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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Big 12 M5: 02.14.14 Edition

Posted by Brian Goodman on February 14th, 2014

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  1. Media members are currently gathered in Indianapolis for the annual mock selection process, and while the seeding component won’t be finished until later today, the field was finalized Thursday night and it contained six Big 12 teams: Kansas, Texas, Iowa State, Kansas State, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State. The results aren’t too surprising, but it’s important to note that the process doesn’t project any results from the remainder of the season (aside from assuming current first-place teams will win their automatic bids). With that in mind, West Virginia and Baylor may have something to say about it before all is said and done, and it’s not hard to picture Oklahoma State tumbling out of the picture.
  2. With the Cowboys floundering, the contributors of Oklahoma State blog Pistols Firing called a roundtable meeting. The main points of discussion were the employment status of Travis Ford, what might constitute a breaking point for athletic director Mike Holder, and the idea of luring CBS Sports‘ Doug Gottlieb away from the microphone and onto the sideline should Holder decide to move on (it’s not as farfetched as it sounds to the casual college hoops fan, but it’s still a dream). The complicating issue is that Ford’s contract, which runs through the 2018-19 season, is heavily back-loaded, and a buyout just doesn’t sound feasible at this point.
  3. While Kansas State would be in the NCAA Tournament’s field of 68 if the season ended today, the Wildcats have fallen short of their maximum potential. Head coach Bruce Weber believes that if his team could just get its two best scorers other than Marcus Foster going at the same time, the Wildcats’ postseason prospects would be much more secure. The peaks and valleys of Shane Southwell and Will Spradling‘s seasons have coincided with one another, and with seven games remaining in the regular season (including four on the road), the Wildcats don’t have much time to get both clicking simultaneously.
  4. Contrary to popular belief, there’s measurable interest in college hoops in the state of TexasDallas Morning News writer Kevin Sherrington took some time to give his takes in a chat on Wednesday, and he provided some interesting insights about the Lone Star State’s teams. It’s nice to see that Texas Tech‘s improvement in the first year under Tubby Smith hasn’t gone unnoticed outside of this website, and with the Longhorns and possibly Baylor in the NCAA Tournament picture (plus Big 12 outsiders SMU), we should continue to see some great stories emerge from the great state of Texas.
  5. Lastly, there are a couple of minor but noteworthy updates out of Lawrence. Kansas center Joel Embiid is feeling better, and Jayhawks fans can exhale after an MRI revealed no structural damage stemming from his recent health problems. His status for Saturday’s game against TCU remains up in the air, though. On another note, Self removed all doubt when it came to the status of forward Jamari Traylor, who was held out of Monday’s game against Kansas State for disciplinary reasons. Self indicated that the sophomore will play on Saturday, ushering in his return to the rotation. Those items won’t take Naadir Tharpe and Wayne Selden’s defensive issues out from under the microscope, but they should help Kansas fans breathe a little easier.
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College Basketball by the Tweets: The Marcus Smart Shove Edition

Posted by Nick Fasulo on February 10th, 2014

Nick Fasulo is an RTC correspondent who writes the column College Basketball By the Tweets, a look at the world of college hoops through the prism of everyone’s favorite social media platform. You can find him on Twitter @nickfasuloSBN.

College basketball had its Richard Sherman moment Saturday night in Lubbock, Texas, as Oklahoma State superstar Marcus Smart shoved a notable Texas Tech fan named Jeff Orr to spark a flurry of discussion via Twitter. Even if you weren’t watching the Cowboys suffer their fourth consecutive loss, one quick check of your news feed would have immediately brought the story to your attention, along with varying opinions and perspective surrounding the incident. We now know that Smart has been suspended for three games. Below is how the story evolved from the initial reaction up through Sunday’s announcement of Smart’s suspension.

The Initial Reaction

It all started — for me at least — with a Vine of the Smart shove posted by CBSSports.com‘s Matt Norlander:

Within minutes, everyone had responded to the shove.  Some people immediately knew a developing story was afoot. The very first with the trigger was Pat Forde:

The subsequent knee-jerk tweets are fascinating to look back on. Certainly nobody is in the wrong, but based on what we learned, these now feel like nascent observations.

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Big 12 M5: 02.10.14 Edition

Posted by Brian Goodman on February 10th, 2014

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  1. The Big 12 moved swiftly in the aftermath of Saturday night’s altercation between Marcus Smart and Texas Tech fan Jeff Orr by handing down a three-game suspension to Smart. The suspension also keeps Smart away from game day activities and team travel, although he will be allowed to continue practicing with Oklahoma State. It may not be easy for the sophomore, but some time away from game action could do him some good. Though it’s hard to count on it at this time, it would be quite the story to see Smart regroup and lead the Cowboys to the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament.
  2. By the incredibly high standards of a Bill Self-coached team, Kansas came into last week struggling on defense, entering last Tuesday’s game against Baylor with the nation’s 39th-ranked defense according to KenPom.com. Just two games later, however, Kansas’ defense has improved considerably and is now up to 22nd in the country after bottling up the Bears and stifling West Virginia. Naadir Tharpe and Wayne Selden are still prone to lapses, but as was detailed in Luke Winn’s power rankings last week, Selden did a very good job of putting the clamps of long-range bomber Brady Heslip.
  3. Kansas State freshman Marcus Foster is on a certified hot streak, having nailed 23 of his last 32 shots over his last two games. In a conference stacked with talented freshmen, Foster has flown relatively under the radar, but it’s safe to say the secret is out. Tonight, he will have to keep it up against a Kansas team that locked him down to a 3-of-12 shooting dud earlier this season. It stands to reason that with the home crowd behind him, he’ll fare a little better this time around.
  4. Lost in the shuffle of everything that went down with Marcus Smart was a rather impressive win by the upstart Texas Tech Red Raiders in front of a packed house. Over 15,000 fans showed up to United Spirit Arena for the first time in seven years to see their team pull the upset, and many of them rushed the floor when the final buzzer sounded. With high-energy guys like Jaye Crockett, Dejan Kravic and a heck of a ballhawk in Robert Turner, don’t be surprised to see Tubby Smith’s team make some more noise before the season is over.
  5. Baylor‘s struggles to this point and the stretch run facing the Bears were the focal points of an article over the weekend by ESPN‘s Andy Katz. Without a marquee win since a December victory over Kentucky, Scott Drew’s team has more work cut out for it than it imagined having when the season started. With eight games left, plenty of opportunities remain, but whether the Bears capitalize on them is a completely different question.
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Marcus Smart Will Be Punished, But The Conversation Doesn’t End There

Posted by Brian Goodman on February 9th, 2014

Just when you thought Oklahoma State’s season couldn’t get any more disappointing, any more bizarre, it takes another turn.

The Cowboys’ season hit yet another low point in the closing seconds of its most recent loss. With about six seconds left in Oklahoma State’s game last night against Texas Tech, Marcus Smart fouled Red Raiders forward Jaye Crockett on a dunk attempt and fell to the ground right behind the basket. As Smart was being helped up, he turned around and exchanged words with a fan. We don’t know what was said by the fan, but whatever was mentioned clearly struck a nerve as it led Smart to break the invisible barrier between players and fans, and that’s something that simply can’t fly in the current landscape.

As we pick up the pieces, the incident immediately raises a number of questions: First of all, what did the fan say? Even though there was very little time remaining in the game, why wasn’t Smart ejected or otherwise led away from the court before things escalated? He’s certainly facing a suspension. What kind of discipline is adequate? As was raised from Richard Sherman’s on-field interview last month, is it simply too much to expect athletes to absorb everything that comes their way during or immediately following games?

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Big 12 M5: 02.07.14 Edition

Posted by Nate Kotisso on February 7th, 2014

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  1. Texas Tech announced that tomorrow’s game against Oklahoma State will be a sellout. It may not seem like much of a big deal to us on the outside looking in, but it is to those within the Tech athletic department. Saturday will mark the first sellout at United Spirit Arena since January 1, 2007 when the Red Raiders played New Mexico and beat the Lobos 70-68 in overtime. The athletic department did a great job marketing this game urging students to wear all black to the game, use the hashtag #BlackoutTheUSA on social media, and offer a plate of baby back ribs to the first 200 students that show up to the arena early among other promotions. Why ribs and hoops haven’t been marketed together anywhere else is my question.
  2. “Is Travis Ford a good recruiter?” That’s a question I would probably answer yes to but Pistols Firing did some further digging, breaking down each freshman class Ford has had since arriving in Stillwater and what became of them. Ford’s first recruiting class in 2009 was perhaps the most troubling. Out of the seven freshman that came on campus, all of them were gone before any of them completed their junior seasons. But from 2010 to 2013, just five players (including Stevie Clark this season) out of 16 left campus early, meaning he kept approximately 68.8 percent of talent from year-to-year which I would say is solid. Besides that, he’s had a good share of talent to use at his disposal. So to recap, Travis Ford is a pretty good recruiter.
  3. If you haven’t gotten around to it yet, here is a great feature from SI.com’s Luke Winn on Iowa State guard DeAndre Kane. Winn describes the difficult and fascinating road Kane had to travel to not only get to Ames but to reach this point as a human being. Personally, I enjoy pieces like these all the time because it helps us fans remember that these players are more than just a name listed on a box score or just another guy getting a free education. They’re human and they go through many of the same problems that us fans face. Kane has a fan in me.
  4. When it was announced that Tarik Black would be transferring to Kansas, it appeared the bigger stage would be the best option to showcase his skills in an attempt for the NBA Draft. But these days, Black isn’t getting a lot of playing time to even grab the attention of NBA teams but a league of another kind could be interested. When Green Bay QB Aaron Rodgers visited Kansas last month, he was intrigued by Black’s 6-foot-9, 260 pound frame saying he wanted to try him out at tight end. As you might know, former college basketball players Tony Gonzalez, Jimmy Graham, and Antonio Gates all went on to have successful careers as tight ends in the NFL. It’s a good thing Rodgers wants to give him a try out because I doubt the Kansas City Chiefs or the St. Louis Rams would be willing to give him one.
  5. How many times could you have said a run to Chili’s might have saved a team’s season? Never…until now. During Kansas State’s trip to Puerto Rico, they were coming off a 90-63 defeat to Georgetown and Bruce Weber was so upset with his team’s effort that he refused to get the players food after the game. But Thomas Gipson texted the entire team saying they were going to go to Chili’s instead. When they returned to the hotel, the coaches pulled Gipson aside and asked him to be a team leader and he gladly took on the role. Since then. the Wildcats have won 13 of 17 but are entering a crucial part of their schedule with Texas and Kansas invading Manhattan within the next four days. But all this talk about Chili’s would make one Michael Scott a very happy man.
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Big 12 Power Rankings: The Schedule Gauntlet Continues

Posted by Taylor Erickson on January 21st, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Big 12 M5: 01.21.14 Edition

Posted by Kory Carpenter on January 21st, 2014

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  1. Ken Corbitt of the Topeka Capital-Journal has a good stat here about how well the Kansas State defense has played recently. The Wildcats are 14-4 overall, 4-1 in Big 12 play, and are #22 in the national rankings after beating West Virginia by 22 points on Saturday. Head coach Bruce Weber probably summed it up best when he told Corbitt: “If you guard people, it gives you a chance to win.”
  2. Last season wasn’t a fluke for West Virginia, it seems. The Mountaineers are firmly in the Big 12 cellar with Texas Tech and TCU after losing their last three games. They are 10-8 on the season and haven’t beaten anyone of note, unless you count the two aforementioned teams. Other than that, West Virginia is 0-7 against power conference schools this season.
  3. There is a reason Texas Tech head coach Tubby Smith is considered a pretty good coach. His Red Raiders knocked off a ranked Baylor squad last week and have a decent chance to even up their Big 12 record at 3-3 on Wednesday when they travel to West Virginia. “We haven’t always played with the intelligence we should,” Smith told Tim Griffin of the San Antonio Express-News. “But the majority of them have been through things, and the experience of playing in the Big 12 has been a big help.”
  4. Kansas freshman center Joel Embiid went from an unknown player from Cameroon to the potential No. 1 overall pick in next summer’s NBA Draft in the span of about 12 months. Even Self, who told Embiid he would be the top pick one day, didn’t think it would be so soon. “You’re going to be the No. 1 pick,” Self told Embiid (courtesy of Rustin Dodd of the Kansas City Star) “Now, it may not be this year, but you will be a No. 1 pick.” Self is right. It may not be this year. But don’t bet against it at this point. Embiid contributed 12 points, four rebounds, and a block in last night’s 78-68 win over Baylor. 
  5. If Oklahoma wants to secure a spot in the NCAA Tournament and make a run in March, freshman guard Jordan Woodard playing well would go a long way toward that goal. As Ryan Aber of The Oklahoman points out, Woodard had a four to one assist-to-turnover ratio in the Sooners’ 66-64 win over Baylor on Saturday. “I think he knows that we have confidence in him,” sophomore forward Ryan Spangler told Aber.
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