Big 12 M5: New Year’s Day Edition

Posted by Chris Stone on January 1st, 2016

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  1. West Virginia closed out its non-conference schedule with an 88-63 road win over Virginia Tech on Wednesday night. The Mountaineers were led by sophomore guard Jevon Carter who finished with 18 points. With Juwan Staten’s graduation, Carter has played a much larger offensive roll this season. He’s scoring 13.0 points per game and has improved his outside shot in 2015-16. Already a pesky defender, Carter could be positioning himself for an All-Big 12 type season.
  2. Monte Morris continues to impress. His 10-point, 11-assist, zero-turnover performance in Iowa State’s 104-84 win over Coppin State is Morris’ latest quality outing. While Morris isn’t leading the NCAA in assist-to-turnover ratio for a third straight season (that honor belongs to Pitt’s James Robinson), he is still averaging nearly six assists per turnover. His impressive distribution is keeping teammates on their toes. “Just get to an open area,” Georges Niang told the media after the Cyclones’ win, “because I know he’s going to zing one past someone’s head and hopefully it doesn’t hit me in the face and it hits me in the hands.”
  3. Big 12 play begins Saturday and as usual the five game slate offers up some interesting matchups. There are two games between top 25 teams to open the conference season. Baylor will travel to Lawrence for an opening day contest against Kansas. While the Bears have a nice home win against Vanderbilt on their resume, they failed to pick up other quality wins during non-conference play. They’ll need to find a few resume builders over the remainder of the season if they want a high seed in the NCAA Tournament and there would be no better place to start than with an upset of the Jayhawks in Allen Fieldhouse.
  4. The other Top 25 matchup on the schedule pits Iowa State against Oklahoma in Norman. The big question is whether or not the Cyclones will be able to generate enough defensive stops. Iowa State is giving up 81.3 points per game over their last three contests and opponents are now converting 35.7 percent of their threes against the Cyclones. That may not bode well against the Sooners who are shooting 46.2 percent from behind the arc this season. If both Oklahoma and Kansas pull of the victories as expected, we could be treated to a matchup between #1 and #2 in Lawrence on Big Monday.
  5. The remainder of the Big 12 slate pits Texas Tech against Texas, West Virginia against Kansas State, and Oklahoma State against TCU. The Red Raiders are looking for their first win versus the Longhorns since 2014. Meanwhile, the Mountaineers will be looking to start off conference play with a road win after going 4-5 away from home in the Big 12 last season. The battle between the Cowboys and the Horned Frogs will give both teams an opportunity to pick up what may be one of their few Big 12 wins this season.
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Big 12 New Year’s Resolutions: Part I

Posted by Chris Stone on December 30th, 2015

The year 2016 is right around the corner and along with it comes Big 12 conference play, as the league gets underway with six games on January 2. Although we know that only a fraction of people ultimately keep their New Year’s resolutions, we figured it wouldn’t hurt to come up with a few challenges for teams in the Big 12 once the ball drops tomorrow night. This is part one of a two-part series.

Kansas: To give Devonte Graham the praise he deserves

Devonte Graham has brought a number of positive changes to Kansas. (Charles Riedel/The Associated Press)

Devonte Graham has brought a number of positive changes to Kansas. (Charles Riedel/The Associated Press)

The focus on Kansas to this point has reasonably and rightfully been on the improved play of Wayne Selden and the consistent performance of senior forward Perry Ellis. However, the Jayhawks’ most under appreciated asset may well be sophomore point guard Devonte Graham. Graham’s move to the starting lineup has been linked to Selden’s rise because it helped free him up offensively, but Graham has provided much more. The sophomore has helped increase the number of turnovers the Jayhawks are causing on defense while simultaneously decreasing the number of turnovers Kansas commits on offense by reducing his personal turnover rate from 20.1 percent to 9.9 percent. Graham’s sophomore emergence has made the Jayhawks a national title contender and he deserves more praise for the role he’s played.

Iowa State: To find rest and relaxation for the Cyclones’ rotation

Naz Mitrou-Long’s recovery from hip surgery hit the Cyclones hard. With Deonte Burton becoming eligible at semester, it looked like Iowa State was set to have a quality eight man rotation heading into conference play. Now that Mitrou-Long’s season is over, coach Steve Prohm has made it clear that he intends to stick with a seven man rotation for the remainder of the season. Iowa State ranks 347th in percentage of bench minutes played with just 21.4 percent of available minutes coming off the bench. Last season, Wisconsin reached the Final Four with similar numbers, so the limited rotation doesn’t rule out a trip to Houston for the Cyclones, but they’ll need all the rest and relaxation they can get on the way there. Read the rest of this entry »

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Big 12 M5: 12.30.15 Edition

Posted by Chris Stone on December 30th, 2015

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  1. There will be very few easy games in the Big 12 this season. One of the criticisms of the conference last year was that the bottom of the league wasn’t very good. That should change in 2015-16. On Tuesday, Texas Tech picked up their fourth win over a team ranked in the top 100 on KenPom with an 85-70 victory over Richmond. The Red Raiders lone non-conference loss came against a quality Utah team. Tech is predicted to finish 8-10 in the league which would be the school’s best mark under head coach Tubby Smith. The Red Raiders also have a chance to pick up a road win against Arkansas in the Big 12/SEC Challenge. If things fall in their favor, they could find themselves with a shot at their first NCAA Tournament birth since 2007.
  2. Kansas State will also contribute to a deeper Big 12 in 2015-16. With a dominating 75-47 win over Saint Louis on Tuesday, the Wildcats pushed their non-conference record to 10-2. Kansas State’s calling card has been its defense and that was no different in the win over the Billikens. Saint Louis scored a meager 0.67 points per possession in Manhattan. While the Wildcats don’t have the same quality wins that Texas Tech has, a few upsets in Big 12 play could push them onto the bubble come March.
  3. Texas announced that senior center Cameron Ridley will be out 8-10 weeks due to a fracture in his left foot. In the Longhorns’ first game without Ridley, Texas fell 71-66 to Connecticut in Austin. Ridley’s absence was felt on both ends of the floor. The Huskies outscored Texas 40-28 in the paint on Tuesday. Ridley’s replacement, Prince Ibeh, played just 18 minutes and picked up his fourth foul with nearly nine minutes remaining. Without Ibeh or Ridley on the floor, opponents will be able to challenge the Longhorns inside and UConn did so successfully. Forced to rely on a more perimeter oriented attack, Texas floundered. The Longhorns shot 39 percent from the field and 6-of-23 from three-point range. How Shaka Smart adapts to Ridley’s absence early in conference play will be crucial to Texas’ Big 12 success.
  4. Kansas beat UC Irvine, 78-53, to close out its non-conference schedule, but for the second season in a row the story out of Lawrence is becoming the playing time of a highly touted freshman. Cheick Diallo is averaging only 11.2 minutes per game so far and played just six minutes against the Anteaters. Bill Self told the media afterwards that he thinks “our experienced guys are playing better.” While that may be true at the moment, there’s no doubt that Diallo has a higher upside than just about anyone in the Jayhawks’ frontcourt rotation. Allowing Diallo to develop now could benefit Kansas in March, but with Baylor and Oklahoma on tap to open Big 12 play, it seems unlikely the freshman will be seeing significant playing time in the near future.
  5. There are two Big 12 games remaining ahead of the start of conference play on Saturday. Iowa State should cruise against Coppin State tonight, but West Virginia has a much more interesting matchup. The Mountaineers will play their first true road game of the season when they travel to Blacksburg, VA to face Virginia Tech. West Virginia is favored in the contest, but road games are always tricky. Whatever the result, the experience in a hostile environment should prove useful as the Mountaineers open their Big 12 schedule with road trips to Kansas State and TCU.
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Injury to Cameron Ridley Throws Wrench Into Texas Plans

Posted by Brian Goodman on December 29th, 2015

Texas suffered a big setback in practice over the weekend when Cameron Ridley broke his foot. The injury requires surgery — scheduled to take place today — and will place the senior out of action indefinitely. While Texas’ press release on Monday gave no specifics on a timetable for his return, the general amount of time needed for recovery from such an injury reportedly tends to fall in the range of 6-8 weeks. What this ultimately means is that Ridley will miss most of Big 12 play but could be on track for a return near the end of the regular season and into postseason play. In the meantime, though, his absence down low creates a major challenge for Texas’ immediate future.

Texas will be without its best big man for most of the Big 12 season. (Eric Gay/AP)

Texas will be without its best big man for most of the Big 12 season. (Eric Gay/AP)

Hailed as a top-10 recruit by ESPNU when he arrived in Austin in 2012, Ridley had endured an up-and-down career under Rick Barnes but had really started to take off this season. The senior big man capitalized on his improved physique to become one of the nation’s leading shot-blockers as well as a more reliable finisher, converting 75 percent of his shots at the rim, per hoop-math.com. Through 11 games, Ridley ranked second on the team in minutes played (26.0 MPG) and scoring (12.7 PPG), and led the Longhorns in rebounding (9.7 RPG). Apart from possibly Isaiah Taylor, he was the most important player on the Longhorns’ roster. While it’s always tough to see anyone sidelined for an extended amount of time, it especially hurts when it happens to a senior like Ridley who had finally started to turn potential into production. Read the rest of this entry »

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Big 12 M5: 12.28.15 Edition

Posted by Chris Stone on December 28th, 2015

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  1. On Christmas Day, Oklahoma defeated Harvard to win the Diamond Head Classic in Honolulu. The Sooners were led by senior Buddy Hield, who scored 34 points on 11-of-14 shooting from the field. It was the senior’s fourth 30-point game of the season and only the latest addition to his National Player of the Year portfolio. To say Hield’s season has been impressive would be quite an understatement. He is currently using 31 percent of Oklahoma’s possessions and scoring 24.9 points per game while performing even more efficiently than he did a year ago. Hield finished last season with an effective field goal percentage of 50.5 percent; he’s at 62.4 percent this year. On pace for a 50/50/90 season, it’s no wonder Hield is a legitimate NPOY contender.
  2. Hield isn’t the only Big 12 player in the NPOY race. After last week’s 24 points and 10 rebounds in a true road win over Cincinnati, Iowa State’s Georges Niang is also in that picture. As Travis Hines of the Ames Tribune points out, Niang is posting career high numbers nearly across the board for one of the country’s top teams, and he’ll have even more opportunities to showcase his skills on the national stage against the toughest conference in the nation come January.
  3. After a poor performance in Baylor’s 80-61 loss to Texas A&M, senior Taurean Prince bounced back with a huge game in the Bears’ subsequent 85-70 victory over New Mexico State. Prince hung 34 points on the Aggies in the win, but most importantly, he needed just 19 shots to get there. After a wildly efficient campaign last year, Prince’s efficiency numbers this season have lagged largely due to a subpar performance inside the three-point arc. Prince is shooting nearly seven percent worse on two-point shots this season. Thus, his 10-for-15 shooting on two-pointers against New Mexico State is a welcome sight for Baylor fans looking for the senior to find his groove.
  4. After a limited slate of college basketball games during the recent holidays, things will get back to normal this week. Nine of the ten Big 12 teams have games remaining ahead of the start of conference play on Saturday. The league’s headliner will likely come on Tuesday night when Connecticut travels to Austin to face Texas. Shaka Smart’s Longhorns have already collected one resume-building win (an 84-82 thrilling victory against North Carolina) at the Erwin Center this season. The key to the game will likely be Texas’ ability to limit the Huskies’ two-point offense. Connecticut ranks eighth nationally in two-point percentage and has scored 57 percent of their points inside the arc. The Longhorns, though, figure to be up to the task. They’ve allowed opponents to shoot just 40.5 percent on two-point shots this season.
  5. In the most recent iteration of his power rankings, Sports Illustrated’s Luke Winn pointed out that college basketball lacks truly elite teams this season. But that hasn’t stopped the Big 12 as a whole from putting together an impressive year. Oklahoma and Kansas currently occupy the top two spots in the KenPom ratings and the league is once again ranked as his toughest conference based on adjusted offensive and defensive efficiency ratings. In fact, if the Big 12 holds, the league’s .8342 rating will be the highest achieved by any conference since the Big Ten turned the trick in 2012-13.
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Morning Five: 12.28.15 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on December 28th, 2015

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  1. It seems like we have been saying this could be the year that Northwestern makes the NCAA Tournament for the first time ever for several years now. The hopes this year took a massive hit yesterday when they announced that senior center Alex Olah would be out indefinitely with an injury to his foot. Olah, who had been averaging 12.8 points (on 59.8% FG), 6.5 rebounds, and 2 blocks per game, helped lead the Wildcats to an 11-1 record (they sit at 12-1 after a win last night over Loyola) with their only loss coming against North Carolina. Northwestern will rely on freshman Dererk Pardon, who had 6 points (3-3 FG) and 4 rebounds last night, to fill in for Olah, but if they have any realistic hope of making the NCAA Tournament this year they will need Olah back pretty soon.
  2. With several conference tournaments being played every year in Las Vegas the NCAA’s refusal to have any of its postseason events there has always seemed strange to us. Now that the NCAA has expressed some interest in softening its stance and considering Las Vegas as a potential postseason site some within the city are beginning to push hard for inclusion. While including Las Vegas in NCAA postseason tournaments probably wouldn’t do much to affect the city’s bottom line (it is basically hosts multiple conventions every single day of the year) it would help lend a sense of legitimacy to the city and also be used as a springboard into talking to the NCAA and other states about increasing the reach of legalized gambling.
  3. Over the past few years we have noted the proliferation of cable networks dedicated to conferences and in some cases teams (we will get to the latter in a minute). These networks have been cited as one of the driving forces behind conference realignment as network contracts in addition to the ones they sign with established networks help drive large sums of money into the pockets of the schools within the conference. The most unique of these arrangements is The Longhorn Network, which as its name suggests is dedicated to Texas. While Texas is undoubtedly one of the biggest brands in college sports (it tops most lists in terms of licensing revenue) the school’s revenue-producing sports (basketball and football) have struggled recently and the network itself has not been doing well financially. While the details behind those struggles are more complex than just the school’s on-field/-court struggles (those details are in the article), it does serve to underscore the tenuous nature of some of these television contracts.
  4. Former Cincinnati assistant coach Al Hmiel decided to come clean recently regarding his history as a college basketball “slimeball”. Hmiel says his decision to “come clean” was the result of hearing about Louisville’s ongoing scandal and how some people were trying to use the recruits as scapegoats. Hmiel basically admits to doing just about every conceivable thing you could imagine to make a player eligible or, in some cases, ineligible. Hmiel’s comments will probably generate a fair amount of reaction over the next few weeks particularly from former players and/or coaches who were mentioned or were at the school when Hmiel was there, but based on the response we have seen online the accusations might not be that ridiculous.
  5. Normally the suspensions of student-athletes for impermissible benefits lead to a bunch of media outrage so we were a bit surprised to see the eight-game suspension of Vermont guard Dre Wills for reselling his textbooks didn’t generate more ridiculous headlines (ok, it did from some of the usual suspects). Wills, a junior who was averaging 6.8 points and 5 rebounds per game, apparently violated his athletic scholarship by selling back his textbooks. It’s not really clear how much money Wills got from reselling those books (from personal experience we can tell you it was probably very little), but since his scholarship almost certainly paid for those books we can understand why he can’t just resell the books and collect the profit.
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Big 12 M5: 12.15.15 Edition

Posted by Brian Goodman on December 15th, 2015

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  1. Texas came into the weekend in need of a signature win, and boy did it get one in Saturday’s thrilling victory over #3 North Carolina. In addition to Javan Felix‘s last-second heroics, the Longhorns’ big win can also be attributed to a standout effort on the defensive glass. On Saturday, Texas collected 83 percent of North Carolina’s misses, with Cameron Ridley fending off Kennedy Meeks and Brice Johnson in a season-high 33 minutes of action. And yet, even after topping the Tar Heels, the Longhorns still rank among the bottom 50 teams nationally in defensive rebounding percentage, proving how effective Saturday’s effort was.
  2. It was only a year or so ago that Kansas was wondering if it could field a team with a steady point guard at the helm. Frank Mason has more than admirably filled that role, but now it’s the crowded Jayhawks’ frontcourt that has head coach Bill Self searching for answers. He might be somewhat closer to solutions after his team’s recent win over Oregon State, however. While Self admitted that his rotation may still fluctuate from game to game, senior transfer Hunter Mickelson and freshman Carlton Bragg made the biggest strides in Kansas City on Saturday night. With three games remaining until conference play begins, the big man situation in Lawrence is definitely something to monitor.
  3. Speaking of the Kansas frontcourt, Rustin Dodd of The Kansas City Star wrote a terrific in-depth piece on the long, winding journey that brought Cheick Diallo from war-torn Mali all the way to Lawrence. Among many other qualities, Bill Self claims in the article that “nobody since I’ve been here, for 13 years — tries harder academically than [Diallo] does. Nobody.” In an odd twist of fate, it’s the effort Diallo gives in the classroom that made the NCAA eligibility center’s slog to clear him all the more frustrating, but it’s great to see the young rim protector on the floor and thriving these days.
  4. In keeping with the backstories of some of the young talent around the conference, John Walker of The Oklahoma Daily gives us the lowdown on how Oklahoma head coach Lon Kruger swayed freshman Rashard Odomes to play for the Sooners. In classic Kruger fashion, the basketball lifer didn’t point to his accomplishments on the court; rather, to the family culture he’s fostered in Norman. It may be a year or two before Odomes plays a regular role on the team, but he’s a player we’ll be rooting for.
  5. Last week’s court rush in Ames following Iowa State‘s thrilling comeback win over Iowa kickstarted another round of debate about the fan-inspired practice, with an injury to a reporter heightening the conversation’s volume. On Friday, however, the Big 12 ruled that Iowa State’s staff operated within the league’s code of conduct, putting an end to speculation that any punishment would come their way. While we feel for anyone — player, coach, media member, or fan — who gets injured in court rushings, the ritual still holds a unique place in college basketball’s culture. There may come a time when a school will need to face repercussions, but outright bans are generally unenforceable and would end up stinging in the long run.
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E! True Pac-12 Story: Washington And Its Fouling Problem

Posted by Mike Lemaire on December 4th, 2015

When it happened in a season-opening win against Texas, it was okay because it came in an exciting early victory. When it happened again a week later in a blowout win over Penn, it didn’t seem like a big deal because, well, it’s the Ivy League. But then it happened in a loss to Gonzaga, and it started to seem like it actually mattered. When, the very next day, it happened again in a loss in the rematch with the Longhorns, there was no denying the problem. And now, as the team enters the soft part of its non-conference schedule, it’s time to stage the intervention. The first step is admitting the issue, so let’s come out and say it plainly – Washington has a fouling problem.

Washington's Foul Trouble Is Not Fun For Lorenzo Romar. (The Seattle Times)

Washington’s Foul Trouble Is Not Fun For Lorenzo Romar. (The Seattle Times)

Let’s start with the basics. As a team, the Huskies have committed 167 personal fouls through six games. Focusing specifically on the rotation (anyone playing at least 10 minutes per game), nine players are responsible for 163 of those personal fouls and when we do the math (18 fouls per rotation player and six games played), every member of the Washington rotation is essentially committing three fouls per game. As a result of all this hacking, the Huskies have allowed opponents to shoot an unacceptable amount of free throws. At this point in the season, the national average for free-throw rate (FTA/FGA) is 37.1 percent. The free throw rate for Huskies’ opponents this season has been 50.3 percent, which is 312th in the country. Only three teams in Power 5 conferences (TCU, Missouri and West Virginia) have been more generous when it comes to letting opponents camp out at the charity stripe. Read the rest of this entry »

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Big 12 M5: 12.02.15 Edition

Posted by Brian Goodman on December 2nd, 2015

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  1. After a long, long wait, freshman Cheick Diallo finally made his debut for Kansas as the Jayhawks rolled to a 94-61 win over Loyola (MD). It took Diallo a few minutes to get comfortable on the floor, but as we predicted yesterday, he looked every bit like the rim protector and finisher the Jayhawks desperately need, finishing with 13 points, six rebounds and four blocks in 16 minutes of action. He also committed four fouls, showing that he’s far from a finished product, but he was otherwise fantastic. What stuck out most about him was how increasingly confident he appeared with every successive trip down the floor. By the end of the night, he was hyping up the crowd, hitting pull-up jumpers and showing off on coast-to-coast dunks. Yes, Loyola was picked to finish in the bottom half of the Patriot League this season, but Diallo clearly showed what the fuss was all about. He’ll have his growing pains, batching him progress with Kansas (and vice versa) this season is going to be a lot of fun.
  2. Texas avoided another early loss last night, needing overtime to beat UT-Arlington, but the Longhorns showed that Diallo isn’t the only uber-athlete in the Big 12. Freshman Kerwin Roach provided the biggest highlight of the evening, as he’s now the clubhouse leader for dunk of the year with this posterization of Mavericks’ guard Jorge Bilbao. (Prayers.). While Shaka Smart certainly enjoyed the play, he is more concerned with his team’s lack of focus on the glass, as the Longhorns were outhustled 49-35 in that department.
  3. Monte’ Morris continued his personal showcase in Iowa State‘s 84-54 romp over North Dakota State, going for 18 points, five rebounds and six assists against the Bison. There was a scary moment in the first half as Georges Niang went down holding his right knee. He had to be helped off the court, but fortunately, he returned to the game after being diagnosed with just a contusion. Niang went on to reassure the Cyclone faithful by kickstarting a 9-0 Iowa State run that put Iowa State ahead at halftime. Iowa State has one more tune-up against Buffalo before they square off with in-state rival Iowa next Thursday.
  4. Perhaps taking a page from Kansas’ playbook, Oklahoma State is rolling with a two-point guard lineup for now as Phil Forte continues to recover from an elbow injury and Tavarius Shine nurses a right shoulder bug. Sophomore Tyree Griffin and freshman Jawun Evans combined for 14 assists in last Friday’s win over Long Beach State, but they’ll face a big test tonight when 4-2 Tulsa comes to town. The Cowboys’ small lineup is made smaller with 6’2″ Jeff Newberry playing out on the wing, but the Pokes seem to be holding things together as they slowly get back to full strength.
  5. Texas Tech‘s frontcourt took a hit when it was announced on Tuesday that sophomore Isaiah Manderson had the team to continue his basketball career elsewhere. Manderson was a cog in the Red Raiders’ interior last season, playing in all 31 regular season games, contributing 4.4 points and 2.7 rebounds per game. His role figured to increase this season after he played well during Tech’s Canadian tour over the summer, but it wasn’t meant to be. A 6’10”, 255-pound center, Manderson played his high school ball in Florida and had offers from four SEC schools, so it will be interesting to see if he resurfaces in that conference.
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Finding Michigan’s Winning Formula In Spite of Frontcourt Troubles

Posted by Patrick Engel on November 30th, 2015

Michigan looked like the Michigan of old in a 78-72 win over Texas on Friday night, shooting 58 percent from the floor and scoring 1.26 points per possession. But in both losses to date this season — a loss last Wednesday to Connecticut and a November 20 loss to Xavier — Michigan struggled to rebound, score in the paint or find a reliable scorer outside of do-everything guard Caris LeVert. All of these were familiar struggles for those who watched much of Michigan’s 16-16 season last year. Here’s a closer look at Michigan’s first six games and the best way for the Wolverines to improve some of the maladies that appear to again ail them.

Caris LeVert needs consistency around him for Michigan to win consistently. (Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Caris LeVert needs consistency around him for Michigan to win consistently. (Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Let’s start with the team’s most obvious weakness: Michigan’s frontcourt has simply not been very good. There are several, but the most damning statistic is that no Wolverines’ big man is averaging more than 2.7 rebounds per game. To put this into perspective, Derrick Walton, Jr., Michigan’s 6’1″ point guard, has 14 more rebounds than any post player on the roster. Furthermore, Michigan’s offensive rebounding percentage comes in at just 25.8 percent (256th nationally, per KenPom.com). In the two losses that number was even lower — at 19.4 percent and 23.8 percent, respectively. Meanwhile, the Musketeers and Huskies posted respective offensive rebounding percentages of their own of 45.0 percent and 32.3 percent. The Wolverines had an easier time on the glass in wins against Charlotte, Elon and Northern Michigan, but none of those teams possess the length, size and athleticism that Xavier and Connecticut have; perhaps more importantly, none have the length, size and athleticism that Big Ten opponents will have.  Read the rest of this entry »

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Big 12 M5: 11.30.15 Edition

Posted by Chris Stone on November 30th, 2015

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  1. Perhaps it’s because they stayed home over Thanksgiving, but it feels like Oklahoma has flown under the radar during the season’s opening stages. The Sooners have been every bit as good as expected, though maybe even better. Buddy Hield has been fantastic and they’re getting the inside play they need from Ryan Spangler and Khadeem Lattin, but I may be most impressed by Oklahoma’s defense, which has just been outstanding in the early going. On Sunday, the Sooners forced Wisconsin into its worst shooting day in nine years en route to a 65-48 win. While the Badgers aren’t what they’ve been over the last few years, everyone can agree that allowing 23.5 percent shooting against them should turn some heads. Oklahoma’s December 7 showdown with Villanova is an absolute must-watch game.
  2. Iowa State point guard Monte’ Morris continues to have increased success under Steve Prohm, as he put together another standout performance over the weekend in the Cyclones 84-73 victory over Illinois in the Emerald Coast Classic final. So far in his career, Morris has floored us with his vision and scoring ability, but he flashed a new dimension on Saturday night as he pulled down a career-high nine rebounds, all on the defensive end. While no one should ever mistake the undersized Morris for an answer to the Cyclones’ challenges inside, it has to be inspiring for Prohm to know that his floor general doesn’t mind battling it out with high-major bigs.
  3. A 2-3 start isn’t what Texas had in mind to begin the season, but while it isn’t time to panic, it isn’t unreasonable to have some concerns. The biggest trouble spots have been the Longhorns’ inability to finish (50.4% FG at the rim), generate transition offense and pull down defensive rebounds. While losses to a mediocre Washington team and a rebuilding Michigan squad won’t look good on the resume in March, it’s important to bear in mind that the Longhorns have played just one home game. Shaka Smart was thrown right into the fire by having to open the season in China with three games against competitive teams in the Bahamas shortly after, but with a much more favorable schedule coming over the next two weeks, the Longhorns need to start finding their footing. For what it’s worth, I think they will.
  4. Everyone is excited to see how quickly Cheick Diallo will make an impact for Kansas, but there’s another newcomer a little further off the radar to whom people should already start paying attention. Oklahoma State forward Chris Olivier has been a godsend for the Cowboys. The Eastern Illinois transfer is averaging 13.8 points, 4.3 rebounds, and 2.3 blocks per game off the bench and has committed just two turnovers in 121 minutes of run. He’s been efficient at the rim (66.7% FG) as well as on jump shots (52.2%) and is drawing fouls all over the place. The toughest part of the Cowboys’ non-conference schedule is still ahead of them with meetings against Tulsa, Minnesota and Florida on tap for December, so it’s important to contextualize Olivier’s performance, but for the time being, he’s been a huge boost, especially with Phil Forte nursing an elbow injury.
  5. After last Tuesday’s meltdown against North Carolina, the young Kansas State Wildcats were faced with the potential of letting another late lead slip away, but they held on to beat South Carolina State 68-66 on Sunday to move to 5-1 on the year. Senior Justin Edwards led the way with 18 points, including four clutch free throws, to go with eight rebounds and six assists. As they have been all season, the Wildcats cleaned up on the glass, but sloppy play down the stretch almost turned this one into the latest in a series of awful non-conference losses for Kansas State over the years. Edwards, Wesley Iwundu and company get thrown right back into the mix with a home tilt against Coppin State sandwiched by road games at Georgia and Texas A&M over the next two weeks.
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Big 12 M5: 11.27.15 Edition

Posted by Chris Stone on November 27th, 2015

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  1. After falling to intrastate rival Texas A&M in the opening round of the Battle 4 Atlantis, Texas bounced back in its revenge game against Washington. The key to the Longhorns’ ultimate success this year may be senior big man Cameron Ridley. Entering the season, Ridley was expected to be the player most likely to struggle with the transition to Shaka Smart’s system, but he’s proving everyone wrong. As we mentioned on Monday, Ridley has instead become a focal point of the Longhorns’ offense. His usage rate is up six percent from last season and his per 40 minutes numbers (20.7 points and 16.3 rebounds per game) are impressive. The one concern is that the senior is struggling to adjust to the new rules, fouling out in the Longhorns’ two losses. But assuming the big man can find a way to stay on the floor, it’s clear that he’ll be an important piece for Texas this season.
  2. Another Big 12 big man putting together an incredible run early this season is West Virginia’s Devin Williams, as the junior scored 23 points and grabbed 12 rebounds in a 67-59 victory over Richmond in Thursday’s semifinals of the Las Vegas Invitational. “The turning point was every time we threw it to Devin Williams,” head coach Bob Huggins said after the game. “He was just great, scoring for us. And when we missed, he was rebounding. He was terrific.” Williams has recorded a double-double in all five of the Mountaineers’ games this season.
  3. After a woeful performance against Michigan State last week in the Champions Classic, many analysts rightfully questioned Wayne Selden’s role in Kansas’ offensive attack. The junior shot just 3-of-12 from the field with only one assist against the Spartans, but what a difference a week makes. After a victory over Vanderbilt in the finals of this week’s Maui Invitational where the junior wing averaged 19.3 PPG and shot 71 percent from three-point range, Selden was named Co-MVP of the tournament (along with teammate Frank Mason). While those numbers won’t hold up over the course of the full season, it looks like the controversial player is returning to the form he found in South Korea during the World University Games. This development certainly makes him the “ultimate X-factor” for a team that, with the addition of freshman big man Cheick Diallo, can certainly challenge for a national title.
  4. Five Big 12 teams will hit the floor today. Baylor should cruise against Arkansas State; Oklahoma State returns to Stillwater for the second game of its back-to-back with Long Beach State; and Iowa State faces Virginia Tech prior to its potential NCAA Tournament rematch with UAB on Sunday. The two most interesting contests belong to Texas and West Virginia, however — two teams looking to pick up some resume-building wins. The Longhorns will take on Michigan in the fifth-place game at the Battle 4 Atlantis while the Mountaineers get San Diego State in the Las Vegas Invitational final. Both teams are expected to finish in the middle of the pack in Big 12 play, so picking up a couple of solid non-conference victories will be key to their NCAA Tournament hopes.
  5. Finally, one interesting statistical note coming out of the first two weeks of the season. While Big 12 football is known nationally for its lack of defense, that shouldn’t be the case when it comes to basketball. All 10 of the league’s teams rank among the top 100 of KenPom’s adjusted defensive efficiency ratings, and seven of those are currently in the top 40. If even the bottom of the league is playing good defense, we could be setting up for an exciting conference season that features a number of nail-biting contests that come down to one play.
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