Living in the Past, Part Two: The Big 12 Ten Years AgoPosted by cwilliams on November 2nd, 2011
Last Friday, I began my exploration of the state of Big 12 basketball ten years ago. I examined Kansas, Baylor, Iowa State, Kansas State, and Missouri. Today, I’ll finish the piece by examining the 2001-02 seasons of the remaining Big 12 teams.
Today, Oklahoma basketball is struggling after consecutive years of underachieving. But ten years ago, Oklahoma’s basketball program reached its pinnacle, winning the Big 12 Tournament and appearing in the school’s fourth Final Four. The Sooners were led by dynamic guard Hollis Price, who at the time was widely considered the best basketball player to come from the Sooner State since Wayman Tisdale. The 2001-02 Sooners started the season with a 13-game winning streak, and finished it with a 12-game winning streak before falling to upstart Indiana in the 2002 Final Four.
The Oklahoma State teams of the early 2000s seemed to always teeter on the line of greatness, but never seemed able to reach it until its 2003-04 breakout season where the Pokes went all the way to the Final Four. Unfortunately, the 2001-02 Cowboy team didn’t have the same essential pieces as that Final Four team. The team started out very hot, winning its first 13 games and moving up to #5 in the nation by Christmas Day. Things became difficult for the Cowboys once they entered conference play, though, and Eddie Sutton’s team never seemed to find its stride. For three weeks, OSU followed two consecutive conference wins with two consecutive conference losses. The team fizzled in the postseason, losing in the first round of the Big 12 Tournament to Texas Tech, and proceeding to get knocked out in the first round of the NCAA Tournament by Cinderella Kent State.
In 2001-02, arguably the most talented Texas basketball team ever stepped on the court. Unfortunately, most of the talent was only 18 and 19 years old, and the Longhorns didn’t have the veterans or leadership necessary for a championship-caliber team. Consisting of a strong sophomore core of Royal Ivey, Brandon Mouton and James Thomas, plus a freshman sensation that swept the nation known as T.J Ford, the Longhorns had one heck of a basketball team on paper. The young team experienced some early speed bumps by starting the season 1-3, but as the season progressed, the Longhorns gelled into a cohesive unit and playing exciting basketball. They finished third in the Big 12, and eventually fought their way to the Sweet Sixteen where they fell to a very good Oregon team. The 2001-02 team was simply the first chapter in the story of the 2002-03 Final Four Longhorn team.
My, how fortunes can change. Texas A&M, one of the most consistent programs in college hoops these days, was just a shadow of their current program in 2001-02. They would finish last in the Big 12 and would not reach the 10-win mark at all. The Aggies lost to the likes of Illinois-Chicago, Louisiana-Monroe, and Centenary that year. Guard Bernard King was one of the few bright spots of this Aggie team, averaging 17.2 PPG.
In 2001-02, Lubbock was introduced to basketball. Ok, not really, they’ve always had a team, but when Bob Knight came to the Texas Tech campus, everything about the program changed from their number of fans to, ultimately, their number of wins. In his first year leading the Red Raiders, The General created quite the turnaround for TTU, leading them to a 23-9 season after going 9-19 in the previous season. The Red Raiders made their first NCAA Tournament appearance since 1996. Leading the Red Raiders at guard was sophomore sensation Andre Emmett, who averaged 18.7 PPG that season.