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.

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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 Chron.com.

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.


Possible Replacements, TCU

October 6, 2011

"Whaddaya say?" Jim Christian's Frogs might be the league's next invite. Source: Zimbio.com

Realignment Madness has turned out to be the perfect label for this category of posts.

If you haven’t seen, a report indicates an offer from the Big 12 for a new member: Texas Christian University.

TCU is currently a member of the Mountain West Conference, and had been scheduled to join the Big East Conference starting next school year. Of course, that was all set up before Texas A&M bolted for the SEC and the Big 12 found itself down to nine schools. We’ll talk plenty more here about this story as it’s updated.

Some notes on TCU – it is a Christian school in Fort Worth, Texas. While TCU would be the fourth Texas school in the new Big 12 Conference (joining Tech, Baylor and Texas), it is the only one located in the giant Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex.

Athletically, TCU is a football school. Gary Patterson has been there since 1998 and been head coach since 2001 (he was previously defensive coordinator). He was a graduate assistant at Kansas State in 1982.

TCU went 13-0 last year, beating Big Ten champion Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl and finishing 2nd in both polls. The Horned Frogs also had an outstanding season in 2009, when they went 12-0 in the regular season before losing to undefeated Boise State in the Fiesta Bowl. They finished ranked sixth. This year, TCU is 3-2, having been knocked off by Baylor and Southern Methodist.

Going into this year, the Horned Frogs finished in the Top 25 seven times out of ten (the Patterson era). TCU played in Conference USA from 2001-2004, winning one conference championship. The team has won the Mountain West three years out of six.

Despite its location in Fort Worth, TCU’s fanbase will not be confused for A&M’s (even though TCU would have probably smacked A&M silly the last couple of years.) The school is currently expanding its stadium to 50,000, but this is not a school with much of a national following.

Of course, this is a basketball blog. And this is where TCU’s profile looks a lot less sexy. As in not at all.

TCU has competed in the NCAA Tournament seven times, most recently in 1998 (their last conference championship). The team’s last NCAA win was in 1987 against Marshall. Since then, TCU finished in the quarterfinals of the 2005 NIT.

It gets worse. TCU’s record last year was 10-23. The Frogs’ final win of the regular season was January 12. (They won one conference tournament game.) Now BYU, San Diego State and New Mexico all take basketball seriously, but this suggests the TCU program will be WAY in over its head, as it was last year in the Mountain West.

Simply put, Texas Christian has fallen flat on its face in conference play each of the last 5 years. Despite a narrow victory over Texas Tech early in the year, TCU almost surely replaces Tech as the dog of the Big 12 if the addition is made.

Jim Christian is starting his fourth year as head coach.

With the departures of Nebraska, Colorado, Texas A&M (and possibly Mizzou), this league needs a football boost badly. TCU provides that without question. Losing Nebraska and CU won’t greatly affect the basketball competition. But losing both A&M and Mizzou certainly would. And unfortunately, TCU’s recent past doesn’t convince us they would help.

To be fair, perhaps TCU’s basketball recruiting would improve some with Big 12 membership. There is a long way to go.

It will be interesting to see if TCU’s addition makes the addition of more well-rounded athletic programs like Louisville and West Virginia less likely. However, from a football standpoint, TCU is light years ahead of Louisville and at least as strong as WVU.

In any case, it looks like K-State might not be the only Big 12 school celebrating Purple Power for much longer.


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)


Last Night in the Big 12

January 27, 2011

Texas continued to make a statement to the rest of the conference, while Texas Tech did something I didn’t think they would do all season.

Dogus has been the heart of the Texas defense all season long. (Image thanks to interbasket.net)

Texas 61 Oklahoma State 46

This game felt a little unfair at times. Texas lost Tristain Thompson early in the to foul trouble, and still were able to build a seven point halftime lead. Dogus Balbay scored 10 points in the first half, something that we will probably never see again. He was the story of the game though, controlling Texas’ offense without shooting much, and completely dominating Okie State on defense.

Defense, as usual, was the story for Texas. They totally smothered the Cowboys. Keiton Page went 0-7 from the field and didn’t score. Marshall Moses had 14, but spent most of the second half catching the ball at the top of the key. J.P. Olukemi was bothered all night, and only managed 13 points because he was able to get 10 free throw attempts.

Texas has a real tough week ahead of them, with Missouri visiting on Saturday and then a trip to Texas A&M on Monday. The chances of Texas escaping those games with wins are very small, but after watching the defensive clinic they’ve been having all season, it is more than possible.

For now, Texas remains the power in the conference, and I would dare to say I think they are a better team than Kansas right now. For Oklahoma State, three of their next four games are very winnable, and they should get back into position for a possible NCAA bid.

Texas Tech 92 Iowa State 83

Texas Tech actually got a road win, something I sure didn’t see coming this season. Heck, I didn’t even think they would get A win, so this is really impressive. Mike Singletary flashed back to the Big 12 tournament a few years ago, and dropped 33 points to go with 10 rebounds and six assists.

All five Texas Tech starters scored in double figures, and Tech shot 58% from behind the three-point line for the game.

I’m not sure a lack of depth hurt I-State this time, Tech only played eight people as well, but they certainly don’t have the fight in them that they had a week ago. Diante Garrett scored 27 points, and played all 40 minutes. The Cyclones shot just 19% from behind the arc, which pretty much explains their loss.

While neither of these teams is any good, Iowa State did have a little hope at being decent in conference play this year. It seems like that just won’t happen though. For now, they sit at the very bottom of the conference, where they might be all season long.


Yesterday in the Big 12

January 19, 2011

Nebraska hands out some humble pie, and Oklahoma gets by Texas Tech

Nebraska 79 Colorado 67

After two close calls against Missouri and Kansas, Nebraska returned home and got the win they’ve been so close to getting. They used 40 minutes on great defense, and some smart offensive play, to take down the previously unbeaten (in conference play) Buffaloes.

The Huskers defended Alec Burks perfectly, forcing him to take jump shots, and kept him off the foul line. Burks finished with 22 points and eight rebounds, but needed 17 shots to get to 22 points, and also committed seven turnovers. They kept the entire Colorado team out of the lane, and provided the rest of the conference with a solid blueprint on how to beat Tad Boyle’s team.

Nebraska also played smart of offense, using their considerable size advantage all night. They were hesitant at times to go inside to Jorge Brian-Diaz, but when they did Diaz scored with ease. He went 7-8 from the floor, and only committed one foul. Lance Jeter impressed at point guard, controlling the game the entire night. He scored just 10 points, but dished out nine assists and turned the ball over only twice. Toney McCray added 18.

Clearly Colorado isn’t quite the super team they played like the last three games. They were taken out of their game early, struggled to adjust, and let the refs get in their heads. Nebraska showed that they are a real tough team, and that winning in Lincoln this season isn’t going to be easy at all. Doc Sadler’s team is already playing like a Big 10 team, and that kind of defensive mentality goes a long way. They just need to be able to score, which wasn’t an issue tonight, but will continue to be their main issue all season.

Oklahoma 83 Texas Tech 74

I had no interest in watching this game, and not surprisingly very little happened. Notable for Texas Tech is that freshman center Robert Lewandowski, who has had some impressive games this season, scored just six points. He also had no rebounds, which is pretty much unacceptable from a big man.

Oklahoma was led by Cade Davis, who scored 25.


Previewing Tonight’s Big 12 Games

January 18, 2011

Not a ton going on tonight in the conference, though there will be some intrigue for me anytime Colorado plays this season. Two games, one that doesn’t matter at all, and the other with a surprising amount of importance.

Texas Tech at Oklahoma

Go ahead and just ignore this one, I sure will. At least we know that one of these teams will have a win in conference play this season. I think OU is slightly more capable than Tech, especially at home. I’ll give OU the edge in this one, putting Pat Knight in really hot water.

OU 70 Tech 61

Colorado at Nebraska

Colorado takes their show on the road, and to national TV. The co-leaders in the conference face a really tough Nebraska team that has been close in every game they’ve played in conference this season.

For Colorado the key will be getting Alec Burks’ shooting back on track. He’s had a bit of a rough go the last two games, though it hasn’t really hurt the team’s results. He still got 20 points against Oklahoma State, mostly on the foul line. Burks will be able to do whatever he wants on the floor again tonight, but another 4-13 effort could be a problem. Cory Higgins and Levi Knutson need to keep up their hot shooting, which shouldn’t be too hard since Burks will get them plenty of open looks.

For Nebraska, they just need to keep doing what they’ve been doing. Missouri and Kansas both had a lot of trouble beating them, despite the fact that the talent level isn’t comparable to either team. If they can force Burks to shoot outside, and resist the temptation to foul him when he drives to the lane, the Huskers will be in good shape. Higgins is a force to deal with as well, but he isn’t as capable of taking over a game the way Burks can.

I think the Buffaloes great run to start conference play ends tonight. The Huskers are at home, have a great defense capable of giving Burks a ton of problems, and will be able to do just enough on offense at the end. This promises to be one heck of a game though, probably the second best Big 12 game this week.

Nebraska 65 Colorado 61