College Basketball Nation: Tyrus McGee

AMES, Iowa -- Quick thoughts on No. 6 Kansas’ 108-96 overtime win over Iowa State on Monday night.

Overview: This was a game that was dictated by what happened beyond the arc. From start to finish, Iowa State’s plan was clear. The Cyclones planned to beat Kansas from the 3-point line.

As they started to heat up, Kansas tried to match them. The exchanges anchored an exciting game at the Hilton Coliseum. Kansas held a slight advantage at halftime, following Naadir Tharpe's layup on Kansas’ last possession. Kansas shot 47 percent from the field before the break. The Jayhawks used an 11-3 rally to overcome Iowa State’s 14-7 start. They also outscored Iowa State 20-8 inside in the first half. But the Cyclones stayed close via the 3-ball. They went 6-for-15 from the 3-point line in the first half. And their success from the 3-point line continued in the second half. With 5:50 to play, the Cyclones had a 76-72 edge over Kansas after hitting eight of their first 13 3-pointers in the second half. The two battled down the stretch in one of the season’s most entertaining affairs.

Turning point: There were several in the final minutes of regulation. Iowa State’s 3-point shooting was nothing short of ridiculous. Korie Lucious' 3-pointer near the five-minute mark gave Iowa State a seven-point lead. The crowd went nuts. Kansas' Elijah Johnson and Jeff Withey scored on back-to-back transition layups and cut Iowa State’s lead to three points. Tyrus McGee hit another big 3-pointer in the final minutes to extend Iowa State’s lead to six. Wow. What a game. Elijah Johnson’s 3-point play cut Iowa State’s late lead to two points again. Lucious converted a turnover into a pair of free throws on the other end. Travis Releford was fouled by Chris Babb with 78 seconds to play during a scramble for a loose ball, then hit both free throws, making it 84-82 Iowa State. Freshman Georges Niang hit a huge 3-pointer in the final minute to give Iowa State a five-point edge with 35.7 seconds to play. Then, Johnson hit another 3-pointer. Iowa State led by two points with 23.1 seconds to go when Lucious knocked down a pair of free throws to seal the game. Except he didn’t. Johnson hit another ridiculous 3-pointer to cut Iowa State’s lead to one. And Lucious made just one free throw on the other end. Johnson drove to the basket and drew a foul. With 4.9 seconds to go, Johnson hit both free throws, forcing the game into overtime.

Overtime: Johnson scored on a layup. Will Clyburn answered on the other end. Johnson scored on a runner on the next possession. Releford hit a 3. Then, Johnson hit another 3-pointer with 2:03 to play and gave KU a 100-92 edge in overtime. The Cyclones began to collapse again in overtime, similar to their first matchup of the year against KU, a 97-89 overtime loss at the Phog. But the Cyclones kept fighting. A Kansas turnover on the inbounds pass led to a Will Clyburn drive and Jeff Withey foul. It was Withey’s fifth foul ... officially. Clyburn hit one of two free throws to cut KU’s lead to four points with 1:30 to go. But Johnson crushed Iowa State’s dreams with another 3-pointer in the final minute. Naadir Tharpe’s free throw increased the Jayhawks’ lead to eight points, 104-96. Fans left the building. Final score? It was 108-96 after Johnson’s dunk with 2.5 seconds to play.

Key player: McGee (22 points) helped Iowa State match KU in regulation. But Johnson -- who scored career-high 39 points, the highest tally for a Big 12 player this season and the highest total for a Kansas player since Paul Pierce in 1997 -- was the star of the show.

Key stat: Iowa State shot 17-for-41 from the 3-point line. The 17 3-pointers established a school record.

Next game: Iowa State will play at Oklahoma on Saturday. Kansas will face West Virginia on Saturday.

Conference Power Rankings: Big 12

January, 4, 2013
As conference play begins this week, it has become pretty obvious that Kansas is best team in the Big 12. Again.

But who comes next?

Baylor, Oklahoma State, Kansas State and Iowa State all have solid squads with somewhat similar resumes. Ranking those four schools -- and the rest of the league -- isn’t easy, but here’s how I see things as we near the season’s midway point.

1. Kansas. While most other schools open Big 12 play this week, the Jayhawks will host a Temple squad on Sunday that defeated previously unbeaten Syracuse last month. Point guards Elijah Johnson and Naadir Tharpe combine to average 8.1 assists.

2. Oklahoma State. The Cowboys appeared to have Gonzaga beaten on New Year’s Eve in Stillwater before the Zags battled back for a 69-68 victory. Still, the Cowboys -- who got 23 points from Marcus Smart -- should be encouraged by their gutsy performance.

3. Baylor. The Bears have looked much better their past two outings, drubbing BYU at home before falling by seven points against a very strong Gonzaga squad in Spokane, Wash. They can’t afford to lose home games against lesser foes. That includes Texas, which visits Waco on Saturday still without point guard Myck Kabongo.

4. Iowa State. The Cyclones are off until their Big 12 opener at Kansas on Jan. 9. Will Clyburn and Tyrus McGee are averaging a combined 27.5 points. Melvin Ejim leads the team with 9.2 rebounds. It’s not absurd to say that Iowa State could finish as high as second in this league.

5. Kansas State. The Wildcats are playing hard for their new coach, Bruce Weber. But it’s not always pretty. K-State has looked mediocre since it defeated Florida Dec. 22 in Kansas City. Weber’s squad is good defensively while ranking 21st in the country in rebounds per game. But K-State has trouble scoring.

6. Texas. Freshman point guard Javan Felix hasn’t been all that bad in replacement of suspended sophomore Kabongo. Felix averages 6.5 assists. The Longhorns (8-5) have some serious work to do in conference play if they hope to keep their streak of 14 consecutive NCAA appearances alive.

7. Oklahoma. The Sooners are good enough to sneak up and beat anyone in this conference. But to contend for a postseason berth, Oklahoma needs to win some games on the road. It all starts Saturday with a tilt against West Virginia in Morgantown.

8. West Virginia. The Big 12’s most disappointing team can’t afford to lose Saturday’s home game against Oklahoma. Transfers Juwan Staten and Aaric Murray combine to average only 21.8 points.

9. Texas Tech. The Red Raiders will hit the road for the first time this season for Saturday’s game against TCU in Fort Worth. Texas Tech (7-4) is getting 15.2 points per game from Jaye Crockett.

10. TCU. Saturday’s home game against Texas Tech may be the best chance TCU will have at a conference win all season. Sophomore guard Kyan Anderson has been the Horned Frogs’ steadiest player, with 13 points per game.

Conference Power Rankings: Big 12

December, 21, 2012
A Big 12 team other than Kansas finally picked up a quality nonconference victory when Texas upset North Carolina in Austin on Wednesday. Don’t get too excited, though. This league still has a long way to go. Here are this week’s power rankings.

1. Kansas. Saturday’s tilt with No. 7 Ohio State in Columbus will be the first true road game for Bill Self’s squad. The Jayhawks’ three most recent victories -- against Colorado, Belmont and Richmond -- came by an average of 31 points. Jeff Withey leads the nation with 5.4 blocks per game.

2. Oklahoma State. Kudos to the Cowboys, who have won four straight since losing at Virginia Tech on Dec. 1. Travis Ford’s squad, which gets a combined 30.2 points per game from Le’Bryan Nash and Markel Brown, hosts Tennessee Tech on Saturday and then has eight days off before a New Year’s Eve date with Gonzaga in Stillwater.

3. Iowa State. Christmas has come early for the Cyclones, who don’t play again until Jan. 1. Guard Tyrus McGee has been playing extremely well for Fred Hoiberg’s squad. He’s averaging 13.3 points and shooting 48 percent from 3-point range. Iowa State is 9-3 with losses to Cincinnati, UNLV and Iowa.

4. Baylor. The Bears host Brigham Young on Friday. They. Have. To. Win. Seriously, a team that’s already toting home losses to College of Charleston and Northwestern can’t afford to drop another non-league game against an inferior opponent. Baylor has zero chemistry on offense.

5. Kansas State. The Wildcats’ two losses are to Michigan (in New York) and to Gonzaga (in Seattle. That’s nothing to be ashamed of. Still, even against mediocre teams at home, Kansas State has struggled to score. That’s not a good thing for a team that takes on Florida on Saturday in Kansas City.

6. Texas. Myck Kabongo won’t play for the Longhorns this season, but Texas didn’t even need him during Wednesday’s 85-67 whacking of an alarmingly sloppy, uninspired North Carolina club. Texas, which is getting 15.5 points from Sheldon McClellan, could pick up some additional momentum with a victory at Michigan State on Saturday.

7. Oklahoma. Wouldn’t you know it? The minute I start complimenting the Sooners for the strides they’ve made under Lon Kruger, Oklahoma goes out and drops a game to Stephen F. Austin. That’s inexcusable, boys. The Sooners' next game, a Dec. 29 visit from Ohio University, won’t be a cakewalk.

8. West Virginia. The Mountaineers ended a two-game losing streak by squeaking past Oakland on Wednesday. Still, Bob Huggins’ squad may be the Big 12’s biggest disappointment thus far. Transfers Aaric Murray and Juwan Staten are averaging a collective 20.5 points.

9. Texas Tech. Chris Walker is going to have a tough time earning the permanent head-coaching position if his team can’t beat McNeese State at home. The Red Raiders showed some fight against Alabama three nights later but still lost 66-62. Arizona State, Saturday’s opponent, is pesky.

10. TCU. The Horned Frogs haven’t caught any breaks in Trent Johnson’s first season. Aaron Durley and Amric Fields were both lost to ACL injuries, and now Jarvis Ray is out six to eight weeks with a broken foot.

Conference Power Rankings: Big 12

December, 7, 2012
Last season, the Pac-12 was the toughest conference in the country to power-rank each week. This season, that honor falls on the Big 12. Other than Kansas, the league is filled with mediocre teams that -- at least for now -- don’t appear to have much potential for a deep run in March. But hey, on the positive side, the parity will make for some close, exciting games once Big 12 play begins in January. Here is how the conference looks thus far.

1. Kansas. The Jayhawks clearly have separated themselves from the rest of the Big 12, yet even Bill Self will admit his squad hasn’t looked all that great. Chemistry and depth are issues in the backcourt, and Kansas still is searching for a leader. Saturday’s home game against Colorado is scary.

2. Iowa State. As I mentioned, ranking the Big 12 is a crapshoot at this point, but Iowa State is 6-2 with losses against a pair of ranked teams (Cincinnati and UNLV). The Cyclones boast plenty of weapons with Will Clyburn, Korie Lucious, Tyrus McGee, Melvin Ejim and Georges Niang. And they’ve got a great coach. Good enough for me.

3. Oklahoma State. I know Virginia Tech has surprised some people, but the Cowboys still shouldn’t have lost to the Hokies by double figures last week in Blacksburg. Travis Ford’s team is too talented to let that happen. Oklahoma State deserves credit, however, for bouncing back with a nice effort in Wednesday’ 61-49 home victory over South Florida.

4. Kansas State. Rodney McGruder appears to have snapped out of his funk and is averaging 19 points in his past two games. Kansas State has played just one good team (Michigan) and lost handily. It’s tough to get a read on the Wildcats at this point, but they’re definitely one of the more experienced squads in the conference.

5. Oklahoma. Lon Kruger has made the Sooners relevant again. Oklahoma competed its tail off before losing to Arkansas 81-78 in a difficult road environment Tuesday. Romero Osby is averaging a team-high 12.5 points per game for the Sooners, who are off until Dec. 15.

6. Baylor. It seems unheard of for a team to beat Kentucky in Lexington and then drop four spots in the power rankings. But the Bears can’t be trusted. Not yet, at least. Considering its depth and talent, Baylor’s home losses to College of Charleston and Northwestern were two of the worst setbacks by any Division I team all season. And it easily could have lost to downtrodden Boston College. There’s no excuse for this team to be playing so sloppily and uninspired.

7. West Virginia. The Mountaineers appear to be on an upswing following Wednesday’s victory over a solid Marshall team, although the victory was marred by a near-brawl that led to the ejections of four WVU players for leaving the bench. Bob Huggins’ squad could gain even more momentum by beating undefeated Virginia Tech on Saturday.

8. Texas. As if a 12-point loss to Division II Chaminade wasn’t embarrassing enough, the Longhorns scored a measly 41 points in Tuesday’s setback against Georgetown in the Jimmy V Classic. Even the return of point guard Myck Kabongo might not be enough to save Rick Barnes’ team, which plays UCLA on Saturday in Houston.

9. Texas Tech. The Red Raiders finally played a quality opponent last week and, predictably, got exposed in an 85-57 loss to Arizona. Still, there are reasons for optimism in Lubbock. Guard Josh Gray is averaging three steals, and Jaye Crockett is scoring 15.3 points per game. This team will win some Big 12 games, and not just against TCU.

10. TCU. The Horned Frogs lost to Houston on Tuesday and will be looking to bounce back at Tulsa on Saturday. Coach Trent Johnson is doing well on the recruiting trail but simply lacks the personnel to win many games during his first season in Fort Worth.
As part of our Summer Shootaround series, here are the best- and worst-case scenarios for the Big 12:


[+] EnlargeBrady Heslip, Pierre Jackson
Kevin C. Cox/Getty ImagesBaylor's backcourt should be solid this season with Brady Heslip, left, and Pierre Jackson returning.
Best-case: Whatever your final appraisal on the Perry Jones III era is -- relatively successful but ultimately disappointing is what I'd probably go with -- said era is decidedly over. Jones left for the NBA draft, as did freshman forward Quincy Miller. Senior forward Quincy Acy is gone too. And guess what? The Bears will be every bit as talented in the frontcourt. That's thanks to the arrival of 7-foot center Isaiah Austin, the No. 3-ranked player in the Class of 2012, and power forward Ricardo Gathers, the No. 10-ranked power forward. Meanwhile, Baylor brings back guards Pierre Jackson and Brady Heslip as well as touted 2011 recruit Deuce Bello and former transfer Gary Franklin. Based on the sheer talent Scott Drew has managed to bring to this once-downtrodden program, Baylor should be targeting the Big 12 title -- not to mention a deep NCAA tournament run.

Worst-case: ESPN's recruiting scouts call Austin the most talented player in the class. Part of this assessment has to do with his ability to handle the ball on the perimeter, not to mention knock down 3s and block shots. This is all well and good, but one can't help but think that appraisal sounds dangerously similar to Jones, who could have dominated college post defenders but maddeningly elected to play midrange offense more often than not. In other words, sure, the Bears are crazy-talented again, but will they be structured? Will Austin float, a la Jones? If not, will Gathers pick up that interior slack? How do these disparate pieces fit, and if the learning curve is large, will Drew be able to put it all together in time for a conference title run? Despite its talent, Baylor has lacked that certain cohesive je ne sais quoi in recent seasons. The worst-case is a repeat.

Iowa State

Best-case: After resurrecting the career of once-troubled forward Royce White and ending Iowa State's seven-year NCAA tournament drought, what can the Mayor conjure in his third season? It doesn't need to be a huge step back. Continuing the transfer trend in Ames, former Michigan State point guard Korie Lucious and former Utah swingman Will Clyburn will take up the reins in 2012-13. A host of last season's contributors (Melvin Ejim, Chris Babb, Tyrus McGee, Anthony Booker, Percy Gibson) are back, and if No. 14-ranked power forward Georges Niang -- touted for his versatility and range out to the 3-point line -- can replace some of what made White so dangerous, this team could look very similar to last season's breakout crew.

Worst-case: Then again, hoping that Niang can replicate even some measure of White's performance is setting an awfully high bar for a freshman ranked No. 56 overall in the incoming class. White was key to everything this team did on offense; it's a big ask. Meanwhile, this team's two main 3-point sharpshooters (Chris Allen, Scott Christopherson) have graduated. It wouldn't be surprising to see Iowa State take a step back this season and flirt more tenuously with the NCAA tournament bubble than it ever had to last season.


[+] EnlargeJeff Withey
AP Photo/Eric GayJeff Withey returns to a KU team aiming for a ninth straight Big 12 title.
Best-case: A Big 12 regular-season title and a deep NCAA tournament run. KU's best-case scenarios are always easily calculated, because Bill Self so often achieves them. The Jayhawks have won at least a share of the past eight regular-season conference titles. Projecting them to do anything less than that seems like folly -- regardless of personnel.

Worst-case: With that said, the 2012-13 season will be a personnel challenge, even by Self's frequently reloaded standards. Thanks to the partial qualifier status of 2011 freshmen Ben McLemore and Jamari Traylor, Self essentially has eight freshmen on his bench this season. Three of the 2012 additions -- power forward Perry Ellis, small forward Andrew White and power forward Landon Lucas -- will hunt for minutes in a lineup whose most experienced players are shot-blocking center Jeff Withey and strong guards Elijah Johnson and Travis Releford. Thomas Robinson is gone. Tyshawn Taylor is gone. Conner Teahan is gone. Those departures leave a lot of question marks: how Self will plot his rotation, how quickly he'll feature McLemore, Ellis, Naadir Tharpe and others and whether those players have enough to maintain the Big 12 dominance. At this point, we really don't know.

Kansas State

Best-case: The best-case is pretty straightforward. New coach Bruce Weber, one of the nation's best man-to-man defensive coaches, takes over Frank Martin's big, physical, ugly defensive team -- which returns basically everyone, save Jamar Samuels -- and the combination is a match made in heaven. After years of struggling with barely committed Illinois defenders, Weber relishes the ethos of this bunch, and the Wildcats become of the nation's least-relished matchups in turn.

Worst-case: This team and Weber were as close to a perfect match as K-State fans could possibly hope. But there may be a bit of worst-case in that too. Weber's teams have struggled to score in the past, and the Cats were turnover prone and inaccurate from the field in 2011-12, relying on dominant offensive rebounding for the majority of their attack. Perhaps the worst-case is that this dynamic repeats itself and Kansas State is merely decent as a result.


Best-case: Considering the crater this program found itself in after an NCAA investigation and the departure of coach Jeff Capel, a 15-16 finish in Lon Kruger's first season must be seen as something of a success. At the very least, he knows how to get the most out of his guys. The entire rotation is back in 2012, joined by at least one recruit (shooting guard Buddy Hield) who could earn minutes right away. But until Kruger has time to develop his young guys and replenish the recruiting ranks, it will be difficult to expect much more than what we saw last season.

Worst-case: When you're rebuilding, you just want to (A) get (or keep) fans excited, (B) develop young players and (C) make positive, program-wide steps toward a more promising future. Whatever the won-loss record in 2012-13, a failure to do those things would count as the worst-case scenario. The bar is not high, at least not right now.

Editor's note:’s Summer Shootaround series is catching up on the offseason storylines for each conference. For the rest of the best- and worst-case scenarios for the Big 12, click here.

Conference power rankings: Big 12

January, 23, 2012
Here are this week’s Big 12 power rankings:

1. Kansas: Bill Self said Saturday’s 69-66 victory at Texas was his team’s best win of the season. Not because the Jayhawks played particularly well against the struggling Longhorns, but because they found a way to grind out a victory in a tough road environment. Kansas is 36-7 in Big 12 road games in the past five-plus seasons.

2. Missouri: Ricardo Ratliffe scored 27 points in Saturday’s 89-88 win at Baylor, but many of those came on easy baskets against the Bears’ soft interior defense. The bigger story was the performance of point guard Phil Pressey, who had 18 points, seven assists and six steals in the Tigers’ most impressive victory of the season.

3. Baylor: Saturday’s 89-88 loss to Missouri was more lopsided than the final score indicates. The Bears were outscored 14-0 on second-chance points in the first half, when they were out-toughed and out-hustled in the paint by the undersized Tigers. The Bears trailed by as many as 12 points in the second half. Perry Jones III has a nagging ankle injury that has limited his performance the past two games.

4. Iowa State: Success in its next three games (at Texas and at home against Kansas and K-State) would go a long way toward improving the NCAA tournament hopes of a Cyclones team that is 14-5 overall and 4-2 in league play. Juco transfer Tyrus McGee had six 3-pointers in a 20-point effort in Saturday’s win at Texas Tech.

5. Kansas State: The Wildcats have won their last two games (against Texas and Oklahoma State), but their free-throw shooting has been abysmal. Frank Martin’s squad has made just 44 of its last 79 attempts from the foul stripe (55.7 percent). Center Jordan Henriquez has been suspended indefinitely.

6. Texas: The Longhorns are improving, but it hasn’t shown up in the win column. Texas’ last two losses (to K-State and Kansas) have come by a combined seven points. Freshman guard Sheldon McClellan is averaging 15 points in his last two games.

7. Texas A&M: Billy Kennedy’s team got a huge confidence boost when it defeated Oklahoma in overtime Saturday in College Station. It may be short-lived. Three of the Aggies’ next four games are against Kansas, Baylor and Kansas State. Khris Middleton, who is regarded as Texas A&M’s top player, missed most of Saturday’s game after bumping knees with a teammate and is questionable for Monday’s game at Kansas.

8. Oklahoma: The Sooners have a huge chance to regain some momentum when they host Baylor on Tuesday. Forward Romero Osby is averaging 17.3 points in his last three games, but he may have trouble against the Bears’ size and length. Upcoming road games at Kansas State (Saturday) and Kansas (Feb. 1) won’t be easy.

9. Oklahoma State: The undermanned Cowboys turned in an impressive performance before losing at Iowa State on a buzzer-beater last week. Saturday they fell at home to Kansas State for their third straight loss. Missouri visits Stillwater on Wednesday. The Cowboys are 9-10 overall.

10. Texas Tech: The Red Raiders are 0-6 in Big 12 play, and their losses have come by an average of 17 points. Billy Gillispie’s squad averages just 63.1 points per game. The biggest question the rest of the way will be whether Texas Tech can get a conference win. Its best chance may be at home against Oklahoma State on Jan. 31.