Northwestern Wins: A College Hoops Blog

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Posts Tagged ‘Oklahoma Sooners’

Weekend Roundup (11/22-23)

Posted by Tommy on November 24, 2008

Saturday, 11/22: After such an exciting week in college basketball, Saturday’s slate was pretty pedestrian, taking a back seat to the late-season action of college football. The Paradise Jam played its consolation semis, the Las Vegas Invitational featured Kentucky vs. Delaware State and Pitt vs. Indiana (PA), while Texas Tech and Eastern Kentucky squared off in the Legends Classic. Although there weren’t any noteworthy games on Saturday, there were plenty of close ones.

The Mercer Bears, apparently unafraid of challenging major conference opponents, took Georgia Tech to overtime Saturday afternoon. After a 16-0 Bears run, Mercer extended their lead all the way to 18 with 12 minutes in the second half. The Yellow Jackets trailed the entire game until Zach Peacock’s pair of free throws tied the game at 69 with 32 seconds left. Gani Lawal, who had a team-high 27 points, blocked James Florence’s bid at a game winner to send it into overtime, where the Jackets never looked back. Florence gave the Bears 26 points and E.J Kusneyer contributed 22. Keep an eye on these Bears come March.

Gardner-Webb, another team that isn’t scared to play with the big boys, gave the Sooners a run for their money on Saturday. Oklahoma seemed to be running away with the game after they rallied to an 11 point lead with 5 minutes in the second half, but Gardner-Webb cut the deficit to five at the half. If it wasn’t for Blake Griffin’s career highs with 35 points, 21 rebounds and five assists, the Sooners probably would have fallen to the Bulldogs, who had a five point lead with six minutes left in the game. Griffin is certainly looking like the National Player of the Year right now after his huge performance last night. He’s averaging 26.0 PPG and 19.8 RPG.

Other Saturday notes:

  • Saint Louis held Tyrese Rice to 2-14 from the field in their 53-50 upset over the Eagles
  • UAB (4-0) looks like they can contend in the C-USA after their 77-62 rout at Old Dominion. Robert Vaden had 28 points.
  • Clemson got a hard fought win over Charlotte after Demontez Stitt’s free throws made it a four point game with 16 seconds.
  • Navy outlasted WIlliam & Mary in a 102-99 3OT win.

Top 25 in Action:

  • #3 Louisville’s balanced attack helped them prevail over Morehead State 79-41.
  • #6 Pittsburgh was led by DeJuan Blair’s 27 point, 18 rebound performance vs. Indiana (PA)
  • #10 Purdue held Coppin State to 46 points in their 20 point victory. Hummel had 20 points and 10 rebounds.
  • #14 Oklahoma relied on Blake Griffin’s 35 pt, 21 reb performance to rise above Gardner-Webb 80-76.
  • #17 Marquette struggled with their crosstown rivals Milwaukee in the 1st half, but ended up winning 100-80.
  • #18 Georgetown got 20 points from Greg Monroe in their 81-53 win over Drexel.

NW Wins Horse Trailer Player of the Day: Blake Griffin, Oklahoma

Sunday, 11/23: Sunday’s matchups were much better than Saturday’s, to say the least. #17 Miami and #2 UConn squared off in the first of the Paradise Jam semis. Jim Calhoun and the Huskies proved that they should still be considered one of the best teams in the country despite playing down to weaker competition such as La Salle. Thabeet led the way for the Huskies with 19 points, 14 boards and seven blocks. A.J Price seemed to get back on track with 13 points and 11 rebounds of his own. McClinton gave the ‘Canes 27 points and was 5-8 from beyond the arc. UConn had its way in the paint, outscoring Miami 48-30.

Wisconsin faced San Diego in the second semi of the Paradise Jam. San Diego was a sexy upset pick but Bo Ryan and the Badgers were having none of that. They put on a clinic on the defensive end of the floor, holding the Torreros to just 49 points. Trevon Hughes led the charge for the victorious Badgers with 22 of Wisconsin’s 64 points. Wisconsin will go on to face the Huskies in the finals of the Paradise Jam.

How about the job Sean Miller has done at Xavier? The loss of Josh Duncan and Drew Lavender had people questioning whether the Musketeers could make it back to the dance. Sunday’s win over #12 Memphis will squash whatever doubts there were regarding Xavier while raising some doubts about the Tigers. Derrick Brown, C.J. Anderson and B.J Raymond are three versatile forwards that are good on both ends of the floor. Xavier held Memphis to 32% from the field, but the Tigers didn’t help themselves with their continual woes at the stripe. Calipari can point directly at his team’s free throw percentage of 50% last night as the reason the Tigers didn’t win the game. Xavier completed their dramatic road to the Puerto Rico Tip-off finals with a nice resume win.

Missouri pulled off a big win against #19 USC in the consolation half of the Puerto RIco bracket. Demarre Carroll had 29 points off of 11-17 FG and 11 rebounds. The Tigers nearly shot 50% from the field but allowed the Trojans to shoot 46%. Missouri did a great job of neutralizing DeMar Derozan who was just 2-9 from the field with 8 points. Daniel Hackett had 11 points but committed eight turnovers. USC has not looked impressive in the least bit so far this season.

Seton Hall handed Virginia Tech their second loss of the season after beating the Hokies 77-73. The Hall outscored VIrginia Tech by 10 in the second half. Jeremy Hazell, who has looked great to start off the season, had 23 points to lead the Pirates. Robert Mitchell’s 15 and Paul Gause’s 14 also made up for an off night from team leader Eugene Harvey. A.D. Vassallo and Malcolm Delaney combined for 47 points in their losing effort.

Top 25 in Action:

  • #2 UConn blew past the Hurricanes 76-63 to advance to the Paradise Jam finals.
  • #3 Louisville demolished South Alabama 81-54 in the Billy Minardi Classic.
  • #5 Duke took care of Montana by a score of 78-58 despite the loss of Greg Paulus.
  • #12 Memphis’ woes at the stripe cost them again in their loss to Xavier.
  • #15 Arizona State was led by James Harden’s 33 points and 12 boards in their 61-40 W over Pepperdine.
  • #20 USC fell victim to the upset bug in their 72-83 loss to Mizzou.
  • #22 Wisconsin thwarted San Diego 64-49. Bo Ryan is still working his magic.

NW Wins Horse-Trailer Player of the Day: James Harden, Arizona State

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November 19: The Day After

Posted by Zach on November 19, 2008

Davidson Oklahoma Basketball

Some thoughts on the top games from ESPN’s Tip-Off Marathon that concluded last night:

UAB-Arizona: Can it possibly get any more chaotic for this Arizona program? After weeks of frustration from players (like star forward Chase Budinger, who even mentioned the word “depressed” in an interview) and Wildcat fans following the abrupt resignation of longtime coach Lute Olson, the team finally had a chance to bring smiles to the faces of their loyals. You’ve probably heard/watched what happened- a tremendous comeback tied the game at 71 with under ten seconds to play when Arizona’s Kyle Fogg inexplicably fouled UAB’s Aaron Johnson, thinking the game was tied even though there’s a gigantic scoreboard in the middle of the arena. Luckily for Fogg, Johnson missed the front end, but Arizona’s Nic Wise misfired on a game-winning jumper on the Cats last possession. Overtime, right? Instead, Jamelle Horne unbelievably decides to intentionally foul UAB’s Paul Delaney heaving a desperation halfcourt attempt, thinking the game was tied. That’s right, they made the same exact mistake again. This time it cost Arizona the hard fought contest and a trip to Madison Square Garden for two next weekend. I didn’t realize the coaching inexperience would rear its ugly head that early. Sure, the onus is ultimately on the players that committed the bone-headed fouls. But if Lute Olson is on that bench, do you think this happens? Methinks it doesn’t.

Davidson-Oklahoma: The game of the night and the most entertaining college hoops game of the year, all things considered. Raucous environment, star players, top-25 squads, Fran Fraschilla and a trip to New York on the line. Stephen Curry will end up winning National Player of the Year. All in all, Oklahoma’s Tony Crocker, Austin Johnson and Willie Warren didn’t do a terrible job guarding the screen-searching Curry, and Stephen didn’t even have a vintage shooting night and spent the second part of the first half in foul trouble. Remarkably, he still managed to score a career high 44 points on 12/29 shooting, 6/15 from deep and 14/14 from the stripe. And that’s not even vintage Curry. Led by Curry and key threes from Brendan McKillop and Will Archambault, Davidson battled back after falling behind 61-40 following a Cade Davis three from the corner. After a Curry triple, Davidson was down just three with 56 seconds left before key free throws from Davis and a clutch offensive board from Blake Griffin iced the contest and sent the Sooners to New York next weekend. Griffin was sensational in three areas- defending Andrew Lovedale, rebounding on both ends of the floor (21 rebounds) and bringing constant energy and production for Oklahoma (24 points). The lone achilles heel for Griffin is free throws. He responded by hitting 11 of 12 and icing the game for OU. Worth noting freshman Willie Warren is a sensational player. He has tremendous shooting range and athleticism; he just needs to work on keeping his head on straight at all times and avoiding stupid fouls, ultimately costing him what should have been a 30-point performance.

Kentucky-North Carolina: This was supposed to be the marquee matchup of the early part of the season, with College Gameday in the house and the two winningest programs in NCAA history doing battle. There’s no need to overanalyze this one- Carolina dominated thoroughly from the tip jumping out to a 17-4 lead and never really looked back. Deon Thompson has stepped in beautifully for Hansbrough, scoring 20 on 10/14 shooting and grabbing 9 rebounds last night. He’d probably be considered one of the top forwards in college basketball if he played for a program where he’d receive more touches in the paint. They’ll need Thompson to continue his production with freshman Tyler Zeller likely out for the season with a broken left wrist. Ty Lawson really struggled shooting the basketball, but he exploited Kentucky’s main weakness: the point guard position. And you wonder why Patrick Patterson isn’t touching the rock more? DeAndre Liggins and Michael Porter are decent players and they’ll surely develop as the season stretches into SEC play, but to throw them into this environment against a speedy Lawson and improved (looks that way early) UNC defense is plenty to ask. Billy Gillispie could certainly use Derrick Jasper right now. And a few sleeping pills.

Richmond-Syracuse: Eric Devendorf looked uncomfortable in a shaky first half for Syracuse, committing unusual traveling violations and turning the ball over with frequency while it appeared the Orange might once again falter early to an Atlantic-10 opponent at home. In the second half, the Spiders cooled down from the outside and Devendorf looked like his old self- draining clutch threes, penetrating for acrobatic layups and teaming with Jonny Flynn to provide all of Cuse’s offense. Flynn ended up with 27 points, 5 assists, 3 turnovers on 8/15 shooting and Devendorf 22 on 8/12 shooting. Even if they’d been upset, Syracuse is going to Kansas City for the CBE Classic next week.

St. John’s-Boston College: The Johnnies did a nice job keeping this game close, frequently getting inside on the soft BC interior defense for easy buckets. Tyrese Rice and Vermont transfer Joe Trapani ultimately stepped up late for the Eagles, who will face Purdue next weekend in the Preseason NIT semifinals. Rice is a special talent- pure outside shot, quickness to the rim, outstanding vision setting up teammates for layups, clearly the emotional leader- and willed his team to victory. St. John’s showed that they’re a very weak outside shooting team. Big East teams will likely utilize that soft man-to-man that Massachusetts employed on Memphis in their game, daring the Red Storm to take mid-range jumpers and turn around to collect the clank. I don’t see them finishing last in the conference, though.

Arizona State-San Diego State: The Aztecs jumped out to a 15-2 lead after a Kyle Spain three early in the first half, but the Sun Devils chipped away and played their usual fierce defense to hold San Diego State to just 52 points on the road in an impressive road victory. ASU tied the game at 44 with a Rihards Kuksiks three with 6:04 to go and Harden, who played with a stomach virus, provided them with the lead with a trey on the next possession. Arizona State only took 13 shots in the second half and made nine of them, including five from deep. That’s efficiency, folks. With the news that Alex Stepheson’s waiver was denied by the NCAA today, the Devils look like the clear second best team in the Pac-10 behind UCLA (as of now).

Bobby Knight: I only caught a few minutes of his performance on College Gameday last night and it wasn’t pretty. First of all Bob, don’t look like you’re being tortured. Try smiling once in a while, try looking at your fellow analysts when they’re talking, and don’t fuss around with a pen by your nose the entire telecast. It’s already a joke that you spend your entire coaching tenure bashing the media and then you decide to join the fray after an abrupt retirement, but at least try to not look miserable. How much are they paying you, Bob? You seem like an absolutely insufferable human being that likes spending his entire time lecturing others. I really wish ESPN would just let you disappear. I really do. I don’t care if he has 900 wins and knows basketball. The Rece-Hubert-Jay-Digger four man crew was just fine with me.

Other Top 25 Action:

  • #8 Texas dominated Tulane 76-51 behind a balanced scoring attack; Damion James with 16 and 8
  • #10 Purdue had no trouble with Loyola (IL), playing their usual dominant defense in a 78-46 triumph
  • #11 Gonzaga cruised 80-46 over Idaho with Austin Daye (16/7) providing another solid effort
  • #20 USC rode Taj Gibson (22 and 10 on 9/20) to a 73-60 win over a pesky New Mexico State squad
  • #22 Wisconsin took care of SIU-Edwardsville 88-58 behind 19 points from sophomore Jon Leuer
  • #24 Kansas unveiled their championship banner then cremated FL Gulf Coast 85-45; Collins with 25

NW Wins Horse Trailer Player of the Day- Blake Griffin, Oklahoma: 25 points, 21 rebounds, 7/11 FG, 11/12 FT, 3 assists

On The Tube Tonight

  • Niagara @ Villanova- 7pm (ESPNU)
  • Nebraska @ TCU- 8pm (CBS College Sports)
  • Emporia State @ Kansas State- 8pm (ESPN FC)
  • Northern Iowa @ UIC- 8pm (ESPN FC)
  • Florida A&M @ Alabama- 9pm (ESPN FC)

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2008-09 Big 12 Preview

Posted by Zach on November 8, 2008

The Big 12 is becoming more deep, more talented and more balanced every single season. They boast the national champion Kansas Jayhawks, up-and-comers like Baylor and Oklahoma, mainstays atop the standings such as Texas, and perennial dangerous teams Texas Tech, Kansas State, Missouri, Texas A&M and Oklahoma State. It wouldn’t be wise to underestimate Colorado, Iowa State or Nebraska, either. With Kansas losing basically their entire championship roster, it’s time for a new team to emerge. Will it be Texas and A.J. Abrams? Oklahoma and Blake Griffin? Baylor and Curtis Jerrells? Here are my predictions for the 2008-09 season:

1. Oklahoma Sooners: While most preseason prognosticators have the Longhorns notched to the top spot, I’m picking Oklahoma based on three assumptions: 1) I feel like their backcourt of Johnson and Crocker will stay healthy and overachieve, 2) Willie Warren is going to have a major impact, and 3) Blake Griffin could be the best player in the country (hey, he is my preseason player of the year over Hansbrough). None of these expectations are out of the realm of possibility, and I may even argue they all have a high probability of happening.

Backcourt:
Point guard Austin Johnson isn’t the type of player to wow anyone with his pure skills, but he’s a solid point guard and court anchor for coach Jeff Capel. He finished with near a 2:1 assist to turnover ratio last season, can drain a clutch three-pointer, and also led the team in minutes played per game. The drop in FT% from 93% to 73% is concerning, yet I feel that is more fluke than reality. Fellow backcourt mate Tony Crocker is a double digit scorer with one of the deadliest shots from behind the arc. Crocker shot 42% overall from three last year, but in Sooner wins he shot a stunning 52%. If he can improve on reducing the turnovers and become more of a complete guard, it’ll be awfully difficult to defend Tony Crocker this season. Completing Jeff Capel’s three guard lineup is freshman sensation Willie Warren, a dynamic scorer who may be Oklahoma’s top recruit in the program’s history. Warren has an outstanding mid-range jumper and exceptional athleticism, but Warren must learn to transition from the high school game where he dominated every night scoring-wise to more of a team-oriented passer and rebounder for the Sooners. Coach Capel believes he can, and Warren even predicted he’d average eight assists per game this season.

Frontcourt:
The Griffin brothers. More famous than the Jonas Brothers? Probably not, but they play a decent game of basketball. Most would imagine Taylor Griffin may become slightly jealous of his younger brother, but the modest Taylor remains Blake’s biggest fan. He embraces his role as the team’s prototypical glue player, a guy never afraid to dive on the floor for a loose ball or snag the key offensive rebound. With the loss of Longar Longar, Griffin’s 4.9 RPG must improve for Oklahoma. Capel wants Taylor to play with “reckless abandon” this season in the paint. The more touted of the siblings is All-American brother Blake Griffin, the player that truly transformed the atmosphere around Oklahoma basketball. As a freshman, Blake showed the skills to average nearly 15 PPG and just over 9 RPG including a 57% mark from the field. Those stats don’t tell the entire story; Griffin really improved during Big 12 play and against the best forwards in the nation. If he can improve defensively, he’ll be the best player in college basketball and likely the #1 pick in the NBA Draft. Blake’s in the best shape of his life and ready to win a national title first.

Bottom Line: The Sooners have an experienced and tested backcourt with a little Willie Warren mixed in. They also have a duo in the frontcourt that does everything to win. Their bench is useful with JC transfer Juan Pattillo and senior Omar Leary. Coach Jeff Capel has done a tremendous job with this Oklahoma program, but with Warren a possible one-and-done and Griffin surely entering the draft, this may be his one year to shine in the near future. Look for him to take advantage.

2. Texas Longhorns:
When I rank Oklahoma number one, don’t think that’s a slap in the face to the most underrated coach in the nation, Rick Barnes, and this Texas Longhorns squad. I just think very highly of the Sooners upside. Texas and Oklahoma will be neck-and-neck all through January and February battling for that conference banner much like Texas and Kansas did last season.

Backcourt: A.J. Abrams was told by NBA scouts after testing the draft waters that they viewed the 5’11 dynamo as more of a point guard than a shooting guard. Well, it appears like Rick Barnes agrees, and Abrams will be playing mostly the 1-spot this season. Abrams led the Big 12 in three-pointers made en route to a 16.5 PPG average in a season in which he made second team all-Big 12. Why does Barnes believe Abrams can play the point guard with flourishing success? How about only 31 turnovers total last year. The biggest knock on Texas heading into the season is whether they can find a dependable floor leader, but A.J. Abrams certainly fits that bill and he should have Texas competing for a #2 seed. Also in the mix will be Turkish guard Dogus Balbay, who played for the U20 Turkey club and led the team in assists per game over the summer. Justin Mason is Texas’s glue guy- a defensive mastermind who flies around the court and plays like the ultimate competitor he is. Mason only boasts average all-around offensive skills, but makes up for his weaknesses with effort and athleticism.



Frontcourt:
Damion James is more of a perimeter-oriented forward that finished second in the conference in RPG last season with 10.3 per game. How is that possible? Watch James play on a consistent basis and you’ll find out: it seems like this athletic forward is about 15 different places on the court at one time. He’s truly a complete player, someone that can step back and drain a clutch three-pointer (41%) or lock down the other team’s top scoring wing on the other end of the floor. Seemingly his only true weakness is at the free throw line. Gary Johnson is the player that can turn Texas into an elite team. The 6’6 sophomore has finally recovered fully from a scary heart condition and the athletic forward should finally be able to see the floor on a consistent basis for Rick Barnes. When Texas is playing on all cylinders, center Connor Atchley is leading the charge. The breakout player from last year, a season in which he averaged nearly 10 PPG, shot 54% overall and blocked 80 shots,  Atchley is looking to become one of the most feared postmen in the Big 12. Dexter Pittman is another wild card. He’s lost over 75 pounds since coming to Austin and still weighs around 315 pounds. When he’s able to play prolonged minutes, Pittman is a ferocious rebounder and a capable post scorer.

Bottom Line:
Much like Oklahoma, Texas has plenty of question marks. Can Abrams run the point? Can Dexter Pittman contribute? Is Gary Johnson finally healthy? If most of these questions play to Rick Barnes’ favor, they should win another Big 12 title. They preach stout defense and can shoot from outside- a recipe for another successful year in Austin.

3. Baylor Bears: The rebuilding project of all rebuilding projects is finally crystallizing into something special for the Baylor Bears and head coach Scott Drew. Last season, Baylor was the last team admitted to the NCAA Tournament on Selection Sunday after winning 21 games and 9 conference contests. But that doesn’t tell the whole story: nine of the team’s 11 losses were by 10 points or less. That means Baylor won 21 games and was still unlucky last season. That bodes well for 2008-09 and the four returning starters.

Backcourt: The leading scorer in the history of United States high school basketball- Tweety Carter- will start at point guard for Baylor in his junior season. Carter isn’t a polished point guard by any means, but the quick tempo that coach Drew instills means half-court sets are a rarity, and Carter can do what he does best: score the basketball. He shot 43% from the floor last season, a good number for a 5’11 combo guard. Curtin Jerrells is the backcourt star, a 13.6 PPG scorer who should explode in his senior season. Someone with his pure talent could have bolted after Baylor was littered with punishments (including a year of zero non-conference games) but Jerrells stayed loyal and that decision is bearing fruit. He led the Bears in scoring- he’s led Baylor in scoring all three years- assists, minutes, field goals and free throws, finished second in three-pointers and earned a spot on the all-Big 12 squad. Sophomore LaceDarius Dunn may come off the bench like he did much of last season and provide coach Drew with an excellent shooter from outside and the free throw stripe. If Dunn can mold into a more fundamentally sound player on defense, he’ll be a national star by his junior season. Henry Dugat is yet another double-digit scorer who’s also Baylor’s top returning defender and is the opposite of Dunn- a complete and consistent player who simply contributes where he can.

Frontcourt: Kevin Rogers is the post anchor for Baylor. His numbers- 12.3 PPG, 8.5 RPG, 50% FG, 77% FT- are all extremely solid. It’s a luxury for Drew to have a consistent player like Rogers to depend on if the Bears need a basket inside. He notched 18 boards last year vs. tournament team Texas A&M and is an outside contender to average a double-double this season. The center position is much more of a question mark, meaning it’s entirely possible Drew goes with four guards and Rogers for the majority of the time. The 7 foot Josh Lomers started 24 games last year and shot 61% from the floor, using his size and strength to dominate for easy baskets in the post. Anthony Jones is a 6’10 freshman that should see major minutes. The lanky forward was ranked in the top-50 nationally in most recruiting magazines and should provide Drew with advanced defense and another scoring option. Quincy Acy is another freshman who may make an impact. Credit Drew with assembling recruits where he was clearly short-manned this season.



Bottom Line:
The job this program has done through epic trials and tribulations to make the NCAA Tournament last season and hopefully contend for the Big 12 title this year is truly remarkable. They’ll be a national favorite and deservedly so. The talent assembled could reach unimagined heights four years ago with Dunn, Jerrells, Rogers and Dugat leading the charge. Watch out for the rejuvenated Bears.

4. Kansas Jayhawks:
As the national championship banner rose to the rafters a couple Friday’s ago in Lawrence, only two contributors from that squad actually remained: Sherron Collins and Cole Aldrich. Gone is hero Mario Chalmers, Darnell Jackson, Brandon Rush, Russell Robinson, Darrell Arthur and Sasha Kaun. Luckily for coach Bill Self, who finally tore that postseason monkey off his back, he’s recruited a top-flight class to keep Kansas in contention.

Backcourt: Sherron Collins needs to develop into one of the top point guards in the nation for Kansas to compete for a conference championship. Whether Collins is fully motivated and can get his weight and conditioning under control are two question marks that Bill Self hopes to answer in the affirmative. With the youth assembled on this Kansas team, Self needs Collins to be a leader more than anything, because we know the talented Chicago guard can score and distribute. Whether Collins can answer that call and become the face of the Kansas program is undetermined. Freshman Tyshawn Taylor, a former Crean recruit at Marquette, looks to be the second starting guard, but who really knows at this point. Taylor led St. Anthony’s to a 32-0 record and can really play the point guard position for someone his age, much like Kemba Walker at Connecticut. Mario Little could be Kansas’s top player by the end of the campaign. The top JUCO player in the nation shot 55% from the floor and 40% from three as a wing player. Freshman Travis Releford is an excellent defender and should play the role of knocking down a clutch three-pointer.

Frontcourt:
The Morris twins, Marcus and Markieff, are the gems of the incoming recruiting class. Marcus is a versatile forward who can handle the rock both inside and outside.  He’s made outstanding improvements both defensively and rebounding the basketball in his last year, two areas where Self needs Marcus to contribute this season. Twin brother Markieff is much like Marcus in that he’s a versatile post player who can step outside and drive to the hoop. He’ll likely start off on the bench and give Self another defender and rebounding option. The most improved player in the nation this year could be center Cole Aldrich. He wasn’t able to see many minutes due to the frontcourt logjam for Kansas last year. Now he’s the starting center and ready to shine. Aldrich is a shot-blocker who could also led the Jayhawks in scoring and rebounding in his sophomore campaign. We saw glimpses of his potential against North Carolina in the national semifinal when he contributed with eight points and four blocks.

Bottom Line:
It’s going to be a rebuilding year in Lawrence, and it’s probably a good sign that a rebuilding year means a likely winning record in conference and an NCAA Tournament selection nonetheless. The freshman talent is certainly assembled, they’ve lured two outstanding JUCO players, and Aldrich and Collins are two players who could really make the leap. Kansas will be right in the mix as always.

5. Texas A&M Aggies: Coach Mark Turgeon should have another competitive team in College Station. Three-point shooter extraordinaire Josh Carter returns, a 6’7 swingman who shot 50% from three as a sophomore to lead the nation and “fell off” to 38% last season. Donald Sloan went through rough times replacing Acie Law at point guard, but improved mightily in the second half of the year cutting down on turnovers and turning into a team leader. His jump shot still needs improvement. Forward Bryan Davis also improved as the season wore on for the Aggies, averaging 9.2 PPG and 5.2 RPG during conference play. He’s also A&M’s strongest post defender and shot blocker. Junior Derrick Roland should see minutes as a role player. Two freshmen will contribute immediately: Dashan Harris and David Loubeau. Harris is a 6’0 scoring point guard who’s ranked #70 by Scout.com nationally, and Loubeau, who averaged a stunning 29 and 17 as a senior, chose Texas A&M over UCLA and Pittsburgh.



6. Oklahoma State Cowboys:
New coach Travis Ford leads a backcourt-oriented Cowboys team into battle. Byron Eaton averaged 20.6 PPG during the Cowboys’ late winning streak in February and March, and with his weight under wraps, Ford expects Eaton to become a top point guard in the nation this season. He should bloom under Ford’s freer offense rather than the strict Sutton rules. I’m more excited about sophomore James Anderson and his potential. A future NBA talent, Anderson led Oklahoma State in three-pointers last season as a freshman and averaged 13.3 PPG. His numbers dipped mightily in conference play, though. Anderson will need to play a full season of top-notch basketball for the Cowboys to contend. Terrel Harris is another double-digit scoring returnee in the backcourt. Harris will need to improve on his dismal 27% from behind the arc. He’s a better shooter than that number indicates. Junior Obi Muonelo will need to step up in a thin frontcourt and provide OSU with more rebounding and toughness than he did last year. 6’11 sophomore Ibrahima Thomas and senior Anthony Brown need to play more in the post or Oklahoma State will be out-rebounded on a nightly basis.

7. Missouri Tigers:
Coach Mike Anderson would love to play more of a fast-paced offense, but his two best players are both over 6’8: DeMarre Carroll and Leo Lyons. Carroll, a former Vandy transfer, emerged as the do-everything forward for Missouri, leading the team in rebounding, points, free throws made, steals and blocked shots. His two weaknesses are committing stupid fouls and struggles at the free throw line. Lyons really emerged in the second half of Missouri’s season, culminating in 27 points and 18 rebounds against Oklahoma State in February. Lyons can certainly score and rebound, and he may even prove to be an all-Big 12 type player if his defense continues to improve. 6’9 JUCO transfer Keith Ramsey will also contribute in the frontcourt. The loss of Keon Lawrence to Seton Hall could be crushing blow in what would have been a stellar backcourt that’s now just average. 6’7 senior Matt Lawrence is an outstanding jump shooter and 6’3 junior J.T. Tiller is a dependable point guard and defensive stopper. 6’2 freshman Marcus Denmon will also see plenty of minutes.

8. Kansas State Wildcats:
Losing Michael Beasley and Bill Walker certainly stings. The only returning starter is Jacob Pullen, who finished third in scoring behind the dynamic freshman duo last season. He’s a smart ball-handler with shooting skills and made a mark with his 20 points in the epic win over Kansas. Sophomore Fred Brown should start at the other guard. He shot the three well at 37%, but has plenty of development to do before he’s a reliable contributor. Ron Anderson and Dominique Sutton should anchor the frontcourt. Anderson is a ferocious rebounder who shot 55% from the field a year ago in limited time. Sutton is also a strong rebounder who needs to become more of a scoring presence. Miami transfer Denis Clemente will help right away as a scoring combo guard. While this is a rebuilding year in Manhattan, coach Frank Martin has a great freshman class in line for next season.

9. Texas Tech Red Raiders
10. Nebraska Cornhuskers
11. Iowa State Cyclones
12. Colorado Buffaloes

Big 12 First Team
G- Sherron Collins, Kansas
G- A.J. Abrams, Texas
G- Curtis Jerrells, Baylor
F- Damion James, Texas
F- Blake Griffin, Oklahoma

Freshman of the Year:
Willie Warren, Oklahoma
Newcomer of the Year: Mario Little, Kansas
Coach of the Year:
Jeff Capel, Oklahoma and Scott Drew, Baylor
Player of the Year: Blake Griffin, Oklahoma

Posted in Big 12 Report, Conference Previews | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments »

Summer Big 12 Report

Posted by Patrick on August 23, 2008

As we try to kill time during this long break in college basketball action, it’s time to preview another major conference. Recently the Big 12 has featured some of the best freshman in the league i.e. Kevin Durant, Michael Beasley, Blake Griffin, etc. and this conference has also had its success in the tournament. Most notably, Kansas took home the title last season. It will be interesting to see if the Big 12 will be represented in the Final Four. The last time they had one in (before Kansas) was Oklahoma State in 2004, but I’m not expecting another drought as long as four years. This season is also very intriguing because there is no clear-cut favorite to win the conference. Some may say there as many as four teams that have a legitimate shot at the crown.

Baylor- Scott Drew did a heck of a job getting this program back on the right track after being suspended from non-conference play just two seasons ago. Drew is figuring out that Texas is a great state to recruit in, and I think soon you may be seeing Baylor steal some of the big programs’ recruits (A&M and UT). As for this year’s team, they really didn’t lose a lot of talent and are returning most of their key starters. Leading scorer Curtis Jerrells will attempt to lead this team to the NCAA tournament with a great supporting cast in guards Henry Dugat and LaceDarius Dunn. Kevin Rogers is really the only guy that can make noise in the frontcourt for the Bears so I wouldn’t be surprised if they used key reserve Tweety Carter as a starter in a four guard lineup. This team’s strengths will be speed and the ability to put the ball in the bucket, but the weaknesses definitely lie in size and rebounding.

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Colorado- If I said things were going to get better in Colorado I would definitely question my own credibility; the Buffaloes are coming off a 3-13 finish in the conference putting them in last place once again. This season might be even worse because their three top scorers all graduated (Marcus Hall and Richard Roby are signed with NBA teams). Sophomore Cory Higgins will lead the backcourt while Jermyl Jackson-Wilson will be their best threat at the forward position, but it really doesn’t look good for CU basketball fans in 2008.

Iowa State- Once again here is a team that lately has not been any kind of factor in the Big 12, and like Colorado it doesn’t look like the tables will be turning this season. The top four scorers are gone and there are only three seniors on this year’s team. Diante Garrett (6.3 PPG and 2.8 APG last year as a freshman) will be the Cyclones best player, followed by seniors Bryan Peterson and Sean Haluska. Dominique Buckley could make a big impact as a freshman in ’08, but it doesn’t look like this team will be getting back to any postseason tournament any time soon.

Kansas- This is easily the team that lost the most key players for this upcoming season; however, Bill Self will still have himself a pretty quality basketball team. Sherron Collins will lead the Jayhawks at point and try to get the ball to a pair of freshman forwards, twin brothers Marcus and Markief Morris (if eligible). Cole Aldrich will also be a very solid contributor to this offense, but I don’t see Kansas getting anywhere close to where they finished last season. A Sweet Sixteen isn’t impossible, though. If the Jayhawks get one more guard to step it up, they could catch some teams sleeping in the Big 12.

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Kansas State- Kansas State is another team that probably won’t have success like they did last season because of the loss of key players such as Michael Beasley and Bill Walker. Sophomore Jacob Pullen will lead along with fellow sophomore guard Fred Brown. It’s likely the Wildcats will go through a lot of growing pains this season, but they could be back on the radar for a Big 12 championship in 2009.

Missouri- This is probably one of the only teams in this conference that has improved since last season. Senior forwards DeMarre Carroll and Leo Lyons (26.1 PPG and 12.4 RPG combined last season) will be the duo that will determine the success of the Tigers on offense and defense. Key contributors include J.T. Tiller and freshman Miguel Paul and Steve Moore. The Tigers can definitely be a surprise team in the Big 12 for this upcoming season, and I wouldn’t be surprised with a top five finish. In order to make the NCAA tournament, they are going to need consistent play from their support players.

Nebraska- The Cornhuskers are a trendy pick to surprise in 2008, especially when people saw what they could do after beating Oregon at home last season. If Nebraska continues to have success it could be scary for other teams because their great facilities provide a great recruiting edge. As or this year, guards Steve Harley and Ade Dagunduro will be the prime offensive threats. Cookie Miller (one of the best names in basketball) and Ryan Anderson will also be key contributors and need to play well behind the two guards in order for this team to live up to rare expectations, especially in year where they can make noise in the Big 12.

Oklahoma- Obviously Blake Griffin will be the one that is leading this team all season, and he might just be good enough to carry the Sooners all the way to a deep NCAA tournament run. Guards Tony Crocker and Austin Johnson will be the outside threats in Oklahoma’s offense, and both have a key role: spread the floor to open up plays for Griffin on the inside. Freshman phenom Willie Warren will probably get starting time right out of the gate (ranked as the #3 SG in the nation). The Sooners toughest non-conference test will come in the Preseason NIT where they will have to beat Davidson to advance to New York to meet the likes of Purdue, Arizona, and Boston College (two of those three).

Oklahoma State- The Cowboys could definitely be a dark horse candidate in the Big 12, especially because their top three scorers are back for this season. Sophomore James Anderson, senior Byron Eaton, and senior Terrel Harris (just deemed eligible) averaged 35.3 PPG and 11.2 RPG. Former UMass coach Travis Ford took the Oklahoma State job for this season, and he is being handsomely paid to do so with his $9.1 million contract.  The only inside threat that the Cowboys have is Ibrahima Thomas. They’ll surely be trying to shoot more threes because their outside attack is formidable.

Texas A&M- Mark Turgeon’s first year at Texas A&M was filled with ups and downs. The Aggies struggled on the road in conference play, but they showed what they’re team was capable of in the NCAA Tournament when they lost a nailbiter to UCLA. Star freshman DeAndre Jordan entered the draft, and they also lose some good scorers. However, the “Big Three” are back in leading scorer and NBA prospect Josh Carter, Bryan Davis who will be really the only experienced force on the inside, and point guard Donald Sloan. The Aggies will once again be a force in the Big 12, but in order to compete for a title they need to play consistently all season long.

Texas- If this team still had D.J. Augustin, they would probably be ranked #2 in the nation behind the Tar Heels. Augustin entered the draft and it’s tough to say if Texas is even a Top 15 team. A.J. Abrams will be taking over the leadership role for Texas, but many don’t have faith in Abrams because of his unreliable play down the stretch last season. Damion James is probably UT’s best player, and a big reason for why they upset UCLA early last year. If Abrams steps it up and James can bring it like he did last season, Texas has all the surrounding pieces to win a Big 12 title.

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Texas Tech- The Pat Knight reign begins in Red Raider land, and it will be interesting to see how the fans react if the team isn’t up to par. However, I don’t think Knight will have to worry about having a bad team. He returns Mike Singletary, who was a strong forward last season, and outside threat Alan Voskuil. The loss of scoring leader Martin Zeno will probably affect this team. Look for someone else to step up and take over the scoring load.

Projected Finish (Postseason Tournament)

1. Texas (NCAA)

2. Oklahoma (NCAA)

3. Baylor (NCAA)

4. Kansas (NCAA)

5. Texas A&M (NCAA)

6. Oklahoma State (NIT)

7. Missouri (NIT)

8. Texas Tech (CBI)

9. Nebraska (CBI)

10. Kansas State (none)

11. Iowa State (none)

12. Colorado (none)

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Saturday News and Notes

Posted by Zach on August 2, 2008

Ready for another addition of News and Notes? We’re all excited.

Loved this article from Gary Parrish on prized Nevada recruit Luke Babbitt. Apparently this kid is such a workout/basketball junkie, Wolfpack coach Mark Fox banned Babbitt from the gym for ten days this summer. That’s right, Babbitt was banned from touching a basketball or lifting weights or even walking into the gym for ten days, so the kid is going down to Florida with his family. Refreshing to see 1) a coach who is not hawking over his players to spend their lives in the gym and 2) a player with the work ethic as strong as Babbitt. Nevada is a contender in the WAC and Babbitt is the reason why.

– Baylor coach Scott Drew pulled a move many coaches are resorting to recently, hiring John Wall’s AAU coach to a director of player development position. Dwon Clifton coaches John Wall, who is ranked as the number one point guard in the nation for the class of 2009 by most publications, and with this new gig landed in Waco, it appears Baylor has the inside track to land their best recruit ever. Wall is a 6’4 speedster from Raleigh, NC and is officially considering other schools like Kentucky, Oklahoma State and NC State. Baylor already landed a commitment from the #13 center in the nation, Cory Jefferson, for the class of 2009. What Baylor and Scott Drew have done to re-energize a program that hasn’t won a NCAA tournament game in 58 years is remarkable.

– Andy Katz blogged about Blake Griffin and his offseason workout regimen in efforts to establish himself as the true #1 pick in the 2009 draft. Griffin is going through a Marine-like experience this summer to get into peak shape for the upcoming Oklahoma campaign. Blake stayed not only for a Big 12 title, and they’ll have a chance with Willie Warren, Tony Crocker and Austin Johnson returning, but to vault his draft stock even higher. Putting up a Tyler Hansbrough stat line wouldn’t hurt. That’s the goal for Griffin this season.

– The WCC officially moved their ESPN broadcast to a Thursday-Saturday slate rather than their usual midnight ET Big Monday slot for this season. The WCC is stronger than ever this season with top-ten team Gonzaga, top mid-major San Diego and contender Saint Mary’s leading the pack. Rather than just featuring the Zags in most of their games, ESPN is attempting to showcase more of the WCC teams, including the San Diego-Saint Mary’s duel on January 22.

– Recruiting news: Michigan landed the best recruit of the Beilein era thus far by snatching Darius Miles, a top-100 player and top-10 point guard, for their 2009 class. Miles hails from Los Angeles. Villanova received a commitment for 2010 when James Bell, a 6’4 Orlando shooting guard, decided to join Jay Wright’s squad. The Wildcats boast an impressive ’09 class and look to be building for ’10. Finally, Michael Dixon, the 17th ranked PG, committed to play for Mike Anderson and Missouri in 2009.

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