Rushed Reactions: #7 Texas 87, #10 Arizona State 85

Posted by Walker Carey on March 20th, 2014

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

When it mattered most, big #55 Cameron Ridley came up huge. (Mike McGinnis/Getty Images)

When it mattered most, big #55 Cameron Ridley came up huge. (Mike McGinnis/Getty Images)

Three Takeaways.

  1. This victory was a team effort from Texas. The Longhorns have been a balanced offensive unit all season and that was again the story for them in the win over Arizona State. Six Longhorns (guards Javan Felix, Demarcus Holland, Isaiah Taylor and big men Jonathan Holmes, Martez Walker, and Cameron Ridley) finished the evening in double figures. Taylor, a freshman, did not show his inexperience at all, as he totaled six assists and only committed one turnover. Ridley was a load inside and his 17 points and 12 rebounds were the production Texas needed in the post. Obviously, Ridley’s biggest two points came on his putback to beat the buzzer, giving his Longhorns the victory and pushing them into the round of 32.
  2. Cameron Ridley vs. Jordan Bachynski was an outstanding post match-up. Ridley will garner nearly all the press due to his game-winning shot, but it must be noted how productive Arizona State’s Jordan Bachynski was throughout the game — the Sun Devils’ big man finished the evening with 25 points on 8-of-14 shooting. There were portions of the game where it would alternate between Texas pounding the ball to Ridley on one end and Arizona State pounding it to Bachynski on the other end. It was the most entertaining match-up on the floor all evening. While Ridley ultimately got the best of Bachynski with his final shot, Bachynski was a worthy adversary and the battle between the two center greatly contributed to the game’s entertainment level.
  3. Texas faces a tall task against Michigan on Saturday. The Longhorns do not have much time to relish in their emotional victory, as they now have a match-up with #2 Michigan in the round of 32 on Saturday. The Wolverines play a similar style to that of Arizona State, but they are a much more polished unit than the Sun Devils. Michigan’s ability to shoot from distance is well-known and Texas’ perimeter defense was an issue on Friday night (it allowed Arizona State to shoot 53.3 percent from three). If Texas does not find a way to shore that up a bit before Saturday, it may be in for a long night of Michigan three-pointers. An area where Texas should have an advantage, though, is with its inside play. Ridley and Jonathan Holmes give the Longhorns two legitimate threats in the post and on the glass and those are two areas where Michigan struggles a bit. The Wolverines deserve to be favored, but don’t be surprised if Texas keeps it close and has a chance to ultimately win the game.

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Answering Six Questions About Texas vs. Arizona State

Posted by Brian Goodman (@bsgoodman) & Andrew Murawa (@AMurawa) on March 19th, 2014

In prepping for Thursday’s #7/#10 matchup between Texas and Arizona State, Big 12 microsite writer Brian Goodman (@bsgoodman) and Pac-12 correspondent Andrew Murawa (@AMurawa) had a little Q&A session about both of these teams.

Andrew Murawa: Arizona State’s offense is dictated by the play of speedy point guard Jahii Carson. What can Texas do to slow him down?

Texas Has Struggled With Speedy Guards Like Jahii Carson This Season (Joe Nicholson, USA Today Sports)

Texas Has Struggled With Speedy Guards Like Jahii Carson This Season (Joe Nicholson, USA Today Sports)

Brian Goodman:  This season to date, Texas has faced its fair share of dynamic scoring point guards in Juwan Staten, Marcus Foster, Marcus Smart and Marcus Paige, and more often than not, their defense struggled to contain these players. Based on that track record, I’m not confident Isaiah Taylor and Javan Felix will be able to check Carson. The bigger question to me is how many of Carson’s shots will come at the basket and how many will come as the result of creating space farther away from the hoop. Joel Embiid and Isaiah Austin have been the Big 12′s best rim protectors, but Ridley is right there behind them. If he can alter Carson’s angles when he attacks, there’s a chance Texas comes out ahead; but if he can’t, it’s going to be a long day for the Longhorns.

BG: We know all about Carson. After the Sun Devils missed last year’s Tournament, it’s a decent bet that he’s going to look to put on a show, but Jermaine Marshall enters Thursday’s game in a funk over his last three outings. Specifically, what’s been different for him lately and how important is it for him to return to form in Milwaukee?

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Baylor and Texas Playing Great Heading into Lone Star Match-up

Posted by Greg Mitchell on March 14th, 2014

Baylor’s rollercoaster season has been on the upswing for awhile, and that upward trajectory has continued in Kansas City. The Bears got off to a hot start (15-3) in their opener against TCU, and followed that up with a similarly hot start in the quarterfinal against Oklahoma (13-3). The difference? TCU was winless in conference play, while the Sooners came into the game ranked #17 and boasting one of the most efficient offenses in the country. Baylor came ready to play in both games, and is now headed to the semi-finals brimming with momentum. The Bears shredded the Oklahoma defense to the tune of a 54.8 percent shooting performance in the first half, and while that dipped in the second half, they did just enough to shoot 50 percent on the game.

Kenny Chery facilitated an efficient Baylor offense as the Bears outshot Oklahoma (baylorbears.com).

Kenny Chery facilitated an efficient Baylor offense as the Bears outshot Oklahoma (baylorbears.com).

What is the ceiling for this Baylor team? If the way they’ve played in Kansas City is any indicator, it’s pretty high. Steady point guard is usually a big part of a tournament run, and Kenny Chery looked the part against the Sooners. He didn’t shoot the ball well (3-of-11), but played virtually the entire game (38 minutes) and was the key factor in the Bears’ hyper efficient offense. His seven assists helped the Bears put four players other than himself in double figures. Despite three turnovers, Chery did a good job against Oklahoma’s press and created easy basket that way too. Cory Jefferson was another reason the offense kept whirring by effectively passing out of double teams numerous times.

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Big 12 M5: 03.06.14 Edition

Posted by Nate Kotisso on March 6th, 2014

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  1. It was a lot more than Senior Night on Wednesday for Kansas center Tarik Black. In his final game at Allen Fieldhouse, the senior scored 19 points on 9-of-9 shooting, grabbed six rebounds and had two blocks in Kansas’ 82-57 blowout of Texas Tech. It was a huge effort from Black, who will also start in their regular season finale Saturday at West Virginia as Joel Embiid continues to rest his sore back. If Embiid returns for the NCAA Tournament and doesn’t play as many minutes as he was, having Black make this kind of impact would result in the Jayhawks becoming more dangerous than they already are.
  2. I’m not sure what the allure is between NFL personalities and Kansas basketball, but Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers stopped by to watch the Jayhawks and gave a pep talk after practice in January. Yesterday San Francisco 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh was there to do pretty much the same thing and then this happened. Harbaugh hit a half-court shot during practice because… why not? But I’m not so sure he would have made the shot if he wore anything other than his trademark sweater and khakis. I’m a little curious to see what kind of person Harbaugh is when he wears something else, if he wears something else. We may never know.
  3. Oklahoma’s Je’lon Hornbeak had a breakout game in the Sooners’ season home finale. In 22 bench minutes, Hornbeak contributed 11 points, five rebounds, three dimes and two steals in the team’s 72-62 win over West Virginia. The performance comes on the heels of his nine points and five dimes in 18 minutes against Texas on Saturday. A win Saturday at TCU would lock the Sooners into the No. 2 seed in next week’s Big 12 Tournament, and meanwhile, WVU’s road to an at-large bid appears to have reached a dead end. They’ll have to win the conference tournament to force their way into this season’s Dance.
  4. It was Senior Night at the Frank Erwin Center as Texas hosted TCU on Wednesday. The problem was that the Horns don’t have any seniors… but they still had a good night anyway! Rick Barnes rested leading scorer Jonathan Holmes due to a sore right knee, but his squad was able to get by the Horned Frogs, 66-54. Isaiah Taylor led the team with 21 points while Cameron Ridley (my vote for the Big 12 Most Improved Player award that I just made up in my head) posted 14 points and 10 rebounds. Texas needs to beat Texas Tech Saturday coupled with an Oklahoma loss at TCU to clinch the second seed in the Big 12 Tournament next week in Kansas City. Hang on, folks, the Madness draws nigh.
  5. A difficult season for TCU basketball got worse with head coach Trent Johnson announcing Monday that Amric Fields is out for the rest of the year because of a recurring knee injury. According to TCU360, only four of 16 total players have suited up in every game this season, which just stinks. To make matters worse, a loss to Oklahoma Saturday would result in TCU becoming the first Big 12 team to go winless in conference play since Texas A&M in 2003-04. Stash the season away and never look at it again, TCU fans. Here’s to a better 2014-15.
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Big 12 Week In Review and Look Ahead: Don’t Mistake League’s Competitiveness For Superiority

Posted by Brian Goodman on February 21st, 2014

The Big 12 may be one of the most competitive conferences in the country, but this week hasn’t been the most glowing endorsement for the league’s case as the best conference in the country. Monday’s game between Baylor and Oklahoma State was supposed to be a battle of teams in the top half of the conference (if we go by preseason expectations), but instead was a fight for ninth place that only went to overtime because of a sequence that was, well, very fitting of a ninth-place battle:

The next day, Texas squared off against Iowa State in a game with major implications for the Longhorns’ Big 12 title chances, but they were able to lead only within the first five minutes. While Texas kept the game interesting with a run early in the second half, the Cyclones pulled away to hold serve at home.

Meanwhile, 925 miles south, Kansas needed another miracle from Andrew Wiggins at the end of regulation to get past a salty but mediocre Texas Tech team in Lubbock:

The only other game this week saw Kansas State quietly beat TCU by 12. The Wildcats’ two best players, Marcus Foster and Thomas Gipson, paired up for 29 points, 14 rebounds and six assists, but they also combined to shoot 34.6 percent from the floor and turned the ball over nine times. As a team, Kansas State had a staggering 18 turnovers at home against the worst power conference team in the country, needing a second half run to get away for good.

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Big 12 M5: 02.12.14 Edition

Posted by Brian Goodman on February 12th, 2014

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  1. After Kansas’ loss to Kansas State on Monday, Bill Self said that Jayhawks center Joel Embiid could miss some time to focus on recuperating from knee and back injuries. Embiid played just 18 minutes in the loss at Bramlage Coliseum, and the Wildcats exploited his health problems to attack the paint effectively. Embiid hasn’t officially been ruled out for Saturday’s game against TCU, but Self noted Tuesday that “he has no strength” and “he winces when he moves.” The Jayhawks will need their future lottery pick back and at 100 percent if they are to live up to expectations, but it appears they have a little bit of wiggle room to take it easy with their big man in the short term as they face a relative lag in the Big 12 schedule with the Horned Frogs and Red Raiders next on the docket.
  2. Speaking of the Wildcats, Kansas State head coach Bruce Weber is doing a fantastic job of shaking the critics who believe that the second-year head coach can’t win with his own players, and guard Marcus Foster might be the poster boy for the campaign. The Texas native took home National Freshman Of The Week honors for his 34-point outburst against Texas last Saturday, and legitimized it by following up that game with a team-leading 20 points against the Jayhawks on Monday. The Wildcats aren’t a Tournament lock just yet, but they’re getting close, and their standout freshman is a big reason why.
  3. Texas took it to the short-handed Oklahoma State Cowboys throughout an 87-68 win that wasn’t even that close. Javan Felix led the way for the Longhorns, scoring 27 points and hitting six out of eight three-pointers. Perhaps even more impressive was the fact that Texas led comfortably despite being without leading scorer Jonathan Holmes, who missed Tuesday’s game with a knee injury. With the win, Texas picked up a half-game on Kansas in the league standings, while the Cowboys fell firmly onto the bubble. We can only assume that Travis Ford is counting the hours until Marcus Smart can return to game action.
  4. Suffice it to say that Iowa State head coach Fred Hoiberg has had better weeks. Following a gut-punching blowout at the hands of West Virginia, the Cyclones lost out on the services of Rashad Vaughn, a highly-touted guard prospect from Henderson, Nevada. Vaughn opted to stay close to home, announcing his intentions on Tuesday to attend UNLV and play for Dave Rice. While the Cyclones will lose DeAndre Kane at the end of the season, they still still figure to be in good shape moving forward with Matt Thomas, Monte Morris, Naz Long and Sherron Dorsey-Walker comprising what should be a highly formidable backcourt.
  5. TCU has an opportunity to turn their 0-10 ship around when the Horned Frogs welcome Baylor to Fort Worth tonight. Trent Johnson’s team has been outrebounded in nine of its last ten games, but Baylor’s rebounding core has left a lot to be desired, considering the athleticism of guys like Isaiah Austin and Rico Gathers. Both teams could use a kickstart; The last time either team won consecutive games, Oregon and Ohio State were undefeated, Spencer Dinwiddie was healthy, and Michael Cobbins had only missed one game due to his torn Achilles.
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Big 12 M5: 02.11.14 Edition

Posted by Brian Goodman on February 11th, 2014

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  1. Marcus Smart‘s three-game suspension effectively begins tonight when Oklahoma State plays Texas in Austin, but some writers are arguing that he isn’t the only one at the heart of the Cowboys’ downward spiral. Dana O’Neil wonders why head coach Travis Ford didn’t play a bigger role in not only Saturday’s ugly ending but also in other incidents in which Smart visibly lost his cool. Mike DeCourcy also held Ford’s feet to the fire in a column Sunday night. While it isn’t Ford’s fault that Michael Cobbins tore his Achilles or that Stevie Clark decided to get arrested twice in one month, he definitely deserves some criticism and scrutiny for failing to reign in his star point guard.
  2. Texas forward Jonathan Holmes will be a gametime decision in the aforementioned game against Oklahoma State after he sustained an unspecified right knee injury in last Saturday’s loss to Kansas State. Holmes is the Longhorns’ leading scorer at 13.1 points per game, so if he can’t go in Austin, one would think they’d feel a pinch, but on the other hand, the Cowboys’ frontcourt isn’t exactly a picture of depth, either. Still, Rick Barnes would much rather have the big-bodied Holmes available.
  3. The morning after Iowa State took a 102-77 beatdown in Morgantown probably isn’t the best time to ask this question, but how tough is it to decide who has been the Cyclones’ most valuable player this season? While awards can be superficial, it’s worth noting that five of Fred Hoiberg’s players have taken home Big 12 Player Of The Week honors, and two of those players — Melvin Ejim and DeAndre Kane — have given opposing defenses headaches all season long. While it’s a cop-out answer, if the season ended today, there’s a good case for them to share the honor.
  4. While West Virginia blew out the Cyclones Monday night, the game ended on a weak note as Mountaineer guard Eron Harris was ejected for throwing a punch at Cyclone freshman Monte Morris late in the game. Earlier in the sequence, Iowa State forward Dustin Hogue picked up a flagrant foul for crane-kicking West Virginia forward Kevin Noreen as Hogue tried to come down with a rebound. The Mountaineers led by a staggering 29 points at the time, which makes the incident that much worse. We wouldn’t be surprised to see the Big 12 hand down a suspension to Harris for his actions that marred an otherwise astounding performance by the Mountaineers.
  5. Improved defense from Oklahoma guard Isaiah Cousins has given the Sooners a major boost as they have moved closer to locking up an NCAA Tournament bid. While Ryan Spangler has provided the muscle inside, Cousins has frustrated opposing floor generals with regularity. He may not have the gaudy steal totals of a Briante Weber or Jordan Adams, but he’s made life incredibly tough nonetheless.
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Who Won the Week? Two Undefeated Teams, But Certainly Not The Third…

Posted by Kenny Ocker (@KennyOcker) on February 7th, 2014

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Who Won the Week? is a regular column that outlines and discusses three winners and losers from the previous week of hoops. The author of this column is Kenny Ocker (@KennyOcker), a Spokane-based sportswriter best known for his willingness to drive (or bike!) anywhere to watch a basketball game.

WINNER: Wichita State

Cleanthony Early was outstanding for the Shockers. (AP)

Cleanthony Early was outstanding this week for the Shockers. (AP)

The nation’s winningest team cleared its toughest conference hurdle Wednesday night in defeating Indiana State in Terre Haute, led by senior forward Cleanthony Early’s 19 points. From here on, the Shockers have better than 50 percent odds to go undefeated in the regular season, according to KenPom.com, and about 35 percent odds to make it to the NCAA Tournament unblemished. Wichita State’s reign over the Missouri Valley has been so strong this year that only two teams – Missouri State and Indiana State – have even finished within 10 points of them. Tomorrow’s game at Northern Iowa is the toughest remaining tilt for the Shockers, which also sandblasted Evansville 81-67 last Saturday.

(Related winners: Gregg Marshall, whose stock will never be higher, even if he never wants to leave; the Missouri Valley, which is certain to get some more NCAA Tournament win shares, even without Creighton in the conference. Related losers: Indiana State, the MVC”s second-best team, which probably has to win Arch Madness to make the NCAAs; Evansville, perpetually anonymous in purple.)

LOSER: Arizona

Of the triumvirate of teams that came into last weekend undefeated, only two came out unscathed. Unfortunately for the Wildcats, they weren’t one of them. Their road trip to California, the toughest game left on their schedule at that point, turned out to be undone by a last-second jumper from Golden Bears’ guard Justin Cobbs over center Kaleb Tarczewski, giving Cal a 60-58 win. That news was bad enough, but worse was what came after — that sophomore forward Brandon Ashley, a starter, had broken his foot during the game and would be out for the season. In Thursday’s 67-65 win over Oregon, Arizona looked disjointed offensively and saw star freshman Aaron Gordon injure his leg in a game in which he made just 2-of-11 free throws. The Wildcats actually trailed the disintegrating Ducks with just 90 seconds left before point guard T.J. McConnell made a three-pointer that gave them the lead for good. Sean Miller only played seven players, even accounting for Gordon’s injury, and its lack of depth could be problematic should more injuries arise or should fouls accumulate. It’s a shame to see this happen because a full-strength Arizona team looked to be head and shoulders above all but a few others around the country.

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Big 12 M5: 02.05.14 Edition

Posted by Nate Kotisso on February 5th, 2014

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  1. Last night posed the opportunity for a letdown with Texas beating league-leading Kansas on Saturday and then turning around to face last-place TCU on the road. The Longhorns trailed by two points at the half and had committed their season average of 10 turnovers to that point, but the second 20 minutes were a completely different story. The Horns regrouped as Jonathan Holmes poured in 17 of his 20 points on their way to their seventh straight Big 12 win. The Horns did all of this without one of their better ball-handlers available, as Javan Felix was out of the lineup due to a concussion he suffered on Saturday. It looks like we’re seeing the young Longhorns grow up right before our eyes.
  2. Kansas’ win over Baylor last night might appear confusing on paper because the Jayhawks won easily despite Andrew Wiggins, Joel Embiid and Wayne Selden Jr. only combining for 23 points on 6-of-22 shooting. But the focus should be on point guard Naadir Tharpe, who had another good offensive game on the road. Oddly enough, Tharpe has had some of his better offensive performances away from Allen Fieldhouse. In the four Big 12 road games where he’s attempted at least one shot, Tharpe is averaging 16.2 points on 22-of-33 from the floor and 10-of-14 from downtown (71.4%). Statistical anomalies: Ya gotta love ‘em.
  3. Oklahoma State‘s defeat to Iowa State on Monday night could not have come at a worse time. The school had dedicated the night to longtime head coach Eddie Sutton; Gallagher-Iba Arena was half-empty; and then there was the whole triple-overtime loss. Sutton took some thinly-veiled shots at the fan base and perhaps even the team while attending the game. “It’s easier to play here [at GIA] now than it was before,” Sutton told the Tulsa World. “It was a lot louder.” Gee, he may have a point there. It is a little embarrassing when the head coach of a team with several NBA Draft prospects has to urge students to come to their games. Guess the thermometer on Travis Ford’s seat is heating back up again.
  4. It seems as though most pundits have Kansas State pegged as NCAA Tournament-bound at this point in the year, but with so many holes in this team can we really be so sure of it? The Wildcats haven’t won any important road games; they are hard to watch on offense; and they also rank dead last in the Big 12 in free throw percentage (64.4%). For a team that beats opponents by keeping games in the 60s, making free throws is all the more vital in creating some late-game separation. If they don’t fix this problem somewhat soon, the Wildcats’ life on the bubble will be a short one and the NIT is where they’ll be headed.
  5. This isn’t news to anyone at all, but Iowa State head coach Fred Hoiberg is very much winning in life. He played in the NBA; he is currently coaching his alma mater (and doing well); and now he is putting up high scores on the Flappy Bird app. Now I’ve heard the Flappy Bird game is the thing kids are into these days but I have no clue how it’s played (how does one go about flapping the bird or does the bird flap you somehow?). In any case, Hoiberg scored a 123 which is apparently very hard to do. More power to him.
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Big 12 M5: Day After The Super Bowl Edition

Posted by Nate Kotisso on February 3rd, 2014

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  1. We’re not wrong when we say Saturday in the Big 12 was more Super than the so-called Super Bowl. Kansas brought its perfect conference record to “The Drum” in Austin and left imperfect. Jonathan Holmes’ jumper with 16:38 left in the first half gave Texas a lead it would never relinquish. This makes it six wins in a row for the Longhorns, and while it’s still a surprise considering what the Longhorns went through a year ago, we shouldn’t really treat it as a surprise. Think about Rick Barnes’ best teams from the 2000s: Barnes had multi-year players like T.J. Ford, Brandon Mouton, A.J. Abrams and Damion James that took the program to the next level. This year, the junior Holmes and a crop full of sophomores continues to defy logic while shooting up the national polls.
  2. One of those heralded Texas sophomores will be out for Tuesday’s game against TCU. The school announced that Javan Felix will be unavailable because of a concussion he suffered in the team’s win over Kansas two days ago. Texas will try to extend its winning streak to seven without Felix’s 12.0 PPG in the lineup. I should the mention that the game will take place in Fort Worth, and with all the craziness that’s gone down in conference play so far, the Horns had better be on Upset Watch headed into this one.
  3. Speaking of craziness, Baylor ran into problems just making its way to Stillwater for a weekend tilt with Oklahoma State. According to Jimmy Dykes, who worked color commentary on the game for ESPN, their flight was re-directed to Oklahoma City due to icy conditions near the Oklahoma State campus. The bus from OKC to Stillwater cautiously braved the ice with high speeds topping out at five miles an hour. On top of that, starting point guard Kenny Chery was out because of a turf toe injury. So it only made sense for the Bears to win their first game in three weeks, right? Gary Franklin and Brady Heslip stepped up big-time, combining for nine threes between them, and we also got to see Rico Gathers start and finish a sweet fast break dunk. It was that kind of day for the Bears and who knows, maybe this is the turning point in the season that Baylor fans have been waiting for.
  4. On the other sideline, backup point guard Stevie Clark was arrested and charged with “outraging public decency” early Sunday morning. This marks the second arrest for Clark in a little more than a month after he was caught with possession of marijuana around New Year’s Day. Most of us also remember that Clark was suspended for four games and sent home from the Old Spice Classic for another undisclosed reason back in November. Travis Ford has yet to comment on Clark’s status but it will be interesting to see how he rules on his talented but troublesome freshman this time around.
  5. Can you guess the team that sits in fourth place in the Big 12 ahead of Iowa State and Oklahoma State? It’s OK if you had to Google it for the answer, but yes… it’s West Virginia. WVU took down Kansas State on Saturday to get to 5-4 in Big 12 play (K-State also has a 5-4 record but they might as well be fifth with the Mountaineers owning the head-to-head advantage). This win coupled with their road victory at Baylor appears to have brought some at-large possibilities back to life. If they’re able to beat Oklahoma this week and continue to add a few more good wins, that might be able to offset the missed opportunities the Mountaineeers had in non-conference play to earn a Tournament bid. Could we be talking about EIGHT teams dancing from the Big 12? Wow!
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What Does Rick Barnes’ Season Say About Coach of the Year Awards?

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 29th, 2014

One of the biggest stories around the Big 12 this season has been the revitalization of Texas basketball. The Longhorns came into this season with their coach on the hot seat, but now they’re 16-4 with wins over North Carolina, Iowa State, Kansas State and Baylor, and are currently on a five-game winning streak. That stretch includes consecutive victories over three ranked teams, but even if you discount that qualification with a more realistic evaluation of the then-overrated Bears, there’s still no doubt that Texas has played better than pretty much everyone predicted coming into the season. They were picked to finish eighth in the Big 12 back in October, so naturally, their performance has led some to consider throwing Rick Barnes’ name into the hat when it comes to Big 12 Coach Of The Year honors. But the more interesting debate here is what Barnes’ case says about what we believe the award should be about.

The intrigue over Rick Barnes' COY prospects is just as philosophical as it is practical. (Getty Images)

The intrigue over Rick Barnes’ COY prospects is just as philosophical as it is practical. (Getty Images)

The discussion has raised two camps. One contends that Barnes has done a fantastic job so far, given his limitations, and as such he should definitely be given consideration for the end-of-year honor. The Longhorns, along with Oklahoma, lead the pack trailing Kansas despite losing their top four scorers from last season. Barnes has rebuilt Texas in a style that emphasizes chemistry and is having success without the services of one-and-done talents like Cory Joseph and Tristan Thompson. After a disappointing freshman season, Cameron Ridley is on the short list of the most improved players in the conference; Jonathan Holmes has turned the corner when Texas desperately needed him to do so; and Isaiah Taylor is third in scoring among Big 12 freshmen despite some ups and downs.

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Big 12 M5: 01.23.14 Edition

Posted by Kory Carpenter on January 23rd, 2014

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  1. It seems like every year now Baylor has the look of a team that can challenge for the Big 12 regular season title. And every year the Bears fall off somewhere around this time. They were ranked No. 7 in the country not too long ago but are now losers of three straight. ”It’s the No. 1-ranked conference in the country, so it’s a grind,” head coach Scott Drew told John Werner of the Waco Tribune. “We’re five games into it and we’re on the upward swing, so hopefully we can keep that going.” The Bears’ next chance to get out of its current rut comes Saturday at home against Texas.
  2. John Helsley of The Oklahoman asks a good question about Oklahoma State here: Is a six-day layoff after Saturday’s loss at Kansas a good or bad thing? He makes compelling cases for both answers, but we won’t know what the correct one is until the Cowboys play West Virginia at home on Saturday. The Pokes are in a Saturday-Monday rotation for their next five games, so perhaps a routine will do Oklahoma State some good.
  3. As Kyle Ringo of Yahoo! Sports points out, not many people expected Texas to be playing as well as the Longhorns are this season. Rick Barnes lost just about all the talent he had from last year’s team, and that group of Longhorns wasn’t a great team anyway. But here they are a year later, sitting at 15-4, 4-2 in Big 12 play, and in a good position to make the NCAA Tournament this season. But will they keep it up?
  4. Kansas State was in sole possession of second place in the Big 12 not very long ago. But then Tuesday’s game at Texas happened, and the Wildcats are suddenly tied with three other schools in that spot. Texas forward Jonathan Holmes nailed a last-second three-pointer to give the Longhorns a 67-64 win and a tie for second place. Like Sean Keeler of FoxSportsKansasCity.com said, “Gotta let it go.” There’s no shame in losing a close game on the road, but come Selection Sunday, Tuesday’s loss could be one that the Wildcats point to as one that cost them on the seed line.
  5. Bill Self likes toughness. He has noted that his favorite picture is from the 2008 Final Four against North Carolina, a snapshot where two Jayhawks (Darrell Arthur and Darnell Jackson) dive on the floor for a loose ball with both hands while the Tar Heels’ players brace themselves for the fall. So it’s no surprise that he loved Wayne Selden‘s dive into the stands to save a loose ball  – and eventually getting an assist — on Monday night against Baylor. “He gives us an air of toughness,” Self told Rustin Dodd of the Kansas City Star. “Certainly when he’s going after the ball like that, we become a much better team because it’s contagious.”
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