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 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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ATB: Lumps of Coal for Xavier and Gonzaga

December 24, 2008

afterbuzzer1Bad Santas. Portland St. 77, Gonzaga 70. Santa Claus made an early visit to the environs of Cincinnati, OH, and Spokane, WA, tonight, but instead of leaving toys and treats for the tots of Xavier and Gonzaga Universities, respectively, he left a couple of lumps of coal and another undisclosed brownish substance in their stockings.  AP #7 Gonzaga and AP # 14 Xavier, both coming off of devastating Saturday losses (in different ways), were unable to shake off their hangovers from losses to UConn and Duke and instead dropped home games tonight that sent shocks throughout mid-major America.   The more surprising upset of the two took place out west, where Gonzaga was thoroughly outplayed by the scrappier, guttier Portland St. Vikings.  PSU was led by 5’6 Jeremiah Dominguez, who hit seven threes for a sick line of 25/6/5 assts.  Yes, a guy shorter than you outrebounded all but Gonzaga’s 6’11 Austin Daye (9 boards) and 6’10 Josh Heytvelt (8) in this game.  Portland St., who has losses to Hampton and Cal Poly on its resume, never wavered in the face of the superior athleticism and size of Gonzaga.  GU, should have come out ready to eat glass in this one, but instead they allowed their heartbreaking loss to UConn over the weekend to mentally affect their play tonight.  Would that have happened to UNC?  Pitt?  Duke?  UCLA?  Gonzaga needs to get tougher mentally.  Butler 74, Xavier 65. Wasn’t Butler supposed to be rebuilding this year?  Amazingly, eight of Brad Stevens’ top nine Bulldogs are freshmen and sophomores, whereas XU starts two juniors and one senior.  So how is it that Butler was able to come into the Cintas Center and earn a victory in a location where Xavier had won its last fifteen games?  Standard Butler-issue hardnosed defense and poise.  Butler was able to keep Xavier under control from three (7-24) while also winning the battle of ball control (-7 turnovers) in a tough game that Xavier will regret losing come March.  Matt Howard (19/14) and Gordon Hayward (19/10) both provided double-doubles, but the key stat of the game may have been Xavier’s 12-22 from the line.  The 198th best FT-shooting team in America didn’t help their cause tonight, several times failing to convert both FT opportunities down the stretch.  If Gonzaga and Xavier want to be taken seriously as “high mids” vying for the Final Four, they cannot afford to lose home games like these.

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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)

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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.


06.27.08 Fast Breaks

June 27, 2008

For your consideration while we put our Draft afterthoughts together…

  • Duquesne’s Ron Everhart received a three-year extension after leading the Dukes to their first winning season (17-13) in nearly fifteen years, including a 3-24 abomination two years ago.
  • Oklahoma’s Jeff Capel also received a two-year contract extension (through 2014) and pay raise that puts his annual compensation at $1.05M.  Did anyone see Capel making a million dollars a year at anything ten years ago?
  • Ohio St. assistant coach John Groce will take over the top position at Ohio University, the lone remaining open head coaching position this summer.
  • Iowa St.’s top player, Wesley Johnson (12/8 ) is transferring to Syracuse.  This is a good pickup for the Orange, as Johnson was the second-best freshman in the B12 two years ago (behind a guy named Durant). 
  • Indiana AD Rick Greenspan fails to avoid the axe in the wake of the Kelvin Sampson scandal, as the obliteration of Indiana basketball continues…
  • The always excellent Vegas Watch gives us a bettor’s look at the best and worst values in the Top 10 for next season. 

06.03.08 Fast Breaks

June 2, 2008

It sure is boring without basketball on the tube…

  • Alabama PG and former all-american Ronald Steele made the smart decision and is heading back to Tuscaloosa for his senior campaign.  Oops – maybe not yet
  • Arizona’s Nic Wise has decided to stick it out at UA – he had previously said he was transferring.  Since Lute finally got to the end of his divorce fiasco, maybe the good folks in the desert can get back to worrying about basketball this year. 
  • More OJ Mayo scandal – getting an Attorney General involved is never a good thing (unless Elliot Spitzer is springing for the booze and hos). 
  • Gary Parrish points out that former Iowa St. reject and D-League star Mike Taylor’s solid week at the NBA Predraft Camp in Orlando last week fashions him a sort of trailblazer for knuckleheads who can’t stick with college programs but still want a direct route to the NBA.  Um, good luck with that. 
  • How similar is this year’s draft class to the 1996 class

Orlando Predraft Camp Days 3 & 4

May 31, 2008

We’re running a little late today on updating the news from the Orlando Predraft Camp (Day 1 and Day 2 reviews archived), so we’ll make amends by combining a report from both Thursday and Friday’s games and workouts. In short, Carolina fans had best hope Bobby Frasor’s injury is 100% healed next year because Ty Lawson now appears a lock for the first round, and NBDL star Mike Taylor (who?) may have played his way into the draft during the course of this week.

We’ll start first with some of the impressions given by DraftExpress on the fifteen ‘elite’ prospects who held workouts today but did not participate in games.

  • Derrick Rose, Memphis
    • Clearly the most impressive workout of any of the 15 players belonged to Derrick Rose. Not so much for what he showed, but mostly just for what he is. He got up and down the floor fluidly and smoothly, covering tons of ground with each and every stride, and looked excellent changing speeds and operating skillfully with both hands in the ball-handling drills. His athleticism is nothing short of stunning, starting with his phenomenal first step, his ability to change gears, and his incredible explosiveness finishing around the basket. He came out with a business-like approach, and left no doubt about just how unique his talent-level and physical tools are. A nice bonus was the way he shot the ball, hitting more than one NBA 3-pointer and looking solid from mid-range as well.
  • Russell Westbrook, UCLA

    • Also catching our eye was Russell Westbrook, who came out very seriously and didn’t seem to be taking anything for granted. He was fantastic in the transition drills, flying up and down the court with his terrific athleticism, and also shot the ball fairly well after starting off slowly. His ball-handling skills are just OK at this point.
  • OJ Mayo, USC
    • O.J. Mayo was very smooth and very confident in everything he did, barely missing in the perimeter shooting drills. He’s clearly not on the same level athletically as Derrick Rose or Russell Westbrook for example, but already has the looks of an NBA player with the way his body looks and how he conducts himself out on the floor.
  • Michael Beasley, Kansas St.

    • Michael Beasley looked super fluid and athletic getting up and down the court, finishing with either hand and looking to be in pretty good shape. He attacked the drills with a lot of competitive fire, but most definitely was clowning around way too much throughout the day right underneath the noses of the Miami Heat and Chicago Bulls. There were a few people that expressed concern with some of his antics over the past few days.
  • Darrell Arthur, Kansas

    • Darrell Arthur looks like someone who is going to impress mightily in workouts based off what we saw here. He passes the eye test and then some on first glance, and then showed really nice athleticism to go along with a fairly high skill level in the drills, although oddly attempting to bank every 3-pointer he took. He struggled a little bit remembering what to do in some of the drills, though.
  • Brook Lopez, Stanford

    • Speaking of lukewarm impressions, Brook Lopez didn’t do a whole lot to ease the concerns NBA people have about him, not moving all that well up and down the floor and showing a very average skill-level in most of the drills.

Among the rest of the players who were actually playing games, here are a few of the high (and low) lights (h/t to the usual suspects, DraftExpress, NBADraft.net, Goodman & Katz):

  • Ty Lawson, UNC
    • Goodman – The speedy North Carolina point guard made the most intelligent move of the camp, coming up with a mysterious hip injury and bowing out of the rest of the camp after a terrific performance in his only game. Lawson displayed his athleticism and, according to NBA executives, should have solidified a place in the first round.
  • Wayne Ellington, UNC
    • DraftExpress – Wayne Ellington bounced back in a big way after his disastrous performance yesterday, starting off extremely hot on his way to a 7-13, 17 point outing in 20 minutes. His shot simply fell for him at a much better clip, as he did a great job moving off screens and being aggressive using fakes and utilizing his strong one-dribble pull-up. On the negative side, he again did not look very good putting the ball on the floor and making his way to the rim, not standing out that much in terms of his size, quickness, toughness at the rim or ball-handling skills. He still needs to have a strong showing in the last day of the camp if he’s truly serious about making a run at the late first round.
  • Joe Crawford, Kentucky

    • DraftExpress – Last, but certainly not least, Joe Crawford again had another very strong game (15 points, 6-11 FG) as the go-to scoring option for his team. He got to the rim very effectively, shot the ball well from mid-range and long-range, was excellent coming off screens and played fairly well in transition. His defensive effort was good, particularly in terms of pressuring the ball, and he showed absolutely no hesitation in anything he does, which people here have to like. He needs to become a little bit more efficient with his ball-handling (he pounds the ball a little too much), but it’s hard not to like what he brought to the floor today.
  • Mike Taylor, Iowa St./NBDL
    • Goodman – The athletic ex-Iowa State guard, who spent this past season in the NBDL, appeared to have the easiest adjustment of anyone in the camp and rightfully so. He’s been playing against older players and is also accustomed to the NBA game. Taylor was aggressive in getting to the basket and also proved he can make shots. He had 24 points on Thursday night.
  • Gary Forbes, UMass
    • NBADraft.net If there was to be a player of the day award, then without a doubt it would have to be given to Gary Forbes (30pts, 15-16ft, 2stl). Even though his team lost, it was no fault of Forbes, who almost singlehandedly brought his team back from a large deficit. Although he was very impressive scoring, he may have been just as good on the defensive end, where he chased Richard Roby (3-9fg) off screens and forced him to put the ball on the floor and settle for difficult shots.
  • Josh Duncan, Xavier (OH)

    • DraftExpress – Josh Duncan continued the trend of Portsmouth Invitational Tournament standouts who were able to translate their excellent performance from the all-senior pre-draft camp in April to this setting as well—scoring 20 points (5-8 FG, 9-10 FT) and pulling down 6 rebounds. Duncan knocked down a number of open shots from the perimeter, scored a bit in the post off good feeds from his guards.
  • Davon Jefferson, USC
    • DraftExpress – Davon Jefferson continued not to show the type of effort or fire you would expect to see from a player who is currently fighting for his professional future, after having prematurely hired an agent following an average freshman season. His conditioning looks poor, he’s dribbling the ball excessively, and he’s yet to make use of the terrific athletic ability that made him a prospect to start with. This is turning into a very disappointing pre-draft camp for him.
  • Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, UCLA

    • Katz – UCLA junior Luc Richard Mbah a Moute hasn’t stood out enough to warrant staying in the draft. He still may, but there doesn’t seem to be any kind of buzz around him.
  • Ronald Steele, Alabama
    • Goodman – He still doesn’t look like himself — and for good reason. The Alabama junior point guard hasn’t played competitively in more than a year and needs to return to school.
  • Jeremy Pargo, Gonzaga
    • DraftExpress – Jeremy Pargo had a game-high 20 points (7-16 FG, 5-7 FT) to go along with 4 assists. Unfortunately, he also had 6 turnovers and missed three of his four 3-pointers. He pushed the ball up the floor extremely well, showed terrific explosiveness getting by his man and giving himself options in the half-court, and also flashed some glimpses of solid court-vision, but his poor decision making led to way too many turnovers, which has typically been his problem. Going back to school and improving his decision making skills looks like a very good option at this point.

Final thought – we’re very excited to see how the height/weight and strength tests look when they come out.


ATB: Wazzup Baylor?

December 1, 2007

ATB v.4

11.30.07

Big 12/Pac-10 Hardwood Series.  Two games tonight, and the Big 12 finally got one.  #7 Washington St. 67, Baylor 64.  We had a sneaky feeling that this would end up being a tremendous game, and we were spot on with that call.  Baylor’s home crowd inspired the Bears to a 12-pt halftime lead, but Wazzu hung in there and used Derrick Low’s heroics to finally catch up and take the lead for good in the last three minutes.  Despite an overall rough game for him, Low (9/3) hit two threes in a row late in the second half to give WSU the lead for good.    Robbie Cowgill picked it up for him with 18/5.  Scott Drew’s Baylor squad is definitely a team to watch out for in the Big 12 this year.   Iowa St. 71, Oregon St. 64.  Explain to us how this game was chosen for ESPN FC, while the game involving a top ten team was relegated to ESPNU.  Right.  Anyway, these two teams pretty much suck, and the  only reason we tuned it in the first place was to catch a glimpse of OSU’s CJ Giles before we remembered that he’s not eligible yet.  

Other Ranked Teams.

  • #12 Tennessee 98, UL-Lafayette 70. Tyler Smith with 22/7/8 assts.  Lofton only 7 pts tonight. 
  • #14 Marquette 100, Wisconsin-Milwaukee 65.  Jerel McNeal had 16/10 assts and Lazar Hayward had 19/11 in the blowout win.

Other Scores of Note.

  • Florida 86, Vermont 61.  Gator freshmen had 55 of their 86 pts tonight.

On Tap Saturday (all times EST).   Huge day of hoops as December arrives right on time.

  • Duke (-8) v. Davidson (ESPNU) 12pm – Davidson gets its second shot in Charlotte at pulling the big upset.
  • Vanderbilt (-6) v. Georgia Tech (ESPN FC) 1pm.  great SEC-ACC matchup – will Vandy be tired from its 2OT game on Thurs?
  • West Virginia (NL) v. Winthrop 1pm – another winnable road game for Winthrop.
  • North Carolina (-6.5) v. Kentucky (ESPN2) 2pm – UK’s first real opponent of the year.
  • Louisville (-12) v. Miami (OH) (ESPN FC) 2pm – Charlie Coles’ Redhawks with yet another FC game.
  • Arkansas (NL) v. Oral Roberts  3pm – tough home game for the Hawgs.
  • Connecticut (-4.5) v. Gonzaga (ESPN) 3:30pm – Zags coming off tough game in Philly two nights ago.
  • Clemson (-7.5) v. South Carolina (FSNS)4pm – is there an ACC/SEC Challenge today?
  • Michigan (-9) v. Harvard (ESPNU) 5:30pm – how rich is this one now that Amaker is coaching at Harvard?
  • Oklahoma St. (-3) v. Washington  (ESPN) 5:30pm – UW needs to win this game to get a look as an at-large in March.
  • Boston College (-1.5) v. Providence (ESPN Classic)  6pm – BC could be better than everyone expected this year.
  • St. Mary’s (-9) v. Seton Hall 7pm- interesting matchup of unbeatens.
  • Xavier (NL) v. Belmont (FSNC) 7pm – BU tries to get the sweep of Cincy schools.
  • Butler (-6) v. Ohio St. (ESPNU) 7:30pm – a rare home game for Butler versus a B10 team.
  • S. Illinois (-2.5) v. Indiana (ESPNU) 9:30pm – see above – hopefully SIU will play better in this one than they did vs. USC last week.
  • California (-2) v. Missouri (FSN) 11pm – worth staying up late to see this Big 12/Pac-10 matchup.

Gary Williams Hates Graduation

October 4, 2007

Yesterday the NCAA released its latest graduation rate figures for all D1 athletes who entered school in the classes of 1997-2000. Unlike the federally-mandated graduation rate, the GSR (Graduate Success Rate) is more realistic for athletes – it gives each player six years to complete his degree and it does not count transfer students against a school (reflecting the reality of athlete puddle-jumping for playing time in D1).

Here are the NCAA’s key findings:

The latest GSR figures show that 77 percent of student-athletes who began college from 1997-2000 graduated within six years. That four-year graduation rate is unchanged from last year’s data and up from 76 percent two years ago.

The Graduation Success Rate for men’s basketball rose from 55.8 percent in 1995 to 63.6 percent in 2000, a 7.8 percent increase. Football increased from 63.1 percent to 66.6 percent for teams competing in the Bowl Subdivision and from 62 percent to 64.7 percent for teams competing in the Championship Subdivision. Baseball increased from 65.3 percent to 67.3 percent.

Gary Williams chicken wing

Gary is Too Busy to Worry About Graduation Rates

Since the NCAA doesn’t provide a sortable database of team information (or at least we can’t find it), we decided to quickly throw together some tables showing how the BCS schools performed in this cohort. Gary Williams should be especially proud of himself. Seriously, Gary, the best you can do with those Juan Dixon/Lonny Baxter teams is zero?!? Not even ONE player???

Big 10 + ACC GSRs 07

Big East + SEC GSRs 07

Big 12 + Pac-10 GSRs 07

Thoughts.

  • At the high end, Florida St. at 100% makes us wonder if any of these stats are credible. Then again, Florida is also at 100%, and these numbers are around 2000, so maybe there was a hanging chad issue or something. We’re also amazed that Eddie Sutton’s band of merry criminals men led the Big 12.
  • At the low end, Jim Calhoun at UConn, Lute Olson at Arizona, Tim Floyd/Larry Eustachy at Iowa St., Ron Jirsa/Jim Harrick at Georgia, and the seediest of all, Clem Haskins at Minnesota, join Gary Williams in the dregs of their respective conferences. What a list of slimy characters there.
  • The Pac-10 is surprisingly low, given that Stanford, Cal, UCLA and USC are all great schools. Especially Stanford – how can Mike Montgomery justify graduating only 2/3 of his players? Guess he doesn’t have to at this point – or does he? And the SEC is surprisingly high, with Alabama, the Mississippi schools and South Carolina doing well.

We may have more thoughts on this later, but we’re heading for the airport at the moment, so it’ll have to wait.