“Let’s try this again” – Back to the Sprint Center

November 30, 2010

Well it turns out Duke is better than Kansas State right now. That doesn’t mean KSU is limited – for heaven’s sake it’s just November, but Duke showed to be a more versatile team last week in the big showdown in Kansas City.

But hang your heads not, defenders of the Big 12. The league gets another chance for a big win tonight when No. 9 Missouri plays No. 16 Georgetown (8 p.m. ESPNU) at the Sprint Center. Both teams are unbeaten and talented.

Missouri has a lot of returning impact players. They include Laurence Bowers at forward, who is tall and has a nice balance of slashing ability and rebounding presence, important for a Mizzou team that didn’t rebound well last year. He also is a good shooter inside 15 feet and is arguably the best player on the team.

The primary guards are Mike Dixon, Marcus Denmon and Kim English. Dixon, a sophomore, is a solid defensive player with quickness and a beautiful jump shot. Denmon is probably the most complete guard for the Tigers and is critical for Mizzou’s offense to work. English, while streaky, has good size and has put up enough big offensive games that opponents must watch him closely.

Georgetown is led by Austin Freeman. Freeman is the Big East preseason player of the year and is off to a good start averaging 20 points per game. The Hoyas are led on the offensive end by Chris Wright, who gets seven assists per game. Wright was the primary point guard last year. Georgetown is regularly a great passing team. They love backdoor cuts as much as any team outside of the Ivy League. Their ability to operate in the halfcourt is critical to their scoring. They are well-coached by John Thompson III.

Meanwhile, Mizzou will use an aggressive full court press to generate deflections and turnovers. The Tigers’ bench depth allows Mike Anderson to employ this strategy without people getting too tired.

Neither team has faced an opponent this good until tonight. Big crowd advantage will go to MU, of course. The Tigers were good in Cancun but have been flat twice already at Mizzou Arena. I said Kansas State would need to rebound well to beat Duke. They outrebounded the Blue Devils by eight, but shot 3 for 17 from three-point range. Missouri is probably a better shooting team but will still need to hold its own on the glass to win.

Prediction: Georgetown 74-70


THE ARCHIVES – Wayne Simien

November 29, 2010

Worthy to be considered among the many great Kansas players of the last 15 years is Wayne Simien. The 6’9″ forward from Leavenworth, a quick trip from Lawrence in the eastern part of the state, played four years with the Jayhawks before a brief NBA and European career.

A member of the high school class of 2001 and a McDonald’s All-American, Simien managed to average 15 minutes and eight points per game as a freshman on a team steeped in talent like Nick Collison, Kirk Hinrich, Drew Gooden and fellow freshman Keith Langford. The Jayhawks were brilliant, spending most of the season ranked either first or second in the country. After losing to OU in the conference title game, they still entered the tournament a No. 1 seed. They avenged the previous year’s elimination to Illinois in the Sweet Sixteen before falling to Maryland in the Final Four. (Maryland won it all.)

Wayne Simien had a great career at Kansas, helping them to two Final Fours.

Simien was set to play an expanded role as a sophomore on another excellent team. He averaged nearly 15 points and eight rebounds per game, but unfortunately dislocated his shoulder part of the way through the year and missed the rest of the season.

We’ve seen major injuries to key players on good teams before and after this (Robbie Hummel, Kenyon Martin, Curtis Sumpter, etc.) with varying results. Kansas, it turned out, was still a great team and lost to Syracuse in the championship game by three. It’s the best championship game I’ve ever watched, but Kansas fans surely wonder how things might have been different with a healthy roster. (The parallel between this injury and the mid-season knee injury to Kentucky’s Derek Anderson in 1997 is striking in that both teams barely lost in the championship game.)

For Simien’s junior year, Bill Self replaced Roy Williams as coach and Simien averaged nearly 18 points and ten rebounds per game. But the Jayhawks were less talented than before, and entered the tournament 21-8. (Side note: They won the last game ever played at Missouri’s old arena, the Hearnes Center.) Still, they reached the Elite Eight before losing to Georgia Tech. 

Simien was awesome as a senior. He averaged a double-double (20 and 11), was the Big 12 Player of the Year and a first-team All-American. Kansas won its first 14 games on the way to a 23-6 record entering the Big Dance. Simien won’t want to remember anything after that however, as KU was memorably shocked in the first round by Bucknell, 64-63. 

Simien played four years at Kansas, but his pro career was brief. Source: Big Trout Online

Simply put, Simien’s pro career does not reflect how good he was in college. He played briefly for the Miami Heat, earning a championship ring for the Heat’s 2006 title season, but collected limited playing time. After getting traded to and then cut by the Timberwolves, he played in Spain for a year. He retired last year, and according to a feature in the Lawrence Journal-World, is pursuing a career as a minister.

LEAVING HIS MARK: Wayne Simien scored 1,593 points at Kansas. He was 12th on the school’s all-time list when he left Lawrence.


Royce White must sit – How Iowa State is affected

November 26, 2010

Royce White, a 6'8" forward, will sit out this season at Iowa State. Source: GopherHole.com

While Iowa State has earned itself a nice start to this season (the Cycones are 5-0 going into the weekend), the basketball program was dealt a disappointing decision regarding sophomore forward Royce White. The NCAA is requiring White to sit out the 2010-11 season. He said last summer he hoped to be available for the spring semester.

White was part of Minnesota’s program last year as a freshman, but got into some legal trouble and left the team in February of this year. His appeal was likely built on the detail that he never actually played, and therefore might have had a better chance of being able to play for Iowa State immediately. Traditionally of course, once a recruit signs a letter of intent, he or she must sit out a year upon transfer to another school.

It’s hard to say what White might have added to a good team, as I imagine he is only recently getting back into playing shape after ending last season early. But White, who is 6’8″, would have a been a nice asset right away for a Cyclone team expected to finish last in the Big 12. He was a very high-level recruit in high school.

ISU has gotten off to a nice start rebounding, a credit largely to Jake Anderson (9.4 per game), Calvin Godfrey (6.2) and Melvin Ejim (6.0). However, the latter two are only freshmen and Anderson is a 6’2″ guard. Against stronger competition, ISU could use more big bodies against guys like the Morris twins at KU or Perry Jones at Baylor.


Bonus Basketball! No. 4 Kansas State vs. No. 1 Duke

November 23, 2010

Take this as a “P.S.” on the nonconference preview from the other day.

Frank Martin’s Wildcats got another big win last night, 81-64 over Gonzaga. Earlier, Duke beat Marquette 82-77 in its own CBE semifinal game. So tonight, K-State seizes the spotlights and challenges the top-ranked and defending champion Duke Blue Devils at the Sprint Center in downtown Kansas City.

The national interest for this game should be high, as it’s the first Top 5 matchup of the season. This is certainly a major game for each team. Duke would be commended for beating a fast-paced, athletic Wildcat team in front of a pro-KSU crowd. KSU would convince any haters/doubters of its own legitimacy with a win over Duke.

It’ll be interesting to see if Kansas State can assert itself in rebounding. Both of Duke’s primary forwards, Mason Plumlee and Kyle Singler, are active rebounders, along with Nolan Smith out of the backcourt. You can also expect Duke, traditionally a strong defensive team, to give the Wildcats their biggest test yet in freeing Jacob Pullen to score. We’ve wondered here how Kansas State’s offense would look without Clemente. Any major issues from that would likely be exposed tonight.

KSU’s defense will also be extended, as Duke is currently shooting nearly 43% from 3-point range. However, four of Duke’s starters played at least 32 minutes last night in order to hold off Marquette. No Wildcat played more than 29 minutes Monday.

Prediction: Kansas State 79-76, but the Wildcats must limit Mason Plumlee’s rebounding.

TV: 9 p.m. Central, ESPN2


THE ARCHIVES – Marcus Fizer

November 22, 2010

Similar to OU, Iowa State saw its greatest Big 12 success so far around the early 2000s. The Cyclones were coached by Larry Eustachy, who replaced Tim Floyd in 1998 after Floyd left to coach the Chicago Bulls. The two most memorable Cyclones from back then are Jamaal Tinsley (a longtime Indiana Pacer who played last year with the Memphis Grizzlies) and his old teammate, Marcus Fizer.

Marcus Fizer teamed with fellow star Jamaal Tinsley to lead Iowa State to a 32-5 record in 1999-2000. Source: USA Today

Originally from Inkster, Mich., a Detroit suburb, Fizer came to Iowa State from Arcadia High School in Louisiana. He and Tinsley were both members of Iowa State’s 1997 recruiting class, so he played one year for Tim Floyd. The Cyclones had two rough seasons, finishing 11th and 9th in the league. However, Fizer had an impactful freshman year at forward, averaging just under 15 points and seven rebounds per game. He averaged 18 points and seven rebounds in 32 minutes per game as a sophomore for Eustachy.

The 1999-2000 season was wonderful for the Cyclones. Led by Fizer, who was scoring just under 23 points per game and was named Big 12 player of the year, Iowa State won a rare conference regular season title and also took the Big 12 tournament in Kansas City. The Cyclones were the No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament, and lost to No. 1 seed Michigan State (the eventual champion, led by its own duo of Mateen Cleaves and Morris Peterson) in the regional finals.

While Tinsley elected to stay in Ames for his senior year, Fizer declared for the NBA draft and signed an agent. He briefly re-united with his old coach Floyd as the Bulls selected him fourth overall in the 2000 draft. Fizer’s Bulls teams were miserably bad, never winning more than 30 games in any of his four years there. Meanwhile, the Tinsley-led Iowa State team had another strong season in 2001, entering the NCAA Tournament 25-5, again league regular season champs and a No. 2 seed. However, Fizer was missed in the tournament as Iowa State lost in the first round, shocked by 15 seed Hampton.

Fizer was named to the all-rookie second team in 2001, and his best season statisically came in 2001-02, when he averaged 12 points and almost six rebounds per game for the Bulls. After joining the Milwaukee Bucks’ roster in 2004-05, Fizer’s impact slipped. He played briefly there and with the New Orleans Hornets before going overseas to continue his career.

Fizer peaked professionally as a member of the very bad Chicago Bulls. Source: Hoopedia

Fizer has played with CB Murcia of Spain, Capitanes de Arecibo of Puerto Rico and then Israeli powerhouse Maccabi Tel Aviv as recently as 2008.


Nonconference preview, up north

November 21, 2010

Colorado: The Buffs opened 1-2, losing on the road to Georgia and San Francisco. It’s early, but that’s a poor start. Perhaps Colorado can rebound in the coming weeks, and they don’t play a very tough nonconference schedule at all. A game against their in-state rival Colorado State takes place Dec. 8. They play New Mexico two weeks later.

Iowa State: I wrote earlier about how much work new coach Fred Hoiberg faces in Ames. The Cyclones will probably play some talented teams, too. Creighton is today, and Northern Iowa and Cal are both on the schedule. Even little-known Kennesaw State, which visits Ames this week, beat Georgia Tech the other day.

Kansas: Simply put, Kansas has not been tested yet. But that might change before Big 12 play. Memphis will probably be the only ranked team the Jayhawks play this semester, but KU will face Ohio and, strangely enough, four Pac-10 teams (Arizona, UCLA, Cal and USC). Cal and Michigan are the only true road games.

Kansas State: The Wildcats already picked up a nice win, which we wrote about last week, against nationally-ranked Virginia Tech at home. The fun continues tomorrow when K-State meets Gonzaga. Gonzaga is expected to field a strong team this season. On Dec. 18, KSU faces Florida, an SEC favorite whom Ohio State beat easily just the other day in Gainesville. The other games throughout the schedule should indicate who are the primary assets for Frank Martin.

Missouri: The Tigers were very fortunate to hold on against Western Illinois in the home opener. We assume Mizzou is better than that, but either way, Illinois will provide a challenge Dec. 22 in St. Louis. First though, Missouri will see Georgetown on the other side of the state in Kansas City. Other interesting games are at Oregon and at home against Vanderbilt and Oral Roberts, both of whom beat the Tigers last year.

Nebraska: The Huskers’ losses in Puerto Rico to Vandy and Davidson were disappointing but perhaps not terribly surprising. Fortunately, Nebraska has some time to get things straight, and they have zero road games until Big 12 play. In-state counterpart Creighton should give Doc Sadler’s team a strong effort, but the schedule overall isn’t too tough. Of course, two of Nebraska’s first three league games are at Kansas and at Missouri.

Most of these programs should carry a nice overall record into conference play, but the games will tell us more about how the teams developed in the offseason and who will play the most significant minutes for each. How far are the I-70 schools ahead of everyone else? Is someone else from the group stronger than we thought?


Selby Freed

November 20, 2010
NEW YORK - APRIL 17: Jelan Kendrick #45 of East Team blocks Josh Selby #32 of West Team during the National Game at the 2010 Jordan Brand classic at Madison Square Garden on April 17, 2010 in New York City. (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images for Jordan Brand Classic)

After what seems like months of investigation and debate, the NCAA has finally made their ruling on Kansas freshman Josh Selby. Selby was found guilty of taking illegal benefits, and will sit out the first nine games of Kansas’ season. He will also have to pay nearly $6,000 to charity, the amount of “benefits” he was found guilty of taking.

For Kansas and Selby, this is a major win-win. Selby got to take full advantage of his situation, though he obviously should have done a better job of being discrete, and now he gets to contribute in every meaningful Kansas game this season. For Bill Self and Kansas, he gets his top recruit, and probably best perimeter player, making Kansas a true Final Four contender.

Obviously I’m a bit biased, I would prefer to see Kansas not get more talented, but I can’t help but question the NCAA line of thinking here. If anything, it would seem like they have given the green light to other recruits to also take money as prep players. With such a light punishment, and one that will have no bearing on Selby’s prospects in the NBA Draft, other top prep players can openly take gifts as well.

Gary Parrish at CBS Sports came to the same conclusion.

In other words, it’s no different than a preseason high-ankle sprain.

It just pays better.

So Shabazz Muhammad and Andre Drummond, if you’re still reading this, I hope you learned a lesson.

Improper benefits are going to be offered to you.

You can turn them down if you want.

But me, I’d probably just take them.

Because the worst that can happen doesn’t seem all that bad.

Agreed, and unless the NCAA comes down hard on the next player who is caught in this same situation, there is nothing stopping this from becoming more of an epidemic.

Now, to shift to a more positive note.

It’s on. With Selby cleared for all the Big 12 games, we are one Tony Mitchell report card away from I-70 ruling the college basketball landscape. Any game involving two of  Kansas, K-State, and Missouri is always fantastic, but this year they will all be loaded with great basketball. Three top-15 teams, all with aspirations of reaching the Final Four. With Selby on the team, Kansas has no excuses. Neither do K-State or Mizzou.

It’s going to be really fun.