Conference play is right around the corner, and it is now prediction time. Who will surprise people? Who will be the disappointing teams? In this preview, I hope to answer any question you may have. The teams who I believe will be the best and worst will be ranked in order from 1-10.
1. Kansas- This should not come as a shocker to anyone. The Jayhawks have won eight straight conference regular season titles, and it seems like they are a lock for number nine. They lead the Big XII in field goal percentage and blocks. They are second in points per game, free throw percentage, three point percentage and assists. Where the Jayhawks lack in size, they more than make up for it in their guard play. Conference play aside, the Jayhawks could make a deep postseason run if they cut back on their hefty amount of turnovers. Every player on the team has been in a winning atmosphere since the first day they stepped on campus. I just do not see a team in the Big XII who could derail Kansas from their ninth straight title. Rock Chalk will haveended what has been so far a great season.
2. Kansas State- I think this may come as a surprise to many people, and rightfully so. I have K-State at number two mostly because there is no other team that could be number two, but I also like the way KSU plays. While former coach Frank Martin gets credit for the intense defense, Coach Weber has been able to continue this trend for Kansas State. This is a team who can play very well in conference play and especially in the second half of the season. Size wise, K-State is pretty big with a 7 foot center, but the only person who can lead this team is Rodney McGruder. The senior has been in the shadows his entire career behind Jacob Pullen and Wally Judge. Now, it is his turn to step up, and so far he has held his ground. This is his team, and I am looking forward to seeing how McGruder handles his role as the team leader. The one thing that could come back to haunt the Wildcats is the loss of head coach Frank Martin. An average fan would not have noticed Frank was gone except not seeing him on the sidelines screaming at players. However, the players are responding the same way wit Coach Weber. This K-State continues to be the same physical, athletic team as they were in the past years. K-State is my front runner for number two.
3. Baylor- Coming into the season, I would have told you that Baylor would win the conference title. Since then, my views have changed because of how much better KU is playing, and how much Baylor is struggling. The Bears have one person who is under six feet tall. With this size and athleticism, there should be no excuses to already have three losses on the year. The one player under six feet is Pierre Jackson, who is arguably the quickest player in the NCAA and has been a leader on this team since he was a freshman. Baylor’s rebounding is pitiful, and they should be one of the best in college with their size. Averaging just over 37 boards a game, Baylor’s rebounding has been the reason for their three losses. It would be okay if they did not lose to Northwestern, Boston College and the College of Charleston if they were a small team, but with such great size, these losses are disappointing. In the end, I think this team is stacked with talented players. I think the Bears will turn it around and could potentially swap spots with Kansas State towards the end of the season.
4. Oklahoma State- I have always been a fan of Pistol Pete and the Cowboys. This program has great tradition and is known to be a team that can rattle the standings. In past years, it has been one of the toughest schools to win at home against in the Big XII. However, history does not win games. I like the Cowboys this year because of their hot start to the season. Currently ranked 24th in the country, Oklahoma State beat North Carolina State very easily, who at the time was sixth in the country. Oklahoma State is a threat to any team because of their defense. The team gives up just 54.5 points a game, making them one of the best defensive teams in the country. This scrappy team could make a deep push this year to fight for the top of the conference.
5. Iowa State- The Cyclones have surprised me with the numbers they are putting up through 12 games. Their play has made them the seventh ranked team in the NCAA in points and rebounds per game, averaging 82.2 and 43.5. Assists wise, the team is dishing 17.2 assists per game, making them the 14th ranked team. Iowa State is a quiet team, but has the ability to win big games if teams overlook them. They did it last season at home versus the Jayhawks, and I would not be surprised if they did it to another team this year. The only issue for the Cyclones is their size. Senior 6’7 guard Will Clyburn will have to be a strong leader in order for Iowa State to make a jump in the standings.
6. Texas- With the suspension to Myck Kabongo, the Longhorns season can be thrown out the window. I cringe when I see the stats the Longhorns have put up so far. They are 246th in the country in points per game averaging 64.5. They are also 246th in assists with just 11.9 a game. Their worst stat is their field goal percentage of 40.4, making them the 276th team in the country. An embarrassing loss in Hawaii to Division II school Chaminade essentially marked doom on the Hook ‘Em season. The only thing I can ask about this team is, “What went wrong?”
7. West Virginia- I was confident Coach Bob Huggins could help impact the Mountaineers first season in the Big XII, but after five quick losses, I have lost all faith in West Virginia’s season. They were absolutely spanked by the Marist Red Foxes, falling 87 to 44. The Mountaineers also lost in an early season conference matchup to Oklahoma and fell short at Duquesne. This is undoubtedly not the year for West Virginia. After seeing the sizes of their shooting guards and big men, it is sickening to see this team averaging 69.5 points per game with a field goal percentage of 41. Something has to change for the Mountaineers, and it starts down low with the big men. With one of the winningest active coaches in Bob Huggins, you should expect West Virginia to flip the switch and show major improvement.
8. Oklahoma- To keep it short and sweet, this is a team who can not beat elite teams. They have not in the past, nor will they this year. There is not a go-to-player on this team, which just hurts their already slim chances of winning. Senior Romero Osby is the only player who is somewhat productive. His 12.7 points per game and 6.5 rebounds per game make him the leader in both categories on this team, and those are not even close to impressive figures. Until a leader emerges on this Sooner team, Oklahoma will have to wait for their chance to come close to a conference championship.
9. Texas Tech- Since Bobby Knight’s retirement, Texas Tech’s basketball program has gone nowhere fast. Forward Jaye Crockett is the only productive player on this squad averaging 15.8 points per game and 8.9 rebounds per game. There is not much more for Texas Tech to except except losing. The Red Raiders have back to back losing seasons coming into this year, and you should expect that to become back to back to back losing seasons. Hopefully for the Red Raiders, interim head coach Chris Walker can surprise some people and win some games.
10. Texas Christian- Last but not least, I believe the TCU Horned Frogs will be the worst team in the Big XII this year. The fact that they only scored 31 points in one of their games this year pretty much sums up this team. Sure, they have a winning record of 8 and 4, but do I need to tell you who they beat? Teams from the Big West and Southwestern Athletic Conference are not the teams you can beat and call yourselves a winning team, especially if you are winning by an average of just over 8 points. Luckily for the Horned Frogs, expectations were never high and they were projected to finish last in the conference by other scouts and analysts.
In order to win a conference championship in the Big XII, or any league for that matter, a team must have a true, go-to leader. Some of these teams have such a train-wreck of a season because there is no leader. There is nothing complex to winning the Big XII. If the right coaching is present, anything could happen. Hopefully this Big XII season will be yet another one packed with great games.
Going into the 2011-2012 season, no one was expecting much from K-State. I mean, how could you? They lost the most prolific scorer in school history in Jacob Pullen along with their best down low player in Curtis Kelly. They returned veteran Jamar Samuels and sharp shooter Rodney McGruder, but that was about it. It wasn’t enough to get the Wildcats a top 6 preseason Big 12 ranking despite the fact that Kansas State had finished every year under Frank Martin in the top 4 of the Big 12. Will Spradling was going to have to become a 30-35 minute a game player. Jordan Henriquez was going to have to ease into the starting position. Do you see where I’m going with this?
Kansas State was supposed to be an NIT team at best. No one gave the Cats a shot to make the NCAA tourney headed into the year. Someone forgot to tell Frank Martin. Led by Rodney McGruder’s stellar year, as well as Jamar Samuels taking charge and being the senior leader late in the year, Kansas State rattled off a 21-9 (10-8) regular season. That was good for fifth place in the Big 12. The highlight of the regular season were the two wins over top 5 ranked Missouri. It has been a tough season at times, with two losses to Oklahoma and Iowa State, but K-State always seemed to bounce back.
Heading into the Big 12 tournament, the Cats are looking at most likely an 8 or 9 seed in the Big Dance. However, wins over Baylor and Kansas could very well change that. If K-State pulls off a run in Kansas City and makes it to the finals, expect the Cats to earn a 6 seed or possibly 5 come Selection Sunday. It has been awesome to watch Rodney McGruder and Jamar Samuels lead this team. The late season emergence of freshman guard Angel Rodriguez has been a pleasant surprise, and if K-State wants to make a deep run in March, they will need Will Spradling to get back to shooting the way he did earlier in the season. Kansas State’s depth could cause some teams trouble in the Big Dance. They are one of few teams that can go 5 men deep into the bench and not have to worry about it. Martavious Irving, Thomas Gipson and Shane Southwell have all been starters at some point during their K-State careers. Overall, I would consider the regular season a success for the Cats. However, as we all know, there is much more basketball to be played. If Kansas State plays in Kansas City the way they have the past couple weeks, some teams better be aware of this dangerous team in the NCAA Tournament.
I see K-State as a team that, depending on the match up, could get bounced in the 1st round, or make a deep run in the tourney. If Kansas State gets past Baylor and KU this week in Kansas City, some teams are going to fear having to face the Wildcats in the NCAA’s. I think they will be overlooked and people will pick them to be gone after the first weekend, just don’t tell Frank Martin that.
Kansas State’s season did a complete 360 last week. First, they went down to Baylor and beat the Bears by one to avenge the home loss to Baylor earlier this season. Next, K-State went to Columbia, where Frank Martin had never won as a head coach. The number 3 ranked Tigers were ready to avenge their first loss of the season, instead the Wildcats handed Missouri their first home loss of the season. Heading in to Saturday’s game against Iowa State, which beat KSU previously in Ames on a last second shot by Royce White, no one expected KSU to lose at home to a team they only lost by 2 to on the road. Iowa State had different ideas. Led by Scott Christopherson’s 29 points, the Cyclones handed K-State its second straight home loss. Kansas State came out flat in the first half, and Iowa State grabbed a 10 point lead. K-State would take back the lead midway through the second half, but Christopherson kept hitting threes and Iowa State left Manhattan with a 65-61 win.
What it means for ISU: This is the marquee road win the Cyclones needed to help their NCAA resume. Scott Christopherson is a great shooter to complement Royce White. Expect to see their names in the field of 68 come Selection Sunday. This team could cause some major damage come March.
What it means for KSU: The Wildcats really needed this win to help their seeding in the tournament. They can still probably get a 6 seed by winning the next two games and then winning a couple more in the Big 12 Tournament. As it stands right now, they are probably looking at a 7 or 8 seed. They really needed that win yesterday to keep their momentum going heading into the Big 12 Tournament, but they didn’t get it. They now have to go down the College Station to get a win and then come home and beat Oklahoma State to finish 10-8 in the conference.
When taking a step back from the battle that happened, I am going to review how Kansas State stole the game in Columbia. This game was crucial not only for bragging rights but for seeding in the NCAA Tournament. Going into tonight’s game in Columbia, I knew if K-State stood any chance against Missouri, they were going to have to do two things, pressure them on defense, and utilize their loaded front court against the Tigers by getting points in the paint. They did both. In the end, it was the Wildcats that prevailed for the second time this season, 78-68.
Kansas State is the first team this season to hand the number 3 ranked Tigers a loss on their home floor. Led by Rodney McGruder’s 24 points, Kansas State scored their second consecutive road win against a top 10 team. McGruder was able to get wherever he wanted the entire game. He split the zone and got open for numerous easy jumpers. As mentioned before, K-State really used their big front line to their advantage. Jamar Samuels was able to score inside and step out and hit the three, which is something he has done well over the past three games. Thomas Gipson seemed unstoppable at times with that jump hook over Kim English. K-State is getting hot at a time that it does every year under Frank Martin, February. If they want to make a run in the NCAA tournament, they need to stick to the game plan that has won them two straight road games against top 10 teams. as for Missouri, this is a disappointing loss that puts them 1 game behind KU in the Big 12 standings going into Saturday’s showdown in Lawrence.
Overall, this game is a big stepping stone for K-State, two games ago, they were on the bubble worrying about whether they would make the NCAA tournament, and a week later, they have all but secured their spot in March Madness. It will be interesting to see what seed the Cats can clinch if they win out for the regular season. Up next for Kansas State is Iowa State on the 25th.
This Tuesday, the 3rd ranked Missouri Tigers will host the Kansas State Wildcats at Mizzou Arena in each team’s 15th conference game of the season. Missouri enters the game coming off a solid 9-point road win in College Station against the Texas A&M Aggies. The Tigers come in with an overall record of 25-2 and a mark of 12-2 in conference play, which is good for a tie at the top of the conference with the rival Kansas Jayhawks.
Kansas State comes into the contest off an impressive 1-point victory over the Baylor Bears down in Waco this past Saturday. The Wildcats are 18-8 overall, and an even 7-7 in Big 12 play, currently good for 5th place in the conference. Kansas State, one of only two teams to beat Missouri all year, looks to complete the season sweep of the Tigers for the first time since the 2006-2007 season.
Backcourt advantage: Missouri
The Tigers arguably have the best backcourt in the nation, as they lead the country in offensive efficiency and are 2nd in the nation in field goal percentage at 50.3 percent. Look for Phil Pressey, Michael Dixon, and Marcus Denmon to feed off the energy of the crowd at Mizzou Arena and force Kansas State’s young guards into turnovers. On average, Missouri forces an impressive 15 turnovers a game at Mizzou Arena during conference play.
Frontcourt advantage: Kansas State
Kansas State definitely has the advantage here, as they can throw a plethora of bodies at Ricardo Ratliffe and Steve Moore down low. Look for Jamar Samuels, Thomas Gipson, and the seven-footer Jordan Henriquez to flourish on the glass Tuesday night. Ricardo Ratliffe should get his points, but Missouri is going to need quality minutes from Steve Moore. Kansas State dominated Missouri in the rebounding category back on January 7th, out-rebounding the Tigers 37-22 en route to a 75-59 victory in Manhattan. Expect Kansas State to have a similar advantage on the glass, but not by such a wide margin.
While Missouri isn’t very deep at all off the bench, they arguably have the best sixth man in the nation in Lee’s Summit West product Michael Dixon. K-State’s bench hasn’t been all that productive, but at least they have more than 7 players that can come in the game and play effective minutes unlike the Tigers who can only turn to Dixon and Steve Moore off the bench.
Tuesday’s contest is being played in Columbia, where Missouri has yet to lose a game this season. While Kansas State is coming off an energizing victory over Baylor, the Tigers and their fans can almost taste a Big 12 title. Missouri needs this game desperately to keep their Big 12 Championship aspirations alive. And don’t think that 75-59 trouncing of the Tigers in Manhattan back on January 7th isn’t on their minds when they take the court for this one Tuesday night. The revenge factor will be a big part of this game for Missouri.
Missouri hasn’t lost a game at Mizzou Arena this season. Don’t expect that to change Tuesday night.
This Saturday, Frank Martin and the Kansas State Wildcats head to the Ferrell Center in Waco, Texas to face the Baylor Bears. Kansas State is just coming off a home loss to in-state rival Kansas. At .500 in Big 12 play, Kansas State desperately needs this win for their NCAA Tournament hopes. A win in the road against a top 15 team would be a great on their resume. Here is how I see the game playing out.
Backcourt: Kansas State’s Will Spradling had a decent game against KU, but that was about it for K-State’s backcourt. Freshman guard Angel Rodriguez struggled mightily and the other guards were non factors. Baylor’s versatile Pierre Jackson and sharp shooter Brady Heslip get a huge advantage here.
Frontcourt: K-State senior Jamar Samuels had a big game on Monday against KU, despite losing the game, K-State had a bright spot in seeing Jamar being able to do well underneath the basket as well as being able to step out and hit the three. However, Baylor has one of the best frontcourts in the conference. Led by all Big 12 candidate Perry Jones III. Expect Perry and Quincy Miller to have a big day inside.
Bench: Kansas State does have a deep bench, but it seems lately as if no one wants to step up and lead the team. Baylor has a solid bench, and due to their production and KSU’s lack of production, I’ll give Baylor the edge
Intangibles: The game is being played in Waco, and Baylor won the only previous meeting this year which was in Manhattan. Baylor won that game by two points. KSU needs this game badly. So even though it’s at Baylor, K-State is out to prove that Baylor’s win in Manhattan was a fluke. Small edge to the Cats here
Prediction: I think the Wildcats are out to prove something in this game. Even though they need this game before a tough road test at Mizzou, I don’t see them being able to out play the Bears in Waco.
Baylor 75 K-State 64
This past Wednesday, Kansas State signed their 2012 Football Recruiting Class. As usual, Bill Snyder’s recruiting class isn’t filled with 4 or 5 stars or any highly ranked recruits. However, the 2012 recruiting class has some of Bill Snyder’s system players that will make a huge impact either immediately or down the road. Let’s look at some of the future stars from K-State’s recruiting class.
Biggest impact next year: Marquez Clark
Marquez Clark is a wide receiver from Navarro JC. This past season he set the NJCAA records for receptions, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns in a season. With sub-4.4 speed, expect him to work his way into the top 4 of K-State’s receiving core along with Chris Harper, Tyler Lockett and Tramaine Thompson.
Biggest Impact Down the Road: Tavarious Bender
Tavarious Bender is a 6-3 dual threat quarterback from Lincoln, Nebraska. Rated by Rivals as the 20th dual threat quarterback in the country and the Top recruit in the state of Nebraska. Watching his highlight film is like a man amongst boys. He runs a 4.47 election 40 and throws the ball with nice accuracy and touch. He fits Bill Snyder’s prototypical quarterback mold.
Sleeper: Judah Jones
Judah Jones is a wide receiver from Shreveport, Louisiana’s historic football program Evangel Christian. He had offers from Arkansas and a few others but chose to go to KSU on NSD. The reason I’m picking him as a sleeper is because he plays for an awesome high school program and he was a vastly underrated recruit
Overall Grade: B
As stated before, this class isn’t filled with superstars. It has a few JUCO players that can come in and contribute right away and some players that can be very productive down the road. This is Coach Snyder’s best class in awhile, and while people may be very critical of it, I see a ton of potential with this class.