Big 12 M5: 01.29.14 Edition

Posted by Taylor Erickson on January 29th, 2014

morning5_big12

  1. As if things weren’t already going bad enough for the TCU basketball program this season, the Horned Frogs were dealt another blow early this week when it was learned that freshman forward Karviar Shepherd will miss an indefinite amount of time to undergo surgery on his non-shooting hand. Shepherd had been a bright spot for Trent Johnson this season, averaging over eight points and seven rebounds in his freshman season. Shepherd’s injury took place on Saturday night against Kansas and leaves TCU with just seven scholarship players remaining on their roster and it just another dose of bad luck in Fort Worth this season.
  2. Fresh off a four for six shooting performance from behind the arc against Kansas State, Iowa State freshman Matt Thomas spoke about the negative comments he heard during the Cyclone’s recent losing streak , one where Thomas struggled to just 1-11 from deep. Thomas was regarded as perhaps one of the best shooters in this year’s freshman class, but heard things like “Matt Thomas should never play” on social media throughout the last couple weeks. With those struggles behind him, Thomas is now focused on his team’s trip to Allen Fieldhouse tomorrow night to take on Kansas who is still undefeated in league play. The Cyclones were a banked Ben McLemore three-pointer away from pulling off the upset a season ago, and to bring home a win this year, Thomas will most certainly need to be connecting from the outside.
  3. If I would have told you before the season that Andrew Wiggins would have been the last of the trio of talented Kansas freshmen to win the Wayman Tisdale Player of the Week award this season season in college basketball, you probably would have called me a liar (if you didn’t ask what the Wayman Tisdale POY Award was first). Perhaps it’s because of the hype that was bestowed upon Wiggins was so great that most of his weekly performances left most somewhat underwhelmed. Regardless, on Tuesday Wiggins was the third Kansas freshman in a row to earn the weekly award after averaging 22 points for the week. Wiggins has now scored 17 or more points in four of his last five games, with the blip being the poor performance at home against Oklahoma State. If he continues his assertiveness in getting to the basket and drawing fouls, watch out.
  4. When Oklahoma State big man Michael Cobbins went down earlier in the season due to an achilles injury, it was expected that the Cowboys would go through some growing pains in trying to figure out how to replace Cobbins’ presence down low, but not many expected that mid-way through the conference season, Travis Ford’s squad would still be struggling this much. Against Oklahoma on Monday night, foul trouble was again another huge issue limiting stars like Marcus Smart and Le’Bryan Nash to just six and eight first half minutes, respectively. Smart battled foul trouble at home against West Virginia over the weekend, and for a player of his caliber, he has to be on the floor as much as possible. The Cowboys now sit at 4-3 in league play with wins over West Virginia twice and TCU and Texas at home. With three of their next five games against ranked opponents, Oklahoma State needs to develop an interior presence quickly.
  5. The way things began back in November and December for Bruce Weber and Kansas State were rough to say the least, but since that time, the Wildcats have slowly morphed themselves into a similar team to what Weber trotted out last season. What I mean by that is Kansas State has developed a reputation in just Weber’s second season in Manhattan as a team that for the most part beats the teams they are supposed to be on a consistent basis. After dropping two games last week on the road to Texas and Iowa State, Weber called this week “gut check time” for his team as they host stingy Texas Tech before going on the road to Morgantown for a tilt with West Virginia on Saturday. At this point, K-State should still be comfortably in the NCAA tournament, but a loss or two this week could be damaging to their resume, and in Monday’s bracketology, CBSSports.com listed the Wildcats as a potential bubble team.
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Big 12 Power Rankings: Baylor is Losing its Mind Edition

Posted by Nate Kotisso on January 27th, 2014

Here was a team that was picked to finish third in the Big 12 by the league’s 10 coaches. They fought their way to the Maui Invitational championship game where they lost to a still-unbeaten Syracuse team. They didn’t seem phased by arguably the best recruiting class in decades against Kentucky, beating the Wildcats on a neutral floor in Arlington. But for whatever reason, Baylor currently stands at 1-5 in the Big 12 with two-thirds of league action still to play. Granted, two of those losses came at Iowa State and at Kansas, but the Bears haven’t been able to take care of business at home either, falling to Oklahoma on January 18 and Texas over the weekend. But hey, if it took six games to get us all freaking out over Baylor, it’s entirely possible they can turn their season around in the final 12 contests, right? (Right?!) Well last week, our power rankings had two groups of two that found themselves tied. We did better this time around: only one!

As best told by this photograph, there are a lot of things not going Scott Drew's way lately. (Rod Aydelotte/Waco Tribune-Herald)

As best told by this photograph, there are a lot of things not going Scott Drew’s way lately. (Rod Aydelotte/Waco Tribune-Herald)

1. Kansas — 4 points (previous: 1st; Brian, KoryNate & Taylor: 1st)

Comment: “What can be said about the Jayhawks that hasn’t already been said? Wayne Selden Jr. has been a different player since Big 12 play began and Andrew Wiggins had a career-high of 27 points against TCU. Curious to know how Joel Embiid’s knee is after bruising it in the second half Saturday. Based on how little media coverage it got after the TCU game, it probably isn’t serious.” – Nate Kotisso (@natekotisso)

2. Oklahoma State — 10 points (previous: 2nd; Brian, Nate & Taylor-2nd, Kory-4th)

Comment: “Marcus Smart played his worst game of the season, as this chair would tell you if it could, you know, talk. No matter, though, since the Cowboys still beat the Mountaineers.” – Brian Goodman (@BSGoodman)

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Big 12 M5: 11.04.13 Edition

Posted by Nate Kotisso on November 4th, 2013

morning5_big12

  1. Kansas State took down Pittsburg State 75-54 in exhibition action on Friday night. The only problem was the Wildcats were hobbled in doing so. Bruce Weber said earlier in the week that guards Will Spradling (0 pts) and Shane Southwell (10/5 asts) as well as forward Nino Williams (13/13) were all battling injuries despite playing more than 20 minutes apiece. Thomas Gipson, who is expected to be more of a force on the offensive end, did not play either due to an unspecified injury. Another headline came from the three freshmen thrown into the action. Point guard Marcus Foster turned in 13 points, five rebounds and four dimes, while fellow Texan Wesley Iwundu scored 10 points in 17 minutes, and Nigel Johnson poured in 15 and nine boards in Gipson’s place. While it’s important to get your starters as healthy before the season tips off, it’s nice to know you have options down low and in the backcourt if you’re a K-State fan.
  2. News came down late last week that Melvin Ejim would be out several weeks with a hyperextended knee and bone bruise. But Ejim is hoping he can return to the floor sooner than expected. “I don’t think it’s going to take as long. Hopefully it doesn’t take as long,” he told the Ames Tribune. “It’d be the best if I took a couple weeks, and I could play right away, but we’ve still got to be smart and it’s something if I do play on it and it’s not properly healed, it’s potentially something that could hurt me down the line.” Smart is right. Adrian Peterson certainly set a precedent for athletes and how much time they can take to rehabilitate their injuries. And sure, Ejim’s feeling pressure to be rushed back considering 60 percent of Iowa State’s starting lineup wasn’t there a year ago. It’s also not a bad thing to go the Derrick Rose route and make sure your mind and body are in sync with each other before returning to action. Get well, Mel.
  3. They’ve got a shiny new top 10 ranking and lofty expectations at the national level, but believe it or not, Oklahoma State won’t be talking about a national championship this season. According to the Tulsa World, Travis Ford had his players study up on the six Cowboy teams that previously made it to Final Fours for a team dinner weeks ago. “We wanted them to learn about the tradition but also the championship-type teams,” Ford said. “We’ve talked a lot about trying to get to that point, trying to get our guys throughout the summer and a little bit of preseason thinking in terms of trying to motivate them to win a championship. Once the night was over, I told our guys, ‘Now we’re done talking about it.’ I don’t want to talk any more about it. I don’t want to pinhole it.” Interesting approach from a man who hasn’t done a whole lot in his time in Stillwater; but hey, the more Big 12 teams at the 2014 Final Four in Dallas, the better.
  4. TCU had its own exhibition game on Friday night and they were able to come away with a 81-74 over Arkansas-Fort Smith. Karviar Shepherd, the top prospect from the Horned Frogs’ 2013 recruiting class, shined with a 16-point, 10-rebound outing. After missing the 2013 portion of last season, senior Jarvis Ray scored 18 to lead all scorers. TCU is slated to tip off its season Friday against crosstown and old Southwest Conference rivals, SMU. Let’s hope that Trent Johnson will have a healthy roster to work with in 2013-14.
  5. The mother of Texas Tech head coach Tubby Smith passed away last week. According to the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal and later confirmed by the school’s athletic department, Parthenia Smith died late Wednesday. She was 92. Tubby’s father, Guffrie, passed away just before the start of the 2009 basketball season at 88. It’ll be tough to concentrate on coaching this week, but our thoughts and prayers go out to Tubby and his family through this trying time.
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Big 12 Team Preview: TCU Horned Frogs

Posted by Kory Carpenter on October 31st, 2013

Where We Left Off: TCU’s first season in the Big 12 changed no one’s mind that the reason the Horned Frogs were the newest members of the Big 12 started with football and ended with the fact the school sits in the middle of the Dallas Metroplex. They never made much noise in the Mountain West, making a few NIT appearances in the 90s while still looking for their first NCAA Tournament victory since 1987. Most people predicted a steep learning curve after joining the Big 12, and most people would be correct. There was one bright spot last season, however, as the Horned Frogs stunned the college basketball world when they knocked off Kansas 62-55 at home on February 6. It was one of two conference victories for the Horned Frogs last season, and they finished a game behind Texas Tech for last place.

Trent Johnson Continues His Rebuilding Effort at TCU This Season (AP).

Trent Johnson Continues His Rebuilding Effort at TCU This Season. (AP)

Positives: Four-star recruit and freshman Karviar Shepherd was ruled academically ineligible by the NCAA in early July, which appeared to end all hopes for a successful season for the Horned Frogs. Surprisingly, though, Shepherd won his appeal a few weeks later and was cleared to play this season. The 6’10”, 225-pound center had an impressive offer sheet coming out of high school that included Kansas, Marquette, Oklahoma State, Texas and UCLA. The Dallas native’s decision to stay home and play in Fort Worth gave instant credibility to head coach Trent Johnson‘s program, and could potentially lead to more highly sought-after Dallas recruits down the line. Joining Shepherd will be last year’s leading scorer Kyan Anderson, who averaged 12 points per game and was on the Bob Cousy Award watch list last season, recognized as one of the best point guards in the country. The duo should lead the Horned Frogs to a few more wins in the Big 12 this season.
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Sizing Up a Key Freshman at Every Big 12 School

Posted by Brian Goodman on October 29th, 2013

Brian Goodman is the lead Big 12 correspondent for RTC. You can follow him on Twitter @BSGoodman

The 2012-13 season saw a handful of freshmen throughout the Big 12 make their presences felt around the league. Everyone knows about Marcus Smart, but he was far from the only rookie player who proved himself capable. Perry Ellis, Isaiah Austin, Rico Gathers and Georges Niang also showed opposing players and coaches that they belonged in the conference too. Further down the standings, Josh Gray, Javan Felix and Terry Henderson gave glimpses of what they can do when given opportunities to show their stuff  (although Gray later transferred out of the conference).

Andrew Wiggins will be the top freshman in the Big 12, but after him, it's not so black and white. (credit: ESPN.com)

Andrew Wiggins will be the top freshman in the Big 12, but after him, it’s not so black and white. (credit: ESPN.com)

Once again, the Big 12 will welcome a stellar class of incoming talent this season. We took a look around the conference and plucked one freshman from each team who we think will make the strongest impression. Top to bottom, the Big 12 doesn’t offer quite the depth the SEC — which claims eight of the top 12 prospects from ESPNU’s Top 100 (just to use one recruiting service) — will roll out, but we’re looking forward to watching newcomers from every Big 12 team make strong impressions in their opening campaigns.

Andrew Wiggins, Kansas: Like you, we’ve seen the YouTube clips and read the scouting reports and articles in publications ranging from Sports Illustrated to GQ. Also, like you, we’re ready for Wiggins to make his debut and show everyone in actual games why he’s been the projected top overall pick in the 2014 NBA Draft for so long. We agree with Bill Self in that we don’t expect Wiggins to average 20 points per game – today’s suppressed scoring environments and Self’s reputation as a coach who prefers a balanced attack makes that outcome a longshot. However, that doesn’t mean we don’t think the phenom will make a huge impact on both ends of the floor.

Matt Thomas, Iowa State: Despite starting just two games last season, Tyrus McGee was the Cyclones’ second-leading scorer thanks to a white-hot 46.4% shooting clip from long range. Now that he’s gone, though, Fred Hoiberg needs someone to fill the shooting void, and we can easily see Thomas emerging as that guy. The 51st-ranked recruit on ESPNU’s Top 100, Thomas boasts the kind of range that can break games open and cut deficits in a hurry. Once he commands the attention of the league’s defenses, passing lanes will open up to deliver the ball to the likes of Melvin Ejim and Georges Niang.

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Morning Five: 07.29.13 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on July 29th, 2013

morning5

  1. We have no idea what is going through P.J. Hairston‘s head these days, but whatever it is it is not good. The beleaguered (we can use that word at this point, right?) North Carolina guard was suspended indefinitely on Sunday night after receiving a citation for speeding and reckless driving on Saturday afternoon. Hairston was reportedly pulled over in a 2008 Acura TL driving 93 mph in a 65 mph zone. Hariston, who has been under public scrutiny since a June arrest for possession of marijuana with a gun assigned to nobody that the legal system in North Carolina is apparently comfortable sweeping under the rug, has been under “investigation” for his dealings with Haydn “Fats” Thomas, but has managed to escape any punishment until last night. Our definition of punishment may differ from what Roy Williams has in mind as Hairston still has until October for Midnight Madness and November when regular season games start. We keep on saying this, but at some point it would appear that Roy needs to cut ties with Hairston or risk incurring punishment for the program down the road. If he decides to keep Hairston it will be interesting to see how long he sits Hairston given their early-season schedule.
  2. TCU got a big boost on Friday when the NCAA cleared incoming freshman Karviar Shepherd to play this season. Shepherd had been waiting to hear from the NCAA regarding his eligibility because of questions regarding his academics at Prime Prep Academy, but apparently whatever paperwork was submitted was good enough for the NCAA to sign off on him. Shepherd may not be one of the nation’s elite incoming recruits (77th in ESPN’s rankings), but the addition of a 6’10″ center should be a welcome addition for a Horned Frog program that finished last in the Big 12 last season.
  3. Late July might seem like a strange time to rework a college basketball coach’s contract, but that is what Loyola (IL) did as it extended Porter Moser through the 2017-18 season. We typically are a little bit leery of extending young coaches who just finished their second season (particularly if we are not aware of them being hot names for coaching vacancies), but Moser has done a nice job helping turn around the Ramblers who went 15-16 last season after going 7-23 in his first season. Of course some of this could be due to the increased maturity of his squad, which still ranks among the youngest in Division I. However, with 10 players returning this season and a new contract extension the pressure will be on Moser to perform soon.
  4. When we heard that Indiana State was building an on-campus statue for Larry Bird our first reaction was to wonder what took so long. Bird, who led the Sycamores to the 1979 NCAA Championship Game, will reportedly be in attendance as he will be honored with a 15-foot statute before the team’s first game of the season against Ball State on November 9. While there are certainly more iconic college basketball players we doubt that there is anybody who is intimately associated with a school as Bird is with Indiana State. With the relative resurgence the Sycamore program has seen in recent years it should be a nice added boost for the team to have the greatest player in the program’s history return to kick off their home opener.
  5. It has been 10 years since Lefty Driesell officially coached, but he made a return to the sidelines on Saturday to coach a team of former Maryland players in what is essentially a legends basketball league. Over the years supporters of Driesell have expressed their displeasure with how the school has treated his legacy in comparison to that of Gary Williams so it was nice to hear that Driesell is still associating himself with the school even if some of his supporters are still angry. We are rapidly approaching 30 years since Driesell last coached at Maryland so we are not sure that he will ever get his due there, but those who have actually followed the game and do not have an agenda are well aware of his contributions to the game and the school.
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Morning Five: 07.12.13 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on July 12th, 2013

morning5

  1. The story surrounding Marshall Henderson‘s suspension continues to evolve with the latest news being that he was pulled over on May 4 for speeding (the article says “suspicion of speeding”, but we have no idea what that means). When the officer approached the car he smelled marijuana and Henderson handed him a bag containing marijuana and a subsequent search revealed a small amount of cocaine. Additional details around the traffic stop remain unclear, but it appears that Henderson was only issued a citation for not having insurance and somehow was not cited for possession of drugs. We are not clear on the drug laws in Mississippi, but it appears that an individual would not be prosecuted if the amount of cocaine was less than one-tenth of a gram so perhaps Henderson was able to escape the school’s radar for the time if they were not informed of this part of the citation.
  2. However, as Andy Katz notes the Mississippi staff tried to address Henderson’s substance abuse issues at least six weeks ago as when they reached out to former basketball star turned drug abuse speaker Chris Herren to help get through to Henderson. As you might have guessed the call was never returned and Henderson continued his downward spiral in some course leading to the announcement of his suspension yesterday. It appears that Henderson has finally spoken with Herren so it appears that at least that line is open to Henderson. We voiced our opinion on how the media (and the public) handles issues around substance abuse in particular when combined with race, but we just hope that Henderson is able to get his life together even if that does not involve a significant basketball career.
  3. The next round of criticism of the NCAA is set to begin with USA Today‘s analysis of the the NCAA’s 2011 tax return. Among the interesting aspects of the document the one that will probably get the most attention is the Mark Emmert’s compensation package totaling $1,674,095, which is primarily base compensation ($1,201,159), but also includes retirement/deferred compensation ($234,300), undefined reportable compensation ($214,947), and nontaxable benefits ($23,689). Although the overall size of his compensation package is not that outlandish compared to many CEOs of public companies it will certainly raise some eyebrows especially given the political environment surrounding the NCAA now. As the article notes there were three other executives who made more than $500,000 that year. The other interesting aspect of the tax return was that it spent $9.5 million on legal expenses during the fiscal year. We have no idea what the breakdown of that was in terms of legal action against it or to pay for its legal counsel in ongoing cases, but we figure that with the momentum behind the Ed O’Bannon case that number may rise over the next few years.
  4. One of the issues surrounding prep schools (aka basketball factories) is the concern that many of their players will not be eligible to play college athletics due to issues regarding their academic workload at these “schools”. Prime Prep, a school in Texas co-founded by Deion Sanders, appears to be one of those schools and yesterday the NCAA ruled that two of its graduates–Jordan Mickey and Karviar Shephardwere not academically eligible due to academic issues at the school. Mickey, a top-50 recruit who committed to LSU, and Shepherd, a top-100 player who committed to TCU, reportedly had been informed by the school that they would be eligible to play NCAA sports with their grades and the coursework they had completed. However, that appears not to be the case. Some people may point out that it is the student’s responsibility to make sure they are eligible, but realistically this falls on the school because you cannot expect a teenager, who is at most 18- (or 19-) years old to be able to navigate all the details of NCAA eligibility without the help of experienced adult. Both players will appeal the decision, but may have to sit out this season. It is worth keeping an eye on this because the school also has two players who are top-5 players in the next two graduating classes.
  5. Last December, Mississippi State and Loyola (IL) played a game to commemorate the 50th anniversary of their historic NCAA Tournament game where the Mississippi State players had to sneak out of Mississippi in order to play an integrated team. Many view it as one of the key moments in sports in relation to the civil rights movement of the era (one that would eventually be overshadowed in the annals of history by the 1966 NCAA Championship Game). On Saturday, Leland Mitchell, one of the most prominent players on that Mississippi State team died at his home in Starkville. Mitchell, who had 14 points and 11 rebounds in the game before fouling out with over six minutes remaining in the 61-51 loss, and his teammates acknowledged that they did not understand the significance of the game at the time in the context of the larger social change that was happening around them. As Mitchell noted, “We were making history. We were ambassadors for the South, though none of us realized it at the time.”
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Big 12 Power Rankings: Week 16

Posted by KoryCarpenter on February 25th, 2013

We are four days away from March, the Big 12 is close to solidifying its representation in the NCAA Tournament, and there are only two weeks left in the regular season. Obviously all games are important (Just ask Kansas about TCU), but for the top three teams in the standings, there isn’t much room for error in the home stretch, giving us great games like Wednesday’s double-overtime thriller between Kansas and Oklahoma State and tonight’s game in Ames between the Jayhawks and Iowa State. And that doesn’t even mention Kansas State’s trip to Waco on Saturday, where a win could potentially give the Wildcats sole possession of first place in the conference. But we’ll start with Kansas in the Power Rankings this week, who moves back to #1 after beating Oklahoma State on the road.

A Big 12 Championship Could Be On The Line Tonight For Kansas (AP)

A Big 12 Championship Could Be On The Line Tonight For Kansas (AP)

1) Kansas (23-4, 11-3)
Previous Ranking: 2

Last Week: W 68-67 (2OT) at Oklahoma State, W 74-48 vs TCU

This Week: Tonight at Iowa State, 8:00 PM, Saturday vs West Virginia, 1:00 PM

  • Rundown: Kansas is now 8-3 in the last five seasons when underdogs of four points or fewer after Wednesday’s double-overtime win over Oklahoma State in Stillwater. Tonight’s game in Ames is nearly as important and should be close as well (Kansas is favored by a single point). How about Jeff Withey against the Cowboys — 17 points, 14 rebounds and four blocks in 29 minutes. He saved Kansas’ conference title hopes, and a win tonight could begin the conversation for a #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament assuming there are no more TCU-like roadblocks.
  • Outlook in March: A #1 seed is possible, but I think they will drop one more game through the Big 12 Tournament and snag a #2 seed. If they don’t end up in Indiana’s bracket, there’s enough talent and coaching ability for another trip to the Final Four. But they showed us in Fort Worth that they could just as easily lose to a Stony Brook or Montana in the first round.

2) Oklahoma State (20-6, 10-4)
Previous Ranking: 1

Last Week: L 68-67 (2OT) vs Kansas, W 73-57 at West Virginia

This Week: Wednesday at TCU, 6:00 PM Saturday vs Texas, 3:00 PM

  • Rundown: I know the Cowboys have fewer wins than K-State (in conference and overall) and lost to the Wildcats back on January 5, but I can’t say Oklahoma State isn’t the second-best team in the conference right now. Not with a straight face, anyway. Marcus Smart might be the best freshman in the country and a First-Team All-American choice while Markel Brown is playing even better than Smart lately, averaging 18 PPG, 3.5 APG, and 5.0 RPG last week.
  • Outlook in March: Wednesday’s game against Kansas was one of those games where a close loss wouldn’t have killed them in mock brackets and a win would have helped tremendously. They are still a #5 seed in most mock brackets and will probably end up as a #4 seed without any hiccups. They’re a definite Sweet Sixteen-level team that would give its region’s #1 seed a great game in the regional semifinals.

3) Kansas State (22-5, 11-3)
Previous Ranking: 3

Last Week: W 71-61 vs West Virginia, W 81-69 at Texas

This Week: Tonight vs Texas Tech, 6:00 PM, Saturday at Baylor, 6:00 PM

  • Rundown: K-State’s three conference losses were very forgivable. They were swept by Kansas and lost by six at Iowa State, one of the toughest places to play in the Big 12. Their other two losses were to Michigan and Gonzaga, a pair of projected #2 seeds. They’re also winners of seven of their last eight games and have a relatively easy next three: Texas Tech, at Baylor, and TCU. The season finale against Oklahoma State in Stillwater will likely determine the Big 12 championship and whether the crown will be shared this season.
  • Outlook in March: A conference championship would probably get the Wildcats a #3 seed, a perch above their consensus #4 seed right now. As noted, they don’t have any bad losses and have a pair of good wins over Florida and Oklahoma State.

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Big 12 Power Rankings: Week 14

Posted by KoryCarpenter on February 11th, 2013

It’s not too early to call tonight’s game between Kansas and Kansas State the Game Of The Year in the Big 12. Not with first place on the line and a chance for K-State to put the Jayhawks two games back with only seven games remaining. As for our rankings, there was a big shakeup this week with teams #1-#6, as each squad in that group either moved up or down from last week’s list. Most notable was the ascent of the Wildcats, who take the top spot for the first time this season. I decided to hold off on the Bracket Matrix Projected NCAA Tournament Seeds this week because it hasn’t been updated since Saturday’s games.

Rodney McGruder Needs A Big Game Tonight Against Kansas In Allen Fieldhouse (AP)

Rodney McGruder Needs A Big Game Tonight Against Kansas In Allen Fieldhouse (AP)

1) Kansas State (19-4, 8-2 Big 12)
Previous Ranking: 2

Last Week: W 68-59 at Texas Tech, W 79-70 vs. Iowa State

This Week: Tonight at Kansas, 8:00 PM CST, Saturday vs. Baylor, 6:00 PM

  • Rundown: They earned the split with Iowa State with a 79-70 win over the Cyclones on Saturday and have now won four in a row and 12 of their last 14. Rodney McGruder carried K-State with 22 points and five assists against Iowa State on Saturday and averaged 20 points per game this week. If he continues on that pace coupled with Kansas’ recent struggles, a road-team split with the Jayhawks isn’t out of the question.
  • Reason to be optimistic: They’re playing solid defense as of late, holding three of their last four opponents under 60 points, and any concerns with Frank Martin’s players not buying into Bruce Weber’s system are long gone at this point. Not only has McGruder stepped up offensively, but sophomore guard Angel Rodriguez averaged 16.5 PPG last week as well.

2) Oklahoma State (17-5, 7-3)
Previous Ranking: 3

Last Week: W 69-67 (OT) vs. Baylor, W 72-59 at Texas

This Week: Wednesday at Texas Tech, 6:00 PM, Saturday vs. Oklahoma, 12:30 PM

  • Rundown: The Cowboys have been a little unlucky in that their two biggest wins — vs. North Carolina State in November and at Kansas last week — were quickly watered down. North Carolina State, then #6 in the country, lost two games later to Michigan. Kansas dropped two more games in a row, including to dreadful TCU, after losing to OSU. Even so, the Cowboys have won six out of seven games thanks to junior guard Markel Brown, who has averaged 16.7 PPG in that stretch.
  • Reason to be optimistic: Oklahoma State has more NBA talent than any other team in the Big 12. Coupled with the confidence they undoubtedly have gained with their recent wins against Iowa State, Kansas, and Baylor, the Cowboys could be quite dangerous in March.

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Big 12 Power Rankings: Week 12

Posted by KoryCarpenter on January 28th, 2013

Right when we thought a team might overtake Kansas in the Big 12 standings (or our power rankings, at least), Kansas State went out and lost two in a row last week, first to Kansas at home and then at Iowa State on Saturday. Both were close games with the Wildcats losing by a combined 10 points, but they lost two games on the Jayhawks in the Big 12 race and fell into a third place tie with Iowa State and Oklahoma. Baylor has quietly started 5-1 in conference play, but the easier part of their schedule is now behind them. The Bears have already swept TCU and have another win over Texas Tech in Lubbock (but hey, that’s more than Iowa State can say). And about those Jayhawks — they are due for a loss, aren’t they? They have been winning close games for the last month it seems. We’ve spiced up the rankings this week with a team’s projected NCAA Tournament seed from Bracket Matrix. Instead of picking a random bracketologist’s numbers, how about averaging out a bunch of mock brackets? The guys at Bracket Matrix do that so we don’t have to, and as many people have been saying lately, there looks to be six NCAA Tournament teams from the Big 12 this year.

The Kansas Offense Hasn't Been Pretty In January, But The Defense Has Helped Keep Their Winning Streak Alive.

The Kansas Offense Hasn’t Been Pretty In January, But The Defense Has Helped Keep Its Winning Streak Alive.

1) Kansas (18-1, 6-0 Big 12)
Previous Ranking: 1
Projected NCAA Seed: #1

Last Week: W 59-55 at Kansas State, W 67-54 vs Oklahoma

This Week: Tonight at West Virginia, 8:00 PM CST, Saturday vs Oklahoma State, 3:00 PM

  • Rundown: The Jayhawks have won 17 straight since losing to Michigan State in November but the offense has disappeared in January. They are averaging 62.2 PPG in their last five games, leading to a KenPom Adjusted Offensive Efficiency of #18. And as we pointed out here, teams that finish outside the top #25 in that category rarely make the Final Four.
  • Cause For Concern: The offense, of course. Last season, point guard Tyshawn Taylor was always there to clean up an ugly offensive possession with a drive to the basket. This team has had point guard issues most of the year. Starter Elijah Johnson has been more of an off-guard during his career and backup Naadir Tharpe is trigger-happy. Freshman Ben McLemore averages 16.2 PPG, but with a shooting percentage of 51%, he needs to take over more games than he does. He’s the best player on the team and one of the five best in the country, so an average of 10 shots a game isn’t enough.

2) Baylor (14-5, 5-1)
Previous Ranking: 3
Projected NCAA Seed: #9

Last Week: W 64-54 vs Oklahoma State, W 82-56 at TCU

This Week: Wednesday vs Oklahoma, 6:00 PM, Saturday at Iowa State 7:00 PM

  • Rundown: The days of losing to teams like Charleston and Northwestern look to be behind them, but the schedule certainly picks up the rest of the way. Eight of their last 12 games are against teams projected to make the NCAA Tournament. The emergence of freshman center Isaiah Austin will help, though. Austin has scored double figures in each of his last 10 games going back to December 12.
  • Cause For Concern: We all know what the Bears are by now, a talented, underachieving squad that could fall on its face in the first round of the Tournament or make the Elite Eight. From where they stand now, the worst thing that could happen to Baylor — or any team for that matter — is to land in the #8/#9 game and play a #1 seed in the second round.

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Big 12 Power Rankings: Week 11

Posted by KoryCarpenter on January 21st, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Big 12 Power Rankings: Week Six

Posted by KoryCarpenter on December 18th, 2012

The top of the Big 12 is unchanged this week, as Kansas and Oklahoma State extended their winning streaks to seven and three games, respectively. The rest of the conference is still a cluster, however, and two teams who were supposed to challenge for the conference title — West Virginia and Texas — did nothing this week to silence their critics. Kansas State and West Virginia were the only Big 12 schools to play anyone of note this past week, and both teams lost convincingly. The Big 12 isn’t getting any better. With only a few weeks left in the non-conference schedule, teams are running out of time to prove themselves as NCAA Tournament prospects.

1) Kansas (8-1, 0-0)
Previous Ranking: 1

Ben McLemore and Kansas prepare for Saturday's matchup with Ohio State

Ben McLemore and Kansas prepare for Saturday’s matchup with Ohio State (Getty Images)

Last Week: W 89-60 vs. Belmont

This Week: Tuesday vs. Richmond, 6:00 PM CST, Saturday at Ohio State, 3:00 PM

  • Rundown: Kansas continues to win after losing its only game of the season over a month ago to Michigan State. They’ve won six of their last seven games by at least 13 points and have set up a great top 10 match-up on Saturday against Ohio State in Columbus, whom the Jayhawks beat twice last season (once in Lawrence and again in the Final Four).
  • Reason to be Optimistic: Freshman guard Ben McLemore is as good as people thought he could be, leading the team with 16.1 PPG. He is shooting up NBA Mock Drafts and it’s becoming clear that this will be his only season in Lawrence. His ability to take over a game offensively makes the Jayhawks legitimate Final Four contenders just a month after the team faced plenty of personnel questions.

2) Oklahoma State (8-1, 0-0)
Previous Ranking: 2

Last Week: W 91-63 vs. Central Arkansas

This Week: Wednesday vs. Texas-Arlington, 7:00 PM, Saturday vs.Tennessee Tech, 12:00 PM

  • Rundown: Last week’s win over Central Arkansas didn’t help the Cowboys in the weekly polls or this week’s power rankings, but they continue to pile up wins leading up to the New Year’s Eve home game against Gonzaga. This week’s action should be another pair of scrimmages.
  • Reason to be Optimistic: Outside of the 10-point loss to Virginia Tech, the Cowboys have beaten the teams they were supposed to beat. That sounds simple enough, but too many teams lose focus some nights and drop head-scratching games this time of year. It will pay off come Selection Sunday.

3) Baylor (7-3, 0-0)
Previous Ranking: 4

Last Week: W 85-68 vs. Lamar, W 73-57 vs. South Carolina-Upstate

This Week: Friday vs. BYU, 8:00 PM

  • Rundown: Baylor is back in the No. 3 spot this week, mostly by default. Senior point guard Pierre Jackson is still playing like a conference player of the year, averaging 19.3 PPG and 6.0 APG through 10 games. The offense is averaging 76.7 PPG but its been slowed down in each of the Bears’ three losses, when they scored just 62.3 PPG.
  • Reason to be Optimistic: Like Kansas, Baylor is getting significant contributions from one of its highly touted freshmen. 7″1′ center Isaiah Austin is averaging 13.9 PPG and 8.6 RPG this season.

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