NCAA Tournament Game Analysis: Sweet Sixteen, Friday Night

Posted by KDoyle on March 29th, 2013

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We continue the Sweet Sixteen tonight with games from the South Region in Arlington, Texas, and the Midwest Region in Indianapolis. Here are the breakdowns for tonight’s games.

#1 Louisville vs. #12 Oregon Midwest Regional Sweet Sixteen (at Indianapolis, IN) – 7:15 PM ET on CBS

It's Russ' World, We Just Live In It (Credit Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

It’s Russ’ World, We Just Live In It (Credit Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

The Midwest Regional descends on Indianapolis this weekend, with Louisville and Oregon kicking off the action in a matchup of red-hot teams. If not for Florida Gulf Coast’s otherworldly Tournament performance last week, we would likely be looking at the two most impressive teams of the first weekend. As the top overall seed in the Tournament, Louisville’s tour de force in Lexington may not have been unexpected, but it did drive home the notion that the Cardinals are still the team to beat – in this region, and beyond. On the flip side, Oregon’s pair of resounding victories were not expected (despite getting significant play as the most underseeded team in the field on Selection Sunday), but have quickly afforded the surging Ducks a lot of respect. They will head into a virtual road game as massive underdogs on Friday, but the last two weeks have proven that this is a talented and tough basketball team.

Do not expect Oregon to struggle with the aggressive Louisville defense as much as North Carolina A&T and Colorado State did. A quick briefing of the Oregon statistical profile may suggest otherwise – the Ducks are 264th nationally in turnover percentage – but that number is a bit misleading. For one, quick tempo teams are generally going to turn the ball over more, and Oregon plays fast (48th nationally in possessions per game). Also remember that starting PG Dominic Artis (I know, I know — how could we forget at this point?) missed more than half the Pac-12 season, and that backup PG Johnathan Loyd is just now beginning to hit his stride. These two guards will come as close to replicating the quickness and athleticism of that Louisville Siva-Smith combo as any duo the Cardinals have seen all season. Throw in athletes almost everywhere else on the floor – Emory and Dotson on the wings, Kazemi and Woods in the post – and there can be reasonable expectation that Oregon might actually be able to weather the turnover storm that has felled many Louisville foes.

If Oregon can manage that turnover battle, expect this to be a 40-minute game. Points will not come easily for the Cardinals against a well-school (and athletic) Oregon defense, and the Ducks are also a better rebounding team — at least on paper. Dana Altman’s X-factor will be the burgeoning freshman Dotson. If Dotson and others – here’s looking at you EJ Singler — can replicate the three point barrage that undid Saint Louis, Altman’s group has a legitimate change to swing the upset. Too much to ask for? Probably. This is not your typical #12 seed (how is Oregon a #12 seed again?), but they have run into a #1 seed that is playing its role all too well. I expect Oregon to prove a worthy challenger in all facets – managing turnovers, defending the dynamic Louisville backcourt, finding ways to score themselves – but ultimately they run into a team that is just a little better across the board. The Ducks will hang around, but Louisville should be safely bound for the Elite Eight.

The RTC Certified Pick: Louisville

#1 Kansas vs. #4 Michigan – South Regional Semifinal (at Arlington, TX) – 7:37 PM ET on TBS

The last time Michigan advanced this deep into the NCAA Tournament was all the way back in 1994 with the Fab Five coached by current San Diego State head coach Steve Fisher. Ranked in the Top 10 for much of the season, John Beilein’s team certainly won’t be content just advancing to the second weekend; it is Atlanta or bust for the young Wolverines. To advance to Sunday’s South Regional Final, they will have to knock off a team with a wealth of NCAA Tournament experience in the Kansas Jayhawks. Kansas advanced to the championship game last season losing to Kentucky, but are missing two key components of that squad—Thomas Robinson and Tyshawn Taylor. While Bill Self has led Kansas to another very successful season—a Big 12 regular season and tournament championship and 30+ wins for the fourth straight year—this edition of Kansas basketball is lacking a rock-solid point guard and dominant scorer. One could certainly make the argument that freshman Ben McLemore is that scorer, but he has largely been a no-show in Kansas’ first two games scoring just 13 points on 2-14 shooting from the field. The combination of Elijah Johnson and Naadir Tharpe at point guard has dished out 11 assists to ten turnovers. Nobody will argue their frontcourt dominance anchored by the defensive prowess of Jeff Withey, but seniors Kevin Young and Travis Releford are prototypical role players and not go-to threats. As such, when looking up and down the roster, this has been yet another good coaching job by Bill Self. If Kansas is to defeat Michigan and advance to Atlanta, Ben McLemore must play up to his Top 5 NBA Draft pick ability. Kansas’ most glaring weakness happens to be Michigan’s clear strength: point guard play. This game will be decided in the backcourt, and Trey Burke along with Tim Hardaway Jr. are simply playing much better basketball than Elijah Johnson and Ben McLemore. Also, let’s not forget the emergence of freshman Mitch McGary who has stepped up in a big way with Jordan Morgan’s nagging ankle injury. Morgan may return to the regular rotation tonight, but he is just 6’8” and would struggle handling Jeff Withey on the insdie. John Beilein doesn’t expect McGary to have a double-double kind of game like he had against Virginia Commonwealth, but if he is able to neutralize Withey then it is mission accomplished. Kansas would be the first one to tell you that they played just 20 good minutes of basketball in their first two games. If they get off to another slow start out of the gate like they did against Western Kentucky and North Carolina, they’ll be hard-pressed to climb their way back into the game.

The RTC Certified PickMichigan

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Kansas and Bill Self In Familiar Territory Against Michigan

Posted by KoryCarpenter on March 28th, 2013

Bill Self and Kansas are back in the Sweet Sixteen for the sixth time in seven years, and that’s not good news for Michigan, the #4 seed in the South Region that the Jayhawks will meet Friday night in Cowboys Stadium. Self is 5-1 in this round in nine seasons at Kansas and 7-2 for his career dating back to Tulsa at the turn of the century. But Michigan fans shouldn’t be worried about an arbitrary record in a certain round of the NCAA Tournament. They should be worried because Bill Self has an entire week to game plan for the Wolverines, and that is where he has made his teams most dangerous in March.  Between Tulsa, Illinois, and now Kansas, Self has made 14 NCAA Tournament appearances and has 13 losses, winning the NCAA Tournament in 2008. Of those 13 losses, nine came in the second game of the weekend (Round of 32, Elite Eight or National Championship game). As Self likes to point out, the NCAA Tournament is basically split into three two-game tournaments over three weekends. For teams not in the preliminary play-in games, there are four or five days to prepare for their first opponent after the bracket is announced, followed by a roughly 48-hour turnaround. The next week is the same at the regionals and it continues at the Final Four. With that near-week or so to prepare, Self is nearly automatic. He is 12-2 in the Round of 64,  7-2 in the Sweet 16, and 2-0 in National Semifinal games, or 21-4 overall with a week to prepare. The short turnaround has stung him, though. He is 9-3 in the Round of 32, 2-5 in the Elite Eight, and 1-1 in National Championship games, although a month of preparation wouldn’t have been enough time against last season’s Kentucky team. He has won at an 84% clip with a week to prepare and his winning percentage drops to only 57% with a quick turnaround. But the game still has to be played, and Michigan is not your average #4 seed.

Bill Self Is Money With Extra Time To Scout

Bill Self Is Money With Extra Time To Scout.

Let’s take a look at the match-ups in this game:

Backcourt

Michigan has one of the best players in the country in sophomore point guard Trey Burke, a Sporting News First-Team All-American Selection and possible National Player of the Year. Burke averages 18.8 PPG and 6.7 APG for the Wolverines and controls their offense almost exclusively. According to Ken Pomeroy, his possession percentage of 29.9% (65th nationally) is higher than all but one player remaining in the Tournament, Louisville’s Russ Smith (31.6%). Of the 12 teams remaining that had a player in KenPom’s top 100 for usage percentage, Michigan and Louisville are the only teams remaining. Since 2005 when Pomeroy began publishing possession percentages, only three Final Four teams had a player in the top 100 nationally: UCLA’s Jordan Farmar in 2006, and last year with the Cardinals’ Russ Smith and Kansas’ Thomas Robinson. That’s 90.6% of Final Four teams that have not relied heavily on one player. Fortunately for Michigan fans, Kansas has been torched by point guards several times this season. Baylor point guard Pierre Jackson had 28 points and 10 assists while handing Kansas its last defeat on March 9. Fellow All-American point guard Marcus Smart had 25 points, nine rebounds, and five steals in an Oklahoma State win over Kansas on February 2. Like Jackson and Smart, Burke should have the advantage over Jayhawk guards Elijah Johnson and his backup, Naadir Tharpe. Off the ball, expect to see Travis Releford guarding Tim Hardaway, Jr., and Ben McLemore on Nik Stauskas. Stauskas is a 43.4% three-point shooter and it will imperative that McLemore — or whichever Jayhawk is guarding him — chases him off the three-point line and funnels him into the paint. Burke is going to have a big game regardless. But if Stauskas and/or Hardaway (39.3% from deep) start knocking down threes, Kansas’ best defensive weapon slowly becomes irrelevant. Offensively, Kansas will need better production from McLemore, who had two points on 0-of-9 shooting against North Carolina. He leads the Jayhawks with 15.8 PPG but has disappeared at times this season. He is averaging only 7.0 points per game in the last four outings despite being the most talented player on the court in nearly every situation. Look for Self to draw up a few plays early designed to get McLemore easy buckets and to give him some confidence.

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Rushed Reactions: #1 Kansas 70, #8 North Carolina 58

Posted by Brian Goodman on March 24th, 2013

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Brian Goodman is an RTC correspondent. He filed this report from the third round of the South regional in Kansas City. You can also follow Brian on Twitter at @BSGoodman.

Three Key Takeaways:

Kansas and Releford Advance to the Sweet Sixteen (AP)

Kansas and Releford Advance to the Sweet Sixteen (AP)

  1. Kansas’ experienced players took North Carolina by the horns. While Ben McLemore has had his share of moments this season (more on that later), part of Bill Self’s allure is that he’s enormously successful at his high-pressure job without having to rely heavily on inexperienced but talented phenoms like McLemore, Josh Selby and Xavier Henry in big moments. Sunday’s win was another manifestation of that point, as the Jayhawks received outstanding performances from their fifth-year seniors. Jeff Withey, Kevin Young and Travis Releford – playing in his hometown – combined for 48 points and 33 rebounds. Withey’s defense set the tone for Kansas as it continued to struggle in the first half and keyed the offense in the second half with three authoritative dunks. Young played his usual lockdown interior defense and made the plays fans have expected him to make. Releford is known primarily for his defense, but KU’s results when he’s involved and successful in the offense speak for themselves, as the Jayhawks are 46-1 in his four years when he scores at least ten points. McLemore, who spent most of the second half on the bench and finished 0-9 from the floor, can still be an x-factor in this tournament, but to say his services were not needed tonight would be an understatement.
  2. It was a tale of two halves for Kansas, but not for the Heels: The Jayhawks’ shooting struggles of their first 50 tournament minutes reached a nadir, as they shot 25% from the field in the first half, the worst such mark in their storied tournament history. Kansas missed bunny after bunny and wasted nearly every fast break opportunity presented by their consistently solid defensive presence. However, while North Carolina went into the locker room with a nine-point lead, it very easily could have been 12 or 15, as the Tar Heels missed their share of easy looks themselves. North Carolina’s offensive struggles continued after intermission, but the lid lifted for Kansas. The Jayhawks opened the second half on a 19-5 run, powered by Withey’s authoritative dunks and their first, second and three made three-pointers of the tournament and never looked back. North Carolina became undisciplined in the second half, missing five straight three pointers.
  3. The Jayhawks didn’t need Ben McLemore, but they will soon. Coming into tonight, Ben McLemore, who has bailed Kansas out of many a mess this season, hasn’t had the kind of March fans expected. While he contributed strong outings in the Big 12 tournament, he had an unspectacular night Friday and played the worst game of his short career Sunday night. McLemore rushed shots and passes, prompting a wide variety of flustered reactions from Self, and wasn’t a factor in Kansas’ monstrous second half. The best defense in the country (by opponent field-goal percentage) has a date with the high-powered Michigan offense next weekend, but the matchup also begs the question not just of what Kansas will get out of McLemore, but how badly they’ll need him.

Star Of The Game: Tie - Jeff Withey (16 points, career-high 16 rebounds, five blocks) and Travis Releford (22 points on 9-of-13 shooting, eight rebounds, three steals). Kansas’ seniors were outstanding. Withey was a force on defense and was intimidating on offense, sticking several putbacks and putting North Carolina’s offense on the ropes in front of a supportive crowd. Releford, playing in his native Kansas City for the last time as a collegian, turned in a fantastic outing. The fifth-year swingman has seemingly always played well in this building, and it showed again Sunday night.

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Kansas Wins Because It Guards, Plain and Simple

Posted by dnspewak on March 16th, 2013

Danny Spewak (@dspewak) is a Big 12 microsite writer. He filed this from the Big 12 Championship game in Kansas City.

Clank, clank, clank. In an arena jam-packed to the rafters and charged with as much emotion as any game in college basketball this season, the most prominent sound during the first half of the Big 12 Tournament title game at the Sprint Center was the sound of those clanks that Kansas State heaved repeatedly at the basket. After taking an 11-8 lead against Kansas with 11:55 to play in the half, the Wildcats did not make another field goal during the next 17 possessions. They were 0-of-11 from the field during that stretch. Five turnovers. Heroically, they trailed by just eight points at the break, but they were already buried. Once the Jayhawks found their groove offensively in the second half, Kansas State never kept pace and eventually fell, 70-54.

Kansas Added More Hardwood To Its Collection

Kansas Added More Hardwood To Its Collection

You don’t want to see the final statistics for Bruce Weber’s team. “The best thing we did was shoot free throws,” Angel Rodriguez said, “and we shot 50 percent. That says a lot.” Rodney McGruder had a simple diagnosis for the anemic offense. “It wasn’t really their defense,” McGruder said. “We missed easy baskets at the rim.” The second part of that statement is correct. Kansas State missed more open shots than an overweight, middle-aged man trying to play a game of H-O-R-S-E, especially during the drought in the first half. But McGruder is wrong about the first part — there’s another reason his team couldn’t score, and it wasn’t self-inflicted. “Our first shot defense was about as good as it’s been all year long,” coach Bill Self said. As always, it was a collective effort for Kansas. Jeff Withey, the Big 12’s leading shot blocker, finished with only one block, but he teamed with Kevin Young and Perry Ellis to bother the Wildcats’ on the interior with their length.

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Morning Five: 03.15.13 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on March 15th, 2013

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    1. Many of the ideas for fake award teams that get created often try to hard for their own good and end up being something completely useless, but one that always seems to point out the right guys is Seth Davis’ Glue Guy Team. Using the same methodology of selecting “players whose value was lost in the shadows” Seth picked Mike HartKyle AndersonMelvin EjimRoosevelt JonesNate Lubick, and Travis Releford for this year’s version of the team. We are sure that people can come up with a few other players who probably belong (most likely listed in Seth’s honorable mentions), but we think these are all pretty solid representatives and with a little luck for Iowa State we should be seeing all six (#DausterMath) in the NCAA Tournament.
    2. We have been trying to keep the firings as separate points in the Morning Five, but there were just too many yesterday so instead they get grouped together. The list of coaches who were fired yesterday: Chuck Martin from Marist (41-118 overall), Mark Phelps from Drake (77-86 overall), and Billy Taylor from Ball State (84-99 overall). Mike Gillian fared only slightly better as he resigned at Longwood after going 93-214 at the school. While none of these are what we would consider high or even medium-profile jobs they are all jobs at the Division I level, which will probably viewed as stepping stones for coaches at prominent mid-majors who are looking for their break.
    3. College football fans have been inundated with the SEC Speed meme, but somehow that dominance has not translated over to the basketball court. In fact, as Pat Forde points out, the level of play and interest in SEC basketball has been appalling. Obviously there are some very good programs (Kentucky, which could be argued is the standard-bearer in the sport, and Florida, which has been one of the top programs in the country for over a decade), but outside of that the quality of play has mostly been bad. On top of that the fans don’t seem to care as evidenced by the poor attendance across the conference. Forde and SEC Commissioner Mike Slive offer a variety of explanations and proposed solutions, but the heart of the issue is cultural and until the schools and fans start caring about basketball as much as they do football they will continue to be a second-tier conference.
    4. In the wake of the ongoing Miami debacle, the NCAA brought in Johnathan Duncan to replace Julie Roe Lach, who was the scapegoat for identified as having obtained information improperly during the Miami investigation. Duncan may not have had to campaign publicly to get his job, but he will if he hopes to win the public relations battle/nightmare that he has inherited. Duncan has an 18-month window (the duration of his interim term) to turn things around for an organization that is being increasingly vilified with people beginning to talk about dissolving the institution as it is presently constituted. There are plenty of tougher jobs, but there are not many in sports than the one that Duncan is tasked with.
    5. With all the coverage that we have had across the site for the conference tournaments we have tried to stay away from commenting on specific games, but the Richmond meltdown was too ridiculous not to mention here. If you missed the highlights of the game, Richmond led Charlotte 63-60 with 4.7 seconds left when they decided to foul before giving Charlotte a chance to attempt a three-pointer. They were able to execute the first part successfully, but after Pierria Henry made the front end of a one-and-one (now 63-61) Richmond’s Derrick Williams and Charlotte’s William Clayton got tangled up trying to grab the potential rebound and Williams shoved Clayton to the ground resulting in a technical, which resulted in two more free throws. Henry converted the back end of the one-and-one and made both free throws (now they were up 64-63) and still had the ball, which they inbounded and knowing they would get fouled Henry put up a three-point attempt leading to three free throws. The foul call only further incensed Chris Mooney, who picked up two technical fouls for good measure. Henry made four of the seven free throws (now they were up 68-63, which was the final margin). So if you are scoring at home in 1.9 seconds of game time Henry took 11 free throws and made eight of them. This sequence will never be made into a “30 for 30″, but it is probably more surreal than what Reggie Miller pulled in Madison Square Garden.

 

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Big 12 M5: 02.21.13 Edition

Posted by Nate Kotisso on February 21st, 2013

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  1. Wednesday was a busy day for Kansas players, past and present. In Stillwater, the Jayhawks and Cowboys played a hotly contested basketball game even though they were both offensively challenged. There were so many heroes for KU in its one-point victory. Naadir Tharpe’s game-winning floater was the Jayhawks’ only field goal in either of the overtime periods. Travis Releford caused Marcus Smart to foul out in OT. Jeff Withey was fouled early and often and he made the most of it (11-of-14 on free throws). With two winnable road games remaining, the Jayhawks are once again in the driver’s seat to win another Big 12 regular season title.
  2. There was perhaps a game just as big as KU-OSU going on at the same time last night in Waco. Iowa State and Baylor came into the game each in desperate need of a resume-building victory, and for right now at least, the Cyclones appear to be on the good side of the bubble. With the win, ISU now has a profile featuring two wins versus Baylor, one against Kansas State, and another against Oklahoma. The downside of it is if Baylor continues to slide, the luster of those wins will fade away quickly. That’s what makes their Big Monday game at home against Kansas so huge. They need that win no matter what.
  3. Fresh off of a draining overtime loss to Oklahoma State, Oklahoma head coach Lon Kruger doesn’t worry about his team’s ability to bounce back in its next game. It was a close game to start but Oklahoma was able to create some distance between itself and Texas Tech with an 86-71 win on the road. By the looks of it, the Sooners have a solid enough profile to make the field with an RPI of #17 and the fourth toughest strength of schedule in college basketball. Though Kruger may not stay anywhere for a very long time, he’s still an outstanding coach.
  4. As weird as it is to say, Myck Kabongo is officially one week and one day into his sophomore season, which raises questions about his future at Texas. Mac Engel of The Fort-Worth Star Telegram seems to agree with me: Kabongo needs to stay on campus one more year. I think he needs to play a full season at the college level where his youth or eligibility issues won’t get in the way, and hopefully in turn, he’ll grow into more of an attractive NBA point guard prospects for the 2014 draft.
  5. With three seconds left in the first overtime of KU-OSU, the Cowboys gained possession of the ball and prompted Bill Self to unintentionally give the Internet this beauty of a GIF. As is, it’s a masterpiece. The movements are natural and repeated, so what could possibly make it better? Music. So enjoy it in all its glory and clap to the beat with Self. Sound the bell… school’s in sucka.
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On the Naadir Tharpe Option at the Kansas Point Guard Position

Posted by KoryCarpenter on February 13th, 2013

The story after Kansas defeated Kansas State 83-62 Monday night wasn’t that the Jayhawks ended their three-game skid and regained a shared claim of first place in the Big 12, because as Sam Mellinger points out, nobody was going to beat Kansas that night. And with that in mind, maybe we shouldn’t put too much stock into the stellar game from sophomore point guard Naadir Tharpe. But it was hard to overlook the 8:1 assist-to-turnover ratio from Tharpe on the heels of a depressing 10-day stretch for Kansas basketball in general. The eight assists were the most Tharpe had dished out since a 32-point win over American on December 29. Coincidentally or not, that was the end of a ridiculous stretch of games from Kansas in December. They also beat Colorado by 36, Belmont by 29, Richmond by 28, and took care of Ohio State on the road by eight. Outside of the American game, Tharpe wasn’t great but he wasn’t bad either. He didn’t didn’t turn the ball over at all in four of the five games and averaged 2.7 APG, right on his season average.

Is Naadir Tharpe The Answer For KU's Offensive Woes? (USA Today)

Is Naadir Tharpe The Answer For KU’s Offensive Woes? (USA Today)

That production was plenty for Kansas, because senior Elijah Johnson was playing well, shooting 50% from the field in four of those five games while scoring a little above his season average (10.4 PPG). But then came the close contests. The seven-point home win over Temple on January 6, the near-loss at home to Iowa State, saved by a banked three-pointer by Ben McLemore at the end of regulation. A five-point win over Texas and four-point win at Kansas State soon followed while Johnson’s numbers plummeted. He was 2-of-6 against Texas Tech (a 60-46 road win on January 12), 3-of-10 in the road win at Kansas State, and 1-of-11 against Texas on January 19. Johnson was either falling into his usual deep-winter slump, or the transition to point guard was affecting his overall game. The loss two weeks ago to Oklahoma State at home was a long time coming, and Bill Self ripped into his team. “We don’t have a point guard,” he said, a not-so-thinly veiled shot at Johnson, who played off the ball next to Tyshawn Taylor during his first three seasons at Kansas.

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Night Line: TCU Stuns Kansas in an Upset to Remember

Posted by BHayes on February 7th, 2013

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Bennet Hayes is a regular contributor for RTC. You can find him @HoopsTraveler on Twitter. Night Line runs on weeknights during the season, highlighting a major storyline development from that day’s games.

On a Wednesday night chock-full of college basketball action, nobody could have expected the story of the night to come from Fort Worth, Texas. Pairing a TCU team seeking its first Big 12 win with a Kansas squad fresh off a home loss to Oklahoma State would seem to rank pretty high on the combustibility scale, but enter a twist: It was Kansas who went up in flames tonight. The Horned Frogs snatched a win to remember in the midst of an otherwise forgettable season, and college basketball fans bore witness to one of the biggest upsets of the last decade. Jerry Palm went so far as to mention that this was the biggest upset — in terms of RPI difference — in his 20 years of tracking numbers. The 62-55 win was as ugly as it was unexpected, but if you love a good upset (and what college basketball fan doesn’t love that), this was as beautiful as it gets.

There Was Much To Celebrate For TCU On Wednesday Night

There Was Much To Celebrate For TCU On Wednesday Night

Explaining the inexplicable is not a favorite pastime of mine, but I’ll take a shot here. As bad as TCU is, the bulk of their issues have come on one side of the ball. Trent Johnson’s offense, valued at #330 nationally in efficiency, has been a nightmare. The defensive effort has been slightly better, although the national ranking of #137 in defensive efficiency still couldn’t have worried Bill Self too much before tip-off. Afterward he was too consumed with his own team’s failings to marvel at the Horned Frog D, but the point is that this was the kind of game TCU had to create to have a shot to win. They weren’t going to beat Kansas playing deep into the 60s, let alone the 90s, and it took a truly anemic KU offensive effort to allow TCU this win.

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Big 12 M5: 02.06.13 Edition

Posted by KoryCarpenter on February 6th, 2013

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  1. Talented players waiting their turn at Kansas is not a new thing. Four of this year’s five starters did exactly that before getting a chance to prove themselves, and freshman guard Andrew White is beginning a similar cycle this season. During Saturday’s loss to Oklahoma State, White was called upon late in the game for his sharp-shooting ability, and he delivered with six points in the final minute. But as Austin Meek of the Topeka Capital-Journal points out, there isn’t a spot in the rotation for him. Senior Travis Releford and freshman Ben McLemore provide enough defense and scoring on the wing, thus Bill Self needs a point guard off the bench, not a three-point specialist. Next year, however, with the entire starting five gone (assuming McLemore leaves early) and a number of freshman on the roster, White looks to have a starting spot sealed up.
  2. Donald Pepoon of the Kansas State student paper, The Collegian, talks about the lackluster student attendance at recent Kansas State home games, which he calls “embarrassing.” The Wildcats are #13 in the latest AP poll, but as the picture in Pepoon’s article clearly points out, students don’t seem to care. Not only is Kansas State highly ranked, but they are now 7-2 in the Big 12, hold sole possession of second place in the conference, and have a chance to share first place next Monday with a win at Kansas. What else is there to do in Manhattan for a few hours on a random weeknight? The team is good and the fans have shown they can fill up Bramlage Coliseum for big games. Go support your team.
  3. Iowa State rolled through Oklahoma Monday night much like they have beaten a lot of teams this season — with three-point shooting. The Cyclones were 40% from three-point range (11-of-27) against the Sooners and won comfortably, 83-64. Bryce Miller of IndyStar.com thinks the Cyclones are now poised for a run in March, and while one game does not a season make, Iowa State’s ability to get hot from three-point land makes them a dangerous team in the NCAA Tournament should they make it. Miller wonders where the team that struggled against Yale earlier in the season and lost to Texas Tech recently was on Monday against Oklahoma, talking up the Cyclones as if they’ve put their struggles behind them. The problem is, teams that rely so heavily on the three can find themselves down quickly in the NCAA Tournament. The team that lost to Texas Tech isn’t gone, it was just hiding for a night. Whether it returns in March remains to be seen.
  4. CBSSports.com’s Jerry Palm recently updated his bracketology and the six Big 12 teams — Kansas, Kansas State, Baylor, Iowa State, Oklahoma, and Oklahoma State — remain in the dance. Kansas is still a #1 seed despite its loss on Saturday, while Oklahoma State has jumped three spots into a #6 seed in the Midwest Region. Kansas State remains a #5 seed, and the other three teams — Oklahoma (#9), Baylor (#11), and Iowa State (#11) — are all on the bubble according to Palm. Iowa State gets the unlucky draw of playing in one of the four play-in games against North Carolina.
  5. In what originally looked to be a big game but eventually turned into an afterthought, West Virginia defeated Texas on Monday night, 60-58, in Morgantown. Mountaineers senior forward Deniz Kilicli had 14 points and four rebounds, going 6-of-8 from the field in the win and pleasing his head coach Bob Huggins. “I think the last two games were the best two all-around games that Deniz has played,” Huggins told Geoff Coyle of WVillustrated.com. It’s too little to late for the senior and West Virginia’s season, but any positive momentum Huggins can take into next year has to be a plus.
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Morning Five: 01.31.13 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on January 31st, 2013

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  1. Basketball took a back seat at Ohio yesterday after an armed robbery (reportedly over $5) at 9:30 AM at an apartment complex near the campus led the school to suspend classes and cancel last night’s game against Eastern Michigan. Interestingly, the school remained open for another 2.5 hours with the suspect loose before the administration chose to close the campus. In the aftermath of the announcement there appears to have been quite a bit of confusion regarding the school’s intent, but fortunately it appears that nobody was harmed and no further incidents took place although the suspect was still at-large as of this writing. The school has announced that the game will be made up on February 20, which works well for both teams as they both have their preceding game on February 16 and next game on February 27.
  2. Much of the early part of this week in the blogosphere was spent discussing Marshall Henderson‘s various, shall we say, peculiarities, both on and off the court. After a rough shooting outing against Kentucky on Tuesday night, much of that talk has died down, but on Wednesday USA Today‘s Nicole Auerbach published an insightful piece about the life and history of the controversial Henderson that included a revelation that the junior college transfer once violated his probation in Texas for failing a drug test because he had cocaine (along with marijuana and alcohol) in his system. Both Henderson’s father and his head coach, Andy Kennedy, believe that the guard has moved past his personal demons at this point in his life, but with his on-court demeanor sure to set Twitter ablaze again soon, we’ll have to wait and see if the pressure and infamy carries over to the Oxford after-parties.
  3. The Wednesday news didn’t improve for Ole Miss fans, as the Rebels also learned that sophomore forward Aaron Jones will miss the rest of the season after injuring his ACL in Tuesday night’s game against Kentucky. The bouncy Jones was only averaging 4/4 in about 17 minutes per game this season, but his loss will be a shock to an Ole Miss lineup short on quality size. As if that weren’t enough, senior guard Nick Williams will be out an indefinite amount of time with a foot injury suffered in the same game. The timing on all of this misfortune is not the greatest, either — the Rebels on Saturday will visit a team, Florida, that is winning SEC contests so far by an average of 28.7 PPG. Good luck with that.
  4. The Big East will draw the curtains on what can only be described as a college basketball goliath in less than two months, but unlike some of the other bitterness that has infused divorcing programs in other leagues, Syracuse and St. John’s specifically are looking for an amicable split. It makes sense. Syracuse has been NYC’s flagship college basketball program for a long time now despite its location several hundred miles upstate, and without question the Orange wants to keep its presence in the New York market strong after joining the ACC. St. John’s certainly wants to keep a marquee opponent on its home schedule as Steve Lavin tries to rebuild that proud program as well. The contract begins next year at MSG with a return trip to the Carrier Dome in 2014-15, but for now the series is only scheduled for those two games. We’d expect that it will be extended indefinitely at a certain point.
  5. In this week’s edition of Luke Winn‘s Power Rankings he spends a lot of time focusing on teams in transition (literally, not figuratively). With the nerdtastic tool of Synergy Sports Technology at his disposal, Winn can find statistically enlightening nuances to explain the game in ways that both tease and titillate. In this week’s edition, he examines some of the best players in the country at shooting jumpers off the dribble (hint: two of them play each other Saturday night in a semi-important game), discusses the best transition guys in the game, and a mention of Kelly Olynyk’s “awesome hair.” Memo to Winn, though: It’s not Olynyk’s hair itself that creates the awesomeness — it’s the ropey-looking headband (color coordinated!) that he adds to the ensemble that truly elevates his look from simply Tim Lincecum cool to Andre Agassi spectacular (in his hirsute prime).
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Night Line: Jayhawks Escape Octagon of Doom Victorious — Is Perfect Big 12 Season Possible?

Posted by BHayes on January 22nd, 2013

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Bennet Hayes is a regular contributor for RTC. You can find him @HoopsTraveler on Twitter. Night Line runs on weeknights during the season, highlighting a major storyline development from that day’s games.

At some point during the nine-year Bill Self era, we stopped being surprised by another year of Kansas dominance. Offseason after offseason of KU stars leaving Lawrence for the NBA seem to never be remembered by the time the next January rolls around, and this first month of 2013 has been no exception. Thomas Robinson and Tyshawn Taylor posted brilliant individual campaigns a year ago, as both earned All-America honors in leading Kansas all the way to the national championship game. Neither has taken the floor at Allen Fieldhouse in almost a full year, but looky, looky – Kansas is 17-1 and a perfect 5-0 in Big-12 play. A ninth consecutive Big 12 regular season title is beginning to look like a mere formality, as the Jayhawks dispatched rival Kansas State tonight in Manhattan en route to their 16th straight victory. Self has accomplished almost everything there is to accomplish in his near-decade at KU, but this group of Jayhawks still has a chance to do something that none of the previous nine could do – run the table for a perfect Big 12 season.

Travis Releford Locked Down Rodney McGruder In What Was Another Stifling Jayhawk Defensive Effort

Travis Releford Locked Down Rodney McGruder In What Was Another Stifling Jayhawk Defensive Effort

Robinson and Taylor may be gone, but these Jayhawks have their own pair of potential All-Americans. We all became well-acquainted with Jeff Withey and his menacing defense a year ago, but meet freshman Ben McLemore, who, in the estimation of many, has been both the best newcomer in the country and the top player in the conference. Less is more for the silky-smooth wing, as he has needed just 11 field goal attempts to score his 16 points per game. He has played well within the Kansas system to this point, but do not doubt that McLemore will be ready to shoulder more of a load if and when the situation demands it.

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Big 12 Power Rankings: Week Nine

Posted by KoryCarpenter on January 7th, 2013

After things slowed down around the holidays, the schedule picked up this week and we found out a lot about the teams in the Big 12. Kansas is beatable but resilient after rallying to take care of Temple in Allen Fieldhouse. Kansas State’s upset of Florida last month is starting to look less like a fluke. Oklahoma State’s upset of North Carolina State in November is, however, beginning to look like a fluke. Baylor showed it has the talent to compete for a top spot in the standings, while Texas still looks lost without Myck Kabongo. And oh yeah, TCU is as bad we thought.

Don't Look Now, But Bruce Weber Has Kansas State Challenging For Second Place in the Big 12 (AP Photo/M. Conroy)

Don’t Look Now, But Bruce Weber Has Kansas State Challenging For Second Place in the Big 12 (AP Photo/M. Conroy)

1) Kansas (12-1, 0-0 Big 12)
Previous Ranking: 1

Last Week: W 69-62 vs. Temple

This Week: Wednesday vs Iowa State, 6:00 PM CST, Saturday at Texas Tech, 3:00 PM

  • Rundown: Every year, Kansas seems to have one close call at home in the non-conference season. Saturday was no different as Temple took the lead late in the second half before the Jayhawks rallied to win, 69-62.
  • Player Stepping Up: Senior G Travis Releford: Releford is the best perimeter defender on the roster and has been great offensively lately, shooting over 80% from the field and averaging 13.7 points per game in the last four games.

2) Kansas State (12-2, 1-0)
Previous Ranking: 3

Last Week: W 70-50 vs. South Dakota, W 73-67 vs. Oklahoma State

This Week: Saturday at West Virginia, 12:30 PM

  • Rundown: It is still to early to make any bold statements, but Saturday’s win over Oklahoma State brought the Wildcats into the discussion for second best team in the Big 12.
  • Player Stepping Up: Senior G Rodney McGruder: He leads the team in scoring with 14.7 points per game and had 28 points in the big win over OSU over the weekend.

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