Big 12 weekday preview

January 30, 2012

Monday: Missouri @ Texas, 8 p.m. CST (ESPN)

Tuesday: Kansas State @ Iowa State, 8 p.m. CST (ESPN3); Oklahoma State @ Texas Tech, 7 p.m. CST (ESPN3)

Wednesday: Oklahoma @ Kansas, 8 p.m. CST (ESPNU); Baylor @ Texas A&M, 8 p.m. CST (ESPN2)

(Presumptive) Game of the Week: Missouri @ Texas

The weight of that #2 ranking seemed like it was just a bit too heavy for the Tigers to handle. Luckily for them, they avoided an absolutely catastrophic week by beating a game Texas Tech team on Saturday. The Tigers are still a very good team, but this will be another tough road game.

I don’t see the Tigers struggling in Austin simply because they lost at Oklahoma State. Missouri was in control of that game until the last few minutes. The Longhorns have a good chance in this game because they found something against the Tigers in the second half of their first game, winning it 43-41. And since then they’ve played K-State, Kansas and Baylor close. They haven’t given up as the losses have mounted. Rick Barnes’ young team is bound to break through sooner or later.

(Presumptive) Game of the Week, Part II: Kansas State @ Iowa State

I know I am kind of cheating by throwing two “games of the week” up here, but I just couldn’t resist. Hilton Magic is back right? Maybe, but this game screams of the “psychology of the schedule” idea that Fran Fraschilla talks about. Iowa State is way up and Kansas State is down after a disappointing home loss to Oklahoma.

In a match up between Fred Hoiberg keeping his team focused and Frank Martin sparking his team out of urgency, I’ll go with Martin. Nothing against Hoiberg, I just think that Frank Martin stare is pretty hard to top. And the Mayor looks like such a nice guy.

Under the Radar Game: Oklahoma State @ Texas Tech

The Cowboys got their moment in the sun with the big win against Missouri and its then-#2 ranking. They then showed up flat in College Station and lost last weekend. But despite the up-and-down week they are certainly more talented than Texas Tech and you’d think they’d have their way in Lubbock.

But this may be Tech’s best shot a conference win this season. And though they didn’t beat Missouri this weekend, they frustrated one of the better teams in the country to the point that they were  within striking distance in final minutes. You might say, “okay, so what?” Well the way Tech’s season has gone that is something. Billy Gillepsie should be able to get enough out of the Red Raiders to pick up a win here.

Jordan Tolbert had his best game in conference play against Kansas State last week but was hit with foul trouble against Missouri. His second-highest scoring output during conference came against the Cowboys, so he may be ready to have a big game.


Mizzou bounces back with win in Ames

January 12, 2012

For about 30-35 minutes it sure looked like it was Iowa State’s night. The Cyclones were hot from the three-point line, Royce White was asserting himself and they even got a half-court heave to go down. And what a statement it would be.

After intra-state losses to Drake and Northern Iowa early in the season, the Cyclones could begin conference play 3-0 with a win over a team ranked in the top ten. But it was not to be. Missouri stretched the lead just out of Iowa State’s grasp within the last six or so minutes of the game, and ran disciplined offensive sets to keep it there.

Iowa State used a lot of NBA-style isolation with White and good three-point shooting (12-23) to test the Tigers. This is a formula that should win quite a few games for the Cyclones, especially at home. But Missouri’s scoring depth and balance really shone tonight. Marcus Denmon was shut down (6 points) but the Tigers still had six players in double figures.

White had a stretch where he was easily getting to the basket in isolation, but Missouri started running a guard at him at the top of the key. After White mishandled it once Hoiberg seemed to go away from it. White was also in foul trouble so constantly having him run at guys was dangerous. But there are few players in the conference that can defend that, and Hoiberg can always go back to that look if the Cyclone offense is stagnant.

Steve Moore put in a nice effort and helped the Tigers not get demolished on the glass like they did against Kansas State. Missouri outrebounded Iowa State 36-25, but that isn’t too much of a surprise considering the matchup.

Ricardo Ratliffe’s efficient, reliable post-game (12 points on 6-8 shooting) is something that can really set Missouri apart as the season goes on. He’ll never dominate a game, but it seems if the Tigers can get him the ball in a decent spot near the paint, he’ll find a good shot. Kim English also had a couple of 15-footers while rolling off screens, which isn’t something he’s been great at in his career. That could also be a nice weapon for Frank Haith.

As for Iowa State, their future for this season certainly looks good. Assuming they win the gams they are supposed to, all they’ll need is a win over Kansas, Baylor or Kansas State to really feel good about their NCAA chances. I have a feeling they’ll get one of those teams at Hilton. Oh the beauty of the complete round robin.

Chris Babb did a great job on Denmon tonight, and with his size and athleticism Iowa State has a guy that can frustrate any opposing wing. And then there is White, who might be the singularly most dominant player in the conference behind Thomas Robinson. However, you almost wonder if teams should start to use a hack-a-Royce strategy. He was 2-8 from the line in this game and has gone 12-29 in Big 12 play.


Friday Night slate: Iowa State hosts rival Hawkeyes

December 9, 2011

Iowa State, at 6-3, has lost most of its interesting non-conference matchups this season. The Cyclones fell early in the year to Drake, and recently lost to Michigan and Northern Iowa. So that’s two in-state opponents I-State has been beaten by.

Big chance today, as they take on Iowa. So far, I-State has shown some good things but a 6-3 record isn’t too indicative of success. The Cyclones need to take advantage of non-conference games to boost their record before the tough Big 12.

Some things I like:

 – Iowa State has shown scoring balance. Four players average more than 10 points per game: guards Chris Allen, Chris Babb and Tyrus McGee, and big man Royce White. McGee doesn’t play quite as much as the others. As an observer I prefer scoring balance in the college game because it shows you’re not relying on one guy for points and offense (as it would be easy for I-State to do with White). If the Cyclones compete in the Big 12, it will be in part because of continued offensive balance.

 – Royce White is playing very well. Averaging very close to a double-double (leading the team in both points and rebounds) is quite an accomplishment for a guy who has been playing competitive games for less than a month. I know he is in shape and has obviously been practicing, but he wasted no time contributing to this Iowa State team. White also shoots better than 52 percent, which indicates he is getting good shots.

 – Scott Christopherson is getting a lot of minutes. He is currently shooting 38.7 percent from three-point range, which is fine as this is his primary skill. If he could raise that to about 40 percent in Big 12 play, it would be a huge asset for Iowa State.

In its last game, Iowa got routed at Northern Iowa, 80-60. (UNI beat I-State 69-62 in Ames. I-State was outrebounded by five.) The Hawkeyes actually outrebounded UNI but shot 1 of 12 from three-point range, while the purple Panthers hit 11 of 21.

I’m not going to say too much more about Iowa because I don’t know much of anything you couldn’t just find from statistics, but it would seem if Iowa State can keep from getting outrebounded badly and continue to get White the ball where he can score, the Cyclones can get a very helpful non-conference win.

Iowa State leans on Royce White and wins opener

November 13, 2011

Iowa State beat Lehigh 86-77 last night at Hilton Coliseum. It served as the Cyclone debut for highly touted forward Royce White. It was good to see White scored (25 points) and rebounded (11) effectively. He also blocked three shots.

The Cyclones also got some nice production from Scott Christopherson, their reliable shooter. He made all six of his free throws and had 12 points and four rebounds.

Melvin Ejim averaged about 27 minutes per game last year and it looks like he’ll play a big role this year, too. He had 10 points and five rebounds. New transfer Chris Allen had 10 points as well.

I’m looking forward to watching Iowa State this year. One positive thing I see from the scoresheet is the shooting percentage yesterday. The Cyclones were 30-53, for 56%. Even against subpar competition, that’s a sign the offense is taking good shots or getting fast breaks, or both. Some teams are tempted to take bad chances against inferior athletes but Iowa State didn’t do that.

I do not like the turnovers. There were 18, and White made six of them. Nothing to worry about of course, but it’s something to try to improve. They had 13 assists, which isn’t too bad for 30 made shots.

I am very curious to see if 20+ point efforts are the norm this year for White. It was nice to see five guys score at least 10 points, because that indicates a natural balance.

We all know one of Iowa State’s biggest problems in the last few years was depth. Craig Brackins was a great player but defenses could key on him too much. If the Cyclones continue to share the basketball well, I think we’ll soon see a team much better than the one that beat Lehigh by nine yesterday.

P.S. Shoutout to Cyclone fans for selling out the season opener, 13,000+ in attendance yesterday.

Preseason poll – four teams get a 1st place vote

October 14, 2011

Basketball season starts this weekend.

For the next couple days, college basketball will consist of loud player introductions, flashing lights, dunks and “practice sessions” that might look nothing at all like a real practice.

It’s time to take a look at how the Big 12 COACHES voted in the league’s poll of the ten teams. Coaches could not vote for their own.


Dash Harris and his Aggie teammates would like to unseat Kansas as the league's best team. Photo thanks

This year’s preseason poll has co-favorites: KANSAS and TEXAS A&M. The Jayhawks got the most first-place votes from the coaches (5), while Texas A&M got two. However, each team garnered 73 points total from the ballots.

The Jayhawks have at least shared the conference title for seven straight seasons. But while they are accustomed to losing talent, there is less depth in place at the moment than there has been in some prior years. Greg, one of this blog’s authors, has mentioned Thomas Robinson as a likely POY. I agree, but the Morris twins were just awesome and those two alone will be tough to replace.

Texas A&M has a new coach this season, Billy Kennedy. The Aggies, if not great in recent years, have been consistently solid.

The three of us at this blog have a running joke called “The List,” of college players who seem like they should have graduated and yet are still playing. (Typically these are just guys who played a lot as freshmen and stayed around.) Fortunately, A&M has two candidates for The List in guard Dash Harris and forward David Loubeau. That bodes well for experience.

They also add 6’7″ junior Khris Middleton, a big scorer last year. He has played in every game during his career.

Kansas State was last year’s preseason No. 1.

Team No. 3 is BAYLOR, which received two first-place votes. Baylor returns four seniors, super soph big guy Perry Jones and a really hyped guard in Deuce Bello. I expect Baylor will once again be one of the league’s most athletic teams (as is often the case). The Bears have underachieved two of the last three years and made the Elite Eight the other year. This is a VERY interesting team.

MISSOURI, you’ll recall, is still part of the Big 12. The Tigers were picked fourth and received one first place vote, despite a seemingly devastating recent injury to forward Laurence Bowers which will keep him off the floor all year. Bowers has been arguably Mizzou’s best player over the past two seasons. I look forward to seeing whether Missouri’s tempo shifts from the frenetic press, now that Frank Haith is coach. Either way, a lot will be required of senior big man Ricardo Ratliffe on offense and defense.

Perenially talented TEXAS takes the No. 5 spot. A team that spent part of last year in the Top 5 nationally seeks to improve its recent NCAA tournament struggles. The Horns are extremely young with six freshmen. Names you’ll recognize include 6’10” senior Clint Chapman and 6’1″ junior J’Covan Brown. Alexis Wangmene (6’7″ from Cameroon) is also a senior.

Korie Lucious (34) and Chris Allen are now Cyclones and might solidify Iowa State's best team in a decade. Photo thanks to Des Moines Register.

KANSAS STATE is team six. The Wildcats’ early months last year were an absolute disaster. Denis Clemente’s absence was noticeable, but K-State got a huge upset win at home over Kansas and turned things around somewhat. They didn’t live up to preseason expectations but I think they can exceed them this year. K-State returns a lot of guys you will remember, including guards Rodney McGruder (junior), Shane Southwell (sophomore) and Will Spradling (sophomore). They also bring back 6’7 senior forward Jamar Samuels.

That group has plenty of talent, so don’t assume K-State will be average just because Jacob Pullen is gone.

OKLAHOMA STATE takes the No. 7 spot. Travis Ford brings two seniors, guard Keiton Page and JUCO forward Darrell Williams. Williams led the team in rebounding last year. J.P. Olukemi will be important again as a junior. Freshman Le’Bryan Nash is a McDonald’s All-American.

IOWA STATE, in its second year under Fred Hoiberg, is the eighth choice. This is another team I look forward to watching. Finally Royce White, the 6’8″ redshirt sophomore from Minnesota gets to play. Adding instant experience are senior Michigan State transfers at guard – Chris Allen and Korie Lucious. It’s been a long time since Marcus Fizer and Jamaal Tinsley made ISU a contender but perhaps the Cyclones are on their way.

OKLAHOMA and TEXAS TECH are tied for ninth and last in this year’s poll. The Sooners have three seniors who have played sparingly. T.J. Franklin sees little floor time. The other two, C.J. Washington and Barry Honoré, are JUCO transfers who were reserves last year. Oklahoma looks very different than it used to and is clearly still in a phase of change from the Kelvin Sampson era.

6’10” Robert Lewandowski is the only senior for the Red Raiders of Texas Tech, now coached by Billy Gillispie. There are eight high school freshmen on the roster along with several JUCO transfers, which is exciting when your team has recently struggled. Hopefully Tech can perform a little better than last year and work toward improving that program.

We will have our own Big 12 preseason poll before the season starts.

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

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.

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)