Big 12 M5: 11.14.14 Edition

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 14th, 2014

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  1. Yesterday, we talked about Iowa State‘s plans to play in a neutral court event next Thanksgiving. Late Thursday night, we learned about another team planning ahead. In 2016, Kansas will tip off its season against Indiana from a military base in Pearl Harbor as part of the Armed Forces Classic. One of the biggest ongoing storylines in college basketball is how the sport can better market the start of the season, and while this event doesn’t always have the fanfare of the Champions Classic or some of the other 24-Hour Marathon battles, it has helped bring the start of the season to the national spotlight.
  2. Oklahoma State blog Pistols Firing has 20 predictions for the Cowboys’ season. As discussed in our conference preview Thursday, we aren’t very high on Travis Ford’s team, we can definitely see some of the more positive predictions coming true, such as OSU outperforming its expectations to finish sixth, Le’Bryan Nash making first-team all-conference and Travis Ford holding onto his job.
  3. Outside of the conference, tonight’s Louisville-Minnesota match-up is getting headlines as it pits Rick Pitino against his son, Richard, but right here in the Big 12 is another father-son battle as Tubby Smith and the Texas Tech Red Raiders will open their season against his Smith’s son, G.G. Smith, who is making his head coaching debut with Loyola (Maryland). Smith cut his teeth with the Greyhounds as an assistant under former Loyola head coach Jimmy Patsos for six years.
  4. Remember last year when Kansas State lost three of its first five games (including its debut against Northern Colardo) leading to some warranted bubble conversation before Thanksgiving even hit? The Wildcats will look to avoid a similar fate when it tips off against Southern Utah tonight. As the 342nd-ranked team in the country according to KenPom, we don’t expect the Thunderbirds to pull this season’s opening night upset, but the Wildcats should now know more than anyone how important it is to take care of business early in the season.
  5. For a program the reached the Sweet 16 last year, there hasn’t been much chatter around Baylor. Part of that is because the Bears lost what had been the cornerstones of their program over the last two years in Cory Jefferson, Isaiah Austin and Brady Heslip, and another part of that is because the Bears don’t have the incoming star power that Kansas, Texas and Iowa State has. Still, Scott Drew is excited for the lights to come on tonight when his team squares off against McNeese State, as he should, because the Bears still have a lot of remaining talent in Rico Gathers, Kenny Chery, Royce O’Neale, Taurean Prince and redshirt freshmen Johnathan Motley and Al Freeman.
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Big 12 M5: 11.10.14 Edition

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 10th, 2014

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  1. Rustin Dodd of The Kansas City Star has a terrific extended profile on Kansas phenom Kelly Oubre. The piece details his upbringing from leaving New Orleans in anticipation of Hurricane Katrina, through his explosion on to the national recruiting scene at Findlay Prep, to where he is now, mere days away from making his debut for one of the most storied programs in college basketball. Oubre displays a maturity beyond his years through carefully-collected thoughts and a contemplative attitude. Given Kansas’ roster, it doesn’t look like he’ll have to shoulder a huge load during his freshman season, but he could very well be the Jayhawks’ X-factor in 2015.
  2. The typical caveats of preseason games apply here, but Iowa State newcomer Bryce Dejean-Jones looked ready to take on a big role with the Cyclones as the team smoked Viterbo (La Crosse., Wisconsin) 115-48 on Friday night. Both Royce White and DeAndre Kane hit the ground running in their sole seasons in Ames under Fred Hoiberg, so it will be fun to see if Dejean-Jones will be able to do the same thing starting Friday in the team’s season opener against Oakland.
  3. Oklahoma State knows that despite being picked to finish near the bottom of the Big 12, this season is an important one for the future of the program. As a result, the Pokes are trying to build chemistry by spending more time together off the court, according to The Tulsa World. The article brings up the notion that, with an egoless squad, both Travis Ford and the team are hopeful they can improve on last year’s massive disappointment. While that may sound like eye-rolling coachspeak, the tone isn’t all that dissimilar from the mindset Texas head coach Rick Barnes took after Julien Lewis, Sheldon McClellan, Ioannis Papapetrou and Myck Kabongo all left Austin in 2013. This year’s team doesn’t look nearly as good as last year’s Texas team, but the Cowboys are probably as good a bet as any team in the bottom of the Big 12 to outperform their expectations.
  4. Bruce Weber‘s third season with Kansas State should bring increased expectations, according to Kellis Robinett of The Wichita Eagle. The Wildcats will need to replace about 30 percent of their scoring production from last season, but that should be doable given a roster featuring a stud guard in Marcus Foster and a promising trio of newcomers in Brandon BoldenJustin Edwards and Stephen Hurt. Weber led Kansas State to its first back-to-back 20-win seasons since 1977, but early NCAA Tournament losses have prevented the program from getting a little more respect on a national scale.
  5. Oklahoma sophomore Jordan Woodard cracked the preseason Bob Cousy Award watch list last week, and it’s not hard to see why. As a freshman, Woodard displayed advanced poise and confidence on his way to a fantastic debut season. With a year now under his belt, college basketball fans can expect him to make a big leap. While it will be a lot of fun to watch him lead the Sooners’ high-octane offense, the quality of Oklahoma’s defense is what will really need to improve this year.
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Big 12 Season Preview: Oklahoma State Cowboys

Posted by Brian Goodman on October 27th, 2014

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

Strengths. This offseason saw a lot of roster turnover in Stillwater. Marcus Smart left after an up-and-down sophomore year and Markel Brown graduated, but those losses were presumed all along. The departures of Kamari Murphy, Brian Williams and Gary Gaskins via transfer, however, caused a bigger dent, but even after all that attrition, the Cowboys return a very solid core. Le’Bryan Nash finally improved his efficiency as a junior; the sharpshooting Phil Forte is back for a third campaign; the return of Michael Cobbins from a significant Achilles’ injury will help inside; and LSU transfer Anthony Hickey provides a steady hand at the point that can also shoot a good enough deep ball to keep opposing backcourts from cheating towards Forte.

The Oklahoma State Cowboys hopes Le'Bryan Nash can wipe away the nightmares of the 2013-14 season with a strong senior campaign. (AP)

The Oklahoma State Cowboys hope Le’Bryan Nash can wipe away the nightmares of the 2013-14 season with a strong senior campaign. (AP)

Weaknesses. The biggest questions here come from a depth perspective. Down low, Travis Ford will have options, but we won’t really know what the Cowboys are capable of until they get a few games under their belts. Marek Soucek and Leyton Hammonds are the most experienced returnees inside, but neither did enough last season to inspire much confidence. Freshman Mitch Solomon will also be available, as will 7’1″ JuCo transfer Anthony Allen, so Ford will have to hope someone emerges as a last line of defense. There are unknowns in the backcourt, too, as Jeff Newberry and Tyree Griffin will get backup opportunities, but it’s tough to say how they will work out. There’s a nice amount of talent in Stillwater, and the starters have enough experience to play well, but it’s tough to see that as enough to muster a top-half finish in the Big 12 without a few breaks. Read the rest of this entry »

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Big 12 M5: 10.23.2014 Edition

Posted by Brian Goodman on October 23rd, 2014

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  1. Yesterday afternoon, a report surfaced alleging that Texas would start paying its student-athletes an amount in the area of $10,000 per year on top of the typical scholarship. Initially, the report set Twitter abuzz, as it would be the biggest domino to fall in the wake of the O’Bannon ruling, but it later turned out that Texas Athletic Director Steve Patterson was merely speaking hypothetically in response to a question about what might happen if the NCAA were to lose all of its appeals from the landmark. Despite the initial misinterpretation, it was interesting to get a glimpse from an administrator at a big athletics school into what the future may hold as the NCAA model is continuously challenged.
  2. Travis Ford has faced a lot of scrutiny over the past year (most of it deserved), but it hasn’t stopped him from making hay on the recruiting trail. Oklahoma State‘s latest commit came in Tuesday from 2016 guard Tre Evans. One interesting angle to Evans’ recruitment is that although his father, Terry, was a 1,300-point scorer for rival Oklahoma and later a staffer for Kelvin Sampson, the Sooners never came calling for Tre. A chip understandably developed on Tre’s shoulder, so even though he’s only a junior, he sounds very eager to get to Stillwater.
  3. In the current age of freshmen hype, we’ve seen how easy it can be for good upperclassmen to get lost in the shuffle. Last season, Kansas forward Perry Ellis flew under the radar compared to the Jayhawks’ one-and-done guys, and as of now, he’s one of college basketball’s most underrated players. That status is likely to change during the preview season as regional and national outlets take a closer look at what will make the Jayhawks go this year (especially as Cliff Alexander and Kelly Oubre take time to get settled) but for the time being, Ellis is about as underrated as a player for an annual contender can be. While Ellis is reliable around the rim, he was also a factor in Kansas’ disappointing defensive performance this season, so he’s definitely someone to keep an eye on.
  4. Over 20 years after his tough 1992 Cincinnati team crashed the Final Four, Bob Huggins is still fighting a reputation as a perceived villain, according to Fox Sports’ Reid Forgrave. A given fan’s impression of the coaching vet probably depends on how long they’ve been following his career and whether they view teams as an extension of their coach. Huggins’ best teams — whether they’ve been at Dayton, Cincinnati or West Virginia — have always had an edge to them and thrived during a time when many coaches had a defensive philosophy based in some part on the idea that refs can only call so much contact. However, it’s also true that Huggins has always cared deeply for his players and never minces words when it comes to his teams’ performance in a given game or season. Huggins isn’t without flaws, but in today’s college basketball landscape, there are definitely more sketchy characters.
  5. Iowa State forward Georgios Tsalmpouris suffered a mild ankle sprain in practice, but should be ready to go for the start of the season. At 7’1″, Tsalmpouris is the tallest player to suit up for the Cyclones since 2004, but at 220 pounds, he has some bulking up to do before he becomes a key cog in Iowa State’s rotation. There isn’t much reason to worry about Tsalmpouris’ injury, but someone as raw as him needs all the development he can get.
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Big 12 Media Day Recap: A Photo For The Ages

Posted by Nate Kotisso on October 16th, 2014

If you haven’t heard, Kansas City’s a happening place these days. Aside from that ALCS thing in town yesterday, the Big 12 also held its annual men’s basketball media day at the Sprint Center (here’s all that stuff, if it tickles your fancy). It was your run-of-the-mill media day: Reporters asked bland questions, players and coaches gave calculated answers, and no one really learned anything new. The apex of the festivities came, however, when the Big 12’s Twitter account tweeted out a group photo will all 10 of the conference’s head coaches. Here it is below:

Bask in all its glory (photo via @Big12Conference on Twitter)

Bask in All of its Glory (photo via @Big12Conference)

Instead of breaking down the nonstop action from media day, the following were the “thoughts” that went through each coach’s mind at the time the above photo was taken.*

  • Baylor’s Scott Drew: “I hate coming here when the Tournament is in an odd-numbered year. (sighs) OK, what should I do here, hands together or apart? Together? Apart? Wait, did I use all my timeouts yet? [camera takes photo] Ah heck, they’re apart.”
  • Iowa State’s Fred Hoiberg: “Put me in the back, will ya? That’s fine. I’ll end up dreamier than I was before.”
  • Kansas’ Bill Self: “Really wanted to wear Wiggins’ draft day suit again. Knew I shouldn’t have had that glass of butter with dinner.”
  • Kansas State’s Bruce Weber: (chuckles to himself) “I can’t believe Ford was in ‘The 6th Man.’ That’s the best movie of all-time! I bet that made a heckuva lot of money in theaters!”
  • Oklahoma’s Lon Kruger:  “I would take another coaching job right now if it meant I didn’t have to take this photo.”
  • Oklahoma State’s Travis Ford: “This contract I have means that I’m pretty much bulletproof. I could pull down Drew’s pants right now and I’d STILL get that check next week. [mulls it over] Nah, I won’t do that to ‘em. He’s probably worried that he has to call a timeout here or something.”
  • Texas’ Rick Barnes: “I bet if I left media day, traveled the world and missed the entire year, we’d still have a better record than the football team.”
  • TCU’s Trent Johnson: “I don’t know why this camera guy told me to move this far up. He could have gotten a much better shot of me if I stood at half-court like I wanted.”
  • Texas Tech’s Tubby Smith: “I should have been more direct with people calling me Orlando instead of Tubby.”
  • West Virginia’s Bob Huggins:  “I don’t think anyone here gets my E. Gordon Gee Halloween costume.”

*thoughts confirmed by unnamed sources

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Five Takeaways From the Preseason Big 12 Coaches Poll

Posted by Brian Goodman on October 9th, 2014

We’re a little over a month away from the first games of the 2014-15 season, and that means the typical roll-out of preseason coaches polls, all-conference teams and all of the other fun stuff that comes with the countdown. This morning, the Big 12 Conference released its annual preseason coaches poll. You can find the complete rankings here, but here are the five biggest takeaways from the release.

  1. Kansas picked to lead the pack (again), though narrowly: Death, taxes, the sun shining in the east, Adam Sandler making terrible movies, and the Jayhawks winning the Big 12. Sometimes, there’s just no need to complicate life’s certainties. Kansas’ roster isn’t without questions, but whose isn’t? Until someone knocks the Jayhawks off the mountain, any predictions in favor of other teams are simply bold picks. The Longhorns are right behind the Jayhawks with three first-place votes to Kansas’ six in this poll, and have one of the best combinations of talent and depth in the country, but don’t count on the Jayhawks to give up their crown this season.
  2. Sooners on the rise: Oklahoma checks in after Texas and was one of the bigger overachievers in college basketball last season. Lon Kruger returns nearly everyone from a young roster that racked up 23 wins, a second-place finish in the Big 12, and an NCAA Tournament bid. While the team’s defense will need to improve, the offensive firepower should still be there, and the squad can catch a huge break if Houston transfer TaShawn Thomas is ruled eligible. Combine all of that with Kruger’s track record and there are plenty of reasons to believe the Sooners will build on last year’s success.

    Andrew Wiggins is a pro, but Bill Self has reloaded Kansas once again. (KUSports.com)

    Andrew Wiggins is a pro, but Bill Self has reloaded Kansas once again. (KUSports.com)

  3. Is the Big 12 selling Fred Hoiberg short?: Before the 2012 and 2013 seasons, the league’s coaches penciled Iowa State in the bottom half of the standings, and both times, Fred Hoiberg exceeded expectations. Last year, the coaches appeared to finally smarten up, as they tabbed the Cyclones to finish fourth, but Iowa State still outperformed those projections, finishing third in the league and winning the Big 12 Tournament. The departures of DeAndre Kane and Melvin Ejim appear to have given the coaches pause this season in sliding the Cyclones down to fifth, but we’ve seen The Mayor rebuild too many times to believe he can’t muster a top-four finish, possibly top three if things break right for his club. Look for Bryce Dejean-Jones, Georges Niang and Monte Morris to do some big things in 2014-15.
  4. What to make of the perceptions of Kansas State and Baylor: Both the Wildcats and Bears face significant roster turnover from last season’s NCAA Tournament teams, but Bruce Weber’s team was tabbed fourth and Scott Drew’s team sixth. It appears as though the league’s coaches are looking for Wildcats guard Marcus Foster to make a big leap as a sophomore and for Baylor to continue its every-other-year pattern, because I just don’t see what else can explain the 17-point difference in the preseason vote tally.
  5. At 7th and 8th place, Bob Huggins and Travis Ford face big seasons: West Virginia’s transition to the Big 12 has been a rocky one. The Mountaineers are just 49-49 over the last three seasons, and while it’s tough to picture Bob Huggins’ seat getting too hot in Morgantown, it’s time for him to produce. Juwan Staten could be the best player in the Big 12, but his amazing talent will be wasted if West Virginia doesn’t hear its name called on Selection Sunday. Meanwhile, in Stillwater, Travis Ford looks to pick up the pieces from one of the most disappointing seasons by a Power Five conference school in recent memory. To his credit, he’s made some inroads on the recruiting circuit, but it’s hard to see freshmen like Joe Burton and Mitch Solomon being good enough complements to Le’Bryan Nash and Phil Forte for the Cowboys to make a run.
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Oklahoma State AD Reveals Misgivings About Extending Travis Ford

Posted by Brian Goodman on April 1st, 2014

With a dearth of live games this week, the biggest stories around college basketball from the teams not prepping for a trip to Dallas this weekend have involved the annual rite of spring known as the coaching carousel. “One Shining Moment” won’t air for another six nights, but we’ve already seen switches at the top of several programs including Auburn, Virginia Tech, South Florida, Washington State and a handful of mid-majors, while leadership at other programs like Boston College, Wake Forest and California are in the midst of finding their next coaches. Meanwhile, in Stillwater, Oklahoma State athletic director Mike Holder has resigned himself to the fact that he’s bound to his current head coach Travis Ford because of an extension agreed to in 2009. Things have gone about as poorly as could be since then, and in an article by Berry Tramel posted Saturday for The Oklahoman, Holder was surprisingly candid about the struggles and shortcomings that have become all too pervasive for the Cowboys over the last five years.

Despite another disappointing season from Travis Ford, the Cowboys are bound to him for another five seasons.   (Mark D. Smith/US Presswire)

Despite another disappointing campaign from Travis Ford, the Cowboys are bound to him for another five seasons. (Mark D. Smith/US Presswire)

Oklahoma State fans may want to look away for this next part, even though they’re probably already familiar with what has happened since Holder locked up Ford following the 2009 NCAA Tournament. Despite the intervening gift of two years from Marcus Smart and solid seasons from the complementary core of Markel Brown, Le’Bryan Nash and Phil Forte, Oklahoma State has suffered a pair of NCAA Tournament misses followed by three straight losses in the Big Dance. This season in particular brought further indignities: Smart’s suspension for shoving a fan; a season-ending injury to Michael Cobbins; promising freshman Stevie Clark’s run-ins with the law resulting in dismissal. This season, anything that seemingly could have gone wrong went wrong, whether it was due to bad luck or other reasons, but a quick turnaround doesn’t appear to be in the cards.

“We certainly expected a better season than what we had. There are multiple reasons people are frustrated. I don’t think anyone foresaw it playing out like it did.”

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Will Oklahoma State’s Up and Down Season Lead to Dallas?

Posted by Kory Carpenter on March 21st, 2014

For teams receiving at-large bids in the NCAA Tournament, there isn’t a worst spot to land than an #8 or #9 seed. Because unless your postseason goals begin and end with winning one game, your March dreams more often than not will be dashed in the first weekend. Since the tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985, #1 seeds have reached the Sweet Sixteen almost 85 percent of the time. Nine-seed Oklahoma State will be facing those odds this weekend in the San Diego pod. They face #8 seed Gonzaga Friday afternoon and would more than likely see #1 seed Arizona in the Round of 32 should they get past the Bulldogs. That game is a tossup, but we’re talking ceilings here and the biggest obstacle to Oklahoma State reaching its ceiling will be waiting for them in the Round of 32.

Can a resurgent Marcus Smart lead Oklahoma State to the Final Four? (Stephen R. Sylvanie/USA TODAY)

Can a resurgent Marcus Smart lead Oklahoma State to the Final Four? (Stephen R. Sylvanie/USA TODAY)

For most #9 seeds, their realistic ceiling is playing the #1 seed close. But Oklahoma State isn’t your typical #9 seed. The Cowboys began the year with Big 12 title and Final Four hopes. But they lost their leading shot-blocker, junior forward Michael Cobbins, for the season with an achilles tear on Dec. 30. Sophomore guard Marcus Smart’s meltdown against Texas Tech led to a three-game suspension in early February, which came in the middle of a seven-game skid that had people questioning if the Cowboys would even make the NCAA Tournament. But Smart has played better than he had all season since returning on February 22, averaging 18.7 PPG and 6 APG. His team is 5-2 in that stretch with losses in overtime against Iowa State and Kansas. Oklahoma State has its flaws. Travis Ford isn’t the best in-game coach in the world and they are one of the smallest teams in the country. But their talent far exceeds their resume, and therefore, their seed.

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Big 12 M5: 03.12.14 Edition

Posted by Brian Goodman on March 12th, 2014

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  1. Over the years, the Big 12 Tournament has seen its share of jaw-dropping individual performers: Paul Pierce, Marcus Fizer, Kevin Durant, Mike Singletary, and Alec Burks, just to name a few. While we’re excited to see whether Andrew Wiggins steps up for Kansas and joins that list, you may also want to buy stock in Kansas State guard Marcus Foster. The freshman has come on strong lately, pouring in six 20-point games over his last 12 outings. Earlier this week, he joined Michael Beasley as the only freshmen in Kansas State history to be named to an All-Big 12 Team (Foster was selected to this season’s second team). His first test this week should be a fun one, as he will be matched up against DeAndre Kane and the Iowa State Cyclones tomorrow.
  2. The periphery of the NCAA Tournament bubble is not where West Virginia pictured itself at the beginning of the season, but November and December losses have come back to haunt the Mountaineers. Bob Huggins’ team won eight games in non-con play, but it’s the five losses outside of the league (to Virginia Tech, Wisconsin, Missouri, Gonzaga and Purdue) that are wearing heavy for the Mountaineers as they face the latest in a string of must-win games, Thursday’s Big 12 Tournament quarterfinal. At minimum, they need to get to Saturday’s final to warrant legitimate conversation. It’s do-or-die time for the ‘Eers.
  3. Last Saturday, Oklahoma State faced a textbook foul-or-defend scenario at the end of regulation against Iowa State. Cowboys head coach Travis Ford opted not to foul, and he ended up paying the price, as Cyclone Naz Long hit a three-pointer at the end of regulation to force overtime. As postseason play gears up, we may get the chance to find out if Ford learned his lesson. If Oklahoma State gets past Texas Tech tonight, it won’t be difficult to picture a quarterfinal meeting against Kansas coming down to a last-second tactical call. As the eight-seed, Oklahoma State is a wolf in sheep’s clothing, but what will happen when the pressure’s on?
  4. In all sports, including college basketball, the thought process behind Coach Of The Year awards can be a polarizing one. It’s usually reserved as a mea culpa for those who underestimated the winner at the start of the season even though there are times when picking a winner should be much simpler than that. While Rick Barnes and Lon Kruger brought home the hardware (depending on if you look at the Big 12 coaches’ vote or the AP vote), Gary Parrish of CBSSports.com contends that a case can be made rather easily for Bill Self even though everyone knew he had the most talent in the league coming into the season. It’s tough to deny Parrish’s arguments. After all, if winning the conference with the league’s best talent was so easy, why hasn’t Kentucky done it the last two years?
  5. Oklahoma was one of the biggest surprises in the Big 12, finishing in second place behind Kansas with a workmanlike season. With a brief lull between the end of the regular season and the Sooners’ quarterfinal game tomorrow, The Crimson and Cream Machine took a quick look at Oklahoma’s personnel for next season. The biggest thing that comes to mind is that sophomore Ryan Spangler is going to get some help down low. Lon Kruger is bringing three forwards into the fold, and all of them weigh at least 200 pounds. Cameron Clark and Tyler Neal may be on their way out, but Oklahoma should be even better next year thanks to some incoming reinforcements in the paint.
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Big 12 M5: 02.21.14 Edition

Posted by Kory Carpenter on February 21st, 2014

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  1. Gary Parrish over at CBSSports.com has a good piece about coaches on the hot seat and Oklahoma State coach Travis Ford is rightfully mentioned. Ford’s job might have been saved after Marcus Smart decided to return for his junior season, but Smart’s implosion and the Cowboy’s fall from grace might leave Ford in the unemployment line.
  2. ESPN’s bracketologist Joe Lunardi updated his lates bracket yesterday and the Big 12 had several representatives. Kansas led the way as a #2 seed in the Midwest region, followed by Iowa State as a #4, Oklahoma and Texas as #6’s, and Kansas State as a #7. The Jayhawks probably have the easiest path with Wichita State as their #1, but don’t count out Texas in this bracket. The Longhorns would have a size advantage over every potential opponent until the Elite Eight.
  3. It shouldn’t surprise anyone, but Joel Embiid is about to break the freshman block record at Kansas. The 7’0” center from Cameroon is one block shy of the school’s freshman record of 63 blocks set by Eric Chenowith in the 1997-98 season. Embiid transformed from a two- or three-year project into the projected No. 1 pick in this summer’s NBA draft, in large part to his ability to block shots.
  4. Here’s another good article regarding the return of Marcus Smart, this time by Sports Illustrated writer Brian Hamilton. “The jeopardy of missing the NCAA Tournament altogether is very real,” writes Hamilton. And he is write. The Cowboys were struggling before Smart’s suspension and they face an uphill battle when he returns this weekend.
  5. Iowa State is preparing to face lowly TCU tomorrow and head coach Fred Hoiberg had trouble finding bad clips to show his team from their win against Texas on Monday. Understandable. The Cyclones knocked off the Longhorns 85-76 and will probably be the second most dangerous Big 12 team in the NCAA Tournament.
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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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Three Thoughts on Baylor’s Monday Night Win Over Oklahoma State

Posted by Taylor Erickson on February 18th, 2014

Take a trip back in time to January 3, 2014. Baylor had just demolished lowly Savannah State at home in its final tune-up before conference play. Scott Drew’s team was 12-1, ranked 9th in the nation with neutral site, non-conference victories over a Spencer Dinwiddie-led Colorado team and a Kentucky squad that was ranked 3rd at the time. Baylor looked like one of the Big 12’s elite, possibly capable of threatening Kansas’ nine-year reign atop the league. On that same evening in early January, Oklahoma State was preparing for its first conference game of the season — a road contest at an up-and-down Kansas State group looking for a win to ignite its start in league play. The Cowboys, much like their fellow Big 12 competitors from Waco, had raced out to a 12-1 record to begin the season, and found themselves ranked 6th in the nation after non-conference victories over Memphis and the same Colorado team. Marcus Smart was averaging over 17 points per game, and perhaps even more so than Baylor, Travis Ford’s team looked like it had a legitimate shot to take down the then-shaky Jayhawks.

With a thin Oklahoma State front line, Baylor big men Corey Jefferson and Isaiah Austin proved too much inside.

With a thin Oklahoma State front line, Baylor big men Corey Jefferson and Isaiah Austin proved too much inside. (Waco Tribune-Herald)

At that time, a mid-February Big Monday battle in Waco between these two teams looked like must-see television. Boy, how quickly things can change. Instead of a match-up that could have (should have?) had serious league title implications, this game instead featured the eighth and ninth teams in the Big 12 standings, fighting for their NCAA Tournament lives. The winner of last night’s game would move to three games back of .500 in conference play; the loser would stare at a 4-9 record and the notion of having to win every game left just to break even. What took place for the better part of 30 minutes on Monday night looked exactly like a contest between two bottom-dwellers, regardless of the names on the fronts of the jerseys. And if that wasn’t enough, a comedy of head-scratching coaching decisions down the stretch left most observers wondering what the heck they just witnessed. Nevertheless, a 70-64 overtime win for Baylor proved to be a tremendous feat for a team clinging to hopes of an at-large bid. Here are three thoughts on the showdown that was in Waco Monday night.

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