Fred Hoiberg has injected new life into the Iowa State program this year as the Cyclones and Royce White in particular are starting to make headlines with their pesky play. They nearly knocked off Missouri at home, and they led Kansas at the Phog for a stretch during the second half. But don’t expect a celebration for moral victories in Ames any time soon. As Scott Christopherson puts it, “Oklahoma State does not care that we played Kansas tough at Kansas… Actually, nobody really cares.” That’s harsh, but it’s the mindset Christopherson and ISU need to have for the rest of the season. Hanging tough isn’t good enough in major Division I basketball– that’s what gets coaches fired and players scrutinized.
Three Big 12 basketball players have made the Mid-Season Watch List for the Wooden Award, and none of the names will surprise you: Perry Jones (Baylor), Marcus Denmon (Missouri), and Thomas Robinson (Kansas). Overall, 25 players made the list, and the vote will not take place until March. Compared to Denmon and Jones, Robinson probably has a better shot at this national award, but all three will be in the mix for Big 12 Player of the Year and All-Conference honors.
A little SEC news may have some collateral damage for the Big 12. Apparently, the SEC may be interested in using Kansas City as a possible host for the men’s basketball tournament in March. Obviously, that would conflict with the Big 12 men’s basketball tournament, which is slated to stay in the city for the time being. There’s no definitive answer on this issue right now, but it underscores a larger point: conference realignment is taking a toll on every team in every conference, and the arguments aren’t over at this point.
With all of its injuries and personnel issues, it’s easy to forget about Oklahoma State. At 2-2, though, it’s not as though the Cowboys’ Big 12 season has been a disaster thus far. Yes, the 41-point loss to Baylor does not look good, but Travis Ford‘s teams have made a habit of storming back during his tenure. That’s not to say this Oklahoma State team will replicate that success, of course. Ford’s early teams had an emotional leader in Byron Eaton and a never-say-die attitude. Perhaps Keiton Page is the next candidate to lead Oklahoma State to the promised land– the NCAA Tournament– in his senior season.
In desperate need of quality wins right now, Texas will travel to Kansas State in a game both teams need to win to salvage their seasons. The Longhorns are in danger of missing the NCAA Tournament for the first time in more than a decade. They will have to deal with Kansas State’s energetic home crowd, and the Wildcats cannot afford to drop another home game. At 1-3, it’s already been a rough start for Frank Martin‘s team. Things could get ugly in Manhattan if that record falls to 1-4.
Patrick Sellars is the RTC correspondent for the Big 12 Conference.
Predicted Order of Finish:
Kansas State (10-6)
Texas A&M (8-8)
Oklahoma State (8-8)
Iowa State (7-9)
Texas Tech (4-12)
All Conference Team:
Sherron Collins (G), Kansas
Willie Warren (G) Oklahoma
Craig Brackins (F) Iowa State
Damion James (F), Texas
Cole Aldrich (C), Kansas
6th Man.James Anderson (G) Oklahoma State
Impact Newcomer. Xavier Henry (G), Kansas
What You Need to Know.
KU Dominance. Of the 13 years that the Big 12 has held a conference tournament, Kansas has won the crown six times, which is the most of any Big 12 school. Kansas has been deemed the regular season conference champion nine times in those 13 years, sharing the title in three of those times. Every time Kansas has shared the title the Jayhawks were the two-seed in the conference tournament.
Two At the Top. It’s very possible that Texas and Kansas could share the Big 12 title this season. Texas’ toughest conference games are Kansas (in Austin), then Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, and Kansas State on the road. The Longhorns seem to have the advantage over the Jayhawks when it comes to an easier conference schedule, but with KU bringing back all of its talent and adding one of the top freshman in the nation, I still believe that Kansas will stay atop the conference alone.
Where are the Tigers. Where do you rank the Missouri Tigers in the Big 12 this season? After being picked seventh by the coaches in last year’s preseason poll, the Tigers finished third and won the Big 12 Tournament en route to an Elite Eight appearance. Mike Anderson will continue to play his “Fastest Forty Minutes” style, and behind leadership from senior guard JT Tiller (Co-Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year in 2009), and sophomore guard Kim English, it’s hard to determine where Mizzou will be at the end of the season. Anderson has put together a very athletic lineup, which should be able to play to his coaching style, but their lack of experience and a consistent scorer could hurt them.
X-Factor. Freshman phenom Xavier Henry could be the key to Kansas’ hopes of a second national title in just three seasons. A late decider, Henry could very well be one of the most productive freshmen in the NCAA this season. He is surrounded by unbelievable talent that will hog most of the attention from opposing defenses, which should open up many scoring opportunities for Henry.
After a thrilling finish last night that made Demetri Goodson a household name for at least a few days, we think the tournament has officially begun. Even being fairly selective, we think there are at least 3 outstanding games today. Here’s a quick rundown of the games we’ll be covering tomorrow:
12:10 PM: #6 Arizona State vs. #3 Syracuse
2:20 PM: #12 Wisconsin vs. #4 Xavier
2:30 PM: #11 Dayton vs. #3 Kansas
2:40 PM: #13 Cleveland State vs. #12 Arizona
2:50 PM: #8 Oklahoma State vs. #1 Pittsburgh
4:50 PM: #6 Marquette vs. #3 Missouri
5:00 PM: #10 USC vs. #2 Michigan State
5:20 PM: #9 Siena vs. #1 Louisville
A couple thoughts on the scheduling: (1) It’s nice to see the early finish for those of us who have to work on Monday morning and (2) I think the NCAA and CBS might have finally figured out the spacing issue. Outside of the early game, I don’t think there should be any point during the other 2 sets of games where we have all the games at halftime. I’m guessing the NCAA and/or CBS must have hired a bunch of McKinsey consultants at $500/hr to figure out how to stagger the games. Now I’m looking at it without a fancy Excel model, but this looks like a reasonable set-up, which should get the job done, but I’ve been wrong before. . .
12:08 PM: One piece of big news from the morning: Dominic James has been cleared to play today. I’m not sure what kind of experimental medical techniques they have up at Marquette, but that’s a shocking piece of news. I’d be surprised if he could even go 10 minutes today as he was expected to be out for at least 2 months when he broke his foot (don’t remember which bone) back on Febraury 25th, but we will wait and see.
12:25 PM: This game looks like it should be fairly entertaining and competitive. Interesting back story about Jonny Flynn and James Harden. I know the old school guys won’t like it, but with the growth of AAU and all these summer camps I think it should be expected that stuff like that will happen.
12:30 PM: For those of you who questioned my earlier assertion that the arenas looked dead this year, the NCAA is backing me up. I guess it should be somewhat expected with the economy although most tickets are purchased via the lottery well in advance. The 50% in Miami is appalling though. One more thing to remember about these numbers. . .they reflect the number of tickets purchased not the attendance. I’m sure there are a lot of tickets that have been purchased by ticket brokers that have not been purchased by people who actually go to the games.
12:40 PM: As talented as Harden is, I really question his tendency to disappear for long stretches. Is he unable to play hard for 40 minutes or is he “letting the game come to him”?
12:47 PM: Arizona State is getting run out of the gym right now. I wonder how much the early start hurts the West Coast teams here. I’m not sure if any of you have data on this.
12:50 PM: We just posted the next part of our Mascot Challnege. Be sure to vote for your favorite mascots and help him/her win the national title.
12:52 PM: Rihards Kuksiks is single-handedly keeping the Sun Devils in this game with 15 of their first 30 points. Syracuse goes into half with a 41-32 lead. Harden still doesn’t have a point. If I’m a NBA GM, his tendency to do this drops him a few spots on my board.
After a relatively weak set of 1st round games (except for very late last night), we’re looking to forward to our beloved tournament returning to form with a strong set of 2nd round games. One of the benefits of the lack of shocking upsets in the first round games is that we get a good set of 2nd round games that won’t be blowouts. Right? Anyways, here is your slate of games.
We’ll be starting this post around 3:20 so head over to the aforementioned RTC Live before that time for our coverage of the start of round 2.
3:23 PM: Memphis starts off like they did in the 1st round with a 35-second violation that wasn’t called because Maryland stole the ball as the shot clock expired. Greivis Vasquez just got called for his first foul 57 seconds into the game. That’s definitely something to watch for.
3:27 PM: Nice run by Memphis to silence any of the early doubts after their ugly opening game. This is the Memphis team I put in the Final 4.
3:40 PM: Sorry for the delay. I was busy responding to an e-mail from the NCAA trying to get you coverage from the NCAA East Regional (they’re pretty myopic in Indianapolis). Anyways, back to the game. . . John Calipari has to be pleased with this start. His Tigers have come out much sharper than they did against Cal State-Northridge.
We’d like to apologize for our coverage yesterday. We had some technical/communication issues regarding the post yesterday, but I’ll be back covering the games today so everything should be back to normal. Here’s a quick rundown of the games we’ll be covering today:
12:15 PM: #14 Stephen F. Austin vs. #3 Syracuse
12:25 PM: #9 Tennessee vs. #8 Oklahoma State
12:30 PM: #11 Utah State vs. #6 Marquette
12:30 PM: #14 North Dakota State vs. #3 Kansas
2:45 PM: #11 Temple vs. #6 Arizona State
2:55 PM: #16 East Tennessee State vs. #1 Pittsburgh
3:00 PM: #14 Cornell vs. #3 Missouri
3:00 PM: #11 Dayton vs. #6 West Virginia
7:10 PM: #16 Morehead State vs. #1 Louisville
7:10 PM: #12 Arizona vs. #5 Utah
7:20 PM: #10 USC vs. #7 Boston College
7:25 PM: #13 Portland State vs. #4 Xavier
Late Night Games
9:40 PM: #9 Siena vs. #8 Ohio State
9:40 PM: #13 Cleveland State vs. #4 Wake Forest
9:50 PM: #15 Robert Morris vs. #2 Michigan State
9:55 PM: #12 Wisconsin vs. #5 Florida State
Quite frankly, today’s slate looks a lot more interesting than what was on yesterday. There are 3 games in each of the 4 groups that seem like they will be entertaining except for the afternoon set where only the 6/11 match-ups really catch my eyes. Feel free to leave your thoughts or questions on any of these games or the ones from yesterday in the comment section. I’ll be back around noon to cover the day’s action.
12:15 PM: Ok. We’re about to get underway. I was a little delayed by the fact that the bus to RTC East decided to pick up 3 people in wheelchairs, which slowed down my trip significantly (had to get them in/out during 6 stops). Is anybody rooting for Stephen F. Austin just because they can’t stand Eric Devendorf?
12:20 PM: “The best look the Lumberjacks have had so far”? That was only their 2nd possession of the game. The crows is awful in Miami. I know its early, but there is nobody there. I have to say the NCAA did a pretty poor job with their pod placement. I’ll have to double check, but Miami is probably the worst pod location in terms of distance from the participating schools (and the fact that they don’t care about sports in Miami).
12:30 PM: Rough start for Stephen F. Austin in Miami. Already down 10-2. Hopefully they can keep it close although this was probably the game that was the most likely to be a blowout in this group.
12:35 PM: Did anybody pick upsets in this group of games? I have North Dakota State and Utah State.
12:40 PM: Good game in Dayton (Ok State 14, Tennessee 13 with 12:20 left in the first half). In Boise, Lazar Hayward is up 7-5 on Utah State.
Oklahoma State (#8, East, Dayton pod) vs. Tennessee (#9) Fri. 3/20 @ 12:25pm Vegas Line: Oklahoma St. +2
Thanks to Vegas Watch for providing these graphs that measure the moving average of a team’s spread (moving avg.) over time vs. the spread for each individual game (indiv). If a team’s moving average is higher than zero, then Vegas currently has a higher opinion of them than Pomeroy, and vice versa.
General Profile Location: Stillwater, Oklahoma Conference: Big 12, at-large Coach: Travis Ford, 22-11 08-09 Record: 22-11, 11-8 Last 12 Games: 8-4 Best Win: vs. Oklahoma (N), 71-70, 03/12 Worst Loss: @ Baylor, 98-82, 1/17 Off. Efficiency Rating: 115.2, 16th Def. Efficiency Rating: 95.9, 73rd
Nuts n Bolts Star Player(s): James Anderson (19/6 on 49%/41%/83% shooting). Unsung Hero: Byron Eaton (14/4/6 assts/2 stls) as a floor leader. Potential NBA Draft Pick(s): Anderson, #21, 2010 draft Key Injuries: None Depth: 23.5% (315th nationally); percentage of minutes played by reserves Achilles Heel: Defense. OSU can run with most anybody, but they can’t play defense worth a lick (#213 nationally in FG% defense). Will Make a Deep Run if…: The threes fall and they don’t face substantial size in the post. Will Make an Early Exit if…: Byron Eaton gets into foul trouble, as he makes the entire offense go.
NCAA History Last Year Invited: 2005, lost Sweet 16 to Arizona 79-78 Streak: 1 Best NCAA Finish: 1945 & 1946, National Champions Historical Performance vs. Seed (1985-present): +0.23 Ws per appearance than would be expected based on its seeding based on historical data.
Other Six Degrees to Detroit: OSU’s biggest benefactor is T. Boone Pickens, who made his fortune in energy markets. Detroit is traditionally a huge spoke in the wheel of Big Energy. Distance to First Round Site: 821 miles to Dayton. School’s Claim to Fame: Garth Brooks is OSU’s most notable alumnus. School Wishes It Could Forget: The Johnny Bright Incident. Prediction: Oklahoma St drew a team in the Vols that likes to run and gun as much as the Cowboys do. This is a winnable game, but the next one against Pitt isn’t unless DeJuan Blair gets himself in foul trouble. Major RTC stories: None
Patrick Marshall of Bluejay Basketball is the RTC correspondent for the Big 12 and MVC Conferences.
Kansas didn’t rebuild, they reloaded this season. After questions whether this team would be able to be as good as they were last season with basically only Sherron Collins and Cole Aldrich, this new class has gelled together and Bill Self was able to prove that he is one of the best developers of talent in the nation and also the Big 12 Coach of the Year. As I said in my preseason predictions, Kansas could fly under the radar and by the end of the season have a seasoned team. I just didn’t think they would actually win the conference. Oklahoma has also had a great season, but the loss of Blake Griffin over two key games was the difference between winning the conference and finishing second. I’m sure a lot of people were surprised to see Missouri be as successful as they were this season. You just didn’t know if Mike Anderson had the guys he wanted to play high pressure defense. But probably the surprise for me is the performance of Texas. To be real honest, I am really surprised how many people feel so confident Texas is comfortably in the tournament after the inconsistencies this team has had this season. I had high expectations for them to win the Big 12, but the non-existence of a player to step up to play point guard has really hampered this team. But I’ll have more on Texas later. Kansas St., Texas A&M and Oklahoma St. all have realistic desires of making the NCAA Tournament.
Story of the Night. Tonight was an absolute bloodbath for bubble teams hoping to finish strong to entice the fickle eye of the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee next week. No fewer than four teams that couldn’t afford another L took it on the chin tonight, and after Notre Dame last night, we don’t want to hear the word “Georgetown” again this year.
JT3 Has No More Excuses. St. John’s 59, Georgetown 56 (OT). #1 SOS? Don’t care. Toughest conference in America? Doesn’t matter. Georgetown had every chance in the world to finish strong with games against St. John’s and Depaul this week, and they couldn’t even get that done, which is a microcosm of their season. The Hoyas went down in particularly frosty fashion, blowing a 15-pt lead with just over ten minutes to go in the game and putting the ball through the net just one more time from the field during that stretch. At 15-13 and now 6-11 in the Big East, we don’t want to hear about this team again unless they win five games in a row next week in New York. Biggest disappointment of the year.
Take OSU Off the Bubble. Oklahoma St. 77, Kansas St. 71. Oklahoma St. heads into its battle against Blake Griffin and rival Oklahoma this weekend riding a six-game winning streak and a progressively stronger NCAA Tournament resume. With a current RPI of #31 and a shot at a first-round bye in the Big 12 Tourney, OSU is looking more and more like a lock for the Big Dance. Byron Eaton led the Pokes with 25 pts, including 15-15 from the line. K-State, on the other hand, needed this one; the Cats have a much worse RPI (#72) but their bigger problem is that they managed to lose in the out-of-conference slate to teams like Kentucky, Iowa and Oregon of all teams. They picked it up in the Big 12 season, but we’re not sure that 9-7 (if they beat Colorado on Saturday) will be good enough. K-State will need a run in the Big 12 Tourney to get back into the serious bubble conversation.
Did USF Burst Cincy’s Bubble? S. Florida 70, Cincinnati 59. Cincy was primed to finish with a surprising 10-8 Big East record if they could have only won their last two games of the year against USF (tonight) and Seton Hall (this weekend). With a #53 RPI and now facing at best a 9-9 record, it appears that the Bearcats will have some work to do next week in NYC. USF’s Dominique Jones dropped thirty on Mick Cronin’s team, who couldn’t throw it in the Gulf of Mexico for most of the night (37%). The Bearcats have now lost four of five.
The Terps are Staggering.Wake Forest 65, Maryland 63. Maryland continued their frustrating run of playing extremely well against top opponents but faltering late. The Terps led by seven points at the half, and even had a six point lead with about 8 minutes left in the second half thanks to a trio of threes from Dave Neal on senior night. But in the end, Wake’s athleticism, length, and size advantage were just too much. The stats really speak for themselves. The Demon Deacons out-rebounded Maryland 46-27 including 18 offensive rebounds that resulted in a ton of second-chance points. Wake Forest’s length on defense gave Maryland fits, especially Landon Milbourne who had just two points while being guarded by either Al-Farouq Aminu or James Johnson all night. The lack of production of Milbourne made Maryland almost entirely reliant on Greivis Vasquez offensively with the exception of Neal who had 19 points and was 5-6 from downtown. Vasquez looked like he was pressing, especially in the second half where he forced too many bad shots and finished 7-24 from the field. Not all is lost for the Terps however. A win probably would have put them on the inside looking out, but now they have to win Saturday at Virginia if they want to finish .500 in the ACC and remain in the bubble conversation, and a win the ACC tournament wouldn’t hurt either. Wake was led by Jeff Teague’s 17 pts, but he should have been awarded ten for this particular Teague-bag.
A Closer Look at Two Contenders.
Duke 84, Florida St. 81. We’ll hand it to Duke – without Gerald Henderson, they would have lost tonight’s game against Florida St. “G” has averaged 23/6/4 assts in the last five Duke games, all wins, and it’s becoming increasingly clear that if Duke is going to do anything in March this year, it will largely be because of the skills and athleticism of their newfound star. Normally this time of year we’d be talking about how FSU really needed this win to bolster its bubble argument, but not this year – we think the Seminoles are in. Their RPI is #16 and the worst they can finish in the ACC is 9-7, so Nole fans should rest easy. This is a good team that could make the Sweet Sixteen with the right matchups.
Michigan St. 64, Indiana 59. This game is an exhibition as to why we cannot get on board with Michigan St. as a F4 team this year. They simply don’t click well enough for our liking, especially against teams they should be dominating. All due respect to Tom Crean’s Hoosiers, but Northwestern decimated IU in Bloomington, and MSU has three times the talent that NW does (we’ll ignore that one of MSU’s three B10 losses was to NW). But that goes to our point, MSU shouldn’t be losing to Northwestern; they shouldn’t be getting beaten by Penn St.; and they shouldn’t be barely defeating IU. Maybe it’s a problem with focus or motivation, but there’s something not exactly “right” with this team, and we’re tired of hearing about the injuries/illnesses/etc. We’ll be happy to retract our opinion of Izzo’s boys prove us wrong in a few weeks.
Other Games of Interest Tonight.
New Mexico 77, Utah 71. The Mountain West has been crazy this year. New Mexico rode its homecourt advantage and Tony Danridge’s 29/5 assts to a victory over Utah, forcing the Utes into a two-way tie for first place in the conference for at least one night (until BYU plays tomorrow night). There’s some really good ball in this conference this year – let’s hope the MWC gets at least three teams into the NCAAs.
Syracuse 70, Rutgers 40. At least one Big East team took care of business tonight. Syracuse shook off a no-doz first half where the Orange actually trailed at the half 20-19 to blow up on Rutgers in the second half, winning going away behind Jonny Flynn’s 18/9.
Gonzaga 90, USC Upstate 40. Why does this game even exist?
Ohio St. 60, Iowa 58. The Buckeyes really needed this win, and they got it in Iowa City tonight. Evan Turner’s 22/9 assts led OSU, but his missed FT left the door open for Iowa to take and miss a three that would have won the game (and possibly knocked OSU off the bubble).
Clemson 75, Virginia 57. Clemson pulled away in the second half behind its own personal dunk contest (six in that half) to keep the pace with Wake Forest for the #3 seed in the ACC standings, who the Tigers will play this weekend in the final regular season game for both teams.
QnD Conf Tourney Update.
Big South. No upsets. The four higher seeds all advanced, including Seth Curry’s (30/6 assts) Liberty squad. Liberty will play VMI and UNC-A will play top seed Radford on Thursday.
Horizon. Cleveland St., UIC, Wright St. and Milwaukee all advanced, and will play each other Friday (respectively) for the right to play Butler and Green Bay in the semis.
OVC. The top four seeds all advanced to the semis, where Austin Peay will play Murray St. and UT-Marting will play Morehead St. Friday night in Nashville.
Patrick Marshall of Bluejay Basketball is the RTC correspondent for the Missouri Valley and Big 12 Conferences.
Current Records and my standings (Last Week):
Oklahoma (11-0) (1)
Baylor (9-1) (3)
Texas A&M (10-1) (5)
Texas (8-2) (2)
Missouri (9-1) (4)
Kansas (8-2) (6)
Texas Tech (8-3) (7)
Kansas St. (8-3) (8)
Oklahoma St. (8-3) (11)
Nebraska (7-2) (9)
Iowa St. (7-3) (10)
Colorado (5-3) (12)
Most teams only played one game this week. The holidays are a little slow for the Big 12 teams. However what is starting to show is that this conference is wide open and it will be a battle once conference play starts. Oklahoma looks a little above the rest, but not much.
TEAM OF THE WEEK
Texas A&M (3-0 this week)—Texas A&M is starting to make me a believer, winning 3 more games this week to move to 10-1. With some solid wins now over Arizona, Alabama, and an undefeated LSU team, this team is building itself quite a resume. Things are definitely going their way as they almost got themselves in a position to lose the LSU game, but a controversial call late in the game led to an LSU technical and A&M sealed the win. They should get a win over Sam Houston St. this week.