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Mediocrity does not prevail in the Big 12 as Kansas downs Kansas State

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It’s basically accepted fact that the Big 12 is the best conference in the country this season. Four of the league’s 10 teams are ranked in the top 15 in The Associated Press poll this week and five are ranked in the top-25 at KenPom. The conference’s round-robin schedule is an absolute grinder.

But after the league’s lackluster performance over the weekend against the SEC and Kansas’ 70-56 manhandling of Kansas State in Manhattan on Monday, is it fair to wonder if the conference, while maybe the country’s best, may not be exactly the juggernaut it’s been thought to be?

The Big 12 has plenty of very good teams. The top of the league looks competitive and the middle is strong.

There are emerging signs, though, of the conference’s weaknesses.

Start with the game in Manhattan on Monday. A team like Kansas State being good – like top-25, fringe conference title contender good – is the crux on what the Big 12’s stated strength is built on. The Wildcats entered the night 5-3 in the conference, a game behind the Jayhawks in a four-way tie for second. If the Big 12 is an unmanageable buzzsaw, causing chaos with its high-level parity, Kansas State should be able to go toe-to-toe with Kansas, especially on its home floor.

Instead, Kansas had little issue in a 14-point win. The Wildcats shot 32.3 percent from the field on their homecourt, and made just 22.2 percent of their 3s. Kansas didn’t shoot the lights out,  connecting at 45.7 percent overall, but did hit nine 3s. The Jayhawks even turned the ball over 16 times, and that wasn’t enough to propel K-State to threaten Kansas in front of a raucous crowd at the Octagon of Doom.

Kansas State was just leagues behind their in-state rivals. Which does not bode well for the strength of the Big 12. Conferences are often judged by their top and their bottom, the best and worst they have to offer, but often the true tale is told in the middle. When a conference’s average team is above-average, that’s when a conference really has something.

Kansas State is a pretty good stand-in for that average team. If the Wildcats can get got on their home court by 14 by the league’s best, that’s not a great sign. And are they really all that different than the likes of Texas or TCU?

So the middle of the league doesn’t look as daunting as once thought, and suddenly the floor of the conference looks to be lowering as well. Iowa State entered conference play looking like an NCAA tournament hopeful with nine-straight wins, but the Cyclones are now 2-6 in the conference and got blown out at home by Tennessee over the weekend. Baylor was thought to be a dark horse Big 12 contender, but the Bears are tied for last with Iowa State and have lost five of their last six. Oklahoma State has been scrappier than expected, but will enter February without a road win.

Part of the argument for the Big 12’s supremacy has been that there are No Nights Off. That thought is looking less airtight at the moment.

As for the top of the conference, the SEC Challenge did no favors for the Big 12. West Virginia lost at home to Kentucky and Oklahoma lost at Alabama. Texas Tech picked up a nice win at South Carolina, but the Red Raiders still look a little wobbly after losing three of four and needing to escape with a win at home against the Cowboys in recent weeks.

Kansas is clearly the toast of the league – surprise, surprise – but the Jayhawks aren’t typically discussed as legit national championship contenders due to a roster that appears to have just too many vulnerabilities.

The Big 12 is still probably the best conference in the country, but it’s probably a little overrated, too. Those two things aren’t mutually exclusive.

Trae Jefferson to transfer out of Texas Southern

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Texas Southern guard and NCAA tournament darling Trae Jefferson announced on Saturday that he’s leaving the school.

The 5-foot-7 Jefferson was sensational at times during his sophomore season with the Tigers as he put up 23.1 points, 4.6 assists and 3.1 rebounds per game, helping lead Texas Southern to a victory in the 2018 NCAA Tournament’s First Four in Dayton over North Carolina Central. One of the most entertaining talents in college basketball, Jefferson is leaving Texas Southern in-part because former head coach Mike Davis took the job at Detroit this offseason.

While Detroit is going to be the favorite to land Jefferson, because of his connection to Davis, it’ll be interesting to see what his transfer market looks like. Jefferson also made it clear on his Twitter page that he would like to be closer to his hometown of Milwaukee so that he can be closer to his ailing grandfather.

Given NCAA transfer rules, Jefferson would likely have to sit out next season before getting two more years of eligibility. But he could be applying for a waiver if he’s trying to be closer to home to deal with his family situation.

Nevada’s Josh Hall transfers to Missouri State

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Nevada lost a talented player from last season’s team as rising junior Josh Hall opted to transfer to Missouri State on Friday night.

The 6-foot-7 Hall is a former top-150 recruit who played a key part in the Wolf Pack’s postseason run as he elevated his play to average 13 points and 4.7 rebounds per game during the 2018 NCAA Tournament. Hall also made the game-winning bucket to lift Nevada past No. 2 seed Cincinnati in the second round.

Although Hall picked up his play late in the year, he was coming off the bench most of his sophomore campaign as he averaged 6.9 points and 3.9 rebounds per game last season.

Since Nevada took in some talented transfers, while players like Jordan Caroline and the Martin twins opted not to turn pro, it left head coach Eric Musselman with too many scholarship players for the 2018-19 season. It looks like some of those issues are now going away as Hall is leaving for Missouri State and graduate transfer guard Ehab Amin opted to decommit from the school.

Nevada is expected to be a preseason top-10 team next season with all of the talent they have returning to the roster, along with the addition of some new pieces like McDonald’s All-American big man Jordan Brown.

Hall will likely have to sit out next season due to NCAA transfer rules as he still has two years of eligibility remaining.

Chris Webber accepts Jim Harbaugh’s invitation to be honorary Michigan football captain

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The frosty relationship between Chris Webber and the University of Michigan could be thawing — thanks to an invitation from football head coach Jim Harbaugh.

On Friday, Harbaugh called in to WTKA’s “The M Zone” as show host Jamie Morris had Webber on the show. Harbaugh offered Webber the opportunity to be an honorary captain for the Michigan football team next season, to which Webber replied that he would love the opportunity.

Webber, a former member of the “Fab Five” who helped the Wolverines to two consecutive NCAA tournament title-game appearances in 1992 and 1993, has not associated directly with the school, or with other members of the Fab Five, for many years.

The NCAA mandated that Webber and Michigan not associate with one another for 10 years after the Ed Martin booster scandal. Webber has always been reluctant to participate in anything Michigan or Fab Five related. When the famous Fab Five documentary was made a few years ago, Webber was the only member of the quintet not to participate in the making of the film. Jalen Rose, Juwan Howard, Jimmy King and Ray Jackson all have a solid relationship with the University of Michigan at this point.

Webber later criticized the film during an appearance on the Dan Patrick Show, as King and Rose fired back with responses to reignite the feud. In the past, Rose has also been vocal in his belief that Webber should apologize for what happened at Michigan, as the group is hoping to move forward.

Although Webber still isn’t mending fences with the other Fab Five members, or the basketball program, returning to Michigan in some kind of official capacity is a big deal considering his past with the school.

Harbaugh and Webber haven’t decided on a game for next season yet as that will be something to watch for over the next several months.

Akoy Agau returning to Louisville as graduate transfer

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Louisville received a boost to its frontcourt rotation on Friday as former big man Akoy Agau will return to the Cardinals as a graduate transfer.

The 6-foot-8 Agau originally committed and enrolled at Louisville for a season and a half to begin his college hoops career before transferring to Georgetown. After leaving the Hoyas to play at SMU last season, Agau received a sixth year of eligibility from the NCAA after battling injury for much of his career.

Agau gives Louisville an experienced forward who should earn some solid minutes next season. With the Mustangs during the 2017-18 season, Agau averaged 5.0 points and 3.6 rebounds per game in 16.1 minutes per contest.

While this isn’t the biggest splash for the Cardinals, they have plenty of scholarships to use for next season as new head coach Chris Mack tries to find a stable rotation. Getting a graduate transfer like Agau, who should be familiar with the school and the conference at the very least, is a nice step for a one-year placeholder.

NCAA President Mark Emmert got a $500,000 raise in 2016

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NCAA president Mark Emmert, the man in charge of a non-profit association that doesn’t have enough money to pay its laborers, received a $500,000 raise for the 2016 calendar year, bringing his total income to more than $2.4 million, according to an NCAA tax return that was obtained by USA Today.

That number actually pales in comparison to the salaries that are received by the commissioners of the Power 5 conferences.

But there’s not enough money to pay the players.

Nope.

Everyone is broke.

Carry on with your day, and pray for the well-being of NCAA administrators like Mark Emmert, whose salary is in no way whatsoever inflated by amateurism, which allows the schools and the NCAA to bank all of the advertising revenue that college basketball and football brings in and bars the players themselves from accessing that money.