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Big 12 stock report: Sleepers, Busts and Contenders

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The Big 12 conference season begins today, and already the league is full of interesting storylines.

Kansas and Texas are still undefeated and ranked Nos. 1-2 in the country. Kansas State is in the top 10, and Texas Tech is off to an impressive start at 12-2, while Oklahoma has struggled to 9-5.

Things can change quickly once the conference season begins, though.

So what teams does KU need to look out for? And which teams are due for quite a few losses in conference play?

The following is my list of sleepers, busts and contenders in the Big 12.

Sleepers

http://worldonline.media.clients.ellingtoncms.com/img/blogs/entry_img/2010/Jan/09/mu.jpg Missouri
Current record: 12-3
Preseason Big 12 coaches poll rank: 7th
Current AP/Coaches poll rank: Unranked

Reason to believe: Turns out Mike Anderson had a legitimate gripe at Big 12 media days while wondering aloud why an Elite Eight run last year couldn't get his team picked higher than seventh in the conference. The coach has his 40-minutes of hell style rolling once again in Columbia to the tune of seven straight wins, and the Tigers shouldn't be a sleeper for too much longer.

So what's going right with MU? Turnovers, baby. The Tigers lead the nation, forcing turnovers on 29.7 percent of their opponents' possessions, which is the best mark in the nation. They also look to be balanced, ranking 32nd in adjusted offensive efficiency and ninth in adjusted defensive efficiency on KenPom.com.

Reason for concern: MU doesn't have any household names. We saw Sherron Collins carry KU against Cornell when it was struggling. Dexter Pittman and Damion James can do that for Texas. Who will that be for Missouri? Looks like guard Kim English, who has shot 33.3 percent of his team's shots when he's in the game, is at least trying to be that guy.

Fearless Prediction: Missouri will beat Kansas State today and finish tied for third in the conference with Kansas State.

http://worldonline.media.clients.ellingtoncms.com/img/blogs/entry_img/2010/Jan/09/BU.jpg Baylor
Current record: 12-1
Preseason Big 12 coaches poll rank: 10th
Current AP/Coaches poll rank: Receiving Votes/Receiving Votes

Reason to believe: Six-foot-10 transfer Ekpe Udoh (top right above) has transformed this team. Suddenly, with the big man's help, the Bears are a defensive force, ranking 49th in adjusted defensive efficiency (The Bears were 103rd a year ago). Udoh is ninth nationally in block percentage (with blocks on 13.2 percent of the opposing team's two-point attempts when he's in there), while he's also boosted Baylor's interior defense; the Bears' two-point percentage defense (36.8 percent) ranks second nationally.

Reason for concern: The Bears still don't force many turnovers, and their free-throw percentage (64.6 percent) leaves something to be desired.

Fearless prediction: Twenty wins and an NCAA Tournament berth for the Bears.

Busts

http://worldonline.media.clients.ellingtoncms.com/img/blogs/entry_img/2010/Jan/09/OU.jpg Oklahoma
Current record: 9-5
Preseason Big 12 coaches poll rank: 3rd
Current AP/Coaches poll rank: Unranked

Reason to believe: Big names like Willie Warren and Tiny Gallon would make you think the Sooners could still turn it around. I'm not holding my breath.

Reason for concern: The Sooners don't play any defense. None. They rank 212th in adjusted defensive efficiency after ranking 36th last year and 32nd two years ago. Opponents are especially having success from deep against OU, making 36.6 percent of their threes against the Sooners — and that's while shooting nearly 17 three-pointers per game against the poor perimeter defense. Ouch.

Fearless prediction: A 6-10 conference mark and 15-15 final record for the Sooners.

http://worldonline.media.clients.ellingtoncms.com/img/blogs/entry_img/2010/Jan/09/TTU.jpg Texas Tech
Current record: 12-2
Preseason Big 12 coaches poll rank: 9th
Current AP/Coaches poll rank: 22nd/Receiving Votes

Reason to believe: Just look at the record. No one expected the Red Raiders to be 12-2 at this point, and an overtime home win against Washington looks good on the resume. Mike Singletary (15.8 points per game) has been a bright spot as well.

Reason for concern: Defense. I heard that on an earlier KU TV broadcast, ESPN analyst Bob Knight wasn't impressed with one of Texas Tech wins, griping that the Red Raiders shouldn't give up that many points to an opponent, win or loss. Pat Knight's father is correct to be worried about TTU's defense. The Red Raiders have given up 70-plus points to eight straight opponents, and their adjusted defensive efficiency (100th nationally) is third-worst in the conference.

Fearless prediction: Texas Tech falls short of an NCAA Tournament bid.

Contenders

http://worldonline.media.clients.ellingtoncms.com/img/blogs/entry_img/2010/Jan/09/ku_bkc_michigan_21_.jpg Kansas
Current record: 14-0
Preseason Big 12 coaches poll rank: 1st
Current AP/Coaches poll rank: 1st/1st

Reason to believe: Right now, KU is the most balanced team in the country. The Jayhawks are second in adjusted offensive efficiency and third in adjusted defensive efficiency. The Jayhawks have few weaknesses. KU is top 11 nationally in three-point percentage (43.4 percent, fourth), two-point percentage (55 percent, 11th) three-point percentage defense (27.3 percent, 10th) and two-point defense percentage (37.8 percent, fourth). They also have three legitimate All-America candidates that can all score in different ways.

Reason for concern: It's nitpicking for sure, but KU's free-throw percentage (68.9 percent) is just barely above the NCAA average. Thomas Robinson (16-for-38, 42.1 percent) needs the most work.

Fearless prediction: A share of their sixth straight Big 12 championship. Unfortunately for KU, it looks like the imaginary Big 12 north division (the teams KU plays twice) are a bit tougher this year than the south division (the teams UT plays twice), so the Longhorns might be able to gain a game on the Jayhawks simply because of their schedule.

http://worldonline.media.clients.ellingtoncms.com/img/blogs/entry_img/2010/Jan/09/UT.jpg Texas
Current record: 14-0
Preseason Big 12 coaches poll rank: 2nd
Current AP/Coaches poll rank: 2nd/2nd

Reason to believe: Right now, the Longhorns are the best defensive team in the country. UT leads the nation in adjusted defensive efficiency and is especially stout inside the three-point line, where opponents have made just 37.8 percent of their shots (fifth nationally).

Reason for concern: The Longhorns are good offensively (23rd in adjusted offensive efficiency), but still could stand to be better, especially from the outside. UT has made just 33.2 percent of its threes and might face a flurry of zones if it can't improve. The Longhorns also have been dreadful (62.9 percent) from the free-throw line.

Fearless prediction: A share of the Big 12 crown with Kansas, along with a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tourney.

http://worldonline.media.clients.ellingtoncms.com/img/blogs/entry_img/2010/Jan/09/ksu2.jpg Kansas State
Current record: 13-1
Preseason Big 12 coaches poll rank: 4th
Current AP/Coaches poll rank: 11th/10th

Reason to believe: Those believing that Kansas State is a fluke and not worthy of a national ranking are kidding themselves. I'll be the first to admit that I questioned K-State's quick hiring of Frank Martin a few years ago, but I'll also be the first to admit I was wrong. Martin has done a masterful job with the Wildcats this year (Big 12 coach of the year is his to lose right now), and KSU has been especially impressive offensively. KSU is 12th in adjusted defensive efficiency, and has dominated in two areas: offensive rebounding (getting offensive boards on 42.9 percent of possessions, third nationally) and getting to the free-throw line (averaging more than 33 free throws attempted per game). K-State's defense also has forced 17.8 turnovers per game.

Reason for concern: The Wildcats could take care of the ball better, as they've averaged more than 15 turnovers per game — and the defenses are about to get tougher in conference play. Like KU and UT, Kansas State's free-throw percentage (64.9 percent) needs some work.

Fearless prediction: KSU will earn a top-four seed in the NCAA Tournament.

Comments

mphawk27 10 years, 1 month ago

"The Jayhawks are second in adjusted defensive efficiency and third in adjusted defensive efficiency."

I love your stats in each post Jesse, but I think one of these meant to say offensive? Keep up the outstanding work, I look forward to your articles.

Joe Joseph 10 years, 1 month ago

Who and why would you attend Kansas State University to play basketball?

It's in the middle of nowhere.
Your coach is a mobster. Your school color is purple. There's virtually no national coverage.

Jesse Newell 10 years, 1 month ago

mphawk — You are correct. Thanks for the heads-up. It's been fixed above.

cffighter86 10 years, 1 month ago

michael.... believe it or not there are other schools with good basketball programs besides KU.

Jess. Great write up man. Keep up the great work.

VegasJhawk09 10 years, 1 month ago

fearless final four prediction - KU, TX, UK and Duke or Purdue not sure yet.

Ben Kane 10 years, 1 month ago

out a limb final four:

KU, UT, KSU, Villanova

Joe Joseph 10 years, 1 month ago

cffffffighter,

Kstate is not one of them.

ralster,

Over confidence leads to disappointment.

SoCalAlum 10 years, 1 month ago

Jesse - Nice call on today's Mizz win over K-State!

MrPilot 10 years, 1 month ago

The KSU/MU game was tough to root for either way...I wish it was possible for both teams to lose - kinda like when Duke and UNC play each other.

Jesse Newell 10 years, 1 month ago

SoCal — Thanks. I had to make sure to get the blog up in time so it was actually a prediction.

suttonku 10 years, 1 month ago

Jesse, Above it looks like you're calling Tech a "bust"...Not sure if that was intentional but it's hard to say they're a bust at 12-2...I would say they're a surprise team actually.

SoCalAlum 10 years, 1 month ago

22 ranked Tx Tech loses today by 29 to unranked OK State...that's consistent with "bust" to me...again, Jesse with the call.

tdub 10 years, 1 month ago

Saw today the ENTIRE Big 12 has only lost one home game (ISU vs N Iowa). Wow.

Jesse Newell 10 years, 1 month ago

sutton — I meant from this point forward. If Texas Tech misses the NCAA Tournament, like I predicted above, I would say the "Bust" label would fit.

suttonku 10 years, 1 month ago

SoCal,

By your logic if KU were to lose to Nebraska on Wednesday then they would be a "bust"...It was one game that Tech didnt play well in...And they played at OSU and that's a tough place to play.

Now Tech is not really a mecca for talented players to flock to so considering what they have they are a bit of a surprise at this point. Now, if you look at their record, yes it's impressive but really outside of Washington, who have they beat? UTEP? Who cares? And not to mention they lost to Wichita State! So record-wise they are a surprise but outside of Washington they really just had a good record. I think this team is capable of competing with good teams but they can also lose to the worst of them. So, to me, "bust" doesn't really qualify if they look at their body of work. Even Nebraska is 12-4 and they played A&M tough on the road today but I know they wont make the tournament...How's that for a prediction?

Kye Clark 10 years, 1 month ago

Really good article. The only thing that struck me as odd was the phrase "imaginary Big 12 North division". By imaginary I assume Jesse was referring to how the North is predicted to play out - the projected strength of the North compared to the south - but it kinda makes it sound like he's lumping the Big 12 North division in with the Loch Ness monster & Bigfoot.

rggeiger 10 years, 1 month ago

icthawkfan316- what he means is that only in DIV 1 football do they separate the BIG 12 into North and South. There is no formal separation of the big 12 in basketball. But the separation carries over into all sports by fans and media and thus the term "Imaginary" North division. It has nothing to do with their strength or ability. He could just as easily said "South" as North" and referred to Texas half of the conference.

Kye Clark 10 years, 1 month ago

rggeiger - I know when they show the standings they don't separate it, so maybe it's not a formal separation, but the two "divisions" certainly are separated in application. I could be mistaken but I was thinking that whoever has the best record in the entire conference gets the #1 seed and then a team from the opposite "division" with the best record gets the #2 seed. For instance, say the conference standings finish out with the top three teams being Kansas, K-State, & Texas, in that order. It was my understanding that the seeding would be KU 1, Texas 2, K-State 3, because they give the top two seeds to teams from opposing "divisions". Again, I could mistaken. Regardless, the fact that the schedule is ALWAYS that KU plays 2 games against the other 5 teams in the "north" and only 1 game against the 6 teams in the "south", whereas the opposite is true for teams in the "South", whether formal or not it is separated. I guess I see the point that when Jesse says "imaginary" he was referring to the fact that they don't call it the north and the south but that is how it works out, atleast in so far as scheduling. Point taken.

Jonathan Kealing 10 years, 1 month ago

What rggeiger said is right. In football, divisions matter for standings, and such. In basketball, though, the divisions don't make a bit of difference. You could have the top four teams in the conference tournament all come from "the north" or "the south." They do use the football divisions for scheduling (who do you play once, versus twice), but only for convenience. The conference could change that pretty easily.

Jonathan Kealing Online editor

Mike Kendall 10 years, 1 month ago

Jesse:

Nice article--enjoyed reading it. Nice call on Missouri over K-State. Mizzou is still undefeated at home this season. Will the Tigers be undefeated when KU comes calling in March? Jayhawks always struggle there.


Oklahoma State is a tough place to play at but Tech should have made that game closer. I watched most of the game on-line and they looked terrible--lots of turnovers and poor defense. At one point in the 1st Half, the Cowboys had 24 points off Tech's turnovers--Tech had 0 points off turnovers--that's ridiculous!


Jesse, I like the "Cram Sessions", too! Really good stuff. Keep up the good work. RCJH!!!!

KU 10 years, 1 month ago

Damn statistics! UT may have the best defense on paper, but they just gave up 86 to Colorado yesterday!

Eliott Reeder 10 years, 1 month ago

Hey Keeling, what happened with your big 'recreate the shot' contest? I want to see those videos! And Jesse, great work as usual. You are a huge asset to this site.

Blake Post 10 years, 1 month ago

Purple Martin a.k.a. psycho. Dude looks like an axe murderer, doesn't he? He should just be a ganster or a ganster actor.

Mike Kendall 10 years, 1 month ago

Hawkman1031:

Your comment on Purple Martin is spot on! During an early timeout, a K-State player was heading toward Martin--the player probably should have gone to the locker room--you could read Martin's lips--clear as ever--Martin was saying, "What the *uck are you doing?! The announcers of the game were saying, "But the players just love playing for Martin." HA, HA, HA! Yea, right!

Kent Wells 10 years, 1 month ago

Jesse/Jonathan:

Well, it is really Jonathan that says:

"What rggeiger said is right. In football, divisions matter for standings, and such. In basketball, though, the divisions don't make a bit of difference. You could have the top four teams in the conference tournament all come from "the north" or "the south." They do use the football divisions for scheduling (who do you play once, versus twice), but only for convenience. The conference could change that pretty easily."

This is kinda true, but there are really a couple of instances where the football division applies to hoops:

  1. Schedule.

  2. XII Tournament seeding. It wouldn't matter if the top 4 teams were all north teams (assuming that Tejas somehow finishes 5 or 6). If the No. 1 team is a North team, the No.2, for seeding purposes, is a South team. Then the 2, 3, and 4 placed teams all slip down a notch - it is automatic.

Right? Or did this change? Or, did I only 1/2 read the posts that lead to your comment???

Thanks and great MU prediction, Jesse!

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