Feast Week Mission Briefing: Oklahoma State in the Old Spice Classic

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 27th, 2013

With Feast Week already in high gear, we’re outlining the roads ahead for prominent Big 12 teams involved in neutral site events this week.

What They’ve Done So Far: With a 5-0 record and the top spot in the KenPom rankings, the Cowboys are off to a hot start this season and the whole country is anxious to see how long they keep it up. Travis Ford‘s team has shown that not only should it contend with Kansas at the top of the Big 12, but it has a place in the national title conversation as well. The Cowboys have destroyed all comers, transforming their games into must-see television programming with Vine-friendly moments left and right. Do-everything NPOY candidate Marcus Smart is quieting the doubts people had about his shooting, and his teammates have been outstanding, particularly from deep. Four Cowboys have attempted at least 10 threes on the year, and all four are shooting 35 percent or better from distance. That’s a deadly level of firepower that few teams in the country can match. In the paint, Brian WilliamsMichael Cobbins and Kamari Murphy have all pitched in to clean up the glass, clearing up Oklahoma State’s biggest incoming question heading into the season.

Marcus Smart and the Cowboys look to keep rolling in Orlando after their resounding win over Memphis last week. (SI.com)

Marcus Smart and the Cowboys look to keep rolling in Orlando after their resounding win over Memphis last week. (SI.com)

First Round Preview: Oklahoma State begins the bracketed portion of the Old Spice Classic against Purdue on Thanksgiving. The Boilermakers have a perfect 4-0 record, but they haven’t played anyone of consequence, and squeakers against Northern Kentucky and Rider – both at home – unsurprisingly haven’t led to anyone jumping on their bandwagon. Ronnie Johnson and Terone Johnson are the team’s leading scorers, but at just 13.8 and 13.0 points per game, respectively, they don’t do anything that exactly strikes fear into the hearts of their opponents. Purdue’s offense is struggling from deep, hitting 31.1 percent of its shots from three, although they are shooting well inside the arc. Defensively, Matt Painter‘s team is still trying to rediscover the days of the late 2000s, when the Boilermakers locked down anyone they faced. However, poor defensive rebounding and an inability to regularly force turnovers continues to leave them searching for answers.  There’s no doubt that they’ll be motivated to take down one of the top programs in college basketball this season, but in what should be an up-and-down affair, the Cowboys should handle the Boilermakers rather easily.

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Big 12 Team Preview: Oklahoma State Cowboys

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 7th, 2013

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

Where We Left Off: After a crushing loss to an under-seeded Oregon team in the NCAA Tournament, Marcus Smart made the pain go away for OSU fans, shocking Stillwater and the rest of the college basketball world by announcing his return for the 2013-14 season. That news briefly led prognosticators to peg the Cowboys as the most realistic challenger to dethrone Kansas atop the standings, but then Andrew Wiggins committed to the Jayhawks. Now, not only do we have a bona fide conference race, but a POY race too. The product is a scenario where each team’s destiny, whether you’re talking about the conference title race or the bigger picture of the NCAA Tournament, could very well hinge on how their respective stars perform.

Travis Ford has all the pieces he needs to make a serious run at Kansas. (Getty)

Travis Ford has all the pieces he needs to make a serious run at Kansas in the standings. (Getty)

Positives: Smart may be the heart and soul of Travis Ford‘s team, but Oklahoma State wouldn’t be a Final Four contender without a very good supporting cast. It isn’t without flaws (more on that in a bit), but there may not be a team in the country that can match Oklahoma State’s backcourt tandem of Smart and Markel Brown. While the former is a surefire lottery pick, the latter has improved every season he’s been on campus. He can still destroy a rim as ferociously as he did in his earlier years, but he’s upped his stroke from the free throw line as well as beyond the arc while lowering his turnover rate despite more possessions every season. There isn’t much more you could want from a four-year player. Phil Forte gives the Cowboys a one-dimensional but very capable long distance bomber, and junior wing Le’Bryan Nash is a refined three-point stroke away from being a total match-up nightmare.

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Big 12 M5: 02.27.13 Edition

Posted by KoryCarpenter on February 27th, 2013

morning5_big12

  1. It’s a shame that Elijah Johnson’s historic 39-point game against Iowa State was overshadowed by an officiating controversy, but that was all anybody could talk about following Kansas’ overtime win over Iowa State on Monday night. Most of it revolved around the no-call on Johnson’s drive to the bucket late in the second half during the Jayhawks’ comeback. The Big 12 league offices on Tuesday acknowledged the mistakes by referees Tom O’Neill, Mark Whitehead and Bert Smith. It was a pretty clear charge by Johnson, but in a game full of bad calls, it was hardly the worst. Of course, a poor call at the end of the game means everything is magnified. Which leads us to this…
  2. An Iowa State fan charged at Bill Self after the game immediately following Self’s postgame television interview. What he intended to do if police hadn’t intervened is still a mystery, but he certainly looked like an angry old man in a fit of rage. Make sure to check out the KUSports.com‘s photos linked in the story, showing the fan as he nears Self. Coupled with these tweets from an ISU fan sent to Elijah Johnson, and it was just a bad day to be a Cyclones fan.
  3. Oklahoma State sophomore forward Brian Williams returned from a wrist injury a month ago after it was unclear whether he’d be able to return at all this season. Since his return on January 31, the Cowboys are 7-1 and in contention for the Big 12 regular season title, sitting currently in second place at 10-4. His numbers aren’t flashy, but he’s considered one of the best defenders on the team. His playing time has slowly increased as he’s eased back into the rotation, and just in time for the Pokes. The Cowboys are lingering on the outside of the Big 12 title race but are still within striking distance if Kansas and/or Kansas State drop another game in the final two weeks.
  4. Oklahoma head coach Lon Kruger brings up an interesting point that many people — including Jay Bilas on a regular basis — have been harping on all year. Offenses have been struggling in recent years because defenses are allowed to bump the cutters and hand-check on the perimeter. As John Shinn of the Norman Transcript points out, there were 100 fouls committed in the Sooners’ last two games. Kruger, like many others, has a simple solution. If referees call the bumping and holding early and often at the beginning of the season, players and coaches will adjust because coaches will teach players to get away with as much as possible. It’s up to the officials to draw the line.
  5. The Kansas City Star‘s Blair Kerkhoff gives a nice history lesson as Kansas and Kansas State battle for the regular season championship with two weeks to go. As most know, Kansas has won eight consecutive conference titles. The Wildcats, on the other hand, haven’t won a conference regular season championship since 1977. With wins in their remaining three games — at Baylor, TCU, at Oklahoma State — they would clinch at least a share of their first championship in 36 years. As Kerkhoff notes, the Sunflower rivals used to battle for the conference title on a regular basis before Kansas State began to struggle in the 1980s.
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Big 12 M5: 01.25.13 Edition

Posted by dnspewak on January 25th, 2013

morning5_big12

  1. Texas Tech defeated unranked Iowa State at home this week. For most programs, that’s a blip on the radar. For interim coach Chris Walker and the Red Raiders, it is a major feat to beat anybody, considering last year’s team finished 1-17 in Big 12 play. Add in the fact that the Cyclones are actually a formidable opponent and advanced to the NCAA Tournament last season, and you might as well hang a banner in Lubbock. Or not. Point is, as the article points out, this might have been the most important win for Texas Tech in two seasons. Two seasons! A win over Iowa State! Still, it’s encouraging to see how well freshman point guard Josh Gray played down the stretch, and this is a team with a lot of young, talented parts. Give it a couple of years, and maybe wins over Iowa State at home will become the norm, not a surprise.
  2. Finally, Oklahoma State is getting some good news with regard to an injured player. Brian Williams should return by next week, which will give the Cowboys a much-needed defensive boost. The versatile wing, who broke his wrist this fall and has not played a game yet, can guard a lot of different positions at 6’5” and changes the dynamics of Ford’s roster. It’s a huge relief for this program, which has dealt with the injury bug on more than one occasion and could use a boost as they enter the heart of Big 12 play.
  3. We knew this would happen. We know TCU would not come out swinging in its inaugural Big 12 season. We knew the Horned Frogs would lose a lot. Now that it’s actually happening, though, those low expectations don’t make the results less ugly. TCU lost by 21 points to West Virginia on Wednesday, and it may be difficult for Trent Johnson’s team to even win another game this year. Thanks to some notable recruiting efforts by Johnson, help is on the way, but the Horned Frogs already lost at home to Texas Tech and certainly shouldn’t be favored in any game for the rest of the season. A winless Big 12 season is not out of the question.
  4. As for that West Virginia team that beat TCU on Wednesday– the picture is almost as bleak for Bob Huggins in his first Big 12 season. His team has been nothing short of atrocious, which makes that beatdown even more embarrassing for the Horned Frogs. TCU is undermanned due to injuries, but offensively this team is a mess and cannot keep pace with anybody. Not even the hapless Mountaineers.
  5. Bill Self met with the media this week to discuss a variety of topics, and as usual, the Kansas coach was highly entertaining and informative. The most interesting part of the press conference might have been his comparison between Ben McLemore and Brandon Rush, the former Kansas star from his national title team. He called Rush the better defender, but McLemore the better scorer. That’s probably fair. He also praised both of them for being unselfish stars, which is the sort of personality Self breeds as a coach. If you recall that 2008 title team, many criticized the Jayhawks for lacking a go-to scorer. They were too unselfish people said. And then they won it all. Self knows how to coach, and he knows how to get his stars to play team ball. McLemore is a terrific example of that.
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Big 12 Team Preview #6: Oklahoma State Cowboys

Posted by Nate Kotisso on November 7th, 2012

Over the next two weeks, we’ll bring you the obligatory team preview here at the Big 12 microsite. Oklahoma State at the #6 position is next on our list. 

The Skinny

  • 2011-12 record: 15-18 record, 7-11 in the Big 12
  • Key contributors lost: Cezar Guerrero, Keiton Page, Fred Gulley
  • Head coach: Travis Ford, 5th season
  • Projected finish: 6th

The 2012-13 season is the most important in Travis Ford’s coaching career. (Sue Ogrocki/Associated Press)

Years one and two: back-to-back NCAA appearances with fourth and sixth place finishes in the conference. Years three and four: one NIT birth with seventh and ninth place finishes in Big 12 play. Time is running out for head coach Travis Ford, a coach who enters his fifth season under the most fire with perhaps the best roster he’s ever had. Sure he gets credit for making the Tournament in 2009 and 2010 but the reality is key guys (like James Anderson, Obi Muonelo and Byron Eaton) were holdovers from the previous Sean Sutton era. Once Ford’s players came around, that recliner of his soon became a hot seat.

The Personnel

The question isn’t whether Ford can bring talent to Stillwater but if he can win with that talent. Le’Bryan Nash was a huge get in 2011 and Ford was able to add his second five-star recruit in two years with the signing last year of Marcus Smart. Accomplished head coaches like Billy Donovan and Mark Few were still yukking it up about the freshman’s game and attitude more than a full month after coaching Smart’s team to a gold medal in the FIBA Americas U-18 Championships. The Cowboys also got some good news about J.P. Olukemi: The NCAA has granted him a full year of eligibility instead of the fall semester exclusively. Considering he played in only 13 of 33 games last season, any Olukemi is better than no Olukemi.

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2012-13 RTC Conference Primers: Ohio Valley Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on October 23rd, 2012

David Changas is the RTC correspondent for the OVC.  You can follow him on Twitter @dchangas.

Top Storylines

  • Can Murray State Repeat Its Success?  Last year, the Racers took the college basketball world by storm by being the nation’s last remaining undefeated team after starting 23-0. They lose several key contributors, but another run to a second-round NCAA Tournament win is realistic, and coach Steve Prohm proved he can coach in his first season at the helm. Should Murray State win the league’s automatic bid, it likely will not come with a lofty five-seed as it did last year, but any team with potential All-American Isaiah Canaan leading it in March will be dangerous.

Isaiah Canaan Is The Early Favorite For OVC Player Of The Year And Has A Shot At Even Higher Accolades. (Getty Images)

  • Belmont Arrives:  In an effort to raise its overall profile, Belmont left the Atlantic Sun and certainly will add cachet to a league coming off its best year in recent memory. The Bruins have been a dominant force in the A-Sun for the past dozen years, earning the conference’s automatic bid in five of the last seven. Their addition to an already formidable league raises its profile that much more, and though Murray State is the league favorite, Belmont will draw attention to the OVC in this and years to come.
  • Who is Robert Covington? With all of the hoopla surrounding Canaan and Murray State, plus the arrival of Belmont, the player who isn’t the subject of enough discussion is Tennessee State big man Robert Covington. The 6’9″ senior finished third in the league in scoring and second in rebounding last year, and is projected by some to be a second-round pick in the 2013 NBA Draft.  He scores, rebounds, and shoots the three proficiently, and has an NBA physique.  A player of the year caliber season should be expected from Covington, and the presence of NBA scouts will be commonplace at Tiger games.

Reader’s Take

 

Predicted Order of Finish

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Loss of Oklahoma State’s Williams Not a Good Sign for Travis Ford

Posted by dnspewak on October 22nd, 2012

This was supposed to be a fresh start for Oklahoma State. A year after injuries and transfers derailed Travis Ford’s program and ruined Keiton Page’s senior year, the Cowboys’ 2012-13 roster looked healthier, deeper and significantly more dangerous on paper when practice opened more than a week ago. That’s why the latest injury to Brian Williams, who will now miss the rest of the season with a fractured wrist, is so discouraging for the Cowboys. The loss of Williams will not cripple this program, but the last thing Ford needed was to deal with another personnel problem. Consider this: In 2011-12, two of his point guards transferred before conference play, his best athlete (J.P. Olukemi) tore his ACL after 13 games, and Le’Bryan Nash and Philip Jurick also missed a handful of games. Ford played Missouri in the Big 12 Tournament quarterfinals with six scholarship players and a walk-on, and his team’s season predictably ended with an embarrassing 18-point rout.

Brian Williams Won’t Play This Season (Photo Credit: Nate Billings, The Oklahoman)

Brian Williams scored 21 points in that loss, by the way. Nash and freshman Marcus Smart headline this roster, but Williams was a projected starter on the wing. He’s a highlight-reel dunker with terrific athleticism and the kind of guy who could have created serious matchup problems against slower forwards. Instead, he’ll now take a medical redshirt and return as a sophomore in 2013-14, leaving the Cowboys praying even harder that Olukemi can gain eligibility for the second semester. In an odd scenario, he’s technically eligible only for the first semester right now, but OSU has appealed that decision and apparently believes it has a decent shot to win. Between Olukemi’s status, Williams’ injury and the mystery surrounding Jurick (he was arrested this summer on drug charges), it looks like Ford’s roster headaches weren’t exclusive to last season.

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Morning Five: 10.22.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on October 22nd, 2012

  1. Most schools held their Midnight Madness extravaganzas more than a week ago, but a couple prominent schools around college basketball nation didn’t get in on the act until this past weekend. At Indiana, Hoosier Hysteria on Saturday night was just that — a standing room only celebration of Indiana basketball past and present, replete with a three-point shooting Cody Zeller (he made 10 in one round of the contest) and even a Bob Knight sighting (in photo form, on the big screen). For a nice highlight reel from IU’s event, check out this video put together by CityLeagueHoopsTV from the event. Over in Durham, Duke‘s Countdown to Craziness began a festive on-campus weekend (Duke’s football team defeated UNC on Saturday night), as Coach K emphasized “togetherness” among his players and the fans while debuting his squad for the first time this season. For more Coach K hugs than you can possibly imagine, check out this video running along this theme played at the conclusion of the event. Jeff Goodman spent Friday with the Blue Devils, and reports back with 11 thoughts and observations about Coach K’s latest team (including who he thinks will take over for the all-time great upon his eventual retirement). At this point, most every school is finished with the pomp and circumstance and moving into the harsh realities of practice, but more on this in a moment.
  2. Practice makes perfect, so the saying goes, but it also provides opportunities for the imperfect to rear its ugly head in the form of injuries. Two prominent players on teams with high hopes for this season were hurt recently — Oklahoma State’s Brian Williams and UCLA’s David Wear. Williams is the more serious injury of the two, as he injured his left wrist in a fall after dunking in practice last week and needed to have surgery to repair the damage done. He’ll have to wear a cast for three months and go through rehabilitation after that, essentially rendering Williams unavailable to build upon a very promising freshman campaign this season. Wear, on the other hand, suffered an ankle sprain during practice on Sunday and will have an x-ray on his foot today. Hopefully this injury isn’t as serious as Williams’ and we’ll see Wear back on the court very soon.
  3. Wear might be sidelined with an injury, but his UCLA teammates Kyle Anderson and Shabazz Muhammad have now entered their second full week of practice with no timeline as to when the NCAA plans to make a decision on their eligibility. This report from the LA Times suggests that neither player may be close to becoming eligible as the governing body has not given the players any feedback on the status of its investigation nor a timetable for its resolution. According to the piece, Anderson’s issue relates to the relationship between his father and an NBA agent named Thad Foucher, while Muhammad’s problem involves money given to both himself and his AAU team from friends of the family. There’s nothing new here, obviously, but one caveat from the piece must irk UCLA fans hopeful that things are progressing at a reasonable pace — with only 35 days left for the duo to continue practicing with the team until they must sit out, the NCAA has yet to formally interview Muhammad’s parents about any of this.
  4. If you consider yourself at all versed in the analysis of college basketball, you are familiar with KenPom‘s numbers. What you may be less knowledgeable about are the occasional yet insightful blog posts that he publishes from time to time. On Sunday night he presented the results of his analysis of the validity of the preseason AP poll (which has yet to release this season). His finding is that, at least with respect to NCAA Tournament seeding in March, the top half of the AP poll is highly predictive. As he writes: “The chances of being a one-seed get really slim once you get past the top 12 or 13, while the chances of missing the tournament altogether are very real for the teams in the bottom half of the poll.” There’s a better than half chance that a preseason top 10 team in the AP poll will receive a top three seed at the end of the season — that makes sense. What we’d be interested in knowing, though, is what are the common factors that allow us to predict why the other half of teams fall from those original estimations. Great analysis by Pomeroy.
  5. Finally, today, let’s talk discipline. Tubby Smith’s son and Minnesota assistant coach, Saul Smith, has been placed on administrative leave by the school related to his Friday night arrest for suspicion of DWI. Meanwhile at Maryland, senior forward James Padgett pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of reckless driving stemming from his arrest back in June for driving while impaired. Under the school’s code of conduct for alcohol-related driving arrests, he will not be suspended from the team since he is not guilty of a DWI — a true example of legal hair-splitting if ever there was one. Over at Louisville, Chane Behanan must sit out the Cardinals’ first exhibition game this season and has been banned from talking to the media (this is punishment?) for the rest of the semester. Head coach Rick Pitino didn’t specify what led to Behanan’s restrictions other than to say that there were “incidents” over the summer, but he did say that further slip-ups could cause the talented forward to miss more game action.
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Big 12 M5: 10.18.12 Edition

Posted by Nate Kotisso on October 18th, 2012

  1. Oklahoma State head coach Travis Ford took media day to reveal that starting guard/forward Brian Williams has a wrist injury and is out “indefinitely.” Williams started 20 games for the Cowboys last season, averaging 9.6 points and 3.3 boards per contest. It’s not welcome news to a team that finished last year without Le’Bryan Nash (now ready to go), Phillip Jurick (progressing but not all the way back) and JP Olukemi, who practices but still experiences some swelling. I think they’re a top five Big 12 team overall but with the departure of Cezar Guerrero and the injury bug continuing to bite, this Cowboys team may not get off to the fast start it desires.
  2. Staying with the Cowboys, an interesting subplot has developed with JP Olukemi and his eligibility for the season. As of this moment, Olukemi would be eligible to play for the fall semester ONLY. The story started five years ago when his high school, Stoneridge Preparatory in California, shut down halfway through the school year. According to The Oklahoman, the school’s basketball coaches suggested Olukemi go to a junior college in Indiana but little did he know that his athletic eligibility began and is therefore scheduled to run out at the end of this calendar year. Encouraged by the NCAA awarding Marshall University’s Marcus Tinnon an extra year in a similar situation, OSU is lobbying for the same for Olukemi. I almost feel for Travis Ford. This is his first chance in Stillwater to build a team of his own and it all could come crashing down around him.
  3. The Oklahoma Sooners basketball team voted for its team captains recently and Lon Kruger announced the results of the voting at Big 12 Media Day. The captains are: seniors Andrew Fitzgerald, Romero Osby and junior Amath M’Baye. I’m surprised to hear the Wyoming transfer M’Baye was named a captain but maybe I’ve been understating his importance to the team. Between these three, Steven Pledger and Sam Grooms, I see the Sooners as this year’s edition of Iowa State. Lon Kruger’s proven to be a master of moving programs in the right direction .
  4. Big 12 Media Day gave a chance for Rick Barnes to face questions about Myck Kabongo’s amateur status. Barnes claims he knows nothing about Kabongo’s trip to Cleveland but is cooperating fully with the NCAA investigation into the matter. The potential of losing Kabongo for any part of their season (because their non-conference slate is no cakewalk) would severely hurt their chances for a possible top three finish in the league or a high seed in the NCAAs. With all of the news coming from the Texas and Oklahoma State camps lately, this could be as unpredictable a year as any in the league’s history.
  5. William Hill Race & Sports Books released their odds for teams who could win the 2013 national championship from 1 to 300-1. Some school with Dwight Schrute as their coach and two in-state rivals were pinned as the most likely to win it all in April but no one cares about them ’round here. According to the list, Kansas, Baylor, Texas, Kansas State, West Virginia and Iowa State all hold a 100-1 chance or better of winning a title. Since these aren’t pieces of scientific data (like KenPom), it’s easy to question any type of validity in these. I mean, come on, they have Baylor AND Notre Dame with the same probability of cutting down the nets in Atlanta. Doesn’t that just scream ridiculous?
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Big 12 Summer Update: Oklahoma State Cowboys

Posted by dnspewak on August 7th, 2012

In an effort to remind you that college basketball does in fact exist during the summer, Big 12 microsite writer Danny Spewak (@dspewak) 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. The final team on the list — Oklahoma State.

2011-12 record: 15-18, 7-11 (7th place, Big 12)

While his peers in the coaching community were chasing recruits this summer and lounging by the pool, Travis Ford took the stand during a rape trial to testify on behalf of a former player. This wasn’t about basketball anymore. This was about the life of Darrell Williams, facing a prison sentence after two women at a party accused him of groping them in 2010. The soaring expectations in 2012-13, thanks to the arrival of freshman star Marcus Smart and the return of sophomore Le’Bryan Nash, would have to wait. Ford argued for Williams’ innocence on the stand, and several former teammates attended the trial. The defense argued that the two women may have misidentified Williams, but that didn’t convince a jury. It convicted the forward on two counts, sending him into an uncontrollable sob as police escorted him out. Williams was never a star, and he had not played since February 2011. Still, this is not your average legal situation. That kind of thing happens all the time — like this weekend, when police arrested Cowboys’ center Philip Jurick for marijuana possession. In those situations, programs discipline, suspend and move on. When a former player heads to prison on a rape conviction, though, it takes a little while to recover. So that’s where Travis Ford sits with this Oklahoma State program right now. After a traumatic whirlwind of a summer, he must now find a way to recover from the graduation of heart-and-soul guard Keiton Page and transform this collection of individually talented parts into a winning team. It’d be nice, too, if he could find a viable point guard.

For All The Criticism, It’s Easy To Forget Nash Won Freshman of the Year Honors in 2011-12

Summer Orientation: Everybody knows Marcus Smart. Just ask Billy Donovan and Mark Few about the OSU freshman, who wowed them at the U-18 Championships this summer. ”He was our leader from the moment the players introduced themselves,” Few told CBS’ Gary Parrish. “He’s one of the best kids I’ve ever been around — and that includes all the Zags I’ve coached.” That single quote from Few sums up Marcus Smart at the most basic level. He may be a McDonald’s All-American with NBA talent, and he may be a scoring guard with ungodly physical gifts and slashing ability. That’s all great, but it’s not even what Smart is known for. He’s known as a leader. Clutch. A playmaker. The kind of guy who prides himself on his instincts, defensive prowess, smarts and basketball savvy rather than his point-per-game average. These are the qualities that have Travis Ford gushing about his freshman, to the point where he’s already anointing Smart as a team leader after he excelled in individual workouts this summer. Perhaps we’re reading too much into the Rivals.com star rankings and the spectacular performance at the U-18 games, and maybe all of this talk of early leadership and the “ultimate teammate” is overkill for a guy who hasn’t stepped on the court yet. The beauty of the situation for Smart and the Cowboys, though, is that he’s not necessarily counted on to carry this team. Le’Bryan Nash often had those expectations as a freshman a year ago, but his decision to return for his sophomore year means the two highly-touted talents can feed off each other.

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Big 12 Tourney First Round Reaction: Oklahoma State vs.Texas Tech

Posted by dnspewak on March 7th, 2012

Oklahoma State 76, Texas Tech 60

Oklahoma State hardly looked like a team missing two key contributors on Wednesday night. Even without the injured Le’Bryan Nash and Philip Jurick, the Cowboys managed to pull away from a pesky Texas Tech squad 76-60 thanks to a second-half burst from Cezar Guerrero and Brian Williams. Despite briefly trailing by a point early in the second half, OSU regrouped by attacking the basket and forcing the Red Raiders to jack up bad shots from beyond the arc. Within minutes, that deficit turned into a double-digit lead, and from there Oklahoma State punished the young Red Raiders by working the clock and clamping down on defense. It all happened with major personnel adjustments — with Williams playing the four position and Markel Brown running the point. “Words really can’t describe how proud I am of our basketball team,” coach Travis Ford said. “For these guys to continue to play as hard as they are, they’re fun to coach.”

Texas Tech's season ended with a 76-60 loss to Oklahoma State on Wednesday.

Why the Cowboys Won: Cezar Guerrero really exploded in the second half, burying back-to-back three-pointers after his team’s brief one-point deficit. “I felt like I just needed to bring energy and get these guys going again,” Guerrero said. “Luckily, my teammates just got me open and I hit the shots. I was really feeling it today.” Texas Tech also struggled on the offensive end, looking every bit like the team that finished 1-17 in Big 12 play under first-year head coach Billy Gillispie. Even a strong effort from Jordan Tolbert could not overcome the Cowboys, who had four players score in double figures. Senior Keiton Page couldn’t find his shot early, but he heated up in garbage time to finish with a team-high 20 points. The key statistic to take note of here is Texas Tech’s performance from three-point land: 4-20. That’s your ballgame right there. That, and a 16-16 team mark from the free throw line for Oklahoma State.

What’s Next: Oklahoma State advances to play second-seeded Missouri, a team it defeated in Stillwater this year but could not compete with on the road. If Nash can’t go, though, the Cowboys have little to no shot. Nash put his team on his shoulders in that game, scoring important basket after important basket to announce to the national stage that he was a legitimate star. Without him, it’s important for Williams to keep playing as aggressively as he did against Tech. “We didn’t exactly play the way we wanted to up in Columbia,” Williams said. “We’ll just get to the film room and start studying Missouri.”

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Big 12 Morning Five: 02.15.12 Edition

Posted by dnspewak on February 15th, 2012

  1. It’s easy to forget that Michael Dixon does not start for Missouri. The point guard may play second-fiddle to Phil Pressey at times, but he’s as important as any player on Frank Haith‘s team. Embracing his role as a reserve, Dixon still cracks the rotation with major minutes and has emerged as a go-to option down the stretch in close games. Known for his confidence and swagger, Dixon’s play has made an impression on Haith in his first season. “I love him,” Haith told the Columbia Missourian. And that pretty much sums things up, folks.
  2. In the aftermath of TCU’s upset win over UNLV last night, perhaps the future of Big 12 basketball isn’t so bleak after all. ESPN’s Andy Katz takes a look at next year’s league, which will lose Missouri and Texas A&M while gaining TCU and West Virginia. Katz makes an interesting observation with regards to the Mountaineers’ travel time, considering the school is located in an odd geographic area compared to the rest of the conference. Coach Bob Huggins said he’s not worried: “we’ll just charter in and out,” he told Katz.
  3. Kansas may not have played particularly well in a win over Kansas State on Monday night, but it did what it needed to do to secure a road victory in a difficult environment. One blog investigates some of the statistics behind the win, and as you can imagine, a lot of the credit needs to go to center Jeff Withey. Without a typical Thomas Robinson performance, Withey carried the team with his double-double and nine blocks. As a team, the Jayhawks did not rebound very well, but they got to the free throw line and held Kansas State’s offense in check with a gritty defensive effort.
  4. Want to talk about another gritty effort? Look no further than Texas A&M last night. The Aggies limited Texas Tech to 38 points in a victory in Lubbock by dominating the boards and stifling the young Red Raiders. The stats are ugly in this box score: Tech made zero free throws, allowed 15 offensive rebounds and shot 38.6% from the field. Only reserve Jaye Crockett broke double figures. A&M actually shot worse from the field and finished with more turnovers, but its rebounding got the job done.
  5. Unlike college football, redshirts in basketball are a little rarer. It does not take freshman as much time to acclimate to the Division I level from a physical standpoint, so you don’t see programs utilize the redshirt nearly as much. At Oklahoma State, though, two redshirt freshmen are making an impact in their first season. With injuries and transfers limiting Travis Ford‘s roster, Michael Cobbins and Brian Williams have made the most of their opportunities. Much has been made of Cobbins’ muscle gain and improved play, but Williams has also been a very nice surprise as a swingman averaging about 25 minutes per game.
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