SEC M5: 12.19.12 Edition

Posted by DPerry on December 19th, 2012

SEC_morning5

  1. Several members of the national media have been quick to criticize Kenny Boynton in the days following his disappointing performance at Arizona. The criticism is hard to argue with, as the senior guard scored only five points on 10 attempts from the field. SI‘s Andy Glockner got in on the act, publishing an article in which he asks whether Boynton will be a help or hindrance for Florida come Tournament time. I fall squarely in the former camp. His high-volume three-point shot totals aren’t as reliable as a what a dominant post player or steady ball-handler brings to the table, but Boynton is the type of player who has the ability to win you games in March that you otherwise have no business winning. He hit the 20 point-mark in 12 games last year, not to mention the three times thus far in his senior season. Boynton could very well be the culprit in an early postseason defeat for the Gators, but without him in the picture, Florida simply isn’t a team with realistic Final Four aspirations.
  2. Georgia didn’t make much progress toward finding a secondary offensive option last night, but the Bulldogs did enough of the defensive end to earn their third win of the season over Mercer, 58-49. The visiting Bears mustered only 16 field goals, including a miserable 6-of-26 from beyond the arc. ”Today was important and we needed to win,” said head coach Mark Fox. “We won the game today because we played such a physical schedule early. We had to be sound for 40 minutes to win this game because [Mercer isn't] making very many mistakes.” Fox is certainly still tinkering with his rotation, as 11 players saw the court for 10 minutes or more in Tuesday’s victory.
  3. The cupcake-heavy home schedule bothers the season ticket holders in Lexington, but Jerry Tipton believes that Kentucky will ultimately benefit from these breather games. Lipscomb coach Scott Sanderson, who played at Rupp last Saturday, agrees. “The chance to work on execution without the distracting consideration of winning or losing,” says Sanderson. “The label of ‘guarantee games’ refers to a payment the lesser team receives for its service as a sacrificial lamb. But the greater team in these match-ups is all but guaranteed of a victory.” While I believe that the Wildcats probably needed to recalibrate some things after losses to Notre Dame and Baylor, I think a nearly month-long break from quality competition is too long. A mentally-prepared Kentucky team doesn’t stand much of a chance at the Yum! Center in Louisville anyway — I won’t be surprised if the young and rusty ‘Cats struggle mightily against the tested Cardinals.
  4. Jabari Brown stole the headlines in his first game in a Missouri uniform, but it was a big night for Laurence Bowers as well, as the senior forward joined the Tigers’ 1,000 point club. Bowers is especially pleased to now be mentioned in the same class as former teammates Kim English and Marcus Denmon. “I’m kind of in competition with those guys, to be honest,” Bowers said. “I know that I might not surpass them as far as scoring points, but I definitely want to surpass them as far as the season they had.” Team success will be harder to guarantee than points, however. Bowers combines with Alex Oriakhi to form a fearsome frontcourt, and point guard Phil Pressey is one of the nation’s best lead guards, but no wing player has stepped up and shown any consistency through the early part of the schedule.
  5. Mike Anderson and his high-intensity style produces the need for a lot of bodies, but Arkansas won’t be able to count on Brandon Mitchell this season. The two-sport football star would have served as an athletic backcourt option off the bench, but with new football coach Bret Bielema converting Mitchell from wide receiver to quarterback, basketball will have to take the back seat. “He told me his focus is on football right now,” Anderson said. “It makes sense. We have got a new coaching staff and he has got to get ready for Coach B. He did a good job for us but football is what he is here for.”
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Grading the Big 12′s 2011-12 Season: Top Half

Posted by rtmsf on April 6th, 2012

Yesterday we gave you our season grades for the bottom half of the Big 12. Today we bring you the top half.

5. Kansas State (22-11, 10-8)

McGruder Led a Surprising K-State Team This Season

FINAL GRADE: B+

Despite all of the personnel question marks and the graduation of star Jacob Pullen, you had the sense Frank Martin would figure something out. He certainly did, as his team weathered a mid-season swoon to finish strong and reach another NCAA Tournament. Martin may have left for South Carolina after the season, but his final Kansas State team fought hard in 2011-12 despite a load of adversity. A December championship at the Diamond Head Classic helped the Wildcats enter the Top 25 before Big 12 play, but poor offensive execution and a lack of consistency on the defensive end doomed the Wildcats during the winter. They weren’t playing like Martin’s teams usually did. They weren’t tough, and it showed, starting 1-3 in Big 12 play and dropping four home games in Manhattan. Oklahoma swept them. Things were getting ugly, and they hit rock bottom after a home loss to Kansas on Big Monday on February 13. That’s when Martin turned this thing around and solidified an NCAA Tournament berth. The Wildcats got back to the basics: defense, rebounding and delivering a knockout punch to opponents. Rodney McGruder stepped up his play as the team’s star, helping it win four of five games to close the season, including road wins at Baylor and Missouri. The controversial suspension of Jamar Samuels left Kansas State without its best forward in an NCAA Third Round game against Syracuse, but it’s impressive that this team even reached that point. With McGruder presumably returning next year, first-year coach Bruce Weber will have a lot to work with. Angel Rodriguez should be even better as a sophomore, and Will Spradling and Jordan Henriquez should grow, too.

4. Iowa State (23-11, 12-6) 

FINAL GRADE: A

The Transfer Effect worked to Iowa State’s benefit this year. In December, we wrote a piece questioning Fred Hoiberg’s recruiting tactics, as he’d brought in four Division I transfers this season. It took a while for everybody to get acclimated, resulting in a couple of losses to Drake and Northern Iowa during an inconsistent non-conference stretch. But once league play began, this team took off. Royce White took the nation by storm with his wild hair and versatile play, showing an ability to run the Cyclones’ offense as a sort of point-forward. He emerged as one of the most fascinating and entertaining players to watch in college basketball, but the team around him helped add to the fun. These guys shot lights-out from beyond the arc, including senior Scott Christopherson, who finished with the highest three-point percentage in the Big 12 (45.5%) for players with more than four attempts per game. Hoiberg added a fresh energy to this program, leading ISU to a victory over Connecticut in the NCAA Tournament. His team even briefly competed against Kentucky before falling apart late in that matchup. There was no fairy-tale March run for The Mayor, but given time, his program may eventually reach those heights. The 2011-12 season marked a major turning point for the Cyclones.

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Grading the Big 12′s 2011-12 Season: Bottom Half

Posted by dnspewak on April 5th, 2012

With the 2011-12 campaign now just a memory, it’s difficult to actually remember all of the drama and agony the Big 12 experienced during the last five months. Kansas’ thrilling loss to Duke in the Maui Invitational seems like ages ago, as does the Jayhawks’ first loss to Kentucky at Madison Square Garden. Remember when Missouri and Baylor were only a few of the remaining unbeaten teams in college basketball? Or when Texas found a way to lose game after game in the most heartbreaking fashion? These memories are hard to digest, but you’ll probably never forget the Border War drama between Kansas and Missouri, nor will you forget Iowa State’s rise thanks to the brilliant play of Royce White. The Big 12 kept playing until the final game of the 2011-12 season, ending with Kansas’ loss to Kentucky in the title game on Monday. And with the conclusion of this wild campaign, the final grades are in. Kansas earns an A+. Big surprise. Texas A&M earns an F. Big surprise, too, but for different reasons. The other eight teams settled into a grade somewhere between those two extremes.

We’ll cover the bottom half of the league today, and the top half tomorrow.

10. Texas Tech (8-23, 1-17)

Gillispie's First Year in Lubbock Wasn't Great

FINAL GRADE: D

The Red Raiders get a free pass in Billy Gillispie‘s first season. Playing almost exclusively with newcomers, Texas Tech had no chance this year. Robert Lewandowski was the only senior on the roster, but not even he could lead this team to any sort of success. Their inexperience was just too much to overcome. The Red Raiders were plagued by turnovers all season and they never got consistent point guard play. Jordan Tolbert emerged as the leading scorer in the frontcourt, and he played the most consistent basketball on the team from November through February. Still, even after a last-place finish, Texas Tech should not worry about the state of this program. Gillispie’s success at UTEP and Texas A&M proves he can win in this state, and he’ll have almost everybody back next season.

9. Texas A&M (14-18, 4-14)

FINAL GRADE: F

Sorry, A&M. You fail. Picked in the pre-season to win the Big 12, the Aggies suffered through a nightmare year, though there are extenuating circumstances to consider here. Coach Billy Kennedy learned of a Parkinson’s diagnosis in the fall, which kept him sidelined for fall practice and away from his team during critical teaching moments. As a first-year coach, Kennedy never had the chance to establish himself to his new players. Adding to the woes, many of those players missed time themselves with injuries. Star wing Khris Middleton had surgery on his knee in November and sat out part of Big 12 play. Point guard Dash Harris missed a handful of games, too, and his backup Jamal Branch transferred before conference play. Kourtney Roberson played only nine games before his season ended due to injury as well. As the troubles mounted, the losses began to pile up. The Aggies simply could not score because of all the roster turnover and the lack of creators on the offensive end. We thought this team could muscle its way to a Big 12 title by playing with the principles former coach Mark Turgeon instilled, but that never happened. Now, Kennedy must revamp this program and forget about the 2011-12 nightmare.

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2011-12 Rush the Court All-America Teams

Posted by zhayes9 on March 29th, 2012

If there’s one thing to take away from this year’s Rush the Court All-America team, it’s that none of us are as smart as we think.

Back in November, our voters were on the same page as the majority of national writers, pegging Jared Sullinger, Harrison Barnes, Jordan Taylor, Terrence Jones and Tu Holloway for our preseason All-America first team. Only Sullinger followed that up with a spot on the postseason squad. As for our Ashton Gibbs-John Jenkins-Jeremy Lamb-Perry Jones-Tyler Zeller second team, only Zeller lived up to the billing. Nostradamus is not walking through that door.

Rather than discussing players who failed to match those high hopes, let’s delve into the players who exceeded or met expectations. After tallying the votes and discarding any hanging chads, here are our postseason 2011-12 RTC All-Americans:

Note: voters took conference and NCAA Tournament results into consideration.

Anthony Davis edged out Thomas Robinson for player of the year

First Team All-America

Anthony Davis, Kentucky (RTC National Player of the Year)- A near-unanimous player of the year selection, Davis made more of an impact on the defensive end of the floor than any other contender for the award. His 4.6 blocks per game doesn’t adequately account for how many shots he altered, turnovers he caused and general fear he struck in the minds of opponents. Causing havoc on defense is one thing, but Davis also showed off a rapidly improving post-up and face-up repertoire, displaying incredible offensive versatility in an efficient manner. Davis picked his spots well on a loaded Kentucky team, shooting 67% from inside the arc, grabbing 10 rebounds per game and shooting 71% from the charity stripe. From overlooked recruit to McDonald’s All-American to Final Four to Player of the Year frontrunner and soon the number one overall pick, it’s been quite the magical ride for Davis.

Thomas Robinson, Kansas- After coming off the bench behind the Morris twins last season, Robinson was pegged as the popular pick to break out in a big way in 2011-12. Robinson delivered on those predictions and more, averaging 17.9 points, 11.8 rebounds and shooting 51% from inside the arc. Robinson, who was asked to carry the load for a Jayhawks squad ravaged by early entry and graduation, quickly emerged as the premier low-post scorer in America. Robinson is flush with gifted athleticism, an NBA veteran’s body and unstoppable post moves. For a player who overcame indescribable adversity a season ago, any neutral observer during this year’s Final Four could do a lot worse than root for Robinson.

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The Final Game: How a Star and a Walk-On Finished Their Careers in Kansas City

Posted by dnspewak on March 28th, 2012

Danny Spewak is a Big 12 Microsite writer. He wrote this piece after covering the first two days of the Big 12 Tournament in Kansas City.  You can follow him on Twitter @dspewak.

One senior exits the court at the Sprint Center with 53 seconds remaining, walking gingerly toward his coach as an entire arena stands to applaud his four years of contributions. He will be remembered in college for playing more minutes than any player in program history — 4,322 to be exact. He is a former high school legend who set a state record for most points in a single season, once totaling 61 points in a single contest. He is a star and always will be. A name nobody around his parts will or could ever forget.

A night earlier, another senior enters the court at the Sprint Center with 21.2 seconds remaining on the clock, jogging toward his teammates as a few supporters in the stands politely applaud his four years of contributions. He will be remembered in college for hardly ever playing any minutes — 111 to be exact. He is a former high school point guard who won a 2008 state title without even scoring five points per game for his team, a man who has never been a star and never will be. A name most people around his parts will immediately forget.

T.J. Franklin and Keiton Page played their last games in Kansas City, Mo. (Photos by Oklahoma Sooners and NewsOK.com)

From a statistical standpoint, Keiton Page and T.J. Franklin could not possibly be any different. At the same time, they could not possibly be more alike. They are two seniors beloved by their teammates and coaches. They are two seniors considered within their respective programs as unquestioned leaders, guys who always say and do the right thing. They are two seniors who represent the best of college athletics.

This is not a story just about a household name and a walk-on. It is a story about two seniors who saw their careers end in the span of 24 hours in Kansas City, Missouri. A story about what it’s like to pour your entire life into one sport and see it all evaporate in the matter of two hours. A story about how Page and Franklin are entirely different and yet entirely the same. Read the rest of this entry »

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Rushed Reaction: #15 Norfolk St 86, #2 Missouri 84

Posted by Patrick Marshall on March 16th, 2012

Three Key Takeaways.

  1. A fight and not a show. Missouri might have come into the game as the favorite today, but Norfolk State was not going to stand by lightly, putting up a fight and taking it to the Tigers early.  Missouri players looked frustrated throughout the game in trying to stop the Spartans, but the shots kept going in. Kim English was held to only two points on 1-7 shooting and 0-5 from three, 12 off of his season average.  At one point in the game, you could see Missouri guard Michael Dixon showing his frustration at the free throw line telling his team to, “c’mon guys.”
  2. Three point shooting vital. The Spartans and Tigers both had better shooting from the three-point line than the previous game with Florida and Virginia.  The two teams combined to shoot 23-of-58 from behind the arc.  Marcus Denmon and Dixon from Missouri were the big keys in the Tigers going 8-16.  But it was Pendarvis Williams and Chris McEachin that combined for 8-of-12 for Norfolk State that kept them in the game throughout.
  3. Three headed monster. Norfolk State had balanced scoring  with four players in double figures. MEAC offensive and defensive Player of the Year Kyle O’Quinn led the way with 26 points and 14 rebounds while Williams and McEachin each had 20 points.  Each player stepped up at different times during the game. The Spartans had 16 second chance points.   They will need this heading into their next round against Florida.

Star of the Game. Kyle O’Quinn, Norfolk State. O’Quinn knew things could be in the cards for the Spartans early in the first half when he hit a three-pointer from the top of the key.  After that play he smiled, running down the court and gave quite a fist pump to let the crowd know he was having fun.

Quotable–“I never thought it would be an upset alert until that buzzer went off.” Norfolk State Center, Kyle O’Quinn.

Wildcard. If you know anything about Omaha, they embrace big events that come to the city. The NCAA Tournament is one of those big events.  As the game went on, Omaha residents that bought tickets to this event embraced Norfolk State and started adding to the overall environment. Then if you add in the Kansas fans who had all-session tickets getting ready for the Jayhawks to take the court later in the evening, it created for an electric afternoon.

Wildcard x2. With Norfolk State getting the win, the #15 seeds are now 5-105 in NCAA Tournament history.  Out of those five wins, three of those came from the MEAC conference.

What’s Next? Norfolk State will now face Florida for the chance to go to the Sweet Sixteen in Phoenix on Sunday.  Can the Spartans bring the magic back to the CenturyLink for one more game?

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Big 12 Morning Five: 03.16.12 Edition

Posted by dnspewak on March 16th, 2012

  1. First, for your disturbing, what-is-wrong-with-the-world news, the Southern Miss band apparently chanted a racial/xenophobic slur at Kansas State guard Angel Rodriguez. Several things strike us about this particular incident. First of all, it’s shameful a visible group like the band would involve itself in these sorts of shenanigans. Second of all, chanting “Where’s your green card?” to Rodriguez actually makes no sense, considering he’s from Puerto Rico (learn your geography). Third of all, we wonder if these people would have had the guts to chant this at Frank Martin, who is of Cuban heritage, but was born in Miami. We’re guessing that’s a no.
  2. Frank Haith has worked his magic at Missouri all year, partly because of his businesslike demeanor. You will often hear Kim English, for example, talk about Haith’s preparation and attention to detail. Whether you’d like to give Haith or Mike Anderson credit for this dream season, you can’t deny Haith has done a masterful job taking someone else’s players and adapting them to his own coaching style.
  3. Marcus Denmon and Kim English are nursing minor injuries, but they seem to be nothing more than small distractions. At this point, everybody is banged up. It’s still worth mentioning that Denmon is dealing with a foot problem and English has sore quads. Ever the comedian, English said coach Frank Haith will need to erase his lob play from the playbook. As if English could ever throw down an alley-oop off a lob– not that we could even come close, of course.
  4. Billy Kennedy has a message for you: don’t worry about him at Texas A&M. He says he’s here to stay in College Station, less than a year after a Parkinson’s diagnosis. After a disastrous first season, Kennedy will bring back a few starters and must now rebuild his program to fit his image and personal style. Now that his health is improving, that should be an easier task.
  5. Tad Boyle‘s a smart guy. That’s why he coaches Colorado and has them in the NCAA Tournament. Still, it’s a little humorous to see him make a statement like this in regards to the Big 12 vs. the Pac-12: “All I can tell you is coming from the Big 12, which is a heck of a league, and coming into the Pac-12, which is a heck of a league, the difference in respect factor is huge,” Boyle said. “The difference in talent and ability and quality of play is small.” Um, no. Not this year.
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SEC NCAA Tournament Primer: Friday/Sunday Games

Posted by Brian Joyce on March 16th, 2012

On Friday, Florida and Alabama open their NCAA Tournament runs facing Virginia and Creighton, respectively. Here we preview the Friday/Sunday possibilities for the Gators and Crimson Tide.

SEC NCAA Tournament Friday/Sunday Capsules

WEST Region 

  • #7 Florida: Tournament appearances: 16; Record 32-14; Best Finish: National Champion – 2006, 2007; Final Four appearances: 4; How Qualified: At-Large, SEC; Last Appearance: 2011 – L, Regional Final
  • #10 Virginia: Tournament appearances: 16; Record 22-16; Best Finish: Final Four – 1981, 1984; Final Four appearances: 2; How Qualified: At-Large, ACC; Last Appearance: 2007 – L, Second Round
  • #2 Missouri: Tournament appearances: 24; Record 22-23; Best Finish: Elite Eight – 2009, 2002, 1994* (vacated by NCAA), 1976, 1944; Final Four appearances: 0; How Qualified: Automatic Bid, Big 12; Last Appearance: 2011 – L, First Round
  • #15 Norfolk State: Tournament appearances: 0; Record 0-0; Best Finish: N/A; Final Four appearances: 0; How Qualified: Automatic Bid, Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference; Last Appearance: N/A
All-Time Meetings
  • Florida vs Virginia: Virginia leads 1-0; Last Meeting: March 30, 1992 (Virginia 62, Florida 56)
  • Florida vs Missouri: Never met
  • Florida vs Norfolk State: Never met

The Gators Have A Tough Road To Get To The Sweet Sixteen

A Starting 5 of the Top Players Florida Could Face
  • Kyle O’Quinn, Norfolk State, Sr. C: O’Quinn is the anchor for a Norfolk State team excited for its first ever NCAA Tournament appearance. If the Spartans could somehow make it past Missouri, Florida’s Patric Young would battle O’Quinn in the post. The beast of the MEAC averaged 15.9 points and 10.4 rebounds per game.
  • Mike Scott, Virginia, Sr., F: The Gators will have their hands full with one of the ACC’s top talents. Scott finished the year averaging 18.1 points and 8.4 rebounds per game earning him first team All-ACC honors. The forward has been on a tear of late, finishing with a double-double in his last three outings. He scored 28 against Florida State, 35 against Maryland and wrapped up with 23 points in his final game against North Carolina State.
  • Kim English, Missouri, Sr. F/G: English lit it up from three-point land this season, shooting 47.3 percent from downtown. English’s overall shooting percentages improved from 36.6 percent a year ago to a cool 53 percent this season. The improvements he’s made in his offensive game have the Tigers thinking about their first ever Final Four.
  • Marcus Denmon, Missouri, Sr. G: Denmon has shown he can do a little bit of everything. The 6’3″ guard averages 17.6 points, 5.1 rebounds, and 2.1 assists per game to lead a balanced Tigers attack in scoring. Denmon has been consistent, shooting above 40 percent from beyond the arc on the season.
  • Phil Pressey, Missouri, So. G: Pressey is just a sophomore, but he is the court general for the poised Missouri Tigers. Pressey is averaging 10 points, 6.3 assists, 3.4 rebounds and over 2 steals per game. He doesn’t always score in bunches, but finds ways to get his teammates involved in the game as evidenced by his double-digit assists in seven games this season.
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The RTC Interview Series: One on One With Charles Barkley

Posted by rtmsf on March 15th, 2012

Rush The Court is back with another edition of One on One: An Interview Series, which we will bring you periodically throughout the year. If you have any specific interview requests or want us to interview you, shoot us an email at rushthecourt@yahoo.com.

Hall of Fame power forward Charles Barkley has become without question one of the most entertaining analysts on sports television. TNT’s Inside the NBA has been must-watch television for over a decade now in large part because of his wit and wisdom, and Barkley’s recent foray into college basketball analysis with Turner Sports has helped pick up what had been a somewhat stuffy studio environment. For the past month, Rush the Court has been providing a weekly column  called What Would Charles Say? on Barkley’s website, and he was gracious enough to allow us to spend some time with him this week for a short Q&A. 

Charles Barkley Will Provide Analysis All March Long for the NCAA Tournament

Rush the Court: Charles, the big news early this week was the news that Fab Melo was ruled ineligible for the NCAA Tournament. I was hoping to get your take on how you feel that impacts the chances for Syracuse and Jim Boeheim to get to the Final Four and win a national championship this year?

Charles Barkley: Well, I think that they probably can’t win the championship, but they’re still deep enough to go deep into the Tournament. But I don’t think they can win it without him… but they’re still the deepest team in the Tournament, honestly, top to bottom.

RTC: So the news has come out that this relates to an academic issue for Melo, and with all the academic services that schools give these guys nowadays, how does that happen? How do you drop the ball so badly that you’re not even eligible for the Tournament?

CB: Well, to me it’s very frustrating, because if you get this deep in the season, you should already have all that stuff squared away. I mean… c’mon man. You’re really letting your team down at this point.

RTC: Certainly. Well let me ask you about last year, there was a little bit of criticism with you, Kenny [Smith], and Ernie [Johnson], as knowledgeable as you guys are about NBA stuff, coming in to the college basketball world and giving your takes with maybe not having watched games the whole season. But that ended very quickly with your take on the Big East — how it wasn’t as good as everybody thought — with nine out of the 11 teams gone by the end of the first weekend. Do you have any early takes this year on maybe a conference or teams that you’re just not buying?

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Bracket Prep: West Region Analysis

Posted by AMurawa on March 12th, 2012

Throughout Monday, we will roll out our region-by-region analysis on the following schedule: East (9 AM), South (11 AM), Midwest (2 PM), West (4 PM). Here, Andrew Murawa (@amurawa) breaks down the West Region from top to bottom. Also, be sure to follow our RTC West Region handle on Twitter for continuous updates the next two weeks (@RTCwestregion).

You can also check out our RTC Podblast with Andrew breaking down the West Region here.

West Region

Favorite: Michigan State, #1, 27-7. This is the fourth time in the Tom Izzo era that Michigan State has earned a #1 seed. The previous three times (1999, 2000, and 2001), they advanced at least to the Final Four, winning the national title in 2000. Led by likely All-American senior forward Draymond Green, this is, almost without question, the best Spartan team since those teams at the turn of the century. They do have to go forward without injured freshman Branden Dawson, out for the year with a torn ACL, but senior Brandon Wood stepped into his starting spot and he shot the ball well in the Big Ten Tournament this weekend. You can say that there are more talented teams in this region (Missouri and Marquette come to mind), but beating Izzo in March is always easier said than done.

Draymond Green And Michigan State Are The Team To Beat In The West Region (AP)

Should They Falter: Missouri, #2, 30-4. While the Spartans are the favorite, the Tigers are a solid 1-A. The Selection Committee had Mizzou as the #8 overall seed, but they have been excellent all season long behind the most efficient offense in the nation. The Tigers are undersized (only two players taller than 6’6” are in the rotation) and lack depth (they only play seven guys), but head coach Frank Haith gets every last drop out of the guys who do play. And with guards like Marcus Denmon, Kim English, Phil Pressey, and Michael Dixon, they have enough talent on the perimeter to cause plenty of trouble.

Grossly Overseeded: BYU, #14 (First Four), 26-8. I don’t have a whole lot of problems with any of the seeding this year; I think the Selection Committee by and large did a pretty good job. But I’m not sure why BYU is in the tournament. Their lone quality win of the season is over Gonzaga, a team who doesn’t have much in the way of quality wins itself. I would rather have seen a team like Drexel or Oral Roberts (teams admittedly without a ton of big wins either) get the Cougars’ spot. The Dragons and Golden Eagles both had better records against top 50 RPI teams, and both excelled in their conference regular season. I will even take Iona, their First Four opponent, over the Cougs despite a complete lack of quality wins on the Gaels’ resume. The committee gave Iona credit for scheduling a tough non-conference slate, and their strength of schedule out of conference even exceeds BYU’s.

Grossly Underseeded: Missouri, #2, 30-4. I’m having trouble working up a whole lot of outrage about anything in the bracket, but Missouri should not have dropped to the #8 overall seed. To me, they were right in the conversation with Kansas for the #5 overall seed (and I might have given Missouri the edge, although the committee docked them for a relatively tame non-conference schedule). The only difference for the Tigers in terms of their placement in the bracket is that had they earned the #5 overall seed, they would have been dropped in the St. Louis regional instead of being shipped West. But the good news is that they still are in the bracket with the lowest #1 seed. It all works out.

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Missouri Punishes Undermanned Oklahoma State Team

Posted by dnspewak on March 8th, 2012

Danny Spewak is a Big 12 Microsite writer and will provide wall-to-wall coverage of the Big 12 Tournament from the Sprint Center in Kansas City this weekend. He filed this piece after Missouri’s. You can follow him on Twitter @dspewak.

With his team trailing by 22 points by the first media timeout of the second half Thursday, Oklahoma State coach Travis Ford clapped his hands eight times and grimaced, resigned to the fact his team’s season would end in less than 16 minutes. It was a minor miracle his team even defeated Oklahoma on Wednesday and had the opportunity to lose to Missouri, 88-70, in the quarterfinals. “I think fatigue was a little bit of a factor,” Ford said. ”I think Missouri played up on that. That was probably something they talked about: ‘hey, Oklahoma State doesn’t have a whole lot of players… let’s go at them early.” Want the full rundown of OSU’s adversity this season? Start with this: Star freshman Le’Bryan Nash and big man Philip Jurick aren’t playing in this tournament due to injury. Two of his point guards, Reger Dowell and Fred Gulley, transferred within two weeks of each other before Big 12 play began. J.P. Olukemi hasn’t played in months after tearing his knee up. This is also a team playing Brian Williams out of position at the four and using Markel Brown to run the point at times.

Despite What This Picture Looks Like, It Wasn't That Hard-Fought of a Win for Missouri (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

But the Tigers didn’t care. They’ve got their own issues to worry about, like winning a Big 12 Tournament title and earning a top seed in the NCAA Tournament. They roared to a 49-24 halftime lead, looking like athletes from another planet. Missouri dominated the boards and dominated defensively, with Phil Pressey getting his hands on every basketball that came his way. The sophomore point guard finished with five steals. “I’m just playing defense the way I know how to play,” Pressey said. “That’s what my coaches want me to do. And I came out with some steals.” As usual, the Tigers shared the ball and knocked down open three-pointer after open three-pointer, using what Kim English called “Pete Carril” ball movement to shoot nearly 60% from the field. “We had tremendous ball movement. Good ball movement relieves the tension of the offense,” English said, as his coach winked at him for such an astute observation.

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Insider’s Practice Report: Missouri

Posted by dnspewak on March 7th, 2012

Danny Spewak is a Big 12 microsite writer and will provide wall-to-wall coverage from the Big 12 Tournament in Kansas City. You can follow him on Twitter @dspewak

The second they took the floor at the Sprint Center this afternoon, the Missouri Tigers started talking. And they didn’t stop talking until their 40-minute practice window ended. “Let’s be crisp this whole time,” Kim English told his teammates at the very beginning. “No mistakes.” With a top seed in the NCAA Tournament on the line this weekend and a potential Border War finale with Kansas on Saturday, the Tigers can’t afford to lose focus. They vocally encouraged each other and practiced with great tempo, completing each drill with a purpose and running from spot to spot with a hop in their steps.

Ever The Comedians, Missouri Joked Its Way Through Practice

Of course, whenever they caught a free moment, the Tigers became comedians. As Marcus Denmon worked on throwing a hail mary/long release pass off an inbounds play at the baseline, he likened himself to Peyton Manning. English started singing. Michael Dixon pretended to shoot a game-winning three with nobody covering him, and assistant Tim Fuller caught slack for throwing a terrible pass in a drill. Frank Haith actually had to use a few choice words at one point to settle his team down, and he urged them not to take this Big 12 Tournament for granted. “I emphasize this to the guys all the time: some players have unlaced their shoes for good already,” Haith said after practice. “The Big 12 Championship is a priority.”

The practice only reached moderate intensity in the final few minutes, when Haith ran a defensive shell drill. Listen to the communication by each defender:

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