Checking in on the… Big 12

February 9, 2009

Patrick Marshall of Bluejay Basketball is the RTC correspondent for the Big 12 and Missouri Valley Conferences.

Current Records and my standings (Conference Standings) (Last Week)

  1. Oklahoma (23-1)(9-0) (1)
  2. Kansas (19-4)(8-0) (2)
  3. Missouri (20-4) (7-2) (3)
  4. Nebraska (15-7) (5-4) (7)
  5. Kansas St. (16-7) (5-4)(8)
  6. Texas (15-7) (4-4) (4)
  7. Texas A&M (17-7) (3-6) (5)
  8. Baylor (15-8) (3-6) (6)
  9. Oklahoma St. (14-8) (3-5) (9)
  10. Texas Tech (12-11) (2-6)(11)
  11. Iowa St. (12-11) (1-7) (10)
  12. Colorado (8-12) (1-7) (12)

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Boom Goes the Dynamite: 02.07.09 Edition

February 7, 2009

dynamite1We’re back with another thrilling edition of Boom Goes the Dynamite where we try to cover every single game on TV. Since we have only two people working on BGTD, we appreciate any reader tips on what games everyone should be watching since there are so many on TV and the Internet. For a rundown of the games today, check out today’s Set Your Tivos.

11:40 AM: ESPN GameDay is live from Spokane site of the Memphis-Gonzaga game tongiht at 9 PM. The crowd is fairly small, but I’ll give the Bulldog fans a break since it started at 8 AM local time on a Saturday morning at a school with just 4,515 undergraduates. I’m still waiting for a basketball GameDay to match a college football GameDay in terms of attendance and crazy fans. Looking at the schedule, I’m going to have go with February 21st when Oklahoma plays Texas in Austin, TX as the ESPN GameDay where the fans actually show up.

Noon: Some great work by the ESPN camera crew making Philadelphia look like something other a dump. The Syracuse-Villanova game should be one of the better ones today with both teams being in the 2nd tier in the Big East after UConn, Pittsburgh, and Louisville. The jury is still out on Marquette after last night’s debacle. Like we said watch the Jonny Flynn versus Scottie Reynolds match-up. The Arinze Onuaku injury could be big particularly with Dante Cunningham on the inside.

12:40 PM: Sorry for the delay in posting, but we’re having some problems with WordPress. Anyways, Villanova is absolutely destroying Syracuse right now. A basket by Cunningham stretches the lead to 21 at 36-15. It might be a while before we have another update on this game unless the Orange make a run. If the game continues like this, Jim Boeheim‘s squad will fall out of the top 25 leaving just 5 Big East teams in the rankings.

1:00 PM: The ESPN announcers just said that Donovan McNabb played some basketball when he was at Syracuse. Either he had some ridiculous intramural basketball career that I’m not aware of or they just assume that every mobile black QB was a two-sports star. I’m guessing it is the latter.

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Checking in on the… Big 12

February 2, 2009

Patrick Marshall of Bluejay Basketball is the RTC correspondent for the Big 12 and Missouri Valley Conferences.

Current Records and my standings (Conference Standings) (Last Week)

  1. Oklahoma (21-1)(7-0) (1)
  2. Kansas (17-4)(6-0) (3)
  3. Missouri (18-4) (5-2) (4)
  4. Texas (15-5) (4-2) (2)
  5. Texas A&M (17-5) (3-4) (7)
  6. Baylor (15-6) (3-4) (5)
  7. Nebraska (13-7) (3-4) (9)
  8. Kansas St. (14-7) (3-4)(11)
  9. Oklahoma St. (13-7) (2-4) (6)
  10. Iowa St. (12-9) (1-5) (10)
  11. Texas Tech (11-10) (1-5)(8)
  12. Colorado (8-10) (1-5) (12)

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Checking in on the… Big 12

January 26, 2009

Patrick Marshall of Bluejay Basketball is the RTC correspondent for the Big 12 and Missouri Valley Conferences.

Current Records and my standings (Conference Standings) (Last Week)

  1. Oklahoma (19-1)(5-0) (1)
  2. Texas (14-4) (3-1) (2)
  3. Kansas (15-4)(4-0) (4)
  4. Missouri (17-3) (4-1) (6) 
  5. Baylor (15-4) (3-2) (3)
  6. Oklahoma St. (13-5) (2-2) (8)
  7. Texas A&M (15-5) (1-4) (5)
  8. Texas Tech (11-8) (1-3)(11)
  9. Nebraska (12-6) (2-3) (7)
  10. Iowa St. (12-7) (1-3) (9)
  11. Kansas St. (12-7) (1-4)(10)
  12. Colorado (8-10) (0-4) (12)

As expected, the top of the Big 12 was going to be dominant in conference play this season with a Missouri team really starting to look good.  Baylor and Texas A&M have struggled as of late and they need to get things turned around quickly. 

GAME OF THE WEEK

Oklahoma 72, Nebraska 61—This game had all the drama and the wakeup call needed for Oklahoma.  Nebraska came out with a stifling defense to start the game and double and triple-teamed Blake Griffin and basically took him out of the game.  The Huskers were up 6 at halftime and in the 2nd half, they were not able to play Griffin as well as they did in the first half.  Griffin went 7-8 in the 2nd half from the field and Nebraska was not able to score for  about 5 minutes down the stretch.  By the time they were able to start scoring again, it was too late. 

PLAYER OF THE WEEK

Blake Griffin, Oklahoma—Though I considered DeMarre Carroll (Missouri), Sherron Collins (Kansas) and Craig Brackens (Iowa St.), I have to go with Griffin as he continues to dominate the games he is in and averaged 23 points and almost 18 rebounds a game this week.    He didn’t even play that much the 2nd half against Baylor.  He is well on his way to Player of the Year.

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Checking in on the… Big 12

January 19, 2009

Patrick Marshall of Bluejay Basketball is the RTC correspondent for the Missouri Valley and Big 12 Conferences.

Current Records and my standings (Conference Standings) (Last Week)

  1. Oklahoma (17-1)(3-0) (2)
  2. Texas (13-4) (2-1) (3)
  3. Baylor (14-3) (2-1) (1)
  4. Kansas (13-4)(2-0) (5)
  5. Texas A&M (15-3) (1-2) (4)
  6. Missouri (15-3) (2-1) (8)
  7. Nebraska (12-4) (2-1) (7)
  8. Oklahoma State (12-4) (1-1) (6)
  9. Iowa State (12-6) (1-2) (11)
  10. Kansas State (11-6) (0-3)(9)
  11. Texas Tech (10-8) (0-3)(10)
  12. Colorado (8-8) (0-2) (12)

GAME OF THE WEEK
Baylor 98, Oklahoma State 92 (OT): Baylor was down by as many as 17 points in the 1st half, but made a run and was quite the deal to get the game into overtime, but Tweety Carter came up huge for Baylor hitting two three-pointers at the start of overtime. Then he finished off the Cowboys with a third basket and a key steal to seal the game for the Bears.

PLAYER OF THE WEEK
Sherron Collins, Kansas: Collins was the leader that the Jayhawks expected to have as he helped lead Kansas to wins in their first two conference games this week averaging 21 points (12/12 FT) and 5.5 assists per game. His leadership will determine the wins for Kansas in the conference season and how successful they want to be.

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Checking in on the…Big 12

January 12, 2009

Patrick Marshall of Bluejay Basketball is the RTC correspondent for the Big 12 and Missouri Valley Conferences.

Current Records and my standings (Conference Standings) (Last Week)
1. Baylor (13-2) (1-0) (4)
2. Oklahoma (14-2)(1-0) (2)
3. Texas (12-3) (1-0) (3)
4. Texas A&M (14-2) (0-1) (1)
5. Kansas (11-4)(0-0) (5)
6. Oklahoma State (12-3) (1-0) (8 )
7. Nebraska (11-3) (1-0) (11)
8. Missouri (13-3) (0-1) (6)
9. Kansas State (11-4) (0-1)(7)
10. Texas Tech (10-6) (0-1)(9)
11. Iowa State (11-5) (0-1) (10)
12. Colorado (8-6) (0-0) (12)

Though Conference play started this past weekend, really to me, the conference season really starts here on Big Monday with one of the bigger match-ups of the season in Texas and Oklahoma and their “golden boy” Blake Griffin. But let’s take a look at the conference as a whole and see if things are where we expected coming into the season:

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Checking in on the… Big 12

January 8, 2009

Patrick Marshall of Bluejay Basketball is the RTC correspondent for the Missouri Valley and Big 12 Conferences.

Current Records and my standings (Last Week)

  1. Texas A&M (13-1) (3)
  2. Oklahoma (13-1) (1)
  3. Texas (11-2) (4)
  4. Baylor (12-2) (2)
  5. Kansas (10-3) (6)
  6. Missouri (12-2)  (5) 
  7. Kansas St. (10-3) (7)
  8. Oklahoma St. (10-3) (8)
  9. Texas Tech (10-5) (9)
  10. Iowa St. (10-4) (10)
  11. Nebraska (9-3) (11)
  12. Colorado (7-5) (12)

This week for the Big 12 had some ups and downs.  Let’s check in on these teams. 

TEAM OF THE WEEK

Kansas (2-0 this week)—This young Kansas team is really starting to get it together and have started to win some bigger games.  Mario Little finally made his debut for the Jayhawks but almost went out on the court without his shorts on.  However, it gets real tough for them before heading into conference play as they take on a hot and hyped Siena team and then hit the road at Michigan St.   Kansas gets a little New Year’s gift by getting Jeff Withey (a transfer from Arizona) to play for them, but won’t be able to until December of this year. 

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Checking in on the… Big 12

December 31, 2008

Patrick Marshall of Bluejay Basketball is the RTC correspondent for the Missouri Valley and Big 12 Conferences.

Current Records and my standings (Last Week)

  1. Oklahoma (12-0) (1)
  2. Baylor (10-1) (2)
  3. Texas A&M (11-1) (3)
  4. Texas (10-2) (4)
  5. Missouri (10-2)  (5)
  6. Kansas (8-3) (6)
  7. Kansas St. (8-3) (8)
  8. Oklahoma St. (8-3) (9)
  9. Texas Tech (9-4) (7)
  10. Iowa St. (8-4) (11)
  11. Nebraska (7-3) (10)
  12. Colorado (7-3) (12)

A very bad week for the Big 12.  With about a week left in non-conference play, the cream of the crop is starting to shake out.   Kansas St. and Oklahoma St. did not play this week.

TEAM OF THE WEEK

Texas (1-0 this week)—Texas rebounded after the loss to Michigan St. to take it out on another Big 10 team in the Wisconsin Badgers to get a nice road win.   The news in Texas is that former Florida guard Jai Lucas has chosen to transfer to Texas and will join the Longhorns.  It is still to be determined whether he needs to sit out a full year and become eligible for the 2nd half of next season or if he will be able to play right away.  I can’t see how he could be eligible for the beginning of next season, but stranger things have happened.

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Checking in on the… Big 12

December 23, 2008

Patrick Marshall of Bluejay Basketball is the RTC correspondent for the Missouri Valley and Big 12 Conferences.

Current Records and my standings (Last Week):

  1. Oklahoma (11-0) (1)
  2. Baylor (9-1) (3)
  3. Texas A&M (10-1) (5)
  4. Texas (8-2) (2)
  5. Missouri (9-1)  (4)
  6. Kansas (8-2) (6)
  7. Texas Tech (8-3) (7)
  8. Kansas St. (8-3) (8)
  9. Oklahoma St. (8-3) (11)
  10. Nebraska (7-2) (9)
  11. Iowa St. (7-3) (10)
  12. Colorado (5-3) (12)

Most teams only played one game this week.  The holidays are a little slow for the Big 12 teams.  However what is starting to show is that this conference is wide open and it will be a  battle once conference play starts.  Oklahoma looks a little above the rest, but not much.

TEAM OF THE WEEK

Texas A&M (3-0 this week)—Texas A&M is starting to make me a believer, winning 3 more games this week to move to 10-1.  With some solid wins now over Arizona, Alabama, and an undefeated LSU team, this team is building itself quite a resume.    Things are definitely going their way as they almost got themselves in a position to lose the LSU game, but a controversial call late in the game led to an LSU technical and A&M sealed the win.  They should get a win over Sam Houston St. this week.

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Checking in on the… Big 12

December 16, 2008

Patrick Marshall of Bluejay Basketball is the RTC correspondent for the Big 12 and Missouri Valley Conferences.

Current Records and my standings (Last Week)

  1. Oklahoma (10-0) (1)
  2. Texas (8-1) (3)
  3. Baylor (8-1) (2)
  4. Missouri (8-1)  (5)
  5. Texas A&M (7-1) (7)
  6. Kansas (7-2) (4)
  7. Texas Tech (7-2) (6)
  8. Kansas St. (7-3) (9)
  9. Nebraska (6-2) (8)
  10. Iowa St. (6-3) (10)
  11. Oklahoma St. (6-3) (11)
  12. Colorado (4-3) (12)

This has been a slow week for the Big 12.  Finals are upon us, so just a few games and updates this week.

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Checking in on the… Big 12

December 8, 2008

Patrick Marshall of Bluejay Basketball is the RTC correspondent for the Big 12 and Missouri Valley Conferences.

Current Records and my standings (Last Week):

  1. Oklahoma (8-0) (1)
  2. Baylor (7-1) (2)
  3. Texas (6-1) (4)
  4. Kansas (7-1) (5)
  5. Missouri (7-1)  (7)
  6. Texas Tech (7-1) (8)
  7. Texas A&M (6-1) (9)
  8. Nebraska (6-1) (3)
  9. Kansas St. (5-3) (6)
  10. Iowa St. (6-1) (11)
  11. Oklahoma St. (5-3) (10)
  12. Colorado (3-3) (12)

A light week for the Big 12 as most teams only played once and it was their game in the Big 12/Pac 10 Hardwood Series where the Big 12 dominated.

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Checking in on the… Big 12

December 1, 2008

Patrick Marshall of Bluejay Basketball is the RTC correspondent for the Missouri Valley and Big 12 Conferences.

Current Records and my standings:

  1. Oklahoma (6-0)
  2. Baylor (6-1)
  3. Nebraska (5-0)
  4. Texas (5-1)
  5. Kansas (4-1)
  6. Kansas St. (5-2)
  7. Missouri (5-1)
  8. Texas Tech (6-1)
  9. Texas A&M (5-1)
  10. Oklahoma St. (5-2)
  11. Iowa St. (4-1)
  12. Colorado (3-2)

TEAM OF THE WEEK

Oklahoma (2-0 this week)—Oklahoma won the NIT Tip Off defeating UAB and a pesky Purdue team as the Griffin brothers helped lead the team to victory.  Although  Purdue was able to somewhat contain Blake Griffin, he still came away with 18 points and 21 rebounds and averaged 25 points and 18 rebounds in the two games in New York.

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Checking in on the… Big 12

November 24, 2008

check_in41

Patrick Marshall of Bluejay Basketball is the RTC correspondent for the Missouri Valley and Big 12 Conferences.

Big 12 Conference Week in Review (Nov. 14-23)

Current Records and my standings:

  1. Oklahoma (4-0)
  2. Missouri (4-1)
  3. Nebraska (3-0)
  4. Kansas St. (4-0)
  5. Baylor (3-0)
  6. Texas (2-0)
  7. Kansas (2-0)
  8. Oklahoma St. (4-0)
  9. Texas Tech (4-0)
  10. Iowa St. (3-0)
  11. Texas A&M (3-0)
  12. Colorado (2-1)

TEAM OF THE WEEK

Oklahoma—Oklahoma has gotten off to a fast 4-0 start behind Blake Griffin and his supporting cast.  They survived the Gardner-Webb bug that Kentucky suffered from last year.  Griffin scored 35 points and pulled down 21 rebounds to lead Oklahoma to a win.  Now they head to New York after holding off Stephen Curry and Davidson in their NIT regional.  They get a somewhat favorable matchup against UAB instead of an expected Arizona team.

TEAMS DOING WELL

Nebraska—I actually like Nebraska just for the fact that they are one of the only Big 12 teams that already has a road game under their belt as they made the trip to TCU this week.  Though they only had 21 free throws (most came towards the end) against TCU’s 38 free throws, Nebraska survived their first road test and will build some toughness as they continue a somewhat soft non-conference schedule.  However, Nebraska won against Arkansas-Pine Bluff but according to Doc Sadler, the Huskers were “outworked.”  Maybe next time after the morning shootaround you should keep the players there and let them prepare for the game instead of sending them home.

Missouri—Missouri started the season with a couple warmup games against Prairie View A&M and Chattanooga and then headed to San Juan, Puerto Rico, for a tournament – losing to Xavier, winning against Fairfield and getting a nice win against USC.   The bench for Missouri is starting to feel a little comfortable.  The Tigers’ high pressure defense caused 20 or more turnovers by their opponents the first three games of the season.    Missouri gets a week off before hosting Summit Conference favorite Oral Roberts next Sunday.

Kansas St.-The Wildcats enjoyed a little cupcake city playing against a bad Florida A&M team, a troubled Southeast Missouri St. team and D2 Emporia State, but then took to the road to play against Horizon league favorite Cleveland St. and left with a win—their first true non-conference road win in nearly two years.    Kansas St. is enjoying balanced scoring as they have six players averaging double figures in scoring.

Baylor—Baylor’s documented scoring machine has not disappointed as they are averaging almost 95 points a game.  In addition to what they already had, Baylor got a new scoring threat in Quincy Acy.  The freshman has yet to miss a shot, scoring 18 straight baskets over his 3-game career, breaking a Big 12 record.  With an assist for every two baskets, that means the Bears are doing a good job of playing some team ball.  They get a warm up with Jacksonville on Monday night before heading to Anaheim for the 76 Classic.

Texas—Texas, for being favored in the Big 12, has been relatively quiet to start the season.  They won against Stetson and Tulane to open things up before heading to Maui for the ever popular Maui Invitational.  AJ Abrams moving to point guard hasn’t affected his scoring too much as he leads Texas in scoring with 18 pts per game while expected point guard Dogus Balbay finally made his debut.   Texas has also had the opportunity to build depth as they have 9 players playing more than 13 minutes a game so far.

Kansas—Kansas welcomed a whole new bunch of players to Allen Field House this week as they played their CBE Classic pod against in-state UMKC and Florida Gulf Coast.   As expected, Sherron Collins and Cole Aldrich are leading the way for the Jayhawks in scoring.

Oklahoma St.—The cowboys hosted Texas-San Antonio and North Texas as well as Tulsa and Grambling St. with relatively easy wins.  The 3-point shot has almost been non-existent as they have been playing a lot of pick and roll basketball.   Five players are averaging double figures in scoring per game.  Okie St.  will have a challenging week ahead as a part of the Old Spice Classic in Orlando.

Texas Tech—The basketball team must have taken some notes from the football team as far as high paced scoring goes as the Red Raiders scored 167 points and opened the record book against East Central Oklahoma.   But what is even worse is that they did not have any defense either as they gave up 115 points themselves.    You have to kind of feel for Tyree Graham as he played 18 minutes and couldn’t score while everyone else did and mostly in double figures.   With that scoring explosion, through 4 games the Red Raiders are averaging 108 points a game.  Wow.

TEAMS THAT ARE STRUGGLING

Iowa St.—The Cyclones hosted their own multi-team tournament including UC Davis, Wisconsin-Milwaukee and Loyola Marymount.   They didn’t look that great, but with so many new players that is probably expected.  However that opening three games was last weekend.  After 9 days off, the Cyclones headed to Hawaii for what appears to be a vacation and one game, it will be interesting to see how that works for them before turning around and hosting the SWAC’s Mississippi Valley St.

Texas A&M—Texas A&M struggled with Southland favorite Stephen F. Austin sandwiched in between SWAC opponents Arkansas-Pine Bluff and Jackson St.   The game with SFA was tight the whole game and everyone in College Station was holding their breath hoping their basketball team isn’t going to be as bad as their football team was this year.   A&M may be undefeated, but at this point looks like smoke and mirrors so they are considered “struggling.”

Colorado—Colorado opened up against Arkansas-Pine Bluff with a great win and everyone in Boulder was tricked into thinking that they had a basketball team this season.  Then they hosted Big Sky Conference dweller Montana St. and lost.  Whoops.  Well maybe that is a good thing for the Buffalos.

GAME OF THE WEEK

Oklahoma vs. Davidson, NIT Tip Off—Davidson and Stephen Curry gave Oklahoma all they wanted in one of the more exciting games of the season so far.  The Griffin brothers combined for 41 points and 27 rebounds.  Though Oklahoma led by as many as 21 in the game, Davidson crept back in and made it a game to the end.  Great foul shooting led to a win for Oklahoma.

PLAYER OF THE WEEK

Blake Griffin, Oklahoma—As advertised, Blake was just a beast in Oklahoma’s  4 games they have already played.    He is averaging 25 points and 20 rebounds a game.  That is just ridiculous.

WEEK AHEAD AND GAMES TO WATCH

The Big 12 has played as advertised so far winning the games they are expected to win. This week will be the “Week of Tournaments” where several Big 12 teams will stop playing the cupcakes and play some real competition in the annually known neutral holiday tournaments:

  • 11/24-11/25, Kansas @ CBE Classic (ESPN2 and ESPNU)—Kansas gets a bit of a home court advantage as they play Washington and either Syracuse or Florida at the Sprint Center in Kansas City.
  • 11/24-11/26, Texas  @ Maui Invitational (ESPN Family of Networks)—Texas starts off with St. Joseph’s, then either Notre Dame or Indiana and then possibly North Carolina.
  • 11/26-11/28, Oklahoma @ NIT Tip Off (ESPN2)—Oklahoma gets a bit of surprise when they open up in New York against UAB and then will play either Boston College or Purdue.
  • 11/27-11/30, Baylor @ 76 Classic (ESPN2 and ESPNU)—Baylor opens with Providence and new coach Keno Davis, then most likely Arizona St. and then probably St. Mary’s or Wake Forest.
  • 11/27-11/30, Oklahoma St. @ Old Spice Classic (ESPN2 and ESPNU)—A stacked tournament where the Cowboys open with Gonzaga and then either Maryland or Michigan St.  If they win both of those, then they could likely be playing either Tennessee or Georgetown.
  • 11/28-11/29, Texas A&M @ South Padre Invitational (Fox College Sports Atlantic)—A&M plays Tulsa and then most likely Illinois.
  • 11/28-11/29, Kansas St. @ Las Vegas Invitational (ESPNU and ESPN2)—Kansas St. plays a struggling Kentucky team and then either Iowa or West Virginia in the city that never sleeps.
  • 11/28-11/29, Texas Tech @ Legends Classic (HDNET)—Texas Tech takes their new found high scoring offense into New Jersey hoping to beat Pittsburgh and then either Mississippi St. or Washington St.
  • 11/29, Colorado @ Stanford (Fox Sports Net)—Two teams seeing if they can be considered a player this season.
  • 11/29, Nebraska vs. Creighton (Fox Sports Midwest)—This in-state rivalry will heat up once again and I will actually be there to see it in person.

2008-09 Conference Primers: #2 – Big 12

November 9, 2008

Patrick Marshall of Bluejay Basketball is the RTC correspondent for the Missouri Valley and Big 12 Conferences.

Predicted Order of Finish:

  1. Texas   (27-3, 14-2)
  2. Kansas  (24-7, 14-2)
  3. Oklahoma  (27-5, 13-3)
  4. Baylor  (25-5, 12-4)
  5. Oklahoma St.  (19-11, 8-8)
  6. Texas A&M  (19-12, 7-9)
  7. Nebraska  (18-11, 7-9)
  8. Missouri  (18-13, 6-10)
  9. Kansas St.  (18-13, 6-10)
  10. Iowa St.  (16-16, 3-13)
  11. Texas Tech  (15-16, 3-13)
  12. Colorado  (14-16, 3-13)

big-12-logo

What You Need to Know.  Although Kansas won the National Championship last season in dramatic fashion, most of the team won’t be around to try to do the repeat shuffle like Florida did the previous two seasons.  However, that doesn’t mean the Big 12 Conference won’t have an exciting season in the wings.  The buzz around the Big 12 is that sophomore Blake Griffin from Oklahoma (who passed on the NBA, unlike is KU peers) decided to stay another year at Oklahoma to try to lead his team to a championship.  Griffin has already been mentioned for several preseason All-American teams and awards.  Texas returns a great nucleus of talent on a team that tied for the conference championship last year with Kansas.  Baylor is the biggest surprise coming into the season.  Head Coach  Scott Drew has brought this disgraced program back from the ashes a few years ago when Patrick Dennehy was murdered by teammate Carlton Dotson and information was later covered up by then head coach Dave Bliss. Baylor made the NCAA Tournament last season for the first time in twenty years.   Iowa State and Texas A&M are led by former Missouri Valley Conference coaches, Greg McDermott and Mark Turgeon, respectively.  Although Kansas State made a splash back into the national spotlight showcasing Michael Beasley and Bill Walker, they’ll now take a step back into the pack, but with the salaries of their coaches including their assistants, they should be held to high expectations.  Nebraska will be playing small ball this year as they do not have a player over 6’8, but it isn’t like they haven’t triedMissouri is still trying to find its identity and coach Mike Anderson hopes to finally play his type of up-tempo, high pressure defense.  Although only in his third year at the helm, Anderson is on the hot seat.  Colorado has a lot to build on with mostly freshman and sophomores.  Texas Tech got a little head start when legendary coach Bobby Knight passed the keys to his son Pat Knight at the end of last season, while first year coach Travis Ford restarts the Oklahoma State program after the Sutton family was ousted. 

Predicted Champion.  Texas (NCAA #1).  Although Texas  hoped DJ Augustin wouldn’t leave Austin for the NBA, he did.  The Horns return four of five starters, though, (AJ Abrams, Conner Atchley, Damion James and Justin Mason) and most of the team that made it last season to the Elite Eight.  AJ Abrams can hit a shot quickly and from anywhere.  He is the top returning scorer in the Big 12 (16.5 ppg).  Without Augustin, Texas will be relying on Dogus Balbay to run the point.  Unfortunately, Balbay is returning from an injury and played on a Turkish club team with players who received money.  However, Abrams is also an option at point guard and feels confident that he can run the team.  The frontcourt is solid with veterans James (12/10 last season) and Atchley.  Height doesn’t always equal playing ability, but when you have four players on the roster that are over 6’10”  (Atchley, Clint Chapman, Dexter Pittman and Matt Hill) they have the ability to be physical underneath.  The thing that sets Texas apart from the other Big 12 teams is their NCAA Tournament and coaching experience compared to the other contenders.  I expect Texas to take it a step further this year and make a Final Four appearance. 

NCAA Tournament Teams.

  • Kansas (NCAA #4). Some might think that I am crazy for predicting Kansas to finish second in the Big 12 this season with only 2 players coming back with significant playing time (Sherron Collins and Cole Aldrich).  Kansas will have seven newcomers to the program and some will be expected to be big players right away including juco All-American Mario Little, freshman twins Markieff and Marcus Morris and freshman guard Tyshawn Taylor.  Expect that there will be some growing pains.  However, Kansas is a beneficiary in scheduling, not only during the non-conference season, but in the Big 12 schedule as well.  The Jayhawks are participating in the CBE Classic that has them playing preliminary games at home and the semis/finals in Kansas City which is also basically at home.  Then in Big 12 play, they play the North schedule which means that they’ll play at Baylor and at Oklahoma only once, play Texas in Lawrence, while those three South teams have to play each other twice.  Playing at Allen Fieldhouse is not an easy task which makes their schedule amenable to success.  The Jayhawks will lose some early non-conference games and probably games they should not, but will be solid come conference and post-season time. The main cogs of the team that won the National Championship last year played together as freshmen and struggled early, but turned out to be one of the big stories as the season went along.  Similarly to that group, this season I see KU only getting past the first round of the NCAAs. 
  • Oklahoma (NCAA #5).  The media has picked Oklahoma to win the conference, Blake Griffin to be POY and Willie Warren to be the ROY. Warren was the leading scorer in the McDonalds All-American game and can seriously dunk.  If you want to see some of the talent Warren has to offer, check out this dunk.   Along with Griffin and talented freshman Warren, the rest of the team will be full of role players.  With so much of the focus on Griffin and Warren, that means that several other players need to step up their play to give Oklahoma additional options along with those two gifted players.  One of those players that might make an impact is 6’9” UCLA transfer Ryan WrightJeff Capel is a capable coach, but his 3rd year in the conference will keep them from winning the conference.  However, expectations are high and I expect Oklahoma to reach the Sweet 16. 
  • Baylor (NCAA #6).  Baylor is a team that returns its top eight scorers from last season led by Curtis Jerrells (15.3 ppg).  They were the Big 12’s highest scoring team and who could forget the epic non-televised 5 OT game with Texas A&M last season.  Kevin Rogers, LaceDarius Dunn and Henry Dugat are scoring machines that provide a depth of experience.  A senior-laden team, Scott Drew has built this team from scratch and is creating dividends by making he NCAA Tournament for the first time in two decades. But Baylor will not win the conference because their defense is suspect and their frontcourt will need to improve.  However, they tasted the feeling of the NCAA Tournament and got knocked out right away, but it will be different this year and I expect that they will make the Tourney again and at least win one game. 
  • Oklahoma St. (NCAA #7).  The Cowboys still have enough in the cupboard to make it to the NCAA Tournament even though they will break in first-year coach Travis Ford.  They are a little thin on the inside but return their leading scorer, James Anderson, and 80% of their scoring.  Having an up-tempo style that Ford likes to run will help minimize the frontcourt deficiencies.  They should do well enough to make it to the NCAAs, but will probably be bounced in the first round.
  • Texas A&M (NCAA #9).  Mark Turgeon in his 2nd year will be able to make one more run with the players that Billy Gillispie left behind before heading to Kentucky.  It remains to be seen if Turgeon will be able to recruit the right players to fit into playing in the Big 12.  Coming from the Valley, it is a big transition to try recruiting the right players for the large conference schools (note:  Bruce Weber (Illinois), Matt Painter (Purdue), Greg McDermott (Iowa St.)).  Though I see A&M sneaking into the NCAAs, this team could very well find itself in the NIT next March. 
  • Nebraska (NCAA #12).  Nebraska will be playing small ball this year and more in the up-tempo style that Doc Sadler would like to play, but the lack of an inside presence and a weak non-conference schedule will put them squarely on the bubble of the NCAA tournament.  This team could realistically have only one loss coming into conference play.  It has everyone coming back except for Aleks Maric who was their productive center, but even the newcomers were around the team and know the system as four players redshirted last season.  Having the confidence-building games will bring Nebraska into conference play on a high and they’ll benefit by playing in the North division, but they will struggle when they have a stretch of four games against South teams and Kansas. However, the Huskers will surprise some people this year, finish 7th in the conference and sneak into the NCAAs as one of the last at-large bids.

NIT Teams. 

  • Missouri (NIT).  The pieces appear to be in place in Columbia for the Missouri Tigers to start making some strides to return to the spotlight again but the depth is not there to run a full court, high pressure defense for Mike Anderson’s system to be completely successful.  They will have some success early in the season, but they will be tired by the time they get to conference play and will fall off from the picture.  They will be the last team into the NIT. 
  • Kansas St. (NIT/CBI).  Michael Beasley and Bill Walker are not there anymore so this team will have some significant challenges to replace those players.  They have a somewhat soft non-conference schedule except for the Las Vegas Invitational which will build up their win total, but will fall short in the Big 12 race to be considered for the NCAAs.  If they do not do well enough for the NIT, they will be in the CBI for the postseason.

Others.

  • Iowa St.  Greg McDermott is still getting his feet wet in his 3rd year as the roster has had a total turnover in the past two seasons (seven new players last year and another six this year).  Like Turgeon, it is hard to tell if he’s getting the right recruits to compete in the Big 12.
  • Texas Tech.  Although Pat Knight received the keys to the team mid-season last year, this team will struggle as they try to find their identity and whether they decide to implement a whole new scheme or keep with what Bobby Knight established and the players that were recruited for his scheme. 
  • Colorado.  Jeff Bzdelik is in year two of a total rebuild of this team, as eight players have left the team since Bzdelik arrived in Boulder in 2007.  They will probably start several freshman who will be overwhelmed.  Their offense is yet to be established as they try to run clock to keep the score in the 50s.  There are too many things going against the Buffs from being a factor this year.

Important Games.  The Big 12 has a great advantage in that they are key players in several major exempt tournaments this year that they can make a splash in:

  • Texas—Maui Invitiational
  • Oklahoma—Preseason NIT
  • Baylor—Anaheim 76 Classic
  • Kansas—CBE Classic
  • Oklahoma St—Old Spice Classic
  • Kansas St.—Las Vegas Invitational
  • Colorado (Rainbow Classic)
  • Missouri (Puerto Rico Tipoff)
  • Texas Tech (Legends Classic)
  • Texas A&M (South Padre)

Also some great non-conference matchups as a part of the PAC-10/Big 12 Challenge:

  • Oklahoma vs. USC  (12.04.08)
  • Texas vs. UCLA  (12.04.08)
  • Kansas @ Arizona  (12.23.08)

It is always a chore to get a large conference school to go on the road to play on a smaller team’s home court, but here are the road tests the Big 12 is taking on this year (not neutral site):

  • Nebraska @ TCU  (11.19.08)
  • Kansas St. @ Cleveland St.  (11.22.08)
  • Iowa St. @ Northern Iowa  (12.03.08)
  • Texas Tech @ Lamar  (12.13.08)
  • Oklahoma St. @ Texas A&M-CC  (12.14.08)
  • Texas Tech @ UTEP  (12.17.08)
  • Iowa St.  @ Houston  (12.18.08)
  • Oklahoma @ Rice  (12.22.08)
  • Texas A&M @ Rice  (12.31.08)
  • Colorado @ SMU  (01.05.09)

Conference Key Games.  These games will decide the conference champ:

  • Texas @ Oklahoma  (01.12.09)
  • Baylor @ Oklahoma  (01.24.09)
  • Texas @ Baylor  (01.27.09)
  • Kansas @ Baylor  (02.02.09)
  • Oklahoma @ Baylor  (02.11.09)
  • Oklahoma @ Texas  (02.21.09)
  • Kansas @ Oklahoma  (02.23.09)
  • Baylor @ Texas  (03.02.09)
  • Texas @ Kansas  (03.07.09)

Neat-O Stats.

  • 4-The number of 20-win seasons in Baylor’s 102-year history.
  • 5-Texas is one of just one of five schools to advance to the Sweet Sixteen of the NCAA Tournament in four of the last six years (Duke, UConn, Kansas, Pitt)
  • 51-4—This is Kansas’ record in the last 55 games dating back to 2006-07 when Kansas lost to UCLA in the Elite Eight.  Their only losses since then leading up to their NCAA Championship last year were to Texas, Kansas St. and Oklahoma St. last season. 

65 Team Era.  The teams in this conference are a combined 268-222 in the NCAA Tournament with 35 Final Four appearances and five National Championships.  As the Big 12 conference, their first National Championship was with Kansas last season (the others were as the Big 8, which merged into the Big 12 in 1996-97).  The conference’s record in this era is 161-112 (.590), which puts it roughly on par with the SEC as a major conference.  Where the league has struggled (until last year, of course) was winning national titles.  Only KU in 1998 and 2008 have won championships during this era. 

Final Thoughts.  The Big 12 will be a top heavy league this year and in some minds might be down compared to years past.  It will have four strong teams that will easily make the NCAA tournament and then there is a log jam between 5-9 on who will step up to either make the NCAA or settle for the NIT for the post season.  It will be interesting to see if Texas will finally outlive the hype that is given to them each year to make it to the Final Four and be in line to play for the National Championship.  Oklahoma is poised to make a run, but if Griffin gets hurt, will they still be able to win games?   It will be interesting to see how Kansas does after winning the championship the year before but losing so much to not be considered able to repeat.  With 10 of the 12 teams in the conference participating in high profile early season tournaments, the Big 12’s season will be defined on how those teams do in those tournaments.  If they are successful, then they will be the talk of this basketball season.  If they fail miserably, expect them to get fewer teams into the Big Dance than they have the last few years.


What’s Your APR?

May 6, 2008

No, not Annual Percentage Rate for all you creditworthy folks.  We’re talking about the Academic Progress Report (APR) for men’s basketball (who is regularly the lowest rated sport in D1).  Today the NCAA released the numbers that track athletes’ success (2003-07) in the classroom through retention, eligibility and graduation, and it appears that things are going to get a little dicey for some name-brand programs over the next twelve months. 

The APR has two classes of penalty – immediate and historic.  Immediate penalties are levied when a program is below the cutoff score of 925 (approximating a 60% graduation rate), and one of their players withdraws from the institution, does not return the following fall term and would not have otherwise been eligible to compete during the regular academic term following his departure.   This year, Kansas St., Purdue, Seton Hall, South Carolina, Tennessee and USC were the BCS programs subject to a one-scholarship loss due to this penalty (see Table A below).  K-State, Purdue, UT and USC are particularly on notice, as each of these programs could lose as many as two scholarships next year should their APRs not improve. 

Historic penalties are levied upon programs that have trouble consistently reaching a threshold of 900 on the APR metric.  The sanctions associated with these penalties are far more severe, and can ultimately result in reduced practice time, banishment from postseason play and restricted membership in Division 1 athletics.  This year among the BCS programs, only Colorado and USC were placed on public notice that their historical profile is lagging.  Should their poor APR scores (<900) continue another year, then the Buffs and Trojans could face a scholarship and/or practice time reduction in the 2009-10 season.  As an example of what not to do, the basketball programs at New Mexico St., Centenary and East Carolina are already one year away from facing a postseason ban based on three consecutive years of failing scores on the APR.  While Colorado doesn’t seem to care much about hoops, USC, with its high-profile coach and the sparking new Galen Center, certainly wants to avoid this fate if it can (note: OJ Mayo and Davon Jefferson’s early exits will not help the Trojans’ APR in 2008-09). 

Table B below shows some of the other notable non-BCS basketball programs and how they fared on this year’s APR.  Memphis, who is already on the cusp of the threshold, could end up getting slammed by this season’s exodus.

We also thought it might be somewhat informative to see how the BCS conferences do individually.  See Table C below.  The ACC is clearly doing the best of the big six conferences, with only Clemson and Maryland under the 925 cutoff (neither are below the 900 threshold).  The SEC, while managing to avoid last place, has seven teams under the 925 mark this year (58.3% of its teams).  The Big East has five, but that only represents 31.3% of its members.  As far as we can tell, there isn’t much of  a correlation with our 2007 Athlademic Ratings from last summer.   

The NCAA appears to be holding fast on its promise to hold schools accountable for keeping its athletes eligible.  AAZone’s Josh Centor, for one, thinks that the APR is working.

For the skeptics who believe the penalties are soft, look at the 26 teams that have entered the historical phase of the structure this year. Those programs have failed to change their behavior and will face restricted scholarships, recruiting and practice time. If the academic performance of those teams doesn’t get better, the penalties will become more severe. Next year, postseason bans will be in the mix and along with the scholarship reductions, those penalties are as strong as the ones doled out for major infractions cases.

It’s going to be interesting to see how these programs that are already on the cusp of sanctions respond to these challenges.   

Update:  Seth Emerson reports that critics of the APR system are wondering if there’s any teeth to it at all, citing the fact that 69.3% of institutions that were eligible to be penalized were given waivers this year.  Our favorite exception – let’s call it the South Carolina St. Rule – allows a waiver if a team’s APR is above that of the general student body.  Yeah, we’d agree that if a team is outperforming the rest of the students, then either the whole school needs to be shuttered; or, the APR is rendered rather meaningless.