Big 12 Power Rankings: Baylor Demands Your Attention Edition

Posted by Nate Kotisso on February 3rd, 2015

It’s a near-consensus this season that the Big 12 is considered the best conference in college basketball. As we approach the halfway point of league play, drawing a line between NCAA Tournament contenders and the rest has become an easier task. We all expected Kansas and Iowa State to reign at the top and Oklahoma State, TCU and Texas Tech rounded out the standings (sorry, guys). But the middle five conference teams have been the tough to forecast all season long. West Virginia is 6-2 in league play but still somewhat unproven, with four of those six wins coming against the Horned Frogs and Red Raiders. Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas State have all left something to be desired. The only middle five team to exceed expectations so far has been none other than Baylor.

It's possible: You can respect Scott Drew's grind while laughing at how silly he looks in this photo. (Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

It’s possible: You can respect Scott Drew’s grind while laughing at how silly he looks in this photo. (Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

After finishing sixth last year, Big 12 coaches picked Baylor sixth again before the season began. At the moment, the Bears are in, you guessed it, sixth place. So how are they exceeding expectations? Because they lost Isaiah Austin, Cory Jefferson and Brady Heslip — three of their top four scorers from a year ago — and a slew of role players has been charged with taking on greater responsibility. Rico Gathers has been an anchor inside, grabbing more rebounds in a starter’s role (12.0 RPG) while sharing the wealth among veterans Royce O’Neale (6.3 RPG), Taurean Prince (5.7 RPG) and freshman Johnathan Motley (4.6 RPG). The graduation of sharpshooter Heslip left a gaping hole in the team’s outside shooting but that role has been supplanted by another trio of Bears. O’Neale has been a consistent outside shooting option since arriving from Denver (42.4%) and Prince is also capable from distance (40.5%), but the most improvement has come from point guard Kenny Chery (32.5% last season to 40.5%).

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Big 12 Power Rankings: Kansas State’s in First Place??? Edition

Posted by Nate Kotisso on January 19th, 2015

The Big 12 is weird. It doesn’t even have twelve teams in it. This brown-suited man is their commissioner. Kansas State‘s best player was benched in its conference opener, a loss; and now, the same team that was 7-7 two weeks ago occupies first place in the whole dang league. Aside from weird, the Big 12 is still a very deep basketball league. Kansas State’s place atop the standings is evidence of this fact. But where did the Wildcats’ 4-1 start originate? Better end-game execution? A little bit, yes. Better effort on both ends of the floor? That’s part of it. But the transformation of K-State began with a change in mindset from their benched star, Marcus Foster. Foster came into his sophomore season with lofty expectations after bursting onto the scene last year. Some of those expectations were self-imposed and his focus was to meet them instead helping toward the greater good of the team. “Sometimes you do think to the future,” Foster told The Wichita Eagle last week. “You think about, maybe I can play in the NBA and maybe I need to start doing this. But I think my mindset is back to worrying about today and getting better at what you need to get better at every day. That is all it took for me to get in a few good games.” Following that January 3 loss to Oklahoma State, Foster scored 23 off the bench to help defeat TCU, hit the game-winning three at Oklahoma, led his team in scoring (14) and assists (four) to get by Texas Tech, and grabbed three steals in the weekend’s upset over Baylor. There is still a lot that this team’s resume needs between now and Selection Sunday, but as long as Foster continues to focus on the greater good over self, his team will have a chance. And that’s all it needs, really.

It's not hard to look for the key to K-State's 4-1 start: Marcus Foster. (AP/Charlie Riedel)

It’s not hard to look for the key to K-State’s 4-1 start: Marcus Foster. (AP/Charlie Riedel)

Power Rankings

  1. Iowa State — 3 points (All voted 1st). Comment: “The Cyclones finally delivered the first punch in their attempt to end The Streak (TM). Three of their next four games come at home with the only road trip in that stretch set to take place at Texas Tech. This means that there’s a decent chance Fred Hoiberg’s team comes to Lawrence for the return game with a stellar 7-1 league record. However, if the first two weeks of Big 12 play have taught us anything, it’s that holding the fort in this conference is anything but a given.” – Brian Goodman (@BSGoodman)
  2. Kansas — 6 points (All voted 2nd). Comment: “The Jayhawks have the top-ranked offense and defense during conference play and only lost by five on the road at Iowa State. They could get back to the top spot with wins over Oklahoma at home and Texas on the road this week.” – Chris Stone (@cstonehoops) Read the rest of this entry »
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Big 12 M5: 01.19.15 Edition

Posted by Nate Kotisso on January 19th, 2015

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  1. If you check to see who sits atop the Big 12 standings today, you’ll probably think there must be some mistake. But no, that is indeed Kansas State, winners of their last four after hanging on against Baylor, leading the league with a 4-1 record. While this start to their conference schedule is welcomed, we can’t ignore the fact that the Wildcats are returning seven of their top nine rotation players from last season. The problem is it’s January 18 and they have no margin of error. Their next four games to end January are as follows: at Iowa State, vs Oklahoma State, vs West Virginia and at Kansas. If they finish the month undefeated, their at-large status will improve. Personally, I’d like to see it all in the name of chaos.
  2. Saturday was a monumental day in the history of TCU basketball. Not only did they end a 23-game Big 12 losing streak which dated back to March 2013 but it was also their first ever road win in Big 12 play. As our Brian Goodman pointed out, winning a road conference game can do wonders for your KenPom profile. It’s little milestones like these that can change an entire culture around a program in so many ways. Eventually we’ll reach a point in the future when TCU puts together a winning streak in the Big 12 or contend for the NCAA Tournament without any of us batting an eye at the accomplishment. Someday soon.
  3. The most entertaining game of the weekend was undoubtedly Kansas-Iowa State on Saturday night. The Jayhawks were always a few possessions away from taking the lead away from the Cyclones but anytime KU strung baskets together, ISU was able to come back on the next possession and beat defenders down the floor for transition buckets. After being called out during the week by Bill Self, Perry Ellis answered the bell early but was unable to take the game over due to foul trouble and Frank Mason was perhaps even better than Ellis all game long. But Monte Morris did a little bit of everything (11 points, seven rebounds, three steals) while he continued his ungodly assist-to-turnover pace by piling on 10 dimes with just two turnovers. Can the Big 12 Tournament final get here already?
  4. Musiq Soulchild released the single “B.U.D.D.Y.” from his album Luvanmusiq eight years ago this month. Were you aware that the song was dedicated to Oklahoma guard Buddy Hield? Well, it wasn’t but it would’ve made for a fascinating story! Had this had been true and he did learn the song was dedicated to him before tipoff of #Bedlam, it would have been clear what inspired Hield to go 10-for-10 from the floor including 6-for-6 from three in the Sooners’ drubbing of Oklahoma State. In any case, Hield was stellar once again and OU gets revenge for their football team’s loss to the Cowboys last month.
  5. Jonathan Holmes summed up best Texasmindset going into Saturday’s game vs the Mountaineers, I think: “West Virginia wanted to come out and punk us, and we couldn’t let that happen.” And so, the Horns, who would have been the original punkees, instead became the punkers and made West Virginia the punkees following an 18-2 Texas run in the first half. Halfway through the second half, the Mountaineers were all punked out and the Horns ran away with the game. Holmes struggled shooting but was able to put his head down, drive to the basket, draw fouls and make 11-for-12 from the free throw line while also grabbing 11 rebounds. What lies ahead for UT is a game against TCU tonight in Fort Worth. Someone’s one-game winning streak will sadly come to an end.
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Big 12 Power Rankings: TCU, We Hardly Knew Ye Edition

Posted by Nate Kotisso on January 13th, 2015

TCU basketball is back! Or, at least, not where they used to be! The Horned Frogs went a perfect 13-0 in non-league play by beating up on bad opponents through the first two months of the season. Still, it was a welcome change for a team that typically struggles against anyone above, on or below their level of play. As a result, Associated Press voters rewarded TCU with a Top 25 ranking in December, a cool but misguided notion. Trent Johnson’s club won’t be a contender for Big 12 titles just yet, but it is taking the necessary steps into becoming a competitive program. They’ll likely win a handful of games in Big 12 play, and they’re making inroads in recruiting the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. For those reasons alone, the perception of the program will change and, who knows, perhaps in a few years we’ll be talking about TCU as a perennial NCAA Tournament team.

Guard Kyan Anderson has been a big part of TCU basketball's transition from doormat to competitive. (Steve Nurenburg/Fort Worth Star-Telegram)

Guard Kyan Anderson has been a big part of TCU basketball’s transition from doormat to competitive. (Steve Nurenburg/Fort Worth Star-Telegram)

Power Rankings

  1. Kansas — 3 points (All voted 1st). Comment: “The Jayhawks opened their Big 12 slate with a close road win at Baylor and followed that up with a 32-point thrashing of Texas Tech at home. Kansas leads the league in offensive efficiency and defensive field goal percentage through two games. Plus, Bill Self’s squad is the 10-time defending champion.” – Chris Stone (@cstonehoops)
  2. Iowa State — 6 points (All voted 2nd). Comment: “In a game where they committed 27 fouls and 18 turnovers, the Cyclones found a way to win at a West Virginia team with similar aspirations. If Kansas and Iowa State can remain undefeated until Saturday night, the winner of that game will have our top spot in next week’s rankings.” – Nate Kotisso (@natekotisso)
  3. Oklahoma — 9 points (All voted 3rd). Comment: “The Sooners have issues of their own, as they need to get Isaiah Cousins and Jordan Woodard back on track. Still, they’re just two big Marcus Foster plays away from being undefeated, so it’s hardly time to sound any alarms.” – Brian Goodman (@BSGoodman) Read the rest of this entry »
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Oklahoma’s Blowout of Texas Might Disrupt Big 12 Hierarchy

Posted by Nate Kotisso on January 6th, 2015

Nate Kotisso is a Big 12 microsite writer for Rush The Court. He covered Oklahoma-Texas in Austin last night. You can follow him on Twitter @natekotisso.

We are four days into the start of Big 12 play, so naturally, now is the time to make quick declarations on how the conference will ultimately shake out. Until we make new ones on Saturday, that is. The box score will tell you that the Sooners played their most complete game of the season against one of their toughest opponents on Monday night. While it was an impressive victory, the reality is Oklahoma dominated Texas defensively in the first half and coasted in the second. The Sooners forced nine of Texas’ 12 turnovers, scored 11 points off those turnovers, outscored the Horns in the paint by 10, and held the Longhorns to 14 points total — all in the first 20 minutes. At the break, Texas was left with six players each making one field goal to account for their 6-of-30 shooting, while the Sooners’ Ryan Spangler and Buddy Hield equaled that number with three makes apiece. Their size advantage on Texas’ guards with Hield and Isaiah Cousins allowed the duo to shoot over them to the tune of 4-of-10 from the perimeter.

Texas guard Demarcus Holland attempts to grab the ball on this Longhorn possession. However, the game was out of UT's reach as they lost by 21. (Brendan Maloney/USA Today Sports)

Texas guard Demarcus Holland attempts to grab the ball on this Longhorn possession. However, the game was out of UT’s reach as they lost by 21. (Brendan Maloney/USA Today Sports)

Another important piece to this game for Oklahoma was the emergence of TaShawn Thomas. It’s common knowledge that the addition of Thomas has strengthened the team’s defense to a level that hasn’t been seen during head coach Lon Kruger‘s tenure in Norman. Competing against the athletic size of Cameron Ridley, Jonathan Holmes, Prince Ibeh and Connor Lammert, Thomas posted 15 points on 6-of-12 shooting and 10 rebounds, four of them offensive. While not nearly as efficient on the offensive end, Thomas contributed 12 points, 11 rebounds and led all players in offensive rebounds (four), two blocked shots and one nasty dunk that thwarted any chance of a Longhorns’ comeback early in the second half. The Sooners seem to have Texas’ number of late, winning four of the last five games in the series. Oklahoma has also recorded wins in Austin in consecutive seasons for the first time since the program last did so during the 2000-02 seasons. Read the rest of this entry »

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Big 12 Conference Catch-Up: West Virginia and Oklahoma

Posted by Nate Kotisso on January 1st, 2015

As the Big 12 schools near the completion of their non-conference schedules this week, it’s a great time to catch up on where the league’s 10 teams stand entering conference play. Surely, this would be the year West Virginia becomes a factor in Big 12 hierarchy and they look like a serious one to this point. Meanwhile, Oklahoma has had a few hiccups in non-conference play but there is reason for optimism as the new pieces begin to settle into their roles. The Conference Catch-Up rolls on today with our last Catch-Up coming up tomorrow.

West Virginia

  • Key Wins: UConn, NC State
  • Bad Losses: None
Senior Juwan Staten had led the Mountaineers to a 12-1 start heading into Big 12 play. (Getty Images)

Senior Juwan Staten has led the Mountaineers to a 12-1 start heading into Big 12 play. (Getty Images)

When you’ve had the success and longevity that Bob Huggins has had in coaching, there are very few things left to prove. Perhaps rebuilding his alma mater into a contender in a new league was something worth going after and Huggins appears to have done that. It was hard to expect such a quick start from the Mountaineers in 2014-15 considering two of their top three scorers from last season (Eron Harris and Terry Henderson) transferred out of Morgantown. With them gone, this has undoubtedly become Juwan Staten‘s team. The Preseason Big 12 Player of the Year Staten leads his team in scoring (15.9) and assists (4.3) despite playing on average seven minutes fewer than he did last year. The last triumph most remember WVU having on the national landscape was their Final Four season in 2009-10. What made that team such a difficult matchup for most were their versatile wing players. Guys like Da’Sean Butler, Devin Ebanks and Kevin Jones carried a lot of responsibility on a team that only used a seven-man rotation. Butler, Ebanks and Jones were all 6’7″ or taller, could score, rebound in bunches and committed to defending on a team that finished 23rd in the country in adjusted defense according to KenPom. The difficulty with this year’s team is their ability to wear down opponents due to Huggins’ pressure defense armed with a rotation that rolls ten guys deep. At this point, KenPom has WVU sporting a similar adjusted defense rating as 2009-10 (22nd) despite the Mountaineers averaging 13 steals a game, seven more than the 2009-10 team. In KenPom’s metrics, West Virginia is ranked No. 1 in the country in turnover percentage and steal percentage. More steals and turnovers have led to more easy buckets on the other end of the floor. West Virginia breezed through an average non-conference schedule with one minor speed bump in the form of a 74-73 home loss to a solid LSU team. The big question going into conference play is how long can they keep up their defensive pace against much tougher opponents? It’s one thing to post big numbers against VMI, Northern Kentucky or Marshall and another to do the same to Kansas, Texas or Iowa State.

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Big 12 M5: 11.21.14 Edition

Posted by Nate Kotisso on November 21st, 2014

morning5_big12

  1. Texas sputtered to start the 2K Sports Classic and found themselves down six at the break. They went into locker room and proceeded to dominate the Hawkeyes in the second half 47-27 and won the game by 14. Perhaps the biggest headline to emerge from this is the status of sophomore point guard Isaiah Taylor who injured his left wrist late in the game. UT should take this injury seriously even if it is a minor one. Any time Taylor misses would be harmful to a team that has had its offensive woes. Rick Barnes told ESPN after the game that he asked Taylor “if I would kiss it to make it feel better, and he said it would. And I kissed it but I don’t guess it worked.” This brings up another important point: Kissing boo-boo’s heal when a mother is doing the kissing. Boo-boo kissing is a fruitless endeavor for fathers and/or Division I coaches. (Division II coaches? Maybe.) I don’t have much data supporting this hypothesis but I’m pretty sure it’s foolproof.
  2. West Virginia-George Mason was one of those games Thursday where I had to do a double take on its final score because the deficit was large. Yes, the Mountaineers beat the Patriots by 26 points. You could have missed the game, looked at the final stats and concluded that the Patriots made this loss greater than it should have been. The Patriots turned the ball over 24 times compared to WVU’s 12 and missed 16 of their 32 free throws. This isn’t to say that George Mason would have won the game (they wouldn’t have) but I am saying they did more things to hurt themselves than to help. Kudos to the ‘Eers for capitalizing on their mistakes and for also getting back to winning games Huggy’s way (11 more offensive rebounds than GMU). A great thing about these tournaments is that we’ll get a better frame of reference of teams’ long-term success afterwards. The deeper WVU advances, the more serious I’ll take them as an at-large bid.
  3. So…are we gonna talk about Oklahoma’s massive collapse at Creighton on Wednesday night? When Ryan Spangler hit a three to bump the Sooner lead to 18 early in the second half, Creighton called timeout and I turned the game off. It was remarkable to see the Sooners start the way they did in a notoriously loud building like the Qwest Center is. But Creighton came out of the timeout and upped their defensive pressure on the Sooners. Soon, the game began to swing in the Bluejays’ favor. Oklahoma won’t see a crowd like this one until it plays Kansas and Iowa State in conference action. At least there’s time enough time between now and then to fix those problems.
  4. The Lawrence Journal-World’s post-mortem of Tuesday’s Kentucky-Kansas points out one very big advantage for the Wildcats: Kentucky was bigger. It’s an obvious point Tom Keegan makes but the Wildcats are going to have the best frontcourt in the game every time it steps on a basketball floor. The closest resemblance to a Kentucky team in the Big 12 is Texas but I don’t think size poses much of a problem across the league. Most teams aren’t Texas and don’t have the size that the Longhorns possess. I wouldn’t freak out too much, Kansas fans.
  5. Two future neutral-court fields were announced on Thursday. The 2015 edition of the Charleston Classic’s headliner will be the reigning ACC champion Virginia but otherwise doesn’t generate much interest. The rest of the field is made up of Oklahoma State from the Big 12, Ole Miss, Bradley, George Mason, Towson, Long Beach State and Seton Hall. Meanwhile, the 2015 Puerto Rico Tip-Off will bring in Texas Tech, Miami, Mississippi State, Butler, Missouri State, Utah, Minnesota and Temple. The possibilities for games here are more intriguing than Charleston. Utah and Miami appear to be likely NCAA Tournament teams this season, Fran Dunphy and Temple usually put good teams together and the potential for a Tubby Smith vs his old school match-up will turn a few heads. This will be a good field.
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Big 12 M5: Still Awake For the Marathon Edition

Posted by Nate Kotisso on November 18th, 2014

morning5_big12

  1. Ah yes, it’s that wonderful time of the year when the Los Angeles Athletic Club releases its annual preseason top 50 for the Wooden Award. We’ll have more on this later this morning, but the Big 12 is well-represented with 10 players making the list. As important as the organization wants us to think the Wooden Award is, it really doesn’t mean all that much to college basketball fans and it means even less to those who start watching games in March. Also, why is a preseason list being released during the regular season? Doesn’t that defeat the purpose of the whole thing? Last year’s preseason list didn’t have Nick Johnson, Tyler Ennis, Nik Stauskas or Casey Prather on it, but lo and behold, there they were, announced as four of the Wooden Award finalists in March. Yesterday, our Chris Stone summed up this lunacy quite clearly in fewer than 140 characters. The solution: Throw out the preseason list and stick with announcing the 15 finalists in March. It’ll save us all a lot of grief.
  2. The NCAA announced the sites and hosts for its early and regional rounds of the NCAA Tournament from 2016-18, and the Big 12 Conference will serve as an official host in each of those years. In 2016, Oklahoma City’s Chesapeake Energy Arena will be home to first and second round games; in 2017, Kansas City is welcomed back to NCAA Tournament duties as the Sprint Center hosts the Midwest Regional; in 2018, Dallas’ American Airlines Center will be the home of first and second round match-ups. This doesn’t even include Iowa State hosting a site for 2016 first and second round games in nearby Des Moines. The last early or regional round hosted by a Big 12 school or the conference itself was in 2013, but now we’ll be getting three years in a row within the league’s footprint beginning in 2016. Season ticket holders, rejoice.
  3. Baylor made quick work of McNeese State in its season opener on Friday night, 80-39. The Bears’ two transfers, Deng Deng and Lester Medford, made instant impacts for their team, combining for 29 points on the night. But buried in the story, or the last sentence of this recap, is the news that Taurean Prince was suspended and did not play due to a violation of team rules. Outside of that, that’s all anyone seems to know. Whatever it is, the Waco media should probably look into it further.
  4. With West Virginia’s 2-0 start to the season, Bob Huggins has moved into 15th place on the all-time wins list in Division I men’s basketball history. Many think that this will be a bounce-back year for Huggins and West Virginia basketball, and after reviewing the Mountaineers’ numbers in their first two games, it might just be. West Virginia has shot the ball 66 more times than the opposition, scored 51 points off of 44 turnovers, and have 35 more rebounds. Granted, their competition level wasn’t very high with games against Monmouth and Lafayette, but those are similar to characteristics of past West Virginia teams that were regular participants in the NCAA Tournament. They’ve got to start somewhere.
  5. Kansas State also improved to 2-0 on the season with a nice win against UMKC on Monday. While that’s all fine and dandy, we must have another look at Brandon Bolden‘s blocked shot of Southern Utah’s John Marshall from over the weekend. It’s made its way around the web over the past few days and we at Rush The Court sincerely apologize for not commenting on this sooner. The block was so clean that it was dirty. Marshall took a spill on the floor afterward and Bolden leers at him, perhaps disappointed that he had to do Marshall like that. Go ahead, watch it a few hundred more times and create your own exposition of the play. It’s more fun that way.
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Big 12 M5: Halloween Edition (Boo!)

Posted by Nate Kotisso on October 31st, 2014

morning5_big12

  1. TCU made some recruiting news earlier in the week as 2015 recruit Jalon Miller gave his verbal commitment to the Horned Frogs on Sunday. Miller, a 6’8″ four-star small forward (according to ESPN) from Seagonville High School in the Dallas area, is the first pledge in that class for head coach Trent Johnson. Getting a verbal from Miller is huge for Johnson on two levels: 1) Miller is a pretty good player; and 2) Miller saying ‘yes’ to TCU sends a message to other top prospects in the Metroplex that the Horned Frogs are to be taken seriously in recruiting. Think about it: Talented players are pledging to schools like TCU and SMU. Welcome to 2014.
  2. For two seasons at Baylor, Isaiah Austin and Cory Jefferson were together a lot on and off the basketball floor. When Austin announced to the world that Marfan’s Syndrome would end his NBA career before it had a chance to begin, Jefferson decided to make sure that he and his college teammate would always be on the floor together. Jefferson, of course, was the final pick in June’s NBA Draft, eventually made the Nets’ final roster, and contributed eight points and two rebounds in his NBA debut Tuesday with Austin in attendance. This might be the best non-LeBron story of NBA’s opening week.
  3. Oklahoma guard Isaiah Cousins was in his hometown of Mount Vernon, New York, in late May when he was shot in the shoulder. Miraculously, Cousins was fully participating in practice less than a month later. Cousins opened up on his experience for the first time since everything went down, saying that doctors decided to leave the bullet in his shoulder simply because it’s lodged in between his shoulders and can’t really move. Opposing coaches will now be forced to add “superhero” to Cousins’ scouting report. You’d be foolish not to.
  4. West Virginia might be the most fascinating team in the Big 12 this season. Since arriving in the conference, they’ve been a big disappointment, and my wandering mind has wondered about how much job security Bob Huggins has. He’s done a lot of winning and he’s a native son in Morgantown, but how much will it take athletic director Oliver Luck to consider making a change at the top of his men’s basketball program? Fortunately for everyone involved, that’s probably not a decision that will need to be made. Huggins has perhaps his most talented team since joining the Big 12 and can put those matters to bed with a run to the NCAA Tournament in 2014-15.
  5. Bill Self and his some of his coaching staff did a very cool thing for Kansas students on Thursday. Self went to the Underground, an on-campus food court, and bought lunch for everybody there. Eventually, word got around campus through social media and students flocked because there was free food. There isn’t much Self has to do win the favor of the students because of all the winning he’s been able to do on the floor. But now, even the few Kansas students who don’t watch Jayhawks basketball can’t find beef with him because, dude, he just bought y’all lunch.
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Ranking the Big 12’s 2015 Big Monday Games

Posted by Nate Kotisso on August 12th, 2014

ESPN and the Big 12 Conference released the schedule for their 2015 Big Monday slate of games on Monday afternoon with a small twist. On March 2, 2015, the last Big Monday of the regular season, ESPN will select between two Big 12 games to put in its 9:00 PM time slot. The two options will be Baylor-Texas and Oklahoma-Iowa State, with the less interesting game airing on ESPNU. Most of the usual conference suspects are featured in this year’s slate, including Kansas, Oklahoma and Iowa State, each of which can make up to four appearances. Texas will make up to three Monday games while Baylor, Kansas State and West Virginia will each be on once at the most.

FINALLY SOME HOOPS STUFF TO TALK ABOUT (Big 12 Conference)

FINALLY SOME HOOPS STUFF TO TALK ABOUT (Big 12 Conference)

Now to some numbers. The 2013 version of this schedule featured eight conference members, which included three games involving West Virginia, leading to forgettable match-ups against Kansas, Texas and Kansas State. Consequently, last year’s Big Monday schedule was tightened to just six teams and ESPN/Big 12 is following a similar format for 2015. Also worthy of note: Baylor, a Sweet Sixteen team just five months ago, finds itself with just one *maybe* Big Monday date against the Longhorns. Meanwhile, Kansas State boasts Marcus Foster, one of the most exciting point guards in America, and somehow gets only one game. Another NCAA Tournament team from 2014, Oklahoma State, was left off the schedule altogether.

The only thing left to do now is to hopelessly rank each game from worst to best. This will almost assuredly be used against me in the future. Enjoy it, Internet!

8. Kansas at West Virginia on February 16, 2015

Outlook: All respect to the Mountaineers fans out there, but I can’t figure out why West Virginia made it on the schedule. They finished one game above the .500 mark at 17-16 last year, and two of their top three scorers in 2013-14 — Eron Harris (17.2 PPG) and Terry Henderson (11.7) — decided to transfer to Michigan State and NC State, respectively. Juwan Staten is the only name you might recognize but WVU will have to count on guys who played sparingly last season or are waiting to become eligible. But you’ll watch this game anyway. You’ll tune in either to see Cliff Alexander and Kelly Oubre fly around the court or to hear the TV announcer say, “Here comes Billydee Williams, checking in for the Mountaineers!” (I fall into the latter category.)

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Big 12 M5: 03.05.14 Edition

Posted by Nate Kotisso on March 5th, 2014

morning5_big12

  1. Through the first 16 games conference play, Baylor amazingly played themselves out of and back into contention for a spot in the NCAA Tournament. Now it appears their at-large candidacy is all but sewn up by beating Iowa State 74-61 on Senior Night in Waco. Fittingly, Baylor seniors Brady Heslip (18 points, 5-for-8 from three) and Cory Jefferson (21 points, seven boards and two blocks) led the way and helped the Bears improve to 8-9 in the Big 12. How’s this for patterns: Baylor has made every even-numbered tournament year since 2008. Why mess with happy?
  2. On the heels of Senior Night, the Waco Tribune dove in to the story of fifth-year senior Cory Jefferson. It might sound hard to believe but Jefferson was a freshman on the 2010 Elite Eight team with guys like LaceDarius Dunn (!!) and Tweety Carter (!!!). You can tell Jefferson is a patient guy: he was willing to redshirt his sophomore season, stay on the team despite playing ten minutes per game in 2011-12 and then decided to put the NBA on hold to complete his college career in 2013. Now with a likely tournament bid and potential NBA career nearing, Jefferson is reaping the benefits of making the decision to stay in Waco.
  3. BREAKING: Bill Self is happy about something for once. The Kansas coach is looking forward to tonight’s Senior Night festivities when his Jayhawks take on Texas Tech in Lawrence. KU plans to honor Tarik Black, Justin Wesley and Niko Roberts and here Self is quite vivid about his feelings for these players. For whatever reason, folks have negatively chimed in about the team not properly “celebrating” the program’s tenth straight Big 12 title last week. At least on this night, something worth celebrating will be celebrated. Congrats to the Jayhawk seniors.
  4. Quietly, Oklahoma is after some valuable real estate on the final week of the regular season. The Sooners sit in second at 10-6 in the Big 12, tied with Texas but OU owns the tiebreak over UT by virtue of their season sweep. They will host West Virginia tonight and wrap-up the schedule against winless TCU on Saturday. It’s amazing to think that the coaches picked Oklahoma to tie for fifth in the preseason poll with Kansas State but are now on the verge of finishing right behind Kansas. It would mark the first time that had happened since Blake Griffin’s sophomore season in 2009. It’s looking more and more like Lon Kruger emerging as the favorite for conference COY.
  5. It’s now or never time for West Virginia. What WVU need to show the NCAA Selection Committee in the next ten days is that a) they can win games consistently, b) win games against quality opponents and c) win games against quality opponents away from home. They’ll get a chance to do all three starting in Norman tonight, Kansas at home Saturday and during next week’s Big 12 Tournament in Kansas City. But all of that starts with the type of effort the team gets from leading scorer Eron Harris. Harris is a statistical oddity for a team’s top scorer: the Mountaineers are a surprising 3-7 when Harris scores 20 or more and just 2-4 in Big 12 games. Simply put WVU will need all hands to squeeze in an eighth Big 12 squad into the Big Dance.
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Big 12 M5: 03.04.14 Edition

Posted by Nate Kotisso on March 4th, 2014

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  1. Senior Night did not disappoint the Oklahoma State faithful on Monday. The Cowboys added another RPI top-50 win, defeating Kansas State 77-61 in Stillwater. Markel Brown had a stat-sheet stuffer kind of night with 15 points, five rebounds, five assists, three steals and two blocks. Fellow “senior” Marcus Smart scored 16 of his 18 points in the second half. This comes roughly 48 hours after Smart poured in 20 in the final 20 minutes of Saturday’s win against Kansas. Despite Gallagher-Iba Arena’s full capacity being 13,611, the estimated attendance for last night’s game was just 9,500. And that was with the help of OSU students getting in free with student IDs. Come on, y’all could have done better than that.
  2. Smart’s big second half against the Jayhawks propelled the Pokes to a huge win Saturday and now his third Big 12 POTW award of the season. We also can’t argue with Smart’s performance versus TCU last Monday, nailing five threes on his way to 17 points. With the year Iowa State’s DeAndre Kane is also having, it feels like he’s taking some kind of hardware every week. Kane averaged 20.5 points, 9.5 rebounds and 4.5 rebounds per game to win Big 12 NOTW while recording his sixth double-double of the season in a win over West Virginia. This marks the sixth week in which Kane has won player or newcomer of the week honors this season. I hope we can see both these guys play professionally.
  3. We have an update in our continuing coverage of Backgate 2014: Kansas coach Bill Self announced that center Joel Embiid will not play in the last two regular season games as he rests a back injury he re-aggravated in Saturday’s loss to Oklahoma State. Self said an MRI was done on Embiid’s lower back and the staff came to the conclusion that “rest is the best remedy.” They plan on evaluating Embiid again before the Big 12 Tournament, and are open to sitting him longer if he’s still feeling tightness, but Self doesn’t see it getting to that point. Now we’ll likely get a look at senior Tarik Black, whose starting spot was taken by Embiid earlier in the season. Let’s see if he’s got any more Mozgov dunks left in him.
  4. It’s been a nice comeback season for Rick Barnes and Texas basketball but since a 9-3 start in Big 12 play, the Horns have dropped three of their last four games. Granted, all of those were roadies against likely NCAA Tournament teams but it’s not exactly encouraging if you weren’t competitive in two of those games. “I thought our guards were too tentative,” Barnes said. Even with the emergence of sophomore Cameron Ridley as a consistent contributor, Barnes expected more from his guards. “I told those guys [the guards], you should be out there playing H-O-R-S-E, because everyone is guarding him.” Barnes knows that this is just one of the many speed bumps you reach when you’re coaching an inexperienced yet hungry basketball team. Mistakes will be made but so will the corrections.
  5. It seemed like the bubble talk around West Virginia has cooled in the last 10 days or so but the West Virginia Gazette is still holding out hope for an at-large bid. The reality is the Big 12 likely has six teams that make good cases for at-larges and may have seven if Baylor takes care of business this week. Despite an 8-8 conference record, WVU lacks quality road wins in Big 12 play; have a mix of missed opportunities in non-conference play (vs. Gonzaga, Wisconsin, at Missouri); bad losses (at Virginia Tech, vs. Purdue) and not-so-hot computer numbers (RPI: #89, SOS: #55). An eighth bid from West Virginia probably won’t come unless the Mountaineers were to win out this week and make it to the final of the Big 12 championship game. But hey, stranger things have happened…
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