Grading the Big 12’s 2011-12 Season: Bottom Half

Posted by dnspewak on April 5th, 2012

With the 2011-12 campaign now just a memory, it’s difficult to actually remember all of the drama and agony the Big 12 experienced during the last five months. Kansas’ thrilling loss to Duke in the Maui Invitational seems like ages ago, as does the Jayhawks’ first loss to Kentucky at Madison Square Garden. Remember when Missouri and Baylor were only a few of the remaining unbeaten teams in college basketball? Or when Texas found a way to lose game after game in the most heartbreaking fashion? These memories are hard to digest, but you’ll probably never forget the Border War drama between Kansas and Missouri, nor will you forget Iowa State’s rise thanks to the brilliant play of Royce White. The Big 12 kept playing until the final game of the 2011-12 season, ending with Kansas’ loss to Kentucky in the title game on Monday. And with the conclusion of this wild campaign, the final grades are in. Kansas earns an A+. Big surprise. Texas A&M earns an F. Big surprise, too, but for different reasons. The other eight teams settled into a grade somewhere between those two extremes.

We’ll cover the bottom half of the league today, and the top half tomorrow.

10. Texas Tech (8-23, 1-17)

Gillispie's First Year in Lubbock Wasn't Great


The Red Raiders get a free pass in Billy Gillispie‘s first season. Playing almost exclusively with newcomers, Texas Tech had no chance this year. Robert Lewandowski was the only senior on the roster, but not even he could lead this team to any sort of success. Their inexperience was just too much to overcome. The Red Raiders were plagued by turnovers all season and they never got consistent point guard play. Jordan Tolbert emerged as the leading scorer in the frontcourt, and he played the most consistent basketball on the team from November through February. Still, even after a last-place finish, Texas Tech should not worry about the state of this program. Gillispie’s success at UTEP and Texas A&M proves he can win in this state, and he’ll have almost everybody back next season.

9. Texas A&M (14-18, 4-14)


Sorry, A&M. You fail. Picked in the pre-season to win the Big 12, the Aggies suffered through a nightmare year, though there are extenuating circumstances to consider here. Coach Billy Kennedy learned of a Parkinson’s diagnosis in the fall, which kept him sidelined for fall practice and away from his team during critical teaching moments. As a first-year coach, Kennedy never had the chance to establish himself to his new players. Adding to the woes, many of those players missed time themselves with injuries. Star wing Khris Middleton had surgery on his knee in November and sat out part of Big 12 play. Point guard Dash Harris missed a handful of games, too, and his backup Jamal Branch transferred before conference play. Kourtney Roberson played only nine games before his season ended due to injury as well. As the troubles mounted, the losses began to pile up. The Aggies simply could not score because of all the roster turnover and the lack of creators on the offensive end. We thought this team could muscle its way to a Big 12 title by playing with the principles former coach Mark Turgeon instilled, but that never happened. Now, Kennedy must revamp this program and forget about the 2011-12 nightmare.

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Morning Five: 03.28.12 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on March 28th, 2012

  1. Frank Martin was introduced as the new head coach at South Carolina yesterday. We are usually indifferent on most coaching hires because they are usually involve hiring successful coaches from lower-tier programs, unsuccessful coaches from higher-tier programs, or unproven assistant coaches. It is rare to get a successful coach from a higher-tier program, but South Carolina managed to do it. Overall, it appears to be one of the better hires that we can remember at least as of the time of the hiring although Martin will have to deal with the some very strong programs around him. Martin will also have to deal with a program and a culture where one of the team’s star players, Bruce Ellington, cannot decide which sport he wants to play.
  2. John Currie, the athletic director at Kansas State, was quick to refute the growing speculation that a rift between he and Martin was a driving force in Martin’s decision to head to South Carolina. Currie was busy yesterday not only starting a search for a new coach and denying that his relationship with Martin was the driving force behind Martin’s decision, but also reporting that the evidence behind the school’s suspension of Jamar Samuels before the team’s game against Syracuse was that somebody found the wire transfer receipt in  the garbage. As several people have pointed out this report seems a little strange and there has been plenty of speculation that it was a ploy to help drive Martin out without having to face the wrath of boosters. We are not sure we believe that either, but it certainly has been an interesting few days in Manhattan, Kansas
  3. As we noted on Twitter yesterday we have seen athletes do a lot of dumb things with social media/networking, but Jonathan Holton appears to have taken it to another level. The Rhode Island freshman was arrested yesterday morning after reportedly posting unauthorized videos of sexual encounters with two female students onto his Facebook page. Holton, who is facing two felony counts and up to three years in prison along with a $5,000 fine, was released and warned not to contact the two alleged victims. We suspect this is not the type of start that Dan Hurley wanted when he took over the job at Rhode Island.
  4. C.J. McCollum is using his phenomenal performance against Duke as a sign to take his talents to the next level and he will enter his name into the NBA Draft. The Lehigh junior guard will not hire an agent for now, which will allow him the ability to withdraw from the Draft by April 10. If you are looking for an eventual source for whether or not McCollum stays in the Draft, you might want to check out The Brown and White, the Lehigh online student paper, which McCollum, a journalism major writes for. Surprisingly, McCollum did not release the story to his paper first and instead went through the school’s athletic department. We cannot give C.J. much direct advice on the court, but in the journalism industry it is generally a good idea to break your own stories rather than giving it away to other sources. Another junior, Georgetown‘s Hollis Thompson, will be entering the Draft and plans to sign with an agent. Thompson, who put him name in last year before pulling out, is making an interesting decision because unlike McCollum, who most consider a mid- to late-first round pick, Thompson would be hoping to be a late second round selection at best.
  5. Yesterday, Connecticut formally released Alex Oriakhi from his scholarship. As we noted when the news first broke, whether or not Oriakhi will be able to play next year is dependent on how the NCAA rules on UConn’s appeal of their 2013 NCAA Tournament ban. If UConn loses its appeal, Oriakhi can play next year, but if they win the appeal, he has to sit out a year. There will be no shortage of suitors for Oriakhi, but there is at least one school that Oriakhi will not consider–Duke. We are not quite sure of why Oriakhi is so strongly opposed to becoming a Blue Devil, but it is an interesting choice because he certainly would be able to get major minutes playing for them and would also have plenty of opportunity to showcase his skills on television.
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Morning Five: 03.27.12 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on March 27th, 2012

  1. He may not be coaching this weekend, but Frank Martin may have been more active yesterday than any of the coaches that will be coaching in the Final Four. The former Kansas State coach will become the next South Carolina coach. Rumors about this initially came up a few days ago from a source on Twitter that wasn’t well-established and took them down soon after they spread like wildfire. Now a few days later, it looks like there may be some validity to the rumors. Initial reports indicate that South Carolina is looking at paying Martin $2.05 million per year, which is a substantial raise from the $1.45 million per year he was getting at Kansas State. And of course there was the admission on Sunday that Martin routinely sent money to his former high school players when they needed it in college much like what Jamar Samuels reportedly got that led to his suspension.
  2. With  Dan Hurley leaving to take over at Rhode Island, Wagner was in search of a coach and they looked inside their program to hire Bashir Mason, who was acting as an assistant coach before Hurley left. At 28 (not a typo), Mason will be the youngest head coach in Division I (and younger than both of the RTC editors). From our research/Twitter query, the youngest coach in Division I history we are aware of is Bob Knight in 1965 (at 24) and in the modern era is Dane Fife in 2005 (at 25). Fortunately for Mason, Hurley left the program in better shape than where he found it.
  3. This morning UAB will announce Jerod Haase as its new head coach. Hasse, who will turn 38 on Sunday, has spent his entire college coaching career as an assistant under Roy Williams first at Kansas (five seasons) then at North Carolina (nine seasons). Of course, most of you will probably remember him as the co-captain on the great 1996-97 Kansas team that was upset in the Sweet Sixteen by eventual champion Arizona. It is probably not lost on Kansas fans that the game in 1997 against Arizona was in Birmingham. Fortunately for Hess, UAB plays at an on-campus arena so he will not have to battle those demons with every home game.
  4. Murray State put an end to any speculation that Steve Prohm would be leaving after his first year as they signed him to an extension that pushes his contract through the 2015-16 season. Prohm, who went 31-2 in his first season, was mentioned as a target for the Mississippi State job after a search firm put him on the short list. As you may remember Murray State did not react too well to that and now appear to have secured Prohm for at least a little bit longer. It should be pointed out that even with the new contract his increased base salary is still “only” $270,000 per year with an additional $30,000 for doing TV and radio. If it ever becomes about the money for Prohm, any team from a power conference would be able to produce an offer several times higher than that.
  5. A day after a report surfaced that George Mason and VCU, the premier basketball programs in the CAA, were headed to the Atlantic 10 the two schools and CAA refuted those claims. Of course, with the way the statements from the schools are written they could be making a move in the future as they are fairly well-crafted (outside of the occasional typo). Honestly, if we were George Mason or VCU we would be very tempted to move to the Atlantic 10 given the increased national exposure and the increased ability to earn an at-large bid from that conference compared to the CAA.If the schools do leave the CAA, it would be a devastating blow to the conference particularly in basketball.
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Big 12 Morning Five: 03.20.12 Edition

Posted by dnspewak on March 20th, 2012

  1. After the NCAA suspended Jamar Samuels for receiving $200 in cash for food from a former AAU coach before Kansas State‘s game against Syracuse, a lot of the typical anti-establishment talk arose. We even mentioned it yesterday — should we penalize a player for wanting to eat? It’s a sentiment straight out of Jay Bilas’ playbook. As Dennis Dodd of CBS points out, though, the rules are the rules. And he argues that the NCAA’s ruling wasn’t unfair in any way.
  2. In your Not Surprising News of the Day, Kansas forward Thomas Robinson became a finalist for the Naismith Player of the Year award. For much of the year, the media has tabbed Robinson and Anthony Davis as the two front-runners, but Draymond Green and Doug McDermott are also in the mix here. All fine choices, but we’ll have to wait until the Final Four to learn the winner.
  3. Yesterday, we linked you to an article about how the Big 12 tried to halt Missouri from leaving for the SEC. Here’s a breakdown of the story in simpler terms from an ESPN blog. Lots of money, lots of drama and lots of debate. It just wouldn’t be conference realignment without all of those qualities, would it?
  4. So what if Frank Haith‘s team bowed out in its opening game of the NCAA Tournament? Before that, the U.S. Basketball Writers Association named him the Coach of the Year. That’s an honor that not even the Big 12 gave him this season. Despite getting Norfolked, there’s no question Haith had a terrific season after the Mike Anderson debacle and the injury to Laurence Bowers. He may not be as beloved as he was a week ago in Columbia, but he got the ball rolling with this year’s 30-win season.
  5. Baylor has been a fascinating story ever since Scott Drew rebuilt the program from the ashes after a murder scandal, and it’s even more interesting when you consider the university’s president: Ken Starr. If you’re a political junkie — or if you read the news, like, ever, during Clinton’s second term — you’d know Starr was the lead investigator in that Clinton case involving a blue dress and a brown-haired intern. Storylines, storylines.
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Big 12 Morning Five: 03.19.12 Edition

Posted by dnspewak on March 19th, 2012

  1. News has leaked regarding the Jamar Samuels situation at Kansas State: He may have received $200 from an AAU coach to pay for food. On the surface, the NCAA’s decision to rule Samuels ineligible is fairly straightforward. He received impermissible benefits as an amateur, and thus he was not eligible to play against Syracuse. There’s a gray area here, though, and these are the kinds of stories that make Jay Bilas’ Twitter account blow up. Should we penalize a kid from a family with no money for getting access to some free food? Some might say the NCAA makes millions off of these players already and should cut a guy like Samuels some slack. Others may argue that giving Samuels special treatment ignores that hundreds of other Division I athletes that probably use school stipends to eat and don’t get $200 from former coaches. We’ll let you be the judge.
  2. Missouri lost. It’s over– a terrible way to end a dream season, but it’s over. So now what? There are a lot of questions for the Tigers to ponder as they move to the SEC and lose five seniors. Frank Haith should still have a promising roster with four transfers joining the team, but replacing Ricardo Ratliffe with newcomers in the frontcourt will be especially difficult and the impact of Marcus Denmon, Kim English, Steve Moore and Matt Pressey cannot be overstated. The return of Laurence Bowers will help, and point guard play will be a major strength with Michael Dixon and Phil Pressey. Recovering from this disappointing effort in the NCAA Tournament won’t be easy from a mental standpoint, however.
  3. With Missouri off to the SEC, we’re now learning that the Big 12 tried to put a stop to all of the realignment. Just a warning: there’s a lot of legal mumbo jumbo and secretive documents involved in this story. But if you’ve got some time, the drama involved in this process is top-notch stuff.
  4. It’s been a few days since Texas bowed out of the NCAA Tournament, but the way it lost resembled the rest of the Longhorns’ season. They fell behind early. They couldn’t score outside of J’Covan Brown. And even after a rally, they couldn’t finish the basketball game, collapsing late. It’s a tough way for Rick Barnes to go out this season, but with the bulk of this young roster presumably returning, he has to be excited to build off this NCAA appearance during the 2012-13 campaign.
  5. Brady Heslip was the unknown commodity for Baylor heading into the season: an obscure Boston College transfer overshadowed by the arrivals of Quincy Miller and the return of Perry Jones. After torching Colorado for nine threes — and not to mention a surprisingly solid season in the backcourt for Scott Drew — Heslip isn’t unknown anymore. Here’s the perspective from his old buddies in the Northeast, who surely miss watching him play now.
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Morning Five: 03.19.12 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on March 19th, 2012

  1. By now you have probably heard about the decision by Kansas State to hold Jamar Samuels out of its game on Saturday against #1 seed Syracuse after there were concerns about his eligibility due to a $200 transfer he received from his former AAU coach. While most issues of impermissible benefits are met with anger towards the person giving the benefit preying on a college athlete, that has not been the case here. Curtis Malone, the former AAU coach who sent the money, readily admits to doing so, but felt that it wasn’t against the rules because he was not acting as an agent and had a longstanding prior relationship with Samuels. Based on the response we have seen online from all sides (media, coaches, and players), this decision may force the NCAA to reevaluate its rules.
  2. After initially saying it would take some time to consider its options, UAB announced on Friday that it was firing  Mike Davis after six seasons. During those six seasons, Davis went 122-73 including four consecutive 20-win seasons, but went 15-16 this season. However, it appears that it was not just a losing record this season that led to his dismissal as the school also cited poor ticket sales among the reasons for the change. Davis, who is owed $625,000 for the one year remaining on his contract and is best known for leading Indiana to the NCAA Championship Game in 2002, should be able to find a job as an assistant coach at a major program fairly quickly or he may choose to wait for another favorable head coaching position to open up.
  3. Plenty of people in Kansas and around the Big 12 rejoiced in seeing soon to be former Big 12 member Missouri lose on Friday night. One of those people was Kansas athletic director Sheahon Zenger who told a group of alumni in Omaha that it was “karma, karma, karma”. The video showing this appears to have been removed, but in light of the Jayhawks performance last night fans in Missouri were nearly able to use another well-known phrase about karma when talking about the Jayhawks.
  4. If you missed out the Carrier Classic and wanted to see another high-level college basketball game on a naval carrier, you are in luck. Maybe. Well if you have really good connections, enlist in the military, or join a team as an assistant manager or something like that. In addition to an event in Charleston, South Carolina aboard the USS Yorktown there will be another game in San Diego aboard the USS Midway. The game in Charleston will feature Connecticut and an as yet undetermined opponent while the game in San Diego is expected to feature San Diego State and Georgetown. Neither event will be associated with Morale Entertainment, which hopes to return to San Diego in 2013.
  5. After a solid freshman season it appears that Moe Harkless may not be around St. John’s much longer. Harkless is scheduled to hold a press conference at 2 PM today where he is expected to announce that he will be entering the NBA Draft. Harkless, who was the Big East Rookie of the Year, is expected to be a mid-first round pick. If Harkless does leave, it would be a significant blow to a program that struggled at times with a freshman-dominated lineup, but was expected to improve significantly with an extra year of experience under its belt.
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NCAA Tournament Tidbits 03.18.12 Edition

Posted by Brian Goodman on March 18th, 2012

The NCAA Tournament is here and there’s more news, commentary and analysis than any of us can possibly keep up with. To make things a little easier, we’ll bring you a list of daily links gathered about teams in each of the four regions all the way through the Final Four.

West Region

South Region

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Frank Martin Proves His Worth… Again

Posted by dnspewak on February 22nd, 2012

Danny Spewak is the RTC correspondent. You can find him Twitter @dspewak.

Since the day he accepted the head coaching position at Kansas State five years ago, Frank Martin has played the underdog role. After he replaced Bob Huggins, detractors accused KSU’s athletic department of hiring Martin solely to retain Michael Beasley and Bill Walker. They said he’d fall flat after those two stars left. He’d earned the job based on his connections rather than merit, they said, and he was just a crazy-eyed, wild-mannered coach who threw clipboards and acted like a showman on the sidelines.

Frank Martin Makes For Great Television ... And Great Coaching.

After that 2007-08 team reached the NCAA Tournament, Martin did indeed lose both Beasley and Walker to the pros. And yet his program hardly missed a beat, as he recovered from a poor start the next year to salvage an NIT appearance in 2009. Hardly anybody thought that team could finish .500 in Big 12 play, much less reach the postseason. From there, Kansas State took off. Martin’s team reached the Elite Eight in 2010, and after his top-five squad tumbled in 2010-11, he found a way to push the right buttons for a late-season surge and a third-place finish in the league (and another NCAA appearance).

So when we wrote less than two weeks ago that Kansas State’s season came down to a three-game stretch, there shouldn’t have been any doubt that Martin could get the job done. Even after his team dropped a home game to rival Kansas, the Wildcats have responded with two major road victories over Baylor and Missouri to all but seal an NCAA Tournament at-large bid.

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Kansas State’s NCAA Tournament Chances Down to Three-Game Stretch

Posted by dnspewak on February 13th, 2012

Kansas State has eight days to figure things out.  Starting Monday night, the Wildcats host Kansas and then travel to Baylor and Missouri, a stretch that will ultimately define Frank Martin’s 2011-12 season. After a surprising 11-1 start in non-conference play — which included a Diamond Head Classic title in Hawaii during Christmas —the Wildcats have stumbled against Big 12 competition. A signature win over the Tigers back in early January has kept it in contention for an NCAA bid, but two embarrassing collapses in recent weeks has slid KSU more toward the wrong side of the bubble. The latest blow came this weekend, when fellow bubble team Texas rallied from a double-digit deficit to outscore the Wildcats by 24 points in the second half.

It All Comes Down To a Three-Game Stretch for Frank Martin

This team isn’t playing like a typical Frank Martin squad right now. It’s not rebounding with tenacity or intimidating opponents, and most importantly, it’s not finishing games with authority. In a two-point loss to Iowa State on January 31, KSU offered little resistance to Royce White (22 points) and the Cyclones. The same thing happened on Saturday against UT in the second half — the smaller Longhorns even won the rebounding margin.

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Checking In On… the Big 12 Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 23rd, 2012

Steve Fetch is the RTC correspondent for the Big 12. You can also find his musings online at Rock Chalk Talk or on Twitter @fetch9.

Reader’s Take


The Week That Was

  • Bears Dropped At Home: Baylor’s Big 12 title hopes took a huge hit this week, losing at Kansas and at home to Missouri. Though they are just two games back of leader Kansas and play both the Jayhawks and Tigers again, their Big 12 title odds are down to just 3.8% according to and some questions probably need to be asked of Scott Drew. Baylor settled for jumpers time and time again against Missouri and let the Tigers rebound nearly half of their misses; inexcusable numbers for a team with the size that Baylor has.
  • Frank Martin Hands Down Punishment: Kansas State’s big front line took a hit this past week when they suspended junior Jordan Henriquez indefinitely. Henriquez wasn’t a big offensive threat, averaging 7.1 points per game in under 20 minutes per game, but he was very good on the glass at 11.9%, which ranked third on the team, and was their best defensive rebounder as well. With the Wildcats ranking seventh in Big 12 play in defensive rebounding, Henriquez’s absence will be felt.
  • What Can Brown To For You?: Last week, I highlighted the good side of J’Covan Brown, so this week the bad: Brown helped Texas come back from an 18-point deficit against Kansas over the weekend, but proceeded to shoot them out of the game, making only four of the 18 two-point shots he took on Saturday. Myck Kabongo had a rough game and the Horns lack someone other than Brown who can create his own shot so it’s understandable that he’d shoot that much, but he did them no favors this weekend.

Kim English, Phil Pressey and Ricardo Ratliffe Brimmed With Confidence As They Toppled Baylor On Saturday. (Tony Gutierrez/AP)

Power Rankings

  1. Kansas (16-3, 6-0): On the one-year anniversary of his mother’s death, Thomas Robinson turned in a very good performance with 17 points and nine rebounds to keep the Jayhawks unbeaten in Big 12 play. After the game, he had the early frontrunner for heartbreaking quote of the year, saying: “No disrespect intended, but that’s something I have to live with every day… For the media, it’s an anniversary.” Robinson’s main focus this year has been to take care of his little sister, Jayla, and with him projected to be a high lottery pick, that certainly looks to be a goal that can be accomplished, but even if not, a scholarship fund has reached roughly $300,000 in donations from fans. Read the rest of this entry »
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