Josh Gray Gets LSU Off to Big Start in Critical Week

Posted by Greg Mitchell on December 4th, 2014

Johnny Jones didn’t try to hide how important this week is for LSU when asked about Jordan Mickey missing last Saturday’s win over McNeese State. “Jordan is fine. If he was needed tonight, he would have been available, but he had treatment that past couple of days. We wanted to make sure that we allowed the process to take place there,” Jones said. Translation: we can win this game without Mickey, and we darn well need him ready for next week’s schedule. This was a calculated risk by Jones. UMass and West Virginia loomed, presenting LSU with a golden opportunity to wash away early season losses to Old Dominion and Clemson. The Tigers needed Mickey in the lineup this week, but a slip-up against McNeese State would have been hard to recover from. Jarell Martin did his part by carrying the Mickey-less Tigers to that win on Saturday, and Jones’ gamble paid off with an 82-60 win against UMass (KenPom #59) on Tuesday night.

Josh Gray led LSU to a big win over UMass with 25 points (nola.com).

Josh Gray led LSU to a big win over UMass with 25 points. (nola.com)

Star of the game. The distinction has to go to Josh Gray, who poured in 25 points on 11-of-15 shooting, including 3-of-4 from three (he came into the game only 2-of-8 on the season). He also added five assists and four rebounds, but turned the ball over seven times. Two offensive possessions stand out for me. With around two minutes left in the first half, UMass’ Cady Lalanne made a contested basket inside to cut a 15-point LSU lead down to 11. A few stops and a basket or two and the Minutemen would have had some momentum going into halftime. Gray, however, immediately came downcourt and a hit a three to prevent the possibility of a half-closing run. He squashed UMass’ momentum in the second half too. The Minutemen had pulled to within 10 points on a three-point play by Lalanne, but Gray went on a 6-1 run by himself to ultimately put the game out of reach. Mickey had another great game (16 points, 10 rebounds) but he was locked in a physical battle defending Lalanne all night, holding the UMass senior to 6-of-15 shooting from the floor. Gray’s ability to carry the offense was that much more important when LSU’s star had to expend so much effort on the other end of the court. He certainly doesn’t have to score 20 points each night, but if he can build on this performance and become a reliable offensive threat from the outside, the Tigers will have three legitimate scoring options to really put the pressure on opposing defenses. Read the rest of this entry »

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Big 12 M5: 12.03.14 Edition

Posted by KoryCarpenter on December 3rd, 2014

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  1. A surprise to few after his big weekend in the Orlando Classic, Kansas forward Perry Ellis was named the Big 12 Player of the Week on Monday. Ellis scored at least 17 points in all four games last week, which was capped off with a win over Michigan State on Sunday. Ellis, who is now averaging 18.8 PPG and 7.5 RPG on the season, is also ninth in Ken Pomeroy’s National Player of the Year rankings. While in Orlando, Ellis shot nearly 50 percent from the floor and was named tournament MVP. He had a pretty good Feast Week.
  2. West Virginia forward Jonathan Holton also received honors from the Big 12, being named conference Newcomer of the Week. The junior college transfer already has two double-doubles on the season and is a big reason why the Mountaineers have raised quite a few eyebrows around the Big 12 with their 7-0 start. Last week Holton averaged 17.5 PPG and 8.0 RPG in a pair of West Virginia wins, and he is averaging 12.9 PPG on the season. West Virginia hosts LSU Thursday night in Morgantown.
  3. Iowa State was a sexy pick to compete and potentially win the Big 12 this season, and so long as Fred Hoiberg and Georges Niang are still in Ames, it is not a terrible prediction. But after losing to Maryland last week, the Cyclones slipped quite a bit in the weekly polls. “Guys really forgot how much hard work it was to be how good we were last year,” Niang told Randy Peterson of the Des Moines Register. The Cyclones rebounded nicely last night, dropping 96 points in a 37-point beat down of Lamar, and are set to face Arkansas tomorrow night in what should be one of the more exciting non-conference games around the Big 12.
  4. Brian Spaen over at ClonesConfidential.com has a fair Big 12 Power Rankings heading into this week. Undefeated Texas tops the list, while Kansas follows the Longhorns in second place. We should have a somewhat good idea of where both teams stand after Texas travels to Lexington to take on Kentucky on Friday night. If (when) the Longhorns don’t lose by 32 to the Wildcats, it won’t mean they are the difference better than Kansas; but how the Texas front line handles Kentucky’s size could tell us how they might fare against Kansas in their two (possibly three) upcoming meetings this season.
  5. Kansas State didn’t have the best trip to Maui last week. The Wildcats played Arizona tough in the semifinals, but ended up losing their last two games on the island. They are now 3-3 on the year and have a few potentially tough non-conference games remaining, beginning at Tennessee on Saturday. “We’ve just got to keep moving forward,” senior forward Thomas Gipson told Kellis Robinett of the Kansas City Star on Monday. The four-point loss to Arizona was followed by a 23-point blowout against Pittsburgh, before they got back in the win column in Manhattan against Nebraska-Omaha last night. The Wildcats don’t look like a team capable of winning the Big 12 championship, but they have several more opportunities to pile up solid wins before heading into conference play.
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Grading the Big 12’s Feast Week Performances

Posted by Brian Goodman on December 1st, 2014

With much of the Big 12 participating in competitive, neutral-court tournaments last week, we were able to get a solid litmus test for most of the conference’s squads. All in all, the league had a good showing, but it wasn’t spectacular. Here are some grades relative to how each team was expected to perform during Feast Week:

  • Texas (wins vs. St. Francis and UConn): A. In the Longhorns’ first action since Isaiah Taylor broke his wrist (minus the game against Cal the following night at MSG), Rick Barnes’ team rolled over the Red Flash without a problem, as they were paced by Myles Turner’s 25 points, nine rebounds and three blocks. All they did was follow that up by handing UConn its first non-conference loss at Gampel Pavilion since 1993, when current Husky guard Sam Cassell, Jr.’s dad helped Florida State beat UConn in Storrs. Big ups go out to Jonathan Holmes, who, with this game-winner from Sunday, is now shooting an eye-popping 61.9% from distance.
Jonathan Holmes' late heroics in Storrs kept Texas undefeated.

Jonathan Holmes’ late heroics in Storrs kept Texas undefeated. (Getty)

  • Kansas (wins over Rhode Island, Tennessee and Michigan State in the Orlando Classic): A-. After the big Kentucky loss, Kansas’ last game against venerable competition before the holiday weekend, the Jayhawks had their fair share of unanswered questions. With this still being the first week in December, the rotation still has some kinks to iron out, but fans should be happy about Perry Ellis‘ improved rebounding to complement his scoring ability as well as Frank Mason‘s overall progress, though I’m still a little bearish because we’ve seen both these movies before and because I’m not sure Michigan State is all that good. The keys moving forward are whether Ellis and Mason can maintain that level of play, and whether Bill Self‘s leash on Cliff Alexander has truly lengthened. It would also be helpful if Wayne Selden could bust out of a big scoring funk (6.8 PPG on 24.1% shooting over his last four games).

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Big 12 M5: 12.01.14 Edition

Posted by KoryCarpenter on December 1st, 2014

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  1. Kansas defeated Michigan State 61-56 yesterday to win the Orlando Classic and improve to 5-1 on the season, thanks largely to 17 year-old Ukranian Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk. The would-be junior in high school had 11 points in the win and is quickly becoming the Jayhawks’ best shooter. “He can really shoot the basketball,” Bill Self told the Kansas City Star‘s Rustin Dodd after the game. “But he’s really become a really good defender, and he understands what we’re trying to do for the most part.” Mykhailiuk started the last few games and might be starting to come into his own. He was 4-of-10 from the field and 3-of-6 from beyond the arc.
  2. If you missed seventh-ranked Texas‘ last-second win over UConn yesterday morning, you missed a good one. Jonathan Holmes knocked down a corner three-pointer with two seconds left to give the Longhorns the 55-54 victory over the #24 Huskies in Storrs. The play was originally designed for freshman center Myles Turner, but when nothing developed it left Holmes with a good look from the corner. There is still plenty of improvements to be made, however, according to head coach Rick Barnes. “I told the team in the locker room that the only time they really listened and did what we asked was the last play,” Barnes told AP writer Pat Eaton-Robb. The 6-0 Longhorns take on No. 1 Kentucky on Friday in Lexington.
  3. Speaking of undefeated teams, the West Virginia Mountaineers have looked like a team that could surprise people when Big 12 play begins next month. Like Texas, The 7-0 Mountaineers also have a win over Uconn as well as wins over George Mason and Boston College. There is a decent chance Bob Huggins and Co. are undefeated heading into the conference season. Unknown players like Jonathan Holton, Jevon Carter, and Daxter Miles, Jr. have had their moments, but as Connor Murray points out, junior guard Jaysean Paige might be the most important piece to the puzzle. Paige is 10-22 from three-point range this season and is averaging 7.3 PPG.
  4. Yes, even TCU is undefeated this season as well. The 7-0 Horned Frogs aren’t expected to make much noise this season, and that is probably still the case. But they already have wins over power-5 teams Washington State and Mississippi State. If they can beat Ole Miss in Oxford on Thursday, they should have a good chance to go 13-0 out of conference. I don’t know if you had TCU and West Virginia facing off in the battle of the unbeatens on Jan. 3, but I certainly didn’t. Kyan Anderson leads the team in points (12.7 PPG) and assists (3.7 APG), and the Horned Frogs most recently claimed the Corpus Christi Coastal Classic championship over the weekend.
  5. Under head coach Fred Hoiberg, Iowa State has been known as a team that will bomb away from deep, getting hot enough to beat anyone in the country but with the potential to cool off and lose to just about anyone. But as Travis Hines of the Ames Tribune points out, the Cyclones are capable of having a legitimate presence down low this season. When 6’9″ forward Jameel McKay becomes eligible at the semester’s end, Iowa State might have someone who can compliment the bevy of perimeter talent. If that happens, the Cyclones should compete for the Big 12 title. If not, they should hope their perimeter-oriented ways will carry them through the grueling double round-robin of Big 12 play.
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RTC Top 25: Week One

Posted by Walker Carey on November 24th, 2014

Week one is in the books and what a week it was. One of the great things about college basketball is that many of the elite teams play other elite teams early in the season, and that is what happened at the Champions Classic in Indianapolis last Tuesday. First, #2 Duke led the entire way in scoring a comfortable 11-point victory over #19 Michigan State, and in the nightcap, #1 Kentucky showed everyone why it will be the story of the year in college basketball, as the Wildcats thoroughly dismantled #11 Kansas. Duke’s win over Michigan State paired with its weekend victories over Temple and Stanford have the Blue Devils all the way up to the second slot in this week’s RTC25. #1 Kentucky remains in the top spot, but its style points in demolishing a talented Kansas squad earned the Wildcats every one of our pollsters’ number one votes. Outside of Kentucky, the team of the week had to be #7 Gonzaga, who rose from #11 after it impressively handled previously-#22 SMU and dominated its way to a 52-point thrashing of Saint Joseph’s.

This week’s Quick N’ Dirty after the jump…

Screen Shot 2014-11-24 at 9.21.01 AM

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Big 12 M5: 11.24.14 Edition

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 24th, 2014

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  1. In an early but big game for Bob Huggins and West Virginia, the Mountaineers impressed by beating defending national champions Connecticut, 78-68, in the finals of the Puerto Rico Tip-Off Sunday night. The victory was keyed by a 17-4 run midway through the first half, and big games from Juwan Staten (21 points) and the Mountaineer defense, which forced 19 Husky turnovers, were especially crucial. Without a slate full of formidable non-con opponents, the win was very important for WVU from a resume standpoint. West Virginia can breathe easy for now, as they should have little trouble passing their next two tests, which come against VMI and the College Of Charleston.
  2. Amid the fallout for Kansas from last week’s shellacking at the hands of Kentucky was a minor injury, as it was revealed that freshman Devonte’ Graham sprained his shoulder in the loss. The injury isn’t said to be serious and it sounds like Graham will be ready for this week’s Orlando Classic, but with point guard play continuing to be a question, any development that brings more uncertainty to the picture isn’t good. If Mason shows any lingering symptoms, it will be interesting to see what the Jayhawks can get from Frank Mason.
  3. Oklahoma State big man Michael Cobbins was welcomed back to the team with open arms and showed that he was ready to go with a very solid performance against Milwaukee Friday night. Cobbins was sidelined for the Cowboys’ first three games of the season due to an NCAA ruling, but chipped in 15 points to go along with six rebounds, three blocks and a steal in an 82-68 win in his season debut against the Panthers. Oklahoma State now has everyone available as they gear up for a semifinal match-up tonight against Oregon State in the MGM Grand Main Event in Las Vegas. They’ll play either Auburn or Tulsa in the final or consolation round on Wednesday.
  4. Obvious as it is, we’ve talked several times about how important it is for Kansas State to avoid the kind of non-con gaffes that sent them scrambling into February to secure an NCAA Tournament bid. As it turns out, Bruce Weber‘s team didn’t listen to us, as it took a 69-60 road loss to Long Beach State on Friday night. Beating Purdue in today’s opening round of the Maui Invitational now becomes more meaningful than it was before, not so much because it would restore confidence in the Wildcats, but because it would set up a likely second-round match-up with No. 2 Arizona, where a win would do wonders for their tournament resume.
  5. Just in time for Feast Week, Iowa State will get a pair of reinforcements back tonight as Abdel Nader and Matt Thomas are now eligible to play in games. Both Nader and Thomas sat out the Cyclones’ first two games after separate run-ins with the law resulted in alcohol-related citations. We will have a full breakdown on what to expect from Iowa State in the CBE Hall of Fame Classic this week, but at the very least, Nader and Thomas can bring some offense to the Cyclone bench, which has scored just nine points so far this season.
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Big 12 Predictions: Player and Newcomer of the Year

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 14th, 2014

It’s been a fun run-up to the season here at the Big 12 microsite, with plenty of discussion on the strength and depth of the conference and whether any team is poised to knock Kansas from its perch at the top of the standings. We finish things off with the group’s selections for Big 12 Player of the Year and Newcomer of the Year.

Player Of The Year

The new and improved Georges Niang will be the Big 12's best player. (Nirmalendu Majumdar)

The new and improved Georges Niang will be the Big 12’s best player, according to three of our four experts. (Nirmalendu Majumdar/AP)

  • Kory Carpenter: Georges Niang, Iowa State - I wanted to go with Juwan Staten here, but I think he’ll have to be even better than he was last season for the media to give him the award again. Niang averaged 16.7 PPG/4.5 RPG/3.6 APG last season and looks to have gotten into great shape this offseason while recovering from foot surgery. He lost about 25 pounds and re-tooled his diet. That, along with the wide-open attack of Iowa State, should lead to plenty of buckets for the svelter forward this season.
  • Brian Goodman: Niang – A Cyclone will take home the hardware for the second straight year as Niang will pace Fred Hoiberg’s balanced attack. Though he may get more attention from opposing defenses with Melvin Ejim and DeAndre Kane now gone, he has a great ball-handler in Monte’ Morris who will be able to get him touches in spite of that. Niang will take care of the rest from there. I also look for the junior to deliver better rebounding numbers due to his improved conditioning. 

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Big 12 Whiffs in First Day of Early Signing Period

Posted by Chris Stone on November 13th, 2014

Wednesday marked the beginning of the early signing period in college basketball, and the Big 12 is off to a rather slow start. Midway through the day, Eric Bossi, a national recruiting analyst for Rivals.com, tweeted, “As of this moment, the Big 12 is getting lapped by the field.” So far, the conference has only managed to sign five top 100 recruits, according to Rivals, and by way of a comparison, former conference member Texas A&M — certainly no traditional basketball power by any stretch — has already signed four top 100 players. Here’s a quick look at each of the top 100 players that signed with the Big 12 yesterday.

Rick Barnes is Carrying the Big 12 Recruiting Flag This Week (Troy Taormina/USA Today Sports Images)

Rick Barnes is Carrying the Big 12 Recruiting Flag This Week (Troy Taormina/USA Today Sports Images)

  • Jawun Evans (Oklahoma State) – Evans is the highest ranked player to commit to the Big 12 from the Class of 2015. He’s been described by ESPN‘s Fran Fraschilla as a “classic college point guard.” And according to Jerry Meyer of 247Sports, Evans is “lightning quick with the basketball, excels at penetrating defenses and has a great balance to his decision making.” It would seem likely that Evans will compete for a starting spot in Stillwater as soon as he steps on campus.
  • Kerwin Roach Jr. (Texas) – Roach committed to the Longhorns in late October and officially signed with Texas on Wednesday. He was attracted to Texas because of their development of elite guards, including D.J. Augustin and T.J. Ford. Roach, the Texas 5A state record holder in the triple jump, will offer the Longhorns incredible athleticism on the perimeter. Head coach Rick Barnes praised his basketball IQ, scoring ability and work ethic in announcing the signing.

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Big 12 M5: 11.07.14 Edition

Posted by KoryCarpenter on November 7th, 2014

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  1. Good news for Iowa State fans: The Cyclones look to finally be healthy heading into their exhibition tonight against Viterbo University tonight in Hilton Coliseum. From a sprained ankle to mono, as Des Moines Register writer writer Randy Peterson points out, the Cycones have been far from 100% the last few weeks. That changed this weekend for the 14th ranked team in the country. They defeated Minnesota 103-78 last week in a closed scrimmage on Sunday and open the regular season next Friday against Oakland.
  2. Bill Self took some time for a Twitter Q&A on Thursday. Nothing earth-shattering was shared by the Kansas coach, but hey, it’s still the off-season and anything is better than nothing. In case you were wondering, Self said Brady Morningstar was the best perimeter defender he has had at Kansas, Mario Chalmers is the one player he would want taking a last-second shot, and he likes bacon in his grilled cheese sandwiches. He also wants to play at Cameron Indoor Stadium. Good luck getting Coach K to schedule an actual opponent at home, Bill.
  3. In recent years there has always seemed to be a “sexy pick” to finally knock Kansas off the top of the Big 12 standings. Kansas State and Oklahoma State were picked by some the last few years. Not surprisingly, Texas is this year’s pick. Burntorangenation.com previewed the Longhorns this season and asked some good questions surrounding the Texas players. They have a solid core coming back and added one of the best recruits in the country in Myles Turner as well. I don’t think they will have the firepower to dethrone the Jayhawks, but make sure you tune into both (possibly three) meetings, you won’t be disappointed.
  4. From the Not-So-Shocking department, Charleston Daily Mail writer Mike Casazza has a good piece on West Virginia and senior guard Juwan Staten, and how the former will have to rely heavily on the latter if the Mountaineers want to make a serious run at the Big 12 title. The conference pre-season player of the year led the league in points and assists last season and will be shadowed in every game this season. Someone will have to step up if the Mountaineers are to be successful in 2014-15.
  5. Pre-season No. 1 Kentucky and No. 5 Kansas face off again in the Champions Classic in a few weeks, and a Kentucky blogger wrote about what he believes are the three best games in the Kansas/Kentucky rivalry. Not surprisingly, all three games were won by the Wildcats. Kansas fans would probably point to the 150-90 shellacking they gave Kentucky in Allen Fieldhouse in 1989. This year’s game, played in Indianapolis along with Duke and Michigan State, should be another great one. Does Kansas have the talent to keep up with Kentucky? I don’t know, especially this early in the year. But the Champions Classic has been great every year, and this year should be no different.
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Cousy Award List Reveals Kansas Struggles at Point Guard Position

Posted by Chris Stone on November 5th, 2014

Preseason award lists continued to roll in on Tuesday afternoon with the release of the 2014-15 Bob Cousy Award Watch List. For those unfamiliar, the Cousy Award is given annually to the top point guard in men’s college basketball. This year’s list is led by Preseason AP All-Americans and likely favorites Marcus Paige of North Carolina and Fred VanVleet of Wichita State. The list also exhibits the strength of the position in the Big 12 this year. Four of the league’s 10 teams are represented, including Iowa State’s Monte Morris, Oklahoma’s Jordan Woodard, Texas’ Isaiah Taylor and West Virginia’s Juwan Staten. No Big 12 player has won the award since going back-to-back in 2006-07 (Acie Law IV, Texas A&M) and 2007-08 (D.J. Augustin, Texas), but this crop of league point guards provides plenty of talent that can compete for the prize this year.

The tourney upsets his Kansas teams have suffered will not be forgotten (Getty).

Despite being considered the favorites once again to win the Big 12, Bill Self and Kansas might have some question marks at the point guard position. (Getty)

  • Monte Morris averaged 6.8 points and 3.7 assists per game for the Cyclones during his freshman season and projects to replace DeAndre Kane as the starting point guard in Ames as a sophomore. The challenge for him will be to maintain his NCAA leading assist-to-turnover ratio (4.8-to-1) and great three-point shooting (40.6%) as he transitions into the role of Fred Hoiberg’s primary ball-handler.
  • Another sophomore poised to have an excellent season is Oklahoma guard Jordan Woodard. As a freshman, Woodard averaged 10.3 points and 4.6 assists per game as the Sooners made the NCAA Tournament for the second straight year. He will, however, need to improve his two-point field goal shooting (35.2%) to become a more complete offensive player this season. According to Hoop-Math.com, he connected on only 29.0% of his shots away from the rim last season, which has to improve.

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Big 12 M5: 11.05.14 Edition

Posted by KoryCarpenter on November 5th, 2014

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  1. To say TCU struggled last season would be an understatement. The Horned Frogs didn’t win a single game in the Big 12, finishing 0-18 in the round-robin format. A year later, they are picked to finish in last place again. As a result, head coach Trent Johnson doesn’t want his players talking about last year’s performance, and I don’t blame him. Senior guard Kyan Anderson is taking a little different approach, says Fort Worth Star-Telegram writer Carlos Mendez. If TCU is healthy this year, which was rarely the case last season, they will surely pick up a few wins in Big 12 play. “Why am I so happy? Why am I so excited?” Johnson asked reporters at media day. “No. 1 is, for the first time since I’ve been at TCU, we’ve had nine practices and I have a full complement of players — 13 guys on scholarship and three walk-ons, and we’re healthy.”
  2. It was just an exhibition against an overmatched Washburn team, but Kansas freshman forward Cliff Alexander gave us a glimpse last night of what he is capable of doing this season. Big 12 front lines should be afraid, as Alexander finished with 14 points and nine rebounds in just 17 minutes of action. It seemed like a flashback to his high school days where he was able to bully smaller players down low. That won’t be the case in most games against quality competition this season, but smaller frontcourts could be in for very long nights against the beefy freshman. “They were so dominant,” Washburn head coach Bob Chipman told the Lawrence Journal-World‘s Matt Tait. Again, the opponent was just a Division-II school, but Alexander playing well early could be huge for Kansas.
  3. Iowa State head coach Fred Hoiberg has been involved in numerous NBA coaching rumors since returning to the college game a few years ago. It’s widely assumed that he will one day leave Ames for an NBA head coaching job, but when that might happen is anyone’s guess. But as FoxSports.com‘s Reid Forgrave writes, Hoiberg’s relationship with Iowa State and the city of Ames is perhaps more unique than any coach in the country. Forgrave tells a great story of Hoiberg’s family life,  NBA career, and the heart problem that cut his playing days short in this fine article.
  4. West Virginia will definitely look different than last season, thanks to a few transfers that left plenty of question marks in their wakes. The Mountaineers still have Bob Huggins, however, and that’s a pretty good place to start. Seven new players will make their debuts with this year’s team, but senior guard Juwan Staten seems optimistic. “They’re coming along very fast, in my opinion,” Staten told Matt Hauswirth of West Virginia Illustrated. With the losses of Eron Harris and Terry Henderson, the Mountaineers will need at least a few of these newcomers to seamlessly integrate into the team dynamic if they want to compete for a Big 12 title and an NCAA Tournament berth.
  5. Sure, Oklahoma State lost 1st round pick (and flopper extraordinaire) Marcus Smart from last year’s team, but head coach Travis Ford welcomes back senior forward Michael Cobbins, who missed the entire Big 12 season after tearing his Achilles against Robert Morris on December 30. Le’Bryan Nash admitted to the Oklahoman‘s John Helsley that last year’s team definitely missed Cobbins’ defensive presence during the second half of the year. The Cowboys were 12-1 before Cobbins was injured but finished the season with a disappointing 10-11 stretch. If you argued that Cobbins was more valuable to the success of this team than Smart, I wouldn’t disagree.
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AP Preseason All-America Team Snubs Big 12 Talent

Posted by Chris Stone on November 4th, 2014

On Monday, the Associated Press released its 2014-15 preseason All-America team. The leading vote getter was North Carolina junior guard Marcus Paige, who appeared on 58 of the 68 ballots after averaging 17.5 points and 4.2 assists per game for the Tar Heels last season. He is joined in the backcourt by Wichita State junior Fred VanVleet. The leading vote getter in the frontcourt was Louisville forward Montrezl Harrell, a 6’8″, 240-pounder who figures to be a force inside for the Cardinals this season. Harrell is joined up front by Wisconsin senior big man Frank Kaminsky and Duke’s highly touted freshman, Jahlil Okafor. Okafor is only the third freshman to make the preseason All-America team in the past five years, joining North Carolina’s Harrison Barnes and Kansas’ Andrew Wiggins in receiving the honor.

Georges Niang (AP)

Georges Niang (AP)

Noticeably absent from this preseason’s AP team were any players from the Big 12, which is a bit of a surprise given the projected strength of the league as a whole. The Big 12 has four teams ranked in the AP Top 25 preseason poll, including Kansas (#5), Texas (#10), Iowa State (#14) and Oklahoma (#19). The conference also has four other teams — Kansas State, Oklahoma State, West Virginia and Baylor — that received votes in that poll. With so many quality squads playing in the conference this year, there are certainly some players who could find their way on to one of the AP All-American teams by the end of the season.

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