Looking at the (Possible) Replacements, Houston

August 31, 2011

It seems fairly clear at this point Texas A&M will leave the Big 12 conference to join the SEC any day now. Even though some of the reporting on the A&M situation has been a bit amateurish and exaggerated (ahem, Doug Gottlieb), it would seem highly unlikely that after all the public moves A&M has made that they’d end up declaring their allegiance the Big 12.

It’s no secret that conference realignment and the bags of money that motivate and accompany it are football-based. But obviously whatever moves are made will have an effect on the every other sport, basketball included.

Image courtesy collegeshade.com.

The Big 12 has stated that  it plans to aggressively expand in the event A&M leaves. Numerous schools have been thrown out there as possible replacements, including Conference USA member Houston. Here is a snapshot of their basketball program.

Houston Cougars

 Coach: James Dickey (entering second year).
Dickey has plenty of Big 12 experience, as he was the head coach at Texas Tech from 1991-2001, with limited success. He was then assistant at Oklahoma State from 2002-2008.

Best finish: Houston’s glory days were in the early/mid-eighties when Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler led the “Phi Slamma Jamma” Cougar teams to the 1983 and 1984 championship games. Unfortunately for Houston fans they lost both of those games but it was an impressive stretch nonetheless. Houston did not capitalize on that success as they have only been to the NCAA tournament four times since, with an 18-year absence between 1992 and 2010.

Last NCAA appearance: The Cougars last received an NCAA invite in 2010, their last season under former Texas coach Tom Penders. Although they went 7-9 in conference play, the Cougars won their conference tournament. They were rewarded with a first round loss to Maryland, and Penders resigned afterwards.

2010/11 record; record against Big 12: 12-18 (4-12); 0-0

Outlook: The Cougars don’t seem to offer much basketball-wise, as they would likely become the smallest fish on the feeding chain talent-wise right off the bat. I base that generalization solely on their recent performance in a weaker conference.Their arena, Hofheinz Pavilion, would also work against them as it is outdated (built in 1969) and would be the smallest in the conference.

On the positive side, it is not unreasonable to say that their recruiting should get a shot in the arm with the ability to offer a players a chance to play in a major conference. I’m not sure whether the Phi Slamma Jam teams still hold any weight, but it would be cool to rub elbows with Hakeem or Clyde every once in awhile. That ship may have sailed however.

They also have an advantage no other Big 12 school has by playing in a huge city, and this can work in two ways. First, they could use the allure of a big city and all the perks that come with it as a recruiting tool.

Second, there will always be top talent available in a gigantic metropolitan area. Some recent players from the Houston area include Emeka Okafor, Stephen Jackson, Daniel Gibson Gerald Green and Randolph Morris. But the key is getting the talent to listen and then really locking down the Houston metro area, which as mentioned earlier could be easier for the Cougars as a Big 12 member.

Houston’s ceiling could be high…but that is very optimistic.


Thomas Robinson impresses at adidas Nations

August 24, 2011

To say that Kansas forward Thomas Robinson is poised for a “breakout” year is nowhere near going out on a limb. Robinson, along with Tyshawn Taylor, is set to become the latest in Bill Self’s revolving door of stars in Lawrence.

Thomas Robinson, early favorite for Big 12 POY?. Image courtesy zimbio.com

We’ll talk more about his role in depth here at the Big12 Basketball blog as the season nears. But the short version is that it is clear that Self will need a lot out of Robinson with the loss of the Morris twins to the NBA and no other “experienced” front court option besides Jeff Withey.

It won’t, however, be a big adjustment for Robinson as he becomes a focal point of the Jayhawks’ offense. Robinson got some serious bang for his buck in the 14.6 minutes per game he played last season, as kenpom.com lists Robinson as being used in 24-28% of possessions while he was on the court. The site labels players with such a usage rate as “major contributors.”

According to NBA draft expert Jonathan Givony (@draftexpress) of draftexpress.com, Robinson is more than on his way to launching what could very well be a Big 12 Player of the Year season. He tweeted the following earlier in the month about Robinson’s play at adidas Nations:

Thomas Robinson showing a little more ball-handling ability than we saw last season. Very aggressive in transition

Thomas Robinson again was too explosive for any big man to stop off the dribble. Confident enough to do whatever he pleases in this setting.

Adidas Nations is a “grassroots basketball program” which brings together top talent from the 2012 and 2013 classes from all over the world. Robinson is on hand as a “college counselor” along with a slew of other college players, including Baylor’s Perry Jones.

But back to the tweets, which reinforce the thinking that Robinson and the 2011-2012 Jayhawks, especially Taylor and Elijah Johnson, will form a lethal transition team. The Miami Heat of college basketball if you will.

There are certainly some uncertainties in Lawrence going into next season (which we’ll get to in detail later), but the transition game won’t be one of them.

Iowa State’s Italy trip

August 23, 2011

Iowa State just finished up a trip in Italy, going 4-0 against lower-level professional teams. This specific foreign trip is more interesting than most because of the number of Cyclone transfers seeing some of their first non-practice playing time.

The mighty Royce White. Image courtesy collegehoopsjournal.com

The Des Moines Register posted stats from the games and they are probably worse predictors than those from a scrimmage or pick-up game. But it’s a slow period for college basketball so let’s take a look at them.

Minnesota transfer and former McDonald’s All-American Royce White apparently already has generated some considerable excitement among some I-State fans. The people already placing him on the Mt. Rushmore of Cyclone hoops alongside Fred Hoiberg, Jamaal Tinsley, Marcus Fizer and others can remain excited based on White’s work in Italy.

The forward averaged (somewhat) close to a triple double, putting up per game averages of 11.8 points, 10.8 rebounds and 6.3 assists. He did this going 23-34 (67.6%) from the field.

The Cyclones have a lot of needs this upcoming season, but replacing the production Diante Garrett gave them at point guard is a big one. Former Michigan State guard Chris Allen will have a chance to fill the void left by Garrett. In terms of handling the ball, Allen’s middle two games of the stretch were concerning as he had 1.0 turnover/assist ratio (2-2, 3-3). But Allen finished strong with a 5-0 performance.

Click here to see the virtually meaningless stats in their entirety.

Missouri and its Frank Haith mess

August 22, 2011

Admittedly, as a Mizzou fan, Frank Haith had won me over. His introductory press conference had all the right themes: subtle jabs at former coach Mike Anderson’s system and plenty of praise for longtime Tiger coach Norm Stewart. It was nice to see that Haith (or someone in his “camp”) had done his homework.

The early returns in recruiting were really what started to make me believe that Mike Alden had made a shrewd move. He got commitments from Tyrek Coger and Ish Wainwright, two nicely-regarded players from the Class of 2013. Even though I knew full well those two were far from actually being “locked up,” the fact Haith had their ears was a good indicator.

Haith is off to a bad start at Mizzou. Image courtesy blog.al.com.

Maybe Alden really had found something. What sport doesn’t see coaches who have been cast out find success in different (more likely better) situations? People drool over Doc Rivers now but it wasn’t that long ago the Orlando Magic fired him. Staying in Boston, Red Sox Terry Francona was fired by the Phillies before winning titles. Retread wonders are everywhere in sports.

But how things changed with the Yahoo investigative piece on the Miami football program and booster Nevin Shapiro, as it appears Haith may have been along for a portion of the infraction-filled ride.

My first thought was that if evidence surfaced that proved Haith did in fact know about the $10,000 payment to a player it would virtually be a certainty he’d be fired before he coached a game at Mizzou. The Tigers would the have to hastily find a new coach and that would put the team in a tough position.

Read the rest of this entry »

Time for Year Two!

August 15, 2011

The Huskers are gone. The Buffs are gone.

But we’re coming back.

We had a lot of fun with this blog last season, and we’ve decided to keep it again for 2011-12. A lot has changed in the league in the past year, and the upcoming basketball season should be a great one.

Now, our updates will be less frequent throughout football season before we really get active in November. But we’ll still have thoughts and analysis on news and interesting topics until then.

Some highlights we’re looking forward to blogging about this fall:

 – The impact of a round robin schedule: Harkening back to the old Big 8 days, starting this year each team plays every league opponent twice, home and away. The league schedule was already difficult, and it’s probably tougher now. Not to sound like a coach, but there are few easy wins left anymore in the Big 12.

 – Is Iowa State for real? The Cyclones have assembled some of their best talent in years, and don’t think that’s gone unnoticed by ISU’s great basketball fans. If Royce White and his pals are ready to go, “Hilton Magic” could be a very real factor this year after a considerable hiatus.

 – How will Missouri, Texas A&M and Texas Tech fare with new coaches? Few in Columbia knew anything about Frank Haith before this past Spring, but Tiger fans still expect success as MU will likely start four seniors. Mark Turgeon continued what Billy Gillispie got started in College Station, building a solid basketball contender at a football school, but Turgeon is now at Maryland. Where will A&M fit in a wide open race?

And speaking of Gillispie, he’s back in the Big 12 at Texas Tech! The run at Kentucky didn’t work out for anyone, but the Red Raiders have room to grow and perhaps “Billy Clyde” will feel more at home in Lubbock.

 – Big 12 in the NBA: This is a special section Greg started last year, and it’s worth a look. He’s catalogued every active NBA-er who spent some time in the Big 12. You might find a name or two you had forgotten all about, or someone you didn’t realize attended a Big 12 school!

 – THE ARCHIVES: These articles are a look back to some of the past heroes of the league’s programs since the inception of the Big 12. We’ve done research on guys like Wayne Simien, Hollis Price, Kenton Paulino and others and you can still check those out. We’ll continue to add new names and find out what those guys are doing now in their professional lives, whether in sports or not.

Hopefully our content gets you excited for basketball season – as always, make it a conversation and give us your thoughts on any topic. We want to build a community here. Until then, Sic Em, Gig Em, Hook Em, Rock Chalk, Boomer Sooner, Guns Up, M-I-Z … you get the idea. Can we all agree the Pac-12 still sucks?

 – Craig, Greg and Justin (your humble Big 12 bloggers)