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)
FINAL GRADE: D
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)
FINAL GRADE: F
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.