Big 12 M5: 10.27.14 Edition

Posted by Brian Goodman on October 27th, 2014

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  1. Texas isn’t exactly hurting for guards, but the Longhorns picked one up for the future with a verbal commitment over the weekend from four-star high school senior Kerwin Roach. In Roach, Rick Barnes gets his second commitment for the 2015 class (joining fellow guard Eric Davis). While this season’s Longhorns will be loaded with bigs like Cameron Ridley, Jonathan Holmes and Myles Turner, the roster makeup will begin to shift smaller next season, so keep this move in the back of your mind going forward.
  2. Jesse Newell of the Topeka Capital-Journal gives a stellar look into Bill Self’s simple yet efficient philosophy when it comes to offense. The value of the layup cannot be overstated, and if you watch a lot of Kansas’ games, you’ll see the Jayhawks pass the ball three or four times around the perimeter looking for a post entry angle before the ball ever crosses the three-point line. While it may be basic, it’s also why you see Self get visibly upset every time someone like Naadir Tharpe or Tyshawn Taylor hoists a quick three. This year, look for more close-range shots with paint artist Perry Ellis and the powerful Cliff Alexander on the low blocks.
  3. The success of Oklahoma this season will depend on its frontcourt depth, writes The Crimson And Cream Machine, and we couldn’t agree more. Last season, the recipe was for the backcourt to carry the load offensively and get just enough from double-double machine Ryan Spangler to carry the day. While Spangler will be back, the thing he has now that he didn’t have last year will be a little more help. D.J. Bennett, who averaged just nine minutes per game last year, will likely see more run, and Spangler could really benefit if TaShawn Thomas is ruled eligible.
  4. Continuing with the theme of post production, players up and down Kansas State’roster are excited for what their big men will provide this season. The Wildcats haven’t had a player 6’10” or taller on the roster since Bruce Weber took over as head coach, and this year, they’ll have two such big men in Brandon Bolden and Stephen Hurt, who both stand 6’11”. The added size will provide Marcus Foster with new targets, so while the losses of D.J. Johnson (injury) and Jack Karapetyan (transfer) hurt from a depth perspective, the remainders should give Kansas State hope for another finish in the top half of the Big 12.
  5. We’ll leave you with a frivolity from the weekend. You may have heard that TCU‘s football team rolled up 82 points on Texas Tech, and in case you were wondering when the last time the Horned Frogs put up that kind of offense on the hardwood, it was on December 19 against Grambling State. To find the last instance when the Horned Frogs scored 82 points against a league foe, however, you’d have to go all the way back to a March 3, 2012, battle against then-Mountain West opponent San Diego State, a 98-82 loss. Given that TCU has yet to field even a top-150 offense under Trent Johnson, don’t expect many such performances this season.
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Big 12 M5: 10.20.14 Edition

Posted by Brian Goodman on October 20th, 2014

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  1. Iowa State lost a lot of production with the departures of DeAndre Kane and Melvin Ejim from last season’s Sweet Sixteen squad, but the team is hoping that a big loss of a different variety helps the Cyclones topple Kansas atop the Big 12 this year — the disappearance of 30 pounds from senior Georges Niang‘s frame. Weight fluctuations are always a big discussion point around this time of year, but with many players on this year’s squad stepping into new roles, Iowa State expects to lean heavily on its experienced match-up nightmare. At the very least, Niang’s weight loss (from 240 pounds to 210) should help his agility to average more than the 4.5 rebounds per game he tallied a year ago.
  2. The career turnaround Rick Barnes engineered for himself was one of last season’s biggest stories, not just in the Big 12 but nationally. Now, firmly off the hot seat and with blue-chip big man Myles Turner also in tow, Barnes returns to an atmosphere where his team will shoulder expectations beyond simply making the Big Dance. The Longhorns have a deep, talented roster that will have as good a chance of knocking Kansas off its perch as any challenger has during the Jayhawks’ reign, so it will be interesting to see how Texas builds on last season’s surprise run to the Round of 32.
  3. Speaking of Kansas, Bill Self hasn’t forgotten how porous his team was on the defensive end last year, and he’s adjusting his practices to be more rigorous defensively. The Jayhawks could definitely use a shot in the arm on that end of the floor, after finishing 31st in the country in defensive efficiency on the heels of an eight-year stretch of no worse than 11th in that category.
  4. At last week’s Big 12 Media Day festivities, Curtis Shaw, who oversees the league’s officiating, opened up about the lightning rod that is the block/charge call. Shaw admitted in an interview that poor calls in block/charge scenarios happen more often than good ones, which was reflective of most fans’ perception last winter. It’s unrealistic to expect officials to get every call right, but the hope is that increased accuracy this season will deter defensive players from trying to draw charge calls by sliding into the path of an airborne offensive player.
  5. It wasn’t all that long ago that only the nation’s biggest programs participated in Midnight Madness. Now everyone is in on the act, and as a result, we’ve seen some well-intentioned yet regrettable moments from coaches as their grand entrances have become cheesier and more contrived. Last week, Texas Tech head coach Tubby Smith became the latest victim of the Midnight Madness spotlight, as he fell from a motorcycle (don’t worry, it was moving at a low speed) while leading the Red Raiders onto the United Supermarkets Arena floor. The last few times Texas Tech has made the college hoops news cycle, it hasn’t exactly been flattering (we all remember the Jeff Orr debacle), so here’s hoping that Smith can get the Red Raiders pointed in the right direction after a tough first year at the helm.
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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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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: 03.13.14 Edition

Posted by Brian Goodman on March 13th, 2014

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  1. Season accolades continued to roll in on Tuesday, as Andrew Wiggins was named as a second team All-American by the United States Basketball Writers Association. Wiggins is joined by fellow Big 12 member and countryman Melvin Ejim as well as Cleanthony Early, C.J. Fair and Sean Kilpatrick. Wiggins carries season averages of 16.8 points and 5.9 rebounds per game into the Big 12 Tournament, and he may have to bump that production even higher if Kansas is to overcome the loss of Joel Embiid this weekend and beyond.
  2. More reports continue to swirl around the back of Embiid. It was revealed yesterday that the big man dealt with similar (though not identical) back problems this time last year as a senior at The Rock School in Gainesville, Florida. While every situation is different, it’s worth pointing out that Emeka Okafor went through a similar pattern of rest and rehab to how the Jayhawks are treating Embiid and returned in time to lead Connecticut to the 2004 national championship. We wouldn’t expect Kansas’ situation to pan out the same way, but would it be that big a surprise if it did?
  3. Yesterday, we brought up the under-the-radar status of Marcus Foster, who has thrived even without the spotlight of Wiggins, Embiid or any of the rest of the country’s top freshmen. While Foster could break out nationally with a big postseason, it’s also worth bearing in mind that as a freshman, he isn’t used to his season running this long. Foster has learned what the college grind is all about, largely thanks to having upperclassmen like Shane Southwell, Will Spradling and Omari Lawrence along for the ride. You may remember that Foster was once a highly sought-after recruit, but conditioning problems led many prolific programs to pull back in their pursuit. Foster rewarded Bruce Weber’s loyalty by shedding some weight, and he’s enjoyed a great first year.
  4. Marcus Smart tends to get the majority of attention for Oklahoma, and most of the time, it’s well-deserved. However, there’s a very good argument to be made that it’s actually Markel Brown who is the leader of the Cowboys. The shooting guard endured two straight seasons where Oklahoma State missed the NCAA Tournament, and has improved every year he’s been on campus. After the Cowboys fell into an early 8-0 hole against the Red Raiders last night, Brown snapped his teammates out of the funk with long-range bombs, defensive stops and a highlight-reel dunk, just as he has most of the last two seasons. A much bigger test comes this afternoon in Oklahoma State’s rubber match against Kansas.
  5. With Oklahoma State’s win over Texas Tech last night, we bid farewell to the Red Raiders. At the time, Tubby Smith‘s acceptance of the job last spring was a head-scratching move, and we will still need a couple of years to see if he can recruit and develop enough talent to crack the occasional NCAA Tournament field, but this season, Tech was a much tougher out than many expected. The Red Raiders delivered upset wins over Baylor, Oklahoma State, Oklahoma, and Texas, and were competitive in losses to Kansas and Kansas State.
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Burning Questions Going into the Big 12 Tournament

Posted by Brian Goodman on March 12th, 2014

The 2014 Phillips 66 Big 12 Championship is finally here, and the action begins at 6:00 CST tonight from Sprint Center in downtown Kansas City. To get you up to speed, our microsite team runs down the most important storylines around the conference.

Brian Goodman (@BSGoodman): We begin with Oklahoma State and Baylor as they look to take the final steps toward redemption. It’s been a longer road for both teams than we expected at the start of the season. The Cowboys endured a seven-game losing streak earlier this season, punctuated by Marcus Smart‘s three-game suspension for shoving a fan, and looked dead to rights just three weeks ago. Since then, not only has Smart returned, but he’s playing perhaps his best ball of the season, and the Pokes are riding high, having won four of their last five contests. In the other game tipping off tonight, Baylor will aim to remove any remaining doubt regarding their bubble status. After a 10-1 start to the season, the Bears went on to drop eight of their first ten conference games. The roller coaster went back up, though, with a 7-1 stretch to end the regular season (including a sweep of Kansas State). Considering their current resumes, Oklahoma State and Baylor may some wiggle room should they be forced to head back early to their respective campuses, but at the same time, it would be unwise of them to extend the bubble conversation by going one-and-done. Do the Cowboys and Bears take care of business? What happens on Selection Sunday if either team gets bounced before Friday’s semifinals?

Baylor guard Kenny Chery has provided a calming presence at the point. (Getty)

Baylor guard Kenny Chery has provided a calming presence at the point. (Getty)

Nate Kotisso (@natekotisso): It’s safe to assume that Baylor and Oklahoma State are firmly in the field of 68. Baylor saved their season just in time to finish 9-9 in the league and own eight RPI Top 50 wins, four of them coming on road or neutral floors. Normally, I would say the Bears could get away with losing their first game in the Big 12 tournament, but when the opponent is TCU, the last thing you want your resume to have is an “L” to a team with an RPI in the 200s. Oklahoma State is in a similar spot playing Texas Tech tonight. Could they get in with a loss? It depends, but they should take care of the Red Raiders to rid themselves of any nerves on Selection Sunday.

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Chaotic Weekend Builds Drama for Regular Season’s Final Act

Posted by Bennet Hayes on March 3rd, 2014

It was a weekend that saw 11 ranked teams fall, an unlikely band of Shockers find a small slice of immortality (the regular season variety), and an already jumbled NCAA Tournament bubble grow exponentially more confusing. Ever predictably, the arrival of March meant great drama for college basketball fans. With one week now left in the regular season, here are three key storylines that emerged from a riveting weekend of action on the college hoops hardwood.

Last #1 Seed Up For Grabs

Syracuse Has Suddenly Lost Three Of Four After A 25-0 Start; Can Jerami Grant, Tyler Ennis, And Company Right The Ship In Time To Get Back On The #1 Seed Line?

Syracuse Has Suddenly Lost Three Of Four After A 25-0 Start; Can Jerami Grant, Tyler Ennis, and Company Right The Ship In Time To Get Back On The #1 Seed Line?

Presumptive #1 seeds Arizona, Florida and Wichita State were all able to avoid the upset bug this weekend, and barring multiple losses in the next two weeks, each seems adequately safe on the top line. But with Syracuse continuing its mini-slide in Charlottesville Saturday afternoon, that fourth #1 seed has no apparent owner heading into the season’s final week. By my count, no fewer than eight teams should still be in play for the honor, although scenarios for five of those squads — Creighton, Michigan, Wisconsin, Villanova and Virginia – would almost surely include winning out through their conference tournaments, and then also getting help from elsewhere. The trio with the firmest grasp on their own fate — Duke, Kansas, and the aforementioned Orange — may not be doing as much Championship Week scoreboard watching as those five teams, but all would still likely need to win out to earn that last #1 seed. But before those three schools face the gauntlet that will be the Big 12 and ACC Tournaments, there is still business to be tended to this week. Despite a date with surging rival UNC (at Cameron), Duke may have the easiest list of chores among the three: KenPom’s predictor gives the Blue Devils a 68 percent chance of finishing off the regular season with a pair of wins. Kansas faces Texas Tech at Allen Fieldhouse before concluding the regular season with a visit to West Virginia; the latter contest offers a challenge sufficient enough to leave KenPom predicting that a Jayhawks’ final week sweep will occur only 60% of the time (and that number probably does not account for the likelihood that Joel Embiid sits out). Syracuse shouldn’t look past Georgia Tech on Tuesday (don’t forget those Boston College Eagles!), but its Sunday trip to Tallahassee is a significant landmine — significant enough that the Orange are expected to polish off their regular season with two wins just 48 percent of the time. The margin for error is thin for all three of these teams; a loss – no matter where it comes from – would all but end dreams of that fourth #1 seed.

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Big 12 M5: 02.25.14 Edition

Posted by Taylor Erickson on February 25th, 2014

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  1. The addition of Memphis transfer Tarik Black to Kansas last summer was viewed as an important move for Bill Self to solidify a young frontcourt alongside sophomore forward Perry Ellis. Black was voted Big 12 preseason Newcomer of the Year in October, and figured to play a prominent role on Kansas’ roster this season. That’s how it was suppose to work out, anyway. In reality, Black struggled early with foul trouble and quickly relinquished his starting spot to talented freshman Joel Embiid. But he has never regretted his decision to transfer to Lawrence, telling family and friends he is blessed to be there, while finding a way to use the physical and mental toughness that he developed as a youth to bring much-needed leadership to Self’s young squad. Moving forward, it will be vital that Black continue to do so as the Jayhawks enter the all-important stretch of postseason play when their season will ultimately be judged as a success or failure.
  2. Just a few short weeks ago, it looked like West Virginia was among those in the Big 12 poised to position themselves for a potential at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament. After losing three of their last four games, however, including a 13-point loss over the weekend to fellow bubble team Baylor, Bob Huggins openly questioned his teams “commitment to excellence”. The head coach seems frustrated with his player’s lack of attention to detail, explaining that the players all have iPads that are meant to be used to watch game video, but that apparently wasn’t happening. The Mountaineers will close the season with road games at Iowa State and Oklahoma and have two home contests remaining against TCU and Kansas. At 15-12 overall and 7-7 in Big 12 play, Huggins’ squad will need to finish at least .500 in the conference and need a good showing in the Big 12 Tournament if it hopes to hear its name called on Selection Sunday.
  3. On Tuesday night in Lubbock, Texas, students will have a bit of added motivation to show up at United Spirit Arena to cheer on their Red Raiders as they take on Kansas State. Texas Tech announced that the school will be giving away 30 prize packages, including eight chances for students to win $10,000 in cash or $10,000 towards the purchase of an automobile, along with a live DJ and free food. We’ve seen promotions on the uptick this year in college basketball, but certainly not anything to this degree. Moving forward, with schools struggle with game attendance, we’re likely to see more of these and other promotions in the understandable attempt to give themselves as big a home court advantage as possible.
  4. Iowa State head coach Fred Hoiberg became the latest college basketball coach to express his frustrations with social media on Monday saying, “I think social media is going to be the end of us, I really do.” Hoiberg went on to say that he thought it was a joke that someone could sit behind a computer and rifle verbal assaults at college basketball players who are out there doing the best they can. This comes just days after Louisville head coach Rick Pitino echoed similar statements, and after Iowa Hawkeye forward Zach McCabe airballed a crucial three-point attempt in a home loss to Wisconsin which caused fans to berate him on social media. After that incident, Fran McCaffery, who has been known to have a short temper, banned his team from social media for the remainder of the season. Coaches like Hoiberg and McCaffery face a difficult situation because banning players from social media platforms could easily be used against them in recruiting. Despite the fact that it might be best for teenagers who are entering college for the first time, most kids won’t like having restrictions on how they can communicate with friends, family, and yes, fans.
  5. With all the fan negativity that exists in college athletics, it’s refreshing to hear of stories like a recent one involving Oklahoma guard Buddy Hield. In a news conference held on Monday, Hield couldn’t stop smiling at the thought of getting a chance to play Kansas in Allen Fieldhouse that night. It’s that same joy in just lacing them up to play the game of basketball that Oklahoma coaches found when they first starting recruiting Hield in the Bahamas a few years ago. Hield recalls playing in slippers as a youth because he didn’t have any shoes, and now he finds himself enjoying a starring role on an NCAA Tournament-bound team. A quote from that story really shows how much the Oklahoma guard gets it, saying “If you’re doing something you don’t love, what’s the sense in doing it?” I think that’s probably something we could all apply to our own lives.
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Big 12 Week In Review and Look Ahead: Don’t Mistake League’s Competitiveness For Superiority

Posted by Brian Goodman on February 21st, 2014

The Big 12 may be one of the most competitive conferences in the country, but this week hasn’t been the most glowing endorsement for the league’s case as the best conference in the country. Monday’s game between Baylor and Oklahoma State was supposed to be a battle of teams in the top half of the conference (if we go by preseason expectations), but instead was a fight for ninth place that only went to overtime because of a sequence that was, well, very fitting of a ninth-place battle:

The next day, Texas squared off against Iowa State in a game with major implications for the Longhorns’ Big 12 title chances, but they were able to lead only within the first five minutes. While Texas kept the game interesting with a run early in the second half, the Cyclones pulled away to hold serve at home.

Meanwhile, 925 miles south, Kansas needed another miracle from Andrew Wiggins at the end of regulation to get past a salty but mediocre Texas Tech team in Lubbock:

The only other game this week saw Kansas State quietly beat TCU by 12. The Wildcats’ two best players, Marcus Foster and Thomas Gipson, paired up for 29 points, 14 rebounds and six assists, but they also combined to shoot 34.6 percent from the floor and turned the ball over nine times. As a team, Kansas State had a staggering 18 turnovers at home against the worst power conference team in the country, needing a second half run to get away for good.

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Big 12 M5: 02.20.14 Edition

Posted by Kory Carpenter on February 20th, 2014

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  1. Jimmy Burch is correct in that Oklahoma State will get a boost when Marcus Smart returns from his three-game suspension this weekend against Texas Tech. He is also correct in that the Cowboys have a slim chance to still gain an at-large bid into the NCAA Tournament with Smart’s return. But he forgets that Oklahoma State lost four straight games before Smart’s suspension. Could Smart return and be “even better,” as head coach Travis Ford predicts? Sure. But will that lead to an NCAA Tournament bid? Don’t count on it.
  2. Lon Kruger won 15 games two seasons ago in his first campaign at Oklahoma. He won 20 games last season and made the NCAA Tournament. The Sooners are currently 18-6, and barring a surprising collapse, will finish with more wins than last season and reach the NCAA Tournament once again. As Guerin Emig of the Tulsa World reports, Kruger said before the season that he hoped to be in a position this time of year to make a run to the postseason. The Sooners aren’t locks for the Big Dance yet, but they are getting closer to that goal with every passing win.
  3. Kansas State is in virtually the same spot as Oklahoma. The Wildcats are 18-8 and have at least a few winnable games left on the schedule. It’s certainly a far cry from November when they started the season 2-3, including embarrassing losses to Northern Colorado and Charlotte. Freshman guard Marcus Foster has in the interim emerged as one of the best freshmen in the country, and the Wildcats are close to locking up a bid for the NCAA Tournament.
  4. As Mike Hlas states, Iowa State isn’t a great team, “but ISU is very good a lot of days, very entertaining almost every game, and is 20-5.” That, among other things, are the reasons the Cyclones might be the second most dangerous Big 12 team in March. They are entertaining because they shoot, shoot, and then shoot some more. And when they are hitting their jumpers they are tough to beat. It sounds clichéd (because it usually is), but the Cyclones could shoot themselves out of the NCAA Tournament on the first day or wind up in Dallas in the Final Four. Either way, we will know the reason.
  5. Kansas freshman center Joel Embiid came back from a one-game hiatus and was close to dominant in the Jayhawks’ overtime win against Texas Tech Tuesday, finishing with 18 points (a career high) and eight rebounds. Embiid told Tom Keegan of the Lawrence Journal-World that he was at “about 90 percent.” He looked much better than he did against Kansas State, and if he was truly back to that level already, Kansas fans should feel hopeful for March.
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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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