Big 12 Season Preview: Kansas State Wildcats

Posted by Nate Kotisso on November 3rd, 2014

Throughout the preseason, the Big 12 microsite will preview each of the league’s 10 teams, from worst to first. Today: Kansas State. 

Kansas State

Looking back at last season, I’m sure most Kansas State fans would say they were somewhat satisfied with how the year turned out. The roster faced major turnover as guys who had shared a Big 12 regular season title the year before either graduated or transferred out of Manhattan. The Wildcats were young and it showed early in non-conference play, with losses to Northern Colorado and Charlotte to go along with Georgetown. Once they returned to the mainland from the Puerto Rico Tip-Off, however, the Wildcats found a star point guard, reeled off 10 wins a row, won all but one of their home conference games, and wound up facing Kentucky in the NCAA Tournament. With seven of their nine rotation players back, Kansas State has the opportunity to disrupt conference hierarchy again and perhaps look forward to a March worth remembering.

A big season could be on the way for Bruce Weber and the Wildcats. (Ed Zurga/Getty Images)

A big season could be on the way for Bruce Weber and the Wildcats. (Ed Zurga/Getty Images)

Strengths: The star point guard is, of course, sophomore guard Marcus Foster. Foster’s rise last season was almost impossible to predict, but there he was knocking down jumpers and bulldozing through traffic to get to the cup. If that doesn’t sound appetizing enough, throw in transfer Justin Edwards — who put up some big numbers at Maine (16.7 PPG in 2012-13) — and you’ve got a lethal duo of guards who can go toe-to-toe against any backcourt in the Big 12. Another advantage this season is greater depth at the forward positions. Most starting lineups last year featured the 6’7″ Thomas Gipson playing the power forward slot. Not so this season. Help comes in the form of 6’11” Stephen Hurt, a JuCo transfer who spent last season at Northwest Florida State College. Hurt began his college career at Lipscomb, where he won the Atlantic Sun Freshman of the Year award by averaging 11.5 points and 7.8 rebounds per game in 2012-13. Brandon Bolden, a 6’11” transfer from Georgetown, will also be eligible this season to provide more frontcourt depth.

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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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Iowa State Facing a Must-Win Today vs. Kansas State

Posted by Taylor Erickson on January 25th, 2014

A little over two weeks ago, life for Fred Hoiberg and the Iowa State basketball program was about as good as it could get. The Cyclones were undefeated with home wins over Michigan and Iowa along with a difficult road win at BYU; DeAndre Kane’s name was being thrown out as a serious candidate for All-American honors; and it looked like the team from Ames might have the best chance of anyone to end Kansas’ nine year reign atop the Big 12 Conference.

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

After three losses in a row, Naz Long and Iowa State are left looking for answers. (AP)

Since that time, life in the Big 12 for Hoiberg and company has been anything but a dream. First came a disappointing road loss at Oklahoma, one in which the aforementioned Kane suffered what looked like a severely sprained ankle just two days before a home visit from Bill Self’s Jayhawks. In what seemed like a perfect opportunity to exorcise the demons that kept the Cyclones from taking down Kansas a year ago, “Hilton Magic” was anything but, as Iowa State finished the night shooting just 4-of-25 from three-point range in a deflating loss. Those two defeats were then followed up by a road loss at Texas last weekend, leaving fans and players alike with more questions than answers.

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Looking Ahead To The Big 12’s Most Important Games This Weekend

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 17th, 2014

This week has been highly entertaining for Big 12 fans. Whether it’s Kansas winning in a return to Hilton Coliseum, Kansas State putting the clamps on Oklahoma‘s high-energy offense, or the most recent development — Texas Tech springing the biggest upset of league play by beating Baylor on Wednesday night — storylines have emerged with each passing game. No school has played more than four games yet, but the Jayhawks are the only team still unscathed in conference play. After a quiet Thursday and Friday, the action resumes tomorrow with four match-ups that will have big implications on the conference race as well as teams’ NCAA Tournament resumes going forward.

It's been a long team since a visiting player won two games in Allen Fieldhouse.  Will Marcus Smart pull it off? (Stephen R. Sylvanie/USA TODAY)

It’s been a long time since a visiting player won two games in Allen Fieldhouse. Will Marcus Smart pull it off? (Stephen R. Sylvanie/USA TODAY)

Oklahoma State at Kansas (4:00 EST, CBS) – Remember way back in October when Marcus Smart had some interesting — if correct — things to say about Andrew Wiggins? It feels like ages ago, but two of the conference’s best players will finally get a chance to battle it out on the court. Most recently on Wednesday, Smart continued to make his case as the Big 12 POY with a great night against TCU (20 points, eight rebounds, five assists) as the Cowboys rolled the Horned Frogs, while Wiggins posted 17 points and 19 rebounds against Iowa State in a performance that still left some wanting more. Kansas will have its massive homecourt advantage behind it in this one, and the Jayhawks’ frontcourt has to be licking its chops at the idea of battling the Michael Cobbins-less Oklahoma State forwards on the glass. If Brian Williams and Kamari Murphy can’t get comfortable inside, the Cowboys will need to make up for the shortfall in other ways, whether through Smart rising to the occasion,  Phil Forte raining threes, Le’Bryan Nash putting up one of his patented hyper-efficient scoring nights, or some combination of the three.

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Big 12 M5: 01.08.14 Edition

Posted by Nate Kotisso on January 8th, 2014

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  1. Just how good is Iowa State? That’s the question Rob Dauster over at College Basketball Talk is asking after the Cyclones pulled away from Baylor in the second half to win the battle of top 10 teams, 87-72. DeAndre Kane had his best game on the biggest stage of the season to date: 30 points, eight rebounds, nine assists and five steals. Dauster believes the Cyclones are a very good team but not a top 10 team. His points are valid — the Michigan and BYU wins don’t have the same cachet now as they did in November, and their best wins (Iowa and Baylor) came at the impregnable Hilton Coliseum. Regardless of what anyone thinks about them, the Cyclones are now one of only five undefeated teams in college basketball along with Arizona, Syracuse, Wisconsin and Wichita State.
  2. When a team commits 18 turnovers in a conference game, it usually spells doom for the road team. Kansas State was that road team on Tuesday night and still somehow emerged with an 18-point win over TCU, 65-47. The difference for the Wildcats was winning the rebounding edge over the Horned Frogs by 16 boards. “They are not a good rebounding team,” forward Thomas Gipson said. “They play hard and everything, but we really wanted to emphasize our rebounding against them. I feel like we did a good job with that.” Now Kansas State’s winning streak is at 10 games, its longest since the Elite Eight season of 2009-10. Their buddies from Lawrence will be their next opponent on Saturday.
  3. Jerry Palm’s latest bracketology has seven Big 12 teams in the field of 68. Think about that: 70 percent of an entire conference is projected to make the NCAA Tournament. What a number, considering that the Big East’s 11 bids in 2011 accounted for 68.8 percent of that conference. According to Palm, Kansas State and Texas were selected as First Four teams headed to Dayton, Ohio. If they were picked as two of the final teams in, I wouldn’t be so sure if I’d take both. While Kansasa State has recorded its best wins (Ole Miss, Gonzaga, George Washington, and Oklahoma State) within the state of Kansas, those wins are collectively better than Texas’, which pretty much starts and ends with North Carolina in Chapel Hill. But that’s why the season doesn’t end on January 8. Who knows, maybe at season’s end the Big 12 will have seven resumes that are worthy of NCAA Tournament bids.
  4. On Monday, Kansas State’s Marcus Foster picked up Big 12 Newcomer of the Week honors, but the accolades don’t stop there. In a collaboration between the Wayman Tisdale Award and CBSSports.com, Foster has won the Wayman Tisdale National Freshman of the Week for his play against George Washington and Oklahoma State. This is certainly a breath of fresh air when you consider that the award seemed like it’d be passed around between Jabari Parker, Aaron Gordon, Tyler Ennis, Andrew Wiggins and the Kentucky freshmen. Hooray for three-star recruits!
  5. West Virginia has missed some opportunities to rack up important wins in non-league play but leading scorer Eron Harris is encouraged by the team’s 2-0 start in the Big 12. Yes, those two wins came against Texas Tech and TCU both of which have worse overall records than the Mountaineers. It doesn’t seem to make a difference to Harris. “I don’t care what team you’re playing in the Big 12, it’s a tough conference,” Harris told MetroNews. “It’s significant.” Their first non-Texas opponent will come Saturday when WVU takes on Oklahoma State in Morgantown. We’ll see if things really are different.
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Big 12 M5: 01.06.14 Edition

Posted by Nate Kotisso on January 6th, 2014

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  1. Is it time to hit the panic button in Lawrence? San Diego State walked into Allen Fieldhouse on Sunday and beat Kansas, 71-67, ending the Jayhawks’ 68-game home winning streak against non-conference opponents. The Aztecs committed five more turnovers, blocked five fewer shots, had five fewer assists, and took 10 fewer free throw attempts than Bill Self’s team, and still somehow managed to get the huge win. It doesn’t get any easier for Kansas, though, as their first five Big 12 games over the next couple of weeks come against Oklahoma, Kansas State, Iowa State, Oklahoma State and Baylor.
  2. Speaking of panic buttons, Oklahoma State opened up Big 12 competition with a loss to still-streaking Kansas State. CollegeBasketballTalk cites Michael Cobbins’ season-ending injury as a key reason for the loss. Although Kansas State only outrebounded the Cowboys by one board, Cobbins’ presence would have been helpful against Thomas Gipson, who went for six of his 11 points in the final five minutes of the game. It’ll be something to continue to monitor as Travis Ford’s team deals with strong frontcourts at Kansas, Baylor and Iowa State midway through conference play.
  3. Oklahoma got its best win of the season on Saturday, rallying to beat arch-rival Texas, 88-85. The game could have ended differently for the Sooners, as Isaiah Cousins received two technical fouls that resulted in an ejection after elbowing Texas guard Demarcus Holland late in the game. In the first half, Cousins and Texas guard Isaiah Taylor were hit with technical fouls for jawing at each other. Fortunately, Jordan Woodard stepped up to score the Sooners’ final 10 points, sealing the win with two free throws at the 1:08 mark. Up next, Kansas invades the Lloyd Noble Center on Wednesday night.
  4. Another day and another win for unbeaten Iowa State. The Cyclones got out in front of Texas Tech by 15 before the Red Raiders mounted a comeback to tie the game with 12:33 in the second half. Enter the Cyclones’ Monte Morris. He checked in seconds later and finished the half with five points, one steal and a blocked shot in the 73-62 victory. I guess we can add Morris to the arsenal of Fred Hoiberg’s many weapons at his disposal.
  5. West Virginia basketball fans will remember Saturday’s win against TCU as its own version of “The Flu Game.” (Eh, maybe not). In addition to the Horned Frogs’ front line, Eron Harris battled the flu all week and still dropped 22 in WVU’s 74-69 win in Fort Worth. “I was sick all week—sick out of my mind,” Harris told MetroNews. “It was the flu. I just couldn’t go (during the week of practices), but I felt better waking up today (Saturday).” First there was Michael Jordan and now… Eron Harris. That’s a fair comparison in my book.
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Big 12 M5: 12.06.13 Edition

Posted by Nate Kotisso on December 6th, 2013

morning5_big12

  1. Oklahoma took care of Texas A&M-Corpus Christi 78-56 in a game moved up five hours from its original start time last night to avoid conflict with worsening weather conditions in Norman. The surprise performance came from junior forward D.J. Bennett, whose nine points, three boards and career-high five blocked shots added a different edge to the Sooners’ frontcourt. Bennett has dealt with a partially torn tendon since earlier in the season, and because of that hasn’t seen a lot of floor time, but this could be the start of his comeback. Goodness knows the Sooners could use someone who is effective down low when Ryan Spangler isn’t on the floor.
  2. It wasn’t easy, but Kansas State found a way to get by the Fighting Marshall Hendersons from Ole Miss, 61-58, on Thursday. Henderson tried his darndest to single-handedly win the game for the Rebels, but his 4-of-18 shooting (off the bench) did more harm than good. It’s fascinating to see how different the Wildcats play when Thomas Gipson is in the lineup — the junior tallied 15 points, six rebounds, and two blocks in the contest. And here’s an update on the attendance at Bramlage Coliseum: It certainly looked like the Wildcat faithful showed up last night. The 11,990 fans in the building made last night the third-highest attended game this season at Bramlage.
  3. A year and change into his sophomore season, Isaiah Austin is pretty pleased with his decision to attend Baylor. “Coming out of high school, everyone wants to go with the hype and Kentucky was the hype out of high school,” Austin told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. “But I made the best decision for me — coming here to Baylor playing under Coach Drew, who is just as great of a coach as coach Calipari is… we have just as great of faculty and staff and everybody. Kentucky is not better than us in any way, shape or form.” Oooh, them sounds like fighting words! Just in case you don’t miss it, Kentucky-Baylor from AT&T Stadium is tonight. A little big-time Friday night college hoops never hurt anybody.
  4. It was also more than a year ago when Iowa State guard Bubu Palo was arrested on charges of sexual abuse before those charges were dropped in mid-January. Now, Palo is seeking reinstatement to the men’s basketball program and in a text message to the Ames Tribune said his appeal was denied by the Iowa State Board of Regents. According to ISU’s Student Disciplinary Regulations, decisions made by the Regents can be appealed in district court. The Tribune is also reporting that Palo was initially exonerated from the SDR but that decision was appealed to ISU president Steven Leath, who in turn removed Palo from the team. I hope he can return to the floor as soon as possible. I know I’d hate to be missing out on a season like the one Iowa State is having right now.
  5. While Marcus Smart finishes off his sophomore campaign and the Stevie Clark situation is still very much up in the air, Oklahoma State received a letter of intent from Jared Terrell, the four-star point guard who committed to the Cowboys back in September. He’s 6’3″ and 220 pounds which will scare the living bejeezus out of opponents next year, and according to Travis Ford, can drive to the hoop, hit mid-range jumpers and make threes. I wonder if this official announcement translates into anything with Stevie Clark and his future with the team.
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Big 12 M5: 12.03.13 Edition

Posted by Nate Kotisso on December 3rd, 2013

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  1. The Big 12 offices released their weekly awards and this week’s honorees are Baylor’s Cory Jefferson for Player of the Week and Kansas’ Joel Embiid for Newcomer of the Week. Jefferson averaged 14 points, 7.8 rebounds, and 1.5 blocks per game as he helped the Bears make somewhat of a surprise appearance in the EA Sports Maui Invitational championship game. Jefferson currently leads his team in scoring (13.5) and rebounding (8.8) for the season. Embiid put up 9.7 points, 5.7 rebounds, and 3.3 blocks in three games at the Battle 4 Atlantis. Bill Self told the media following their win over UTEP that Embiid has “got to play more minutes…without fouling.” If this is how he’s playing after picking up basketball two years ago, I’m sure he’ll correct that issue soon enough.
  2. Hello, Texas fan. Caught up in the ups and downs of another football season and know nothing about the hoops squad? Burnt Orange Nation has your back with a breakdown of each player’s performance going into last night’s game vs Vanderbilt. The young Horns have three point guards and improved big men such as shooter Connor Lammert and center Cameron Ridley, who doesn’t look totally spooked when he gets the ball down on the block anymore. Their 7-1 record will be put to the test with Temple, North Carolina, and Michigan State popping up on their schedule in three of the next four games.
  3. Normally, a trip to the Bahamas is a good thing, but not if you ask Bill Self“I’m not depressed,” Self said. “I would say frustrated, but not just me. I think the players are frustrated, too, knowing we didn’t play like we are capable of playing while we were down here. Sure, the Jayhawks dropped one to Ryan Arcidiacono and Villanova but that was followed by a nervous win to a UTEP team going into Saturday at 4-3. On Sunday morning, he decided to give his players the opportunity to ride the rsort’s water slide. Did Self tag along? “I did not,” Self told the Lawrence Journal-World. Hard to believe Self and this guy are the same person.
  4. The return of Thomas Gipson is a welcome one for a Kansas State team struggling to find its offensive identity. He suffered a concussion in the early stages of the season and missed the first two games. Since playing starter’s minutes again, Gipson is averaging 17.6 points and 7.3 rebounds helping the Wildcats win two of their last three. Boy, do they need him. He now joins freshman Marcus Foster as the only two players averaging double-digit scoring. To be seven games into a soft non-conference schedule and rank 302nd out of nearly 350 Division I teams is discouraging for a team coming off a shared Big 12 title last year. It is going to be a long season in the Little Apple.
  5. What’s this: West Virginia is…scoring? They defeated Loyola (MD) 96-47 last night that saw five Mountaineers in double-figures: Remi Dibo (19), Terry Henderson (16), Eron Harris (14), Kevin Noreen (13), and Nathan Adrian (11). Through eight games this year, West Virginia is averaging 85.1 points per game compared to 69.3 through eight games last season. Now the month of December brings the meat of their non-conference schedule with a road date at Missouri followed by a home tilt against Gonzaga next Tuesday. Are they at-large worthy? That could be determined in the next seven days.
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Kansas State’s Early Struggles Possible Sign of Things to Come

Posted by Kory Carpenter (@Kory_Carpenter) on November 29th, 2013

Not much has gone right for Kansas State since capturing a share of the Big 12 regular season championship last season. The Wildcats advanced to the Big 12 Tournament championship game, was beateen by Kansas for the third time, then lost to #13 seed La Salle in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament. Leading scorers Rodney McGruder and Angel Rodriguez graduated and transferred, respectively, and now, eight months later, K-State opened the season with a 60-58 loss to Northern Colorado, the same Northern Colorado team that was picked to finish fourth in the Big Sky Conference this season.

Bruce Weber Can't Be Happy Through Six Games This Season. (USA Today Sports/Scott Sewell)

Bruce Weber Can’t Be Happy Through Six Games This Season. (USA Today Sports/Scott Sewell)

The Wildcats are 3-3 thanks to the Puerto Rico Tip-Off guaranteeing all teams three games, and that allowed them to grab another win over Long Beach State, a team which is #297 in the RPI and #230 on KenPom. The problems have been mostly on the offensive end for Kansas State. The Wildcats have yet to crack 72 points and are showing how dependent they were on McGruder and Rodriguez last season. Through six games, here are the key offensive metrics:

  • 62.7 PPG (#326 nationally)
  • 40.7% shooting (#293)
  • 12.8 APG (#179)

Head coach Bruce Weber returned four players who averaged at least 10 MPG last season, but only junior forward Thomas Gipson has shown signs of improvement early this season. His minutes per game are about the same as last but his scoring is up from a couple of points per game and he is shooting over 55 percent from the floor, up from 51.7% last season. The other three players – Will Spradling, Nino Williams, and Shane Southwell – have either gotten worse or plateaued. On the surface, Southwell’s stat line of 7.8 PPG/5.3 RPG/3.2 APG looks just fine. But the senior guard has been an albatross offensively. He is taking over eight shots per game and shooting a paltry 33.3 percent from the field. His three-point percentage is even worse at 16.7 percent, but it hasn’t stopped him from taking three attempts a game. It became clear some time ago that senior guard Will Spradling isn’t a 30 MPG-type of player at the Big 12 level, but that’s about where he has been the last three seasons. With guards like McGruder, Rodriguez, and Jacob Pullen next to him, he can play as a serviceable third guard or sixth man in a pinch. But more offensive responsibility this season hasn’t led to better results. His 35 percent shooting is the worst of his career, as is his 24 percent from three-point range.

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Big 12 M5: 11.25.13 Edition

Posted by Taylor Erickson on November 25th, 2013

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  1.  After losing a majority of their scoring from a season ago, Oklahoma head coach Lon Kruger said in the preseason that the team would have to rely on major contributions from senior guard Cameron Clark. It appears Clark heard his head coach’s message, dropping 32 points in the Sooners’ loss to #1 Michigan State in the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic final on Saturday night in Brooklyn. Oklahoma jumped out to 22-11 lead on the Spartans, providing some new optimism for Kruger’s squad leaving New York as it appears the Sooners might be poised to challenge for a finish in the upper half of the Big 12 this season.
  2. After two disappointing performances the first two rounds of the Puerto Rico Tip-Off in losses to Charlotte (68-61) and Georgetown (90-63), Kansas State managed to bounce back with a 52-38 win on Sunday morning against Long Beach, avoiding a last place finish in the non-conference tournament. Perhaps one reason for the improved play was due to the contributions from forward Thomas Gipson, who finished with 18 points and 10 rebounds in his first start for the Wildcats this season. Scoring will certainly be difficult at times this season for Bruce Weber’s group, so any consistent play they can get from players like Gipson on the offensive end will be much needed.
  3. After missing all of last season and the first three games of this season with a knee injury, TCU junior Amric Fields was determined to make an impact in his first game of the season for the Horned Frogs, scoring 16 points in a 64-62 win at Washington State on Sunday. After struggling to a last place finish in the Big 12 a season ago, this type of road non-conference win is huge for head coach Trent Johnson this early in the season.
  4. In most seasons, field goal percentage defense is a statistic Kansas head coach Bill Self pays close attention to as a measurement for how his team is faring on the defensive end. Given the rule changes this season in college basketball, Kansas’ first four opponents have averaged 42.5% from the field, far greater than their average of 36% a season ago. The Jayhawk offense seems to be adjusting fine scoring 80, 94, 86, and 88 in their first four games this year, shooting 57% from the floor. Against Towson on Friday night, Kansas ran the floor better than they have all season scoring often in transition. While Self would normally prefer a lower scoring defensive type game, it will be interesting to see if he opts for a more up and down game given their athleticism and ability to draw fouls and trips to the foul line this year.
  5. When Marcus Smart isn’t busy pouring in performances for Oklahoma State on the hardwood like he did last week against Memphis, he’s spending his time as a guest picker on ESPN’s College Gameday in Stillwater on Saturday morning. Smart became the first ever current current college athlete to be featured on the show during the picks segment, which is a little comical in a way given how serious the NCAA preaches amateurism in college athletics. With the Cowboys’ rout of Baylor on the football field Saturday night, Oklahoma State fans’ biggest worry of the day came when ESPN analyst Lee Corso began firing guns in the vicinity of Smart while wearing Pistol Pete’s mascot head.
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Big 12 Microsite Roundtable: Predicted Standings

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 8th, 2013

Yesterday, the four Big 12 Microsite writers (Kory Carpenter, Taylor Erickson, Brian Goodman and Nate Kotisso) named their preseason All-Big 12 selections. On college basketball’s opening day, we take a look at each writer’s predicted order of finish.

B12Standings

Some key takeaways:

You can have Marcus Smart and the Cowboys, but we’re picking Kansas until someone knocks them off: As we touched on in the Oklahoma State team preview, the Cowboys have as good a chance to dethrone Kansas as some of the top challengers in the Jayhawks’ nine-year stay atop the conference. But if a Big 12 coach is going to clown our writers by the end of the season, it’s going to be someone other than Bill Self.

  • TE: The reason I went with Kansas as my pick to win the Big 12 is a culmination of several different factors. While I think both teams not only have great talent in Wiggins and Smart, both also have strong supporting players around them. On Smart’s team, Markel Brown and Le’Bryan Nash are both extremely talented and could go for 30 on any night, and for Wiggins, he has two other potential lottery picks beside him, not to mention Perry Ellis. I think Kansas is just more of a complete team. While Oklahoma State certainly has the advantage at the point guard spot, I’m not sure there’s another position where you could definitively say that OSU is better, and in my opinion Kansas is far better and more talented in the frontcourt. Also, I fully recognize that Marcus Smart is an outstanding college basketball player – maybe the best in the nation – but I do think as point guard and team leader his squad sputtered a bit down the stretch last season when they really had a chance to knock Kansas out of the top spot with a win in Stillwater, along with an early exit in the Big 12 Tournament and a first round loss in the NCAA Tournament. Maybe it’s not fair to put all that blame on Smart, and some of it should be shifted to Travis Ford, which I guess leads me to my last point. If we hold all else equal and believe that the talent levels in Lawrence and Stillwater are more or less a wash, it becomes a question as to who you’d take as a coach to lead your team between Ford and Bill Self, and I think that answer is pretty obvious.
  • KC: Marcus Smart is one of the best guards in the country, but Andrew Wiggins is better. Markel Brown and Le’Bryan Nash are good guards as well, but there is a reason Wayne Selden is a projected lottery pick in next summer’s NBA Draft while Brown and Nash aren’t. And even if you canceled out both backcourts, the Cowboys don’t match up well with a Kansas frontcourt that has as much depth as any unit in the country. Joel Embiid is projected to be taken in the lottery along with Wiggins and Selden, and he won’t even be starting early in the season. And when you throw in the Bill Self and Allen Fieldhouse factors, it isn’t hard to pick Kansas to win the conference, again.

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Big 12 Team Preview: Kansas State Wildcats

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 5th, 2013

This week, the Big 12 microsite will finish previewing each of the league’s 10 teams. Today: Kansas State.

Where We Left Off: As he did at Illinois, Bruce Weber took the wheel of a new program and immediately led it to a regular season conference title. Despite an unimpressive defense and an offense that relied heavily on crashing the boards, Kansas State outperformed preseason expectations on its way to a 27-8 record and sharing the conference crown with Kansas. The postseason wasn’t so kind, however. Kansas State bowed out to the Jayhawks in the Big 12 Tournament final, losing to Bill Self’s team for the third time in 2013, and followed it up by dropping a heart-breaker to 13-seed La Salle in their NCAA Tournament opener. KSU had a tough offseason as well, losing Angel Rodriguez to Miami and Adrian Diaz to Florida International, while also waving goodbye to graduating seniors Rodney McGruder and Jordan Henriquez. Weber’s most prominent players still figure to be those recruited by former head coach Frank Martin, but he’ll look to begin shedding the reputation he garnered in Champaign as a coach who struggles to win without the previous regime’s holdovers.

Bruce Weber needs Shane Southwell to be the next Alpha Dog (er, cat) in The Little Apple. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner

Bruce Weber needs Shane Southwell to be the next Alpha Dog (er, cat) in The Little Apple. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)

Strengths: Last season, Shane Southwell was one of the most improved players in the Big 12, as he doubled his scoring average and then some, going from 3.2 points per game in 2011-12 to 8.4 last season. Where Southwell especially shined was beyond the arc, where he connected on 44 percent of his 110 attempts after hitting just 25 percent over the prior two seasons. Kansas State figures to rely on Southwell heavily this season, as the Wildcats’ trademark of cashing in on second chance buckets is destined to take a hit with a smaller lineup. KSU will need to score on its first attempts, and one man who can help take the pressure off Southwell is junior Thomas Gipson. At 6’7″ and 265 pounds, the big guy knows his way around the basket and takes up a ton of space. He’ll be counted on to flourish in a more significant role on both ends after averaging fewer than 20 minutes per game in each of his first two seasons. Farther out, Will Spradling is one of the Big 12’s more familiar faces. While the senior is far from automatic, he shoots the ball well enough from beyond the arc to command the respect of opposing defenders.

Weaknesses: Despite Spradling’s experience and ability to knock down set shots from distance, question marks abound in the backcourt, assuming Southwell spends most of his time on the wing this season. Spradling is hardly a sure thing and Weber will need to find a solution at the point among a glut of unknown commodities such as freshmen Marcus Foster and Nigel Johnson.  The Wildcats may also struggle down low until a capable complement to Gipson emerges. Sophomore D.J. Johnson is the only player taller than 6’7″ (6’11” Georgetown transfer Brandon Bolden will sit out the season, per NCAA rules), so the Wildcats will field a frontcourt rotation that’s much smaller than what fans are used to seeing.

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