Big 12 M5: Day After The Super Bowl Edition

Posted by Nate Kotisso on February 3rd, 2014

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  1. We’re not wrong when we say Saturday in the Big 12 was more Super than the so-called Super Bowl. Kansas brought its perfect conference record to “The Drum” in Austin and left imperfect. Jonathan Holmes’ jumper with 16:38 left in the first half gave Texas a lead it would never relinquish. This makes it six wins in a row for the Longhorns, and while it’s still a surprise considering what the Longhorns went through a year ago, we shouldn’t really treat it as a surprise. Think about Rick Barnes’ best teams from the 2000s: Barnes had multi-year players like T.J. Ford, Brandon Mouton, A.J. Abrams and Damion James that took the program to the next level. This year, the junior Holmes and a crop full of sophomores continues to defy logic while shooting up the national polls.
  2. One of those heralded Texas sophomores will be out for Tuesday’s game against TCU. The school announced that Javan Felix will be unavailable because of a concussion he suffered in the team’s win over Kansas two days ago. Texas will try to extend its winning streak to seven without Felix’s 12.0 PPG in the lineup. I should the mention that the game will take place in Fort Worth, and with all the craziness that’s gone down in conference play so far, the Horns had better be on Upset Watch headed into this one.
  3. Speaking of craziness, Baylor ran into problems just making its way to Stillwater for a weekend tilt with Oklahoma State. According to Jimmy Dykes, who worked color commentary on the game for ESPN, their flight was re-directed to Oklahoma City due to icy conditions near the Oklahoma State campus. The bus from OKC to Stillwater cautiously braved the ice with high speeds topping out at five miles an hour. On top of that, starting point guard Kenny Chery was out because of a turf toe injury. So it only made sense for the Bears to win their first game in three weeks, right? Gary Franklin and Brady Heslip stepped up big-time, combining for nine threes between them, and we also got to see Rico Gathers start and finish a sweet fast break dunk. It was that kind of day for the Bears and who knows, maybe this is the turning point in the season that Baylor fans have been waiting for.
  4. On the other sideline, backup point guard Stevie Clark was arrested and charged with “outraging public decency” early Sunday morning. This marks the second arrest for Clark in a little more than a month after he was caught with possession of marijuana around New Year’s Day. Most of us also remember that Clark was suspended for four games and sent home from the Old Spice Classic for another undisclosed reason back in November. Travis Ford has yet to comment on Clark’s status but it will be interesting to see how he rules on his talented but troublesome freshman this time around.
  5. Can you guess the team that sits in fourth place in the Big 12 ahead of Iowa State and Oklahoma State? It’s OK if you had to Google it for the answer, but yes… it’s West Virginia. WVU took down Kansas State on Saturday to get to 5-4 in Big 12 play (K-State also has a 5-4 record but they might as well be fifth with the Mountaineers owning the head-to-head advantage). This win coupled with their road victory at Baylor appears to have brought some at-large possibilities back to life. If they’re able to beat Oklahoma this week and continue to add a few more good wins, that might be able to offset the missed opportunities the Mountaineeers had in non-conference play to earn a Tournament bid. Could we be talking about EIGHT teams dancing from the Big 12? Wow!
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Big 12 Power Rankings: Baylor is Losing its Mind Edition

Posted by Nate Kotisso on January 27th, 2014

Here was a team that was picked to finish third in the Big 12 by the league’s 10 coaches. They fought their way to the Maui Invitational championship game where they lost to a still-unbeaten Syracuse team. They didn’t seem phased by arguably the best recruiting class in decades against Kentucky, beating the Wildcats on a neutral floor in Arlington. But for whatever reason, Baylor currently stands at 1-5 in the Big 12 with two-thirds of league action still to play. Granted, two of those losses came at Iowa State and at Kansas, but the Bears haven’t been able to take care of business at home either, falling to Oklahoma on January 18 and Texas over the weekend. But hey, if it took six games to get us all freaking out over Baylor, it’s entirely possible they can turn their season around in the final 12 contests, right? (Right?!) Well last week, our power rankings had two groups of two that found themselves tied. We did better this time around: only one!

As best told by this photograph, there are a lot of things not going Scott Drew's way lately. (Rod Aydelotte/Waco Tribune-Herald)

As best told by this photograph, there are a lot of things not going Scott Drew’s way lately. (Rod Aydelotte/Waco Tribune-Herald)

1. Kansas — 4 points (previous: 1st; Brian, KoryNate & Taylor: 1st)

Comment: “What can be said about the Jayhawks that hasn’t already been said? Wayne Selden Jr. has been a different player since Big 12 play began and Andrew Wiggins had a career-high of 27 points against TCU. Curious to know how Joel Embiid’s knee is after bruising it in the second half Saturday. Based on how little media coverage it got after the TCU game, it probably isn’t serious.” – Nate Kotisso (@natekotisso)

2. Oklahoma State — 10 points (previous: 2nd; Brian, Nate & Taylor-2nd, Kory-4th)

Comment: “Marcus Smart played his worst game of the season, as this chair would tell you if it could, you know, talk. No matter, though, since the Cowboys still beat the Mountaineers.” – Brian Goodman (@BSGoodman)

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Big 12 Power Rankings: Kansas is Finally Finding Itself

Posted by Nate Kotisso on January 13th, 2014

Going into last Wednesday’s game against Oklahoma, Bill Self told his players that conference play was a “new season” and that everything would be “fresh and new from this point forward.” The young Jayhawks have heeded that message so far, getting past the Sooners and soundly beating Kansas State on Saturday. With a 2-0 start in the Big 12, we all figured they would rise in this week’s power rankings, but by how much? Is your top 10 shaped differently than ours? That’s what the comments are for.

It appears safe to close the panic button for Bill Self and the Jayhawks. (AP Photo)

It appears safe to close the panic button for Bill Self and the Jayhawks. (AP Photo)

1. Kansas — 6 points (previous: 3rd; Brian-1st, Kory-1st, Nate-3rd, Taylor-1st)

Comment: “It’s looking like Kansas’ non-conference struggles were nothing more than one of the youngest teams in the country playing one of the toughest schedules in the country. The Jayhawks have looked good the last two games and now have four legitimate threats to have a big game any on night: Andrew Wiggins,  Perry Ellis, Joel Embiid, and Wayne Selden.” – Kory Carpenter (@Kory_Carpenter)

2. Iowa State — 7 points (previous: 1st; Brian-2nd, Kory-2nd, Nate-1st, Taylor-2nd)

Comment: “I didn’t feel like I should drop the Cyclones in my top 10 — they lost to a pretty good Oklahoma team by five on the road. The winner of Kansas-Iowa State tonight will likely take my top spot next week.” – Nate Kotisso (@natekotisso)

3. Oklahoma State — 13 points (previous: 4th; Brian-3rd, Kory-3rd, Nate-4th, Taylor-3rd)

Comment: “Travis Ford’s squad avoided a disastrous start to conference play by knocking down a big three late to give them the win in Morgantown. If the Cowboys would have dropped two of their first three in league play to teams in the middle tier of the conference, they could have kissed their Big 12 title hopes goodbye.” – Taylor Erickson (@tc_erickson)

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“Fire Rick Barnes?” Not So Fast…

Posted by Chris Johnson on December 19th, 2013

One of the things college basketball observers thought they knew to be true heading into the 2013-14 season was that Texas coach Rick Barnes’ tenure was nearing its end. He was doomed to be fired at (or possibly before) the end of the season, was the thinking. It wasn’t a matter of if, but when. Last season, the Longhorns missed the NCAA Tournament and lost more games than they had won for the first time under Barnes. It was the second consecutive year his team didn’t post a winning record in Big 12 play – after finishing above .500 against league competition the previous 13 years. Texas hasn’t advanced past the round of 32 in the Tournament since 2008, and Barnes’ recruiting prowess had seemingly eroded to unthinkable depths; of Scout. com’s 21 top-40 recruits from Texas in the past seven recruiting classes, only one (2012 center Cameron Ridley) had signed to play with the Longhorns, according to Gary Parrish. There was plenty of talk that Barnes – who in the past had brought in such top prospects as Avery Bradley, Daniel Gibson, Damion James, Cory Joseph, Kevin Durant, LaMarcus Aldridge, D.J. Augustin, Myck Kabongo and Tristan Thompson — had lost the drive and energy to recruit top prospects as persistently as he once did. Sources who spoke to Parrish said, “Barnes became disenchanted with the off-court grind it takes to maintain a certain level of success.”

One of the biggest positive surprises early this season is 10-1 Texas (Getty Images).

One of the biggest positive surprises early this season has been 10-1 Texas (Getty Images).

Top-ranked 2014 point guard Emmanuel Mudiay’s commitment to SMU in August was seen less as a promising development for Mustangs hoops than an indictment of Barnes’ inability to recruit in-state talent. Not only did Mudiay, who is projected as the fifth overall pick in DraftExpress’ 2015 mock draft, spurn Texas – he didn’t even consider the Longhorns one of his final choices. Things looked even bleaker when former Texas Director of Athletics DeLoss Dodds, long an ardent supporter of Barnes, announced on October 1 he was stepping down. A week later, Sports Illustrated’s Pete Thamel released a comprehensive report on the state of Texas’ athletic department that included quotes from Dodds and an anonymous high-ranking athletic department official that seemed to add credence to the widespread speculation that Barnes’ job was in danger. “I worry more about basketball,” Dodds told Thamel. “If I were going to pick one [program] to worry more about, I worry more about basketball.” Said the official, “I can’t imagine [Barnes] turning it around.” Another reason why Barnes’ job security appeared so tenuous heading into the season? His top four-scorers from 2012-13 (Kabongo, Sheldon McClellan, Julien Lewis, and Ioannis Papapetrou) had, either by way of transfer or signing professional contracts, left the program. The writing was on the wall for Barnes. His long and mostly successful stint as Texas’ coach had run its course, it seemed. He had virtually no hope of turning things around.

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Big 12 M5: 03.26.13 Edition

Posted by dnspewak on March 26th, 2013

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  1. The search has begun for Texas Tech‘s next head basketball coach, but this is hardly a typical situation. One of the top candidates for the job is, um, the guy who coached the team this year. Chris Walker won only 11 games at the helm with the Red Raiders this season, but the league’s coaches praised him often for the way he dealt with the aftermath of the Billy Gillispie fallout. It would be silly to judge Walker based solely on his performance as an interim, so you’d have to think he’ll at least get a fair shot at landing the full-time position. The other names listed in the early portion of the search are, at the very least, intriguing: Scott Sutton (Oral Roberts), Doc Sadler (current Kansas staff member and former Nebraska head coach), Steve McClain (former Wyoming head coach and highly-regarded, longtime assistant currently with Indiana) and Barry Hinson (Southern Illinois). Sutton’s probably the best candidate of those choices, but he seems to have made a lifestyle choice to stay at Oral Roberts. Sadler didn’t fare well at Nebraska, McClain’s tenure at Wyoming ended poorly, and Hinson’s team finished in last place in the Missouri Valley this season. Surely, other names will emerge. You would have to hope so.
  2. Imagine this: Marcus Smart, Markel Brown, and Le’Bryan Nash playing another year together in Stillwater. Banners would be hung. Numbers might be retired. Championships might be claimed. But for that to happen at Oklahoma State, the trio would need to skip the NBA Draft this summer. That might be a tough proposition. Smart’s projected as one of the top picks in the 2013 NBA Draft. Brown’s considered a first-rounder. And Nash might be a second-rounder. If for some reason they did all return, we’re talking about a team with limitless potential. “It’ll be scary,” Nash told The Oklahoman. 
  3. Texas had a bad season. Then it played in the CBI and lost to in-state opponent Houston. Rick Barnes obviously wasn’t very happy, so when reporters asked him whether he would ever consider scheduling the Cougars during the regular season, he took a bit of an elitist tone. He said he’d only play them at home in Austin, which is unfortunately a sentiment you often hear muttered by power-conference college basketball coaches. The aforementioned link is pretty snarky and critical, but it has a point. Teams like Texas often say they have nothing to gain by playing a team from a perceived “lesser” conference on the road, but it makes life impossible for non-BCS schools in terms of scheduling. It hurts potential rivalries, kills fan interest, and deprives people of solid basketball during non-conference play.
  4. Sorry, awkward teenagers in Lawrence, Kansas: your middle school dance has been cancelled during the Kansas Jayhawks’ Sweet 16 game against Michigan. Probably a good idea, since there surely wouldn’t have been anybody there. Now, they will need to make sure they don’t reschedule the dance for Sunday, when a possible Elite Eight game could be played. Oh, and don’t schedule it for April 6 or April 8, either. You know, just in case.
  5. We leave you on one final note: former Kansas State basketball player Dick Stone has passed away. He was a star in the 1950s, but at the age of 78, he was killed on Thursday in Florida when a man driving a pickup truck swerved into his parked car. Very tragic and very sad, and not the best way to end the Morning Five.
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Big 12 M5: 11.07.12 Edition

Posted by Nate Kotisso on November 7th, 2012

  1. Jeff Borzello and his CBSSports.com companions near the end of their Preseason Top 25 +1 Countdown with a look at the Kansas JayhawksKU is going to finish the regular season as Big 12 Champions. There’s no point in fighting it anymore. It’s as much of a sure thing as Steve Spurrier getting a daily round of 18 in or Skip Bayless uttering something nonsensical. The only reason Borzello has a “Why This Team Will Disappoint” section of the preview because he has to. I’m sure the Bible has a passage that reads, “Thou shalt doubt not Bill Self.” Check again, it’s in there.
  2. Burnt Orange Nation released its full Big 12 preview yesterday. When making our own predictions here at the microsite, we came to the conclusion that predicting three through eight in the league was a total crapshoot. They have Texas ranked second in the league behind the Jayhawks, much like the mid-2000s. Their all-Conference team has the names you’d expect but a couple of their honorable mentions are from squads that will appear to finish at the bottom of the league. They aren’t as crazy as you’d think.
  3. The Remember the Miners Scholars Program is announcing the release of the Huggins Horrible Hankie. What fans can do with the “Triple-Hs” is wave them around (a la the Terrible Towel; forget that I just used a Pittsburgh reference) at West Virginia sporting events. The program’s Honorary Chairman is West Virginia coach Bob Huggins, who provides financial aid to miners, dependents of miners, and students pursuing an education in the world of mining. We all know mining is a major part of the Mountain State’s identity, so if you would like to get yourself a hankie or if want to know more about Remember the Miners, do check out remembertheminers.org.
  4. The Pistols Firing Blog has now hit number eight on its player-by-player countdown. Forward Kamari Murphy was the topic yesterday and he’s definitely going to get his share of attention as a freshman starter for the Cowboys. His high school coach at IMG in Florida was particularly high on him, and I am too, despite Travis Ford complaining about Murphy not doing enough with the ball when it’s in his hands. I hope Ford’s trying to keep Murphy under the radar now just so he can have a chance to surprise us all toward the end of the year.
  5. The Collegian just ran a story on the best player in the Big 12 that nobody’s talking about. Rodney McGruder was the top scorer from last year’s Kansas State squad and he leads a team with the experience of playing a bunch of big games under their belt. I have the Wildcats finishing fourth in the Big 12 and that has a lot to do with no important losses from the program other than Frank Martin’s departure. In fact, I’ll even go as far to say that K-State could be a sleeper team to make the Sweet Sixteen this year.
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Big 12 M5: 10.19.12 Edition

Posted by Nate Kotisso on October 19th, 2012

  1. WE GOT OURSELVES A COUPLA FEUDIN’ COACHES AT BIG EAST MEDIA DAY! Jim Boeheim and Rick Pitino coach teams that do not play in the Big 12, obviously. But a reporter at Big East Media Day asked Boeheim about Rick Pitino saying the additions of Memphis and Temple to the Big East will “more than make up for” the losses of Notre Dame, Pittsburgh and Syracuse. Jimmy B responded by saying that Pitino was full of, uh…”Schmidt” if he said that and added that if he were in the Big 12 “like he wanted to be,” he’d call them the best league. OH SNAP! Pitino responded to Boeheim’s quote by saying Boeheim was also full of “Schmidt.” While understanding the loss of Syracuse isn’t ideal, Pitino remained optimistic about the new teams coming next season. I think it’s only a matter of time before Louisville will be a member of the Big 12 but man I wish I was at Big East Media Day! If you’re a reporter going to one of these things, you could only dream of hearing something other than PC statements and coachspeak. It makes them seem like regular people.
  2. Calling fouls in the paint are probably the toughest thing to do if you’re a college basketball official. So Curtis Shaw, supervisor of officials for the conference, shone a little light on the issue and laid out how this league will rule on such fouls. I’m not a fan of coming out and saying how refs are going to rule on this because now teams are going to practice charges in a way to get the bang-bang plays to go in their favor every time. If I were Shaw, staying quiet and keeping everything ambiguous maintains a balance within everyone in the league.
  3. Can you keep a secret: The freshmen in the Big 12 are pretty good. The Oklahoma State Cowboys, Texas Longhorns and Baylor Bears are all quite similar. Opposing coaches like them to finish in the top-third of the league and now they each have players on the Wayman Tisdale Freshman of the Year Watch List. Seems like everything that’s been said about how much Marcus Smart can make an impact has already been said, but not enough has been said about Texas’ Cameron Ridley and Baylor’s Isaiah Austin. Remember how epic DeJuan Blair vs Hasheem Thabeet was, before they played against each other and Thabeet was found to be nothing more than a tall stiff? Yep, it’ll be just like that. But better.
  4. Speaking of the Baylor Bears, it received a recent commitment from 2013 forward Ishmail Wainwright.  The former Missouri commitment considered St. John’s, Texas, Ohio State, and Baylor in his final four. In this Rumble in the Garden link, the Johnnies seem to have been the favorites to land the wing but Wainwright becomes the second big-time talent to have seriously considered St. John’s to end up with Baylor (Ricardo Gathers is the other). If you think Baylor recruiting hasn’t truly gone national yet, then you are sadly mistaken.
  5. The 2007-08 Kansas basketball team will be inducted into the Kansas Athletics Hall of Fame during K Club and Homecoming Weekend next week. This is hardly a shock. The Kansas-Memphis national championship game gave college basketball one of the better ends to the season in recent memory. It won’t be long before Bill Self has his own Hall of Fame induction ceremony, KU and the Basketball HOF included.
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