Big 12 M5: 02.18.15 Edition

Posted by Brian Goodman on February 18th, 2015

morning5_big12

  1. The road has not been kind to Iowa State in Big 12 play this season. The Cylcones are just 1-4 away from Hilton Coliseum and are about to embark on a stretch where three of their next four games will be in opponents’ gyms. As Travis Hines writes, should the Cyclones fall behind in tonight’s game against Oklahoma State, the key will be to stay loose and avoid the mindset of needing to make up the entire deficit in one play. Fred Hoiberg’s team should also feel some ease in the fact that their porous defense doesn’t figure to be a large issue against the Cowboys, a team that ranks seventh in the conference in offensive efficiency.
  2. On the other sideline, the Cowboys will look to play with the chip on their shoulder that was missing in Saturday’s loss to TCU. Facing Iowa State, Oklahoma State’s attack will have to be much more potent than the 0.89 points per possession it posted against the Horned Frogs. The hot stretch that propelled the Pokes to three straight wins over ranked teams has the team safely on the right side of the bubble, but another two or three wins in the regular season would do a lot to remove any remaining pressure.
  3. Kansas coach Bill Self‘s handling of Cliff Alexander has been a lightning rod for discussion all season, but the fervor on both sides reached a new point when Alexander played just six minutes (and none in the second half) in Kansas’ loss to West Virginia on Monday night. According to the Topeka Capital-Journal‘s Jesse Newell, the Jayhawks had their worst night on the defensive glass since 2009, and it stands to reason that the blue-chip Alexander, despite his shortcomings, could have helped significantly in that department. In a one-point game, it’s tough to isolate the outcome to any one decision, but regardless of what you think of Alexander’s pro prospects, it’s tough to see Kansas making a deep postseason run without him playing a significant role, and in order to do that, he needs reps.
  4. After spending a week and a half beating up on the lower third of the conference, Texas took a tough loss to Oklahoma in Norman Tuesday night. Myles Turner continued his stellar play, posting 16 points and 10 rebounds off the bench to go along with six blocks, but rough shooting nights from Isaiah Taylor (1-of-10) and Jonathan Holmes (2-of-9) made it challenging for the Longhorns to pull off the upset (though it was within reach). I still maintain that Texas’ NCAA Tournament hopes aren’t in any serious jeopardy, but their inability to beat good teams away from Austin (their only conference road wins have come against Texas Tech, TCU and Kansas State) doesn’t bode well for their postseason future.
  5. In the only other Big 12 action last night, Baylor edged Texas Tech by five in Lubbock to get back above .500 in league play. On a night when the Bears’ offense looked otherwise listless, Taurean Prince provided a spark with 18 first half points on his way to 22 overall. Kenny Chery recovered from a horrendous shooting night, closing out the game with four clutch free throws to seal the win.
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Big 12 Power Rankings: Baylor Demands Your Attention Edition

Posted by Nate Kotisso on February 3rd, 2015

It’s a near-consensus this season that the Big 12 is considered the best conference in college basketball. As we approach the halfway point of league play, drawing a line between NCAA Tournament contenders and the rest has become an easier task. We all expected Kansas and Iowa State to reign at the top and Oklahoma State, TCU and Texas Tech rounded out the standings (sorry, guys). But the middle five conference teams have been the tough to forecast all season long. West Virginia is 6-2 in league play but still somewhat unproven, with four of those six wins coming against the Horned Frogs and Red Raiders. Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas State have all left something to be desired. The only middle five team to exceed expectations so far has been none other than Baylor.

It's possible: You can respect Scott Drew's grind while laughing at how silly he looks in this photo. (Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

It’s possible: You can respect Scott Drew’s grind while laughing at how silly he looks in this photo. (Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

After finishing sixth last year, Big 12 coaches picked Baylor sixth again before the season began. At the moment, the Bears are in, you guessed it, sixth place. So how are they exceeding expectations? Because they lost Isaiah Austin, Cory Jefferson and Brady Heslip — three of their top four scorers from a year ago — and a slew of role players has been charged with taking on greater responsibility. Rico Gathers has been an anchor inside, grabbing more rebounds in a starter’s role (12.0 RPG) while sharing the wealth among veterans Royce O’Neale (6.3 RPG), Taurean Prince (5.7 RPG) and freshman Johnathan Motley (4.6 RPG). The graduation of sharpshooter Heslip left a gaping hole in the team’s outside shooting but that role has been supplanted by another trio of Bears. O’Neale has been a consistent outside shooting option since arriving from Denver (42.4%) and Prince is also capable from distance (40.5%), but the most improvement has come from point guard Kenny Chery (32.5% last season to 40.5%).

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Big 12 M5: 01.05.15 Edition

Posted by Chris Stone on January 5th, 2015

morning5_big12

  1. Big 12 conference play got under way over the weekend and the biggest story line was the return of point guard Isaiah Taylor to the Texas lineup in the Longhorns 70-61 victory over Texas Tech. Taylor had missed the last 10 games with a wrist injury. He was rusty on the offensive end, hitting only two of his ten field goal attempts, but his defense proved impactful. The sophomore recorded four steals in the game as Texas forced the Red Raiders to turn the ball over on 22.4 percent of their possessions. Texas has one of the best defenses in the country, but has been unable to create turnovers in Taylor’s absence. His return should provide the Longhorns with an even more effective defensive scheme in league play.
  2. In their final non-conference game, Iowa State fell 64-60 to unranked South Carolina at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn on Saturday. The Cyclones are shooting 34.5 percent from behind the arc this season, but connected on only one of 18 attempts against the Gamecocks in Brooklyn. Given that Fred Hoiberg’s squad is shooting 40 percent of their field goal attempts from behind the three-point line, that’s not a recipe for success in Big 12 play. As Randy Peterson of The Des-Moines Register pointed out, Iowa State may be able to survive against the bottom of the league with their “B-games,” but in order to compete for a conference championship, the Cyclones must knock down their three-pointers and match the physicality of the other top teams in the Big 12.
  3. Baylor entered conference play as one of the more intriguing teams in the Big 12. Despite losing three of their four leading scorers from last season, the Bears have found themselves ranked highly in Ken Pomeroy’s efficiency ratings, but Baylor lost their conference opener on Saturday to Oklahoma, 73-63. The Sooners were able to shoot 8-for-22 from behind the three-point line in the win. Bears’ wing Taurean Prince noted after the game, “We did a poor job of limiting their 3s. We have to do a better job of closing out defensively on the perimeter. We missed some defensive assignments and made some bone-headed plays that we normally make.” Closing down the three-point line will be an important component of Baylor’s defense in the near future. The Bears take on a Kansas team that is shooting 39.2 percent from behind the arc on Wednesday night.
  4. Speaking of Kansas, the Jayhawks closed out their non-conference slate with a 76-61 victory over UNLV on Sunday afternoon. Kansas was paced by point guard Frank Mason who finished with 18 points, seven assists, four rebounds, and four steals in the win. During the Jayhawks’ loss to Temple, NBC Sports‘ Rob Dauster called Mason a “mid major PG,” but the sophomore has been much better than that. Since their loss to Kentucky, Mason is providing the Jayhawks with 12.9 points, 4.9 assists, 4.3 rebounds, and 1.8 steals per game. The sophomore is giving Bill Self his best point guard play since Sherron Collins was in Lawrence. Self will need Mason to continue to play at such a high level if Kansas is to compete for an 11th straight Big 12 title.
  5. Finally, Bleacher Report’s Jason King created a bit of a stir amongst Big 12 fans on Twitter Sunday night when he proclaimed that he’s not buying the league as the best conference in America. King is a graduate of Baylor and was a longtime writer for The Kansas City Star, so he’s certainly familiar with the Big 12. However, the numbers tell a different story than the one King is crafting. KenPom’s efficiency ratings suggest that the Big 12 is tops and it’s not particularly close. The gap between the Big 12 and King’s favored conference, the ACC, is larger than the gap between the ACC and the fifth ranked conference, the SEC. The Big 12 looks poised to send over half of the league’s teams to the NCAA Tournament for the second season in a row. Despite King’s claims about the top tier of the ACC, the Big 12 remains the best conference in America.
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Big 12 M5: Still Awake For the Marathon Edition

Posted by Nate Kotisso on November 18th, 2014

morning5_big12

  1. Ah yes, it’s that wonderful time of the year when the Los Angeles Athletic Club releases its annual preseason top 50 for the Wooden Award. We’ll have more on this later this morning, but the Big 12 is well-represented with 10 players making the list. As important as the organization wants us to think the Wooden Award is, it really doesn’t mean all that much to college basketball fans and it means even less to those who start watching games in March. Also, why is a preseason list being released during the regular season? Doesn’t that defeat the purpose of the whole thing? Last year’s preseason list didn’t have Nick Johnson, Tyler Ennis, Nik Stauskas or Casey Prather on it, but lo and behold, there they were, announced as four of the Wooden Award finalists in March. Yesterday, our Chris Stone summed up this lunacy quite clearly in fewer than 140 characters. The solution: Throw out the preseason list and stick with announcing the 15 finalists in March. It’ll save us all a lot of grief.
  2. The NCAA announced the sites and hosts for its early and regional rounds of the NCAA Tournament from 2016-18, and the Big 12 Conference will serve as an official host in each of those years. In 2016, Oklahoma City’s Chesapeake Energy Arena will be home to first and second round games; in 2017, Kansas City is welcomed back to NCAA Tournament duties as the Sprint Center hosts the Midwest Regional; in 2018, Dallas’ American Airlines Center will be the home of first and second round match-ups. This doesn’t even include Iowa State hosting a site for 2016 first and second round games in nearby Des Moines. The last early or regional round hosted by a Big 12 school or the conference itself was in 2013, but now we’ll be getting three years in a row within the league’s footprint beginning in 2016. Season ticket holders, rejoice.
  3. Baylor made quick work of McNeese State in its season opener on Friday night, 80-39. The Bears’ two transfers, Deng Deng and Lester Medford, made instant impacts for their team, combining for 29 points on the night. But buried in the story, or the last sentence of this recap, is the news that Taurean Prince was suspended and did not play due to a violation of team rules. Outside of that, that’s all anyone seems to know. Whatever it is, the Waco media should probably look into it further.
  4. With West Virginia’s 2-0 start to the season, Bob Huggins has moved into 15th place on the all-time wins list in Division I men’s basketball history. Many think that this will be a bounce-back year for Huggins and West Virginia basketball, and after reviewing the Mountaineers’ numbers in their first two games, it might just be. West Virginia has shot the ball 66 more times than the opposition, scored 51 points off of 44 turnovers, and have 35 more rebounds. Granted, their competition level wasn’t very high with games against Monmouth and Lafayette, but those are similar to characteristics of past West Virginia teams that were regular participants in the NCAA Tournament. They’ve got to start somewhere.
  5. Kansas State also improved to 2-0 on the season with a nice win against UMKC on Monday. While that’s all fine and dandy, we must have another look at Brandon Bolden‘s blocked shot of Southern Utah’s John Marshall from over the weekend. It’s made its way around the web over the past few days and we at Rush The Court sincerely apologize for not commenting on this sooner. The block was so clean that it was dirty. Marshall took a spill on the floor afterward and Bolden leers at him, perhaps disappointed that he had to do Marshall like that. Go ahead, watch it a few hundred more times and create your own exposition of the play. It’s more fun that way.
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Big 12 Season Preview: Baylor Bears

Posted by Nate Kotisso on October 30th, 2014

Throughout the preseason, the Big 12 microsite will preview each of the league’s 10 teams, from worst to first. Today: Baylor.

Baylor Bears

We’re seven months removed from the 2013-14 season ending and I still feel as if Baylor underachieved. The Bears had a lot of the qualities that normally consist of a Final Four-type team: NBA talent, experience, rebounding, good-enough defense. They were brilliant in non-league action, started 2-8 in conference play, went on a late run, and finished with a loss to Wisconsin during the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament. Most are unsure of what to expect from Baylor this time around — the Bears were picked sixth in the Big 12 preseason coaches poll, marking the second time in the last seven seasons that the Bears have been picked to finish outside of the Big 12’s top four. Scott Drew’s team was picked 10th in 2009-10 and eventually found itself in the Elite Eight. But now, three of the Bears’ top scorers are gone and a slew of young players will take over in an, gulp, odd-numbered NCAA Tournament year.

Scott Drew goes into the 2014-15 season with the task of replacing three starters. (USA Today Sports Images)

Scott Drew goes into the 2014-15 season with the task of replacing three starters. (USA Today Sports Images)

Strengths: The Bears lost Isaiah Austin and Cory Jefferson yet the bigs they’ll have available still appear worthy of opponents’ game-planning. Let’s start with junior Rico Gathers, who managed to average the same number of points as rebounds (6.4) off the bench. It’d be silly to expect anything other than the 6’8″, 280-pound Gathers be a bully down low by giving him starter’s minutes. Perhaps the biggest question mark lies with redshirt freshman forward Jonathan Motley. Motley has bulked up with 15 pounds of muscle and will be counted on as the defensive enforcer that Austin and Jefferson have been over the past two seasons. On the wing, having Royce O’Neale grab a guaranteed five rebounds at 6’6″ isn’t too shabby either. It also helps to have a senior point guard like Kenny Chery returning in a deep point guard league like the Big 12. Read the rest of this entry »

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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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Observations From Baylor’s Sloppy Win Over South Carolina

Posted by Kory Carpenter on November 13th, 2013

If yesterday’s Baylor vs. South Carolina matinee was any indication, Big 12 fans will not enjoy the rule changes this season that have resulted in refs blowing the whistle after almost any contact on the perimeter. More fouls equals longer games, and on Big Mondays when the Big 12 game tips off two hours after the start of the ACC game, Big 12 fans might feel a little anxious. By the time West Virginia had blown a 17-point lead and lost to Virginia Tech by five on Tuesday, ESPN switched over to the Baylor game with 11:28 left in the first half. Baylor eventually outlasted the Gamecocks after a last-second foul was a tenth of a second too late and Frank Martin’s team was not provided a chance to tie the game at the free throw line. The following are some random thoughts about Baylor’s performance on Tuesday afternoon.

Brady Heslip Will Spread Defenses Out All Season.

Brady Heslip Will Spread Defenses Out All Season

  • There were 55 total fouls called in a game that lasted nearly two-and-a-half hours. Teams should eventually adjust to the new rules, but don’t expect that to happen before Christmas if it happens this season at all.
  • In true Frank Martin fashion, South Carolina attacked inside on nearly every possession and Baylor didn’t do much to stop them. Had the Gamecocks made three or four more of the dozen layups they missed (including a wide-open attempt on a fast break with under three minutes to go during a tie game), it could have been a different outcome. On a number of occasions, South Carolina grabbed the ball out of the net, made two passes and had a layup before Baylor could get anyone back on defense.
  • Baylor ran its patented 1-3-1 zone on several possessions, but its effectiveness depended on which player was stationed at the top on the perimeter. When 6’6″ forward Royce O’Neale was there, the Gamecocks struggled to get the ball inside. When 5’11” guard Kenny Chery was in that spot, it resulted in two passes and a layup. Two games in, it doesn’t look like Baylor’s defense has been addressed like it needs to for the Bears to jockey into the Big 12 race.

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