Big 12 Wrap & Tourney Preview

Posted by Brian Goodman on March 9th, 2011

Owen Kemp of Rock Chalk Talk and SB Nation Kansas City is the RTC Correspondent for the Big 12 Conference. With tournament action set to tip from Kansas City on Thursday, get set with RTC’s postseason preview and regular season recap.

Postseason Preview

  • Headed into the Big 12 Tournament, Kansas State is widely considered the hottest team in the conference and is looking square in the face of a semifinal matchup against the Kansas Jayhawks that could be the game of the tournament.   That of course assumes the Wildcats get past potential quarterfinal opponent Colorado, who recorded a regular season sweep of Kansas State.
  • On the bottom half of the bracket, the Longhorns might have to take another shot from Baylor, TexasA&M and/or Missouri in order to play on Saturday.  The Longhorns are a collective 5-0 against these teams during the regular season and all four teams, including Texas, are playing to improve their tourney seed.
  • The reality is that the NCAA Tournament impacts some, but really doesn’t mean much to others.  Barring a minor miracle, Texas Tech, Oklahoma, OklahomaState and Iowa State are teams whose fans will be done following this weekend, unless you consider the NIT or CBI worth watching.
  • The Kansas Jayhawks are a lock for a #1 seed and even a quarterfinal upset wouldn’t change that.  The Jayhawks aren’t likely to pack up and leave without a fight, but the results this weekend just aren’t that important for anything more than bragging rights.
  • Baylor and Nebraska are two teams that need a deep run to jump back on the bubble and the two teams that cannot afford a first or even second round loss if they want to be considered.  A semifinal run by either and they can start making their case to the committee.
  • For the rest, it’s playing for seed.  Colorado probably needs to avoid a first round upset, but beyond that, wins by the Buffs, Missouri, Texas A&M, Texas and Kansas State all serve as arguments for a higher seed in the NCAA tournament.  For Texas, it’s probably a two-seed if they play well, a three if they do not.  A&M probably falls in the 4-6 range.  Missouri probably goes as high as a #6 and as low as a #10.  Colorado is looking at something in the 10-12 range while Kansas State could jump quite a bit if they win the tournament and possibly work their way back to a #5 or six seed looking most likely at this point.
  • The Big 12 Tournament has different meanings for different teams, but it’s a weekend that definitely holds March ramifications for many, considering the parity across college basketball in 2010-2011.

A Look Back

As usual, the Big 12 season had no shortage of high quality storylines in 2010-2011.  The season started off with Kansas State, the preseason Big 12 favorite, going on an early slide that included one now infamous quote from Jacob Pullen:

“This is my last go-round, I’m not going to the NIT. I won’t play basketball in the NIT. I’m saying that now. If we lose, and we have to go to the NIT, I will not play.”

Fortunately for the Wildcats, Jacob Pullen delivered on that message, and while Kansas State came up short of their first Big 12 conference title, they do enter March as one of the hottest teams in the country after beating both Kansas and Texas over the last three weeks.

Texas looked poised to take the conference title after defeating Kansas in Lawrence and having their own run as the flavor of the month in college basketball before a late collapse saw the Longhorns lose three of four, including losses to Kansas State, Colorado and Nebraska.

That skid led to a familiar storyline, with the Kansas Jayhawks once again emerging from the clutter in the middle and landing themselves at the top of the conference for the seventh straight year.  Conference titles have been the norm for Kansas basketball under Bill Self and the title earned Self COY honors as named by the conference.

One of the chief contenders for that honor outside of Self had to be Texas A&M coach Mark Turgeon, who took his team to a surprising third place finish in the Big 12 and a solid year, despite the loss of Donald Sloan, the Aggie leader from a year ago.  Turgeon got more out of his team than almost anyone in the conference and they did so on a consistent basis, even looking like a legit Big 12 contender early on.

One team falling well short of expectations was Scott Drew’s Baylor Bears.  An Elite Eight team from a year ago with talent falling out of the trees, Baylor just couldn’t ever seem to put it together.  Sometimes, the pieces don’t fit, and some coaches are better at putting those pieces together than others.   The Bears will need a strong showing in the Big 12 tourney to make the NCAA’s.

Meanwhile, a first-year coach in Colorado finds himself on the right side of the bubble at the moment, as our preseason pick at #6 actually finished fifth in the conference and put together a string of impressive wins in Tad Boyle’s first year in Boulder.  Alec Burks has emerged as one of the most dynamic individuals in the league, and if Burks stays in Boulder, Colorado will be in the conversation next year in the Pac-10.

The Missouri Tigers were a group that appeared to have a few pieces now in place to make a run but inconsistency on the offensive end continued to plague Mike Anderson’s group.  The Tigers were very solid at home, but one of the worst road teams in the conference winning just once away from Mizzou Arena.

Doc Sadler’s Nebraska Cornhuskers were another solid storyline in their final season as the overachieving group in Lincoln finally seemed to mesh with what Sadler preaches day in and day out.  It’s been awhile since Nebraska fans were playing meaningful ball in March, but with a surprise run in the Big 12 Tournament, they could put themselves back on the bubble.

In the bottom four, it was a story of programs headed in different directions.  Fred Hoiberg’s Iowa State team struggled with depth issues, but the Cyclones have some talent on the bench and are bringing in more with Michigan State transfer Korie Lucious.  Texas Tech, on the other hand, will see the departure of several key players, as well as head coach Pat Knight, who was fired on Monday.

The Oklahomas both struggled this season, but Travis Ford appears to have help on the way while Jeff Capel might find himself on the hot seat if things don’t turn a corner soon in Norman.

All in all, it was a year that was extremely balanced, and while those at the top have been pretty consistent, the 3-8 spots had about as much turmoil as any league in the country.

  • Coach Of The Year: Bill Self – It’s easy to take what he does for granted, but Bill Self was successful despite losing more than nearly anyone in contention.
  • Player Of The Year: Marcus Morris – Best player on the best team and provided that on a consistent basis for 16 games.

All-Big 12:

  • G Jacob Pullen, Kansas State (21.4 PPG, 3.38 APG)
  • G Alec Burks, Colorado (20 PPG, 7.6 RPG)
  • G/F Jordan Hamilton, Texas (17.5 PPG, 8.1 RPG)
  • F – Markieff Morris, Kansas (13.9 PPG, 7.9 RPG
  • F – Marcus Morris, Kansas (18.8 PPG, 7.6 RPG)

Sixth Man – Marcus Denmon, Missouri (16.5 PPG)

Newcomer of the Year – Tristan Thompson (14.6 PPG, 7.6 RPG)

Power Rankings

1. Kansas (29-2, 14-2, Projected #1 Seed) – Kansas wins the conference outright and has won at least a share of the title in seven consecutive seasons.  At this point, Kansas is one of two locks for a top seed in the NCAA Tournament and the Jayhawks will most likely find themselves in the Southwest bracket, which plays their regional in San Antonio.

2. Kansas State (22-9, 10-6, Projected #6 Seed) Jacob Pullen pulled the Wildcats back from the brink and they now sit as one of the hottest teams in the country.  As the flavor of the month, the Wildcats can do a lot to improve their seeding with a deep Big 12 tournament run this week.

3. Texas (25-6, 13-3, Projected #2 Seed) – Texas got back on track with a win in Waco and should be able to salvage a #2 seed provided they don’t face plant in the Big 12 tournament.  This is still a very good defensive team, they just need to find their offensive rhythm to get things going again in March.

4. Texas A&M (23-7,10-6, Projected #5 Seed) – The Aggies have quietly continued their unexpected success this season and while a deep March run might not be in the cards, the Aggies should be rewarded for their success with a fairly secure position in the tournament.  If they can make a run in the Big 12 they have an outside shot at going as high as a #4.

5. Colorado (19-12, 8-8, Projected #11 Seed) – If Colorado could beat the easy teams, they’d be looking at an even better position, but as it stands today, they are a team deserving to be in the tournament and have the type of players that can pull an upset on the first weekend.

6. Missouri (22-9, 8-8, Projected #9 Seed) – The Tigers did very poorly this season away from Mizzou Arena, but Mike Anderson’s system can sometimes create problems in the tournament as they are difficult to prepare for on a quick turnaround.  Still, it will be in interesting to see which Tiger offense shows up in March.

7. Nebraska (19-11, 7-9) – Nebraska almost had it.  They were firmly on the bubble with a chance to secure a spot after a win over Texas, but back-to-back losses to close out the season leave the Huskers on the outside looking in, barring a deep run in Kansas City.

8. Baylor (18-12, 7-9) – So much talent, so little in the way of fundaments.  Baylor just couldn’t put the pieces together and they are a classic example of a team full of players that don’t have a lot of discipline.

9. Oklahoma State (18-12, 6-10) A rebuilding year for the Cowboys and there were bright spots like the play of JP Olukemi.  Help is also on the way from the recruiting front and Travis Ford should have things back on track soon.

10. Texas Tech (13-18, 5-11) – Tech just didn’t play to their potential.  It’s hard to say if even that would have put them in the tourney bubble range, but a poor finish cost Pat Knight his job.

11. Oklahoma (13-17, 5-11) –  A long skid to close out the season and Jeff Capel is on the clock in Norman.  Turns out Blake Griffin really was that good, and rebounding from that loss is proving to be tough, even two seasons later.

12. Iowa State (16-15, 3-13) – The Cyclones finish with a winning record but lack of depth caught up with Fred Hoiberg’s group during a grueling conference schedule.  Things are looking up in Ames though and this will be a program to keep an eye on if Hoiberg can find a way to blend together the various pieces he has on the way.

Brian Goodman (966 Posts)

Brian Goodman a Big 12 microsite writer. You can follow him on Twitter @BSGoodman.

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