Big 12 Power Rankings: Bill Self is Smarter Than Me/You/Us Edition

Posted by Nate Kotisso on January 27th, 2015

Time to dust off a familiar narrative: Kansas is in control of the Big 12. The narrative doesn’t require much dusting off, really. The Jayhawks have won a share of the Big 12 regular season title in each of the last 10 seasons. Maybe the narrative needs a gentle wipe with a dry napkin. Or light tap-tap-taps with a clean towel. But it all starts at the top with Bill Self, the mastermind behind the operation. He’s certainly lauded in Lawrence and around the country as one of the top coaches but this season, Self has received criticism from some fans who question how he sends messages to his players. He, like few coaches do, has a good read on every player on his roster. Perry Ellis, the team’s current leading scorer, was inconsistent for much of the season. In advance of his team’s showdown with Iowa State, Self said that Ellis needed to be more aggressive and “believe that he’s the best player on the floor every night.” In the three games since, Ellis is averaging 16.3 points, eight rebounds and shooting 19-of-37 from the floor.

This is what a coach can get away with when you dominate the Big 12 like Bill Self has done at Kansas. (Denny Medley/USA Today Sports)

This is what a coach can get away with when he dominates the Big 12 like Bill Self has done at Kansas. (Denny Medley/USA Today Sports)

In the Iowa State loss, fans didn’t understand why Self sat freshman Cliff Alexander for the final 14 minutes-plus of the second half. Self explained his reasoning for the move was Alexander’s lack of motor on a couple of plays early in the second half. In an important game with Big 12 title implications, it’s understandable for fans to wonder why that had to be done and at that particular time. But Self has no problem benching players if they’re not giving the effort he requires (see: Andrew Wiggins). In the two games since, Alexander recorded a double-double including a career-high in rebounds against Oklahoma (13) and scored a career-high 15 in a road win at Texas. Another season, another chance for Self to prove his worth as a future Hall of Fame coach. He’d have to stay away from videoboards, though. I think the Hall of Fame frowns on videoboard abuse.

Power Rankings

  1. Kansas — 3 points (All voted 1st). Comment: “Our Brian Goodman nailed KU’s gradual rise back into the driver’s seat (with bonus “Candy Shop” mention). They’re the number one team in the latest RPI in the number one ranked RPI conference with the strongest non-conference schedule among Big Five teams according to KenPom. Yes, they are in good shape. Thanks for asking!” – Nate Kotisso (@natekotisso)
  2. Iowa State — 6 points (All voted 2nd). Comment: “Last night’s win was closer than it should have been, but a bounce-back effort from the Texas Tech debacle keeps the Cyclones in second for another week. We’ll find out if they’re out of their offensive slump for good over their next two games when they take on TCU and Kansas, a pair of teams currently in the top half of the conference in defensive efficiency during Big 12 play.” – Brian Goodman (@BSGoodman)
  3. West Virginia — 11 points (Chris — 3rd, Brian & Nate — 4th) Comment: “The Mountaineers are an interesting case. They’ve got the worst effective defensive field goal percentage in the league, but they’re turning opponents over on 27 percent of their possessions. This week, they managed to hold serve at home by beating TCU in overtime.” – Chris Stone (@cstonehoops)
  4. Kansas State — 12 points (Nate — 3rd, Chris — 4th, Brian — 5th) Comment: “Although the Wildcats lost at Iowa State, they picked up a nice home win against Oklahoma State on Saturday. Bruce Weber’s team continues to improve their resume for March, but we’ll get a better sense of where his squad stands after games against West Virginia and Kansas this week.” – CS
  5. Texas — 16 points (Brian — 3rd, Chris — 6th, Nate — 7th) Comment: “If they were able to pull off the comeback shocker in Ames last night, they’re definitely in my personal top five. Beyond that, they blew a big opportunity by failing to beat Kansas in Austin on Saturday. Here was a team that most saw as the biggest challenger to Kansas to start the year but now are nearing the halfway point in league play with a sub .500 record.” – NK
  6. Baylor — 17 points (Chris & Nate — 5th, Brian — 7th) Comment: “Last Saturday, the Bears did something no Big 12 team has been able to do: Contain Buddy Hield. Five days after bringing the Sooners back from the dead against Kansas, Hield was held without a three-pointer for the first time all season on his way to a frustrating 6-17 outing and five turnovers. Kudos, Baylor defense.” – BG
  7. Oklahoma — 19 points (Brian & Nate — 6th, Chris — 7th) Comment: “Somehow, the Sooners maintained an AP top 25 ranking this week despite losing four of their last five. It will be interesting to see what Lon Kruger does with Isaiah Cousins who injured his wrist in Saturday’s game against Baylor. X-rays were negative and he is day-to-day but the OU coach should be careful about rushing an important piece back especially when they’re losing.” – NK
  8. Oklahoma State — 24 points (All voted 8th). Comment: “Although the Cowboys have the best defensive efficiency numbers in Big 12 play, they’re just 3-4 so far. They’ve got two big home games this week against Baylor and Oklahoma.” – CS
  9. TCU — 27 points (All voted 9th). Comment: “No longer a laughingstock, Trent Johnson’s team is playing hard and keeping things competitive to the point where they’re only one-point underdogs in Wednesday’s game against Kansas.” – BG
  10. Texas Tech — 30 points (All voted 10th). Comment: “Texas Tech is making a habit of winning games against teams they have no business beating. It happened again Saturday as the last-place Red Raiders beat the-then first-place Iowa State Cyclones in Lubbock. Next up on their schedule is a road game at Oklahoma on Wednesday night. TTU’s last road conference win was — you guessed it — Oklahoma last season.” – NK

Big 12 Video/GIF of the Week 

In a world where conference games have been sullied by realignment, it was nice to see two fans from two fan bases come together for absolute nonsense on national television. While there was a break in the action of Texas-Iowa State last night, ESPN went to a liveshot of Brent Musburger and Fran Fraschilla doing their thing. Behind them, a fan wearing an Iowa State logo (on the left) and a Texas fan (on the right, presumably) tried to have a little fun while they were on camera. (h/t Erin Sorensen)

https://vine.co/v/OTHm0XWX15p

This Vine leaves us with so many questions. Why is the Iowa State fan flashing Hook ‘em Horns? Why are they all of a sudden fist-bumping? Did these guys properly map out a plan of what they’ll do when they’re on camera? Of course they didn’t. That’s why this is great. Go Big 12, indeed.

Five Big 12 Games You Better Watch This Week

  1. Tuesday: West Virginia at Kansas State (6:00 PM CT, ESPN2)
  2. Tuesday: Baylor at Oklahoma State (8:00 PM CT, ESPNEWS)
  3. Wednesday: Kansas at TCU (8:00 PM CT, ESPNU)
  4. Saturday: Kansas State at Kansas (1:00 PM CT, ESPN)
  5. Saturday: Texas at Baylor (5:00 PM CT, ESPN2)
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Big 12 M5: 01.26.15 Edition

Posted by Chris Stone on January 26th, 2015

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  1. Coming into the season, Texas looked like the team that would finally end Kansas’ streak of 10 straight Big 12 titles. The Longhorns’ roster combines NBA talent like Myles Turner with hardened veterans like Jonathan Holmes, but in the teams’ first meeting on Saturday, Kansas bullied the Longhorns in a 75-62 win at the Erwin Center. Rustin Dodd of The Kansas City Star called it, “Kansas’ most complete victory in a season-long hunt for an unprecedented 11th straight Big 12 title.” The Jayhawks only turned the ball over three times in the entire game; Cliff Alexander (15 points and nine rebounds) was the best player on the floor; and Jamari Traylor made the best play Bill Self’s seen in his time at Kansas. Perhaps we all made a mistake in underestimating the Jayhawks.
  2. The most surprising game of the weekend happened in Lubbock where Texas Tech knocked off Iowa State, 78-73. The Red Raiders entered the contest as the only team without a win in the Big 12 and had spent most of the conference season looking like they’d finish that way, but a hot start allowed them to jump out to big lead against the Cyclones. Now, the calls for change are coming. Jameel McKay has been a revelation for Fred Hoiberg, and his energy levels are causing some to wonder whether he should be inserted into the starting lineup. It’s a reasonable consideration given McKay’s play, but the timing makes this feel like a bit of an overreaction. McKay is a very good player and perhaps he deserves a chance to start, but basing those decisions off of one loss doesn’t seem like the Hoiberg way.
  3. After a rough ride during their non-conference schedule, Kansas State now sits just a half game back of the top spot in the Big 12 standings after a 63-53 win over Oklahoma State. The Wildcats have been playing much better defense in conference play, as Bruce Weber’s squad currently has the fourth best defensive efficiency rating in the Big 12. Phil Forte spoke of Kansas State’s aggressiveness and physicality saying, “Any time you play K-State, you know you’re playing against one of the best defensive teams not just in the league but in the country.” We should get a better sense of where the Wildcats stand in relation to the rest of the league this week when they take on West Virginia and Kansas.
  4. Oklahoma is now just 3-4 in Big 12 play after losing at Baylor on Saturday, having now lost four of their last five including their two most recent games. Although Oklahoma’s defense has slipped in league play — now allowing 100.4 points per 100 possessions — it’s not time to panic just yet. The Sooners played a good non-conference schedule and picked up some nice wins before Big 12 play began. They have also played their conference road games at Texas, West Virginia, Kansas, and Baylor already, and have yet to play a game against either Texas Tech or TCU. Oklahoma will surely find its way into the NCAA Tournament and Lon Kruger’s team has the talent to make a run once it gets there.
  5. Tonight gives us another fantastic matchup in the Big 12 as Texas travels to Ames to take on Iowa State. Both teams are coming off of a loss and will need a win to stay in the race for the regular season title. It’s a fantastic contrast of styles with the Cyclones’ high tempo offense and the Longhorns’ stout defense anchored by their massive front line. Be sure to tune into ESPN at 9:00 PM ET to catch the action — just another loaded week of games in the best basketball conference in America this season.
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Big 12 M5: Day After Ballghazi Press Conference Edition

Posted by Nate Kotisso on January 23rd, 2015

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  1. It happened guys! While he wasn’t able to stop by Allen Fieldhouse, President Barack Obama spent some time at Anschutz Sports Pavilion on the Kansas campus, which is right next door to the Phog. There, Obama gave a speech and joked about his lack of success in the state (set-up here and punchline here). He also visited with the basketball team and got a commemorative Jayhawks’ #1 jersey (Selden transferring?). Due to time constraints, he wasn’t able to practice with the team, so we’ll never know how he’d handle such a tough environment, but in my opinion this means Jim Harbaugh is the best non-basketball person to ever set foot on the Allen Fieldhouse floor.
  2. So Baylor playing NAIA school Huston-Tillotson in the middle of conference play was weird, right? So here’s the story behind it and it’s quite a doozy. It revolves around longtime high school coach Ken Carter, the same Carter who was portrayed by Samuel L. Jackson in the 2005 film “Coach Carter.” The 56-year-old Carter was planning to coach for Huston-Tillotson during the 2014-15 season and Wednesday’s game was supposed to be a part of another film about Carter’s life, but that didn’t happen. I’m sure Baylor’s talking heads are telling the truth but I want to know what the stories are behind their other games of a similar ilk. What is the story behind Baylor playing Wayland Baptist, another NAIA team, in February 2011? Or Hardin-Simmons, a Division III school, after the start of Big 12 play in January 2013? There could be logical explanations behind the scheduling of all of these games, but I haven’t heard them.
  3. Are we talking about #1 seeds already? Yes we are, because Brian Spaen over at Clones Confidential has laid out his blueprint for Iowa State to get one of those four top seeds. The plan, of course, would have to include the Cyclones winning the Big 12 regular season and tournament titles, and I’m not sure Iowa State or any other Big 12 team can win both championships this season. If a team were able to pull off such an accomplishment, the committee would likely credit the Big 12’s depth enough to award that team one of those #1 seeds. If it happens for Iowa State on Selection Sunday, it would be the first top seed in program history.
  4. After cultivating a reputation as a reliable defender for three seasons, Kansas State forward Nino Williams is having his best all-around season as senior. After two previous subpar performances at Hilton Coliseum, Williams logged a career-high 22 points, eight rebounds, four assists and three steals in 31 minutes of action during Tuesday night’s loss at Iowa State. Compare those numbers to Williams’ two-game average in Ames of 4.0 PPG and 3.0 RPG in 15.5 minutes per contest and it’s easy to see his development. I’m sure he worked hard every summer but it’s games like these that put you on notice of certain players who put in a lot of extra work in the offseason.
  5. This last blurb is a tiny bit self-serving because I want to show love to one of my all-time favorite players in Big 12 basketball history. Andre Emmett — yes, the Texas Tech great best known in NBA circles for his cups of coffee with Memphis and the-then New Jersey Nets — was recently named the D-League Player of the Week. His career arc is amazing. Emmett was an early second-round pick in the 2004 NBA Draft, but only played eight games with Memphis. He left the Grizzlies to play overseas but always returned to the U.S. to try and win a roster spot in summer league and/or training camp. He returned to the NBA eight years later after signing a 10-day deal with the Nets (which released him after the 10 days completed). In a D-League dominated by players a decade or more his junior, the 32-year-old Emmett averaged 28.5 PPG on 55 percent shooting, 7.0 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 2.5 steals, and a block last week to take home the award. That guy has no quit in him.
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Big 12 Weekend Look-Ahead

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 9th, 2015

It’s a full Saturday in the Big 12 this weekend, with five games on the schedule spaced throughout the day. Let’s take a look at each, digging into what’s on the line during conference play’s second weekend.

  • Iowa State at West Virginia (8:00 ET) – The last time the Cyclones met the Mountaineers in Morgantown, an otherwise disappointing West Virginia team blew the doors off of Iowa State with a 25-point win. In the closing minutes, if you recall, Dustin Hogue let emotions get the best of him as he karate-kicked Nathan Adrian, causing former Mountaineer Eron Harris to respond by punching Monte’ Morris in the neck. This year, Bob Huggins’ team is fueled by a more controlled brand of chaos (not that scuffles like last year’s were regular occurrences), and it just so happens that Iowa State is in a mini-funk, having scored just 0.86 points per possession over its last two games. West Virginia has already brushed off Texas Tech and TCU, so this will mark the reinvented Mountaineers’ first game against a Big 12 team on their level both in overall effectiveness and pace. The best game of the day should make for a fun nightcap.
Bryce Dejean-Jones will try to dig Iowa State out of an offensive slump Saturday. (Cyclones.com)

Bryce Dejean-Jones will try to dig Iowa State out of an offensive slump Saturday. (Cyclones.com)

  • Texas at Oklahoma State (5:00 ET) – The Longhorns are talented and cohesive enough this season that Monday’s drubbing by Oklahoma should probably just be chalked up as a fluke, but it did underscore some questions about Rick Barnes’ roster. Isaiah Taylor is getting re-acclimated to the team (and vice versa) after returning from his wrist injury, and while the frontcourt is very deep it is also penetrable, at least until Myles Turner becomes a stronger defensive presence in the low post. I wrote in last week’s conference catch-up that Oklahoma State didn’t make much progress in its non-conference slate, but the Cowboys have since easily handled Kansas State at home and limited Iowa State’s offense at Hilton Coliseum (despite a loss). It’s therefore safe to stay that they’ve taken some steps in the right direction. Will they keep it up and notch what would be — to this point — their best win of the season? Tune in Saturday evening to find out.
  • Kansas State at Oklahoma (7:00 ET) – After a brief stay, Marcus Foster is out of Bruce Weber’s doghouse and it couldn’t come at a more important time. A win at Oklahoma, while impressive, wouldn’t undo all the harm the Wildcats have brought on themselves so far, but they need to get moving if they want to get back in the picture for an at-large bid. Wednesday’s win over TCU started a stretch when five of their next seven games will be played at home, so there will be plenty of opportunities to start making waves before desperation hits. Meanwhile, Oklahoma has clearly surged ahead of Texas as the top challenger to end Kansas’ reign of dominance with a decisive win over the Longhorns on Monday, so this is a game they should win decisively if they’re the dark horse Final Four contender some are claiming.

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Big 12 M5: 01.05.15 Edition

Posted by Chris Stone on January 5th, 2015

morning5_big12

  1. Big 12 conference play got under way over the weekend and the biggest story line was the return of point guard Isaiah Taylor to the Texas lineup in the Longhorns 70-61 victory over Texas Tech. Taylor had missed the last 10 games with a wrist injury. He was rusty on the offensive end, hitting only two of his ten field goal attempts, but his defense proved impactful. The sophomore recorded four steals in the game as Texas forced the Red Raiders to turn the ball over on 22.4 percent of their possessions. Texas has one of the best defenses in the country, but has been unable to create turnovers in Taylor’s absence. His return should provide the Longhorns with an even more effective defensive scheme in league play.
  2. In their final non-conference game, Iowa State fell 64-60 to unranked South Carolina at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn on Saturday. The Cyclones are shooting 34.5 percent from behind the arc this season, but connected on only one of 18 attempts against the Gamecocks in Brooklyn. Given that Fred Hoiberg’s squad is shooting 40 percent of their field goal attempts from behind the three-point line, that’s not a recipe for success in Big 12 play. As Randy Peterson of The Des-Moines Register pointed out, Iowa State may be able to survive against the bottom of the league with their “B-games,” but in order to compete for a conference championship, the Cyclones must knock down their three-pointers and match the physicality of the other top teams in the Big 12.
  3. Baylor entered conference play as one of the more intriguing teams in the Big 12. Despite losing three of their four leading scorers from last season, the Bears have found themselves ranked highly in Ken Pomeroy’s efficiency ratings, but Baylor lost their conference opener on Saturday to Oklahoma, 73-63. The Sooners were able to shoot 8-for-22 from behind the three-point line in the win. Bears’ wing Taurean Prince noted after the game, “We did a poor job of limiting their 3s. We have to do a better job of closing out defensively on the perimeter. We missed some defensive assignments and made some bone-headed plays that we normally make.” Closing down the three-point line will be an important component of Baylor’s defense in the near future. The Bears take on a Kansas team that is shooting 39.2 percent from behind the arc on Wednesday night.
  4. Speaking of Kansas, the Jayhawks closed out their non-conference slate with a 76-61 victory over UNLV on Sunday afternoon. Kansas was paced by point guard Frank Mason who finished with 18 points, seven assists, four rebounds, and four steals in the win. During the Jayhawks’ loss to Temple, NBC Sports‘ Rob Dauster called Mason a “mid major PG,” but the sophomore has been much better than that. Since their loss to Kentucky, Mason is providing the Jayhawks with 12.9 points, 4.9 assists, 4.3 rebounds, and 1.8 steals per game. The sophomore is giving Bill Self his best point guard play since Sherron Collins was in Lawrence. Self will need Mason to continue to play at such a high level if Kansas is to compete for an 11th straight Big 12 title.
  5. Finally, Bleacher Report’s Jason King created a bit of a stir amongst Big 12 fans on Twitter Sunday night when he proclaimed that he’s not buying the league as the best conference in America. King is a graduate of Baylor and was a longtime writer for The Kansas City Star, so he’s certainly familiar with the Big 12. However, the numbers tell a different story than the one King is crafting. KenPom’s efficiency ratings suggest that the Big 12 is tops and it’s not particularly close. The gap between the Big 12 and King’s favored conference, the ACC, is larger than the gap between the ACC and the fifth ranked conference, the SEC. The Big 12 looks poised to send over half of the league’s teams to the NCAA Tournament for the second season in a row. Despite King’s claims about the top tier of the ACC, the Big 12 remains the best conference in America.
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A Farewell to the Big 12 Network (1996-2014)

Posted by Nate Kotisso on January 2nd, 2015

Early 2003.

The Big 12 Network syndicated slate of conference games ended its broadcasts in March 2014.

The Big 12’s slate of syndicated conference games, known as the Big 12 Network, ended its over-the-air broadcasts in March 2014.

I was eight years old then which, by rule, meant I was in a time of life where most kids began sampling the world around them, figuring out what they do and do not like. Mostly, I liked eating and running my mouth in school. But on one lazy Saturday afternoon, while waiting for something to grab my attention as I flipped through the channels, something finally did. Growing up without cable TV, finding something even mildly amusing was rare on a Saturday. This was a basketball game, of some kind. I knew that for sure. One of the teams playing was from Texas. In fact, it was Texas and they were blowing out another Big 12 team. My first impressions of them: Wow, they look like they’re pretty good. And hey, I’m from Houston. It felt like a natural fit to become a Texas Longhorns fan. So I did.

I wasn’t able to catch the Longhorns on TV every Saturday but when I did, I began to learn most of the names on that Texas team. The first was T.J. Ford, the point guard who I heard the announcers talk about almost all the time. Then Brandon Mouton who I remember wearing a beard. James Thomas, their big man in dreds. Royal Ivey because how are you gonna forget a name like that, and so on. The more they played, the more they won and the happier I got. But I also got used to watching other teams too through the years like Kansas’ reign atop the Big 12 from Hinrich to Wiggins, the death and resurgence of Iowa State and the birth of a second basketball power in the state of Texas.

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Big 12 Conference Catch-Up: Texas Tech, TCU & Kansas State

Posted by Chris Stone on December 30th, 2014

As the Big 12 schools near the completion of their non-conference schedules this week, it’s a great time to catch up on where the league’s 10 teams stand entering conference play. At this point, the bottom of the league appears likely to include Texas Tech, TCU and Kansas State, in some order or another. We’ll begin our Conference Catch-Up series with those three teams, and roll out the remainder during the rest of this week.

Texas Tech

  • Key Wins: None
  • Bad Losses: Houston
Junior college transfer Devaugntah Williams has made a big impact for the Red Raiders. (Texas Tech Athletics)

Junior college transfer Devaugntah Williams has made a big impact for the Red Raiders. (Texas Tech Athletics)

Texas Tech was predicted to finish in last place in the Big 12 according to the preseason coaches poll, and the Red Raiders’ non-conference play has not changed that perception. Tubby Smith’s team managed to notch a win against Auburn and played LSU to overtime in its second game of the season, but Texas Tech has lost two of its last three games and is limping into Big 12 play. After losing four of their five leading scorers from a year ago, the team’s offense has predictably failed to impress. They currently rank 221st in the country in adjusted offensive efficiency, according to KenPom, and that number makes them the worst offensive team in the Big 12 by far — over 140 spots below TCU. Junior college transfer Devaugntah Williams has been a bright spot, leading the Red Raiders in scoring at 11.4 points per contest, and the team’s defensive numbers suggest perhaps it may be able to slow the tempo and play some Big 12 teams closely. Their 10-3 record, however, is largely the product of a weak non-conference schedule, and therefore expectations for the Red Raiders should remain muted. Tubby Smith is still in the process of rebuilding this program and his team is one of the youngest in the country; it’s likely to take a few more years before Texas Tech is ready to realistically compete in the Big 12.

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Big 12 M5: 12.29.14 Edition

Posted by Brian Goodman on December 29th, 2014

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  1. In one of the worst late-game collapses you’ll see this season, Kansas State gacked up a four-point lead over the final 3.8 seconds to lose a stunner on Sunday to Texas Southern. The madness started when Wildcats guard Jevon Thomas fouled Tonnie Collier on a three-point attempt. Collier buried the first two tries, and, after a Kansas State timeout, intentionally missed the third, which was corralled and put back by Texas Southern forward Chris Thomas to tie the game at 56 with 0.9 seconds remaining. On the ensuing inbounds pass, the Wildcats threw the ball out of bounds along the sideline to give Texas Southern one last possession under its own basket. On that play, Madarious Gibbs found Jason Carter rolling to the hoop, and Carter buried a short jumper to give the Tigers the improbable win in regulation. There was some doubt as to whether the clock operator started time correctly on the final play, but with the help of review and a stopwatch, the shocking game-winner was upheld. The home loss means trouble for the Wildcats, who now have very little to show for their non-league slate. While the conference schedule will certainly afford them plenty of good opportunities, they’ll have to outperform what we’ve seen so far in order to make it to the NCAA Tournament for a sixth straight year.
  2. After an impressive run of success over the season’s first five weeks, the Big 12 somewhat regressed last week. On top of Kansas State dropping a game it had no business losing, and Kansas getting pounded by Temple,Texas lost a home game to Stanford and Texas Tech lost a neutral court battle to Houston. The Longhorns and the Cardinal were close throughout their Tuesday night game, but Rick Barnes’ team was done in by a disappointing showing on the defensive glass and a spotty 31.6 percent performance beyond the arc. Home losses are always tough to stomach, but the Longhorns can take some solace in the possibility of Isaiah Taylor returning to play for Texas’ Big 12 opener on January 3.
  3. After a holiday respite, Bill Self finally reviewed film from the Jayhawks’ brutal 25-point loss to Temple and came away with some insights that weren’t terribly different from what we saw as the upset played out last Monday. Kansas’ defense certainly isn’t as bad as the results in Philadelphia suggested, but it’s beyond apparent that these aren’t the usual Jayhawks who lock down the perimeter and have an NBA-level enforcer to alter every shot within five feet of the basket. Kansas has two more tune-ups before conference play gears up, and fortunately, both are at Allen Fieldhouse, where the Jayhawks have lost just one non-conference game since 2007.
  4. The Waco Tribune named former Baylor star Isaiah Austin its Sportsman of the Year for his contributions and perseverance following his diagnosis of Marfan Syndrome just days before last June’s NBA Draft. Austin is currently in Waco completing his business degree, after which point he has an open job offer from the NBA. Recently, NBA Live 2K15 unveiled a feature that made Austin playable in the popular video game and has had many other honors bestowed upon him, so he’s getting plenty of love, but this is just one more well-deserved accolade for the likable seven-footer.
  5. Iowa State is in the home stretch of an 11-day break between games, which is as good an opportunity as any to take stock of the Cyclones. As Travis Hines of the Ames Tribune writes, the program is riding an unprecedented wave of success, and the best may still be yet to come. Among other metrics, the Cyclones have been ranked in the AP Poll for 25 consecutive weeks, which is a team record, and the Iowa State faithful have packed both Hilton Coliseum and the Big 12 Tournament in Kansas City at unforeseen clips over the past few seasons. On the recruiting trail, Fred Hoiberg is making Iowa State a destination school, which has only made the team’s success more sustainable in the long run. There will always be the looming possibility of The Mayor returning to the NBA in some capacity, but until that happens, there’s plenty for Cyclones fans to enjoy.
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Big 12 M5: 12.11.2014 Edition

Posted by Brian Goodman on December 12th, 2014

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  1. Thursday was a long day for Bryce Dejean-Jones and Iowa State. It began early in the morning when the UNLV transfer was arrested at his apartment on three minor drug-related charges. Later on, one of the charges was dismissed, but with the other charges still outstanding, Fred Hoiberg decided the best course of action was to hold Dejean-Jones out of tonight’s game against in-state rival Iowa. For all of Hoiberg’s work with transfers over the years, there’s a reason why Iowa State has been referred to as college hoops’ Island Of Misfit Toys. While Dejean-Jones’ indiscretions aren’t very egregious in the grand scheme of things, they do underscore some of the concerns that came with his departure from Dave Rice’s program. We’ll have more on the impact his suspension will have on Iowa State’s chances of scoring a big road win later today.
  2. Jesse Newell of The Topeka Capital-Journal has an interesting analysis of the impact of luck in close games played by Kansas through the years (upon closer examination, we should probably have a disclaimer advising Iowa State fans to skip today’s edition of the M5…). Newell’s study concludes that there isn’t a strong correlation between winning close games during the regular season and advancing deep into the NCAA Tournament, which isn’t very surprising, but it’s always good to have the data fleshed out when it comes to explaining the deciding factors in close games.
  3. Former Baylor standout Brady Heslip‘s name has resurfaced as something of an NBDL freak. Now with the Reno Bighorns, the Canadian sniper is regularly given at least 15 three-point attempts per game, and is connecting on a staggering 54.7 percent of those tries. Heslip spoke with Dan Patrick and touched on his time with the Bears. Recalling that part of his junior year was spent trying to learn the nuances of being a distributor, Heslip lamented that he could have been an even better shooter had he been given the freedom he’s currently enjoying in the NBDL. If called up to the Sacramento Kings, Heslip would definitely be one of the Big 12’s least likely pros, so we’ll be pulling for him.
  4. Speaking of Big 12 snipers, Oklahoma State guard Phil Forte talked about his expanding role with the Cowboys and the importance of tomorrow’s road against Memphis. The computers like the Cowboys to bounce back some after their tumultuous 2013-14 campaign, but they don’t have any especially impressive wins to date and took a shellacking last weekend at South Carolina. While Iowa State-Iowa and Kansas-Utah are getting most of the attention (deservedly so) this weekend, the most important game on the calendar for any one team may be tomorrow’s meeting between Travis Ford and Josh Pastner.
  5. We haven’t talked much about Texas Tech, but the good fortune up and down the Big 12 has applied to them as well. Wednesday, the Red Raiders took down Fresno State, 73-56, using a big second half and 17 points from Devauntagh Williams to move to 6-1 on the year. Granted, all of Tech’s wins have come against cupcakes, but they did take an admittedly disappointing LSU team to overtime on the road a few weeks ago before dropping that tilt to to the Tigers. Tubby Smith‘s team should be able to inflate its schedule with five mostly easy games before conference play revs up, but their bad offense isn’t likely to get it done come Big 12 play. Enjoy it while you can, Red Raiders fans.
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Big 12 M5: 12.05.14 Edition

Posted by Kory Carpenter on December 5th, 2014

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  1. The Naismith Trophy Top 50 watch list was released on Wednesday, and the Big 12 had nine players make the cut. They are: Kansas’ Cliff Alexander, Wayne Selden and Perry Ellis, Kansas State’s Marcus Foster, Oklahoma’s Buddy Hield, Iowa State’s Georges Niang, West Virginia’s Juwan Staten, and Texas’ Isaiah Taylor and Myles Turner. Some of these guys have better chances of winning the trophy than others; for example, it’s hard to imagine Selden or Hield doing so after poor shooting starts this season, but the freshman Turner could very well win this award. Turner is seventh in the nation in block percentage (16%) and has blocked at least five shots in three games already. Ellis hasn’t been too bad, either, as the senior is averaging 15.3 PPG and 7.0 RPG and ranks eighth on Ken Pomeroy’s National Player of the Year watch list.
  2. Gary Parrish over at CSBSports.com updated his Top 25 (And One) yesterday (like he does every morning) and Kansas (#8) and Texas (#9) each jumped up a spot in his daily rankings. West Virginia (#18) and Oklahoma (#19) were the other two Big 12 schools on his list, but all this will change soon. Kansas takes on Florida tonight in Allen Fieldhouse; Texas takes on No. 1 Kentucky in Lexington; and West Virginia lost at home to LSU last night. Oklahoma should take care of Missouri tonight in Norman, and Kansas will probably win a close one against the Gators. Texas is the team I’m most intrigued about, though — if the Longhorns play Kentucky close or somehow manage to win the game, they might be reasonably considered the favorites to win the Big 12 this season.
  3. Will the Big 12 win the SEC/Big 12 Challenge? ESPN‘s Andy Katz thinks so, and he doesn’t think it will be close. Texas Tech started things off with an ugly 46-44 win over Auburn on Wednesday night, and the Big 12 went 3-1 last night: TCU beat Ole Miss; Baylor beat Vanderbilt; and Iowa State beat Arkansas. LSU was the lone SEC school to pick up a win after beating West Virginia in Morgantown. Things pick up tonight, with the elite programs battling it out. I think Kansas and Oklahoma help improve the Big 12’s lead while Kentucky beats Texas by 10 points.
  4. There was always a distinct possibility that Iowa State would run Arkansas out of the gym last night. The Razorbacks play as quickly as almost anybody (12th in the country in adjusted tempo) and rely on turnovers via their full-court press to fuel their offense. If that doesn’t happen, though, a team like Iowa State can thrive. That’s exactly what happened as the Cyclones dropped 95 points on the Hawgs in a 95-77 win. Bryce Dejean-Jones and Georges Niang combined for 53 points in one of the fastest games of the season, and the Cyclones improved to 5-1.
  5. Last night was definitely a big setback for a rising West Virginia team. The Mountaineers came into their meeting with LSU undefeated, were up five points at halftime, and led by as many as 14 points in the second half. However, a layup by Josh Gray with 7.3 seconds left gave the Tigers the 74-73 win. West Virginia was ranked #16 going into the game but they will probably drop significantly next week as a result. Depending on what happens with LSU, this could end up being a costly loss for the Mountaineers down the road. LSU’s best win before last night came against UMass earlier this week, and they have already dropped games to Old Dominion and Clemson.

 

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Grading the Big 12’s Feast Week Performances

Posted by Brian Goodman on December 1st, 2014

With much of the Big 12 participating in competitive, neutral-court tournaments last week, we were able to get a solid litmus test for most of the conference’s squads. All in all, the league had a good showing, but it wasn’t spectacular. Here are some grades relative to how each team was expected to perform during Feast Week:

  • Texas (wins vs. St. Francis and UConn): A. In the Longhorns’ first action since Isaiah Taylor broke his wrist (minus the game against Cal the following night at MSG), Rick Barnes’ team rolled over the Red Flash without a problem, as they were paced by Myles Turner’s 25 points, nine rebounds and three blocks. All they did was follow that up by handing UConn its first non-conference loss at Gampel Pavilion since 1993, when current Husky guard Sam Cassell, Jr.’s dad helped Florida State beat UConn in Storrs. Big ups go out to Jonathan Holmes, who, with this game-winner from Sunday, is now shooting an eye-popping 61.9% from distance.
Jonathan Holmes' late heroics in Storrs kept Texas undefeated.

Jonathan Holmes’ late heroics in Storrs kept Texas undefeated. (Getty)

  • Kansas (wins over Rhode Island, Tennessee and Michigan State in the Orlando Classic): A-. After the big Kentucky loss, Kansas’ last game against venerable competition before the holiday weekend, the Jayhawks had their fair share of unanswered questions. With this still being the first week in December, the rotation still has some kinks to iron out, but fans should be happy about Perry Ellis‘ improved rebounding to complement his scoring ability as well as Frank Mason‘s overall progress, though I’m still a little bearish because we’ve seen both these movies before and because I’m not sure Michigan State is all that good. The keys moving forward are whether Ellis and Mason can maintain that level of play, and whether Bill Self‘s leash on Cliff Alexander has truly lengthened. It would also be helpful if Wayne Selden could bust out of a big scoring funk (6.8 PPG on 24.1% shooting over his last four games).

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Big 12 M5: 11.14.14 Edition

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 14th, 2014

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  1. Yesterday, we talked about Iowa State‘s plans to play in a neutral court event next Thanksgiving. Late Thursday night, we learned about another team planning ahead. In 2016, Kansas will tip off its season against Indiana from a military base in Pearl Harbor as part of the Armed Forces Classic. One of the biggest ongoing storylines in college basketball is how the sport can better market the start of the season, and while this event doesn’t always have the fanfare of the Champions Classic or some of the other 24-Hour Marathon battles, it has helped bring the start of the season to the national spotlight.
  2. Oklahoma State blog Pistols Firing has 20 predictions for the Cowboys’ season. As discussed in our conference preview Thursday, we aren’t very high on Travis Ford’s team, we can definitely see some of the more positive predictions coming true, such as OSU outperforming its expectations to finish sixth, Le’Bryan Nash making first-team all-conference and Travis Ford holding onto his job.
  3. Outside of the conference, tonight’s Louisville-Minnesota match-up is getting headlines as it pits Rick Pitino against his son, Richard, but right here in the Big 12 is another father-son battle as Tubby Smith and the Texas Tech Red Raiders will open their season against his Smith’s son, G.G. Smith, who is making his head coaching debut with Loyola (Maryland). Smith cut his teeth with the Greyhounds as an assistant under former Loyola head coach Jimmy Patsos for six years.
  4. Remember last year when Kansas State lost three of its first five games (including its debut against Northern Colardo) leading to some warranted bubble conversation before Thanksgiving even hit? The Wildcats will look to avoid a similar fate when it tips off against Southern Utah tonight. As the 342nd-ranked team in the country according to KenPom, we don’t expect the Thunderbirds to pull this season’s opening night upset, but the Wildcats should now know more than anyone how important it is to take care of business early in the season.
  5. For a program the reached the Sweet 16 last year, there hasn’t been much chatter around Baylor. Part of that is because the Bears lost what had been the cornerstones of their program over the last two years in Cory Jefferson, Isaiah Austin and Brady Heslip, and another part of that is because the Bears don’t have the incoming star power that Kansas, Texas and Iowa State has. Still, Scott Drew is excited for the lights to come on tonight when his team squares off against McNeese State, as he should, because the Bears still have a lot of remaining talent in Rico Gathers, Kenny Chery, Royce O’Neale, Taurean Prince and redshirt freshmen Johnathan Motley and Al Freeman.
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