Jan 3, 2013, 3:01 PM EST
Conference play is right around the corner, so to help you get out of that post-holiday haze, we’ll be catching you up on all the happenings in the country’s top 12 conferences. Here’s our Big 12 Conference Catchup:
Yep. Again. You may feel like one of these other Big 12 programs is about due to win the league, but this sure isn’t looking like the year to bet the ranch on it. Jeff Withey has become a force majeure under his own basket, and Ben McLemore is the enfant terrible who collects outlet passes and embarrasses his elders any chance he gets. They’re such an effective one-two punch that I had to speak in tongues to do it justice. Surrounded by steady, capable upperclassmen like Travis Releford, Kevin Young and Elijah Johnson, the dynamic duo doesn’t even have to do it all.
Contenders: Oklahoma State is coming on fast and strong, with a super-solid nucleus of Marcus Smart, Markel Brown, Le’Bryan Nash and Phil Forte. Gallagher-Iba’s going to be a miserable place for opponents to visit this season, and quite a few will want to roll up the welcome mat when the Cowboys take to the road as well. It’s not just about offensive fireworks, either. The Cowboys are playing elite-level defense as well.
Kansas State is rolling in their first season under Bruce Weber, but we’ll hold off on getting too excited about that just yet. Baylor needs to locate a little defense to go with a high-powered offense, but they’re very much in this race. Iowa State seems to be lurking in the shadows, waiting to strike.
Biggest Surprise: Kansas State
We’ve all come to expect some pretty uneven results from Bruce Weber, so it wasn’t much of a surprise that his Wildcats were chosen to finish fifth in the league after he took over for the hastily-departed Frank Martin. So far, he’s wisely played to his team’s strengths, keeping them in the top-25 of defensive efficiency and taking offensive opportunities as they come. Michigan and Gonzaga were able to crack the code, but Florida was not, and the Wildcats carry a national ranking into the new year.
Biggest Disappointment: Texas
It’s popular to lay blame for the Longhorns’ deficiencies on the NCAA, for not letting Myck Kabongo play most of this season. That seems a bit naive. Great as Kabongo is as a point guard, shouldn’t Rick Barnes — who’s coached in the Big 12 since 1998 — be able to get a little more out of the talent he’s accumulated in Austin this season? The guy used to be able to win 20+ games with Dogus Balbay and a spool of baling wire.
Player of the Year: Ben McLemore, Kansas
McLemore’s situation last season had to be galling to Bill Self. He made it to the national title game with one of his best players sitting out a season. Bygones are bygones, however, and now Self has a nominal freshman who spent a year getting his house in order and stepped on the court ready to dominate this season. McLemore can drive and dunk or splash a three, making him exceptionally hard to guard, and he creates his own opportunities on defense, swiping 1.2 steals per game. This may be his only season in Lawrence, but it’s bound to be a memorable one.
Best Freshman: Marcus Smart, Oklahoma State
I know. That’s two freshmen. But they’re both worthy of a nod. Smart caught the nation’s attention with this stat line against NC State: 20 points, 7 rebounds, 7 assists, 4 steals, 4 blocks. The only team that’s really slowed him down since is Missouri State, by being so inept that Travis Ford decided to sit Smart for half the game rather than humiliate the Bears any further. I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait for the McLemore/Smart battles coming our way this season.
- Texas will bounce back. The offense is struggling, granted. But Texas is playing lights-out defense, coming in third nationally in defensive efficiency according to Kenpom. That includes a DI-best perimeter defense. All it will take is for one or two things to start clicking offensively, and this team will be a threat.
- TCU will win a single league game. Trent Johnson will start his first season in the Big 12 off with a win over Texas Tech, then proceed to lose every game thereafter. What the Big 12 is, the basketball Horned Frogs ain’t ready for.
- Hardin-Simmons will wish they had asked for more money. Baylor travels to Kansas on January 14, then hosts Oklahoma State on the 21st. In-between, they’ll paste the tar out of the poor, frightened Hardin-Simmons Cowboys of DIII for no apparent reason except that they can. I’m with Harten – can’t we just end these shenanigans?
Power Rankings (* = tourney team):
2. Oklahoma State*
3. Kansas State*
5. Iowa State*
8. West Virginia
9. Texas Tech
10. Texas Christian
Eric Angevine is the editor of Storming the Floor. He tweets @stfhoops.
Dec 7, 2013, 4:02 AM EST
Last weekend, when John Calipari brought his team up to the Barclays Center to take on Providence, he made it a point to talk about how much he team has to learn defensively. In fact, in both the press conference he gave prior to the game and his postgame chat with reporters, Coach Cal used…
Dec 7, 2013, 2:36 AM EST
GAME OF THE NIGHT: Baylor 67, Kentucky 62 It didn’t have the atmosphere of a game that was one of the season’s biggest to date since it was played at Cowboys Stadium in Dallas, but Baylor announced themselves to the country as a top team. They did it with Kenny Chery, a Junior College transfer in…
Dec 7, 2013, 1:58 AM EST
After graduation claimed do-it-all point guard Pierre Jackson from last year’s Baylor team, many wondered if Kenny Chery– a Junior College transfer from State Fair Community College in Missouri — could fill the void. Scott Drew was going to give Chery the keys to the car, but could he drive it? Chery answered that question in…
Dec 7, 2013, 12:17 AM EST
Credit Mike Montgomery and Cal for heading to southern California to play at UC Santa Barbara. It’s not too often that a program from a BCS conference travels to play at the gym of a mid-major team, but the Golden Bears did that tonight. Montgomery probably regrets it as Cal lost to UCSB, 72-65. While…
Dec 6, 2013, 11:19 PM EST
While some were no doubt irked that the Baylor vs. Kentucky game went into four overtimes — thereby causing the men’s game to begin roughly 80 minutes after its scheduled tip — the women’s game was a dandy. The 263 combined points eclipsed the previous record of 252 points. The two teams were neck and…
Dec 6, 2013, 10:49 PM EST
You know by now that every year at Taylor University they have their “Silent Night” game. On the Friday before final exams, the students gather in Odle Arena and the crowd remains dead silent until the tenth point is scored. Once Taylor reaches point number ten, pandemonium ensues. Afterwards, the crowd harmoniously sings “Silent Night.” Tonight…
Dec 6, 2013, 8:36 PM EST
The trying career of Allan Chaney has come to an end. After beginning at the University of Florida for his freshman year, then transferring to Virginia Tech where he never was cleared to play due to a case of viral mycarditis — an infection that results in inflammation of the heart – he finally ended up at…
Dec 6, 2013, 7:45 PM EST
Stanford senior guard Aaron Bright will be sidelined for the remainder of the season with a dislocated right shoulder he injured in practice last week. After averaging better than 30 minutes per game a season ago, Bright had been playing a smaller role on this year’s team coming off the bench and playing 19.3 minutes…
Dec 6, 2013, 6:51 PM EST
When St. Joseph’s and Villanova — two of the five schools making up Philadelphia’s “Big Five” — meet on the hardwood, the game is always a ‘can’t miss’ and atmosphere unparalleled. When the game is played at St. Joseph’s Hagan Arena, there may not be another gym in the country that provides the home team…
Dec 6, 2013, 4:07 PM EST
In two of Kansas’ three games at the Battle 4 Atlantis last weekend, freshman point guard Frank Mason played well. Overall he averaged 9.7 points and 2.0 assists per contest, reaching double figures in games against Wake Forest (13 points) and Villanova (12). With the recent run of play and his work in practice, head…
Dec 6, 2013, 3:18 PM EST
GAME OF THE NIGHT: No. 3 Kentucky vs. No. 20 Baylor, 10:00 p.m. (ESPN) This isn’t a difficult choice, as the meeting between the Wildcats and Bears at the site of this season’s Final Four is the only contest matching ranked teams. And it’s a chance to make a statement nationally for Baylor, with sophomore…
Dec 6, 2013, 2:00 PM EST
In a new series here on College Basketball Talk, every Friday we’re going to have a discussion about some of the hot topics in college basketball. The inaugural installment focuses on the ACC, the now 15-team conference that some stated was the greatest conference ever assembled before a game had been played. Now that we’ve…
Dec 6, 2013, 1:11 PM EST
With two games remaining in the suspensions of guard Dominic Artis and forward Ben Carter, Oregon will see its depth improve in short order. And apparently the Ducks will add another player, as freshman forward Jordan Bell has qualified and is now able to join the team. Bell, who played at Long Beach (Calif.) Poly,…
Dec 6, 2013, 11:45 AM EST
Vanderbilt was able to hold off Marshall on Thursday night, beating the Thundering Herd 69-67 with Damian Jones and James Siakam leading the way with 15 points apiece. But the victory was a Pyrrhic one, as on Friday morning head coach Kevin Stallings announced that junior center Josh Henderson tore both the ACL and MCL…
Dec 6, 2013, 10:34 AM EST
During their three games in The Bahamas last weekend the Xavier Musketeers were shorthanded in the front court, as senior forward Erik Stenger was unable to participate due to an illness. The issues began shortly before the Musketeers left the States, as Stenger underwent medical testing (including bloodwork) after being “unusually lethargic” during practices. On…
Dec 6, 2013, 10:24 AM EST
GAME OF THE WEEKEND: No. 3 Kentucky vs. No. 20 Baylor, Fri. 10:00 p.m. Braving the ice and sleet in Dallas, Kentucky will be squaring off with the Bears at the Jerry Dome in a game that will almost assuredly see more UK fans show up than Baylor fans. The irony is that this is…
Dec 6, 2013, 1:23 AM EST
GAME OF THE NIGHT: Providence 50, Rhode Island 49 I bet you didn’t realize the Ocean State had a hoops rivalry like this, did you? The Rams and the Friars did battle on Thursday night in a game that turned into a dogfight pretty quickly. How emotional was it? At one point, Ed Cooley and…
Dec 5, 2013, 11:15 PM EST
Seton Hall established a season high for points in a game on Thursday night in their 92-81 win over LIU Brooklyn, with Brian Oliver knocking down eight three-pointers and scoring a game-high 26 points to lead the way offensively. In total four Pirates scored in double figures, but the win may have come at a…
Dec 5, 2013, 10:30 PM EST
In a thrilling game down in Richmond, Shaka Smart’s VCU Rams outlasted a tough Eastern Kentucky team in overtime, beating the Colonels 71-68. Treveon Graham led four players in double-figures with 15 points and Rob Brandenburg knocked down four threes, including a huge three to kick off the overtime period. That would be the only…
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