Rushed Reactions: #8 Kentucky 56, #9 Kansas State 49

Posted by Adam Stillman on March 21st, 2014

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Rush the Court will be providing wall-to-wall coverage of each of the NCAA Tournament from each of the 13 sites this year. Follow our NCAA Tourney specific Twitter accounts at @RTCeastregion, @RTCMWregion,@RTCsouthregion and @RTCwestregion.

Three Key Takeaways.

Julius Randle has been as advertised this season (sportsillustrated.cnn.com).

Julius Randle led Kentucky past Kansas State. (sportsillustrated.cnn.com).

  1. Kansas State had no answer for Kentucky’s size. Starting big men Julius Randle and Dakari Johnson stand at 6’9″ and 7’0″, respectively. Then Willie Cauley-Stein comes in off the bench at 7’0 as well. That doesn’t include three guards who are 6’6″ each in James Young and Aaron and Andrew Harrison. UK’s quintet of talented freshmen didn’t have its best game, but their prodigious size was enough to get by. Kentucky dominated Kansas State on the glass, owning a 40-28 edge in rebounds. Not many teams in the country — if any — can compete with Kentucky’s size across the starting lineup.
  2. Limiting the backcourt. Kansas State’s strength lies with its guards, and Kentucky did its best to take them away. As a result, stud freshman Marcus Foster had a rough night shooting. He entered the game averaging 15.6 PPG on the season, but his 15 points tonight came on a rather inefficient 7-of-18 shooting. Shane Southwell added 11 points as well, but he also produced inefficiently on 3-of-10 shooting. Will Spradling picked up a garbage-time three while going 1-for-8. Without the interior heft to score on a regular basis in the post, Kansas State’s guards were forced to shoulder the load. They just couldn’t get that job done Friday night.
  3. Block party. Willie Cauley-Stein is one of the best shotblockers in the country, ranking 13th in the nation by blocking 12.2 percent of opponents’ shots. Tonight he spearheaded a team effort in protecting the rim, swatting four shots in the contest. The Wildcats blocked seven shots as a team, including six swats in the opening half. Even when Cauley-Stein wasn’t blocking shots, he was altering them or deterring Kansas State from driving the lane altogether. K-State didn’t have much success going to the rim all night long.

Star of the Game: Julius Randle, Kentucky. Randle didn’t come out and dominate from the beginning. In fact, it took him about seven minutes to record his first points of the game, but he sure got going after that. Randle finished with 19 points on 7-of-12 shooting to go along with 15 rebounds and a block in 35 minutes of playing time. Aaron Harrison’s performance can’t be overlooked either, as the freshman guard went for 18 points on 6-of-10 shooting.

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Big 12 M5: 02.14.14 Edition

Posted by Brian Goodman on February 14th, 2014

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  1. Media members are currently gathered in Indianapolis for the annual mock selection process, and while the seeding component won’t be finished until later today, the field was finalized Thursday night and it contained six Big 12 teams: Kansas, Texas, Iowa State, Kansas State, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State. The results aren’t too surprising, but it’s important to note that the process doesn’t project any results from the remainder of the season (aside from assuming current first-place teams will win their automatic bids). With that in mind, West Virginia and Baylor may have something to say about it before all is said and done, and it’s not hard to picture Oklahoma State tumbling out of the picture.
  2. With the Cowboys floundering, the contributors of Oklahoma State blog Pistols Firing called a roundtable meeting. The main points of discussion were the employment status of Travis Ford, what might constitute a breaking point for athletic director Mike Holder, and the idea of luring CBS Sports‘ Doug Gottlieb away from the microphone and onto the sideline should Holder decide to move on (it’s not as farfetched as it sounds to the casual college hoops fan, but it’s still a dream). The complicating issue is that Ford’s contract, which runs through the 2018-19 season, is heavily back-loaded, and a buyout just doesn’t sound feasible at this point.
  3. While Kansas State would be in the NCAA Tournament’s field of 68 if the season ended today, the Wildcats have fallen short of their maximum potential. Head coach Bruce Weber believes that if his team could just get its two best scorers other than Marcus Foster going at the same time, the Wildcats’ postseason prospects would be much more secure. The peaks and valleys of Shane Southwell and Will Spradling‘s seasons have coincided with one another, and with seven games remaining in the regular season (including four on the road), the Wildcats don’t have much time to get both clicking simultaneously.
  4. Contrary to popular belief, there’s measurable interest in college hoops in the state of TexasDallas Morning News writer Kevin Sherrington took some time to give his takes in a chat on Wednesday, and he provided some interesting insights about the Lone Star State’s teams. It’s nice to see that Texas Tech‘s improvement in the first year under Tubby Smith hasn’t gone unnoticed outside of this website, and with the Longhorns and possibly Baylor in the NCAA Tournament picture (plus Big 12 outsiders SMU), we should continue to see some great stories emerge from the great state of Texas.
  5. Lastly, there are a couple of minor but noteworthy updates out of Lawrence. Kansas center Joel Embiid is feeling better, and Jayhawks fans can exhale after an MRI revealed no structural damage stemming from his recent health problems. His status for Saturday’s game against TCU remains up in the air, though. On another note, Self removed all doubt when it came to the status of forward Jamari Traylor, who was held out of Monday’s game against Kansas State for disciplinary reasons. Self indicated that the sophomore will play on Saturday, ushering in his return to the rotation. Those items won’t take Naadir Tharpe and Wayne Selden’s defensive issues out from under the microscope, but they should help Kansas fans breathe a little easier.
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Kansas State’s Early Struggles Possible Sign of Things to Come

Posted by Kory Carpenter (@Kory_Carpenter) on November 29th, 2013

Not much has gone right for Kansas State since capturing a share of the Big 12 regular season championship last season. The Wildcats advanced to the Big 12 Tournament championship game, was beateen by Kansas for the third time, then lost to #13 seed La Salle in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament. Leading scorers Rodney McGruder and Angel Rodriguez graduated and transferred, respectively, and now, eight months later, K-State opened the season with a 60-58 loss to Northern Colorado, the same Northern Colorado team that was picked to finish fourth in the Big Sky Conference this season.

Bruce Weber Can't Be Happy Through Six Games This Season. (USA Today Sports/Scott Sewell)

Bruce Weber Can’t Be Happy Through Six Games This Season. (USA Today Sports/Scott Sewell)

The Wildcats are 3-3 thanks to the Puerto Rico Tip-Off guaranteeing all teams three games, and that allowed them to grab another win over Long Beach State, a team which is #297 in the RPI and #230 on KenPom. The problems have been mostly on the offensive end for Kansas State. The Wildcats have yet to crack 72 points and are showing how dependent they were on McGruder and Rodriguez last season. Through six games, here are the key offensive metrics:

  • 62.7 PPG (#326 nationally)
  • 40.7% shooting (#293)
  • 12.8 APG (#179)

Head coach Bruce Weber returned four players who averaged at least 10 MPG last season, but only junior forward Thomas Gipson has shown signs of improvement early this season. His minutes per game are about the same as last but his scoring is up from a couple of points per game and he is shooting over 55 percent from the floor, up from 51.7% last season. The other three players – Will Spradling, Nino Williams, and Shane Southwell – have either gotten worse or plateaued. On the surface, Southwell’s stat line of 7.8 PPG/5.3 RPG/3.2 APG looks just fine. But the senior guard has been an albatross offensively. He is taking over eight shots per game and shooting a paltry 33.3 percent from the field. His three-point percentage is even worse at 16.7 percent, but it hasn’t stopped him from taking three attempts a game. It became clear some time ago that senior guard Will Spradling isn’t a 30 MPG-type of player at the Big 12 level, but that’s about where he has been the last three seasons. With guards like McGruder, Rodriguez, and Jacob Pullen next to him, he can play as a serviceable third guard or sixth man in a pinch. But more offensive responsibility this season hasn’t led to better results. His 35 percent shooting is the worst of his career, as is his 24 percent from three-point range.

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Big 12 Microsite Roundtable: Predicted Standings

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 8th, 2013

Yesterday, the four Big 12 Microsite writers (Kory Carpenter, Taylor Erickson, Brian Goodman and Nate Kotisso) named their preseason All-Big 12 selections. On college basketball’s opening day, we take a look at each writer’s predicted order of finish.

B12Standings

Some key takeaways:

You can have Marcus Smart and the Cowboys, but we’re picking Kansas until someone knocks them off: As we touched on in the Oklahoma State team preview, the Cowboys have as good a chance to dethrone Kansas as some of the top challengers in the Jayhawks’ nine-year stay atop the conference. But if a Big 12 coach is going to clown our writers by the end of the season, it’s going to be someone other than Bill Self.

  • TE: The reason I went with Kansas as my pick to win the Big 12 is a culmination of several different factors. While I think both teams not only have great talent in Wiggins and Smart, both also have strong supporting players around them. On Smart’s team, Markel Brown and Le’Bryan Nash are both extremely talented and could go for 30 on any night, and for Wiggins, he has two other potential lottery picks beside him, not to mention Perry Ellis. I think Kansas is just more of a complete team. While Oklahoma State certainly has the advantage at the point guard spot, I’m not sure there’s another position where you could definitively say that OSU is better, and in my opinion Kansas is far better and more talented in the frontcourt. Also, I fully recognize that Marcus Smart is an outstanding college basketball player – maybe the best in the nation – but I do think as point guard and team leader his squad sputtered a bit down the stretch last season when they really had a chance to knock Kansas out of the top spot with a win in Stillwater, along with an early exit in the Big 12 Tournament and a first round loss in the NCAA Tournament. Maybe it’s not fair to put all that blame on Smart, and some of it should be shifted to Travis Ford, which I guess leads me to my last point. If we hold all else equal and believe that the talent levels in Lawrence and Stillwater are more or less a wash, it becomes a question as to who you’d take as a coach to lead your team between Ford and Bill Self, and I think that answer is pretty obvious.
  • KC: Marcus Smart is one of the best guards in the country, but Andrew Wiggins is better. Markel Brown and Le’Bryan Nash are good guards as well, but there is a reason Wayne Selden is a projected lottery pick in next summer’s NBA Draft while Brown and Nash aren’t. And even if you canceled out both backcourts, the Cowboys don’t match up well with a Kansas frontcourt that has as much depth as any unit in the country. Joel Embiid is projected to be taken in the lottery along with Wiggins and Selden, and he won’t even be starting early in the season. And when you throw in the Bill Self and Allen Fieldhouse factors, it isn’t hard to pick Kansas to win the conference, again.

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Big 12 Team Preview: Kansas State Wildcats

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 5th, 2013

This week, the Big 12 microsite will finish previewing each of the league’s 10 teams. Today: Kansas State.

Where We Left Off: As he did at Illinois, Bruce Weber took the wheel of a new program and immediately led it to a regular season conference title. Despite an unimpressive defense and an offense that relied heavily on crashing the boards, Kansas State outperformed preseason expectations on its way to a 27-8 record and sharing the conference crown with Kansas. The postseason wasn’t so kind, however. Kansas State bowed out to the Jayhawks in the Big 12 Tournament final, losing to Bill Self’s team for the third time in 2013, and followed it up by dropping a heart-breaker to 13-seed La Salle in their NCAA Tournament opener. KSU had a tough offseason as well, losing Angel Rodriguez to Miami and Adrian Diaz to Florida International, while also waving goodbye to graduating seniors Rodney McGruder and Jordan Henriquez. Weber’s most prominent players still figure to be those recruited by former head coach Frank Martin, but he’ll look to begin shedding the reputation he garnered in Champaign as a coach who struggles to win without the previous regime’s holdovers.

Bruce Weber needs Shane Southwell to be the next Alpha Dog (er, cat) in The Little Apple. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner

Bruce Weber needs Shane Southwell to be the next Alpha Dog (er, cat) in The Little Apple. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)

Strengths: Last season, Shane Southwell was one of the most improved players in the Big 12, as he doubled his scoring average and then some, going from 3.2 points per game in 2011-12 to 8.4 last season. Where Southwell especially shined was beyond the arc, where he connected on 44 percent of his 110 attempts after hitting just 25 percent over the prior two seasons. Kansas State figures to rely on Southwell heavily this season, as the Wildcats’ trademark of cashing in on second chance buckets is destined to take a hit with a smaller lineup. KSU will need to score on its first attempts, and one man who can help take the pressure off Southwell is junior Thomas Gipson. At 6’7″ and 265 pounds, the big guy knows his way around the basket and takes up a ton of space. He’ll be counted on to flourish in a more significant role on both ends after averaging fewer than 20 minutes per game in each of his first two seasons. Farther out, Will Spradling is one of the Big 12’s more familiar faces. While the senior is far from automatic, he shoots the ball well enough from beyond the arc to command the respect of opposing defenders.

Weaknesses: Despite Spradling’s experience and ability to knock down set shots from distance, question marks abound in the backcourt, assuming Southwell spends most of his time on the wing this season. Spradling is hardly a sure thing and Weber will need to find a solution at the point among a glut of unknown commodities such as freshmen Marcus Foster and Nigel Johnson.  The Wildcats may also struggle down low until a capable complement to Gipson emerges. Sophomore D.J. Johnson is the only player taller than 6’7″ (6’11” Georgetown transfer Brandon Bolden will sit out the season, per NCAA rules), so the Wildcats will field a frontcourt rotation that’s much smaller than what fans are used to seeing.

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Big 12 M5: 11.04.13 Edition

Posted by Nate Kotisso on November 4th, 2013

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  1. Kansas State took down Pittsburg State 75-54 in exhibition action on Friday night. The only problem was the Wildcats were hobbled in doing so. Bruce Weber said earlier in the week that guards Will Spradling (0 pts) and Shane Southwell (10/5 asts) as well as forward Nino Williams (13/13) were all battling injuries despite playing more than 20 minutes apiece. Thomas Gipson, who is expected to be more of a force on the offensive end, did not play either due to an unspecified injury. Another headline came from the three freshmen thrown into the action. Point guard Marcus Foster turned in 13 points, five rebounds and four dimes, while fellow Texan Wesley Iwundu scored 10 points in 17 minutes, and Nigel Johnson poured in 15 and nine boards in Gipson’s place. While it’s important to get your starters as healthy before the season tips off, it’s nice to know you have options down low and in the backcourt if you’re a K-State fan.
  2. News came down late last week that Melvin Ejim would be out several weeks with a hyperextended knee and bone bruise. But Ejim is hoping he can return to the floor sooner than expected. “I don’t think it’s going to take as long. Hopefully it doesn’t take as long,” he told the Ames Tribune. “It’d be the best if I took a couple weeks, and I could play right away, but we’ve still got to be smart and it’s something if I do play on it and it’s not properly healed, it’s potentially something that could hurt me down the line.” Smart is right. Adrian Peterson certainly set a precedent for athletes and how much time they can take to rehabilitate their injuries. And sure, Ejim’s feeling pressure to be rushed back considering 60 percent of Iowa State’s starting lineup wasn’t there a year ago. It’s also not a bad thing to go the Derrick Rose route and make sure your mind and body are in sync with each other before returning to action. Get well, Mel.
  3. They’ve got a shiny new top 10 ranking and lofty expectations at the national level, but believe it or not, Oklahoma State won’t be talking about a national championship this season. According to the Tulsa World, Travis Ford had his players study up on the six Cowboy teams that previously made it to Final Fours for a team dinner weeks ago. “We wanted them to learn about the tradition but also the championship-type teams,” Ford said. “We’ve talked a lot about trying to get to that point, trying to get our guys throughout the summer and a little bit of preseason thinking in terms of trying to motivate them to win a championship. Once the night was over, I told our guys, ‘Now we’re done talking about it.’ I don’t want to talk any more about it. I don’t want to pinhole it.” Interesting approach from a man who hasn’t done a whole lot in his time in Stillwater; but hey, the more Big 12 teams at the 2014 Final Four in Dallas, the better.
  4. TCU had its own exhibition game on Friday night and they were able to come away with a 81-74 over Arkansas-Fort Smith. Karviar Shepherd, the top prospect from the Horned Frogs’ 2013 recruiting class, shined with a 16-point, 10-rebound outing. After missing the 2013 portion of last season, senior Jarvis Ray scored 18 to lead all scorers. TCU is slated to tip off its season Friday against crosstown and old Southwest Conference rivals, SMU. Let’s hope that Trent Johnson will have a healthy roster to work with in 2013-14.
  5. The mother of Texas Tech head coach Tubby Smith passed away last week. According to the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal and later confirmed by the school’s athletic department, Parthenia Smith died late Wednesday. She was 92. Tubby’s father, Guffrie, passed away just before the start of the 2009 basketball season at 88. It’ll be tough to concentrate on coaching this week, but our thoughts and prayers go out to Tubby and his family through this trying time.
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Big 12 M5: 10.28.13 Edition

Posted by Taylor Erickson on October 28th, 2013

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  1. When former Memphis transfer and current Kansas Jayhawk Tarik Black began his search for a school to set up camp with for his final year of college, Bill Self recognized Black as an opportunity to provide leadership and toughness to his very young Kansas team. What Black received in exchange was a summer-long date with KU strength coach Andrea Hudy, who helped him tone up, which in turn has helped improve both his jumping ability and quickness. Black has been active in early practices this season, giving up his body for loose balls and setting an example for some of KU’s youngsters. While many of Self’s freshmen have garnered the media’s attention, Black might be just as important in providing physicality to a Kansas frontcourt that otherwise would lack toughness.
  2. The new college basketball rule changes have created quite a buzz in the last few weeks, impacting the way Kansas State guard Will Spradling thinks about playing defense. K-State head coach Bruce Weber said that after taking a charge in practice, Spradling will go back and review film to determine if the call would hold in live action. In addition to the new emphasis on the charge rule, defenders will be unable to “hand check” an offensive player in an effort to clean up the game this season, although many believe the rule changes will instead result in more free throw attempts. After teams tip off the season in exhibition play this week, we have a feeling Spradling won’t be the only one reviewing his defensive approach.
  3. Oklahoma State kicked off its exhibition schedule with an 80-70 win on Sunday against Campbellsville, an NAIA opponent from Kentucky, and it appears Travis Ford was underwhelmed with the effort, to say the least. In his post-game comments, Ford stated that after great practices the first two weeks of the season, his team has been lackluster during the last week and Sunday’s performance mirrored that stagnation. We know Marcus Smart’s team certainly has the ability to win big time games like it did in Lawrence last season, but to have a realistic shot to win a conference title, sustained focus night in and night out in the Big 12 is crucial.
  4. Lon Kruger’s team enters the 2013-14 season with the difficult task of not only replacing the scoring from former players Romero Osby and Amath M’Baye, among others, but also filling the leadership void left by last year’s group. Enter Cameron Clark, who recently spoke about having a conversation with Osby, who told Clark to work hard and lead by example. Clark’s teammate Buddy Hield has noticed a difference in his demeanor this year, and said that while Clark is not overly vocal, when he talks his teammates tend to listen. It will be interesting to see if Clark’s leadership can help Oklahoma stay in the upper echelon of Big 12 teams this season.
  5. The biggest complaint surrounding Bruce Weber’s tenure at Illinois was his inability to sustain consistent success after making the NCAA championship game with players recruited by Bill Self. After experiencing tremendous success in his first season at Kansas State, many wonder if Weber can learn from his previous experience to keep his team among the league’s elite.  On Saturday night, Weber received a verbal commitment from 6’5″ combo guard Tre Harris, who currently attends Fishburne Military Academy in Virginia. Harris is considered a good shooter and will pair with fellow 2014 commitment Stephen Harris to bring viable scoring threats to the Wildcats next season.
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Big 12 M5: 10.17.13 Edition

Posted by Brian Goodman on October 17th, 2013

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  1. As we mentioned earlier this week, Kansas will hold an open scrimmage this Saturday, but one new development is that the Jayhawks will have a couple VIPs in attendance. According to The Kansas City Star’s Rustin DoddJahlil Okafor and Tyus Jones, two of the top five prospects in the class of 2014, will check out the scrimmage as part of their official visits. Okafor, a center, wowed scouts and writers over the summer with his advanced footwork and fundamentals, while Jones is considered among the top point guards in the class by several recruiting services. The two have long been rumored to be a package deal, and when one of the nation’s best coaches schedules an open scrimmage that just so happens to fall during your visit, you know things are getting serious. The event will also be a nice chance for the many KU fans who were shut out of “Late Night At The Phog” to get a look at their favorite team.
  2. West Virginia will also debut its squad in front of a home crowd this weekend. The Mountaineers may not be a factor in this year’s Big 12 race, but with many new faces coming in, fans will have a chance to get acquainted tomorrow night. This season’s team figures to be very perimeter-oriented, although not to the extremes of Huggins’ 2006-08 WVU squads. Eron Harris and Terry Henderson combined to shoot 37% from distance on 231 attempts last season, Gary Browne will look to improve on his frosty 20.4% clip from last season, and 6’10” Kevin Noreen will also step out from time to time.
  3. The Big 12 coaches slotted Kansas State fifth in their preseason poll last week, and while that’s a respectable goal after losing three core players from a conference championship team, the Wildcats will need seniors Will Spradling and Shane Southwell to become vocal leaders if they are to realize their potential. Both Spradling and Southwell held supporting roles in the past, opting to let their play speak for itself, but their performance will be especially important on a team that’s lacking in post depth and bringing in five freshmen.
  4. CBS Sports contributor and friend of RTC Jon Rothstein spent some time with Iowa State head coach Fred Hoiberg on Wednesday. The Cyclones will pester opposing defenses with big, versatile shooters like Georges Niang and Melvin Ejim, but the piecemeal backcourt of Marshall transfer DeAndre Kane, freshman Monte’ Morris and JuCo transfer K.J. Bluford shouldn’t be trifled with, either. We’re not sure if the Cyclones’ offensive production will match last season’s performance, which landed them sixth in the country in offensive efficiency, but we can’t rule it out, either. This unit will score, but improvement on defense is imperative if Iowa State is to crash Kansas and Oklahoma State’s party at the top of the standings.
  5. While we’ll be keeping very close watch on Marcus Smart, it can be easy to lose sight of the benefits his presence will bring to Oklahoma State‘s future. The attention Smart has brought the OSU program has already yielded one ESPN Top 100 recruit in Jared Terrell, and recent commitment Mitch Solomon could find himself on that list with a good senior season. Additionally, Oklahoma State remains in the hunt for big fish such as Myles Turner and Devin Robinson. There are certainly other factors at work, but it’s nearly impossible to argue that Smart’s play last season and his surprising decision to stay in Stillwater have given the program a level of exposure it wouldn’t otherwise have seen.
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Big 12 M5: 10.15.13 Edition

Posted by Brian Goodman on October 15th, 2013

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  1. The Sporting News’ Mike DeCourcy became the latest national writer to go in-depth with Andrew Wigginsthough he also got some interesting quotes from Bill Self and Wiggins’ teammate, Perry Ellis. All three continued to downplay the non-stop hype surrounding the freshman phenom, citing his still-nascent sense of aggression, his transition from an interior player to more of an all-around threat, and the relatively low likelihood of him stuffing a stat sheet the way Carmelo Anthony, Kevin Durant and Michael Beasley did before him. Our guess is that their efforts won’t stop opposing coaches from making him a focus of their game plans, nor will it keep the national media from putting him under a microscope, but in just a few weeks, Wiggins will finally have the chance to let his game speak for itself.
  2. Kansas State will likely take a step back this season after two key players graduated, and a third, Angel Rodriguez, opted to transfer. Those departures will put pressure not only on seniors Shane Southwell and Will Spradling, but also on newcomers Marcus Foster and Wesley Iwandu. KSU’s student paper, The Collegian, caught a glimpse of the new-look Wildcats during a scrimmage Monday afternoon and came away impressed by Foster and Iwandu. We have to apply the official RTC disclaimer regarding putting excessive stock into practices, but if the Wildcats’ five-man freshmen class develops faster than anticipated, it will greatly help KSU’s chances of staying competitive with the top four teams in the conference.
  3. It’s common knowledge that the head coaching situation at Texas is one of the shakiest in the Big 12 (and maybe in the country), but the lack of stability is about a lot more than simply Rick Barnes‘ recent trend of disappointing seasons and whiffs on the recruiting trail. The entire administration will be in a state of flux following the retirement of athletic director DeLoss Dodds, and university leaders understand the onus is on them to take a calculated approach in finding the next AD. We understand that football always drives the bus when it comes to big decisions in college athletics, but we’re looking forward to the day when the Longhorns return to a state of perennial contention on the hardwood. Texas simply has too many resources to struggle for as long as it has, so hopefully it isn’t too long before the Frank Erwin Center is buzzing again, regardless of who is at the controls.
  4. Yesterday, we talked about the transition of Iowa State from a transfer-laden team to one of home-grown talent, but one of its most important players this season will once again be a newcomerDeAndre Kane, formerly of Marshall. The fifth-year point guard filled up the scoring column for three seasons with the Thundering Herd, though not always efficiently. After a rift emerged between he and head coach Tom Herrion, the two sides parted ways over the summer and Kane ended up in Ames. Whether Kane benefits from the change of scenery or reverts to his frustrating style of play could play a huge role in deciding the Cyclones’ fate in the Big 12 race in 2013-14.
  5. Bob Hertzel of The Exponent Telegram (WV) spoke with West Virginia head coach Bob Huggins about a few storylines surrounding the Mountaineers this preseason, including their schedule, personnel and shooting environments as they get ready for their second trip through the Big 12. The most interesting nugget from the piece is Huggins appearing to doubt himself in lining up a tough schedule for his team, which is thin on experience as well as depth, especially down low. Non-conference tilts against Gonzaga, Missouri, Purdue and either Saint Louis or Wisconsin pepper the Mountaineers’ slate, so the margin of error will be razor thin as West Virginia looks to return to the Big Dance after a surprising one-year layoff.
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Rushed Reactions: Kansas State 66, Texas 49

Posted by dnspewak on March 14th, 2013

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Danny Spewak (@dspewak) is a Big 12 microsite writer. He filed this report after the Kansas State-Texas game in Kansas City this evening.

Three Key Takeaways:

Kansas State Inched Closer to a Big 12 Title

Kansas State Inched Closer to a Big 12 Title

  1. Rodney McGruder, aka The Zone Buster: Against Texas’ active 2-3 zone, McGruder was unstoppable. The Wildcats weren’t flawless, and they weren’t always able to get the ball inside, but they knocked down enough three-pointers to pull away from the Longhorns. Credit McGruder for that, as he made four threes and finished with 20 points on 10-of-20 shooting. Much like Kansas’ Ben McLemore in the earlier quarterfinal, McGruder had to make up for a relative lack of scoring production by his teammates. Angel Rodriguez helped, scoring 13 points and finding holes in the zone to finish with five assists, but this was McGruder’s game.
  2. Kansas City, Here We Come (Back): Following the Big 12 Tournament this weekend, the Sprint Center will host an NCAA Tournament pod next weekend. There’s no doubt Kansas State wants to make a trip back to Kansas City to play in these friendly confines in the second and third rounds, but it needed a strong showing this weekend to convince the selection committee it deserves the advantage. This quarterfinal victory was a start. Two more victories should all but lock up a return to Kansas City, but nothing’s guaranteed with the committee. Still, it’s hard to envision it sending KSU anywhere but KC if it wins the Big 12 title this weekend.
  3. Myck Kabongo Needs Help: Kabongo scored two points this evening. He missed all five shots he took from the field, turned the ball over five times and could not pull Texas out of a severe scoring drought late in the second half. In perhaps his final collegiate game, that’s something Kabongo will have to live with. In his defense, though, he’s simply under too much pressure to perform, considering the youth of his teammates and complete lack of scoring options around him. This team runs through him. He has the ball in his hands at all time, and even when he’s penetrating and creating, nobody can knock a shot down. He had seven assists, but he could have had 15. That has to take a toll on the sophomore point guard. This team has played drastically better with him in the lineup, so it’s hard to blame him for any of Texas’ woes tonight.

Star of the Game: Rodney McGruder led all scorers with 24. Rodriguez was the only other Wildcat in double figures. He shot the ball well, rebounded the ball well and scored from everywhere on the floor. Easy choice here for Star of the Game.

Sights and Sounds: Kabongo’s leadership is noticeable this season. His coaches praised his attitude during the suspension this year, and it’s obviously carried over to the court. On Thursday, all he did was talk. And we mean that in the best way possible. He talked on defense, got in his teammates faces and always had his mouth moving. He’s grown up, and he’s the clear leader of this team. The Longhorns don’t have the experience or personnel for it to matter, but credit Kabongo for growing as a person over the last year or so.

Wild Card: KSU’s D.J. Johnson played big tonight– in every sense of the word. He made all four of his field goals, scored eight points in 15 minutes and threw down a thunderous putback in the second half. On a night where Thomas Gipson struggled and even badly airballed a jumper, Johnson was a nice surprise for Bruce Weber.

What’s Next: Kansas State advances to play either Baylor or Oklahoma State in the semifinals on Friday.

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Big 12 Power Rankings: Week 13

Posted by KoryCarpenter on February 4th, 2013

It was another wild week in the Big 12, starting last Monday with West Virginia’s near-upset of Kansas in Morgantown and ending with the ever-inconsistent Oklahoma State Cowboys dropping 85 points in a rare win in Allen Fieldhouse. It helped push the Cowboys back up the standings while Baylor, who dropped both of its games last week, fell three spots to #5. We still have six projected teams in the NCAA Tournament as of now — Kansas, Kansas State,  Oklahoma State, Oklahoma, Baylor, and Iowa State — and the big wins by OSU and ISU look to have pushed them off the bubble for now. Here’s where we stand this week:

Markel Brown led the Cowboys in a rare win in Allen Fieldhouse (AP)

Markel Brown led the Cowboys to a rare win in Allen Fieldhouse (AP)

1) Kansas (19-2, 7-1 Big 12)
Previous Ranking: 1
Projected NCAA Seed: #1

Last Week: W 61-56 at West Virginia, L 85-80 vs Oklahoma State

This Week: Wednesday at TCU, 8:00 PM, Saturday at Oklahoma, 3:00 PM

  • Rundown: The Jayhawks were due for a loss after winning 18 straight games and walking a tightrope most of January. It finally came on Saturday against Oklahoma State. It also ended the Jayhawks’ 33-game home winning streak and 16-game home winning streak against Oklahoma State, dating back to 1989. Turnovers — especially at the point guard position — have been a problem for KU of late, and Saturday was no different. Elijah Johnson committed four turnovers, including a last-second mishap that prevented Ben McLemore from doing his best Mario Chalmers impersonation.
  • Player Stepping Up: Freshman G Ben McLemore: He has scored in double figures every game in 2013 and had 23 in Saturday’s loss. He is shooting an impressive 50% from the field and 45.5% from three-point range.

2)Kansas State (17-4, 6-2)
Previous Ranking: 2
Projected NCAA Seed: #6

Last Week: W 83-57 vs Texas, W 52-50 at Oklahoma

This Week: Tuesday at Texas Tech, 7:00 PM, Saturday vs Iowa State, 5:00 PM

  • Rundown: It hasn’t always been the case, but Saturday’s win over Oklahoma in Norman was big for the Wildcats. They have won 10 out of 12 and sit just one game behind Kansas in the Big 12 standings, thanks to Angel Rodriguez’s two free throws with 5.6 seconds left to give them the 52-50 win. It was a rare win in a game where leading scorer Rodney McGruder, who finished with seven points, was quiet offensively.
  • Player Stepping Up: Junior G Will Spradling: Spradling averages 8.5 PPG, but has scored in double figures in three of his last five games. He had 15 in the first meeting with Oklahoma and had 12 points in Saturday’s win while shooting 62.5%.

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Big 12 M5: 01.30.13 Edition

Posted by Nate Kotisso on January 30th, 2013

morning5_big12

  1. We have seen the best (Puerto Rico Tip-Off) and the average (currently 3-3 in the Big 12) from Oklahoma State, but with a team as talented as the Cowboys are, why haven’t they been able to stake a claim as one of the top teams in this league? What’s keeping this team from flourishing? CowboysRideForFree has an idea of what it could be: the three-quarter court trapping press. The article cites this as a catalyst for making a comeback in the Oklahoma game even though they ultimately lost. And as recently as Saturday, the Cowboys fell behind 13 points to West Virginia before Travis Ford implemented a combination of the press and 2-3 zone to turn that game into a 14-point victory. Maybe it has something to do with the press but there’s much more to Oklahoma State’s inconsistencies than that. Not knowing what you’ll get from Le’Bryan Nash is part of the problem too. They better fix their issues fast because the last thing the Cowboys want is their bubble to burst come Selection Sunday.
  2. Wednesday could be an important day in the history of Iowa State basketball. Dating back to 1988, the Cyclones have made the trip to Gallagher-Iba Arena 17 times and 17 times they have left Stillwater empty-handed. That also means head coach Fred Hoiberg never saw a Cyclone victory there as a player either. Iowa State already knows the Kansas State win was a step in the right direction but now it’s time to really make a statement. Are they able to go on the road, to one of the toughest arenas in the Big 12, and beat a fellow bubble team? It’s a big game for both clubs but it would mean so much for the Cyclones to get this one without the help of “Hilton Magic.”
  3. Will Spradling is one of the more prolific shooters in the league but at just 35% from three on the year, the Kansas State junior is, ahem, shooting for more consistency from outside. Spradling says he’s going back to an old routine he used to do with his dad where he makes 50 threes during practice… with one hand. “I’ll do that at least once a day,” Spradling said. “That has my shot feeling great right now. Two of the last three games I’ve shot it well and played well. I feel like I’m getting better.” That’s about the worst thing you could hear if you’re an opposing coach.
  4. How bad has Texas been this season? Here is their season-in-review in a neat 257-word layout. The Horns scored their two season highs in points against North Carolina and Baylor, both games I happened to see take place live. But they have the tougher task of matching up against Kansas State in Manhattan tonight. Texas hasn’t won a game at the Octagon of Doom since 2008 and I will go ahead and say Kansas State will have their way with Longhorns. For the first time in the Rick Barnes era, they will be looking towards next season while still in the middle of their current season.
  5. History has told us that when a coach like Bob Huggins talks/yells/face turns bright red, players listen and respond in the way he would like. There hasn’t been a whole of that this season but in Monday’s game against Kansas, at last, someone finally listened. Aaric Murray explained how to appropriately listen to coach when he’s yelling: “You’ve got to listen to the message and not how he’s saying it. I think I was listening to how he said it instead of what he was saying. When I stopped worrying about him [Huggins], everything was fine.” 17 points, seven rebounds, two blocks and two steals later, hopefully Murray is a success story. Now about the rest of his teammates…
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