Yes, College Basketball Season is Finally Here

Posted by Taylor Erickson on November 8th, 2013

College hoops fans everywhere, rejoice. Like Harry and Lloyd finally arriving in Aspen, we’re therrre. The anticipation for college basketball season has been building for the past several months, and we can finally take a deep breath and revel in the fact that the official start has arrived. Gone are the days of exhibition games and the abundance of preseason lists and rankings and speculation. Instead, they’re replaced by games that really count, and storylines that actually matter. Your weekends are about to get a lot more intriguing, and your weeknights a lot less boring. From Ames to Austin, Lubbock to Morgantown, and everywhere in between, the Big 12 is chock full of headlines bound to whet your appetite for action on the hardwood. So kick back, relax, and hear us out with a plethora of reasons on why you should be giddy with excitement for another rendition of college basketball.

The Sprint Center will once again host the Big 12 Tournament in March.

The Sprint Center will once again host the Big 12 Tournament in March.

  • For Kansas State fans, it’s a packed house − the Octagon of Doom − and Sandstorm pumping through the PA system so violently you can’t hear yourself think. And the thought of Bruce Weber pulling a purple blazer out of the wardrobe, similar to the orange one he donned at Illinois. Can Shane Southwell become “the man” in Manhattan?  We’ll have to wait and see.
  • In Fort Worth, the reminder of one of the biggest upsets in recent college basketball history has you clamoring for an encore performance again this year. An influx of new talent, and Trent Johnson at the helm provides reason to believe the Horned Frogs can make some noise in the Big 12.
  • Whether it’s a track suit on game day or a letter sweater on media day, there’s no doubt Bob Huggins in comfortable in his own skin. You can bet though, that experiencing his first losing record in nearly 30 years was anything but comforting. The West Virginia head coach is determined to turn things around this year in Morgantown. Is there enough talent this go-round to make the Mountaineers relevant in conference play? Read the rest of this entry »
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Dissecting a College Hoops Revival in the DFW Metroplex

Posted by David Harten on November 6th, 2013

Say what you want about USC vs. UCLA on the west coast, but if you want to see a remarkable arms race between neighboring programs, look to the south. In the Dallas-Fort Worth area, SMU began to show the rest of the college basketball world it is finally making a move when the school hired Larry Brown prior to last season. TCU did the same in a more subtle manner, moving to the Big 12 in 2012 and hiring Trent Johnson away from LSU. Quietly, two teams who have been mediocre at best in their respective hoops histories were beginning to make DFW hardwood relevant outside of the Mavericks.

Dallas-Area College Hoops Appears to be on the Rise

Dallas-Area College Hoops Appears to be on the Rise

Johnson’s first season in Fort Worth went as expected, as the Horned Frogs transitioned to a much more difficult conference. Outside of a home upset over Kansas (probably the biggest single upset of the 2012-13 season), TCU tacked on one more win in conference play and trudged to a 2-16 league record. But off the court, Johnson has steadily done his best to push the Horned Frogs toward the middle of the Big 12 pack, which seems like an impossible task for a program that has only been to seven NCAA Tournaments (none since 1998). It started with his first recruiting class, when Johnson landed journeyman guard Trey Zeigler, even if just for the one upcoming season. He also made a splash in recruiting circles by landing Dallas-area center Karviar Shepherd, who ranked as the 69th-best player in the class. To show future recruits their own commitment to building the program, the university has also announced a $45 million renovation to Daniel-Meyer Coliseum.

Down the road in Dallas, SMU started its road to relevancy by hiring legendary (albeit well-traveled) coach Larry Brown prior to last season. After controversially picking through his roster and cutting certain players, the 73-year old Brown landed his first solid recruiting class with point guard Sterling Brown (ranked no. 82 by Scout.com in the 2013 class), shooting guard Keith Frazier (ranked no. 33) and junior college power forward Yanick Moreira, a consensus top five JuCo prospect. Regardless of his age, Brown has an astute basketball mind that will help the Mustangs drive toward relevance in the newly-formed American Athletic Conference. Couple all this with the fact that SMU also pledged a healthy chunk of change to update the basketball facilities – $47 million worth, to be exact – and you have the start of something brewing in Dallas. The Mustangs will need all of this and more to return to their first NCAA Tournament since 1993.

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Big 12 M5: 11.04.13 Edition

Posted by Nate Kotisso on November 4th, 2013

morning5_big12

  1. Kansas State took down Pittsburg State 75-54 in exhibition action on Friday night. The only problem was the Wildcats were hobbled in doing so. Bruce Weber said earlier in the week that guards Will Spradling (0 pts) and Shane Southwell (10/5 asts) as well as forward Nino Williams (13/13) were all battling injuries despite playing more than 20 minutes apiece. Thomas Gipson, who is expected to be more of a force on the offensive end, did not play either due to an unspecified injury. Another headline came from the three freshmen thrown into the action. Point guard Marcus Foster turned in 13 points, five rebounds and four dimes, while fellow Texan Wesley Iwundu scored 10 points in 17 minutes, and Nigel Johnson poured in 15 and nine boards in Gipson’s place. While it’s important to get your starters as healthy before the season tips off, it’s nice to know you have options down low and in the backcourt if you’re a K-State fan.
  2. News came down late last week that Melvin Ejim would be out several weeks with a hyperextended knee and bone bruise. But Ejim is hoping he can return to the floor sooner than expected. “I don’t think it’s going to take as long. Hopefully it doesn’t take as long,” he told the Ames Tribune. “It’d be the best if I took a couple weeks, and I could play right away, but we’ve still got to be smart and it’s something if I do play on it and it’s not properly healed, it’s potentially something that could hurt me down the line.” Smart is right. Adrian Peterson certainly set a precedent for athletes and how much time they can take to rehabilitate their injuries. And sure, Ejim’s feeling pressure to be rushed back considering 60 percent of Iowa State’s starting lineup wasn’t there a year ago. It’s also not a bad thing to go the Derrick Rose route and make sure your mind and body are in sync with each other before returning to action. Get well, Mel.
  3. They’ve got a shiny new top 10 ranking and lofty expectations at the national level, but believe it or not, Oklahoma State won’t be talking about a national championship this season. According to the Tulsa World, Travis Ford had his players study up on the six Cowboy teams that previously made it to Final Fours for a team dinner weeks ago. “We wanted them to learn about the tradition but also the championship-type teams,” Ford said. “We’ve talked a lot about trying to get to that point, trying to get our guys throughout the summer and a little bit of preseason thinking in terms of trying to motivate them to win a championship. Once the night was over, I told our guys, ‘Now we’re done talking about it.’ I don’t want to talk any more about it. I don’t want to pinhole it.” Interesting approach from a man who hasn’t done a whole lot in his time in Stillwater; but hey, the more Big 12 teams at the 2014 Final Four in Dallas, the better.
  4. TCU had its own exhibition game on Friday night and they were able to come away with a 81-74 over Arkansas-Fort Smith. Karviar Shepherd, the top prospect from the Horned Frogs’ 2013 recruiting class, shined with a 16-point, 10-rebound outing. After missing the 2013 portion of last season, senior Jarvis Ray scored 18 to lead all scorers. TCU is slated to tip off its season Friday against crosstown and old Southwest Conference rivals, SMU. Let’s hope that Trent Johnson will have a healthy roster to work with in 2013-14.
  5. The mother of Texas Tech head coach Tubby Smith passed away last week. According to the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal and later confirmed by the school’s athletic department, Parthenia Smith died late Wednesday. She was 92. Tubby’s father, Guffrie, passed away just before the start of the 2009 basketball season at 88. It’ll be tough to concentrate on coaching this week, but our thoughts and prayers go out to Tubby and his family through this trying time.
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Big 12 Team Preview: TCU Horned Frogs

Posted by Kory Carpenter on October 31st, 2013

Where We Left Off: TCU’s first season in the Big 12 changed no one’s mind that the reason the Horned Frogs were the newest members of the Big 12 started with football and ended with the fact the school sits in the middle of the Dallas Metroplex. They never made much noise in the Mountain West, making a few NIT appearances in the 90s while still looking for their first NCAA Tournament victory since 1987. Most people predicted a steep learning curve after joining the Big 12, and most people would be correct. There was one bright spot last season, however, as the Horned Frogs stunned the college basketball world when they knocked off Kansas 62-55 at home on February 6. It was one of two conference victories for the Horned Frogs last season, and they finished a game behind Texas Tech for last place.

Trent Johnson Continues His Rebuilding Effort at TCU This Season (AP).

Trent Johnson Continues His Rebuilding Effort at TCU This Season. (AP)

Positives: Four-star recruit and freshman Karviar Shepherd was ruled academically ineligible by the NCAA in early July, which appeared to end all hopes for a successful season for the Horned Frogs. Surprisingly, though, Shepherd won his appeal a few weeks later and was cleared to play this season. The 6’10”, 225-pound center had an impressive offer sheet coming out of high school that included Kansas, Marquette, Oklahoma State, Texas and UCLA. The Dallas native’s decision to stay home and play in Fort Worth gave instant credibility to head coach Trent Johnson‘s program, and could potentially lead to more highly sought-after Dallas recruits down the line. Joining Shepherd will be last year’s leading scorer Kyan Anderson, who averaged 12 points per game and was on the Bob Cousy Award watch list last season, recognized as one of the best point guards in the country. The duo should lead the Horned Frogs to a few more wins in the Big 12 this season.
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Big 12 M5: 10.31.13 Edition

Posted by Taylor Erickson on October 31st, 2013

morning5_big12

  1. As good as Tyus McGee was last year for Iowa State, early news out of Ames this season suggests freshman guard Matt Thomas might fill the void left by McGee without a hiccup.  Cyclone head coach Fred Hoiberg was a great shooter in his own right, and told the Des Moines Register on Wednesday “I ain’t tweaking that shot, I’ll tell you that.”  Fellow Iowa State teammates also couldn’t help but gush about Thomas’ ability to knock down shots from behind the arc.  As if you needed another scare on Halloween, just imagine one of the nation’s best shooters as a weapon in Hoiberg’s arsenal.  Yikes.
  2. As difficult as the rebuilding job at TCU was for head coach Trent Johnson, it appears the Horned Frogs seem to be heading in the right direction with the proper man at the helm.  On Tuesday, Johnson indicated that he believes his team in year two in Fort Worth is more skilled than that a season ago.  Among those looking to contribute for TCU this season, senior guard Jarvis Ray feels as if he’s playing with a little bit of a chip on his shoulder this season after missing the Big 12 campaign last year with a broken foot.  In what should be a weak bottom half of the Big 12, Ray and company will have a legitimate shot to significantly surpass last season’s conference win total of two games.
  3. To say that West Virginia‘s inaugural season in the Big 12 was a bit of a disappointment would be an understatement to say the least.  Bob Huggins’ squad struggled to a 6-12 record in the Big 12, and a 13-19 mark overall.  At the top of the list of disappointing players for the Mountaineers was point guard Juwan Staten, who figures to be an important piece for Huggins this season.  Staten seems to be using last year’s frustrations as motivation to improve his leadership for this go around in an effort to become the floor general West Virginia needs to really make their team go.  Don’t sleep on Huggins and West Virginia this season as Morgantown might just be a difficult place for many Big 12 teams to go get a win.
  4. While it appears that Kansas State may struggle at times this season scoring the ball, help in that department may be merely but a year away.  Maine transfer Justin Edwards will be forced to sit out this season due to NCAA transfer rules, but it seems he’s found exactly what he was looking for in Manhattan.  Edwards wanted more exposure against better competition, and there’s no doubt the Big 12 conference will provide him that.  Last year Edwards lead the America East Conference in scoring at 16.7 points a game, and while he won’t be able to suit up for the Wildcats this season, his focus during the down year will be on pushing teammates in practice and using his athleticism to bring competition to Bruce Weber’s squad.
  5. One of the more intriguing questions surrounding the Kansas Jayhawks this preseason is who, if anyone, will Bill Self choose to use the redshirt tag on for the 2013-2014 year?  As Tom Keegan of KUSports.com points out, it might be in Self’s best interest to avoid redshirting anyone this year.  Coming into the season, many believed sophomore guard Andrew White III might be a prime candidate, but it’s clear that White will hold a solid spot in Kansas’ rotation this season.  This likely leaves one of Self’s incoming freshmen, Brennan Greene or Conner Frankamp, as a more likely fit.  Although Kansas has only had one exhibition game in the books, it appeared that Frankamp might be the odd one out.  If history is any indicator, former Kansas high school standout Brady Morningstar has laid out a blueprint for Frankamp (a Wichita native) as to how patience could certainly pay dividends down the road in a Jayhawk uniform.
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Big 12 M5: 10.30.13 Edition

Posted by Taylor Erickson on October 30th, 2013

morning5_big12

  1. Kansas kicked off the exhibition portion of their schedule on Tuesday evening with a 97-57 win over MIAA opponent Pittsburg State in Allen Fieldhouse.  Most notably, this game featured the much anticipated debut of Andrew Wiggins, who along with Perry Ellis lead the Jayhawks in scoring with 16 points.  Wiggins appeared to be nervous and a little passive for a good chunk of the first half before settling into the flow of the game.  It wasn’t until late in the first half that Kansas fans got their first taste of the athleticism of Wiggins that has been so widely discussed leading up to this season as he threw down an impressive alley-oop at the expense of a Pittsburg State player.  It wouldn’t be surprising to see more highlights like this regularly throughout the course of the year.
  2. Despite the flashy play from Andrew Wiggins and other Jayhawks, perhaps the biggest take away from the game was the impact the new “hand checking” rules had on the contest itself.  As Rustin Dodd of the Wichita Eagle explains, during the first half Kansas and Pittsburg State combined for a total of 27 fouls and 39 free throw attempts.  The intention of the new rule in college basketball is to prevent defenders from impeding the offensive player’s movement with this ball in his hands, but it appears in the eyes of officials this rule translates to a significantly tighter called game all over the floor.  There will be many early season non-conference games that well exceed two hours in duration because of the number of stoppages in play.
  3. We mentioned yesterday that Texas head coach Rick Barnes was among those entering the 2013-2014 season on the proverbial “hot seat” in college basketball.  On Tuesday, the Dallas Morning News reported that according to multiple sources, West Virginia athletic director Oliver Luck is the leading candidate to replace DeLoss Dodds as the Texas AD next season.  If true, it would appear that Luck would be the one to decide Barnes’ fate with the Longhorn basketball program.  If you feel like you’ve heard the name before, Oliver Luck is the father of Indianapolis quarterback Andrew Luck.  It’s unclear as to when the timetable for a new head coach will be set, but perhaps you could consider this season a year-long job interview for Rick Barnes.
  4. At the TCU media day, head coach Trent Johnson said the team has still yet to receive word from the NCAA if UTEP transfer Chris Washburn will be allowed to suit up for the Horned Frogs this season.  Washburn figures to be an important piece for Johnson’s squad after forward Devonta Abron tore his achilles earlier this year as Washburn would provide TCU with a nice 1-2 punch alongside 6’10” big man Karviar Shepherd.  This is yet another example of the NCAA struggling to make an eligibility decision in a timely manner like we have come accustomed to the last several seasons.
  5. On Tuesday, Canadian sports network TSN announced that the station will cover every game Kansas plays this season in an effort to allow further access to Andrew Wiggins for folks across Canada.  As Brian Goodman noted in his article yesterday examining the impact of this announcement and how it affects the interpretation of the amateurism of college athletics.  For Kansas, this announcement in-turn allows further access to the program and will provide exposure to kids throughout the northern country to the Jayhawk program.  With recent emerging talents from Canada like Wiggins and Anthony Bennett last season, it would appear this deal could position Kansas with a leg up on future Canadian talent.
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Looking at the Big 12 Non-Conference Tourney Slate

Posted by Taylor Erickson on October 24th, 2013

As the 2013-14 season of college basketball rapidly approaches, along with it comes a plethora of non-conference tournaments in exotic locations all over the map.  From Maui to New York, Anchorage to Puerto Rico, and everywhere in-between, the slate of early season match-ups provide an outstanding opportunity to usher in the new year in college basketball.  Big 12 schools will be in on the act, supplying us with our first real glimpse of what we can expect throughout the season. Let’s take a look at these non-conference contests.

Baylor – Maui Invitational, Maui, Hawaii, November 25-27:  Baylor will head to Maui for what is usually one of the higher profile and entertaining tournaments in the non-conference portion of college basketball.  Scott Drew‘s team will square off with tournament host Chaminade on November 25 as the Bears will try to avoid being the second team from Texas in as many years to fall to the Silverswords (Chaminade knocked off Texas in 2012 by a score of 86-73). Provided Baylor can handle Chaminade, a match-up with a beatable Gonzaga team likely awaits with a showdown against preseason top 10 Syracuse looming.  The battle of zone defenses between ‘Cuse and the Bears would be entertaining, as would Isaiah Austin showing off his range against any holes in Jim Boeheim’s defense.

Baylor Will Be Soaking Up the Sun in Maui this November

Baylor Will Be Soaking Up the Sun in Maui this November

Kansas State – Puerto Rico Tip-Off, Bayamon Puerto Rico, November 21, 22, 24:  The Wildcats wet their feet in Puerto Rico against a deep tournament field with the likes of Michigan, Georgetown, Florida State, and VCU, to name a few.  A quarterfinal match-up against Charlotte on November 21 sits ahead for Bruce Weber’s squad, and a win sets up a potential showdown with Georgetown. While Kansas State enters this season with slightly watered-down expectations after losing Rodney McGruder and Angel Rodriguez from a year ago, a win against the Hoyas could provide the ‘Cats up with a chance to make some noise against Michigan in the finals. Thomas Gipson and Mitch McGary battling down low will certainly not lack for physicality.  Not only would a good showing in Puerto Rico boost K-State’s outlook on the season, but could help enhance the pipeline of Puerto Rican talent to Manhattan that Frank Martin developed during his time with the Wildcats.

Oklahoma – Coaches vs. Cancer Classic, Brooklyn, New York, November 22-23:  Oklahoma kicks off the semifinal round of the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic against Seton Hall at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn on November 22. As we mentioned last week in our Big 12 preseason rankings breakdown, Oklahoma enters the 2013-14 season without 68.7 percent of their scoring from last season with the departure of standouts Romero Osby and Steven Pledger, among others. If Lon Kruger’s group can get by Seton Hall in the semifinal round, a match-up with heavyweight and consensus top five Michigan State awaits in the championship round. The combination of Gary Harris and Adreian Payne will be as good of an inside-out duo as Oklahoma will see for the remainder of the season.

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Assessing the Season: TCU Horned Frogs

Posted by Nate Kotisso on April 24th, 2013

Nate Kotisso is a Big 12 writer for Rush The Court. You can follow him on Twitter @natekotisso

We’re taking a look back on a team-by-team basis at the 2012-13 season. Next up: TCU.

Final Record: 11-21 (2-16)

The Expectations: What a confusing offseason it must have been for fans of TCU basketball. Granted, hoops on campus may not have had much of a fan base to begin with but the changes were intriguing. In 2011-12, the Horned Frogs enjoyed their first season above the .500 mark (18-15) since winning 21 games in 2004-05. They finished fifth in a Mountain West that sent the four teams in front of them to the NCAA Tournament. They also had the MW Freshman (Kyan Anderson) and Sixth Man of the Year (Amric Fields) coming back to school. This was easily looking like Jim Christian’s best year but sensing his time there was nearing due to his poorly performing teams before, he took the Ohio job when it was vacated by John Groce. TCU was of course entering its first year as a member of the Big 12 conference which, competition-wise, would be a step up from teams in the Mountain West. Trent Johnson, who pretty much did his best Jim Christian impression, left LSU to take the TCU job. Johnson has had experience coaching and succeeding at a private schools like TCU (see Stanford) but after losing standouts Hank Thorns Jr. and J.R. Cadot to graduation, 2012-13 was all about starting from scratch.

Trent Johnson loves the color purple. (TCU360.com)

Trent Johnson couldn’t tear himself away from the color purple. (TCU360.com)

The Actual Result: TCU won its season opener against a Cal Poly team that would steal a win at UCLA just two weeks later. After taking care of Centenary, the Horned Frogs dropped their first game of the season to Larry Brown and crosstown rival SMU. One clear problem facing the team was scoring the basketball. They lost back-to-back games to Houston and Tulsa, posting 48 and 49 points, respectively. There was also the Northwestern game where TCU lost by 24 points and only managed to put only 31 on the board. Despite this, they finished off the non-conference portion of their schedule with three straight wins to enter conference play at 9-4.

Conference play felt like one nightmare after another. In those 16 losses, TCU’s average margin of defeat was 17.9 points per game but they did have their moment in the sun. The first came against Kansas on February 6. The Jayhawks’ confidence was shaken a bit. They had been able to get by Texas and West Virginia on the road in games that were closer than they should have been, but had gotten some comeuppance after Markel Brown and Oklahoma State marched into Phog Allen Fieldhouse and left with an 85-80 win. On that Wednesday night in the Metroplex, though, Kansas started slowly and allowed TCU to control the game wire-to-wire in what I consider to be the biggest upset in the Big 12 era (dating back to 1996). It was anything but a sparkling performance for the Horned Frogs. TCU shot better as a team than KU but it made the same number of field goal attempts (18) as the Jayhawks, missed 16 free throws and lost the battle of the boards by 10. It also marked the first and likely final time the Topeka YMCA will get name-checked by Bill Self at a press conference. That will be the safest bet in the history of safe bets.

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Big 12 Power Rankings: Week 16

Posted by KoryCarpenter on February 25th, 2013

We are four days away from March, the Big 12 is close to solidifying its representation in the NCAA Tournament, and there are only two weeks left in the regular season. Obviously all games are important (Just ask Kansas about TCU), but for the top three teams in the standings, there isn’t much room for error in the home stretch, giving us great games like Wednesday’s double-overtime thriller between Kansas and Oklahoma State and tonight’s game in Ames between the Jayhawks and Iowa State. And that doesn’t even mention Kansas State’s trip to Waco on Saturday, where a win could potentially give the Wildcats sole possession of first place in the conference. But we’ll start with Kansas in the Power Rankings this week, who moves back to #1 after beating Oklahoma State on the road.

A Big 12 Championship Could Be On The Line Tonight For Kansas (AP)

A Big 12 Championship Could Be On The Line Tonight For Kansas (AP)

1) Kansas (23-4, 11-3)
Previous Ranking: 2

Last Week: W 68-67 (2OT) at Oklahoma State, W 74-48 vs TCU

This Week: Tonight at Iowa State, 8:00 PM, Saturday vs West Virginia, 1:00 PM

  • Rundown: Kansas is now 8-3 in the last five seasons when underdogs of four points or fewer after Wednesday’s double-overtime win over Oklahoma State in Stillwater. Tonight’s game in Ames is nearly as important and should be close as well (Kansas is favored by a single point). How about Jeff Withey against the Cowboys — 17 points, 14 rebounds and four blocks in 29 minutes. He saved Kansas’ conference title hopes, and a win tonight could begin the conversation for a #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament assuming there are no more TCU-like roadblocks.
  • Outlook in March: A #1 seed is possible, but I think they will drop one more game through the Big 12 Tournament and snag a #2 seed. If they don’t end up in Indiana’s bracket, there’s enough talent and coaching ability for another trip to the Final Four. But they showed us in Fort Worth that they could just as easily lose to a Stony Brook or Montana in the first round.

2) Oklahoma State (20-6, 10-4)
Previous Ranking: 1

Last Week: L 68-67 (2OT) vs Kansas, W 73-57 at West Virginia

This Week: Wednesday at TCU, 6:00 PM Saturday vs Texas, 3:00 PM

  • Rundown: I know the Cowboys have fewer wins than K-State (in conference and overall) and lost to the Wildcats back on January 5, but I can’t say Oklahoma State isn’t the second-best team in the conference right now. Not with a straight face, anyway. Marcus Smart might be the best freshman in the country and a First-Team All-American choice while Markel Brown is playing even better than Smart lately, averaging 18 PPG, 3.5 APG, and 5.0 RPG last week.
  • Outlook in March: Wednesday’s game against Kansas was one of those games where a close loss wouldn’t have killed them in mock brackets and a win would have helped tremendously. They are still a #5 seed in most mock brackets and will probably end up as a #4 seed without any hiccups. They’re a definite Sweet Sixteen-level team that would give its region’s #1 seed a great game in the regional semifinals.

3) Kansas State (22-5, 11-3)
Previous Ranking: 3

Last Week: W 71-61 vs West Virginia, W 81-69 at Texas

This Week: Tonight vs Texas Tech, 6:00 PM, Saturday at Baylor, 6:00 PM

  • Rundown: K-State’s three conference losses were very forgivable. They were swept by Kansas and lost by six at Iowa State, one of the toughest places to play in the Big 12. Their other two losses were to Michigan and Gonzaga, a pair of projected #2 seeds. They’re also winners of seven of their last eight games and have a relatively easy next three: Texas Tech, at Baylor, and TCU. The season finale against Oklahoma State in Stillwater will likely determine the Big 12 championship and whether the crown will be shared this season.
  • Outlook in March: A conference championship would probably get the Wildcats a #3 seed, a perch above their consensus #4 seed right now. As noted, they don’t have any bad losses and have a pair of good wins over Florida and Oklahoma State.

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Big 12 Power Rankings: Week 14

Posted by KoryCarpenter on February 11th, 2013

It’s not too early to call tonight’s game between Kansas and Kansas State the Game Of The Year in the Big 12. Not with first place on the line and a chance for K-State to put the Jayhawks two games back with only seven games remaining. As for our rankings, there was a big shakeup this week with teams #1-#6, as each squad in that group either moved up or down from last week’s list. Most notable was the ascent of the Wildcats, who take the top spot for the first time this season. I decided to hold off on the Bracket Matrix Projected NCAA Tournament Seeds this week because it hasn’t been updated since Saturday’s games.

Rodney McGruder Needs A Big Game Tonight Against Kansas In Allen Fieldhouse (AP)

Rodney McGruder Needs A Big Game Tonight Against Kansas In Allen Fieldhouse (AP)

1) Kansas State (19-4, 8-2 Big 12)
Previous Ranking: 2

Last Week: W 68-59 at Texas Tech, W 79-70 vs. Iowa State

This Week: Tonight at Kansas, 8:00 PM CST, Saturday vs. Baylor, 6:00 PM

  • Rundown: They earned the split with Iowa State with a 79-70 win over the Cyclones on Saturday and have now won four in a row and 12 of their last 14. Rodney McGruder carried K-State with 22 points and five assists against Iowa State on Saturday and averaged 20 points per game this week. If he continues on that pace coupled with Kansas’ recent struggles, a road-team split with the Jayhawks isn’t out of the question.
  • Reason to be optimistic: They’re playing solid defense as of late, holding three of their last four opponents under 60 points, and any concerns with Frank Martin’s players not buying into Bruce Weber’s system are long gone at this point. Not only has McGruder stepped up offensively, but sophomore guard Angel Rodriguez averaged 16.5 PPG last week as well.

2) Oklahoma State (17-5, 7-3)
Previous Ranking: 3

Last Week: W 69-67 (OT) vs. Baylor, W 72-59 at Texas

This Week: Wednesday at Texas Tech, 6:00 PM, Saturday vs. Oklahoma, 12:30 PM

  • Rundown: The Cowboys have been a little unlucky in that their two biggest wins — vs. North Carolina State in November and at Kansas last week — were quickly watered down. North Carolina State, then #6 in the country, lost two games later to Michigan. Kansas dropped two more games in a row, including to dreadful TCU, after losing to OSU. Even so, the Cowboys have won six out of seven games thanks to junior guard Markel Brown, who has averaged 16.7 PPG in that stretch.
  • Reason to be optimistic: Oklahoma State has more NBA talent than any other team in the Big 12. Coupled with the confidence they undoubtedly have gained with their recent wins against Iowa State, Kansas, and Baylor, the Cowboys could be quite dangerous in March.

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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 Power Rankings: Week 12

Posted by KoryCarpenter on January 28th, 2013

Right when we thought a team might overtake Kansas in the Big 12 standings (or our power rankings, at least), Kansas State went out and lost two in a row last week, first to Kansas at home and then at Iowa State on Saturday. Both were close games with the Wildcats losing by a combined 10 points, but they lost two games on the Jayhawks in the Big 12 race and fell into a third place tie with Iowa State and Oklahoma. Baylor has quietly started 5-1 in conference play, but the easier part of their schedule is now behind them. The Bears have already swept TCU and have another win over Texas Tech in Lubbock (but hey, that’s more than Iowa State can say). And about those Jayhawks — they are due for a loss, aren’t they? They have been winning close games for the last month it seems. We’ve spiced up the rankings this week with a team’s projected NCAA Tournament seed from Bracket Matrix. Instead of picking a random bracketologist’s numbers, how about averaging out a bunch of mock brackets? The guys at Bracket Matrix do that so we don’t have to, and as many people have been saying lately, there looks to be six NCAA Tournament teams from the Big 12 this year.

The Kansas Offense Hasn't Been Pretty In January, But The Defense Has Helped Keep Their Winning Streak Alive.

The Kansas Offense Hasn’t Been Pretty In January, But The Defense Has Helped Keep Its Winning Streak Alive.

1) Kansas (18-1, 6-0 Big 12)
Previous Ranking: 1
Projected NCAA Seed: #1

Last Week: W 59-55 at Kansas State, W 67-54 vs Oklahoma

This Week: Tonight at West Virginia, 8:00 PM CST, Saturday vs Oklahoma State, 3:00 PM

  • Rundown: The Jayhawks have won 17 straight since losing to Michigan State in November but the offense has disappeared in January. They are averaging 62.2 PPG in their last five games, leading to a KenPom Adjusted Offensive Efficiency of #18. And as we pointed out here, teams that finish outside the top #25 in that category rarely make the Final Four.
  • Cause For Concern: The offense, of course. Last season, point guard Tyshawn Taylor was always there to clean up an ugly offensive possession with a drive to the basket. This team has had point guard issues most of the year. Starter Elijah Johnson has been more of an off-guard during his career and backup Naadir Tharpe is trigger-happy. Freshman Ben McLemore averages 16.2 PPG, but with a shooting percentage of 51%, he needs to take over more games than he does. He’s the best player on the team and one of the five best in the country, so an average of 10 shots a game isn’t enough.

2) Baylor (14-5, 5-1)
Previous Ranking: 3
Projected NCAA Seed: #9

Last Week: W 64-54 vs Oklahoma State, W 82-56 at TCU

This Week: Wednesday vs Oklahoma, 6:00 PM, Saturday at Iowa State 7:00 PM

  • Rundown: The days of losing to teams like Charleston and Northwestern look to be behind them, but the schedule certainly picks up the rest of the way. Eight of their last 12 games are against teams projected to make the NCAA Tournament. The emergence of freshman center Isaiah Austin will help, though. Austin has scored double figures in each of his last 10 games going back to December 12.
  • Cause For Concern: We all know what the Bears are by now, a talented, underachieving squad that could fall on its face in the first round of the Tournament or make the Elite Eight. From where they stand now, the worst thing that could happen to Baylor — or any team for that matter — is to land in the #8/#9 game and play a #1 seed in the second round.

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