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Big 12 Hoops Conference Call

The Huggy Bear returneth.
The Huggy Bear returneth.

This week we look at the Huggy Bowl, how ISU's in-state losses affect recruiting, Baylor's "dizzying talent," A&M's scoring woes and OU upsetting top conference teams. The questions:

1. The Huggy Bowl, pitting coach Bob Huggins' West Virginia Mountaineers vs his old school, Kansas St. Wildcats, is Thursday night. Since taking over for Huggins, in five years as head man at K-State, Frank Martin has compiled a 100-43 record and has finished no worse than tied for fourth in conference. Now that Martin is free of all players who played for Huggins [Ed. Note: I meant played for/recruited by, thanks to @tjvilkanskas for catching], can he sustain the momentum?

2. The Iowa St. Cyclones are now 0-2 against in-state schools, with losses to Drake and Northern Iowa, and with the Iowa Hawkeyes looming this Friday. Has ISU and coach Fred Hoiberg lost out on Iowa recruits because of the poor showing? (i.e. Marcus Page, Adam Woodbury and Kale Abrahamson)

3. ESPN's Eamonn Brennan said that the Baylor Bears had "Dizzying talent." Talent can only get you so far (ask any of the last few Kentucky teams) so what ingredient is Baylor missing, if any, from a deep NCAA tournament run?

4. The Texas A&M Aggies has scored 55, 56, 56, 58 and 60 while going 4-1 in their past five games. Should we expect them to remain in that high-50s, low 60s range all season or will they finally be able to put the ball in the basket on a more regular basis?

5. Call me crazy but I am liking the Oklahoma Sooners more now than I did during the preseason. Cameron Clark is getting hot, Steven Pledger is averaging 17.2 ppg and Romero Osby is grabbing 7.7 rpg. Looking at our Power Rankings, out of the eight games against the top four of the conference, how many can the Sooners legitimately win?

See our answers after The Jump.

1. The Huggy Bowl, pitting coach Bob Huggins' West Virginia Mountaineers vs his old school, Kansas St. Wildcats, is Thursday night. Since taking over for Huggins, in five years as head man at K-State, Frank Martin has compiled a 100-43 record and has finished no worse than tied for fourth in conference. Now that Martin is free of all players who played for Huggins, can he sustain the momentum?

Evan Pfaff: Tough question. I think Manhattan is a tough place to attract kids to, especially with big brother down the road in Lawrence. I do feel that K-State will actually be able to benefit from Mizzou's departure from the conference. Kids that wanted to stay in the I-70 corridor, or play in the Midwest, now have one less option to choose from. I'm not sure this is a big enough draw to get top flight recruits, but Martin has a recruiting tool most schools don't, the Octagon of Doom.

Matt Patton: I think so. Martin has major ties to the AAU scene, and recruits have seen his success. Recruiting shouldn't be his issue. It may take a couple of years to get a blockbuster class like the one that just , but I'd be surprised if Martin doesn't have K-State as a consistent contender going forward.

E. Carnes: Frank Martin will sustain the momentum using only his red-faced scream if he has to. I'm not worried about Kansas State, especially since the recruits that Martin is getting now are the ones that work well with his coaching style. I'm pretty excited about the game, though. A match-up between a man nicknamed "Huggy Bear" and a guy the U.S. president once called "a scary dude"? Awesome.

Joe Loyd: Honestly I had some doubts with how the team came out and looked the first few games but then they go and win on the road against Virginia Tech the other night. Plus it looks like they have some solid Big 12 rotational guys who will be around for awhile in players like Thomas Gipson & Will Spradling. Right now they are lacking a superstar player who can take them over the top ala Jacob Pullen but K-State looks to always be competitive under Martin.

2. The Iowa St. Cyclones are now 0-2 against in-state schools, with losses to Drake and Northern Iowa, and with the Iowa Hawkeyes looming this Friday. Has ISU and coach Fred Hoiberg lost out on Iowa recruits because of the poor showing? (i.e. Marcus Page, Adam Woodbury and Kale Abrahamson)

EP:
I think it goes deeper than that. I don't know if Iowa State is on the minds of most Iowa high school prospects. For Hoiberg to be able to attract top caliber players (and remember Harrison Barnes is from Ames) they need to have three or four years of winning basketball. Think about it... former ISU coach Greg McDermott didn't even want his SON to play there when he was coach.

MP: He certainly may have. Hoiberg's biggest advantage in-state is his history with Iowa State. Even though recruits aren't old enough to remember the Mayor's days in Ames, that sort of loyalty will never be a negative. Hoiberg has an interesting bunch this year. In a way, using so many transfers is like playing with house money: if it works out, you're praised as the hero; if not, people blame the players. The true sign of success will be when he starts pulling in kids out of high school.

EC: It probably has something to do with it, though I'd place more blame on the fact that Hoiberg is a new coach who is still building his program. He's still something of an unknown quantity at this point. But that's why Hoiberg is mining the transfer and juco fields, right?

JL: I wouldn't say so losing a few early season games like that would cause recruiting losses since high school kids I hope aren't making their choices based off one or two games. I wasn't all that familiar to be honest with Iowa State's recruiting so I looked and for 2012 they have three 3 star recruits committed and 1 four star player so it appears Hoiberg is doing okay.

3. ESPN's Eamonn Brennan said that Baylor had "Dizzying talent." Talent can only get you so far (ask any of the last few Kentucky teams) so what ingredient is Baylor missing, if any, from a deep NCAA tournament run?

EP:
Simple, guard play. JUCO transfer Pierre Jackson is really filling a void the Bears had last year and A.J. Walton is stepping up. Combined the two are averaging 9.3 assists per game (second most amongst Big 12 tandems), while Jackson and Brady Heslip are putting in a combined 21.5 ppg. If those three can continue to contribute in that way, the inside game will take care of itself and Baylor could be taking a stroll down Bourbon Street in March.

MP: I'm worried about this team's toughness--largely because of Scott Drew. He's a great recruiter, but I worry about his in-game strategy. The Bears are certainly the most talented team in the conference and are top-five in the country. The question is, how well can Drew sculpt his system to fit these young talented players? Can he make them play defense? Right now the defense is my biggest worry, but I be surprised if the Bears made it to the Elite Eight the way they're playing right now.

EC: I hate to say this, but I think Baylor is missing a more experienced coach. Don't get me wrong - how Scott Drew has been able to rebuild the program since 2003 is pretty incredible. But he's not a Self or a Calhoun or a Williams. And that could make the difference in March. I think we saw a preview of this in 2010 against Duke in the Elite 8, when coaching adjustments could have arguably won the game for Baylor.

JL: I wouldn't say they are missing anything really but the aspect I still want to see more from them is the point guard play. It was very shaky last year and really brought them down but I have to agree with Matt on their defense. I know each year presents a different team but I can still remember their total lack of defense against KU last year at home which was just hard to watch.

4. Texas A&M has scored 55, 56, 56, 58 and 60 while going 4-1 in their past five games. Should we expect them to remain in that high-50s, low 60s range all season or will they finally be able to put the ball in the basket on a more regular basis?

EP:
Getting Khris Middleton back will help with scoring, but I don't think this will ever be a mid-70s type of team. Last season Billy Kennedy's Murray State sqad averaged 68.3 ppg (185th nationally), so even with the talent in College Station, A&M will beat you with tough defense and limiting turnovers.

MP: Unfortunately, I think we're due for more of the same. I just don't see where the buckets are going to come from on a night-in-night-out basis.

EC: So much for that fast-paced offense, right? I think once Khris Middleton returns, we'll see higher scores from A&M. But I don't ever think they'll be a team that scores in the 80s on the regular.

JL: Maybe when Middleton comes back we can expect more scoring but I don't think they are ever going to be a juggernaut this year. It will be interesting watching A&M play against a team like Baylor this year though.

5. Call me crazy but I am liking the Oklahoma Sooners more now than I did during the preseason. Cameron Clark is getting hot, Steven Pledger is averaging 17.2 ppg and Romero Osby is grabbing 7.7 rpg. Looking at our Power Rankings, out of the eight games against the top four of the conference, how many can the Sooners legitimately win?

EP:
I may have gotten a little ahead of myself. I think OU is playing well, but not upper echelon EP: Of the eight I now think they'll win two. Home versus Mizzou (two days after the Tigers host KU on national TV) and at Texas A&M (in a game sandwiched between Aggie games in Columbia and Lawrence).

MP: I definitely like them a lot more than I did in the preseason, but I'm not sure they're good enough to win more than one against the top tier. But it's amazing how much a roster and coaching change has energized this team.

EC: Against Baylor, Kansas, Mizzou, and A&M? I suppose it's possible that the Sooners could win some, but I don't think it's very probable. Oklahoma is doing better than I anticipated in the preseason, too, and I wouldn't be surprised if they beat any of the other lower-ranked Big 12 teams. But I wouldn't put my money on any victories against the top four.

JL: I would say they should be able to win two or maybe even three of those games when they play those teams at home. I am holding off making too much judgment on OU yet until I see them play some harder games coming up against Arkansas, Houston & Cincinnati.