Conference Catch-ups: The Big 12


Over the course of this week, we will spend a few minutes catching you up on how some of the best conferences in the country currently look. With conference play starting up, its time to get into the basketball spirit.

Favorite: Baylor

I just finished recording a podcast over at CBS, and one of the things that we discussed was Baylor and why they aren’t getting the same kind of hype as, say, Indiana or Ohio State or UConn. The most obvious reason is that they haven’t exactly beaten a murderer’s row; BYU, West Virginia and St. Mary’s are, by far, the Bear’s three best wins. Teams build hype by winning games that you cannot help but watch, and as of now, Baylor doesn’t have a single win of that ilk. But there is more to it: Baylor has serious question marks about three important pieces on their team. Is Scott Drew a good enough coach? His reputation is that of a recruiter, not a play-by-play tactician. Can Pierre Jackson run the point for this team? He’s made some clutch plays over the past couple of games, but he also has a tendency to go into NBA 2K mode when he’s not good enough for that. Is Perry Jones III ever going to find the “Eff You!” mentality that the best-of-the-best have? Assertiveness and aggressiveness are the only things that are keeping PJIII from being a serious contender for National Player of the Year.

And-1: There are four undefeated teams left in the country. Baylor is one of them. Missouri is another. The Tigers are a much different team from Baylor — where the Bears are one of the longest and most athletic teams in the country, Missouri plays four guards and is arguably the best shooting team — but they have been just as impressive. Mizzou is a potent offensive team, with two playmaking point guards (Phil Pressey, Mike Dixon) that free up a pair of devastatingly good shooters (Kim English, Marcus Denmon). The issue plaguing Missouri right now is whether the numbers they have put up (they are second in adjusted offensive efficiency in the country) are simply a result of playing a weak schedule. Teams like Cal, Illinois and Villanova are not as good as they have been in recent season.

Biggest Surprise: Kansas State

The Wildcats have had a nice start to the year. They are 11-1 — with the “1” being a double-overtime loss to West Virginia — and are playing some typical Frank Martin basketball. They have a trio of quality big men (Thomas Gibson, Jamar Samuels and Jordan Henriquez) that pound the offensive glass and they have a roster of kids that go to work on the defensive end of the floor. The difference of late has been the emergence Angel Rodriguez alongside Rodney McGruder and Will Spradling. Not bad for a team that lost Jacob Pullen last season.

And-1: I have to admit, I really didn’t expect much out of Texas this season. They lost a ton of talent from a team that chronically underperformed and replaced it with slightly off-the-radar freshmen. But it has worked this year. J’Covan Brown has been good and Myck Kabongo, who has had the typical ups-and-downs of a freshman point guard, is getting better. More impressive, however, has been the play of Julien Lewis, Sheldon McClellan, and Jonathon Holmes, all freshmen as well. The Horns have six freshmen in their nine man rotation. That means the season will be a learning process, but that this group will have a steep learning curve.

Biggest Disappointment: Texas A&M

At this point in the season, its really not fair to be too harsh on the Aggies. Besides the fact that their best player, Khris Middleton, missed seven games early in the season with a knee injury, Kourtney Roberson has missed the past three games with a fractured ankle and freshman Jamal Branch has transferred out of the program. The biggest issue is that their head coach is battling early on-set Parkinson’s. That’s far from an ideal situation. But A&M’s start has been far from ideal as well, with the Aggies most recently getting blown out by Florida and following that up with a loss to Rice. Until A&M can find a consistent way to score the ball, they are going to continue to struggle.

And-1: Oklahoma State wasn’t exactly expected to win the Big 12 this season, but they also weren’t expected to finish in last place. But that’s exactly where they stand heading into the start of league play, and things aren’t exactly looking up. LeBryan Nash has been, well, awful. JP Olukemi is out for the season after tearing his acl. Fred Gulley and Reger Dowell have both transferred out of the program. Travis Ford is going to have his work cut out for him as he tries to turn this thing around.

Something left to prove: Kansas

Thomas Robinson is a monster. That much we do know about the Jayhawks. After that, however, there still is plenty to find out. There are the questions marks surrounding the leadership abilities of Elijah Johnson and Tyshawn Taylor. There are the issues regarding the amount of talent that Bill Self’s role players have — Travis Releford, Jeff Withey, Naadir Tharpe. The are concerns (at least on my end) of whether or not T-Rob is enough of a go-to player to carry the Jayhawks. That said, Kansas is Kansas. Bill Self is Bill Self. And there is a reason that the Jayhawks have won seven straight Big 12 titles. Until its official, Kansas has to be considered in the mix for the title.

And-1: Lon Kruger has done a great job turning around the Oklahoma program. Heading into Big 12 play, the Sooners are 10-2 on the season. They have wins over Washington State, Santa Clara, Houston and Arkansas. They have one of the most improved players in the country in Steven Pledger. They came within a late-game collapse of knocking off the new-and-improved Cincinnati Bearcats. We’ll find out just how “for real” this group is when they open up league play at Missouri.

Player of the Year: Thomas Robinson, Kansas

T-Rob has proved that the all-american hype he had in the preseason was deserved. He’s averaging 17.7 ppg and 12.2 rpg through non-conference play, providing a rock in the post for the Jayhawks. If he’s not the hardest-working player in the country, he’s somewhere in the top five. In a conference that has plenty of Player of the Year options, Robinson is a pretty easy pick.

All-Conference Team:

POY: Thomas Robinson, Kansas
G: J’Covan Brown, Texas
G: Marcus Denmon, Missouri
G: Steven Pledger, Oklahoma
F: Royce White, Iowa State
C: Perry Jones III, Baylor

Power Rankings

1. Baylor
2. Missouri
3. Kansas
4. Kansas State
5. Texas
6. Texas A&M
7. Oklahoma
8. Iowa State
9. Texas Tech
10. Oklahoma State

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @ballinisahabit.

NCAA tweaks rules on block/charge calls in men’s basketball

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INDIANAPOLIS — The NCAA is tweaking how block/charge calls are made in men’s basketball.

The NCAA Playing Rules Oversight Panel approved rule changes on Thursday that require a defender to be in position to draw a charge at the time the offensive player plants a foot to go airborne for a shot. If the defender arrives after the player has planted a foot, officials have been instructed to call a block when there’s contact.

Defenders had to be in position to draw a charge before the offensive player went airborne under previous rules.

NCAA Men’s Basketball Rules Committee members made the proposal after NCAA members complained that too many charges were being called on those types of plays.

The panel also approved reviews of basket interference calls during the next media timeout – if the official called it on the floor – a shot clock reset to 20 seconds on an offensive rebound that hits the rim, and players being allowed to wear any number between 0 and 99.

A timeout also will be granted to an airborne player with possession of the ball, and non-student bench personnel will be allowed to serve as peacekeepers on the floor if an altercation occurs.

Charlotte head coach Ron Sanchez resigns after winning CBI title

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Ron Sanchez resigned as head coach of the Charlotte 49ers.

Sanchez took over the 49ers on March 19, 2018, inheriting a team coming off a 6-23 campaign. In five years Charlotte went 72-78 under Sanchez, highlighted by winning the College Basketball Invitational championship this past season, the Niners’ first post-season tournament title in school history.

The 22 wins this past season are the most for Charlotte since 2001.

“Ron took over a proud but struggling program and carefully rebuilt it into a 22-game winner. He has led with class, dignity and devotion to our young men,” Charlotte director of athletics Mike Hill said. “His decision to step down from Charlotte was a difficult one for him and everyone associated with our program. We wish him and his family every happiness.”

Hill said the team has already begun a national search for a replacement.

“This is a bittersweet day for me and my family as I step down to pursue other opportunities,” said Sanchez, who came the 49ers after working as an assistant coach at Virginia under Tony Bennett. “It has been a tremendous privilege to lead the 49ers basketball program over the past five years and I want to thank Niner Nation for its support. I will be forever grateful to my staff, players and the university.”

Marquette extends Shaka Smart’s contract through 2029-30 season

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MILWAUKEE — Marquette coach Shaka Smart has received a contract extension after leading the Golden Eagles to their first outright regular-season championship and tournament title in the Big East.

Smart’s contract now runs through the 2029-30 season. This is the first extension Smart has received since signing a six-year deal when he took over as Marquette’s coach in 2021.

Marquette didn’t release financial terms of Smart’s deal.

“In a very short period of time, Shaka and his staff have done a tremendous job of establishing a winning culture, both on and off the court,” athletic director Bill Scholl said in a statement. “Shaka’s vision for the program is focused on extended, sustainable success. The individuals who interact with the team on a daily basis are able to observe frequent examples of growth and the excitement around the program is contagious.”

Marquette has gone 48-20 in Smart’s two seasons and reached the NCAA Tournament each of those years.

The Golden Eagles went 29-7 and won the Big East’s regular-season and tournament championships last season after the league’s coaches had picked them to finish ninth out of 11 teams. Marquette’s season ended with a 69-60 loss to Michigan State in the NCAA Tournament’s round of 32.

Purdue’s Edey returning to school at NBA draft deadline; Kentucky’s Tshiebwe stays in

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Purdue’s Zach Edey decided it was the right call to go back to school instead of staying in the NBA draft. His predecessor as national player of the year, Kentucky’s Oscar Tshiebwe, is sticking with his pro pursuit.

And Connecticut’s reign as NCAA champion will begin with multiple starters having left for the NBA draft and one returning after flirting with doing the same.

The 7-foot-4 Edey and UConn guard Tristen Newton were among the notable names to announce that they were withdrawing from the draft, the NCAA’s deadline for players who declared as early entrants to pull out and retain their college eligibility.

Edey’s decision came in social media posts from both the center and the Boilermakers program that earned a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament behind Edey, The Associated Press men’s national player of the year.

But Tshiebwe announced late in the afternoon that he would remain in the draft after a college career that included being named the AP national player of the year in 2022.

For the current champions, Newton (10.1 points, 4.7 assists, 4.5 rebounds) is returning after being one of four Huskies to declare for the draft after a run to UConn’s fifth national championship in early April. He scored a game-high 19 points to go with 10 rebounds in the victory over San Diego State in the title game.

The others were Final Four Most Outstanding Player Adama Sanogo, wing Jordan Hawkins and versatile guard Andre Jackson Jr. Sanogo (17.8 points) and Hawkins (16.3) have made it clear they have closed the door on their college careers, while team spokesman Phil Chardis said that Jackson (6.1 points, 5.8 rebounds, 4.6 assists) would remain in the draft.

The Huskies have 247sports’ No. 3-ranked recruiting class for next year to restock the roster, led by McDonald’s All-American point guard Stephon Castle.

The NBA’s withdrawal deadline is June 12, but is moot when it comes to college players returning to school due to the NCAA’s earlier timeline to retain playing eligibility.


TREY ALEXANDER: Creighton gets back a 6-4 guard who averaged 13.6 points and shot 41% from 3-point range in his first full season as a starter.

ADEM BONA: The 6-foot-10 forward and Pac-12 freshman of the year is returning to UCLA after starting 32 games as a rookie and averaging 7.7 points, 5.3 rebounds and 1.7 blocks – with coach Mick Cronin praising his toughness for “competing through multiple injuries for as long as he could” in a statement Wednesday.

EDEY: He averaged 22.3 points, 12.9 rebounds, 2.1 blocks and 1.5 assists while shooting 60.7% from the field. His presence alone helps Purdue be a factor in the Big Ten race.

JOSIAH-JORDAN JAMES: The 6-6 guard went through the NBA G League Combine and had workouts with multiple teams before opting to return to Tennessee for a fifth season alongside teammate Santiago Vescovi.

JUDAH MINTZ: The 6-3 freshman averaged 16.3 points and 4.6 assists for Syracuse, ranking third among Division I freshmen in scoring behind only Alabama’s Brandon Miller and Lamar’s Nate Calmese.

OWLS’ RETURNEES: Florida Atlantic got good news after its surprise Final Four run with the return leading scorers Johnell Davis (13.8) and Alijah Martin (13.4). ESPN first reported their decisions, while Martin later posted a social media statement.

TERRENCE SHANNON JR.: Illinois got a big boost with Shannon announcing his night in a social media post. The 6-6 guard is returning for a fifth college season after averaging 17.2 points.

SPARTANS’ RETURNEES: Michigan State announced that guards Jaden Akins and A.J. Hoggard have withdrawn from the NBA draft. Standout guard Tyson Walker had previously withdrawn in April, setting up Tom Izzo to have five of his top scorers back.


KOBE BROWN: Missouri’s 6-8 swingman opted against returning for a fifth college season after being an AP first-team all-Southeastern Conference pick averaging 15.8 points last season.

JAYLEN CLARK: The third-year UCLA guard averaged 13.0 points and 6.0 rebounds while leading the Pac-12 with 2.6 steals en route to being named Naismith national defensive player of the year. Cronin called him a winner with strong intangibles who made UCLA “a better program because he chose to be a Bruin.”

BRICE SENSABAUGH: The Ohio State freshman averaged 16.3 points and 5.4 rebounds in 31 games before missing his final two in the Big Ten Tournament due to a knee injury. He’s a potential first-round prospect.

TSHIEBWE: The 6-9, 260-pound forward is a tough interior presence who led the country in rebounds for two straight seasons (15.1 in 2022, 13.7 in 2023) while racking up 48 double-doubles. But he faces an uncertain next stop and is projected at best as a second-round prospect.

North Carolina transfer Caleb Love commits to Arizona

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Caleb Love is now headed to Arizona.

The North Carolina transfer tweeted, less than a month after decommitting from Michigan, that he will play next season with the Wildcats.

“Caleb is a tremendously talented guard who has significant experience playing college basketball at a high level,” Arizona coach Tommy Lloyd said in a statement. “We look forward to helping Caleb grow his game at Arizona. And as we near the completion of the roster for the upcoming season, we feel great about how everything has come together. Now it’s time for the real work to start.”

A 6-foot-4 guard, Love averaged 14.6 points and 3.3 assists in three seasons at North Carolina. He averaged 17.6 points in seven NCAA Tournament games, helping lead the Tar Heels to the 2022 national championship game.

Love entered the transfer portal after leading North Carolina with 73 3-pointers as a junior and initially committed to Michigan. He decommitted from the Wolverines earlier this month, reportedly due to an admissions issue involving academic credits.

Love narrowed his transfer targets to three schools before choosing to play at Arizona over Gonzaga and Texas.

Love will likely start on a team that will have dynamic perimeter players, including Pelle Larsson, Kylan Boswell and Alabama transfer Jaden Bradley.