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: 01.27.14 Edition

Posted by Taylor Erickson on January 27th, 2014

morning5_big12

  1. As good as Marcus Smart has been in his relatively brief college career, it appears some of his on-court antics are growing old on many college basketball fans. On Saturday against West Virginia, Smart was visibly frustrated after not getting some foul calls in his favor, but as John Hoover of the Tulsa World writes, the sophomore is just simply too good of a basketball player to dilute his on-court performances with his emotions.
  2. At this point in the season, Texas head coach Rick Barnes has to be the front-runner for Big 12 Coach of the Year honors. Barnes entered the season on the hot seat, and all he’s done to this point is lead his team to a 16-4 overall record (5-2 in Big 12 play) with three straight wins over ranked teams — a feat that had never been performed in the long history of Texas basketball. After a road win at Baylor on Saturday, Barnes praised the commitment to improvement made by his team this season, and it would appear that the members of the program have no intention of seeing their coach’s career in Austin end anytime soon.
  3. With so much quality depth in the Big 12 this season and the round-robin format to league play, teams are bound to face several ridiculously difficult stretches throughout the year. Kansas State has found itself in exactly this scenario after losing back-to-back games games against Texas and Iowa State last week. That’s the same Iowa State team that just dropped three games in a row of its own. In such a tough conference, the key for Bruce Weber’s Wildcats will be making sure that two losses in a week don’t turn into three or four over two weeks and threaten to derail the team’s hopes of postseason play.
  4. Speaking of Iowa State, the Cyclones’ win on Saturday at home against Kansas State may have provided more than just another number in the win column as Matt Thomas appeared to get back on track by knocking down 4-of-6 shots from behind the arc. Thomas had struggled with his shooting to start league play, making just 23.5 percent from three for someone considered as one of the best shooters in this year’s freshman class. While Fred Hoiberg’s team still shoots the ball well from deep, they would be improved tremendously if Thomas could consistently come off the bench for instant offenses in much the same way that Tyus McGee did a season ago.
  5. TCU head coach Trent Johnson came away from his home loss to Kansas on Saturday night mightily impressed by the enormous amount of talent Bill Self has at his disposal in Lawrence. Johnson said after the game that he believes that the Jayhawks have six pros on their team, but junior point guard Naadir Tharpe is the player who is the reason Kansas has been playing so well. Tharpe, along with freshman guards Frank Mason and Wayne Selden, managed to get through Saturday night’s rout without a single turnover, a tendency that has plagued the perimeter players at times this season.
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Big 12 M5: 01.24.14 Edition

Posted by Kory Carpenter on January 24th, 2014

morning5_big12

  1. As Bill Self points out and Jesse Newell of the Topeka Capital-Journal expands upon hereKansas has one of the best offenses in the country but there is still room for improvement. “Although[the offense] has been good, it hasn’t been like what it can be, and so I’m not too excited,” Self told Newell recently. Self is right. The Jayhawks were going to have a really good offense this season because Self is one of the best coaches in the country and the roster is stacked with future pros, but turnovers could be their downfall in March.
  2. Sports Illustrated‘s Chris Johnson has a good piece about Texas head coach Rick Barnes and the defense his team has been playing this season. It has kept them in the hunt for an NCAA Tournament bid and cooled the seat Barnes was sitting on. As Johnson points out, the Longhorns are allowing just 0.81 points per possession in their halfcourt defense this season. They don’t have enough offensive firepower to consistently outscore teams, but they can hang with anybody in the league with a defense like that.
  3. We may be getting closer to a resolution in the twisting, turning saga of Bubu Palo and the school’s efforts to keep him off the team. The Iowa Supreme Court has denied the Board of Regents’ request for an immediate stay on a ruling that reinstated Palo to the Cyclones while an appeal with the district court is settled. The details are somewhat complicated, but this latest development means that for now, Palo is formally a member of the team. It’s worth pointing out that head coach Fred Hoiberg is under no obligation to work him back into Iowa State’s plans, even as the team has suffered a funk of late. Still, while Palo isn’t considered a dynamic player on the court, the evolution of his case could mean big things in determining whether membership on a college sports team is a privilege or a right, and which entities have the authority to make such a determination.
  4. Videos of seldom-used players messing around in their gyms and hitting trick shots aren’t anything new, but Oklahoma walk-on James Fraschilla brings something different to the table. Fraschilla brings in a few special guests for his latest clip, including teammate Ryan Spangler and Sooner quarterback Trevor Knight. Most importantly, Fraschilla wraps up the video with a suggestion that viewers contribute to Hayden’s Hope, a charity started by ESPN personality Dari Nowkah which raises awareness for pediatric organ donation. It’s always nice to see students doing good, and we definitely encourage our readers to check out the video for yourself and give whatever you can to the cause.
  5. As the adage goes, shooters are gonna shoot. That was the key for Terry Henderson, who helped West Virginia snap a three-game losing skid on Wednesday by scoring 28 points to escape against Texas Tech. The Mountaineers will look for Henderson to bring the hot hand with him to Stillwater when West Virginia takes on Oklahoma State tomorrow afternoon. WVU needs a marquee win in the worst way, and Henderson will need his teammates just as much as they need him.
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Big 12 Bubble Watch: Texas is Here to Stay

Posted by Nate Kotisso on January 23rd, 2014

Want a good laugh? Take a look at our Big 12 Bubble Watch from six weeks ago. Look at how gaudy those early season records were! Sigh, we were only kids then. But now is a lot different. Kansas appears headed for another Big 12 championship while early favorites Baylor and Iowa State are struggling to find themselves in conference play. Kansas State has turned around what could have been a disaster of a season following a co-Big 12 title last year. Oklahoma State is very much in the conversation for dethroning the Jayhawks and Rick Barnes’ Texas Longhorns continue to surprise us game after game.

(Ed. Note: While it was unclear in December who would win the Big 12, at least now we have a good enough sample size to project a team to take the conference’s automatic bid. For this particular scenario, that Big 12 champion is Kansas. Not considered in this Bubble Watch were TCU, Texas Tech and West Virginia.) 

Rick Barnes has coached himself back into the Texas job this season. I'm sure I could have phrased that better. (Grant Halverson/Getty Images)

Rick Barnes has coached himself back into the Texas job this season. I’m sure I could have phrased that better. (Grant Halverson/Getty Images)

In Very Good Shape

Oklahoma State: 15-3 (3-2); RPI: 12, SOS: 38

Analysis: It seemed like the world would come crashing down when Michael Cobbins went down with a season-ending Achilles injury and the Stevie Clark situation(s) flared up, but it wasn’t so. Marcus Smart is still doing Marcus Smart things and did you know Phil Forte is connecting on half of his three-pointers this season (53-for-106)? Seriously. Oklahoma State managed to be a few possessions from winning at both Kansas State and Kansas (and for that matter, a few possessions from losing at West Virginia). While having Memphis and Colorado as good non-conference wins, nice RPI and SOS numbers, no bad losses, and the rough part of their schedule still to come, Travis Ford’s team has plenty of chances to add to its portfolio.

Iowa State: 14-3 (2-3); RPI: 10, SOS: 11

Analysis: Surprised to see these guys here? The Cyclones’ struggles have been well-documented and their chances at a Big 12 regular season title are dwindling, but there is still a lot going right for this team. Remember that win over Michigan in mid-November? Its luster started to fade but the Mitch McGary-less Wolverines have re-entered the Big Ten title race with consecutive wins at Wisconsin and against Iowa. Speaking of the Hawkeyes, Iowa State beat them last month as well. At this point in the season, the difference between the Cyclones and Baylor is their head-to-head match-up in Ames where Fred Hoiberg’s team took them out with ease. What will be interesting to see from the Cyclones now will be how they deal with DeAndre Kane’s minutes. He’s played 35 minutes or more in every Big 12 game while battling an ankle injury. Will Hoiberg try to work Bubu Palo, who was placed back on the team by a county judge, into the rotation to supplant Kane? We shall see.

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Big 12 M5: 01.16.14 Edition

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 16th, 2014

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  1. The Big 12 is one of the two best conferences in the country, so it comes as no surprise that a handful of players from the league made The Sporting News’ midseason All-American teams, which were released on Wednesday. Marcus Smart cracked TSN‘s first team, while Andrew Wiggins and DeAndre Kane made the second and third teams, respectively. The absence of Joel Embiid is a testament to the quality of the top-shelf individual talents around college basketball, but with half a season left, there’s plenty of time for the heralded phenom to make himself a bigger part of the discussion.
  2. With this June’s NBA Draft being hyped as perhaps the best since 2003, NBA scouts are constantly on the move from venue to venue to get a close look at the next wave of pros. DraftExpress gave us a peek behind the curtain of how scouts take in college games, surveying personnel and executives on their experiences and how they develop relationships with prospect-laden programs. It’s a fascinating look at which schools are most accommodating to scouts and which ones leave more to be desired, as well as the prolonged effects of something as seemingly small as being given a sub-optimal seat at a college game. As far as the Big 12 is concerned, Kansas, Baylor and Iowa State were cited as having the most welcoming support staffs for pro personnel, while the setups and Oklahoma State and Texas drew ire for a relative lack of hospitality.
  3. In by far the biggest upset of conference play so far, Texas Tech topped Baylor in Lubbock last night, 82-72. What was most surprising about the Red Raiders’ effort was that the team wasn’t the least bit fazed by the Bears’ zone, attacking the paint with alacrity and getting offensive rebounds when their initial shots didn’t fall. Baylor made a few small runs in the second half, but never got it close. Dejan Kravic led the way with a great all-around game, posting 14 rebounds, nine boards and six assists off the bench. Baylor was never as good as its 12th-ranked spot in the ESPN poll suggested, but this is a bad loss for the Bears, even on the road. The conference as a whole benefits, since the victory catapulted Texas Tech from 103rd to 90th in Ken Pomeroy’s rankings. The Big 12 now has nine of its ten teams in KenPom’s top 100.
  4. In recent years, alternate uniforms have played a key role in generating buzz for schools, whether it’s among the fan bases or on the recruiting trail. Kansas has sported two distinct throwback threads this season, and during Bill Self‘s weekly radio show, the head coach announced that Kansas’ alternate uniforms will be kept in the rotation for next season. The announcement is somewhat surprising, given the Jayhawks’ reputation as a blue-blooded program with a very distinct yet classic look that doesn’t change very often, but in the currently competitive landscape, teams have to keep up with one another. As long as the Jayhawks continue to win in the new unis, it’s tough to foresee much resentment from the fans.
  5. Jeff Haley of Burnt Orange Nation breaks down advanced metrics about as well as anyone, and he has some interesting insights about Texas‘ last two games and about the Big 12 in general. One nugget that seems to be flying under the radar is about the Longhorns’ strength on the glass, which has allowed them to pull out some games they otherwise wouldn’t have won. Rick Barnes‘ team is one to keep an eye on as we advance into the heart of conference play, and they’ll likely need a scalp or two from the top tier of the conference to crack the NCAA Tournament field this year.
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Big 12 Power Rankings: Kansas is Finally Finding Itself

Posted by Nate Kotisso on January 13th, 2014

Going into last Wednesday’s game against Oklahoma, Bill Self told his players that conference play was a “new season” and that everything would be “fresh and new from this point forward.” The young Jayhawks have heeded that message so far, getting past the Sooners and soundly beating Kansas State on Saturday. With a 2-0 start in the Big 12, we all figured they would rise in this week’s power rankings, but by how much? Is your top 10 shaped differently than ours? That’s what the comments are for.

It appears safe to close the panic button for Bill Self and the Jayhawks. (AP Photo)

It appears safe to close the panic button for Bill Self and the Jayhawks. (AP Photo)

1. Kansas — 6 points (previous: 3rd; Brian-1st, Kory-1st, Nate-3rd, Taylor-1st)

Comment: “It’s looking like Kansas’ non-conference struggles were nothing more than one of the youngest teams in the country playing one of the toughest schedules in the country. The Jayhawks have looked good the last two games and now have four legitimate threats to have a big game any on night: Andrew Wiggins,  Perry Ellis, Joel Embiid, and Wayne Selden.” – Kory Carpenter (@Kory_Carpenter)

2. Iowa State — 7 points (previous: 1st; Brian-2nd, Kory-2nd, Nate-1st, Taylor-2nd)

Comment: “I didn’t feel like I should drop the Cyclones in my top 10 — they lost to a pretty good Oklahoma team by five on the road. The winner of Kansas-Iowa State tonight will likely take my top spot next week.” – Nate Kotisso (@natekotisso)

3. Oklahoma State — 13 points (previous: 4th; Brian-3rd, Kory-3rd, Nate-4th, Taylor-3rd)

Comment: “Travis Ford’s squad avoided a disastrous start to conference play by knocking down a big three late to give them the win in Morgantown. If the Cowboys would have dropped two of their first three in league play to teams in the middle tier of the conference, they could have kissed their Big 12 title hopes goodbye.” – Taylor Erickson (@tc_erickson)

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Four Thoughts on Oklahoma State’s Win Over Texas

Posted by Taylor Erickson on January 9th, 2014

With aspirations of winning the Big 12 conference regular season title entering the season, a loss in the league opener on Saturday at Kansas State wasn’t exactly what Oklahoma State had in mind. The Cowboys returned home to Stillwater for a tilt Wednesday night with a Texas team that has been better than many expected. While the Longhorns managed to keep this game interesting throughout the first half, the talent of Oklahoma State helped the Cowboys pull away late to a fairly comfortable victory. Here’s four takeaways from the action in Stillwater last evening.

Oklahoma State Used a Strong Second Half to Beat Texas

Oklahoma State Used a Strong Second Half to Beat Texas (NewsOK.com)

  1. Markel Brown went down hard early in the first half, but the fall didn’t seem to have much of an impact on him as he returned to contribute 27 points, five rebounds, and four assists. At this point, I think it’s safe to say that Brown is probably the most underrated player in the nation. His play is often overshadowed by the incredible performances by Marcus Smart, but anyone familiar with Oklahoma State realizes just how good the senior guard in Stillwater also has been. Unfortunately for Travis Ford’s team, the loss of Michael Cobbins down low paired with the inconsistent play of LeBryan Nash, means that Brown and Smart will have to be on top of their game every night out to carry the Cowboys to a win. Read the rest of this entry »
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Previewing a Sneaky Good Saturday of Basketball on Tap

Posted by Bennet Hayes on December 21st, 2013

This Saturday’s schedule may not shimmer like last week’s did – the face-off between Oklahoma State and Colorado stands as the only game featuring two ranked teams – but dig a little bit and you may like what you find. Or better yet, let us do the digging: Here are four storylines to keep an eye on during this sneaky-good Saturday of college hoops.

Phog Allen Fieldhouse Has Hosted Quite A Few Visitors Over The Years, But Never The Georgetown Hoyas. That Will Change On Saturday.

Phog Allen Fieldhouse Has Hosted Quite A Few Visitors Over The Years, But Never The Georgetown Hoyas. That Will Change On Saturday.

Two Storied Programs Meet In Rare Clash

Kansas and Georgetown may have both inhabited the upper reaches of college basketball’s hierarchy for quite some time now, but that doesn’t mean the two programs know each other especially well. Saturday’s meeting at Phog Allen Fieldhouse (12 PM EST, ESPN) will be just the third time the two schools have faced off, although the latest Hoya-Jayhawk matchup was quite recent, coming just two seasons ago at the Maui Invitational. Needless to say, the cast of characters (on both sides) has seen a massive overhaul since that game. While this one is worth watching for the pure novelty of the Hoyas’ maiden voyage to Allen Fieldhouse, there’s more at stake here than just a new twist on history. Kansas seeks to maintain the momentum gained in last weekend’s win over New Mexico, while the Hoyas, firmly off the national radar for the past month, find themselves with a nice opportunity to quell some doubts after a shaky first month. Rock Chalk meets Hoya Saxa – quite a way to kick off the weekend.

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“Fire Rick Barnes?” Not So Fast…

Posted by Chris Johnson on December 19th, 2013

One of the things college basketball observers thought they knew to be true heading into the 2013-14 season was that Texas coach Rick Barnes’ tenure was nearing its end. He was doomed to be fired at (or possibly before) the end of the season, was the thinking. It wasn’t a matter of if, but when. Last season, the Longhorns missed the NCAA Tournament and lost more games than they had won for the first time under Barnes. It was the second consecutive year his team didn’t post a winning record in Big 12 play – after finishing above .500 against league competition the previous 13 years. Texas hasn’t advanced past the round of 32 in the Tournament since 2008, and Barnes’ recruiting prowess had seemingly eroded to unthinkable depths; of Scout. com’s 21 top-40 recruits from Texas in the past seven recruiting classes, only one (2012 center Cameron Ridley) had signed to play with the Longhorns, according to Gary Parrish. There was plenty of talk that Barnes – who in the past had brought in such top prospects as Avery Bradley, Daniel Gibson, Damion James, Cory Joseph, Kevin Durant, LaMarcus Aldridge, D.J. Augustin, Myck Kabongo and Tristan Thompson — had lost the drive and energy to recruit top prospects as persistently as he once did. Sources who spoke to Parrish said, “Barnes became disenchanted with the off-court grind it takes to maintain a certain level of success.”

One of the biggest positive surprises early this season is 10-1 Texas (Getty Images).

One of the biggest positive surprises early this season has been 10-1 Texas (Getty Images).

Top-ranked 2014 point guard Emmanuel Mudiay’s commitment to SMU in August was seen less as a promising development for Mustangs hoops than an indictment of Barnes’ inability to recruit in-state talent. Not only did Mudiay, who is projected as the fifth overall pick in DraftExpress’ 2015 mock draft, spurn Texas – he didn’t even consider the Longhorns one of his final choices. Things looked even bleaker when former Texas Director of Athletics DeLoss Dodds, long an ardent supporter of Barnes, announced on October 1 he was stepping down. A week later, Sports Illustrated’s Pete Thamel released a comprehensive report on the state of Texas’ athletic department that included quotes from Dodds and an anonymous high-ranking athletic department official that seemed to add credence to the widespread speculation that Barnes’ job was in danger. “I worry more about basketball,” Dodds told Thamel. “If I were going to pick one [program] to worry more about, I worry more about basketball.” Said the official, “I can’t imagine [Barnes] turning it around.” Another reason why Barnes’ job security appeared so tenuous heading into the season? His top four-scorers from 2012-13 (Kabongo, Sheldon McClellan, Julien Lewis, and Ioannis Papapetrou) had, either by way of transfer or signing professional contracts, left the program. The writing was on the wall for Barnes. His long and mostly successful stint as Texas’ coach had run its course, it seemed. He had virtually no hope of turning things around.

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Will the Real North Carolina Please Stand Up? Maybe It Already Has

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on December 19th, 2013

Will the real North Carolina basketball team please stand up? Or maybe they already have. Maybe this Tar Heels squad is going to have major ups and downs all year. Has a high profile team ever had a stranger first 10 games than the 2013-14 Tar Heels? Consider that North Carolina swept all three games with this preseason’s consensus top three teams – Kentucky, Michigan State and Louisville, but now has also lost to three unranked teams, and twice at home. After last night’s 86-83 loss to Texas, the Heels have managed to offset all three huge wins with three perplexing losses. Imagine what fun the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee is going to have trying to evaluate this team’s resume.

North Carolina Head Coach Roy Williams Was Not Pleased With His Team's Effort Against Texas (Photo: goheels.com)

North Carolina Head Coach Roy Williams Was Not Pleased With His Team’s Effort Against Texas
(Photo: goheels.com)

While Roy Williams‘ team is difficult to understand, let’s at least try to figure out what causes such huge swings in performance by looking at all six pivotal games. The first thing that stands out is how important the first half has been for this team. In all six games the Tar Heels outscored their opponents in the second half — by an average of eight points in the three big wins; and by five in the three bad losses. However, North Carolina has trailed at the half in the three losses by an average of 10 points. In the three wins, they were tied at the half with Louisville and Michigan State and led Kentucky by three. So it’s safe to say that a good start is crucial to this Tar Heels team.

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Previewing Texas vs. North Carolina

Posted by Taylor Erickson & Lathan Wells on December 18th, 2013

(Ed. note: news released on Wednesday afternoon that UNC’s Leslie McDonald has been cleared to play as soon as tonight’s game. This post was written prior to that release.)

On Wednesday night, Texas will head to the Dean Dome for a showdown with what suddenly looks like one of the better teams in the nation in North Carolina. North Carolina has had its struggles early this season with losses to UAB and Belmont, but has righted the ship with perhaps the best collection of wins in the country after knocking off Louisville, Michigan State, and Kentucky – the top three teams in the preseason AP rankings. Texas has opened the season with a 9-1 record itself, but has yet to see the type of talent that the Tar Heels will roll out. ACC correspondent Lathan Wells and the Big 12′s Taylor Erickson decided to discuss some key topics heading into the contest in the hopes of providing some insights to watch for as the game plays out.

Can Marcus Paige continue his hot streak against Texas on Wednesday? (Scott Muthersbaugh / The Times News)

Can Marcus Paige continue his hot streak against Texas on Wednesday? (Scott Muthersbaugh / The Times News)

Taylor:  So I have to start with the obvious question: North Carolina has three of the best wins in non-conference play, but also has puzzling losses to UAB and Belmont. Which Tar Heels team are we going to see on Wednesday night?

Lathan: Prior to the Kentucky game, that would continue to be the prevailing question. But after their third marquee non-conference win of the season, it appears that UNC is starting to find some consistency. The players appear to be more comfortable in their roles. The fact that Texas has taken four of the last five since Roy Williams took over in Chapel Hill may be motivation enough. Speaking of adapting to roles, how has Texas been able to have such a solid start with a team that entered the season in the midst of major transition?

Taylor: The 9-1 start for Texas has certainly been refreshing to Longhorns fans, but when dissecting the schedule in more detail, it becomes apparent that most of those wins have come against clearly inferior teams. According to CBSSports.com, Texas’ strength of schedule to this point ranks 100th in the nation, 91 spots behind what North Carolina (ninth) has faced. If Rick Barnes’ squad is truly improved, it will have a chance to prove it with tonight’s game followed by one against Michigan State in a span of three days this week. That said, Texas has gotten solid contributions from big man Cameron Ridley, who went for 22 points and 10 rebounds in his last outing. After the way North Carolina handled the talented front line of Kentucky, is there any reason to believe the Heels will struggle to do the same with the Longhorns’ frontcourt?

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Big 12 M5: 12.18.13 Edition

Posted by Kory Carpenter on December 18th, 2013

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  1. If anyone knows what North Carolina head coach Roy Williams is going through with respect to the suspensions of Leslie McDonald and P.J. Hairston, it is Texas head coach Rick Barnes. Last season, Texas guard Myck Kabongo was held out for the first 23 games of the season for a violation of NCAA rules, but it wasn’t until December 21 until Barnes even knew if Kabongo would play at all. This season, Williams and North Carolina sit in a similar state of semi-permanent limbo waiting for rulings on McDonald and Hairston. What exactly is the NCAA waiting on?
  2. Bill Self called his team’s passing so far this season “awful,” and he isn’t wrong. The Jayhawks have trouble in that department but thinks they are getting better as time goes on. “We’ve always played inside-out. I think we’ve been less effective doing that this year,” he told Jesse Newell of the Topeka Capital-Journal. Perhaps most frustrating for Self is that he has two guys — Naadir Tharpe and Wayne Selden — who can make as sweet of passes as you’ll see any player in the country make, but they’ll turn around and fail to make a simple post entry pass on the next play. Frustrating, indeed.
  3. Oklahoma is 10-1 this season and senior forward Tyler Neal has been one of the reasons for the Sooners’ early success. At 6’7”, Neal has played all over the court this season, wherever head coach Lon Kruger needs him. “I’ve always kind of had that thought process that the more positions you can play — the more you can help the team and when guys go down whatever happens, foul trouble or whatever — the more you can be out there,” he told Ryan Aber of The Oklahoman. Neal is averaging 6.2 PPG and 3.6 RPG for the Sooners thus far this year.
  4. If you’re a fan of West Virginia sports, you will have some downtime this month. The Mountaineers’ football team is done for the year, and as Dave Hickman of the Charleston Gazette points out, the basketball team plays just two games in a 20-day period. WVU beat Marshall in a nice win on Saturday, it plays Purdue on Sunday, and then Bob Huggins’ team has another week off before playing William and Mary on December 29.
  5. Wichita State head coach Gregg Marshall wants to play Kansas. Bill Self, on the other hand, doesn’t want to play Wichita State. Marshall told reporters recently that he offered Kansas a three-game series with sites rotating between Lawrence, Kansas City, and Wichita. Bill Self said he’s never heard from Marshall on the subject. You can tell the two sides won’t be playing anytime soon. The Shockers got another impressive win last night on the road at Alabama and improved to 11-0. They are ranked #11 in the country and would give Kansas a great game, but playing Wichita State doesn’t make sense for Kansas right now and likely won’t make sense as long as Self is coaching.
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