College Basketball Nation: Texas Longhorns

Can’t believe it’s already late January. Selection Sunday is coming.

The national scene is beginning to take shape.

Last Saturday was proof. Kansas dismissed Oklahoma State with ease. Syracuse outplayed a good Pitt team down the stretch in the Carrier Dome. Wichita State remained perfect with a victory over Indiana State. And Louisville topped UConn.

My Tennessee over Kentucky pick looked solid for a chunk of the first half. But the Wildcats just had too many weapons for a Vols squad that's still looking for a signature win.

Let's see what happens this weekend. I mean, let's see what happens with college basketball.

Not the Grammys. But I can predict that, too.

Album of the Year? "Random Access Memories," Daft Punk. Best Country Album? "Based on a True Story," Blake Shelton. Best Rap Album? "Good Kid, M.A.A.D City," Kendrick Lamar. Sorry, Kanye.

Back to college basketball.

Remember, this is just one man's take. And I've been wrong before. Many times.

Disclaimer: Myron Medcalf’s views and opinions do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of other ESPN.com staffers, especially with regard to that ridiculous thing he said about Syracuse being better than Arizona last weekend.

Last week: 4-1

Overall: 24-11

Saturday

No. 21 Michigan at No. 3 Michigan State, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN: I’m a big boxing fan. I love the hype that builds up a big fight. The biggest letdown, however, is when one fighter suffers a cut or some other injury that ruins the match. It’s deflating. And that’s how I feel about this heavyweight bout between the Big Ten’s best teams. Both Michigan and Michigan State have proved that they can overcome significant injuries. The Spartans haven’t been healthy all season and now there’s a strong chance that they’ll enter Saturday’s game without Adreian Payne (foot) or Branden Dawson (broken hand). Michigan has played most of the season without preseason All-American Mitch McGary. But the Wolverines are not wrestling with their identity. McGary is not coming back. And they’ve adapted to that on their way to becoming an elite team as Nik Stauskas, Caris LeVert and Glenn Robinson III have formed a potent trio. Michigan State remains a team in flux. Tom Izzo’s program has overcome injuries thus far in Big Ten play. But they’ll be costly Saturday when the Spartans suffer their first conference loss of the year. I’ll stick with this pick even if Payne miraculously returns to the floor.

Prediction: Michigan 79, Michigan State 72

Tennessee at No. 6 Florida, 4 p.m. ET, ESPN: In a weird way, Florida is flying under the radar. The Gators are the best team in the SEC. And they haven’t lost since Dec. 2. But there’s a bigger spotlight on some of the other top-10 teams right now. The Gators are clearly dangerous, especially with Wooden Award candidate Casey Prather healthy. Billy Donovan’s program hasn’t been complete for most of the season. And premier recruit Chris Walker is still unavailable because of eligibility issues. But they have the pieces to compete for a national title. The Gators have forced turnovers on 21.9 percent of their opponents’ possessions, 24th in the nation per Ken Pomeroy. They’ll face a desperate Tennessee team that held its own against Kentucky for a half last weekend but couldn’t finish. The Vols need quality wins. But the SEC won’t provide many opportunities to acquire them. They’ll still be searching after Saturday.

Prediction: Florida 74, Tennessee 66

No. 22 Kansas State at No. 16 Iowa State, 1:45 p.m. ET, ESPN3.com/WatchESPN: Bruce Weber could ultimately be in the running for national coach of the year. His best player is a freshman (Marcus Foster). But the Wildcats are 4-2 in the Big 12 after playing some of the best defense in the league (15th in adjusted defensive efficiency, per Ken Pomeroy). But it will be tough to get a win against an Iowa State team that has a chance to end its three-game losing streak in Ames. The Cyclones, however, are connecting on just 28 percent of their 3-point attempts in conference play. That’s a challenge for a program that has taken 40 percent of its overall field goal attempts from beyond the arc in its first five league games. It seems like a matter of time before the 3-ball becomes a more effective weapon for Iowa State again. And that’s vital. This upcoming stretch will make or break its waning Big 12 title dreams.

Prediction: Iowa State 80, Kansas State 79

Florida State at No. 18 Duke, 12 p.m. ET, ESPN: There are a lot of things that make Duke an intriguing team. The Blue Devils have an offense (second in adjusted offensive efficiency, per Ken Pomeroy) that’s led by a young man who could be a top-three draft pick this summer. And Jabari Parker is joined by steady offensive contributors Rodney Hood and Quinn Cook. But a unit that’s ranked 73rd in adjusted defensive efficiency by Ken Pomeroy can’t be trusted. Although it might not matter against a Florida State squad that has held opponents to a 42.6 effective field goal percentage, sixth in the nation. But Leonard Hamilton’s squad has big, strong guards, plus 6-foot-9 Okaro White could be a tough matchup for a Duke team that has struggled against good big men all season. This won’t be an easy game for Duke.

Prediction: Florida State 73, Duke 70

Texas at No. 24 Baylor, 1:30 p.m. ET, ESPN3.com/WatchESPN: Baylor has been up and down. It’s a confusing cycle for Scott Drew’s program. The Bears have wins over Kentucky and a healthy Colorado. But they’ve lost four of their first five Big 12 games. What’s wrong with Baylor? It isn't playing defense. All of those athletic weapons -- Isaiah Austin, Cory Jefferson and Rico Gathers. But the Bears ranked 103rd in adjusted defensive efficiency, per Ken Pomeroy. It’s a waste of talent. Baylor should be better. And maybe this game against Texas will allow it to reverse this messy start. But Texas is rolling. The Longhorns are coming off wins against Kansas State and Iowa State. Jonathan Holmes and Cameron Ridley are bullying teams inside. Javan Felix has really matured. It's a bad time to face Texas.

Prediction: Texas 78, Baylor 74

Big 12 team previews

October, 25, 2013
10/25/13
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For the past month, Insider has rolled out its college basketball preview, including breakdowns on every Division I team, projected order of finish for every conference and essays from Insider's hoops experts.

Here are previews for each team in the Big 12:

Baylor Bears Insider
Iowa State Cyclones Insider
Kansas Jayhawks Insider
Kansas State Wildcats Insider
Oklahoma Sooners Insider
Oklahoma State Cowboys Insider
TCU Horned Frogs (FREE)
Texas Longhorns Insider
Texas Tech Red Raiders Insider
West Virginia Mountaineers Insider

Nonconference schedule analysis: Big 12

September, 11, 2013
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This week, ESPN.com is breaking down the nonconference schedules of each team in nine of the nation’s top leagues. Next up: the Big 12.

BAYLOR

Toughest: vs. Colorado (Nov. 8 in Dallas), Maui Invitational (Nov. 25-27), vs. Kentucky (Dec. 6 in Arlington, Texas)
Next-toughest: South Carolina (Nov. 12), Southern (Dec. 22)
The rest: Louisiana-Lafayette (Nov. 17), Charleston Southern (Nov. 20), Hardin-Simmons (Dec. 1), Northwestern State (Dec. 18), Oral Roberts (Dec. 30), Savannah State (Jan. 3)

Toughness scale (1-10): 7 -- The Bears will try to beat Kentucky for the second season in a row when they take on the Wildcats at the mammoth AT&T Stadium -- home of the Dallas Cowboys. Catching a freshman-laden Kentucky squad early in the season is ideal for the Bears. Baylor also will have a chance to avenge last season’s loss to Colorado in the Charleston Classic. Scott Drew’s squad meets the Buffaloes as part of a season-opening tripleheader at American Airlines Center in Dallas. Baylor has an excellent shot of getting to the title game in Maui. The Bears open against Chaminade and will likely face a vulnerable Gonzaga squad (the Zags lost Kelly Olynyk and Elias Harris) in the semifinals. A victory in that contest could result in a showdown against Syracuse in the championship game.

IOWA STATE

Toughest: Michigan (Nov. 17), at BYU (Nov. 20), Iowa (Dec. 13)
Next-toughest: vs. Northern Iowa (Dec. 7 in Des Moines), Diamond Head Classic (Dec. 22-23, 25 in Honolulu)
The rest: UNC-Wilmington (Nov. 10), Texas A&M-Corpus Christi (Nov. 12), UMKC (Nov. 25), Auburn (Dec. 2), Northern Illinois (Dec. 31)

Toughness scale (1-10): 6 -- The Cyclones play just one true road game, but it’s a tough one, as BYU touts one of the best home courts in the country. The Cougars should be pretty salty, too, after reaching the semifinals of the NIT last spring. No game on the schedule, though, jumps out quite like Iowa State’s home tilt with NCAA runner-up Michigan, who returns many of the key pieces from last season’s squad. Hilton Magic will have to be in full effect if the Cyclones, who are incorporating a plethora of new faces, are to have a chance against the Wolverines. Iowa State opens the Diamond Head Classic against George Mason and will likely play either Akron or Oregon State in the semifinals. Don’t be surprised if Fred Hoiberg’s squad ends up in the title game against Boise State.

KANSAS

Toughest: vs. Duke (Nov. 12 in Chicago), at Colorado (Dec. 7), at Florida (Dec. 10), New Mexico (Dec. 14), Georgetown (Dec. 21), San Diego State (Jan. 5)
Next-toughest: Iona (Nov. 19), Battle 4 Atlantis (Nov. 28-30 in Nassau, Bahamas)
The rest: Louisiana-Monroe (Dec. 8), Towson (Nov. 22), Toledo (Dec. 30)

Toughness scale (1-10): 10 -- There may not be a team in America with a slate as difficult as the one staring at Andrew Wiggins and the Jayhawks. Duke and Florida are both top five-caliber teams, and Kansas faces each of them away from home. Even more daunting is that both games occur extremely early in the season, when a team featuring as many as six freshmen in its rotation will still be trying to find itself. New Mexico, Georgetown and San Diego State will each take a minor step back from last season, but they should all still be excellent teams, especially the Lobos. Kansas opens the Battle 4 Atlantis against Wake Forest and will play either USC or Villanova in the second round. Event organizers are surely hoping for a title game featuring the Jayhawks against either Tennessee or Iowa. Even nonconference opponents such as Iona, Towson and Louisiana-Monroe will be in the mix for an NCAA tournament berth.

KANSAS STATE

Toughest: Puerto Rico Tip-Off (Nov. 21-22, 24), vs. Gonzaga (Dec. 21 in Wichita, Kan.)
Next-toughest: Long Beach State (Nov. 17), Ole Miss (Dec. 5)
The rest: Northern Colorado (Nov. 8), Oral Roberts (Nov. 13), Central Arkansas (Dec. 1), South Dakota (Dec. 10), Troy (Dec. 15), vs. Tulane (Dec. 28 in Brooklyn, N.Y.), George Washington (Dec. 31)

Toughness scale (1-10): 4 -- This is a pretty disappointing slate, especially considering how good the program has been over the past five or six years. Other than a tilt with Gonzaga in Wichita -- which will basically be a K-State home game -- the Wildcats don’t have a single opponent on their nonconference schedule that raises an eyebrow. The one exception would be Ole Miss, but the Rebels lost most of the key players from last season’s NCAA tournament team. The Wildcats open the Puerto Rico Tip-Off against Charlotte and will play either Georgetown or Northeastern the following day. Michigan, VCU and Florida State are on the other side of the bracket, so the potential for a game against another top team exists. Still, the defending regular-season Big 12 co-champs should have scheduled a few more marquee games.

OKLAHOMA

Toughest: vs. Alabama (Nov. 8 in Dallas), Coaches vs. Cancer Tipoff (Nov. 22-23 in Brooklyn, N.Y.)
Next-toughest: vs. George Mason (Dec. 8 in Washington, D.C.), vs. Texas A&M (Dec. 21 in Houston), Louisiana Tech (Dec. 30)
The rest: North Texas (Nov. 11), Idaho (Nov. 13), Arkansas-Little Rock (Dec 29), Mercer (Dec. 2), Texas A&M-Corpus Christi (Dec. 5), Tulsa (Dec. 14), Texas-Arlington (Dec. 17)

Toughness scale (1-10): 3 -- Not a lot of games on this docket that do much for the excite-o-meter. At least not when it comes to nonconference play. That’s probably a good thing for the Sooners, who may be in for a “transition year” following the loss to standouts such as Romero Osby, Steven Pledger, Andrew Fitzgerald and Amath M’Baye. Alabama will be tough to beat, but it’s certainly a game the Sooners could win. Lon Kruger’s squad will also be tested when it travels to Brooklyn for the Coaches vs. Cancer Tipoff. If Oklahoma gets by Seton Hall in the first round, it would likely play Michigan State the following night. Some media outlets have ranked the Spartans No. 1 entering the season.

OKLAHOMA STATE

Toughest: Memphis (Nov. 19), Old Spice Classic (Nov. 28-29, Dec. 1 in Orlando. Fla.), vs. Colorado (Dec. 21 in Las Vegas)
Next-toughest: at South Florida (Nov. 25), South Carolina (Dec. 6), vs. Louisiana Tech (Dec. 14 in Oklahoma City)
The rest: Mississippi Valley State (Nov. 8), Utah Valley (Nov. 12), Arkansas Pine-Bluff (Nov. 15), Delaware State (Dec. 17), Robert Morris (Dec. 30)

Toughness scale (1-10): 6 -- This is definitely an improvement from last season, when the Cowboys earned a ranking of “3” in this category. Like Oklahoma State, Memphis is a potential top-10 team with one of the top backcourts in the country. The two squads could actually end up meeting twice, as Memphis is also in the Old Spice Classic. Oklahoma State opens that tournament against Purdue and will face Butler or Washington State in the next round. Beating Colorado on a neutral court also won’t be easy, especially if talented Buffs guard Spencer Dinwiddie can neutralize Marcus Smart. It still would’ve been nice to see a few more high-profile games -- and a few more true road contests -- for a team that features three potential first-round NBA draft picks.

TCU

Toughest: vs. SMU (Nov. 8 in Dallas), at Washington State (Nov. 24)
Next-toughest: Great Alaska Shootout (Nov. 27, 29-30), at Mississippi State (Dec. 5)
The rest: Longwood (Nov. 12), Abilene Christian (Nov. 19), Texas Pan-American (Dec. 15), Grambling State (Dec. 19), Tulsa (Dec. 21), Texas Southern (Dec. 29)

Toughness scale (1-10): 3 -- This would be a terrible schedule for a program that was experiencing a moderate amount of success. But considering TCU won just two Big 12 games last season, this is the perfect slate for the Horned Frogs as they try to rebuild. Second-year coach Trent Johnson didn’t schedule the type of Top-25 squads that will shatter his team's confidence. But he also didn't produce a schedule so weak that it wouldn’t challenge his team as it continues to grow. SMU could contend for an NCAA tournament berth and, even though Washington State has struggled in recent seasons, Pullman is a difficult place to play. Tulsa and Texas Southern are both solid teams, and Mississippi State was making huge strides at the end of last season.

TEXAS

Toughest: CBE Classic (Nov. 25-26 in Kansas City), at Temple (Dec. 7), at North Carolina (Dec. 18), Michigan State (Dec. 21)
Next-toughest: Mercer (Nov. 8), Vanderbilt (Dec. 2)
The rest: Stephen F. Austin (Nov. 15), UT-Arlington (Nov. 29), Texas State (Dec. 14), Rice (Dec. 30)

Toughness scale (1-10): 8 -- Rick Barnes always puts together one of the toughest schedules in the country, and this season is no exception. Michigan State is an NCAA title contender, North Carolina could open the season in the top 10, and Temple is never easy to beat on the road. The Longhorns will also play high-scoring BYU in the CBE Classic, and with a win, would likely be pitted against Final Four participant Wichita State in the title game. But Texas lost its top four scorers from last seasons’s 16-18 squad and didn’t recruit as well as it has in years past. In other words, this is the worst possible season to be playing such a grueling schedule. It’ll be interesting to see if the Longhorns (and Barnes) can survive.

TEXAS TECH

Toughest: at Alabama (Nov. 14), at Arizona (Dec. 3), LSU (Dec. 18), at Arizona State (Dec. 21)
Next-toughest: South Dakota State (Nov. 21), Legends Classic (Nov. 25-26 in Brooklyn, N.Y.)
The rest: Houston Baptist (Nov. 8), Northern Arizona (Nov. 11), Texas Southern (Nov. 18), Texas-San Antonio (Nov. 29), Central Arkansas (Dec. 15), Mount St. Mary’s (Dec. 30)

Toughness scale (1-10): 8 -- First-year coach Tubby Smith can’t be pleased with the schedule he inherited from former Red Raiders coach Chris Walker. This is way too difficult of a slate for a program that’s in rebuilding mode. It clearly wasn’t thought out well at all. True road games against Alabama, Arizona and Arizona State and a home tilt with a vastly improved LSU squad? That’s a daunting chore, especially considering TTU is in the Legends Classic with quality opponents such as Pittsburgh, Stanford and Houston. Texas Tech returns nearly all of its key pieces from last season and could make some huge strides under Smith. Unfortunately, the Red Raiders’ confidence could take a hit before Big 12 play ever begins.

WEST VIRGINIA

Toughest: at Missouri (Dec. 5), Gonzaga (Dec. 10), Purdue (Dec. 22)
Next-toughest: at Virginia Tech (Nov. 12), Cancun Challenge (Nov. 26-27), vs. Marshall (Dec. 14 in Charleston, W. Va.)
The rest: Mount St. Mary’s (Nov. 8), Duquesne (Nov. 17), Georgia Southern (Nov. 21), Presbyterian (Nov. 23), Loyola (Dec. 2), William & Mary (Dec. 29 in Charleston, W. Va.)

Toughness scale (1-10): 6 -- The 2012-13 season was one of the worst of Bob Huggins’ career, but the Mountaineers are hoping a standout recruiting class led by power forwards Devin Williams and Elijah Macon -- as well as the return of leading scorer Eron Harris -- helps change their fortunes. There are certainly some opportunities to build confidence early. Missouri and Gonzaga are both incorporating new pieces and may not be crisp in early December. Purdue should be improved, but West Virginia will have revenge on its mind after last season’s 79-52 embarrassment in West Lafayette, Ind. West Virginia opens the Cancun Challenge against Old Dominion and could play Wisconsin the following day.

3-point shot: Tough blow for Texas

August, 21, 2013
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1. The easy thing to do is pile on Texas and coach Rick Barnes for Ioannis Papapetrou's decision to sign with Olympiacos BC, a professional team in his native Greece. This departure is completely different than the decisions made by Jaylen Bond, Julien Lewis and Sheldon McClellan. Papapetrou got a multi-year, multi-million-dollar deal. He was already in Greece, ripe to be convinced to stay. From all accounts, Papapetrou was happy with his situation in Austin -- and the Longhorns loved having him. This was not a planned departure, nor one that was pushed by the Texas staff. And that's why it stings more than the traditional transfers or Myck Kabongo's decision to leave early for the NBA draft. Texas needed a player who could produce, was experienced and wanted to be there. Losing someone like Papapetrou -- the top returning scorer once those players above bolted -- in late August is a crushing blow because he cannot be replaced. This puts even more pressure on returnees Javan Felix, Jonathan Holmes and Demarcus Holland to not only lead, but also to score and defend at a higher clip to avoid a second consecutive losing season.

2. Baylor senior guard Brady Heslip made the 14-man Canadian national team that will compete in the Continental Cup in Puerto Rico as a precursor to the FIBA Americas tournament in Venezuela. Heslip was the only collegian who made the team. Contacted late Tuesday, Heslip was obviously thrilled. So, too, was Baylor coach Scott Drew. If Heslip returns from these tournaments as a stronger shooter, defender and all-around player, the Bears will benefit greatly. Baylor is/should be a top-three team in the Big 12, behind Kansas and Oklahoma State. The Bears have the bigs with Isaiah Austin and Cory Jefferson but are green at the point. If Heslip can produce and create an inside-outside threat again, Baylor will be a real contender.

3. The NCAA can't have it both ways on preseason scrimmages. If the NCAA wants these scrimmages to be played, but not seen or heard from by the media or the public, then they can't be deemed some sort of official competition. Yet Old Dominion's Donte Hill has been ruled ineligible for what would have been his final season because he played in a scrimmage before transferring from Clemson to ODU. He played as a freshman at Clemson and then the past two years at ODU, redshirting the season in between. Hill's appeal was denied. He should try again and again. And if he's rejected, then these scrimmages -- especially the ones between two schools that travel to a neutral site to play -- need to be viewed as real exhibition games with countable stats, media and an opportunity for fans to watch.
Brad Stevens left Butler for the Boston Celtics, P.J. Hairston’s future is in jeopardy at North Carolina and the ACC is bigger and better than ever thanks to the addition of Syracuse, Pittsburgh and Notre Dame.

Those topics have been discussed ad nauseam the past four months. Plenty of other things, however, have occurred during the offseason that could have a huge impact on the 2013-14 campaign. Here are 10 storylines that aren’t receiving nearly enough attention as the season inches closer.

1. Key eligibility issues: Three of the nation’s top programs are waiting on the NCAA to rule on the eligibility status of players who could change the course of their respective seasons. The most high-profile case involves Florida forward Chris Walker, an incoming freshman whose academic standing is in question. Walker, the country’s No. 12 recruit according to ESPN.com, is not listed on the Gators’ roster. The Gainesville Sun reported Monday that Walker may have to wait until December to take the court, if it happens at all. At Memphis, the Tigers’ backcourt will be one of the best in the country if Michael Dixon is deemed eligible. Dixon was forced to leave Missouri’s program in November following allegations of sexual misconduct. Dixon, however, was never arrested or even questioned by police. He is arguably one of the top 10 players at his position and would likely provide the leadership the Tigers have been lacking. At Oregon, coach Dana Altman is crossing his fingers that Houston transfer Joseph Young will be able to play immediately. Young, a wing, averaged 18 points per game last season. He could form one of the nation’s top perimeter trios along with Damyean Dotson and Dominic Artis.

[+] EnlargeRick Barnes
Scott Sewell/USA TODAY SportsWill losing his top three scorers mean another frustrating season for Rick Barnes at Texas?
2. Rick Barnes’ future at Texas: The Longhorns went just 16-18 last season and missed the NCAA tournament for the first time in Barnes’ 14-year tenure. Even worse, Texas has advanced to the second weekend of the tournament only once in the past seven years. With its top three scorers all departing the program (Myck Kabongo entered the NBA draft and Sheldon McClellan and Julien Lewis transferred), UT could struggle again this season. That could mean trouble for Barnes -- and, perhaps, a new opportunity for someone else. Should it come open, the Horns job would be one of the most coveted in the country. The pay is great, the recruits are plentiful and there aren’t many cities in the country better than Austin. There’s no reason Texas shouldn’t be battling Kansas every year for the Big 12 title. I could see Marquette’s Buzz Williams and Memphis’ Josh Pastner being in the mix if the Longhorns make a change.

3. Tarik Black transfers to Kansas: The addition of No. 1 overall recruit Andrew Wiggins has dominated the headlines in Lawrence, and rightfully so. But Black, a senior who played his first three seasons at Memphis, could play a crucial role for the Jayhawks, too. Black, who started off and on for three seasons with the Tigers, brings some much-needed experience and leadership to a KU squad that could count as many as eight freshmen and sophomores among its top 10 players. And at 6-foot-9, 262 pounds, Black gives the Jayhawks the rugged, physical presence in the paint they may have otherwise been lacking. Don’t be surprised if Black ends up starting for a squad vying for its 10th straight Big 12 title.

4. Steve Alford under the microscope at UCLA: For some reason the decision to replace Ben Howland with Alford didn’t go over all that well, both nationally and in Westwood. I’m not sure I understand why. All Alford did at New Mexico the past five seasons was average 26.2 victories and win four MWC titles. Yes, he has struggled in the NCAA tournament, but his day will come. I’ve never been a fan of judging a coach based on one game or one loss. Either way, there are plenty of people rooting for Alford to fail. He’ll receive an immense amount of scrutiny this season and it will be interesting to see how he responds. UCLA returns a good amount of talent with players such as Jordan Adams, Kyle Anderson, David Wear and Travis Wear. Anything less than a top-three finish in the Pac-12 will be a disappointment.

5. New leagues look strong: The new Big East may no longer have schools such as Pittsburgh, Connecticut, Notre Dame and Louisville. But its inaugural season should be entertaining. Marquette, Creighton, Georgetown and St. John’s should provide an exciting race for the conference title. The American Athletic Conference also will be worth watching, as Memphis, Connecticut and Louisville are all top-15-caliber teams. And don’t sleep on Cincinnati, Houston or SMU, which has added some nice pieces under second-year coach Larry Brown.

6. Butler loses Roosevelt Jones: A junior, Jones suffered torn ligaments in his wrist during the Bulldogs’ August trip to Australia and will miss the entire 2013-14 season. Losing Jones is a huge setback for a team that also will have to adjust to the departure of Stevens to the Boston Celtics. Jones, a versatile 6-4 wing, averaged 10.5 points, 5.6 rebounds and 3.4 assists last season. The job of new coach Brandon Miller is suddenly a lot tougher as he prepares to guide Butler into the Big East.

[+] EnlargeLaQuinton Ross
Richard Mackson/USA TODAY SportsLaQuinton Ross shined for Ohio State during last season's NCAA tournament.
7. Ohio State seeks new go-to guy: The Buckeyes would likely be dubbed as an NCAA title contender if leading scorer DeShaun Thomas hadn’t left school early for the NBA draft. Thomas averaged 19.8 points as a junior and would’ve been a first-team All-American candidate this year. Ohio State returns its other four starters from a squad that went 29-8 and lost in the Elite Eight. But it’s still unclear who this team’s key offensive player will be. It will be tough for point guard Aaron Craft to play much better on the defensive end than he did last season, but he can certainly become a more efficient shooter. Lenzelle Smith Jr., Sam Thompson and Shannon Scott all averaged more than 20 minutes per game last season. Forward LaQuinton Ross is a tough matchup who contributed 15 points per game during the NCAA tournament. Perhaps OSU’s next offensive star will come from that group. This will be a good team no matter what. But a great one? We’ll see.

8. Will the Mountain West regress?: Five league schools -- Colorado State, San Diego State, Boise State, UNLV and New Mexico -- earned NCAA tournament berths last spring. But only two of those schools (SDSU and CSU) won their opening game. This season may be more of a struggle. New Mexico will be good again despite the loss of coach Steve Alford and small forward Tony Snell. And Boise State returns most of its key pieces. But Colorado State (Colton Iverson), San Diego State (Jamaal Franklin) and UNLV (Anthony Bennett) lost their top players -- and some other good ones, too -- and should take a step back.

9. St. John’s as a sleeper: I’m a little surprised more people aren’t talking about the Red Storm as a contender for the Big East title along with Marquette, Creighton and Georgetown. When it comes to pure talent, Steve Lavin’s squad should be the top team in the league. St. John’s returns three double-digit scorers in D’Angelo Harrison (17.8 PPG), JaKarr Sampson (14.9) and Phil Greene (10.1). Forward God'sgift Achiuwa is back after redshirting last season. He averaged 9.4 points in 2011-12. Center Chris Obekpa also returns after averaging a national-best 3.9 blocks. And the Storm add two players -- point guard Rysheed Jordan and forward Orlando Sanchez -- who should have an immediate impact. Jordan was ranked as the third-best point guard in the Class of 2013. The 6-9 Sanchez, who will be eligible for only one season, is regarded as a future pro. If Lavin finds a way to meld all of this talent, St. John’s could be a Top-25 mainstay by midseason.

10. Josh Gasser is back at Wisconsin: The point guard missed all of the 2012-13 season because of a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee. The Badgers still won 23 games and made the NCAA tournament without him, but his return to the lineup could spark the squad to even greater success this year. Gasser, who has been cleared to play in an exhibition tour of Canada that begins this week, will likely become more of a combo guard thanks to the emergence of Traevon Jackson. He could even end up playing some at forward because of Wisconsin’s lack of depth in the paint. The 6-3 Gasser averaged 7.6 points and 4.2 rebounds two seasons ago.

Path to the Draft: No. 10 Texas

June, 13, 2013
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In the weeks leading up to the June 27 NBA draft, we’ll be taking a look at the 20 schools that have produced the best pros in the modern draft era (since 1989, when the draft went from seven to two rounds). Click here to read Eamonn Brennan’s explanation of the series, which will be featured in the Nation blog each morning as we count down the programs from 20 to 1.

Top Five Draftees Since 1989

  1. Kevin Durant (2007)
  2. LaMarcus Aldridge (2006)
  3. T.J. Ford (2003)
  4. Tristan Thompson (2011)
  5. D.J. Augustin (2008)
Sixth man: Avery Bradley (2010)

The rest: Daniel Gibson, Dexter Pittman, Damion James, Royal Ivey, Jordan Hamilton, Cory Joseph, P.J. Tucker, Chris Owens, Chris Mihm, Alvin Heggs, Lance Blanks, Travis Mays, Dexter Cambridge, B.J. Tyler, Terrence Rencher, James Thomas, Maurice Evans

Why they’re ranked where they are: Kevin. Durant. LaMarcus. Aldridge.

It’s not that simple. But the duo carries the most weight and responsibility for the program’s NBA legacy and standing in our “Path to the Draft” rankings.

In Durant, Texas is tied to a player who could end his career as one of the top 10 players in NBA history. And with Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett likely retiring soon, the next great NBA power forward very well may be Aldridge, who has averaged at least 21 points and 8 rebounds in each of the past three seasons. He’s made the last two All-Star games and has evolved into one of the premier players in the NBA.

And he’s only 27. Durant is just 24. So the Longhorns’ stock will probably rise in the coming years.

It’s necessary to mention Durant and Aldridge because the rest of this list is not necessarily pristine when compared to the other teams we’ve ranked thus far and those we’ll unveil in the coming days.

T.J. Ford played eight years but a spinal cord injury interrupted a promising career. Still, he averaged 11.2 points and 5.8 assists per game.

Avery Bradley (9.2 PPG, 1.3 steals per game in 2012-13) could take on a larger role with the Boston Celtics or another NBA team in the future.

The Cleveland Cavaliers are building a strong post-LeBron James lineup. It certainly helps that second-year big man Tristan Thompson (11.7 PPG, 9.4 RPG) looked like a future All-Star this season.

Cavaliers guard Daniel Gibson hasn’t been the same player since James left town. But he’s just 27, so there’s still time to regain that old swagger.

Cory Joseph might have a future with the San Antonio Spurs, but it’s too early to know. There aren’t many 21-year-old point guards logging minutes in the postseason, though.

D.J. Augustin struggled with the Indiana Pacers this season, but he had three good years with the Charlotte Bobcats. Just five seasons into his career, it wouldn’t be prudent to pass judgment on his career yet.

Chris Mihm had a few solid years with the Los Angeles Lakers. Maurice Evans gets credit for longevity (nine years).

[+] EnlargeKevin Durant, LaMarcus Aldridge
Layne Murdoch/NBAE via Getty Images)Ex-Longhorns Kevin Durant, right, and LaMarcus Aldridge should be NBA stars for years to come.
But Durant and Aldridge clearly anchor this list.

James became the youngest player in NBA history to score 20,000 points (28 years old, 17 days) earlier this year. That record could be shattered soon. He has scored 12,258 points and won’t turn 25 until September.

The 6-foot-9 wing averaged 28.1 PPG, 7.9 RPG, 4.6 APG, 1.3 BPG and 1.4 SPG this season. He shot 51 percent from the field. And he made 91 percent of his free throws.

Through six seasons, Durant established his place next to James on the game’s Mount Rushmore of future Hall of Famers and legends. He commands an Oklahoma City Thunder franchise that should remain in the NBA title picture for many years.

There are a lot of lists that utilize a variety of criteria.

We’re all about quality. And in our eyes, Durant, Aldridge and a few other noteworthy players are collectively worth more than a team such as Kansas that has produced dozens of NBA products but only one legitimate star since the 1989 NBA draft -- the cutoff for our rankings.

Texas is also top-10 because its best players have a lot of time left. We’ve already discussed Durant. Aldridge will earn more national recognition for his skills in the coming years. He’s a beast. Bradley and Thompson could rise in the next two or three seasons, too.

Yep, the Longhorns belong here.

Why they could be ranked higher: Durant is a superstar. His presence alone would justify a move up the rankings.

We’re measuring teams according to their abilities to produce NBA talent. And Durant has already had an NBA career that tops the pro achievements of entire programs.

And there’s so much potential with this group. Aldridge is a young star. Thompson will be.

If these were actual teams that competed against one another, it would be easier to make Texas’ case for a higher ranking.

Aldridge and Thompson inside. A bunch of solid guards in the backcourt. And Durant destroying defenders inside and outside.

Makes more sense now, right?

Why they could be ranked lower: So what’s the real difference between Texas (No. 10) and Syracuse (No. 20) and Kansas (No. 14)? The programs owe their rankings, in part, to the presence of superstars. But there was little substance among their respective squads’ overall pro legacies.

Durant is a stud. Aldridge could be an All-Star for the next decade.

But Thompson still has a lot to prove.

And this list features multiple players who fizzled once they reached the next level. J'Covan Brown, who left Texas prior to his senior season, isn’t even mentioned because he wasn’t drafted.

What else can Texas stand on -- other than Aldridge and Durant -- to justify its top-10 status?

What’s ahead?: There’s a bright future ahead for Texas. Durant could win a few titles. Aldridge might be the next great NBA power forward. Thompson could be the franchise star along with Kyrie Irving in Cleveland. Bradley could blossom, too.

Even guys such as Augustin could improve.

Myck Kabongo entered this summer’s draft. It will be interesting to see how he transitions to the NBA after limited playing time last season due to an NCAA investigation.

Texas is No. 10 right now, but a few years from now, the Longhorns might be even higher.

Final thoughts: There’s intrigue with this group because it features a multitude of current players. Its NBA rep could change soon.

Texas has produced one of the greatest players of this generation and another All-Star who’s matured into one of the league’s best power forwards. And Thompson, Bradley and others could boost the team’s profile soon.

Texas doesn’t have dozens of successful NBA players. But the ones who made it are some of the game’s most successful performers. We feel like if you have two of the league's top 15 players, you have to be right in the mix.

And there’s still room for this program to elevate its NBA profile, too.
1. Texas lost 18 games last season. The Longhorns won seven in the Big 12 and were shut out of the NCAA tournament for the first time since head coach Rick Barnes arrived in 1998. Sheldon McClellan and Julien Lewis were third and fourth, respectively, on the team last season in turnovers with a combined 112 and are both transferring. Jaylen Bond, who battled a foot problem for most of the season, also left. According to a source, the decisions weren’t solely the players'. Should Texas be worried that these three, as well as NBA-draft-bound guard Myck Kabongo (23-game amateurism suspension), are out of the program? If last season’s freshmen class is on board with the way Barnes wants to play, the answer is no. Ioannis Papapetrou, Javan Felix, Connor Lammert, Demarcus Holland, Prince Ibeh and Jonathan Holmes will be the core of next season’s team. Holland clearly likes the idea of what remains in Austin. He tweeted after a workout on April 30: “Honestly never loved a team like I do now. Feels great when you can get it in, say family on three, and really feel like brothers. #Horns.’’ At the time, Bond, McClellan and Kabongo were all gone. Barnes told his staff that he wants to get back to the teams he has had in the past, with players who will play with toughness and display the passion for winning. According to someone close to the program, despite the defections, the staff has looked at this spring as one of its best in terms of player development. The Longhorns also brought in four newcomers for next season. Texas will be picked in the lower half of the league, below Kansas, Oklahoma State, Baylor, Iowa State and Kansas State. The onus is on this crew, led by someone like Holland, to propel Texas back to its rightful place in the Big 12, in competition behind Kansas. If these departures are addition by subtraction, Barnes will know early on. If not, next season could seem like a dog year.

2. Michigan State athletic director Mark Hollis said there were logistical issues that could not be worked out for the proposed Dec. 7 game against Gonzaga in Spokane, Wash., to honor former Spartans coach and Spokane resident Jud Heathcote. So the game is off -- along with the proposed undercard of Washington State versus Montana. Wazzu coach Ken Bone said Idaho had been willing to move a date for the Cougars, but now that is unnecessary. Meanwhile, an SEC official said the league didn’t have criteria for not including Georgia, LSU, Arkansas and Tennessee in the inaugural SEC/Big 12 Challenge. Scheduling conflicts and the need to balance the series were why those four schools were omitted in a challenge between a 14-team SEC and a 10-team Big 12. Still, organizers probably could have tried to get star-laden Oklahoma State a higher-profile game than hosting rebuilding South Carolina.

3. Gonzaga coach Mark Few said being away from his family was the reason he is stepping aside from coaching the U.S. under-19 team with Florida’s Billy Donovan and Virginia Commonwealth's Shaka Smart in the world championships June 27-July 7 in Prague. Along with the practice sessions, it becomes nearly a month's commitment. The three coaches won gold a year ago in Brazil with the under-18 squad. Virginia coach Tony Bennett will take Few’s spot on the staff. In an event taking place July 6-17 in Kazan, Russia, Davidson’s Bob McKillop, Michigan’s John Beilein and South Carolina’s Frank Martin will coach the U.S. team at the World University Games. Meanwhile, Iowa State’s Melvin Ejim is diversifying his international basketball career. Cyclones coach Fred Hoiberg said Ejim will play for Canada this summer after playing for Nigeria a year ago. Hoiberg said Ejim has dual citizenship from the two nations.

3-point shot: Xavier's NIT snub

March, 18, 2013
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1.The NIT selection committee snubbed Xavier despite quality the Musketeers' wins over Temple, Butler, La Salle, Memphis and Saint Louis. Xavier coach Chris Mack and outgoing athletic director Mike Bobinski were expecting to get an NIT bid. When one didn’t come Sunday night they both agreed not to pursue the CBI. So, Xavier’s season is over and likely its longtime history in the A-10 has come to a close as well. The Musketeers are expected to be announced, according to multiple sources, with Butler and Creighton, as a member of the new Big East later this week.

2. NIT selection committee chair C.M. Newton said the toughest decision among teams not invited to the NIT was Air Force. He said the injury to Michael Lyons, which occurred during the Mountain West Conference tournament, was a factor in leaving the Falcons out. That’s a shame. Air Force had a terrific season, upsetting league champ New Mexico on the final regular season conference game as well as beating UNLV, San Diego State and Boise State at home. The Falcons weren’t picked to go to the CBI, either. Newton said Wyoming, Murray State, Arkansas, LSU, Richmond and UTEP were all considered as well, but road losses and 10 automatic qualifiers (limiting the at-large pool to 22) were factors in selecting the field.

3. The CBI has some interesting storylines. Texas and Myck Kabongo will continue the season, playing at Houston. Richmond, fresh off that disastrous meltdown to Charlotte in the A-10 quarterfinals, plays at Bryant, which is in its first year of being eligible for the postseason in Division I. Lehigh, which still didn’t have C.J. McCollum healthy for the Patriot League tournament, is at Wyoming, one of the four final unbeaten teams in January. The other games are George Mason at College of Charleston; Vermont at Santa Clara; Tulsa at Wright State; North Dakota State at Western Michigan and Western Illinois at Purdue.

Video: Kansas State 66, Texas 49

March, 14, 2013
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Rodney McGruder's 24 points helped No. 11 Kansas State put away Texas 66-49 and advance to the semifinals of the Big 12 tournament.

Video: Championship week predictions

March, 11, 2013
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"College Basketball Live Extra's" Matt Doherty makes three bold predictions for Championship week.
Saddle Up is our semi-daily preview of the night's best basketball action.

Cincinnati at No. 10 Louisville, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN

Did you jump off the Louisville bandwagon? It's OK to admit it. After all, those three straight losses in late January -- falling apart late and failing to protect home court against Syracuse, following it up with a lackluster performance at Villanova, looking truly ugly against Georgetown (before we knew just how good Georgetown was) -- were at least worth considering. They had some of you shaken. And what about that five-overtime loss at Notre Dame? Sure, sure, you lose in five overtimes, a deep sub who doesn't play a minute of regulation (Garrick Sherman) scores 17 points on you after the opponent's star forward fouls out, and you sort of have to admit that maybe it just wasn't your night. But Russ Smith's performance in that game did happen, those horrible decisions replaying over and over, and if on Sunday, Feb. 9 you were suddenly disinclined to trust the Cardinals with something so important as your Final Four bracket, you could be forgiven.

All of that concern, valid though it may have been at the time, is starting to look a little silly now. Louisville got right after the loss in South Bend, thanks in no small part to a schedule that went St. John's, South Florida, Seton Hall and DePaul, a veritable sample platter of some of the Big East's worst teams. That allowed the Cardinals to rebuild some confidence, if that was even a problem in the first place. At the very least it allowed Smith & Co. to shake off the gross aftermath of that loss to the Irish and plow forward toward bigger and more important goals.

After Saturday's ugly but wholly impressive win at Syracuse, I think we can all evaluate the Cardinals sanely once more. If you thought Louisville was a national title favorite in October, you shouldn't change your opinion now. This is the team you signed up for: a great defensive squad (the nation's No. 1 adjusted efficiency defense pretty much all year, a stifling group on the perimeter backed up by an elite shot-blocker and rebounder in Gorgui Dieng), a hit-or-miss offensive outfit, a quirky and off-kilter star guard (Smith) and a coach as good as any in the country, who always seems to have something up his sleeve. If Cincinnati is to spring this upset tonight, its only real hopes rest in trying to: (a) guard and (b) not allow Smith and Peyton Siva to force steals, which is the one offensive thing Cincinnati has really done well throughout Big East play. But it appears Louisville is absolutely who we thought they were, and this being March, they are not a team you want to play anywhere -- the Carrier Dome, its own building, Madison Square Garden, you name it.

Baylor at Texas, 9 p.m. ET, ESPN

One of these teams is 5-11 in its league, 13-16 overall, barely ranked inside Ken Pomeroy's top 100 (No. 97, to be exact) and scoring only 0.97 points per possession in Big 12 play. The other is 17-12, 8-8 in the Big 12, and itself only narrowly cracking the point-per-trip barrier (1.03) in league play. And this is undoubtedly the most fascinating game of the night.

Don't get me wrong: That is not meant as an insult to Cincinnati-Louisville or the rest of the selective Monday night slate (OK, maybe Texas Tech-Kansas, just a little bit). It's actually pretty straightforward. It's about Baylor, and the chance to see how the Bears respond when they're cornered with their season on the line.

It is the final week of the regular season, and Baylor is currently nestled among Joe Lunardi's first four out. The Bears are, put simply, fighting for their tournament lives. They're doing so after one of the most heartbreaking and brutal losses you'll ever see (and probably have already, numerous times). In short, Baylor's last-second (literally) baseline inbounds was overthrown the full length of the court without (according to the referees) being touched by any player. It resulted in a Kansas State baseline takeover, which resulted in a wide-open shot for Rodney McGruder, which resulted, of course, in a last-second Kansas State win.

Other than the Jayhawks, you can't do much better in the Big 12 than beating the Wildcats; their NCAA tournament profile is pretty stellar. And Baylor had its chance, and it missed it -- and missed it in one of the most spectacular ways possible.

Now Baylor has to essentially pretend like Saturday never happened and get it together in time to hold off a Texas team that is no easy out with star guard Myck Kabongo back in the building. A loss at Texas would be a bad one, RPI-wise. It certainly wouldn't be résumé-neutral, even if the committee takes into account (and it will) Kabongo's return.

And Saturday was just two days ago. There has been no time for rest and recuperation and orange slices, let alone the deep psychological arthroscopy required to pluck out whatever scar tissue remains from losing like that barely 48 hours ago. It is not unfair to say that this game will be the deciding moment in Baylor's season -- the moment it bucked up and pressed ahead, or the moment it folded from the stress. Not bad for a nondescript conference game between two teams with 13 combined conference wins, huh?

Video: Oklahoma State 78, Texas 65

March, 2, 2013
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Markel Brown and Le'Bryan Nash combined for 34 points as No. 15 Oklahoma State beat visiting Texas 78-65.

Video: Markel Brown's windmill dunk

March, 2, 2013
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Markel Brown throws down a two-hander for No. 15 Oklahoma State against visiting Texas.

Video: Kansas State 81, Texas 69

February, 23, 2013
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Rodney McGruder scored 20 points and Angel Rodriguez added 16 as No. 13 Kansas State won 81-69 at Texas.

Conference Power Rankings: Big 12

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A handful of Kansas' eight straight Big 12 titles have come with relative ease. But if the Jayhawks claim the crown again this season, no one will be able to say that they didn't earn it. Bill Self's squad nearly fell out of the picture by losing three games in a row earlier this month. But now KU is tied for the league lead again after Wednesday's double-overtime victory at Oklahoma State. The championship is hardly in the bag, but history suggests it'd be foolish to doubt the Jayhawks this late in the season. Here are the latest power rankings.

1. Kansas. The Jayhawks defeated Kansas State and Texas by an average of 23.5 points before escaping Stillwater with a 68-67 double-overtime win Wednesday. Backup guard Naadir Tharpe hit the game-winner on a night when Ben McLemore scored only seven points. KU's toughest remaining game is Monday at Iowa State.

2. Kansas State. Forget all the talk about the Wildcats hitting their ceiling. Bruce Weber's squad just keeps getting better. Point guard Angel Rodriguez looked like a first-team All-Big 12 guard in his 22-point, 10-assist effort in Saturday's win over Baylor. If K-State wins out it will claim at least a share of the conference title for the first time since 1977.

3. Oklahoma State. The Cowboys nearly defeated KU Wednesday even though Marcus Smart went just 2 of 14 from the field. Small forward Le'Bryan Nash continues to be an enigma. In his past four games, he's scored 14, 6, 26 and 8 points. Oklahoma State plays at West Virginia Saturday and at TCU Wednesday.

4. Iowa State. Fred Hoiberg's squad finally beat a decent Big 12 team on the road. Wednesday's 87-82 victory over Baylor was impressive on a variety of fronts. The Cyclones shot 54.2 percent from the field and got 15 or more points from four players: Melvin Ejim, Korie Lucious, Tyrus McGee and Georges Niang. Monday's home game against Kansas is obviously huge.

5. Oklahoma. The Sooners have won three of their past four games, with the only setback coming in a road defeat at Oklahoma State. Lon Kruger's squad has a tough upcoming stretch against Baylor, Texas and Iowa State. (The Texas game is on the road). If Oklahoma wins two of those three contests, the Sooners would be a virtual lock to make the NCAA tournament. Wouldn't they?

6. Baylor. If it weren't for West Virginia, the Bears would be the Big 12's biggest disappointment. Scott Drew's squad has lost five of its past seven games, including home setbacks against Iowa State and Oklahoma. Baylor has defeated just one team (Oklahoma State) in the upper half of the league standings. Its other six Big 12 wins have come against Texas, West Virginia, TCU (twice) and Texas Tech (twice).

7. Texas. The Longhorns have gone 2-1 since the return of point guard Myck Kabongo, beating Iowa State at home and TCU on the road and losing at Kansas. Kabongo has been solid, but not spectacular. He's averaging 12.7 points, 4.7 assists and three turnovers while shooting just 38.7 percent from the field. Texas hosts co-league leader Kansas State on Saturday.

8. West Virginia. The Mountaineers are 13-13 overall and 6-7 in league play. They may have the toughest remaining schedule of any Big 12 team, with home games remaining against Oklahoma State, Baylor and Iowa State and road games against Kansas and Oklahoma. West Virginia lost their first meeting with each of those schools.

9. Texas Tech. The Red Raiders almost upset West Virginia in Morgantown on Saturday before falling 66-64. A few days later, they were blown out at home by Oklahoma 86-71. Texas Tech's next two games (against Iowa State and Kansas State) are both on the road. Things could get ugly.

10. TCU. The Horned Frogs threw a scare into Texas Wednesday before wilting down the stretch in a 68-59 loss. First-year coach Trent Johnson shouldn't be judged on his team's 10-16 record. He simply doesn't have the personnel to compete. At least not yet.

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