Living in the Past, Part One: The Big 12 Ten Years AgoPosted by cwilliams on October 28th, 2011
The past is a tricky thing. It can create false hope, persistent illusions, and distractions from the present. Especially in sports. Fans often live in the past, like an Indiana hoops fan relishing their team’s rich history while ignoring their recent downfall. That being said, the past can be a blueprint for a team’s future, a documentation of what has worked and what hasn’t. Today, I’ll explore where the ten remaining Big 12 teams were ten years ago, and compare that to where they are now.
In the 2001-02 season, the Baylor campus had not yet been rocked by the Patrick Dennehy scandal. The Bears of that season were led by two dynamic freshman, Lawrence Roberts and John Lucas, III. After the Dennehy scandal, Roberts would transfer to Mississippi State, and Lucas to Oklahoma State, where they both found instant success, and were at one point two of the best players in the national college hoops landscape. Despite their young stars, inexperience weighed down the Bears in 2001-02, and they finished with a 14-16 (4-12) record.
The 2001-02 season marked the end of an era for the Cyclones. Gone were the likes of stars Jamaal Tinsley and Marcus Fizer, replaced by the young sophomore combination of Jake Sullivan and Shane Power. Despite the individual success of Sullivan and Power, who contributed 16 and 13 PPG, respectively, the Cyclones never got their season in gear, and finished 12-19 (4-12) for the season.
The 2001-02 Jayhawks had it all. Upperclassman leadership from Drew Gooden, Nick Collison and Kirk Hinrich, and youthful energy from Aaron Miles, Wayne Simien, and Keith Langford. Gooden led the conference in scoring, with 19.8 PPG. The Jayhawks did not lose a single conference game that year, and breezed to a 33-4 (16-0) record. The Jayhawks spent the entire season ranked in the top 10 of the AP poll, headlined at #1 for four weeks, and breezed to an appearance in the 2002 Final Four. However, they were tripped up there, losing to a Maryland team who would go on to win it all against Indiana. This Jayhawk team is one of the best Big 12 teams to never win a national championship.
The early 2000s were mired with mediocrity for the Wildcats of Kansas State. The 2001-02 season was no different. The Wildcats lost four out of their first five conference games, digging themselves in a hole that would not get out of. Junior forward Pervis Pasco was one of the few bright spots for K-State that season, averaging 12.1 PPG and 8.4 RPG. Kansas State finished the 2001-02 season at 13-16 (6-10).
The 2001-02 Missouri season started with very high expectations. These Tigers were led by national stars Kareem Rush and Arthur Johnson, two of the most exciting players in college basketball at the time. In early December, the Tigers were ranked #2 in the nation and appeared to be a legitimate national title contender. Then, things began unraveling and the Tigers were no longer playing Final Four-caliber basketball. The Tigers played inconsistently throughout Big 12 Conference play, and were upset by the likes of Texas Tech, Iowa State and Baylor. However, a funny thing happened in March, as it often does in college hoops. The Tigers suddenly became a team again. The Tigers were awarded a #11 seed in the NCAA Tournament and proceeded to upset their way all the way to the Elite Eight, where they would fall to conference mate Oklahoma. The 2001-02 season was one of the most memorable ones in Tiger hoops history, for both good and bad reasons.
Tomorrow, we will look at the other Big 12 teams’ 2001-02 season.