Saturday, March 13, 2010
Emptying the Big 12 tourney notebook...
By Jeff Caplan
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Baylor coach Scott Drew has certainly learned how to take a punch or two and so has his team. The Bears bowed out of the Big 12 tournament Friday night with an 82-75 loss to Kansas State in a tremendous game.
Baylor, 25-7, still hasn't lost by more than seven points, but it will need to win an NCAA tournament game to set a new school record with a 26th victory. The last time the Bears won a tournament game? 1950 (56-55 over BYU) when the bracket included eight teams.
The good news for the Bears is they have yet to lose consecutive games this season.
Baylor dearly wanted a second consecutive title game appearance, but they're not done yet. Some inside the Baylor program believe a 3-seed is coming Sunday when the selection committee reveals the 65-team NCAA Tournament bracket. Wherever the Bears land, they learned Friday night, as they have all season, that they'll be a tough out.
"This was a great experience," Baylor power forward Ekpe Udoh said. "Basically, we played an away game up here in Kansas City. Towards the end of the game I think we kind of lost our mojo. It's something you can't have happen from here on out and we're going to learn from that. In the tournament, if you slip up one time you go home."
Udoh will have decision to make Ekpe Udoh is widely regarded as a lottery pick in June's NBA Draft and he only enhanced his stock at the Big 12 tournament. The 6-foot-10 junior power forward averaged 21.5 points and 9.5 rebounds in the two games. The Big 12's new shot-blocking king chewed up Texas for 25 points and eight rebounds.
Rule of thumb for draft prospects is if you're a lock to be a first-round pick, then go grab the guaranteed money. If Udoh trusts he'll be a lottery pick (sorry Baylor fans) it should make that decision easier. The money is too good and with an impeding lockout looming in 2011-12 and impending salary restructuring once the NBA re-opens for business, this might be the time to maximize dollars.
Is Baylor's Jerome Tang head-coaching material? Baylor athletic director Ian McCaw thinks so: "He's really matured as a coach. I see him being a head coach in the very near future."
Coach Scott Drew made Tang one of his first hires seven years ago, plucking him from controversial Heritage Christian, a small-private school near Houston that had a reputation as a basketball factory. Tang also didn't have a college degree when hired, a prerequisite at Baylor (and most universities) in the past. Since, Tang received a Bachelor of Science degree from Charter Oak State College, an online program.
Clip and save Baylor guard LaceDarius Dunn will lead the Big 12 in scoring next season and will win Player of the Year honors. Along the way, he'll likely become Baylor's all-time leading scorer.
He already holds school records for most 3-pointers in a game, season and career.
"You know, Anderson was great this year, he scored consistently, and Lace scored consistently, so it was a toss-up on who should have got it this year," said Baylor senior guard Tweety Carter, referring to Oklahoma State's James Anderson, the Big 12's Player of the Year. "I'm pretty sure that next year he'll get it."
Texas less than its parts Texas coach Rick Barnes called the ugly quarterfinal loss to Baylor a microcosm of the season: a few minutes of scatterbrained play and then the Horns panic and lose all ability to execute. The Bears buried Texas with a 13-2 to run to open the second half and you could see in the Horns' body language and frustration how their spirit was crushed.
"Like coach says, we don't play together sometimes," center Dexter Pittman said. "Once we start playing together, we'll be unstoppable and untouchable, but, man, we just got to go back to that."
It would appear it is too late. Junior forward Gary Johnson summed up the disappointing situation best.
"When you have a team full of guys with as much talent as we do, it's hard to give each guy a role, like you have to do this when a guy feels like he could do other things," Johnson said. "At times, guys feel like they can do everything on this team and it just isn't the right decision at that moment. Guys know their roles, but it's like a panic factor and guys try to go out and do other things that they're not capable of and we find ourselves in deep holes."
Red Raiders to NIT? Caach Pat Knight hit the campaign trail hard at the Big 12 tournament, determined to get the Red Raiders into the NIT.
Knight said it would be a "shame" if the NIT ignored the 17-win Raiders out of the top-rated RPI conference in the nation. Tech's chances didn't look good after losing their final seven regular-season game, but it proved it belonged after putting a scare into top-seeded Kansas in the quarterfinal.
The last time Tech went to the NIT under Bob Knight it made it to the final four in New York and rode the momentum to a trip to the NCAA Tournament the following season (much like Baylor this season). It could happen again. Tech will be a senior-dominated team in 2010-11 and returns four of its top five scorers, including its top two in Mike Singletary and John Roberson.
If Tech gets in, it would give the Big 12 eight teams in postseason play -- assuming other tournament upsets don't leave Oklahoma State out. The Cowboys should be able to breath easy.
A&M star in making? Texas A&M has to be excited about the future of freshman Khris Middleton. The 6-foot-7 forward from North Charleston, S.C., had a breakout in two games in Kansas City.
Having averaged 6.7 points a game during the regular season, he dropped 31 combined against Nebraska and Kansas, making 10-of-19 from the field and 5-of-11 from 3-point range. One weakness? Turnovers. He had eight in the two games.
With scoring leader Donald Sloan graduating, Middleton looks poised to take over as a No. 1 scoring option.
So long, Mr. Killian After 23 years working in the Texas A&M media relations office, Colin Killian will hang 'em up after the NCAA tournament. He's accepted a job with the city of College Station. Killian has an 8-year-old son and while the new gig won't be as exciting as Texas A&M hoops has become the past five years, it will have its perks -- namely no work at night or weekends or holidays and no travel.
Good luck, Colin.
Is Oregon tugging at Turgeon? Oregon basketball coach Ernie Kent isn't officially out, but the writing is on the wall. Texas A&M coach Mark Turgeon has come up as a possible replacement. Turgeon was a Ducks assistant from 1992-97. Unless Oregon is tugging at the Topeka, Kan., native, A&M is a better job and the Big 12 is a better conference.
Roland hoping for one more year First-class A&M senior Derrick Roland is hopeful the NCAA will grant him a medical redshirt and allow him to return to the Aggies next season.
The shooting guard from Seagoville broke his leg during a late-December game in Washington and is out for the season after undergoing surgery. Remarkably, he is already walking around as if nothing happened as he continues a grueling daily rehabilitation process.
"Hopefully the NCAA has some sympathy for me," Roland said. "It would give me the opportunity to graduate and that's important to my family."
Roland said if he's not granted an extra year of eligibility he will try to complete his degree during the summer.