Cyclones Making Noise

They don’t have Marcus Fizer. Jamaal Tinsley won’t be finding an extra year of eligibility to run the point in March. But even with these two notable alums long gone from Ames, Iowa State is creating some winning news for the first time since the middle portion of the last decade.

Iowa State's Percy Gibson goes for a block against Texas Tech's Ty Nurse

At 21-8 and 11-5 in the rugged Big 12, the Cyclones are the nation’s No. 32 team in the RPI and are riding a three-game winning streak. Momentum came at a good time for slick-shooting head coach Fred Hoiberg, as a visit to RPI No. 16 Missouri and a home date with RPI No. 9 Baylor close out the regular season.

They say “Hilton Magic” at the Coliseum can bring down the best of teams and that theory proved true in late January, with consecutive Iowa State wins over Kansas (RPI No. 6) and Kansas State (RPI No. 43).

Sophomore forward Royce White may be one of the most versatile players in the nation and is considered a major pro prospect. He is the definition of a stat-sheet stuffer at 12.8 points, 9.2 rebounds and 5.1 assists per game. Senior guard Chris Allen’s 68 threes, at a 39 percent clip no less, will be a necessity down the stretch for a team that sits at 100th in the nation in field goal percentage.

Every team ahead of Iowa State in the Big 12 standings is a RPI Top 20 program, which bodes well for the team’s standing with the selection committee. Stealing one of the final two could not hurt, so that the Big 12 Tournament is not filled with unneeded nervous moments. Continue reading

Who Is Leading The POY Race?

Yeah, sure, individual award races do not mean a whole lot. They are more statements about what voters value that specific year in basketball.

Do you give it to the post player who is the bedrock of a strong, highly ranked team? Do you go with the high-scoring guard from the mid-major school? How about the freakish athlete or the NBA dream prospect?

There are obviously a lot of those every year. One usually rises to the top. But that is not happening so far. It is already February, and it does not seem like a player has separated himself from the pack. That goes for the Player of the Year as much for the top pick in the NBA Draft (regardless of who stays or goes). ran a poll of its writers trying to determine the front-runner for Player of the Year. The analysts at the “Worldwide Leader” have junior forward Thomas Robinson of Kansas as the early favorite. Creighton’s scoring machine, Doug McDermott, follows close behind. Preseason favorite Jared Sullinger of Ohio State is third followed by freshman sensation Anthony Davis of Kentucky.

Those seem to be the players that are in the conversation, almost to the exclusion of others.

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Games To Watch: 1/30-2/2


Missouri's Kim English blocks a shot from Texas' Sheldon McClellan

Another weekend of exciting action across the country leaves us a bit weary coming into the beginning of the workweek. The announcement of the Sears BracketBusters matchups today will kick off another week of big games. We will have to wait a bit on those BracketBusters, but we can enjoy a doubleheader Monday night on ESPN. My advice is to kick back and enjoy the evening in style. Without further ado, here are RPI Scoreboard‘s Games To Watch this week.

Missouri (19-2; 6-2 Big 12, RPI No. 13) @ Texas (13-8; 3-5 Big 12, RPI No. 63) — Monday 1/30 9:00 PM ET, ESPN

The last two games for Missouri have been marked by uncharacteristically poor shooting, which makes a trip to Texas on Monday loom large. First-year head coach Frank Haith has guided this Missouri team to within a game of first place in the conference, but some more questions about this team will be answered when it hosts Kansas (RPI No. 7) next Saturday (2/4). For Rick Barnes’ team, a valiant effort against Baylor (RPI No. 3) is sure to have his boys ready to play. Nevertheless, hangover from a difficult loss to an in-state rival is always a possibility. If the Tigers’ turnovers total anywhere near the 18 the Bears had Saturday, this one could be close. That being said, I’m not much for hoping.

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Baylor, The Quiet Contender

Baylor is not the team you think of necessarily at the top of the ranks of college basketball.

The Bears lack the pizzazz that comes with the name of Duke, Syracuse or Kentucky. They lack the comeback story of Indiana or the underdog story of Murray State.

But why? Why is anyone looking over a Baylor team that features potential pros like Perry Jones III and Quincy Acy?

The list of teams commonly believed capable of winning the national championship all have many common qualities. They are typically veteran teams. They have a solid post presence that can deter shots at the rim and clean up the boards. Most importantly they can all play fantastic defense.

So while the human polls and the national TV experts have been late to get on the Baylor bandwagon, statistics say they should have been paying attention to Scott Drew’s squad all along. Baylor‘s 75-73 win at Manhattan, Kan., against Kansas State may have finally awoken the nation to this 16-0 team. It was a strong in-conference road win: a hallmark of the great teams.

Baylor, though, should be wondering where everyone else was. Maybe detractors did not see the Bears absolutely stomp RPI No. 33 Northwestern on the road, shutting down one of the nation’s most efficient offenses in the process with suffocating defense. Maybe they missed wins over RPI No. 55 Mississippi State or No. 44 San Diego State.

Yes, the Kansas State win was perhaps Baylor‘s best this season — Kansas State is No. 17 in the RPI. But Baylor also topped RPI No. 14 West Virginia on a neutral court. And the numbers say Baylor belongs among the nation’s elite. Continue reading