Big 12 Power Rankings: Week 11

Posted by KoryCarpenter on January 21st, 2013

It was a slow week in the Big 12 last week, as all 10 favorites won and only three games were competitive late in the second half. There should be more excitement this week, however, as Bruce Weber has his Wildcats climbing in the national polls to #11 as Tuesday’s big match-up with #3 Kansas draws near. The winner will have sole possession of first place. As the double-round robin schedule starts to take effect, we should see more separation in the middle of the conference this week as teams are make their rounds. As of now, five teams are within a game of first place. Here’s where we stand heading into Week 11:

Rodney McGruder Has Helped Push The Wildcats To #11 In This Week's AP Poll.

Rodney McGruder Has Helped Push The Wildcats To #11 In This Week’s AP Poll.

1) Kansas (16-1, 4-0 Big 12)
Previous Ranking: 1

Last Week: W 61-44 vs Baylor, W 64-59 at Texas

This Week: Tuesday at Kansas State, 7:00 PM CST, Saturday vs Oklahoma, 3:00 PM

  • Rundown: Kansas had one of the most dominant defensive performances in its win against Baylor last Monday, holding the Bears to 23.2% shooting. But the offense has struggled lately. The Jayhawks shot 37.7% against Baylor (3-of-14 from three-point range) and 39.2% against Texas (3-of-11 from deep).
  • Noteworthy Stat: Jeff Withey’s 78 blocks more than double the 36 of Baylor’s Cory Jefferson, who sits in second place. Withey also leads the country with 3.3 blocks per foul.

2) Kansas State (15-2, 4-0 Big 12)
Previous Ranking: 2

Last Week: W 67-54 at TCU, W 69-60 vs Oklahoma

This Week: Tuesday vs Kansas, 7:00 PM, Saturday at Iowa State, 12:45 PM

  • Rundown: We will know a lot more about Kansas State in a week. With a home game against Kansas on Tuesday and a tough road trip to Iowa State on Saturday, they have the chance to claim first place in the conference and silence any critics. They could also fall back into the middle of the pack with the cluster of teams behind the Jayhawks.
  • Noteworthy Stat: Junior guard Will Spradling leads the Big 12 with a 3:1 Assist to Turnover ratio. He has committed only three turnovers in the last five games.

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Big 12 Power Rankings: Week Seven

Posted by KoryCarpenter on December 24th, 2012

Don’t look now, but the Big 12 might not be as awful as we thought. Big wins by Kansas, Kansas State, and Texas this week helped improve the conference’s reputation, for now at least. The biggest surprise came Saturday night as Kansas State entered as 11-point underdogs to Florida in nearby Kansas City. The Wildcats won the game by six over the much-hyped Gators to improve to 9-2 on the year. Kansas was a rare five-point underdog as well on Saturday afternoon in Columbus against Ohio State, but the Jayhawks eventually won, 74-66. And then there was Texas, who has struggled most of the year without point guard Myck Kabongo in the lineup. The Longhorns beat North Carolina at home last Wednesday in a game that was not close. Yes, the Tar Heels are overrated, but it was a nice win for a Texas team that badly needed one.

1) Kansas (10-1, 0-0)
Previous Ranking: 1

Last Week: W 87-59 vs. Richmond, W 74-66 vs. Ohio State

This Week: Saturday vs. American, 7:00 PM

The Jayhawks are flashed their Final Four potential in beating Ohio State on the road (Photo credit: Getty Images).

The Jayhawks Flashed their Final Four potential in beating Ohio State on the road (Photo credit: Getty Images).

  • Rundown: Last week, Bill Self said his team’s season would start Saturday against Ohio State. The Jayhawks beat the Buckeyes for the third time in 13 months and left Columbus as legitimate national championship contenders.
  • Feather in the Cap: If Ohio State keeps winning, Saturday’s road win over the Buckeyes will look great for Kansas on Selection Sunday. The Jayhawks’ defense was nearly unstoppable, thanks in large part to center Jeff Withey. His shot-blocking ability kept the OSU players on the perimeter most of the game, where they took bad shots repeatedly and finished with just 66 points.

2) Oklahoma State (10-1, 0-0)
Previous Ranking: 2

Last Week: W 69-44 vs. Texas-Arlington, W 78-42 vs. Tennessee Tech

This Week: Off

  • Rundown: I kept the Cowboys at No. 2 this week because of their overall resume to date (certainly not because of wins over Texas-Arlington and Tennessee Tech), but Danny had Kansas State in this spot. When tied, we turn to KenPom for the final verdict, and his ratings have Oklahoma State at 18th in the country. The Cowboys are third in the country in adjusted defense, behind only Kansas and Louisville.
  • Feather in the Cap: North Carolina State is not the top 10 team that the Cowboys beat last month, but it was still an impressive win for head coach Travis Ford. Oklahoma State will have another chance at a resume-building win this week on New Year’s Eve, as No. 14 Gonzaga comes to Stillwater.

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Rushed Reactions: Kansas State 67, #8 Florida 61

Posted by Brian Goodman on December 22nd, 2012

rushedreactions

Brian Goodman is an RTC editor. He filed this report from the Hy-Vee Wildcat Classic in Kansas City, where Kansas State held off Florida for an important non-conference win.

Five Key Takeaways.

  • Kansas State Scores Crucial Non-Conference Win: Nabbing an important non-conference victory on Saturday was important for Kansas State, which came up short against Michigan and Gonzaga earlier this season. As time passed, Saturday’s game became even more crucial for the Wildcats’ Tournament resume as the Big 12 has revealed itself to be lacking in marquee competition beyond the top tier. Though the calendar hasn’t yet turned to 2013, Kansas State head coach Bruce Weber acknowledged the dwindling number of opportunities his team had as a significant part of his team’s preparation. Saturday’s outcome may be for naught if the Wildcats struggle in league play as the team continues to embrace Weber’s system and evolve, but credit is due to Kansas State in the moment for capitalizing on the opportunity and realizing the impact tonight’s game could have come Selection Sunday.
k-state florida

K-State Got a Huge Win Over Florida Tonight

  • Wildcats, Led By Henriquez, Dominate On Defense: The main discussion point entering Saturday’s game was how Kansas State’s stout defense would fare against the versatile, potent Florida attack. The Wildcats’ muscle turned out to be the difference in KSU’s victory, with forward Jordan Henriquez swatting five shots and altering several others in 18 terrific minutes off the bench. Rodney McGruder and Will Spradling hassled the Gators’ three-point shooters into a season-worst 26.3% performance beyond the arc, accentuated by Mike Rosario and Kenny Boynton’s combined 1-of-9 mark from deep. The Gators clawed back from a double-digit halftime deficit, but made just two shots over an eight-minute stretch, buying time for Kansas State to climb ahead for good. Patric Young’s double-double (19 points and 10 rebounds) may look good on a stat sheet, but it would be remiss to not acknowledge that a handful of Young’s points came after the game had been decided and Kansas State focused its defensive effort on the perimeter to prevent a late comeback. Read the rest of this entry »
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Big 12 Team Preview #4: Kansas State Wildcats

Posted by Nate Kotisso on November 9th, 2012

This week, we’re bringing you the obligatory team preview here at the Big 12 microsite. Kansas State at the #4 position is next on our list. 

The Skinny

  • 2011-12 record: 22-11, 10-8
  • Key contributors lost: Jamar Samuels
  • Head coach: Bruce Weber, 1st season
  • Projected finish: 4th

Bruce Weber is an amazing example of a coach falling up. (AP)

Let’s remind ourselves how we got to this point.

March 8: Illinois loses its final game of the season, a 64-61 loss to Iowa in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament. The Illini finished the year 17-15 after starting off 15-3. By this time, Bruce Weber’s postgame press conferences were depressing to watch and listen to. He put everything in his job and even his opponents knew that, but you could sense his time in Champaign was coming to a close. The next day, Weber was relieved of his duties as head basketball coach of the University of Illinois. Fast forward to the 17th, amidst the madness of March, Kansas State lost in the third round to one-seeded Syracuse 75-59. They were without Jamar Samuels that day because he accepted an inpermissible benefit. Because their season was over, they were down but since they had a lot coming back next season, it wasn’t that bad.

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Big 12 Morning Five: Halloween Edition

Posted by dnspewak on October 31st, 2012

  1. Happy Halloween, college basketball fans! Want to hear a story you can use as your “trick” tonight as you’re gathering candy? How about this: According to an article in the Stillwater NewsPress, J.P. Olukemi had no idea he might be ineligible for the second semester until some kid at the student union told him about it earlier this year (you’ll need to scroll to the end of the article for this excerpt). If you’re not familiar with the situation, Olukemi has recovered from the ACL injury that stole his junior year and will suit up this month, but the NCAA has not yet ruled whether he can play an additional semester in 2013. After already losing Brian Williams to a season-ending injury, the  Cowboys cannot afford to also lose Olukemi after December. It’s too bad he had to find out the harsh news from some random dude on campus.
  2. There may not be a more intriguing story in the Big 12 this year than Amath M’Baye. The Wyoming transfer could add a new element to Oklahoma this season, and he also has quite the life story. M’Baye originally hails from France, but he’s also played in California and, of course, the state of Wyoming during his early college days. His mother will fly in from France to watch Oklahoma’s exhibition game on Friday, and she’ll get to finally see the culmination of her son’s long road to Norman. If you need proof of M’Baye’s immediate impact, look no further than the fact his teammates already voted him a team captain.
  3. Bruce Weber has to feel like a lucky man after inheriting such a solid and experienced Kansas State roster. After all, Illinois canned this guy, and he landed on his feet with arguably a better job. It’s interesting to observe how Wildcats’ players and fans are welcoming their new coach and reacting to his style. He’s always been considered a fiery personality, but he’s no Frank Martin, that’s for sure. As Will Spradling puts it: “Last year it was, if we made a mistake, we were on the line. We were running… This year it’s, ‘If you make a mistake, we’re going to do it right. We’re going to get it right. We’re going to do it as many times as we need to get it right.'” At least Weber won’t need to worry about toughening his guys up. Martin took care of all that — and then some.
  4. Myck Kabongo‘s eligibility at Texas is the storyline of fall practice so far, but coach Rick Barnes isn’t saying much about the situation. Nobody’s saying anything at all, really, just that they hope the NCAA doesn’t punish him for improper benefits and deem him ineligible to play this season. It’s almost as though nobody wants to consider that scenario, because it’s pretty nightmarish. Actually, it’s quite Halloween-like. Just how bad would it be? Well, after already losing J’Covan Brown to the pros, freshman Javan Felix would have to start. Leading returning scorer Sheldon McClellan and Julien Lewis would still be around, and Barnes loves freshman DeMarcus Holland, but you’d be talking about some serious inexperience at the point guard position in a hurry.
  5. Do you want to read another article about Marcus Smart‘s selflessness and maturity? Here you go. Our intention is not to dissuade you from believing Smart is the real deal. Quite the contrary, actually. We’re sure that Smart is a terrific basketball player and a terrific person, and we’re sure he has a heck of a future ahead of him. It can be funny to read article after article about his wise-beyond-his-years maturity, though. In this particular piece, Ford has more to say about Smart: “I have coached guys who have played extremely hard and have been as unselfish as Marcus is… But Marcus can go a whole practice without shooting and not care less. It’s easy to coach a guy like that.”
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Big 12 M5: 10.30.12 Edition

Posted by dnspewak on October 30th, 2012

  1. Jamari Traylor has Kevin Young’s broken bones in his hand to thank for his starting spot in Kansas’ first exhibition game, but he’ll use it as an opportunity to show his coach how valuable he may be during the 2012-13 season. Traylor often gets lost in the shuffle behind other KU freshmen like Ben McLemore and the veteran core of Jeff Withey, Elijah Johnson, Travis Releford, but he could play a major role on this team after a redshirt season a year ago. The early scouting report on Traylor is that he’s a monster inside and the kind of guy who will do anything and everything to tip a ball, grab a rebound, or make a hustle play. Young won’t be out long with his injury, but we’ve got a feeling Traylor will earn himself plenty of playing time this season regardless.
  2. Kansas State has a lot of returning experience, but according to head coach Bruce Weber, that doesn’t necessarily equate to great leadership. Yet. He’s still searching for that bona fide leader, the kind of guy who can rally the troops and fight his way through adversity. Luckily, Weber has a couple of promising point guards in Angel Rodriguez and Will Spradling, as well as three seniors. Rodney McGruder is the best player on the team but he’s not the most vocal guy, whereas Jordan Henriquez — one of the league’s best defensive big men — could probably talk all day if you let him. It’s silly to worry too much from an outside perspective, though. Weber’s a good coach, this is a good team, and these guys will figure something out. By the end of the year, this won’t be a discussion anymore.
  3. Oklahoma held its media day on Monday, and the players seem to be approaching this season with a completely different attitude. After tumbling in Big 12 play a year ago, the Sooners return a lot of individually talented parts but must find a way to bring everything together under Lon Kruger. It all starts with point guard Sam Grooms, the Big 12’s leading returning assists man. He says he’s already noticing how the added depth has helped the team, thanks to Wyoming transfer Amath M’Baye and a very good group of freshmen. Forward Romero Osby may have said it best: “It’s a new feel.”
  4. A couple more news and notes from the Sooners’ media day: freshman C.J. Cole and junior college transfer D.J. Bennett will both redshirt this season, according to Lon Kruger — maybe that’s a testament to the depth Grooms talked about. Later in that article, there’s also an interesting tidbit involving a former Sooner named Blake Griffin. Perhaps you remember him. Apparently, Griffin’s first dunk after surgery back in September was over OU freshman Buddy Hield. “You can’t stop anybody like Blake Griffin,” he says.
  5. We’ll have a Texas Tech preview coming your way later today, but we may as well direct you to CBS Sports‘ preview of the Red Raiders as well. There’s no harm in providing a variety of opinions, and this write-up gives a decent overview of what to expect from this program in shambles. No matter who’s writing the preview — CBS, RTC, or any other outlet — it’s hard to argue with the fact that head coach Chris Walker has quite a task ahead of him. This particular writer predicts Texas Tech to finish winless in the Big 12. That’s a bit much, but you get the point. It’ll be a long year.
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Big 12 Summer Update: Kansas State Wildcats

Posted by dnspewak on July 16th, 2012

In an effort to remind you that college basketball does in fact exist during the summer, Big 12 microsite writers Danny Spewak (@dspewak) and Jeremy Pfingsten (@jeremylp21) will roll out three summer updates per week during the next month. The goal is to compile every bit of news and information from the summer months for each team and package it into neat, easy-to-read capsules for your convenience. Next on the list — Danny’s update on Kansas State. 

Kansas State Wildcats

2011-12 Record: 22-11, 10-8

Last March, I watched my first Frank Martin practice at the Sprint Center as Kansas State prepared to face Baylor in the first round of the Big 12 Tournament. When I arrived in the middle of drills, Martin disappointed me. I wanted to see that nightmarish glare and personality I’d seen on television so many times, but he hadn’t cursed, screamed or even raised his voice yet. That lasted all of about 10 minutes. Almost on queue, Martin lashed out like the madman we all knew and loved, directing his anger not at one particular player but at the entire team in general. It was vintage Frank Martin. This summer, though, all of those returning Wildcats who dealt with Martin’s contentious personality will have a major transition to make. Martin mysteriously and unexpectedly left for a job at South Carolina, leaving KSU’s identity as a rough, tough, aggressive program in shambles. It’s now up to Bruce Weber to continue that culture by implementing his own style of play during the offseason. A highly successful coach at Southern Illinois and during the early part of his tenure at Illinois, Weber’s main challenge is convincing a talented group of returners he’s the right man for the job after his Illini program fell apart under him at the end of his tenure.

Bruce Weber Will Have to Find a New Color For His Tie at Kansas State

Summer Orientation: The most important “Summer Orientation” in Manhattan has to do with Weber and his staff. Shortly after accepting the head coaching job, Weber assembled a familiar crew of assistants. Most notably, he hired Chris Lowery, an old buddy of his from SIU who just lost his job with the Salukis after a downturn in the once-proud program (which Weber helped build). The two coached together at both Illinois and Southern Illinois, but Lowery’s not the only Saluki working on staff this summer. Brad Korn, the director of basketball operations, was a main contributor at forward under both Weber and Matt Painter (who took over in 2003-04) at SIU. And speaking of former players, full-time assistant Chester Frazier started for three years under Weber at Illinois. Weber also hired Alvin Brooks III, who had been working at Sam Houston State, to round out his staff.

Right away, Weber hit the recruiting trail and found Darrell Johnson and Michael Orris. Both have already made their way to campus, according to the Kansas City Star. As late spring signees, neither player is necessarily considered a traditional blue-chip recruit, but they both had several offers from other power-conference schools and immediately establish regional recruiting ties for Weber’s staff. Orris is from Chicago, and Johnson is from St. Louis, two areas Weber and Lowery could continue to hit hard in the future. Orris, a 6’2” point guard, had signed to play with Weber at Illinois before switching his commitment. The 6’8” Johnson, on the other hand, decided to sign at KSU in April.

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Frank Martin Proves His Worth… Again

Posted by dnspewak on February 22nd, 2012

Danny Spewak is the RTC correspondent. You can find him Twitter @dspewak.

Since the day he accepted the head coaching position at Kansas State five years ago, Frank Martin has played the underdog role. After he replaced Bob Huggins, detractors accused KSU’s athletic department of hiring Martin solely to retain Michael Beasley and Bill Walker. They said he’d fall flat after those two stars left. He’d earned the job based on his connections rather than merit, they said, and he was just a crazy-eyed, wild-mannered coach who threw clipboards and acted like a showman on the sidelines.

Frank Martin Makes For Great Television ... And Great Coaching.

After that 2007-08 team reached the NCAA Tournament, Martin did indeed lose both Beasley and Walker to the pros. And yet his program hardly missed a beat, as he recovered from a poor start the next year to salvage an NIT appearance in 2009. Hardly anybody thought that team could finish .500 in Big 12 play, much less reach the postseason. From there, Kansas State took off. Martin’s team reached the Elite Eight in 2010, and after his top-five squad tumbled in 2010-11, he found a way to push the right buttons for a late-season surge and a third-place finish in the league (and another NCAA appearance).

So when we wrote less than two weeks ago that Kansas State’s season came down to a three-game stretch, there shouldn’t have been any doubt that Martin could get the job done. Even after his team dropped a home game to rival Kansas, the Wildcats have responded with two major road victories over Baylor and Missouri to all but seal an NCAA Tournament at-large bid.

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Set Your TiVo: 02.13.12

Posted by Brian Otskey on February 13th, 2012

Brian Otskey is the Big East correspondent for RTC and a regular contributor. You can find him @botskey on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

Louisville has owned Syracuse over the last six years. Will that continue this evening? In the Big 12, Kansas State faces a huge game with in-state rival Kansas. Big Monday is just that on this night. Rankings are subject to change with a new RTC Top 25 coming out today.

#2 Syracuse @ Louisville – 7:00 PM EST on ESPN (****)

Louisville Has Owned the Orange in Recent Years (AP Photo/Kevin Rivoli)

  • Syracuse has won five straight games since losing at Notre Dame on January 21, but the Orange better be ready for a challenge tonight in Louisville. The Orange have lost their last seven games to the Cardinals, their last win coming six years ago (Louisville’s first season in the Big East). To stave off another Louisville upset, Syracuse has to play strong defense and turn Louisville over. The Cardinals rank #218 in turnover percentage and Syracuse is among the best in the nation in creating steals and points off turnovers. The Orange fast break is absolutely lethal, quite often sparked by Dion Waiters off the bench. Waiters is #4 among individuals in steal percentage and Louisville has been vulnerable to giveaways all season long. Syracuse is the better team but it must play with poise and toughness on the road against a team that will play hard for all 40 minutes with a raucous home crowd cheering them on.
  • Louisville is going to have to make outside shots and stop Syracuse from getting out in transition in order to win its eighth consecutive games against the Orange. Louisville shot the three well in two games last week, going 44% against Connecticut and 46% against West Virginia (season average = 32.8%). Look for Rick Pitino to put Kyle Kuric on the free throw line in Louisville’s zone offense, using the versatile senior to hit the mid-range shot, pass, or drive to the rim. Kuric and point guard Peyton Siva have to probe the zone cautiously but can’t be lulled into passing the ball around the perimeter. To beat Syracuse, Louisville must attack the zone north/south rather than east/west. The Cardinals must shoot the ball well to win, no ifs, ands or buts about it. That’s not a strength for Louisville but Syracuse puts up a lot of points. Louisville must keep pace and put forth a strong defensive effort. Gorgui Dieng has the potential to have a similar impact as Fab Melo defensively. If that’s the case, Louisville may be able to force Syracuse into contested jumpers in their half court offense. Dieng and Melo are incredible presences in the paint so you’d have to think the team that does best in transition and shoots the best from mid-range should win the game.
  • If Syracuse is going to lose another regular season game this season, this is it. Pitino has flat out owned Jim Boeheim over the last half decade, coming up with schemes to score against Boeheim’s patented 2-3 zone. Pitino’s issue this season is that his team doesn’t shoot threes well (despite last week’s success) and struggles to score in general. Louisville likes to press and a faster tempo could play right into the hands of the Orange. Louisville has Wayne Blackshear healthy for the first time this season after playing 20 minutes in Saturday’s win over West Virginia. Blackshear could be a key factor in the game because he adds depth and scoring ability to a Louisville lineup that is one of the few that comes close to Syracuse in terms of depth. The Orange are still much superior in that category but Louisville can rotate players in and out, keeping them fresh for 40 minutes. This should be a close game with Louisville’s shooting ability likely to be the determining factor.

#7 Kansas @ Kansas State – 9:00 PM EST on ESPN (****)

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Set Your TiVo: 01.04.12

Posted by EJacoby on January 4th, 2012

Evan Jacoby is an RTC columnist and contributor. You can find him @evanjacoby on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

Huge games in the Big East and Big 12 highlight tonight’s action, along with Duke’s final non-conference test. Here’s your schedule for tonight:

#8 Duke at Temple – 7:00 PM EST on ESPN2 (***)

Will Dunphy Have His Owls Ready To Upset K's Devils? (Getty)

  • The Blue Devils have shockingly stayed out of the spotlight for the past few weeks, quietly handling their business in the non-conference. Perhaps the shellacking that Mike Krzyzewski’s team took in Ohio State in November was the wake-up call that this team needed, as Duke has won five straight in impressive fashion since that game. Coach K’s team is ranked 4th in Ken Pomeroy’s adjusted offensive rankings, boasting the nation’s third-best true shooting percentage (60.6%) and eighth-best points per possession statistic (1.16 PPP), amongst many other impressive offensive numbers. As Austin Rivers continues to improve his decision-making and efficiency offensively, Duke gets harder to defend. The freshman is now up to a team-leading 15.4 points per game while shooting 46% from the field and 41% from three. If Rivers can penetrate the Owls’ defense to create good looks for the other Duke guards and himself, Duke will be in good shape.
  • Temple is an elite perimeter defensive team, where the Owls hold opponents to shoot 25.6% from three-point range, the fourth-best percentage in the country. Against a Duke team that loves to shoot the three, guarding the perimeter will again be priority number one in this game. In addition, Temple is strong with the ball and their 1.28 assist-to-turnover ratio is a top-30 national number, far better than Duke’s 1.02 ratio. By limiting their opponent’s long-range makes and winning the turnover battle, Temple will seek to gain an advantage at home. Their trio of guards Ramone Moore, Juan Fernandez, and Khalif Wyatt, all at 13.3 PPG or better, will look to neutralize Duke’s own trio in the scoring department. However, their best big man Michael Eric remains out with a knee injury, which could spell trouble against Duke’s 6’10” Plumlee brothers.
  • Duke is a seven-point favorite in this game and will be well-prepared in their final non-conference game. But the Blue Devils haven’t played a road game since their blowout loss at OSU, and Temple has the guards to match Duke. With Eric missing down low, Temple is without a key defensive cog, but they’ve been playing without him for over a month. Expect a hard fought game in Philly.

#17 Marquette at #9 Georgetown- 7:00 PM EST on ESPNU (****)

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Big 12 Morning Five: 01.04.12 Edition

Posted by dnspewak on January 4th, 2012

  1. Writers across the country are starting to take notice of Kansas State‘s offensive performance this season, as opposed to just its patented defense under Frank Martin. With a contest against Kansas looming at the Phog tonight, the Wildcats have shot less than 50% just once in the last four games, and they’ve also made 30-of-67 threes during that time. Will Spradling‘s steady hand at the point guard position has a lot to do with the offensive explosion, and Rodney McGruder appears to be the scorer Martin has been searching for in place of the graduated Jacob Pullen. These Wildcats are deep, balanced and willing to share the basketball, and there aren’t any egos in Manhattan right now. That’s a formula for offensive success in any program.
  2. It’s very hard to find positives for Texas Tech right now, but at least one person found something nice to write about the Red Raiders. Yes, TTU shot 11-25 from three-point range in two victories over CSU-Bakersfield and Southeastern Louisiana. We can hold off on the celebratory banner for now, but let’s at least give Billy Gillispie credit for a couple of relatively easy victories over those two squads. As Big 12 play begins this week, it’s possible the Red Raiders may not win more than three or four league games. In fact, anything more than that would be a dramatic overachievement relative to the talent available. Of course, if there’s anyone that can pull that kind of magic out of an undermanned team, it’s Gillispie.
  3. Rick Barnes may need to pull a little magic out of his young Longhorns, too. Barnes has never missed the NCAA Tournament since arriving at Texas in 1999, but his team has some work to do to reach the Big Dance this year. After losing five starters, most of the Longhorns’ problems can be attributed to youth, and as Barnes mentioned, “young guys make it more complicated than it has to be.” Right now, freshman point guard Myck Kabongo is one of those guys, but you’ve got to think he’ll come around as the leader of this offense once he gets his feet wet in Big 12 play. Give Barnes some time and he’ll be able to orchestrate a turnaround. In his 13 years at Texas, he’s at least proven that much.
  4. The NCAA Tournament seems unfathomable at this point for 7-6 Oklahoma State, but coach Travis Ford is hoping his tough non-conference schedule helped prepare his team for Big 12 play. OSU lost to Virginia Tech twice in November and December, and it also fell to Stanford, New Mexico and Alabama. Sure, the competition can’t hurt, but Ford needs a miracle right now. With J.P. Olukemi out for the year and a crisis at point guard, he’ll need Keiton Page and LeBryan Nash to perform like All-Big 12 player in order to get things rolling.
  5. A lot of eyes will be on Iowa State this winter, as Fred Hoiberg‘s remade program will hit the floor in the Big 12 with four transfers and several newcomers. The Cyclones’ experiment has resulted in an underwhelming 10-3 start so far. ISU hasn’t suffered through any early-season collapse, but the consistency is not there at this point. Take the team’s most recent two-point victory over Mississippi Valley State, for example. Iowa State nearly blew an 18-point lead before escaping with the 67-65 win, against a team that has won only one game this season. The Cyclones, known for their hot-handed shooting, have also gone cold during long stretches this season, and they’ve got to light it up from beyond the arc on a consistent basis to compete in this league.
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Big 12 Weekly Primer: Week of January 3 – 6

Posted by dnspewak on January 3rd, 2012

With the Big 12 introducing an 18-game schedule for the first time in history, conference play begins a week earlier than usual in 2012. In recent years, the week after New Year’s meant tune-up games with low-major opponents, but this season, Big 12 teams won’t have much time to recover from the holidays. Kansas and Kansas State in particular must be in tip-top shape, as the two state rivals will face each other on Wednesday (January 4).

GAME OF THE WEEK

  • #23 Kansas State (11-1) at #14 Kansas (10-3), Wednesday 7 PM CT

Thomas Robinson Was Unstoppable This Weekend

Kansas State responded from the graduation of Jacob Pullen by ripping through its non-conference schedule, which included wins over Virginia Tech and Alabama, in addition to a Diamond Head Classic championship. The early success has helped Frank Martin‘s team crack the Top 25, but the Wildcats will now face three top-15 teams during the next eight days. It all begins with Kansas at Allen Fieldhouse on Wednesday, marking the first meeting of the season between the two underrated rivals. Kansas State may be overachieving, but the Jayhawks are still finding their way after losing games to Kentucky, Duke and Davidson during the first two months of the season. Bill Self doesn’t have a vintage KU team this season, as it lacks depth and still has not executed all that well offensively. That doesn’t mean these Jayhawks can’t ball, though. They can, especially when Thomas Robinson plays like an animal (30 points and 21 rebounds against North Dakota on Saturday) and Tyshawn Taylor takes care of the basketball. Taylor has heard a lot of criticism for his turnovers, but he may be turning his season around in that department. He led KU to a rout at USC by dishing out nine assists and limiting himself to just two turnovers and he’s averaged just two turnovers per game during the last three contests.

Of course, in those games, Kansas did not face the sort of defense it will see out of Kansas State. Martin’s teams are always defined by their intensity on the defensive end, and this 2011-12 team is no different. The Wildcats are deep, athletic and physical, and forwards Thomas Gipson, Jordan Henriquez and Jamar Samuels can test Robinson on the boards a little better than North Dakota did. Bill Self’s teams will always defend, and despite his relative lack of depth, he has more skilled and proven scorers than KSU with Robinson, Taylor and the emerging Elijah Johnson. But if Rodney McGrudercan play like a star and provide some heroics, his team may hang around at the Phog. The junior guard, who leads his team at 12.5 points per game, scored 28 against Long Beach State during Christmas week to win the Diamond Head Classic.

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