road games hurts them.

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Big 12 M5: 11.04.13 Edition

Posted by Nate Kotisso on November 4th, 2013


  1. Kansas State took down Pittsburg State 75-54 in exhibition action on Friday night. The only problem was the Wildcats were hobbled in doing so. Bruce Weber said earlier in the week that guards Will Spradling (0 pts) and Shane Southwell (10/5 asts) as well as forward Nino Williams (13/13) were all battling injuries despite playing more than 20 minutes apiece. Thomas Gipson, who is expected to be more of a force on the offensive end, did not play either due to an unspecified injury. Another headline came from the three freshmen thrown into the action. Point guard Marcus Foster turned in 13 points, five rebounds and four dimes, while fellow Texan Wesley Iwundu scored 10 points in 17 minutes, and Nigel Johnson poured in 15 and nine boards in Gipson’s place. While it’s important to get your starters as healthy before the season tips off, it’s nice to know you have options down low and in the backcourt if you’re a K-State fan.
  2. News came down late last week that Melvin Ejim would be out several weeks with a hyperextended knee and bone bruise. But Ejim is hoping he can return to the floor sooner than expected. “I don’t think it’s going to take as long. Hopefully it doesn’t take as long,” he told the Ames Tribune. “It’d be the best if I took a couple weeks, and I could play right away, but we’ve still got to be smart and it’s something if I do play on it and it’s not properly healed, it’s potentially something that could hurt me down the line.” Smart is right. Adrian Peterson certainly set a precedent for athletes and how much time they can take to rehabilitate their injuries. And sure, Ejim’s feeling pressure to be rushed back considering 60 percent of Iowa State’s starting lineup wasn’t there a year ago. It’s also not a bad thing to go the Derrick Rose route and make sure your mind and body are in sync with each other before returning to action. Get well, Mel.
  3. They’ve got a shiny new top 10 ranking and lofty expectations at the national level, but believe it or not, Oklahoma State won’t be talking about a national championship this season. According to the Tulsa World, Travis Ford had his players study up on the six Cowboy teams that previously made it to Final Fours for a team dinner weeks ago. “We wanted them to learn about the tradition but also the championship-type teams,” Ford said. “We’ve talked a lot about trying to get to that point, trying to get our guys throughout the summer and a little bit of preseason thinking in terms of trying to motivate them to win a championship. Once the night was over, I told our guys, ‘Now we’re done talking about it.’ I don’t want to talk any more about it. I don’t want to pinhole it.” Interesting approach from a man who hasn’t done a whole lot in his time in Stillwater; but hey, the more Big 12 teams at the 2014 Final Four in Dallas, the better.
  4. TCU had its own exhibition game on Friday night and they were able to come away with a 81-74 over Arkansas-Fort Smith. Karviar Shepherd, the top prospect from the Horned Frogs’ 2013 recruiting class, shined with a 16-point, 10-rebound outing. After missing the 2013 portion of last season, senior Jarvis Ray scored 18 to lead all scorers. TCU is slated to tip off its season Friday against crosstown and old Southwest Conference rivals, SMU. Let’s hope that Trent Johnson will have a healthy roster to work with in 2013-14.
  5. The mother of Texas Tech head coach Tubby Smith passed away last week. According to the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal and later confirmed by the school’s athletic department, Parthenia Smith died late Wednesday. She was 92. Tubby’s father, Guffrie, passed away just before the start of the 2009 basketball season at 88. It’ll be tough to concentrate on coaching this week, but our thoughts and prayers go out to Tubby and his family through this trying time.
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Evaluating the Big 12 Preseason Coaches Poll

Posted by Nate Kotisso on October 21st, 2013

We’re under three weeks until the games really begin. So what better time than now to talk about what Big 12 coaches think about their competition? These preseason polls tend to be glorious crapshoots, so how serious do any of the coaches actually take them? They’re all too worried about how their own teams will shake out to care about anyone else’s. Truthfully, the preseason poll should probably be left up to the beat writers for each Big 12 team to figure out, but if things were done that way, we wouldn’t have this collection of coaches filling out a list minutes before it was due at the Big 12 offices. Shall we?

10. Texas Christian Horned Frogs (12 votes)

Mr. Purple is Seeking to Find His Way Out of Last Place This Year

Mr. Purple is Seeking to Find His Way Out of Last Place This Year

This was the easiest pick for #10 on the list. Or was it? You have to remember that head coach Trent Johnson and TCU dealt with injuries to key pieces last season. They lost forward and 2011-12 Mountain West Sixth Man of the Year Amric Fields for the season after injuring his knee 12 seconds into a game versus SMU. Aaron Durley, their 6’10” mammoth who previously committed to Marquette, was also lost for the year after tearing his ACL. So what about this year? Durley suffered another torn ACL. Expected starter Devonta Abron will be lost for the year after tearing his ACL during TCU’s summer trip to Canada. There is reason for some optimism, though. Kyan Anderson is back for another year after being the Horned Frogs’ most consistent performer in 2012-13. Fields is healthy. They also scored Central Michigan and Pittsburgh transfer Trey Zeigler (career: 12.2 PPG) for his final season of eligibility and we’ll finally get a chance to see Johnson’s prized prospect Karviar Shepherd step on a college floor for the first time. Despite that, there’s still a strong chance TCU finishes in last place again. Consistent with past coaching stops, Johnson is wearing all purple all the time now. Everyone around him hates it. Fun times in the Metroplex!

9. Texas Tech Red Raiders (14 votes)

There isn’t a coach in the world who could have won with the roster Texas Tech had last season. The Billy Gillispie scandal pretty much sent incoming recruits and whatever expectations this team had running for the hills. Chris Walker was called on to take over in the interim but when it came time to hire a full-time guy, Tech went in a different direction. Minnesota, because they’re Minnesota, fired Tubby Smith shortly after taking a Golden Gophers’ team to the round of 32 of the NCAAs for the first time since 1990 (the last non-sanctioned year, that is). Texas Tech athletic director Kirby Hocutt pounced on the 62-year-old Smith and made him the next Red Raiders’ coach just seven days after his firing. They have a lot of returning players including Jaye Crockett (11.9 PPG, 6.5 RPG), who dazzled in a new role as the first man off the bench. Hopefully Dejan Kravic can take a step forward as a more consistent offensive option. The same goes for Dusty Hannahs, whose size (6’4″, 210 lbs) can be a factor in driving to the basket when he isn’t connecting on three-pointers. Then there’s Jordan Tolbert, the team’s leading scorer in 2011-12, who, in addition to dealing with the dismissal of Gillispie, also had to endure the loss of his father before the start of last season. A little consistency is sorely needed here. Smith makes the fourth different head coach in the last four seasons in Lubbock. Good on you, Big 12 coaches, for picking them ninth, but a seventh or eighth place finish is viable at season’s end as well.

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Assessing the Season: TCU Horned Frogs

Posted by Nate Kotisso on April 24th, 2013

Nate Kotisso is a Big 12 writer for Rush The Court. You can follow him on Twitter @natekotisso

We’re taking a look back on a team-by-team basis at the 2012-13 season. Next up: TCU.

Final Record: 11-21 (2-16)

The Expectations: What a confusing offseason it must have been for fans of TCU basketball. Granted, hoops on campus may not have had much of a fan base to begin with but the changes were intriguing. In 2011-12, the Horned Frogs enjoyed their first season above the .500 mark (18-15) since winning 21 games in 2004-05. They finished fifth in a Mountain West that sent the four teams in front of them to the NCAA Tournament. They also had the MW Freshman (Kyan Anderson) and Sixth Man of the Year (Amric Fields) coming back to school. This was easily looking like Jim Christian’s best year but sensing his time there was nearing due to his poorly performing teams before, he took the Ohio job when it was vacated by John Groce. TCU was of course entering its first year as a member of the Big 12 conference which, competition-wise, would be a step up from teams in the Mountain West. Trent Johnson, who pretty much did his best Jim Christian impression, left LSU to take the TCU job. Johnson has had experience coaching and succeeding at a private schools like TCU (see Stanford) but after losing standouts Hank Thorns Jr. and J.R. Cadot to graduation, 2012-13 was all about starting from scratch.

Trent Johnson loves the color purple. (

Trent Johnson couldn’t tear himself away from the color purple. (

The Actual Result: TCU won its season opener against a Cal Poly team that would steal a win at UCLA just two weeks later. After taking care of Centenary, the Horned Frogs dropped their first game of the season to Larry Brown and crosstown rival SMU. One clear problem facing the team was scoring the basketball. They lost back-to-back games to Houston and Tulsa, posting 48 and 49 points, respectively. There was also the Northwestern game where TCU lost by 24 points and only managed to put only 31 on the board. Despite this, they finished off the non-conference portion of their schedule with three straight wins to enter conference play at 9-4.

Conference play felt like one nightmare after another. In those 16 losses, TCU’s average margin of defeat was 17.9 points per game but they did have their moment in the sun. The first came against Kansas on February 6. The Jayhawks’ confidence was shaken a bit. They had been able to get by Texas and West Virginia on the road in games that were closer than they should have been, but had gotten some comeuppance after Markel Brown and Oklahoma State marched into Phog Allen Fieldhouse and left with an 85-80 win. On that Wednesday night in the Metroplex, though, Kansas started slowly and allowed TCU to control the game wire-to-wire in what I consider to be the biggest upset in the Big 12 era (dating back to 1996). It was anything but a sparkling performance for the Horned Frogs. TCU shot better as a team than KU but it made the same number of field goal attempts (18) as the Jayhawks, missed 16 free throws and lost the battle of the boards by 10. It also marked the first and likely final time the Topeka YMCA will get name-checked by Bill Self at a press conference. That will be the safest bet in the history of safe bets.

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Big 12 M5: 10.17.12 Edition

Posted by Nate Kotisso on October 17th, 2012

  1. We knew Texas and UCLA were playing a non-conference game in Houston but now we know that this will be much more than just a game. Coaches Rick Barnes and Ben Howland held a conference call yesterday to officially announce the M.D. Anderson Proton Therapy Showcase. The name doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue but the good news is that it’s going to be an annual event. The showcase will feature the women’s teams from Texas and UCLA first followed by the men’s team next on December 8. The M.D. Anderson Cancer Center is a big part of Houston’s “mini-hospital city” known as the Texas Medical Center. Part of their renown comes from the successful Proton Therapy Center within M.D. Anderson, which provides treatment of tumors in the prostate, lungs, head, neck, esophagus and brain. Hopefully we’ll see this game in support of this great hospital for many years to come.
  2. Hey look, today is Big 12 Media Day and the Big 12’s official site has all the bases covered. You can watch all 10 head coaches including a select amount of players speak to the media live in 5- and 10-minute intervals. There’s also a full schedule of events as well as a media guide to look over instead of doing dumb, stupid work. Now we’re just t-minus two weeks until the exhibition games get started. Awesome.
  3. Texas Tech is currently one of the worst situations in college basketball but interim head coach Chris Walker is going to pour everything he has into this season. This year is essentially his job interview to prove to athletic director Kirby Hocutt and the fans that he’s deserving of a long-term contract in Lubbock. The Lubbock Avalanche-Journal gives us a glimpse into Chris Walker, the coach and the man.
  4. Last night ESPN aired another outstanding 30 for 30 film called There’s No Place Like Home (I assume it was outstanding because every film preceding this usually is). The story follows the journey of one Kansas fan’s desire to bring James Naismith’s official document of the rules of basketball to Lawrence, Kansas. A review from The Wichita Eagle claims that there’s not as much drama in this film as there normally is in other 30 for 30s but I’d say it’s still worth a watch. History’s always cool. If you’re like me and you missed it, here’s when and where you can watch a replay of the film. (Then you’ll have to click “Upcoming Schedule” across the middle of the page).
  5. It may not seem that way now but TCU is looking like a program on the rise. They have last year’s Mountain West Freshman of the Year (Kyan Anderson), Sixth Man of the Year (Amric Fields) and Arkansas transfer Devonta Abron, who was a key reserve on the Razorbacks a season ago. TCU360 takes you on a grand tour of a team in transition and one that I believe will not finish last in the Big 12 this year. Strong claim, right?
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ACC Game On: 12.28.11 Edition

Posted by KCarpenter on December 28th, 2011

There was only one game on last night and it wasn’t exactly thrilling or unexpected as Virginia, led by the machine-like Mike Scott, destroyed the Maryland-Eastern Shore Hawks. The win is only the latest in a campaign that has the Cavaliers ranked in both national polls and off to their best start in a decade. While soundly beating the teams that you should beat doesn’t impress most people, it’s what Tony Bennett‘s crew has done after bouncing back from the tough loss to TCU early in the season.

Mike Scott Has Been A Consistent Star For Virginia

The Duel and the Debut

  • Albany at Maryland at 8pm

In the Albany Great Danes, the Terrapins should see more than a bit of themselves. Like Maryland, Albany is a mediocre team defensively, but a  much better offensive team powered by a star scoring wing who has a real talent at getting to the free throw line. Terrell Stoglin averages 21.5 PPG while drawing an incredible 7.5 fouls per forty minutes. For the Great Danes, Gerardo Suero averages 21.5 PPG and draws an even more stunning 8.4 fouls per forty minutes. Suero is bigger and gets more rebounds than than the smaller Stoglin, but he also turns the ball over much more. In any case, both players are scoring dynamos with a talent for drawing contact and it should be a joy to see them try to one-up each other. More important, perhaps, is that this game will feature the debut of Alex Len, the promising freshman big man who was serving an NCAA mandated suspension related to his amateur status and time playing with a professional team in Ukraine. While Len will come off the bench, his play should at least give the Terrapin faithful some glimpses of what the future might hold.

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