Big 12 Conference Call: January 12 Edition

Posted by Nate Kotisso on January 12th, 2013

Welcome to the first Conference Call of conference play! We are one full week into the Big 12 season and you can already put each team into one of four boxes: the you’ll-know-how-they-finish box (Kansas, TCU and Texas Tech), the disappointment box (Texas, West Virginia), the surprise box (Kansas State) and the don’t-know-where-to-put-them box (Iowa State, Oklahoma State, Baylor and Oklahoma). Today, we discuss the futures for some of these teams, some of the disappointing players and much more. 

Things have been a-ok for Bruce Weber and Kansas State (Associated Press)

Things have been a-ok for Bruce Weber and Kansas State (Associated Press)

  1. Two of the league’s biggest disappointments, West Virginia and Texas, played an ugly basketball game Wednesday with the Mountaineers prevailing in OT. Which team will hear its name called on Selection Sunday?
  2. Iowa State was a bank shot three away from picking up a huge win vs Kansas in Lawrence. What do we make of the Cyclones this season?
  3. If you were to stop the season right now, which Big 12 coach would be the first to get fired?
  4. Which player has been the biggest disappointment this season?
  5. Divisional round of the NFL playoffs are Saturday and Sunday. Who ya got?


1. Two of the league’s biggest disappointments, West Virginia and Texas, played an ugly basketball game Wednesday with the Mountaineers prevailing in OT. Which team will hear its name called on Selection Sunday?

  • KC: Both teams will hear their names called on Selection Sunday when the NIT picks the scraps off the table. Even if you assume Myck Kabongo will return to his old self immediately next month, the Longhorns will be lucky to be above .500 at that time and Kabongo isn’t good enough to change that ship’s course. And again, that’s assuming he will be great from the get-go, and I don’t think that will be the case. With no marquee wins on the schedule, West Virginia probably needs 12 more wins this season — giving them 20 — to make the dance. You have to jump through a few mathematical hoops to find 12 more wins on their schedule at this point.
  • DS:  I’d be surprised if either West Virginia or Texas even make the NIT. The first half of the season has been a disaster for both squads. It’s been so bad, in fact, that both teams are ranked outside of the top 100 in the RPI. I mentioned earlier this week that it’d be silly to even attempt to determine what Texas must do from this point forward to make the NCAA Tournament. That’s how far off the bubble the Longhorns are right now, and the same goes for West Virginia. Look at the Mountaineers’ “resume,” if you even want to call it that. There’s that one-point win against a Virginia Tech team that has lost four straight games by a combined 96 points. Oh, and Bob Huggins‘ team also beat a better-than-you-might-think Eastern Kentucky team at home. So there’s that, too. Texas, meanwhile, is hanging its hat on a home win over a North Carolina team that’s crumbling by the day, and Myck Kabongo won’t return from suspension until mid-February. There are Great West teams with more compelling CBI resumes than Texas and West Virginia right now. Well, almost.
  • NK: Regardless of how this season was going to turn out for the Mountaineers, they weren’t going to be anything like last year’s team. That squad had Tournament-tested guys like Darryl “Truck” Bryant and Kevin Jones. Now with those players gone, Deniz Kilicli, Aaron Brown and Jabarie Hinds were supposed to assume bigger roles this season, but in turn, they are having worse seasons this year than last. For some reason, I can’t close the door completely on Texas. Javan Felix has proven he is more than just a back-up point guard in Kabongo’s absence. Though he needs to make shots at a higher percentage, Sheldon McClellan is a better number one option than anyone West Virginia has. I don’t think either team will make the Tournament now but I’d say Texas has better odds of making it than WVU.

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Big 12 M5: 10.10.12 Edition

Posted by dnspewak on October 10th, 2012

  1. With Royce White out of the picture, Iowa State will need to adjust to its personnel and find different ways to facilitate offense. Instead of having White as a point-forward type of player, Fred Hoiberg will use Korie Lucious at the point and keep the ball in the hands of a traditional point guard. Losing White will change the entire dynamic of the team, but there’s one thing that might not change. The Cyclones can still fill it up from beyond the arc, even with the graduation of Scott Christopherson and Chris Allen. If you’re looking for one shooter to keep an eye on, it’s probably Tyrus McGee. The junior college transfer didn’t always play major minutes a year ago, but when he did, he always seemed to find a way to get his shots from beyond the arc. By the end of the year, he shot around a 40 percent clip from three as a reserve. His senior year could be even better, along with the rest of the Cyclones’ shooters.
  2. Bill Self’s newest commitment made a bold statement after choosing Kansas as his college destination on Tuesday. How bold? Well, Frank Mason says he wants to be the next Sherron Collins. “He was a great player and I’d like to do the same type things,” he told the Lawrence Journal-World. That’s quite the statement, but Collins certainly isn’t a bad guy to model yourself after. The one difference is Mason, a 5’11” point guard who originally committed to Towson but did not qualify academically a year ago, is actually a little under-the-radar. He’s ranked in the top-150 by, but he did not receive a KU offer until after he blew up in AAU ball in July.
  3. Andrew Fitzgerald played at four different high schools in four seasons. The forward then committed to play for Jeff Capel at Oklahoma — we all know how that worked out — and it turns out, he’s now entering his senior year of college without a single winning season to brag about. Talk about a chaotic decade for a basketball player. That’s why Fitzgerald has his sights set on a big finale season with the Sooners. Fitzgerald is a key part of Lon Kruger’s experienced nucleus, the kind of forward who can play a lot of different ways on the offensive end of the floor. Unfortunately, the big man disappeared at times in the scoring department during Big 12 play last season. Oklahoma’s poor conference finish wasn’t Fitzgerald’s fault, but it’s partly his job to develop his game and lead this team to an NCAA Tournament berth. After all, it’s his last chance.
  4. Oklahoma State fans are a demanding bunch. They’re not always mentioned in the national spotlight, but Gallagher-Iba Arena can be a ferocious place to play basketball. There’s no doubt these people love their hoops, which is why a columnist needed to defend coach Travis Ford in the face of criticism from Cowboys fans. As we pointed out earlier in the week, Ford’s program has slipped after qualifying for the NCAA Tournament immediately upon his arrival. Fortunately, recruiting players like Le’Bryan Nash and Marcus Smart should help Ford stick around for a while in Stillwater. Of course, there’s a burden of expectations that comes with recruiting top-notch prospects, and that’s what Ford faces in 2012-13.
  5. We heard a few interesting comments from Bill Self and Bruce Weber at a reception Tuesday for the Coaches vs. Cancer Season Tip-Off. First of all, Self says he thinks Kansas will be “OK,” a year after a team he expressed serious concerns about in the preseason damn near won the national championship. In our books, “OK” for Kansas means, well, another Big 12 Championship and deep NCAA Tournament run. Weber, on the other hand, talked about acclimating to Manhattan, as well as the importance of the Kansas/Kansas State series now that Missouri has moved to the SEC. Weber, who faced Missouri annually at Illinois, said the absence of the Tigers in the Big 12 means the Sunflower Showdown will become an even grander rivalry (as if it weren’t heated enough already). We can’t wait.
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This is Why We Warned You About Iowa State

Posted by dnspewak on March 16th, 2012

In the midst of discussion about Jim Calhoun’s future and the untapped potential of the defending champion Connecticut Huskies, it seems that everybody forgot about Iowa State. Right on cue, the forgotten Cyclones advanced to the second (or is it third?) round with a 77-64 victory on Thursday. Of course, we already told you yesterday the Cyclones could potentially spell danger in the NCAA Tournament. Although we would like to take credit for that prediction, it really was not a brilliant call by any means. Facing a team that underachieved all year long, Fred Hoiberg‘s overachieving bunch of transfer misfits embarrassed UConn in the first half, leading by as many as 22 points. Scott Christopherson couldn’t miss, and the team as a whole looked tougher, more mature and more focused than the young Huskies.

Anthony Davis & Kentucky Should Be Weary Of Royce White & The Cyclones

That hot start helped Iowa State withstand a rally by Connecticut. In the end, this was a statement victory for Iowa State. A statement that Hoiberg is no flash in the pan in 2011-12; that these guys can surely give Kentucky a game on Saturday. It’s hard to remember this Iowa State team actually finished third in the Big 12, considering absolutely nobody gave it a chance to knock off the defending champs. Yet after just minutes, the Cyclones wiped the floor with the big, bad Huskies of the Big East, eventually outrebounding them by 19 and holding them to 37.5 percent from the floor.

That turns our attention to Saturday. As you have heard at least a dozen times on CBS or a Turner affiliate in the past, say, 10 minutes, Kentucky can block shots. Lots of them. Anthony Davis is really good, and so is Terrance Jones. And as you’ve heard a million times, the key to beating a team with those kinds of shot-blockers is to burn them from the outside. That’s exactly what Iowa State can do. Forget Royce White. A stud, for sure, but Christopherson, Chris Allen and Tyrus McGee will need to shoulder the load from the perimeter.

Iowa State already knocked off Kansas at home this year, so it’s no stranger to defeating the nation’s top teams. If it rebounds as well as it did against UConn, we may have a ballgame.

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Night Line: Royce White’s Special Season Carrying Cyclones

Posted by EJacoby on February 1st, 2012

Evan Jacoby is an RTC correspondent and regular contributor. You can find him @evanjacoby on Twitter. Night Line will run on weeknights during the season, highlighting a major storyline development from that day’s slate of games.

In search of their first NCAA Tournament bid since 2005, Iowa State is doing exactly what they need to do to make a statement to the selection committee. On Tuesday night, the Cyclones withstood a valiant effort from visiting Kansas State to come away with a 72-70 win, just four days after knocking off No. 4 Kansas in the same building. Royce White’s game-winning jumper completed a massive second-half comeback and has given Iowa State a two-game cushion in fourth place in the Big 12 as well as a spot on the right side of the bubble for now. Fred Hoiberg’s team is now 16-6 overall, 6-3 in conference, and has one of the best all-around forwards in the entire country. White has been an efficient machine all season long, and he’s now doing it against top competition and in clutch moments. Given how he and his team are playing, it’s going to be tough to keep Iowa State out of the NCAA Tournament.

Royce White is Giving Iowa State Fans Reason to Celebrate (AP Photo/ J. Hayworth)

Royce White was a top 30 recruit two seasons ago and never played for Minnesota before deciding to transfer. After sitting out last season, the sophomore forward has been a dominant force in his first season in Ames, and doing so in a non-traditional manner. Before Tuesday, White was averaging just 13.6 points per game (still a team-high), but he was also the team leader in rebounds (9.6 RPG), assists (4.5 APG), steals (1.1 SPG), blocks (1.1 BPG) and field-goal percentage (53.6%). His all-around game is reminiscent of the kind of production that Draymond Green puts forth for Michigan State, yet White has seemed to get less recognition throughout the season. With another huge night on Tuesday, which included the game-winning basket with two seconds to play, that should no longer be the case.

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Big 12 Morning Five: 01.24.12 Edition

Posted by dnspewak on January 24th, 2012

  1. Hello, USA Today: Missouri has earned some national headlines with its #2 ranking this week, the highest the program has appeared in the polls in about a decade. You are already familiar with the story, but USA Today breaks down the situation for the rest of America’s casual sports fans. After rehashing the off-season saga of Mike Anderson and Frank Haith and the injury to Laurence Bowers, it’s incredible the Tigers have taken the nation by storm like this. Now, they will need to top it off by defeating Kansas and winning the Big 12 in its final season in the league.
  2. Finishing above .500 in college basketball is not necessarily an accomplishment, especially for a Big 12 team with several guarantee games on the non-conference schedule. But Oklahoma State has still finished with a winning record for 23 seasons, and that streak is in jeopardy this year. At 9-9, Travis Ford has five freshmen and only eight scholarship players. With two transfers and a knee injury to J.P. Olukemi, it’s understandable that Ford may have a down year. With big-time recruits coming in, though, there won’t be any excuses in 2012-13.
  3. Tyrus McGee is the forgotten newcomer for Iowa State, but the league honored him by naming him Big 12 Rookie of the Week. McGee is quietly providing Iowa State a hot hand from the perimeter. The junior college transfer is shooting 46% from three and has scored 17 and 20 points in his last two respective games. Oh, and he hit a combined 11 three-pointers in those two games. Not too bad for a guy who plays in the shadows of Royce White, Scott Christopherson, and Chris Allen among others.
  4. Texas A&M wing Khris Middleton did not play last night against Kansas after suffering a knee injury over the weekend. Middleton did miss several games in non-conference play with a knee injury, but this incident does not seem all that serious. Coach Billy Kennedy says he will probably be back soon, and he certainly needs him. Middleton is by far the top offensive option on a team that has struggled to score all season.
  5. Oklahoma is probably the most interesting team in this league right now. Lon Kruger‘s team isn’t dead yet, but it needs to shore up a few things in order to become a contender. The end of the article focuses on Steven Pledger and Cameron Clark in particular. Pledger is Oklahoma’s leading scorer, as he’s having a breakout season. Teams have figured him out a bit during Big 12 play, but this writer urges Kruger to keep feeding Pledger the ball. And Clark, who’s sort of an enigma after a promising freshman season, has started coming off the bench recently. As the article mentions, “If Clark ever reaches his full potential it could take the Sooners to another level.” For Kruger, that will have to happen sooner rather than later.
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Big 12 Weekend Games Primer

Posted by dnspewak on December 9th, 2011


  • Ohio State (8-0) at Kansas (6-2), Saturday 2:15 PM CT

Bill Self has gained a reputation during his long career for producing some of the most efficient offensive teams in the nation, but his 2011-12 team hasn’t performed up to his expectations quite yet. “Our offense sucks,” Self said. “It’s ridiculous to watch.” That’s a harsh statement to make in public, but Self has a point. Kansas turned the ball over 22 times in a win over Long Beach State this week, although it did tally 16 assists and hung 88 on the Big West favorites. To put Self’s comments into perspective, however, consider his team’s three games against Kentucky, Georgetown and Duke. The Jayhawks shot 28 percent from three-point land in those contests, and they totaled more than 10 team assists just once. Right now, much of the problem stems from the lackluster play of point guard Tyshawn Taylor, who owns an assist-to-turnover ratio of less than 1.0. He turned the ball over 11 times against the Blue Devils on national television last month in the Maui Invitational title game, and his subpar efforts seem to have major implications on the way KU runs its offense. But don’t give up on the senior point guard just yet. He has a chance for redemption against a smothering Ohio State defense, and in particular, he’ll need to rise to the occassion against the feisty Aaron Craft. The matchup at point guard will to some extent determine the outcome of this game, especially since star center Jared Sullinger‘s status is in question for the Buckeyes due to back spasms. If he plays opposite of KU’s Thomas Robinson, we’ll be treated to two of the best rebounders in America on Saturday afternoon.

If Jared Sullinger Plays, KU Is In Trouble

The key individual match-up isAaron Craft vs. Tyshawn Taylor. It doesn’t take long to recognize Craft’s impact on a basketball game. Making his mark as a distributor and defender, Craft may actually be the most publicized player in college basketball who does not average double figures in scoring. He has the ability to frustrate Taylor with his intensity and aggressiveness, but it’d be silly to write off Taylor in this match-up. Craft is a sophomore; Taylor, on the other hand, is a senior who’s never turned the ball over at this rate (4.0 TPG) at any point in his career. As long as he takes care of the ball, Taylor is a good enough player to hold his own here.

Kansas wins if… It executes better offensively. You heard Bill Self — the offense “sucks” right now. With Self’s track record, that shouldn’t last for long. If the Jayhawks share the ball better and limit turnovers, they have more than enough scoring options to hang with the Buckeyes at Allen Fieldhouse.

Ohio State wins if… Jared Sullinger plays– and dominates. With Robinson and Jeff Withey, Kansas has the interior defense to contain Sullinger… sort of. No matter who he faces, Sullinger finds a way to score by playing within the offense and making high-percentage shots. If Thad Matta slots him in the starting lineup, it won’t matter who guards him.


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Big 12 Morning Five: 12.06.11 Edition

Posted by dnspewak on December 6th, 2011

  1.  As we previewed the 2011-12 season this fall, we agreed that the Big 12 Conference was wide open this season. But is the league as whole down this year? It’s very difficult to tell, considering the month of December just began. However, there’s legitimacy to the argument. There are a lot of question marks at the top: How will Texas A&M fare if Khris Middleton’s injury nags at him this season? Is Baylor as good as advertised? How about Missouri‘s hot start, and what do we make of the revamped Kansas Jayhawks? And at the bottom of the league, there are several teams still trying to prove themselves. We know one thing, at least: This will all be naturally sorted out during the next few months.
  2. TCU is still a member of the Mountain West Conference right now, but it will get a taste of the Big 12 when it faces Texas Tech tonight. The Horned Frogs, who are set to join the league beginning in the 2012-13 season, are a modest 6-2, but Jim Christian‘s team does at least appear improved. Despite a couple of losses in the Paradise Jam tourney, TCU actually owns solid road wins at Houston and Evansville and knocked off Virginia. Laugh if you want, but TCU’s early-season stretch could have been much worse.
  3. Missouri‘s early-season stretch, on the other hand, couldn’t have been better. Literally. The Tigers are undefeated, and they’ve now cracked the Top 10 in both national polls after their dominating start. Considering the whirlwind of an offseason MU experienced, it’s amazing Frank Haith has his team in this position right now. With Villanova looming tonight at Madison Square Garden in the Jimmy V Classic, Haith’s squad has another chance to showcase its improvement to the nation.
  4. Iowa State began the season on a three-point tear, but the Cyclones’ accuracy from the perimeter has faded of late. That could be a serious problem for a team that relies on shooters like Chris Babb, Chris Allen, Scott Christopherson and Tyrus McGee to produce. During the past two games, ISU has taken 45 threes and the Cyclones made just 10. That’s not very productive, folks. Of course, that’s a rather small sample size. We’re guessing Iowa State’s shooters will heat up one of these days. There’s just too many of them to all go cold at once.
  5. In an interesting move, Oklahoma has actually dropped ticket prices to its men’s basketball games this season. In fact, the Sooners’ athletic department cut $100 off the price for student tickets in an effort to get more people out to the games. And from the 2008-09 season to last year, ticket revenues dropped by about 14 percent. Remember, the 2008-09 team made the Elite Eight with Blake Griffin, so it appears OU may have to keep these prices low until Lon Kruger gets the program turned around.
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Iowa State’s Impact Transfer– But He’s Not Who You Have in Mind

Posted by dnspewak on November 28th, 2011

Fred Hoiberg brought in four notable Division I transfers this season, and by now, you know them by name: Chris Babb (Penn State), Royce White (Minnesota), Anthony Booker (Southern Illinois), and Chris Allen (Michigan State). After months of hype from media members and writers such as ourselves, the group basically became known as Iowa State‘s version of the Fab Four.

So far, Babb, White, and Allen are the team’s three leading scorers, serving as the catalysts during a decent 5-1 start for the Cyclones. And that’s all great and dandy.

Except the most important transfer so far may arguably be Tyrus McGee, a junior college guard who has not started a single game this season. He earned a reputation at Cowley County Community College as a sharpshooter, and he’s certainly lived up to that billing with a blistering 56.7% mark from three-point land. Besides the season opener against Lehigh, McGee has scored in double figures in every other game, and he’s also made at least two three-pointers in each contest.

Tyrus McGee Plays Hard for Coach Fred Hoiberg (Credit: Des Moines Register)

But his scoring totals aren’t the reason McGee has earned constant praise from Hoiberg. Instead, McGee is actually making more of a mark on the defensive end, bringing a much-needed energy and toughness to Iowa State’s roster. Like any defensive stopper, Hoiberg says he “love[s] the kid because he’ll run through the wall for you.” He may not have run through any dry wall last week, but his efforts did help Iowa State to a 64-54 victory over Providence in the South Padre Island Invitational.

McGee then scored 17 points in a route of Rice in the title game. In six games, McGee has exactly one turnover. And did we mention he’s missed only one free throw so far? Yeah, it’s early. Really early. Iowa State already lost on the road to a decent but unspectacular Drake team, and its wins so far (against Lehigh, Western Carolina, Northern Colorado, Providence and Rice) aren’t going to turn any heads. Still, hustle is hustle, and McGee will play hard against any opponent. If the Cyclones surprise the Big 12 this season, he will probably be a major factor in this program’s revitalization.

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Big 12 Morning Five: 11.22.11 Edition

Posted by dnspewak on November 22nd, 2011

  1. After the stunning plane crash at Oklahoma State last week, the school gathered on Monday to honor the four people killed in the accident, including women’s basketball coaches Kurt Budke and Miranda Serna. To give you an idea of how the event impacted the campus, OSU actually decided to cancel classes during the memorial to encourage students to attend. Given what the school had deal with a decade ago when a similar plane crash affected the men’s basketball program, last week’s tragedy hit especially close to home for many members of the OSU community. Our condolences to the victims’ families and the entire OSU program.
  2. In lighter Oklahoma State news, legendary coach Eddie Sutton has made his way into the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame in Kansas City, and he was in attendance Monday night at the Missouri/Notre Dame game. Sutton has his share of black marks on his resume, including the Chris Mills scandal at Kentucky and a bout with alcoholism. However, he still finished with more than 800 wins, and he built nearly every program he coached at into a national power. You take the bad with the good and Sutton deserves every honor he gets.
  3. Perry Jones can’t play yet for Baylor due to an NCAA suspension, but he is getting closer to his return. And despite his absence on the court, he apparently has been nothing but supportive from the bench. Baylor has been just fine without him during a 3-0 start, and the Bears likely won’t need him until their game at Northwestern on December 4. When Jones returns to the lineup, it will be interesting to see how he meshes with freshman Quincy Miller and the rest of the frontcourt crew.
  4. Out in Manhattan, Kansas State will also welcome the return of a forward as Jamar Samuels will suit up tomorrow night against Maryland-Eastern Shore after serving a three-game suspension. With Samuels in the fold, Wildcat fans will not need to rely so much on younger, inexperienced players as they have been so far this November. The Wildcats have not faced any stiff tests yet, but games with Virginia Tech, West Virginia, and Alabama are looming next month Samuels will provide the team with a major boost.
  5. Iowa State newcomer Tyrus McGee is known as a shooter, and he has been living up to that reputation so far. In fact, he is shooting a blistering 90% (9 of 10) from beyond the arc this season. But according to his teammates, he may be more important on the defensive end. A lot of talking heads (like us) mention the likes of Chris Babb, Chris Allen, Royce White, and Anthony Booker when we talk about newcomers for the Cyclones, but McGee is also a key contributor for Fred Hoiberg. He is the kind of role player that could make a big difference this winter.
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Big 12 Team Previews: Iowa State Cyclones

Posted by dnspewak on November 5th, 2011

Projected finish: 8th

2010-11 record: 16-16 (3-13), 12th

Head coach: Fred Hoiberg, second season

Key Losses: Diante Garrett (17.3 PPG), Jake Anderson (12.8 PPG), Jamie Vanderbeken, (11.1 PPG)

Coach Fred Hoiberg‘s team started quick in nonconference play during his first season, but his Cyclones eventually tumbled to a dismal last-place finish in 2010-11. After losing one of the league’s top point guards in Diante Garrett, Hoiberg’s job doesn’t get much easier this fall. However, he does have one of the more intriguing rosters in the Big 12 with four big-name transfers set to take the court. There are a lot of wild cards for Iowa State this season, but there may be enough talent for a surprise finish.

Fred Hoiberg's Team Could Surprise (AP/A. Heisenfelt)

The Stars: Scott Christopherson may be the most underrated shooter in college basketball. He shot a blistering 44.1% from three-point range last year, making 83 threes during a terrific campaign. Garrett got a lot of the credit as the star last season, but Christopherson was probably the second most important player on the squad. After playing sparingly as a freshman at Marquette due to injury, Christopherson finally emerged as a team leader when he became fully healthy and earned a starting job.

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