1. One of the most important factors that will help Iowa State in March is their bench performance. Over their current three-game winning streak, the Cyclones are averaging 26 points per game from the bench. Also, their bench is outscoring their opponent’s bench by an average of 12.3 points per game. Bryce Dejean-Jones, Matt Thomas, or Abdel Nader can come off the bench to score 15 points. Combine that with a team that often has a different leading scorer each night, from Georges Niang to Monte Morris, or Dustin Hogue and Jameel McKay, the Cyclones will be an incredibly difficult match up for anyone next month.
2. How safe is Texas coach Rick Barnes? This team was once ranked #6 in the country. Now, they’re 6-8 in Big 12 play, 7th place in the conference, and potentially looking at the NIT. I don’t see how Rick Barnes could survive missing the NCAA Tournament. While Barnes has continued to recruit at a high level, he is rarely able to get his teams to live up to the combined ability of his individual players.
3. TCU coach Trent Johnson continues to get some well deserved kudos from his Big 12 coaching peers. The Horned Frogs beat Oklahoma State and Kansas State in back to back games, then hung in against Kansas, before losing by nine points. Johnson had a major project on his hands turning the hoops program into a competitive Big 12 squad. Unlike the football team, which was one of the best mid-major programs in the country, TCU basketball was a bottom feeder in the Mountain West (1-15 in 2010-11, 7-7 in 2011-12). The new arena will help recruiting. But, nothing will improve recruiting quite like improvement on the court.
4. A week and a half ago the programs at West Virginia and Oklahoma State were trending in opposite directions. The Mountaineers had lost 3 of 4, with double digit losses to Oklahoma, Baylor, and Iowa State. Meantime, the Cowboys had won 3 in a row over Texas, Kansas, and Baylor. Now, Oklahoma State is in the midst of a 3 game slide, and WVU has won 2 in a row, over Kansas, and then Oklahoma State, on Saturday. Point is: the college basketball season is LONG. I believe February is when you can start to judge and define a team’s chances in March.
5. Kansas State fans are really starting to hammer coach Bruce Weber. Their frustration is very understandable, but I’ve continued to defend Weber. That being said, the disconnect between Weber and his players appears to be growing. The worst part is no one has stepped up to take responsibility. Weber hasn’t, and neither has a veteran player. That’s on Weber. He’s the coach, the adult, and the supposed leader. The quicker he looks into a camera (the fans), takes responsibility, and promises to fix to the best of his ability, the quicker the fan base is will start to back off.
6. Before switching to football, here is our tweet of the week. Yes, it’s sort of “anti-Big 12”. But, it’s true. Just like the SEC was overrated in football, I’m starting to wonder how much we are overrating Big 12 hoops.
7. A Cleveland County (OK) district judge ruled against the Oklahoma Association of Broadcasters in a lawsuit aimed at making the surveillance video in the Joe Mixon case public. There is video from last year of Mixon landing a punch to the face of 20-year-old Amelia Rae Molitor as she falls to the ground. Mixon was suspended from football last season, but will return in 2015. So… this is a dangerous spot for OU to put themselves in. Is it possible an outlet like TMZ could get their hands on this video and releases it (a la Ray Rice)? If so, the University of Oklahoma could end up looking horrible. This is a big gamble for President Boren, AD Joe Castiglione and Bob Stoops.
8. Sticking with OU, they replaced defensive line coach, and co-defensive coordinator Jerry Montgomery with Stanford defensive assistant Diron Reynolds. Due to his title, Reynolds was not allowed to recruit off campus at Stanford. He spent 2002 through 2013 at different spots in the NFL, including defensive quality control coach for the Colts, d-line coach with the Dolphins, and assistant d-line coach with the Vikings. He hasn’t recruited since coaching at Indiana in 2002. As a result, some worry about his recruiting abilities. I don’t. Spending over a decade in the NFL, his resume will sell itself to recruits. As for his “sales pitches”, they will improve. But, he has the background and experience that will impress recruits and their parents.
9. So, after Baylor was knocked in the College Football Playoff process for their very weak non-conference schedule, most understand the Big 12 needs to beef up their September slate. That is… most except Kansas State. Last week, K-State agreed to play a home game against Buffalo in 2020. Granted, K-State has one Power 5 team, Vanderbilt, scheduled for 2020. But, still, can’t Bill Snyder do better? Next season the Wildcats play South Dakota, Texas-San Antonio, and Louisiana Tech. In 2016, it’s Missouri State, Florida Atlantic, and an open date. Maybe Bill Snyder doesn’t care, since he may not be the coach by 2020. But he’s doing his fan base and his future teams a disservice with these horribly weak schedules.
10. The news slid under the radar last week, but West Virginia University’s athletic department received two years probation for a “series of recruiting violations committed by 14 sports over the course of 31 months”. The good news is that Bob Huggins men’s basketball program was not cited as a violator. But, most of the illegal communications came from women’s gymnastics, football, women’s basketball, and women’s soccer. The biggest violator appears to have come from a women’s gymnastics coach responsible for 150 illegal text messages. Geez. Let’s just say if I was an AD, now on probation, and my biggest offender was the gymnastics coach!? That wouldn’t bode well for him/her. First off, their program is a money sucker, now a rule breaker?