Handicapping the Wooden Award Finalists

Posted by Bennet Hayes on January 21st, 2015

The Wooden Award released its midseason top 25 list last week. College basketball’s top individual honor will likely go to a player named on that list, but there’s still time for others (attention: Wichita State’s Fred VanVleet, Virginia’s Malcolm Brogdon and Syracuse’s Rakeem Christmas) to work their way into the picture. However, it’s also true that the field of real contenders for the award is thinning as we near February and March. RTC handicaps the race for the Wooden…

Jahlil Okafor, Duke. Odds To Win = 3/2.

Any national Player of the Year discussion must begin with Duke’s freshman sensation. Okafor’s averages of 18.6 points, 8.9 rebounds and 1.6 blocks per game begin to explain his value to the Blue Devils, but the impact of his presence runs much deeper than that. His steadiness (double-figure points in every game this season) has stabilized a Duke attack that was far more reliant on the three-point shot a season ago, while his unselfishness has helped the Duke guards find space on the perimeter. The presumptive top pick in next June’s NBA Draft has looked like the best player in college basketball from opening night, but an April coronation as the National Player of the Year will surely depend on Duke’s success. Balance has fueled the rise of other national title contenders (Kentucky and Virginia most notable among them), but there is no question that Okafor will continue to lead the Duke charge. Pole position has been well-earned: This is Okafor’s award to lose.

At The Midway Point Of The Season, Duke Freshman Jahlil Okafor Is The Frontrunner To Win The Wooden Award. (Photo Credit: Getty Images)

At The Midway Point Of The Season, Duke Freshman Jahlil Okafor Is The Frontrunner To Win The Wooden Award. (Getty)

Frank Kaminsky, Wisconsin. Odds To Win = 5/2.

Kaminsky nabbed the national spotlight last March with a show-stopping regional final performance against Arizona. He has not given it up since. ‘Frank the Tank’ is grabbing more rebounds (8.2 RPG this season), blocking more shots (1.8 BPG) and even handing out more assists (2.4 APG) than he did a year ago. The Wisconsin center has been outstanding all season, but his value to the Badgers may have been best exhibited in a 40 minute stint on the bench. As their star sat out with a concussion on January 11, Wisconsin fell to Rutgers in one of the most shocking results of the season. The loss showed just how important the versatile center has become for Bo Ryan’s team. A balanced Badgers’ lineup may pose some threat to Kaminsky’s Wooden Award chances, but that surrounding talent is also what’s made the his team legitimate national title contenders. And as Wisconsin chases that elusive championship, its versatile big man is making a serious push for the most prestigious of individual accolades.

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Kansas and Iowa State Clash Saturday With Big 12 Implications

Posted by Chris Stone on January 16th, 2015

Saturday January 17 figures to be one of the best college basketball days of the season with five top-25 matchups including N0. 4 Duke and No. 6 Louisville at 12:00pm ET, No. 16 West Virginia and No. 20 Texas at 6:15pm ET, and No. 8 Utah and No. 10 Arizona at 7:00pm ET. The cherry on top, though, is the night cap which features N0. 9 Kansas traveling to Ames, Iowa to face off with No. 11 Iowa State. ESPN’s College GameDay will be at Hilton Coliseum for the 9:00pm ET tip. Hilton has been home to a series of intense clashes in the past few seasons including Elijah Johnson’s controversial charge call and game ending dunk as well as Joel Embiid’s breakout performance last year.

Iowa State will look for some Hilton Magic when it faces Kansas on Saturday (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

Iowa State will look for some Hilton Magic when it faces Kansas on Saturday (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

Bill Self said Saturday’s matchup is “a game that deserves national attention” during his Thursday press conference, and GameDay ensures that the contest will receive its fair share despite the impressive slate of games scheduled. Fred Hoiberg agreed, calling it an opportunity to “showcase” the magic of Hilton Coliseum. The Cyclones will try to do just that as they host at least one recruit on Saturday. Travis Hines of the Ames Tribune reported via Twitter that 2016 recruit Amir Coffey will be in the building for an unofficial visit. Coffey, a 6-foot-6 shooting guard, is ranked 44th in the 2016 class, according to Rivals. The high school junior has chosen a good time to visit Ames, with Saturday’s contest having huge implications for the Big 12 title race.

Before the games played this week, Oklahoma, Kansas, and Iowa State shared nearly identical odds to win at least a share of the Big 12 title. Since then, Oklahoma got blown out at West Virginia and Iowa State fell to Baylor on Kenny Chery’s late jumper. Kansas now sits alone atop the Big 12 standings as the only remaining undefeated team in league play. Unfortunately, that doesn’t bring much clarity to the Big 12 title chase. Ken Pomeroy’s projections now predict three teams–Kansas, Iowa State, and West Virginia–to finish with identical 12-6 records in conference play.

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Big 12 M5: 01.16.15 Edition

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 16th, 2015

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  1. C.J. Moore of Bleacher Report wrote a great in-depth profile of Iowa State junior Georges Niang centered on how the big man developed the handles and arsenal that have made him a leader for the Cyclones. The new, slimmed-down version of Niang has been even more productive than last year’s and has been the central figure of Iowa State’s efficient offense. It was especially interesting to learn that Royce White, Iowa State’s last “hybrid,” was the one who pushed hardest for Fred Hoiberg to recruit Niang, whose “old man” game will be tested tomorrow night against an improving Kansas defense.
  2. Travis Ford‘s lengthy contract has drawn ire in recent years, but after a 12-4 start and a top-30 placement in the RPI, he isn’t sweating his job security. The Cowboys may not be in position to climb into the race among Kansas, Iowa State and West Virginia, but they’re more of a factor than they were anticipated, and they arguably have a better team than last year despite having less talent. As Jenni Carlson writes, Ford is in the midst of perhaps his best coaching job since he arrived on campus, and a lot of it is due to improved chemistry and a heightened belief in the greater good, particularly with Brian Williams and Kamari Murphy having transferred out.
  3. Bill Self spoke candidly about the struggles of Perry Ellis, which came to a head Tuesday when the junior had four early turnovers, leading to a prompt benching. Self suspects that the problem for Ellis is mental, as he still believes Ellis can be the Jayhawks’ go-to guy. Observers may counter that Frank Mason and Cliff Alexander fit that role better right now, and I agree, but in either case, it’s tough to picture Kansas making a deep run in March without Ellis playing a big part.
  4. The Wooden Award Midseason Top 25 List was released Thursday, and it included three of the Big 12’s best: Juwan Staten of West Virginia, Buddy Hield of Oklahoma and the aforementioned Niang. Oddly enough, the two leading scorers in the Big 12, Le’Bryan Nash and Phil Forte, were omitted.  It will take big second halves for Staten, Hield and Niang to rise into the elite tier that currently includes Jahlil Okafor, Frank Kaminsky, Delon Wright and Justin Anderson (in my opinion), but it’s always nice to see them get some recognition.
  5. The contrasting personnel of the athletic, fast-paced Mountaineers and the bulky, lengthy Longhorns will make for an interesting battle in Austin tomorrow. Texas is off to a slow start in conference play, but while they’re still formidable, it would be tough to imagine them getting back into the conference race with Kansas and Iowa State with a loss, which would run their conference record to 1-3. Isaiah Taylor has played a few games for Texas since coming back from a wrist injury, but his return hasn’t ignited the team as it was expected. On the other side of the ball, West Virginia will try to speed up Texas’ tempo with constant pressure, hoping that it will be another game before Taylor breaks out again.
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Silver Lining: Despite Loss, Iowa State Breaks Out of Offensive Funk

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 15th, 2015

The first two weeks of Big 12 play have given us no shortage of storylines: Kansas’ maturation; Marcus Foster’s benching; Oklahoma State possibly being better without Marcus Smart and Markel Brown; West Virginia’s reinvention; Oklahoma’s quantum leap on defense; and Texas’ early rut are getting most of the attention nationally. But there’s one plot line that, for whatever reason, wasn’t getting as much publicity over the first two week’s of January. Iowa State‘s offense, typically a paragon of innovation and efficiency, was struggling entering last night’s game against Baylor. While the Cyclones had found ways to win close games against Oklahoma State and West Virginia, they were doing so with uncharacteristically disappointing offensive production. In its previous three games against South Carolina, Oklahoma State and West Virginia, Iowa State scored 0.82, 0.94 and 1.03 points per possession, respectively. To put that in perspective, the last time Fred Hoiberg’s group failed to score at least 1.04 points per trip in three straight games was in 2011, when he inherited a team with few viable pieces and finished in last place. As last night’s game got underway in Waco, it looked like the hole would only get deeper.

The Cyclones may have come up short on Wednesday, but the vaunted Iowa State offense could be back in gear at just the right time after a three-game slump. (AP/Tony Gutierrez)

The Cyclones may have come up short on Wednesday, but the vaunted Iowa State offense could be back in gear at just the right time after a three-game slump. (AP/Tony Gutierrez)

Baylor started the game on a 22-5 run, as four different Bears connected on three-pointers and the Cyclones couldn’t get anything going. They finally started to dig out, though, closing the gap on the shoulders of their three transfers – Jameel McKay, Bryce DejeanJones and Abdel Nader – before another Baylor run provided some separation entering halftime. That separation would hold until midway through the second half, when Baylor’s Kenny Chery had to leave the game with a shoulder injury.

Chery’s exit gave Iowa State the opening it needed, as Georges Niang finally got going and sharpshooter Naz Long went on a tear while the Bears cooled off. The Cyclones clawed all the way back to take the lead on two separate occasions before Chery returned to the game and hit a game-winning jumper that allowed Baylor to escape with the win, but there’s a silver lining for Iowa State.

The Cyclones’ offense seems to finally be off the schneid, and the fact that they were able to dig out of that slump, even in a losing effort, should give them some confidence moving forward. In a loaded Big 12, they will certainly need that confidence and rediscovered efficiency when they take on Kansas at Hilton Coliseum on Saturday night. The frenzied competitiveness of the league this season means that it would be silly to describe one game in mid-January as having the biggest implications on the race for the league title, but with College Gameday in town and tickets starting at a small fortune, it’s definitely going to be among the most anticipated games of the weekend.

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Big 12 M5: 01.14.15 Edition

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 14th, 2015

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  1. Kansas beat Oklahoma State last night in a messy, foul-plagued affair in Allen Fieldhouse, running its conference record to a clean 3-0. The Cowboys started off fast, but a scuffle between the two teams injected some fire into the game, and while not all of Oklahoma State’s struggles can be traced back to the incident, they didn’t look the same for the remainder of the night. The Cowboys came into the game ranked ninth in the country in defensive free throw rate, but sent the Jayhawks parading to the free throw line 46 times. On defense, the key for Kansas was shuffling their defensive assignment on Phil Forte so frequently that he had to be subbed out twice due to cramps from running through so many screens against fresh legs in hopes of getting open looks. For Kansas, the win sets up a huge meeting with Iowa State on Saturday at Hilton Coliseum, an environment the Jayhawks have found anything but comfortable in recent years.
  2. While Kansas has been able to win in spite of it, Perry Ellis‘ disappointing performance this season has been the elephant in the room. The junior played well enough last year to earn a spot on the preseason All-Big 12 team, and while he’s had his moments, he hasn’t made the leap on either end of the court. He’s regressed on defense and his inconsistent shooting has been frustrating to the point where it now sticks out among his peers. Of the six forwards and centers from the 2012 McDonald’s All-American class who are still in college and not sitting out the season with injuries, Ellis ranks dead last in effective field goal percentage at 44.2 percent. The next-closest player is Texas’ Cameron Ridley at 52.4 percent. As with all stats, you have to consider the context, which in this case includes Kansas’ tough non-league schedule, their hyper-competitive conference and the absence of a consistent big man who can draw enough defense away from Ellis to allow him to operate. It’s also fair to point out that the Jayhawks would have more than two losses without Ellis, but the fact remains that he’s looked lost way more than he should for someone with as much experience as he has (Tuesday marked his 53rd career start). As someone who was rightfully expected to help lead the Jayhawks to their 11th straight conference title, there’s still time for Ellis to right the ship — he plays in the same program that developed the Morris twins and Thomas Robinson into first round draft picks, after all — but his production to this point has been very disconcerting.
  3. West Virginia used its unique brand of havoc to give Oklahoma their second straight loss as they hammered the Sooners by 21 points in Morgantown. The Mountaineers sped the Sooners’ offense up, forcing 22 turnovers, which is the one more than the number of shots Oklahoma made from the field. The win gives West Virginia by far its best victory of the season, and with their next four games coming against Texas, TCU, Kansas State and Texas Tech, they have a great opportunity to string even more wins together to keep pace at the top of the conference. What should scare those four teams the most is that the Mountaineers only got four points from Juwan Staten last night, though he did dish out eight assists against just one turnover.
  4. While they weren’t in action last night, it’s worth taking a deeper look at Kansas State‘s chances to get back to the NCAA Tournament. While they still don’t look very good in a vacuum, the relative lack of opportunities for the teams they’ll likely be compared to by the selection committee could give them an edge. A .500 trip through conference play, provided the Wildcats don’t get stung by TCU and Texas Tech (they’ve already taken care of TCU once), could be enough to put them in position to only need a single win in the Big 12 Tournament. Obviously, there’s plenty of room for improvement and we’re still eight weeks away from Selection Sunday, but whether the Wildcats make up the grounded needed to get back to the dance will be an interesting storyline.
  5. Iowa State faces an important game on the road against Baylor tonight, and while the Cyclones will have their hands full with the Bears’ overpowering interior, the lack of a traditional backup point guard could give them some trouble as well. As Travis Hines writes, Monte Morris has had to shoulder a big workload this year, and head coach Fred Hoiberg hasn’t been comfortable putting Clayton Custer into pressure situations. Until that changes, look for Georges Niang to continue to initiate offense when Morris needs to take a breather , but the emergence of another option to help conserve his minutes would serve the Cyclones well in the long term.
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Big 12 Conference Catch-Up: Kansas, Texas and Iowa State

Posted by Brian Goodman & Chris Stone on January 2nd, 2015

As the Big 12 schools conclude their non-conference schedules, it’s a great time to catch up on where the league’s 10 teams stand entering conference play. Once again, Kansas has navigated an arduous schedule, but enough questions remain that we can at least consider the possibility that another team wins the conference. The Jayhawks’ closest challengers are a Texas team that has kept pace despite losing one of the best point guards in the country for an extended period of time, while Iowa State has another high-powered team with a newly-eligible big man who Cyclones fans hope will provide a needed lift on defense.

Kansas (via Chris Stone)

  • Key wins: at Georgetown, Utah (in Kansas City)
  • Key losses: Kentucky (in Indianapolis), at Temple
With two good outings recently, the game finally appears to be slowing down for Kelly Oubre, and that could be bad news for the rest of the Big 12. (Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

With two good outings recently, is the game finally slowing down for hyped Kansas freshman Kelly Oubre? (Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

It’s very easy to watch Kansas’s blowout losses to Kentucky and Temple and write off the Jayhawks as a Big 12 title contender. To do so, however, would ignore the rest of their resume. Kansas has five wins over teams ranked in the top 50 of KenPom’s efficiency rankings; Only Kentucky can match that total. Sophomore Frank Mason is providing Bill Self with his best point guard play since Sherron Collins left Lawrence five years ago. Mason is averaging 11.9 points, 3.8 rebounds, and 4.0 assists per game. Freshman Kelly Oubre is finally emerging as the potential lottery pick he was billed as before the season, having scored 20 points in two of the last three games. Still, those two losses linger. Kentucky dominated the Jayhawks in Indianapolis. Temple rocked Kansas at the Wells Fargo Center. The typical refrain surrounding Kansas has been to trust in Bill Self, the man who has won 10 straight conference titles, but Self is still tinkering with his starting lineup while trying to play through a frontcourt that has struggled to score inside. Kansas is shooting just 52.3 percent on shots at the rim, a number that is nearly 15 percent worse than last season’s mark, according to data from hoop-math.com. In particular, junior Perry Ellis has seen his shooting percentage decline by over 10 percent as he’s had a difficult time scoring against the size of teams like Kentucky, Georgetown, and Utah. The Jayhawks have their limitations and the losses to Kentucky and Temple showcased them. They’ve also had their triumphs that suggest an ability to compete for another Big 12 championship. Much depends on the consistency of Mason, the continued emergence of Oubre, and the play of bigs like Ellis and Cliff Alexander, but to write off Kansas is to also write off Self’s history and the quality of their non-conference resume. Big 12 coaches won’t make that mistake, and you shouldn’t, either.

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Big 12 M5: 12.05.14 Edition

Posted by Kory Carpenter on December 5th, 2014

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  1. The Naismith Trophy Top 50 watch list was released on Wednesday, and the Big 12 had nine players make the cut. They are: Kansas’ Cliff Alexander, Wayne Selden and Perry Ellis, Kansas State’s Marcus Foster, Oklahoma’s Buddy Hield, Iowa State’s Georges Niang, West Virginia’s Juwan Staten, and Texas’ Isaiah Taylor and Myles Turner. Some of these guys have better chances of winning the trophy than others; for example, it’s hard to imagine Selden or Hield doing so after poor shooting starts this season, but the freshman Turner could very well win this award. Turner is seventh in the nation in block percentage (16%) and has blocked at least five shots in three games already. Ellis hasn’t been too bad, either, as the senior is averaging 15.3 PPG and 7.0 RPG and ranks eighth on Ken Pomeroy’s National Player of the Year watch list.
  2. Gary Parrish over at CSBSports.com updated his Top 25 (And One) yesterday (like he does every morning) and Kansas (#8) and Texas (#9) each jumped up a spot in his daily rankings. West Virginia (#18) and Oklahoma (#19) were the other two Big 12 schools on his list, but all this will change soon. Kansas takes on Florida tonight in Allen Fieldhouse; Texas takes on No. 1 Kentucky in Lexington; and West Virginia lost at home to LSU last night. Oklahoma should take care of Missouri tonight in Norman, and Kansas will probably win a close one against the Gators. Texas is the team I’m most intrigued about, though — if the Longhorns play Kentucky close or somehow manage to win the game, they might be reasonably considered the favorites to win the Big 12 this season.
  3. Will the Big 12 win the SEC/Big 12 Challenge? ESPN‘s Andy Katz thinks so, and he doesn’t think it will be close. Texas Tech started things off with an ugly 46-44 win over Auburn on Wednesday night, and the Big 12 went 3-1 last night: TCU beat Ole Miss; Baylor beat Vanderbilt; and Iowa State beat Arkansas. LSU was the lone SEC school to pick up a win after beating West Virginia in Morgantown. Things pick up tonight, with the elite programs battling it out. I think Kansas and Oklahoma help improve the Big 12’s lead while Kentucky beats Texas by 10 points.
  4. There was always a distinct possibility that Iowa State would run Arkansas out of the gym last night. The Razorbacks play as quickly as almost anybody (12th in the country in adjusted tempo) and rely on turnovers via their full-court press to fuel their offense. If that doesn’t happen, though, a team like Iowa State can thrive. That’s exactly what happened as the Cyclones dropped 95 points on the Hawgs in a 95-77 win. Bryce Dejean-Jones and Georges Niang combined for 53 points in one of the fastest games of the season, and the Cyclones improved to 5-1.
  5. Last night was definitely a big setback for a rising West Virginia team. The Mountaineers came into their meeting with LSU undefeated, were up five points at halftime, and led by as many as 14 points in the second half. However, a layup by Josh Gray with 7.3 seconds left gave the Tigers the 74-73 win. West Virginia was ranked #16 going into the game but they will probably drop significantly next week as a result. Depending on what happens with LSU, this could end up being a costly loss for the Mountaineers down the road. LSU’s best win before last night came against UMass earlier this week, and they have already dropped games to Old Dominion and Clemson.

 

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A Year After Texas’ Resuscitation, Maryland’s On Track as The Next Big Program Revival

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 26th, 2014

Coming into the season, one of the key storylines in the Big Ten was how Maryland would perform in a season as important for its pedigree as it is for its head coach’s job security. By now, Terrapin fans are all too familiar with the list,

Has Mark Turgeon's Program Turned the Corner?

Has Mark Turgeon’s Program Turned the Corner?

but for the uninitiated, Maryland lost five of its top eight scorers from last year to transfer. Then the school denied enrollment to would-be freshman Trayvon Reed after the four-star prospect was arrested for stealing candy from a convenience store and assaulting a plainclothes officer. As if that weren’t enough, they suffered yet another setback last month when senior Evan Smotrycz broke a bone in his foot, sidelining the former Michigan forward for the start of the season.

But in handling Big 12 power Iowa State, 72-63, behind a talented and quickly-developing crop of newcomers, Turgeon showed that his team is in a better position than many prognosticators believed, and while he didn’t explicitly acknowledge it, that could mean big things for the Maryland program.

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Five Takeaways From Monday Night at the CBE Classic

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 25th, 2014

Feast Week tipped off Monday night, and RTC contributor Brian Goodman (@BSGoodman) dispatched this report from Kansas City, where Maryland pulled away late against Arizona State before Iowa State handled Alabama to win its fourth straight game in the Sprint Center.

Melo Trimble Broke Out Last Night in KC (KCStar.com)

Melo Trimble Broke Out Last Night in KC (KCStar.com)

  • Melo Trimble is going to be a load in the Big Ten. When Maryland’s attrition reached its apex over the summer (and arguably before then), it was easy to get down on their prospects for this season. Whether Mark Turgeon takes his remaining pieces to the NCAA Tournament is a question that won’t be answered for several weeks, but if they do, their freshman point guard will be a huge reason why. In just the fourth game of his career, Melo Trimble scored 31 points to nearly break a school freshman scoring record set by Joe Smith, but looked as poised and relaxed as a 31-point scorer could possibly look. While there’s a lot on the line for Maryland this year, the hope is that Trimble won’t need to be this good night and night out. Still, given shoddy performances by teams like Iowa and Indiana in the early going, there may be room for Maryland to ride its young star into the top half of the conference.
  • Arizona State lets a good offensive effort go to waste. The Sun Devils’ offense was stellar thanks to spacing and excellent execution, especially from deep. Arizona State rained in 14 threes, its highest total since November 12 of last year. Jonathan Gilling was white-hot, hitting seven of his ten three-pointers while Bo Barnes added on five on seven tries of his own. Arizona State’s undoing came in the final minutes as it missed several key rebounds and allowed Dez Wells to take over for Maryland. The game effectively ended on a possession where Barnes rushed a deep jumper with a bad angle. While ASU’s fiery 51.9% clip from distance Monday night is hardly sustainable, Herb Sendek’s team looked like it was much further along developmentally than most teams are at this point in the season, especially considering that they’re moving on without two huge pieces from last year. Unfortunately, they could find themselves wondering what might have been if they had managed to get just a few more stops.

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Feast Week Mission Briefing: Iowa State in the CBE Hall Of Fame Classic

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 24th, 2014

In a loaded Feast Week of action, several Big 12 schools will head to a neutral site to take on all comers and hopefully build their resumes. Let’s take a look at each, continuing with Iowa State in Kansas City. 

Outlook: The Cyclones are one of a handful of power conference teams that have only played two games, but we still have a pretty good read on what they’re all about: spacing the floor in halfcourt sets, offensive rebounding and scoring in transition. In that regard, they’re off to a very good start, scoring 1.08 points per possession through two fast-paced games. Monte Morris has had an especially nice start to the season, averaging 16.5 points and six assists per game against just two total turnovers, What’s especially interesting about Iowa State’s offense so far is that its bench has scored only nine points, but with Matt Thomas and Abdel Nader returning from suspension on Monday in Kansas City, Fred Hoiberg‘s core of reserves should get a lift.

Georges Niang and the Cyclones look to boost their case a Big 12 contender this week in Kansas City. (Charlie Neibergall/AP)

Georges Niang and the Cyclones look to boost their case a Big 12 contender this week in Kansas City. (Charlie Neibergall/AP)

Opening Round Preview: Iowa State is the clear favorite in this event, and they’ll start off against Alabama. Anthony Grant needs a big season to ward off criticism, and a win over Iowa State in a venue where the Cyclones have won their last three games would definitely help towards that end. The Crimson Tide have taken care of business against some lowly competition, but defensive rebounding and two-point field goal defense have been problematic. The first issue shouldn’t pose a huge matchup problem for ISU, but Georges NiangBryce Dejean-Jones and Morris should definitely be able to exploit the holes in Alabama’s defense to get buckets. Defensively, the Cyclones will need to beware of a potent Alabama offense, but the Crimson Tide aren’t so good that they can match Iowa State in a track meet. Read the rest of this entry »

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Big 12 M5: 11.19.14 Edition

Posted by Nate Kotisso on November 19th, 2014

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  1. If you had the fortitude to sit through the afternoon games of yesterday’s marathon, perhaps you caught Baylor get by Frank Martin and an improved South Carolina team in Columbia. Redshirt freshman Johnathan Motley was the clear player of the game with 17 points and five rebounds, but what was most impressive for Baylor was its ability to win the game despite committing more turnovers and getting outrebounded by the Gamecocks. Games like these during the first week of the season are difficult to gauge, so while this was a true road game on an opponent’s home floor, the Gamecocks aren’t expected to make much noise in the SEC this year. It’s certainly a positive that the Bears won a game away from Waco, but let’s hold off on buying in just yet because a) we’re two games into the season; and b) the top half of the league is still better than Baylor. Steady as she goes, Bears fans.
  2. While the football team has stolen most of the headlines this fall, TCU still very much has a men’s basketball program. I’m not sure how many people were aware of this, but the Horned Frogs throttled Washington State (and new head coach Ernie Kent) by a score of 81-54 on Monday night. It is more than a little shocking that TCU put another Power Five team out to pasture, but this one was decided long before the final buzzer sounded. Using Baylor-South Carolina as a template, we’re not expecting TCU to contend for an at-large bid or anything this season, but perhaps we’re finally seeing just how competitive the Horned Frogs can look when they aren’t dealing with a rash of injuries.
  3. Here was a quote from Georges Niang following Iowa State’s season-opening win last Friday: “I think we played real well offensively, but it’s a little disappointing what we did defensively.” Apparently the Cyclones took those words to heart and put the defensive clamps on Georgia State’s high-powered offense on Monday night, winning 81-58. The Panthers shot 39.1 percent from the field for the game including a paltry 15-of-48 (31.3 percent) effort from the skilled guard trio of R.J. Hunter, Ryan Harrow and Kevin Ware. Niang himself struggled offensively (3-of-12) while Monte Morris (19 points, nine assists, zero turnovers) played his best overall game as a collegian. And remember, Iowa State is still missing Matt Thomas, Abdel Nader and two-time JuCo All-American Jameel McKay until December. Good grief.
  4. A big question going into this season surrounded the starting point guard position for Kansas State, but perhaps it’s possible that there are two answers to that question. Jevon Thomas has started the first two games of the season, performing admirably with 14 assists against only five turnovers, after showing flashes as a capable passer last year. Nigel Johnson (eight assists, two turnovers) has impressed as well. Whether Thomas or Johnson are in the lineup, the Wildcats shouldn’t have to worry too much about finding ways to get the ball to their top scorers in Marcus Foster and Justin Edwards. If you’re Bruce Weber, those are the kinds of dilemmas you want to have as a head coach.
  5. Four-star point guard Payton Pritchard gave a verbal commitment to Lon Kruger and Oklahoma on Tuesday. As quickly as he has been able to take the program from struggling to thriving, Pritchard is technically the highest-rated high school prospect to pledge to the Sooners in Kruger’s short tenure. This news is only the cherry on top for Oklahoma, as the Sooners also get Houston transfer TaShawn Thomas in his first game in crimson and cream against Creighton tonight in Omaha. Let that marinate for a bit.
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Wooden Award Watch List Features Plenty of Big 12 Talent

Posted by Chris Stone on November 18th, 2014

The 2014-15 Wooden Award Preseason Top 50 watch list released on Monday features 10 players from the Big 12. League favorite Kansas leads the conference with four selections — a number matched only by the top-ranked (and tonight’s opponent in the Champions Classic) Kentucky Wildcats. Five other Big 12 schools are also represented on the list, including Iowa State, Kansas State, Oklahoma, Texas and West Virginia. The conference most recently won the award when Oklahoma’s Blake Griffin took home the honor at the end of the 2008-09 season.

Juwan Staten is one of ten Big 12 players on the Wooden Award Preseason Top 50 watch list.

Juwan Staten is one of 10 Big 12 players on the Wooden Award Preseason Top 50 watch list.

This year’s watch list features three Big 12 freshmen, all of whom were top 10 recruits according to Rivals. Kansas’ Cliff Alexander began the season by playing 12 minutes in a 69-59 victory over UC Santa Barbara last Friday, scoring nine points and grabbing four rebounds behind the more experienced frontcourt players, Perry Ellis and Jamari Traylor. The second Kansas freshman on the list, Kelly Oubre Jr., played only four minutes in Friday’s contest. Oubre has struggled to find his place in Bill Self’s rotation, playing behind sophomore Brannen Greene and freshman Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk and having a minimal impact against UCSB. While Oubre struggled, Texas center Myles Turner opened the season with a bang against North Dakota State, scoring 15 points and pulling down six rebounds in 20 minutes of playing time in the 85-50 victory. He followed up that performance with a 10-point, seven-rebound, six-block game in an 85-53 win over Alcorn State on Sunday night.

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