Wooden Award Watch List Features Plenty of Big 12 Talent

Posted by Chris Stone on November 18th, 2014

The 2014-15 Wooden Award Preseason Top 50 watch list released on Monday features 10 players from the Big 12. League favorite Kansas leads the conference with four selections — a number matched only by the top-ranked (and tonight’s opponent in the Champions Classic) Kentucky Wildcats. Five other Big 12 schools are also represented on the list, including Iowa State, Kansas State, Oklahoma, Texas and West Virginia. The conference most recently won the award when Oklahoma’s Blake Griffin took home the honor at the end of the 2008-09 season.

Juwan Staten is one of ten Big 12 players on the Wooden Award Preseason Top 50 watch list.

Juwan Staten is one of 10 Big 12 players on the Wooden Award Preseason Top 50 watch list.

This year’s watch list features three Big 12 freshmen, all of whom were top 10 recruits according to Rivals. Kansas’ Cliff Alexander began the season by playing 12 minutes in a 69-59 victory over UC Santa Barbara last Friday, scoring nine points and grabbing four rebounds behind the more experienced frontcourt players, Perry Ellis and Jamari Traylor. The second Kansas freshman on the list, Kelly Oubre Jr., played only four minutes in Friday’s contest. Oubre has struggled to find his place in Bill Self’s rotation, playing behind sophomore Brannen Greene and freshman Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk and having a minimal impact against UCSB. While Oubre struggled, Texas center Myles Turner opened the season with a bang against North Dakota State, scoring 15 points and pulling down six rebounds in 20 minutes of playing time in the 85-50 victory. He followed up that performance with a 10-point, seven-rebound, six-block game in an 85-53 win over Alcorn State on Sunday night.

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Kentucky vs. Kansas: Previewing Tonight’s Champions Classic Battle

Posted by Kory Carpenter & David Changas on November 18th, 2014

When it was introduced in 2011, the Champions Classic quickly rose to become the crown jewel of ESPN’s Tip-Off Marathon. The event was such a success that last November, all four teams – Duke, Kansas, Kentucky and Michigan State – renewed the deal without hesitation. Tonight marks the start of the second rotation, and the nightcap will pit the two winningest college hoops programs of all-time (4,269 wins, at last count) against each other. Big 12 microsite writer Kory Carpenter (@Kory_Carpenter) and SEC microsite writer David Changas (@dchangas) took some time to preview the matchup.

Kory Carpenter: Few coaches have a shared history like Bill Self and John Calipari. Each began his career as a Larry Brown disciple at Kansas in the 1980s, and they were famously reunited over 20 years later in the 2008 National Championship game, with Self (thanks to Mario Chalmers) taking the first championship match-up between the two. Calipari got even with Self four years later (thanks to Anthony Davis), beating Self and Kansas in the 2012 National Championship game. Aside from Coach K at Duke, there is nobody in the country recruiting like these two; and, depending on whom you ask, they could easily be considered the two best coaches in the country. In the first year of the Champions Classic in 2011, Kentucky cruised to a 75-65 win behind 17 points from Doron Lamb and seven blocks from future NPOY Anthony Davis. Kentucky is favored once again, thanks to a roster that includes more McDonald’s All-Americans than Calipari might know what to do with. Blue-blood problems, indeed.

In a battle of coaching titans, John Calipari and Bill Self enter tonight's contest looking to one-up each other once again. (AP)

In a battle of coaching titans, John Calipari and Bill Self enter tonight’s contest looking to one-up each other once again. (AP)

Both teams should contend for the National Championship this season, but there are always questions this early, especially when facing teams of this caliber. The biggest concern for Kansas has to be post play, specifically rebounding. Kentucky starts three guys as tall or taller than anyone in Kansas’ starting lineup. Then you have 6’9” Marcus Lee, 6’10” Trey Lyles, and 7’0″ Dakari Johnson coming off the bench. The Jayhawks started a pair of 6’8” guys — Jamari Traylor and Perry Ellis — against UC Santa Barbara on Friday night. Beyond that, Landen Lucas (6’10”) and Cliff Alexander (6’8”) combined for 21 more minutes. As a result, UCSB forward Alan Williams had a field day against the Jayhawks’ frontcourt, finishing with 22 points and 11 rebounds on 50 percent shooting. But with all due respect to the future mid-major draft pick, he’s got nothing on players like Lyles, Johnson, and Towns. Kansas’ Ellis has struggled in the past against bigger, physical players, but that will have to change quickly if Kansas has a chance here, because Traylor doesn’t have a polished offensive game and Alexander looks like he will take some time to become a dominant player. Read the rest of this entry »

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Big 12 Season Preview: Kansas Jayhawks

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 14th, 2014

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

Kansas

Strengths: Coaching and talent. It sounds simple, but when you’ve won 10 straight conference titles, why complicate things? Consider this: Last season, the Jayhawks won the Big 12 by two games and had two of the top three picks in the NBA Draft, yet the season was considered by many to be the most disappointing of Bill Self‘s tenure (and not just because of the early NCAA Tournament flameout to Stanford, though that certainly had a lot to do with it). That’s a major testament to Self’s ability to coach and develop talent, but it also speaks to the annual expectation his track record breeds. The Jayhawks reload yet again, with Kelly Oubre replacing Andrew Wiggins on the wing and Cliff Alexander taking Joel Embiid’s spot down low. Wayne Selden is back with a healthy knee and Perry Ellis is a reliable stalwart in the post. Add a high-ceiling wild card in Svi Mykhaliuk, who Self says is sometimes the best player on the floor in practice, and you’re looking at yet another Kansas team that will be expected to win the Big 12 and, come March, should be among the smartest picks to make a run to Indianapolis.

The Cliff Alexander hype train is already leaving the station. (The Kansas City Star)

The Cliff Alexander hype train is already leaving the station. (Rich Sugg/The Kansas City Star)

Weaknesses: The Jayhawks have enjoyed tremendous success since Sherron Collins left the program in 2010, but ask fans and people close the program and they’ll tell you they’d feel even better if their team had steady play at the point guard spot. It’s definitely not for a lack of trying, though. Since Collins’ departure, the Jayhawks have been connected in various degrees to several of the top floor generals available, including Emmanuel Mudiay, Tyus Jones, Mark Lyons, Gabe York and Cat Barber. For assorted reasons, though, all of them found other landing spots, leaving Kansas to make do with a group of which each had their share of moments and headaches — Josh Selby, Tyshawn Taylor, Elijah Johnson and Naadir Tharpe. The Jayhawks have proven that they can succeed in spite of the point guard issue, but that doesn’t mean it’s a preferable position. Additionally, Kansas needs to rebound from a pedestrian defensive showing (by their standards). The Jayhawks finished last season with their worst defensive efficiency ranking of the KenPom era (#31), due to a combination of a brutal schedule, inexperience, injuries and uncharacteristically poor backcourt defense. This year’s non-conference schedule isn’t less daunting nor is this year’s team significantly more experienced (if at all), but on the other hand, it’s tough to imagine a Self team letting him down on the defensive end for a second straight year. Still, Kansas will have to quiet those concerns if it is to live up to its potential.

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Introducing the RTC Preseason All-America Teams

Posted by Walker Carey on November 13th, 2014

With the season tipping off on Friday night, there’s no better time to roll out our preseason All-America Teams. More than anything, these three groups of outstanding players are here to foster and encourage discussion over the next four months. Our crack panel of seven national columnists provided ballots over the last week or so, and this is where we ended up.

First Team All-Americans

FirstTeam

  • Marcus Paige, North Carolina – Paige enters his junior season at North Carolina following a sophomore campaign when the guard take his game to new heights. After a fairly productive freshman season (8.2 PPG), the 6’1″ point guard took home the ACC’s Most Improved Player Award by upping that average to 17.5 PPG as he led the Tar Heels to the NCAA Tournament. Paige’s season was good enough for him to be the first North Carolina point guard to be named first-team All-ACC as a sophomore since Tar Heels’ legend Phil Ford in 1976. Expectations are high in Chapel Hill again this season, and with Paige running the show, it is easy to understand why. Factoid: In an informal poll of college coaches taken by CBSSports.com in August, Paige was named as one of the players the pollsters would most like to have on their team this season. Once coach said of the Tar Heel, “he really doesn’t get enough credit for what he did for North Carolina last season. Won’t surprise me if he’s National Player of the Year.”
  • Juwan Staten, West Virginia – Not many guards can fill up the stat sheet like Staten. The highly productive senior returns for the Mountaineers following a season when he become the first player in West Virginia history to score 500 points (598), grab 150 rebounds (186), and dish out 150 assists (193) in a season. With the offseason transfers of Eron Harris and Terry Henderson, Staten will almost definitely see those numbers rise during his final collegiate season in Morgantown. After a two-year hiatus from the NCAA Tournament, Staten appears primed to lead what one expert is calling an underrated Mountaineers squad back to the Big Dance. Factoid: Following Staten’s first season at West Virginia, Mountaineers coach Bob Huggins gave his guard the assignment of watching tape from two of the great point guards Huggins coached at Cincinnati – Nick Van Exel and Steve Logan.
  • Montrezl Harrell, Louisville – It was a bit of a surprise in April when Harrell announced that he would return to Louisville for his junior season rather than enter the NBA Draft. Cardinals coach Rick Pitino is undoubtedly pleased with his big man’s decision, as Louisville is set to begin its first season in the arduous ACC. With Russ Smith and Luke Hancock gone, Harrell seems to be the best bet to pick up the slack in Pitino’s up-tempo offense. The junior forward has reportedly added what he and his coach call a more consistent 14-to-16 foot jump shot to his offensive repertoire. While that development unquestionably has Louisville fans giddy, it should worry the Cards’ new conference foes. Factoid: Harrell originally committed to Virginia Tech out of high school, but he reopened his recruitment following Seth Greenberg’s abrupt dismissal. A few weeks later, Harrell signed with Louisville and the rest, as they say, is history.
  • Jahlil Okafor, Duke – The Chicago prep superstar-to-Duke pipeline continues as Okafor is set to begin his freshman season in Durham. The consensus number one high school player in the Class of 2014 enters his college career with a tremendous amount of hype. He has been described as “one of the most skilled and poised back to the basket centers to come along in some time.” Duke brought in a star-studded recruiting class to help offset the early departures of Jabari Parker and Rodney Hood, and there is no question that Okafor is the jewel of that class. If the big man turns in the type of season that many expect from him, there is no telling what the ceiling for the Blue Devils could be. Factoid: Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski has already acknowledged that he expects Okafor to be a one-and-done: “We won’t have him long. We’ll have him this year and then he’ll be one of the top NBA picks.”
  • Frank Kaminsky, Wisconsin – Kaminsky entered the 2013-14 season as a relative unknown after averaging just 4.2 points in 10.3 minutes per game as a sophomore. He did not remain an unknown for long, though, as the junior emerged as one of the top big men in the Big Ten, taking home consensus first-team All-Big Ten honors. While his regular season was outstanding, what really turned Kaminsky into a household name was his 28-point, 11 rebound effort against Arizona to send Wisconsin to the Final Four. The Badgers return four starters from that Final Four squad, but none are more important than the seven-foot senior. Factoid: Kaminsky was lightly-recruited coming out of Benet Academy in Lisle, Illinois. In fact, he was a Plan B for the Badgers after one of their top frontcourt targets, Nnanna Egwu, committed to Illinois.

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Conner Frankamp Transfer Leaves Backcourt Issues for Kansas

Posted by Brian Goodman on October 31st, 2014

Conner Frankamp came to Kansas last fall with a reputation as a terrific shooter, having set the Wichita City League all-time scoring record in high school. But just a year after joining the Jayhawks, Frankamp announced his plans to transfer on Friday. While Frankamp didn’t exactly produce much in his sole year in Lawrence, scoring just 2.5 points in 8.3 minutes per contest (though he was big in the Jayhawks’ curtailed NCAA Tournament run), his departure deepens a hole in the Kansas backcourt, which already lost Naadir Tharpe over the summer.

Conner Frankamp struggled last season to find sustained playing time with Kansas, but shot 50 percent from the floor in the Jayhawks' two NCAA Tournament games. (Mark Gunnoe/Topeka Capital-Journal)

Conner Frankamp struggled last season to find sustained playing time, but shot 50 percent from the floor in the Jayhawks’ two NCAA Tournament games. (Mark Gunnoe/Topeka Capital-Journal)

In a statement, Frankamp indicated a desire to play for a team that would allow him a bigger role. At Kansas, there appeared to be an opportunity for him to step in behind freshman Devonte Graham, who is viewed as the team’s lead point guard despite his relative lack of experience. However, the transfer indicates that Frankamp finished behind sophomore Frank Mason in the competition for the Jayhawks’ backup point guard slot. The move leaves a skill set void for the Jayhawks, which are now in need of a floor-spacing knockdown shooter. Even though Frankamp didn’t put up huge numbers from beyond the arc — he shot just 31 percent from distance — there was plenty of potential for him to improve on those numbers in his sophomore year given the lack of clear alternatives.

Wayne Selden was more productive as a long-range bomber last season, though not by much (shooting 32.8 percent on 3.7 attempts per game), and is expected to be a more aggressive player in getting to the tin this year, leaving more three-point opportunities available for other players. Kansas’ options in those department include Brannen Greene, who averaged just 6.6 minutes per game, and raw Ukranian freshman Sviatoslav Mykhaliuk, who may not be ready for significant minutes until conference play. While it may not have been a guarantee that Frankamp would see more playing time this season, at the very least it appeared as though his opportunities wouldn’t be any more limited than they were last year, and that he’d be able to make a case for extended run with his play in shorter stints.

We’ve seen the Jayhawks have terrific regular seasons in the past despite backcourt questions and transfers from the odd man out are hardly new to the program, but it will be interesting to see who Bill Self gets to answer the bell this time around.

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Big 12 Week In Review and Look Ahead: Don’t Mistake League’s Competitiveness For Superiority

Posted by Brian Goodman on February 21st, 2014

The Big 12 may be one of the most competitive conferences in the country, but this week hasn’t been the most glowing endorsement for the league’s case as the best conference in the country. Monday’s game between Baylor and Oklahoma State was supposed to be a battle of teams in the top half of the conference (if we go by preseason expectations), but instead was a fight for ninth place that only went to overtime because of a sequence that was, well, very fitting of a ninth-place battle:

The next day, Texas squared off against Iowa State in a game with major implications for the Longhorns’ Big 12 title chances, but they were able to lead only within the first five minutes. While Texas kept the game interesting with a run early in the second half, the Cyclones pulled away to hold serve at home.

Meanwhile, 925 miles south, Kansas needed another miracle from Andrew Wiggins at the end of regulation to get past a salty but mediocre Texas Tech team in Lubbock:

The only other game this week saw Kansas State quietly beat TCU by 12. The Wildcats’ two best players, Marcus Foster and Thomas Gipson, paired up for 29 points, 14 rebounds and six assists, but they also combined to shoot 34.6 percent from the floor and turned the ball over nine times. As a team, Kansas State had a staggering 18 turnovers at home against the worst power conference team in the country, needing a second half run to get away for good.

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Four Takeaways from Kansas State’s Win over Kansas

Posted by KoryCarpenter on February 11th, 2014

It seems rare when a team that comes back to force overtime in the manner that Kansas did ends up losing the game, but that’s exactly what happened in Manhattan against Kansas State last night. The Wildcats held a nine-point lead with under two minutes remaining (sound familiar, Kansas fans?) but some Jayhawks’ layups, putbacks, and a pair of costly Kansas State turnovers sent the game to overtime. No matter. The Wildcats continued to dominate the paint and won for only the fourth time in the series’ last 52 games, 85-82. Here are four takeaways from last night’s action in Bramlage Coliseum.

Marcus Foster has been a big reason for Kansas State's improved play as of late.

Marcus Foster has been a big reason for Kansas State’s improved play as of late.

  1. Kansas State is putting together a solid NCAA Tournament resume. After losing three out of five in the middle of January, the Wildcats now have back-to-back wins over top 15 teams. Their resume includes impressive victories over Gonzaga, Oklahoma State, Oklahoma, Texas and Kansas. Last night’s win puts them at 17-7 and just two games back of Kansas in the Big 12 standings.
  2. Marcus Foster is legit. The Wildcat freshman guard had 20 points on 5-of-10 shooting and added a pair of late free throws in overtime to ice the game with 22 seconds left. He came into the game averaging 14.7 PPG but has been especially hot lately, scoring over 20 points in four of his last five games. He’s averaged 27 PPG over the last two games in wins over #7 Kansas and #15 Texas. Read the rest of this entry »
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Big 12 M5: 01.30.14 Edition

Posted by Taylor Erickson on January 30th, 2014

morning5_big12

  1. Heading into this season, it was presumed that Kansas freshman guard Wayne Selden would be a one-and-done player along with teammates Andrew Wiggins and Joel Embiid. Selden has certainly been solid for the Jayhawks, but he has flown under the radar a bit with the attention the others have drawn, leaving some to speculate that Selden will be back for a sophomore season. In an article on Wednesday, Jason King talked with some NBA scouts who said the book was still out on Selden and that he would be smart to return for his sophomore season.
  2. On Wednesday, the McDonald’s All-American teams were announced, and featured two current Kansas commitments in Cliff Alexander and Kelly Oubre. Others participating who could end up in the Big 12 next season are big man Miles Turner and guard Rashard Vaughn. Vaughn is considering Iowa State and Kansas, but is considered to be a lean to the Cyclones at this point. Turner is a consensus top-five recruit and is considering Kansas and Oklahoma State from the Big 12, among others. It’s likely that Turner’s decision will be impacted by Embiid’s status next season, but regardless, there will once again be an influx of impressive talent headed into the league next season.
  3. Yesterday, we discussed how foul trouble was beginning to weigh heavily on Oklahoma State in many games this season, thanks in large part to the absence of forward Michael Cobbins. As John Helsley points out, the Cowboys were worn down by the time tournament play rolled around last season, and it showed in early exits from both the Big 12 and NCAA Tournaments. Against Oklahoma Monday night, Markel Brown played 39 minutes, and with the depth in the Big 12 this season, the road from here on out won’t be any easier for the Cowboys.
  4. Although West Virginia has struggled more than most Mountaineers’ fans would have hoped heading into this season, guard Juwan Staten has been fantastic, especially as of late. In the final seconds against Baylor on Tuesday night, Staten was able to get into the lane for a layup that gave his team the go-ahead score. Staten credits the encouragement he constantly receives from his father for his success, saying that in most situations he would have kicked that ball out, but heard his father’s urging and went for the reverse layup to give West Virginia the win.
  5. Lon Kruger has once again proven his worth as an outstanding coach this season, leading his Oklahoma team to a 17-4 record so far. In addition, Kruger’s team is doing something no other team in college basketball is doing – that is, all five of his starters are averaging double figure points per game. For a team that has flown a bit under the radar among the national media, the Sooners could be a popular pick to win a few games in the NCAA Tournament given their ability to put points on the board in a hurry.
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Big 12 M5: 01.23.14 Edition

Posted by Kory Carpenter on January 23rd, 2014

morning5_big12

  1. It seems like every year now Baylor has the look of a team that can challenge for the Big 12 regular season title. And every year the Bears fall off somewhere around this time. They were ranked No. 7 in the country not too long ago but are now losers of three straight. “It’s the No. 1-ranked conference in the country, so it’s a grind,” head coach Scott Drew told John Werner of the Waco Tribune. “We’re five games into it and we’re on the upward swing, so hopefully we can keep that going.” The Bears’ next chance to get out of its current rut comes Saturday at home against Texas.
  2. John Helsley of The Oklahoman asks a good question about Oklahoma State here: Is a six-day layoff after Saturday’s loss at Kansas a good or bad thing? He makes compelling cases for both answers, but we won’t know what the correct one is until the Cowboys play West Virginia at home on Saturday. The Pokes are in a Saturday-Monday rotation for their next five games, so perhaps a routine will do Oklahoma State some good.
  3. As Kyle Ringo of Yahoo! Sports points out, not many people expected Texas to be playing as well as the Longhorns are this season. Rick Barnes lost just about all the talent he had from last year’s team, and that group of Longhorns wasn’t a great team anyway. But here they are a year later, sitting at 15-4, 4-2 in Big 12 play, and in a good position to make the NCAA Tournament this season. But will they keep it up?
  4. Kansas State was in sole possession of second place in the Big 12 not very long ago. But then Tuesday’s game at Texas happened, and the Wildcats are suddenly tied with three other schools in that spot. Texas forward Jonathan Holmes nailed a last-second three-pointer to give the Longhorns a 67-64 win and a tie for second place. Like Sean Keeler of FoxSportsKansasCity.com said, “Gotta let it go.” There’s no shame in losing a close game on the road, but come Selection Sunday, Tuesday’s loss could be one that the Wildcats point to as one that cost them on the seed line.
  5. Bill Self likes toughness. He has noted that his favorite picture is from the 2008 Final Four against North Carolina, a snapshot where two Jayhawks (Darrell Arthur and Darnell Jackson) dive on the floor for a loose ball with both hands while the Tar Heels’ players brace themselves for the fall. So it’s no surprise that he loved Wayne Selden‘s dive into the stands to save a loose ball  — and eventually getting an assist — on Monday night against Baylor. “He gives us an air of toughness,” Self told Rustin Dodd of the Kansas City Star. “Certainly when he’s going after the ball like that, we become a much better team because it’s contagious.”
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Big 12 Game of the Year: Previewing Oklahoma State at Kansas

Posted by Taylor Erickson on January 18th, 2014

Saturday afternoon’s tilt between Big 12 powerhouses Kansas and Oklahoma State in Allen Fieldhouse has long been circled on the calendar as one of the most anticipated games in college basketball this season, thanks in large part to the two games that took place last season. In case you need a refresher, Oklahoma State strolled into Lawrence last February and snapped Kansas’ 33-game home winning streak. As if the victory alone wasn’t enough to disappoint Jayhawks Nation, Smart followed his 25-point performance with a beautifully executed backflip on the center of James Naismith Court, much to the chargin of the 16,300 fans in attendance. Kansas returned the favor two-and-a-half weeks later, when the Jayhawks won in double overtime in Stillwater thanks to a Naadir Tharpe bucket in the final seconds to push the Jayhawks ahead, although no backflip was performed.

Marcus Smart pulled off a backflip in Allen Fieldhouse a season ago while Jayhawk fans and Elijah Johnson look on in disbelief. (Emily Wittler/KANSAN)

Marcus Smart pulled off a backflip in Allen Fieldhouse a season ago while stunned Jayhawk fans and Elijah Johnson look on in disbelief. (Emily Wittler/KANSAN)

Now, fast forward eight months to October. During that time, Marcus Smart decided to return to Oklahoma State for a sophomore season, and the highly touted high school recruit Andrew Wiggins had decided to go to school at Kansas. While Wiggins was the focus of nearly every preseason magazine, Smart had a few choice comments on Big 12 media day for the heralded Jayhawk freshman, saying,  “A lot of people are saying he’s the best player now in college basketball.  All I’m saying is how can you be the best player in something you haven’t even played yet?” To be perfectly honest, Smart’s comments were probably fairly justified. Had Wiggins chosen to play his college basketball in a different location, Smart would have instead been the toast of the conference, but he was now forced to answer questions about a kid in Wiggins who had plenty to prove at the collegiate level. Smart would go on to say about Wiggins, “If he’s the best player like people say, if that’s the case, in order for me to be the best, I have to beat the best, right?  If he’s the best player, fans will get their money’s worth when we play Kansas.”

This showdown certainly has all the makings of must-see television on Saturday afternoon, and to get you ready for this action, I discussed some of the more intriguing aspects of this one with Kyle Porter, creator of the Pistols Firing Blog (@pistolsguy) and a must-follow for all Oklahoma State fans. Let’s take a look at the most anticipated game in the Big 12 so far this season.

Taylor:  Kyle, first off, thanks a bunch for getting together to preview this Big 12 showdown that will take place tomorrow in Allen Fieldhouse. To get us started, one of the more intriguing aspects of this game are the defensive match-ups that will be featured. Marcus Smart and Markel Brown put as much pressure on the opposing guards on the offensive end of the floor than maybe any team in the nation, and it’s no secret that Naadir Tharpe lacks on defense. Conversely, the injury the Michael Cobbins has left Oklahoma State fairly thin up front, and with the emergence of Kansas big man Joel Embiid, I’m curious on your thoughts of how Travis Ford will choose to defend Kansas in the frontcourt?

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Big 12 Power Rankings: Kansas is Finally Finding Itself

Posted by Nate Kotisso on January 13th, 2014

Going into last Wednesday’s game against Oklahoma, Bill Self told his players that conference play was a “new season” and that everything would be “fresh and new from this point forward.” The young Jayhawks have heeded that message so far, getting past the Sooners and soundly beating Kansas State on Saturday. With a 2-0 start in the Big 12, we all figured they would rise in this week’s power rankings, but by how much? Is your top 10 shaped differently than ours? That’s what the comments are for.

It appears safe to close the panic button for Bill Self and the Jayhawks. (AP Photo)

It appears safe to close the panic button for Bill Self and the Jayhawks. (AP Photo)

1. Kansas — 6 points (previous: 3rd; Brian-1st, Kory-1st, Nate-3rd, Taylor-1st)

Comment: “It’s looking like Kansas’ non-conference struggles were nothing more than one of the youngest teams in the country playing one of the toughest schedules in the country. The Jayhawks have looked good the last two games and now have four legitimate threats to have a big game any on night: Andrew Wiggins,  Perry Ellis, Joel Embiid, and Wayne Selden.” – Kory Carpenter (@Kory_Carpenter)

2. Iowa State — 7 points (previous: 1st; Brian-2nd, Kory-2nd, Nate-1st, Taylor-2nd)

Comment: “I didn’t feel like I should drop the Cyclones in my top 10 — they lost to a pretty good Oklahoma team by five on the road. The winner of Kansas-Iowa State tonight will likely take my top spot next week.” – Nate Kotisso (@natekotisso)

3. Oklahoma State — 13 points (previous: 4th; Brian-3rd, Kory-3rd, Nate-4th, Taylor-3rd)

Comment: “Travis Ford’s squad avoided a disastrous start to conference play by knocking down a big three late to give them the win in Morgantown. If the Cowboys would have dropped two of their first three in league play to teams in the middle tier of the conference, they could have kissed their Big 12 title hopes goodbye.” – Taylor Erickson (@tc_erickson)

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Big 12 M5: 01.13.14 Edition

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 13th, 2014

morning5_big12

  1. Across the nation, all eyes are on DeAndre Kane‘s status for tonight’s marquee match-up between Iowa State and Kansas. As of now, Kane is a gametime decision even though X-rays on his ankle turned out negative. That very few among the media thought Kane would be this big a factor when the season started is pretty telling of just how important he’s been for the Cyclones. Should ISU go down, we’re confident that Fred Hoiberg won’t let Kane’s health be an excuse, as the Cyclones will still have plenty of options if Kane can’t go. Look for a more detailed preview here later today.
  2. After a rocky start to the campaign, Kansas freshman Wayne Selden seems to be turning a corner, and a mindset of treating conference play as a new season of sorts appears to be at the heart of his increase in productivity. His performance in Saturday’s win over Kansas State was an eye opener, as he poured in 20 points to go with four rebounds and three assists. Selden’s emergence as a backcourt weapon has been a welcome storyline to a Kansas backcourt that has at times struggled to get everyone going at once.
  3. When a team loses a close game, as West Virginia did to Oklahoma State on Saturday, it can be easy to point to a possession here or there as the determining factor. Mountaineer guard Eron Harris got down on himself for trying to force a few plays down the stretch. While it’s admirable that the sophomore took responsibility, the best he can do is to put it behind him and move on to the next chance, especially as a tournament bid slips more out of reach with each passing loss.
  4. Late stops proved crucial for Oklahoma as they put an end to Iowa State’ unbeaten start on Saturday. The Sooners’ defense has left a lot to be desired, so to see it step up when it really needed to had to have been relief for head coach Lon Kruger. Saturday’s win was a big step in Oklahoma’s quest for a tournament bid, and the Sooners will look to keep it up tomorrow against a Kansas State team that has struggled offensively for most of the year.
  5. Following Kansas State‘s loss at Allen Fieldhouse over the weekend, Bruce Weber is already anxious to see how his team responds. Weber admitted that while his younger players are promising, they were rattled by the raucous crowd in Lawrence when the Jayhawks sprung a 13-3 run midway through the first half and cruised from there. For all the Weber naysayers, of which there are plenty, it’s worth pointing out that aside from Thomas Gipson, the Wildcats’ best players as of late have been those recruited by the second-year coach.
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