Thanks to Recent Hot Stretch, Oklahoma State Appears Tourney-Bound

Posted by Brian Goodman on February 10th, 2015

Coming into the season, the recipe for Travis Ford to get Oklahoma State back to the NCAA Tournament was tough, but doable: Coax solid performances from the core of Le’Bryan NashPhil Forte and Michael Cobbins; ask transfer Anthony Hickey to pick up some of the slack from Marcus Smart’s departure and hope for good years from his capable but unproven role players. While Smart, Markel Brown and two other players left last year’s disappointing team, the remaining core has allowed for a somewhat smooth transition. Still, the Cowboys’ prospects in a loaded Big 12 this season were considered modest at best. Conference coaches certainly didn’t make much of their chances, voting them eighth in the preseason poll. Now, a few months later and with only six games remaining in the regular season, Oklahoma State is nearing lock status for an unlikely NCAA Tournament bid bid thanks to a recent stretch of high-quality basketball.

There's plenty of reason to smile in Stillwater (Mark D. Smith/USA Today Sports)

There’s plenty of reason to smile in Stillwater (Mark D. Smith/USA Today Sports)

Since suffering its worst loss of the season at Kansas State on January 24, Ford’s team has reeled off three straight wins against ranked teams and four of five overall, highlighted by last weekend’s comeback triumph over first-place Kansas and punctuated by a Monday night sweep of a very good Baylor team. The win over the Bears was especially noteworthy as it marked the Cowboys’ first sweep of Baylor since 2006, back when Baylor was barred from playing non-league games in the fallout from the Dave Bliss-Patrick Dennehy scandal. The Cowboys’ recently excellent play couldn’t have come at a better time. They had a successful if not overly impressive non-conference season with neutral court wins against Oregon State and Tulsa accompanied by a nice road win at Memphis, but they lost their two toughest tests before the new year — dropping a game at South Carolina and another to a resurgent Maryland team. The team appeared to have the potential to outperform the meager preseason expectations, but it was unclear whether they would pick up enough wins to make the necessary push for the Dance. Now that they’ve played seven games against the conference’s best teams, though, most of the grunt work is behind them.

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Big 12 M5: 01.28.15 Edition

Posted by Chris Stone on January 28th, 2015


  1. Texas once again struggled on Monday in an 89-86 loss at Iowa State. The Longhorns trailed by double digits for the majority of the game, but mounted a furious second half comeback that included hitting 10 three-pointers. The story of the game, though, was the failure of the Longhorns’ zone defense. Iowa State led by 11 at the end of the first half by using Georges Niang at the free throw line to consistently break down the zone. Texas has a massive front line, but when their bigs are slow in rotation, it creates open looks for opponents at the rim. Although the zone was effective in non-conference play, Big 12 opponents are scoring 100.9 points per 100 possessions against the Longhorns so far.
  2. TCU has only won a single conference game at this point in the season, but that hasn’t stopped opposing coaches from taking notice of the Horned Frogs’ improvements. Ahead of their matchup on Wednesday, Kansas coach Bill Self said, “We know this will be a much different team than we’ve seen in the last couple of years.” The numbers say he’s right. Jesse Newell of The Topeka Capital-Journal pointed out that TCU is the only team in the top 50 of Ken Pomeroy’s efficiency ratings this year that ranked outside of the top 200 last season. The Horned Frogs’ 24th ranked adjusted defensive efficiency is a major factor in their improvement.
  3. One major criticism of college basketball this season has been the slow pace of games. Rush the Court’s Andrew Murawa wrote this fine piece on the subject recently. Tuesday night’s game between West Virginia and Kansas State did very little to silence the critics. The Mountaineers won a two-and-a-half hour marathon 65-59. The game featured 45 turnovers, 54 fouls, and 64 free throws. Bob Huggins called it “beautiful,” but reactions on Twitter painted a different picture. It took 14 minutes to finish the final 1:07 of the game. Perhaps it’s time for those in charge to listen to some of Andrew’s proposals.
  4. Oklahoma State picked up a big win over Baylor on Tuesday night. The Cowboys are fighting for a spot in the NCAA Tournament, and big man Michael Cobbins will be an integral piece of the puzzle. Although Cobbins only scored six points against Baylor, he grabbed 11 rebounds as Oklahoma State held the Bears below their conference average for offensive boards in the victory. Cowboys’ head coach Travis Ford is hopeful, saying, “We’re waiting for him to really hit his stride, and I think he has it in him and he will at some point.” Cobbins can provide Oklahoma State with an inside presence that they otherwise lack, so his continued improvement after returning from last season’s injury is something worth following.
  5. One final, somber note. Tuesday marked the anniversary of the January 27, 2001 plane crash that killed two members of Oklahoma State men’s basketball team, six members of the team’s traveling party, the pilot, and co-pilot. The team wore pregame shirts honoring those who lost their lives and Gallagher-Iba held a moment of silence prior to Tuesday’s game. The Cowboys’ athletic department spent the day remembering the victims of the accident. Consider this this author’s attempt to humbly do the same. Remember the 10.
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Big 12 M5: 01.21.15 Edition

Posted by Nate Kotisso on January 21st, 2015


  1. By now you’ve heard plenty about Jameel McKay, the forward at Iowa State. His fame grew a little more in last night’s win against Kansas State, tying career highs in points (15) and rebounds (seven) while blocking three shots in just 26 minutes of action. McKay brings what no big has brought to the Cyclones since Fred Hoiberg arrived back on campus five years ago. He’s a match-up nightmare. McKay is the guy who out-hustles opponents to make them look bad but has the physical gifts to make them look much worse. You’ll hear more and more about McKay as the season goes along. And you’ll love it.
  2. Aided by his 10-for-10 shooting game against Oklahoma State, Oklahoma‘s Buddy Hield was awarded Big 12 Player of the Week for the second time this season after getting the honor on November 17. Speaking of repeat winners, Kelly Oubre, Jr. of Kansas won Big 12 Newcomer of the Week after taking home the award on December 22. Oubre averaged 12 points and seven rebounds in a week where the Jayhawks split two games against two nationally-ranked teams in Oklahoma State and Iowa State. This season, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Kansas, Kansas State, Iowa State, Baylor and West Virginia have all combined to represent 20 of the 22 total Player or Newcomer of the Week awards in the Big 12. Amongst Texas, Texas Tech and TCU, those teams have combined to produce two players who won Player or Newcomer of the Week and that occurred in the same week: November 24. Methinks the league office will get on that.
  3. Kansas is eagerly awaiting for President Barack Obama’s scheduled visit to Lawrence tomorrow and that includes head coach Bill Self. ““We’re trying to get that worked out,” Self told the Lawrence Journal-World. “I’ve been in contact with somebody out of his staff or office. It would mean a lot to everybody in our program, certainly our players. We understand his schedule is tight.” We all know the President is a little bit of a basketball fan and it would make sense to swing by one of the cathedrals of the game. If he can pull one of these out of his hat while he’s there, we’re talkin’ about upgrading him to legendary presidential status here!
  4. It seems like Texas has hopped back on the right track with two convincing wins against West Virginia Saturday in Austin and at TCU on Monday night. While it wasn’t far-fetched to say the Longhorns would win those games, it might be in order to win the next two. For the second week in a row, UT was dealt with the Saturday game-followed-by-a-Monday-game schedule. These two games, home against Kansas and at Iowa State on Big Monday, are only against the teams who are currently tied for first place in the conference. These tests will hopefully paint a clearer picture on where Texas stands in the hierarchy of this year’s Big 12. Until, of course, something totally unexpected happens and sends us back to the drawing board once again.
  5. If you are someone, performing as a college mascot, it is difficult to draw the line between zany and disrespectful behavior. Oklahoma deemed the behavior of one of their mascots as disrespectful. During #Bedlam on Saturday afternoon, one of OU’s mascots was harassing Oklahoma State fans at the Lloyd Noble Center by blocking their view of the game, taunting them and spilling popcorn on them according to sources who told One of those OSU fans taunted happened to be Heather Ford, the wife of Cowboys coach Travis Ford. I guess we all know now that mascots aren’t as untouchable as we thought they were.
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Big 12 M5: 01.16.15 Edition

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 16th, 2015



  1. C.J. Moore of Bleacher Report wrote a great in-depth profile of Iowa State junior Georges Niang centered on how the big man developed the handles and arsenal that have made him a leader for the Cyclones. The new, slimmed-down version of Niang has been even more productive than last year’s and has been the central figure of Iowa State’s efficient offense. It was especially interesting to learn that Royce White, Iowa State’s last “hybrid,” was the one who pushed hardest for Fred Hoiberg to recruit Niang, whose “old man” game will be tested tomorrow night against an improving Kansas defense.
  2. Travis Ford‘s lengthy contract has drawn ire in recent years, but after a 12-4 start and a top-30 placement in the RPI, he isn’t sweating his job security. The Cowboys may not be in position to climb into the race among Kansas, Iowa State and West Virginia, but they’re more of a factor than they were anticipated, and they arguably have a better team than last year despite having less talent. As Jenni Carlson writes, Ford is in the midst of perhaps his best coaching job since he arrived on campus, and a lot of it is due to improved chemistry and a heightened belief in the greater good, particularly with Brian Williams and Kamari Murphy having transferred out.
  3. Bill Self spoke candidly about the struggles of Perry Ellis, which came to a head Tuesday when the junior had four early turnovers, leading to a prompt benching. Self suspects that the problem for Ellis is mental, as he still believes Ellis can be the Jayhawks’ go-to guy. Observers may counter that Frank Mason and Cliff Alexander fit that role better right now, and I agree, but in either case, it’s tough to picture Kansas making a deep run in March without Ellis playing a big part.
  4. The Wooden Award Midseason Top 25 List was released Thursday, and it included three of the Big 12’s best: Juwan Staten of West Virginia, Buddy Hield of Oklahoma and the aforementioned Niang. Oddly enough, the two leading scorers in the Big 12, Le’Bryan Nash and Phil Forte, were omitted.  It will take big second halves for Staten, Hield and Niang to rise into the elite tier that currently includes Jahlil Okafor, Frank Kaminsky, Delon Wright and Justin Anderson (in my opinion), but it’s always nice to see them get some recognition.
  5. The contrasting personnel of the athletic, fast-paced Mountaineers and the bulky, lengthy Longhorns will make for an interesting battle in Austin tomorrow. Texas is off to a slow start in conference play, but while they’re still formidable, it would be tough to imagine them getting back into the conference race with Kansas and Iowa State with a loss, which would run their conference record to 1-3. Isaiah Taylor has played a few games for Texas since coming back from a wrist injury, but his return hasn’t ignited the team as it was expected. On the other side of the ball, West Virginia will try to speed up Texas’ tempo with constant pressure, hoping that it will be another game before Taylor breaks out again.
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Big 12 M5: 11.14.14 Edition

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 14th, 2014



  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


  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



  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. (

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

  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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