Big 12 Conference

LAWRENCE, KS - DECEMBER 03:  Frank Mason III #0 of the Kansas Jayhawks is reacts after making a basket during the game against the Stanford Cardinal at Allen Fieldhouse on December 3, 2016 in Lawrence, Kansas.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

College Basketball Conference Reset: The Big 12’s best players and biggest story lines

Leave a comment

College basketball’s non-conference season is coming to a close, and to help you shake off post-holiday haze and the hangover of losing in your fantasy football playoffs, we’ll be providing you with some midseason primers to get you caught up on all the nation’s most important conferences.

Today, we’re taking a look at the Big 12.

PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Frank Mason III, Kansas

Josh Jackson is the Jayhawks’ top draft prospect, but Mason is their most important, and though 12 games, their most productive. He’s shooting 50 percent from 3-point range and dishing out 4.7 assists while quarterbacking an offense that ranks in the KenPom top five. He’s the Big 12 player of the year and on the short list for contenders for national player of the year.

ALL BIG 12 FIRST TEAM

  • Frank Mason III, Kansas
  • Jawun Evans, Oklahoma State
  • Manu Lecomte, Baylor
  • Jo Lual-Acuil, Baylor
  • Johnathan Motley, Baylor

RESETS: ACC | Big Ten | Big East | Pac-12 | SEC | Big 12

WHAT WE’VE LEARNED

  • 1. The league is much better than anticipated: The thought coming into the season was that it was Kansas and everybody else. Well, the thought was it was like that more than it usually is in a league the Jayhawks have won 12-straight times. Instead, the league looks again as tough as any in the country and in some sense, maybe the deepest it has ever been. Baylor and West Virginia have established themselves as top-10 teams, but what’s maybe even more interesting is there appear to be no bottom feeders. TCU is vastly improved, and Oklahoma State looks for real. There doesn’t look to be an easy night on the schedule for anyone.
  • 2. The Scott Drew jokes have to stop: Drew has been among the sport’s favorite punching bags for some time. Whether it was questions about his high-level recruiting, his ability to turn talent to wins or his sometimes odd in-game decisions, there’s not much of a more mocked coach in the country. Rarely do his two Elite Eight appearances come into the conversation, and if they do, they’re qualified by an easy path. What about this Bears team, though? They’ve got one of, if not the, best resumes in the country with an undefeated record and wins over Oregon, Xavier and Louisville. And it’s not like Drew and the Bears are doing it with a ton of guys that topped recruiting boards. It’s more of a rag-tag group. Drew, and his guys, are getting it done.
  • 3. Press Virginia is maturing: When Bob Huggins pulled the handbrake on his program and quickly shifted directions into a full-court pressing team in 2014, it was unclear if Huggins would stick with it beyond that year or if it would even be sustainable. It’s looking like the Mountaineers are just starting to perfect it. Their turnover rate of 35 percent is by far the best of the Press Virginia era. Yes, it’ll come down in conference play, but that’s an astounding number.

You can subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, Stitcher and Audioboom

KEY STORY LINES IN LEAGUE PLAY

  • 1. Is there a contender to Kansas?: Probably not, right? Every year we ask this question and for the last 12, the answer has been no team has been good enough to knock off the Jayhawks. Tie them in some instances, yes, but never best. Baylor and West Virginia look like the real deal, but Kansas still would appear to be a tier better – plus they still play nine games at Allen Fieldhouse.
  • 2. Is the Big 12 still tops?: The conference has been the consensus top league in the country in recent years, but was expected to take a step back this season. The ACC might have more better teams, but it’s also got 14 members to the Big 12’s 10, which, as of Christmas day, all were ranked in the KenPom top-70. With Kansas carrying the banner, Baylor and West Virginia following closely behind and a host of solid squads, the Big 12 could once again be the country’s top league.
  • 3. How many bids?: Last season the league sent 70 percent of its members to the NCAA tournament. For that to be repeatable, Oklahoma State, Kansas State and Texas Tech all have to prove to be more than just good-looking records against soft schedules and none of the other league’s expected dancer can take a step back. It’s doable for the Big 12, but also a tall task.
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 25: Tarik Phillip #12 of the West Virginia Mountaineers talks with head coach Bob Huggins of the West Virginia Mountaineers against the Temple Owls in the second half during the championship game of the NIT Season Tip-Off at Barclays Center on November 25, 2016 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
Tarik Phillip (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

BETTER THAN THEIR RECORD: Oklahoma sits just a game above .500 with a 6-5 mark, but two have their losses have come in overtime, another two were by a combined seven points (and leading scorer Jordan Woodard missed one of those game) and then there was a 20-point loss to Wisconsin. If the Sooners can get Woodard back healthy, they’re good enough to compete for a top-half finish in the conference behind one of the country’s most underrated coaches, Lon Kruger.

BEAT SOMEONE AND WE’LL TALK: Chris Beard has led Texas Tech to an 11-1 record in his first year in Lubbock, but the schedule is as soft and nondescript as a blanket of snow. Right now, the Red Raiders’ top KenPom win is Rice, which is ranked 112th. Texas Tech might be OK-to-good, but its resume doesn’t reveal much.

COACH UNDER PRESSURE: Since sharing the league title in his first season of 2013, Bruce Weber and Kansas State have seen their fortunes steadily decrease over the last three seasons. Oklahoma State snapping up Wildcat alum Brad Underwood after his dominating run at Stephen F. Austin only ratcheted up the scrutiny. Weber has the Wildcats at 11-1 this season, but they don’t have anything close to a “good win.” The win total looks nice, but it’s not really indicative of much growth.

LAWRENCE, KS - DECEMBER 10: Josh Jackson #11 of the Kansas Jayhawks dunks he ball against the Nebraska Cornhuskers in the second half at Allen Field House on December 10, 2016 in Lawrence, Kansas. (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)
Josh Jackson (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)

POWER RANKINGS, POSTSEASON PREDICTIONS

Tourney teams

  • 1.Kansas: The Jayhawks continue to be the toast of the league and look every bit the part of a national title contender. The backcourt of Mason and Devonte Graham has been superb and while the loss of Udoka Azubuike (wrist) hurts the front line, Josh Jackson has been as good as advertised.
  • 2. Baylor: It’s been one of the best stories this season in the country as the Bears remain undefeated with some serious wins to their name. Despite not having the five-star recruits that powered the early part of his tenure, Scott Drew might have his best team in Waco.
  • 3. West Virginia: Bob Huggins just got win No. 800 for his career and has the Mountaineers looking like another Final Four possibility for Huggs. West Virginia’s success over the last three years is proof enough their new style of play is sustainable against even the best teams in the country. The Mountaineers will be one of the most difficult matchups for any team on its schedule.
  • 4. Oklahoma State: The return from injuries of Jawun Evans and Phil Forte has allowed first-year coach Brad Underwood to hit the ground running in Stillwater. The defense is still a concern, but the Cowboys look to have a formula that works.
  • 5. Iowa State: The Cyclones have struggled some to adjust to a post-George Niang world, but their defense has been markedly improved and the offense figures to catch up at some point. Iowa State really needs Monte Morris to be a bigger scorer and its wings to shoot it consistently from deep.
  • 6. Texas Tech: It’s been a Charmin-soft schedule for the Red Raiders, but their offense – especially their offensive rebounding – will probably translate enough to the Big 12 to put them in a position to hear their name called for a second-consecutive Selection Sunday.

NIT teams

  • 7. Oklahoma: The Sooners enter conference play on a down note of three-straight losses, but getting Jordan Woodard healthy should help them steer out of the skid and finish above .500.
  • 8. TCU: Jamie Dixon’s first season at his alma mater is making the school look smart for bringing him back home, but the schedule has allowed them to pile up wins without too much resistance. An NIT bid would be a nice start to his tenure with recruiting picking up.

Autobid or bust

  • 9. Kansas State: The Wildcats have exceeded expectations through the non-conference portion of their schedule but they haven’t been tested at all, either. Their younger players will certainly be put to the test in the grinding 18-game conference slate.
  • 10. Texas: How about this? Seeing the Longhorns struggle so mightily in Year 2 under Shaka Smart is pretty shocking, especially given he’s bringing McDonald’s All-Americans to Austin, but the total lack of guard play has been crippling to Texas. The Longhorns can’t really shoot it, either, which in basketball is a problem, I’m told. It’s hard to see them being able to correct that enough to climb the conference ladder.

Big 12 releases conference schedule

Kansas' Wayne Selden Jr. cuts a piece of the net after winning an NCAA college basketball game against West Virginia to win the Big 12 conference tournament Saturday, March 12, 2016, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
Leave a comment

For the first time in conference history, the Big 12 will be playing its league games on both sides of New Year’s Day.

The Big 12 will have a showcase day on Friday, Dec. 30, with Texas Tech at Iowa State (4 p.m. eastern), followed by Baylor at Oklahoma (7 p.m.) and Kansas at TCU ( 9 p.m.). Kansas State will host Texas and Oklahoma State will welcome West Virginia as well, though times have yet to be determined, on the league’s first-ever December day of games.

The league’s first signature Big Monday contest is Jan. 16, with Kansas traveling to Hilton Coliseum to face Iowa State.

Final day of league action is Saturday, March 4, before all 10 teams travel to Kansas City for the conference’s tournament starting March 8.

While the league may be starting at a new time, one thing will remain the same: Kansas is the heavy favorite to claim its 13th-straight conference championship.

To see the full Big 12 schedule, click here.

January Big 12 showdowns highlight 2015-16 ‘Big Monday’ schedule

Bill Self
Leave a comment

Wednesday afternoon the matchups for ESPN’s “Big Monday” were announced, with for the third consecutive season the ACC in the 7:00 p.m. Eastern time slot and the Big 12 in the second half of the doubleheader. Of course some of the nation’s top teams will be on display, with North Carolina and Duke making three appearances apiece in the ACC and Kansas getting four games in the Big 12 portion of the slate.

Iowa State and Oklahoma, expected by many to be the biggest threats to Kansas’ current streak of 11 straight Big 12 regular season titles, will make three appearances apiece as will Texas under first-year head coach Shaka Smart.

In regards to the Big 12 schedule, it shouldn’t take too long to get a feel for the conference race with the Jayhawks, Cyclones and Sooners being featured during the first three weeks of the schedule. Kansas will host Oklahoma January 4, with the Sooners taking on Iowa State in Ames January 18 (the 11th is taken by the College Football Playoff title game) and Kansas visiting Iowa State January 25.

As for the ACC portion of the schedule, either North Carolina or reigning national champion Duke will be in action during each of the first five weeks beginning with the Tar Heels’ trip to Florida State January 4. Duke will host Syracuse January 18 and then head to Miami the following Monday, with the Tar Heels taking on Louisville February 1 and the Blue Devils hosting the Cardinals February 8.

Two-time ACC regular season champion Virginia gets two appearances, as they’ll host another expected contender in NC State February 15 and visiting Miami February 22. Below is the full schedule for “Big Monday” during the 2015-16 season.

January 4
7 p.m. North Carolina at Florida State
9 p.m. Oklahoma at Kansas

January 18
7 p.m. Syracuse at Duke
9 p.m. Oklahoma at Iowa State

January 25
7 p.m. Duke at Miami
9 p.m. Kansas at Iowa State

February 1
7 p.m. North Carolina at Louisville
9 p.m. Texas at Baylor

February 8
7 p.m. Louisville at Duke
9 p.m. Texas at Oklahoma

February 15
7 p.m. NC State at Virginia
9 p.m. Oklahoma State at Kansas

February 22
7 p.m. Virginia at Miami
9 p.m. Iowa State at West Virginia

February 29
7 p.m. Syracuse at North Carolina
9 p.m. Kansas at Texas ESPN

Big 12 Tournament to remain in Kansas City through 2020

Bob Bowlsby, Fred Hoiberg
Leave a comment

Since the Big 12 came into existence in 1996, 14 of its men’s basketball tournaments have been played in Kansas City with Kemper Arena hosting seven and the Sprint Center hosting seven with an eighth scheduled for next season. Thursday afternoon the Big 12 announced the sites for multiple conference championships, which includes the decision to leave the Big 12 tournament in Kansas City through 2020.

The league’s contract with the Sprint Center was due to expire after the 2016 edition of the event.

“We are thrilled to announce the future sites for the championships,” Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby said in the release. “Every city that submitted a bid did a phenomenal job – making our decision very difficult. We look forward to growing the success of our men’s basketball championship in Kansas City, while also exposing fans throughout our footprint to our postseason competitions.”

The Big 12 tournament has been well-attended during its time in Kansas City, with the conference noting in the release that the average per session attendance for tournaments at the Sprint Center have exceeded 18,000. Of the 14 Big 12 tournaments played in Kansas City, Kansas has been the most frequent winner as the Jayhawks have won seven of them.

Iowa State, which has won the last two Big 12 tournaments, has won three (2000, 2014, 2015) of the 14 staged in Kansas City with Oklahoma (2001, 2002) winning two and Oklahoma State (2005) and former member Missouri (2012) winning one apiece.

Big 12 reprimands Kansas State for security issues following Monday’s win over Kansas

AP Photo
Leave a comment

With the conversation regarding whether or not fans should be allowed to rush the court following big wins, the Big 12 has reprimanded Kansas State for its issues following the basketball team’s win over Kansas Monday night. With there being multiple security issues surrounding the fans’ rushing onto the court, Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby stated that the interactions were “inappropriate and unacceptable.”

Also of note in the statement is the fact that the conference presidents have plans to discuss the possibility of instituting conference-wide protocols for situations such as the one that occurred on Monday. Included in this is the conference not having rules regarding vulgar chants, which also occurred Monday night in Manhattan.

“The Big 12 Conference does not currently have a policy prohibiting spectators entering playing areas of our contests,” Bowlsby said in the release. “We also do not have policies governing foul language and inappropriate chants within our venues. I have asked that discussions on both of these topics be placed on the agendas for the next meetings of the ADs and of the CEOs.

“In the meantime, all conference institutions are reminded to reassess game management procedures in order to effectively and uniformly ensure the integrity of our contests, the security of the student-athletes and coaches, and the safety of the spectators, Bowlsby continued. “Maintenance of a sportslike environment around our contests is among the most important responsibilities shared by our members and enforced by the conference office. The events following the KU vs. K-State game should be a call to action for all of us.”

Wednesday afternoon Kansas State Police Department announced that Nathan Power, the student who ran onto the court and intentionally bumped into Kansas forward Jamari Traylor, has been issued a notice to appear in court on a charge of disorderly conduct.

Regardless of which side of the court-storming argument folks belong to, there are some issues to address when it comes to the safety of all who are on the court at that time. The SEC currently fines schools when fans rush, and it wouldn’t be a surprise if the Big 12 considered making a similar move in the near future.

Kansas center Joel Embiid to see a back specialist on Monday

AP Photo
Leave a comment

Andrew Wiggins went off for 41 points, corralling eight rebounds, recording five steals and blocking four shots on Saturday afternoon in the same state where he became such a highly-touted prospect.

That’s the good news for Kansas. The bad news is that the Jayhawks lost to West Virginia 92-86 as KU’s bid for a No. 1 seed took a hit. It was the second straight game the Jayhawks played without center Joel Embiid, sidelined with a back injury suffered in last week’s loss to Oklahoma State.

Embiid will fly to California to see a back specialist on Monday morning.

‘We wanted to get a second opinion and wanted to send him to the very best authority,” Self said following the game according to Gary Bedore of KUSports.com

“Hopefully we get real positive news. Hopefully he can be on the practice floor very very soon. We will not put him out there just because he feels better but because the doctors says it’s time to get back out there. Hopefully it will be real soon, if not we’ll sit him a little longer. We still don’t think it will affect (his participation in) the NCAA tournament in any way.”

Kansas is as talented as any team in the country. Though the Jayhawks, like many teams, still face questions heading into postseason play. Kansas’ point guard play and Embiid’s back are two major ones moving forward.

However, Wiggins’ offensive outburst — along with his defensive presence — gave Kansas fans a silver lining on Saturday in the regular season finale. Kansas has dropped two of three games in March so far, but consider it a win for the Jayhawks if they can get a positive update on Embiid’s back, getting their star center back on the floor as they gear up for the NCAA tournament.