Big 12 Farewell – Basketball Edition

29 Mar

As the elimination of Kansas by Virginia Commonwealth snuffed out the last hope of the Big 12 conference being represented in the 2011 Final Four, here’s a look at the seasons of all the teams in the league. Collectively, the five Big 12 teams given March Madness berths went went 5-5 in this year’s tournament. Keep in mind: this which just ended is the last season that the Big 12 will have 12 teams, at least for the foreseeable future, as Nebraska is leaving for the Big 10 and Colorado is joining the Pac-10.

Kansas: 3-1 in the NCAA tournament, 14-2 Big 12, 35-3 overall In four games of March Madness, the Jayhawks, a  No. 1 seed, never faced a team seeded higher than 9. In the first round, they played 16-seed Boston University, then moved on to face 9-seed Illinois. Because of upsets elsewhere in its region, Kansas faced 12-seed Richmond and then 11-seed Virginia Commonwealth. It looked like the easiest possible route to another national championship. Enter the most colossal upset of the tournament so far. Of course, the Jayhawks are still the Jayhawks, and if the Morris twins stick around for their senior season, the team could make it as far or farther in 2012.

Texas: 1-1 in the NCAA tournament, 13-3 Big 12, 28-8 overall The Longhorns escaped the distinction of being an early upset with an 85-81 victory over 13-seed Oakland but lost in the waning seconds of its next game, a one-point heartbreaker against Arizona. There was discussion of a questionable call at the end of the game, but here’s my take on that: How many free throws did Texas miss? How many shots did Texas miss? How many turnovers did Texas commit? Each one of those was a missed opportunity. If those had been taken advantage of, the game might not have needed to come down to the final play anyway. While there are certainly bad calls on occasion, officiating is never an excuse for losing, in my opinion. Next season, Texas will be a younger team, as year’s squad had five seniors, but with the leadership of Rick Barnes and the older players that remain, the Longhorns will likely be a tournament team again in 2012.

Texas A&M: 0-1 in the NCAA tournament, 10-6 Big 12, 24-9 overall The Aggies had a very nice season, getting off to a 16-1 start. In Big 12 play, though, the team went on several skids when faced with competition from the better half of the league. It lost four of five games through January and early February, and it lost four of six to end the season. Texas A&M received a bid to the tournament but lost to 10-seed Florida State in the first round. There’s potential here; it will be interesting to see whether the Aggies can continue the momentum of this season with a repeat performance in six months or so.

Kansas State: 1-1 in the NCAA tournament, 10-6 Big 12, 23-11 overall It’s hard to describe the Wildcats’ season without using the roller coaster cliche, considering the team began the season ranked No. 3 in the country and then completely fell out of the rankings as the team’s seniors were suspended, two players quit the team, and K-State started the conference schedule 1-4 … only to rebound with a six-game winning streak to finish the season and receive a 5-seed in the Big Dance. There will be questions about next year’s team, as it will be without Jacob Pullen for the first time in four years, but there were questions about this year’s team, too, and it didn’t turn out badly.

Missouri: 0-1 in the NCAA tournament, 8-8 Big 12, 23-11 overall The “Will he stay or will he go?”  merry-go-round has finally ground to a halt in Columbia. Head coach Mike Anderson declined a contract extension from the school in favor of taking the same job at the University of Arkansas, where the coach spent 17 years as an assistant under Nolan Richardson and won a national championship in 1994. Leaving gracefully is a hard thing to do, and whether Anderson did so is hard to say. At least, though, he will be somewhere he wants to be, and Missouri can move on to a coach who definitely wants to be in Columbia and is not distracted by the possibilities of going elsewhere.

Colorado: 8-8 Big 12, 24-13 overall The Buffaloes have been recognized as one of those teams – every year, it’s the same story – that should have been included in the tournament field but was not. They beat Kansas State three times this season, and they also vanquished Texas and Missouri – all of whom made it into the tournament easily. If you look at the Colorado home page on ESPN.com, you’ll see a video clip labeled “Dick Vitale on the teams snubbed by the NCAA tournament” and articles in the news section with titles like “How to improve tourney selection process.” More than likely, being a No. 1 seed in the NIT was little consolation. If head coach Tad Boyle and next year’s team (minus the six seniors it had this season) continue on this way, I’d be surprised if the Buffaloes get left out of the tourney in 2012.

Nebraska: 7-9 Big 12, 19-13 overall The Huskers also had an up-and-down season, and like the Wildcats, they struggled some on the road and were nearly unbeatable at home. In Nebraska’s last seven games of this season, it played two ranked teams – Texas and Missouri. It won both those games … but lost the other four. The Huskers lived up to that Big 12 stereotype of being able to beat any team on any given day, but it didn’t happen often enough.

Baylor: 7-9 Big 12, 18-13 overall The Bears had two wins over ranked opponents this season … only it was really just one opponent, Texas A&M, whom they beat in overtime in College Station and by seven points in Waco. Baylor’s on-court issues mirrored those off the court. There was LaceDarius Dunn, mentioned in conjunction with assault (later cleared by a grand jury), and just recently it was decided by the NCAA that freshman Perry Jones -who averaged 13.9 points and 7.2 rebounds per game this season – will have to miss five games at the beginning of next season if he stays. While the Baylor administration is arguing that it’s getting a raw dealer (see Cam Newton), it is what it is. It could be awhile before the Bears can piece together a decent season.

Oklahoma State: 6-10 Big 12, 20-14 overall For all their struggles, the Cowboys came within four points of a five-game winning streak to end the season. They beat Texas Tech and Baylor in Stillwater, lost 64-61 at Oklahoma, defeated Nebraska 53-52 back in Stillwater, and finished out the regular season with a loss to Kansas by a single point, 63-62, in Lawrence. Tiny-but-mighty guard Keiton Page will be the team’s only senior next season, and five players will be juniors, so depending on who gets playing time, the youth of the team might lead to some inconsistencies.

Texas Tech: 5-11 Big 12, 13-19 overall Honestly, I really like Pat Knight. Having talked to him at Big 12 media day in Kansas City and listened to him at K-State post game press conference this season, I think he has some serious understanding of the game of basketball. With that said, he stated at the beginning of this season that after three seasons, it was a “get-an-extension or get-fired type of year” for him.We all know how that ended, and now Billy Gillispie has signed a five-year deal as head coach of the Red Raiders. According to an ESPN report on the hiring, Gillispie has a good reputation in Texas because before he coached at Kentucky, he helped rebuild the programs of UTEP and Texas A&M. However, he has had his share of problems – if he gets a fourth DUI, as ESPN college basketball analyst Doug Gottlieb pointed out, his five-year stay with the Red Raiders could be much shorter.

Oklahoma: 5-11 Big 12, 14-18 overall The Sooners’ season ended with a 20-point loss to then-No. 10 Texas, and head coach Jeff Capel was promptly fired. Blake Griffin, recruited by Capel and now an NBA star because of his incredible dunks, contacted ESPN.com to express his feelings about the matter, saying that while he did not profess to know everything about basketball, he recognized Capel as a great coach and felt the university made a mistake by firing him.

Iowa State: 3-13 Big 12, 16-16 By the record, there is no recourse but to assume the Cyclones were bad this year. Maybe more than bad; 3-13 sounds more like it fits into the category of “awful.” If you dig just a bit deeper though, you see a glimmer of hope. Three of Iowa State’s Big 12 games went into overtime; many more the Cyclones lost by single digits. It was head coach Fred Hoiberg’s first season, and the team still challenged the vast majority of its opponents; it wasn’t like the Cyclones rolled over for anyone. It may take a couple years (especially with a considerable number of players graduating now) but this team could be a sleeper down the road.

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