Big 12 M5: 02.05.14 Edition

Posted by Nate Kotisso on February 5th, 2014

morning5_big12

  1. Last night posed the opportunity for a letdown with Texas beating league-leading Kansas on Saturday and then turning around to face last-place TCU on the road. The Longhorns trailed by two points at the half and had committed their season average of 10 turnovers to that point, but the second 20 minutes were a completely different story. The Horns regrouped as Jonathan Holmes poured in 17 of his 20 points on their way to their seventh straight Big 12 win. The Horns did all of this without one of their better ball-handlers available, as Javan Felix was out of the lineup due to a concussion he suffered on Saturday. It looks like we’re seeing the young Longhorns grow up right before our eyes.
  2. Kansas’ win over Baylor last night might appear confusing on paper because the Jayhawks won easily despite Andrew Wiggins, Joel Embiid and Wayne Selden Jr. only combining for 23 points on 6-of-22 shooting. But the focus should be on point guard Naadir Tharpe, who had another good offensive game on the road. Oddly enough, Tharpe has had some of his better offensive performances away from Allen Fieldhouse. In the four Big 12 road games where he’s attempted at least one shot, Tharpe is averaging 16.2 points on 22-of-33 from the floor and 10-of-14 from downtown (71.4%). Statistical anomalies: Ya gotta love ‘em.
  3. Oklahoma State‘s defeat to Iowa State on Monday night could not have come at a worse time. The school had dedicated the night to longtime head coach Eddie Sutton; Gallagher-Iba Arena was half-empty; and then there was the whole triple-overtime loss. Sutton took some thinly-veiled shots at the fan base and perhaps even the team while attending the game. “It’s easier to play here [at GIA] now than it was before,” Sutton told the Tulsa World. “It was a lot louder.” Gee, he may have a point there. It is a little embarrassing when the head coach of a team with several NBA Draft prospects has to urge students to come to their games. Guess the thermometer on Travis Ford’s seat is heating back up again.
  4. It seems as though most pundits have Kansas State pegged as NCAA Tournament-bound at this point in the year, but with so many holes in this team can we really be so sure of it? The Wildcats haven’t won any important road games; they are hard to watch on offense; and they also rank dead last in the Big 12 in free throw percentage (64.4%). For a team that beats opponents by keeping games in the 60s, making free throws is all the more vital in creating some late-game separation. If they don’t fix this problem somewhat soon, the Wildcats’ life on the bubble will be a short one and the NIT is where they’ll be headed.
  5. This isn’t news to anyone at all, but Iowa State head coach Fred Hoiberg is very much winning in life. He played in the NBA; he is currently coaching his alma mater (and doing well); and now he is putting up high scores on the Flappy Bird app. Now I’ve heard the Flappy Bird game is the thing kids are into these days but I have no clue how it’s played (how does one go about flapping the bird or does the bird flap you somehow?). In any case, Hoiberg scored a 123 which is apparently very hard to do. More power to him.
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Big 12 Power Rankings: West Virginia Back? Edition

Posted by Nate Kotisso on February 4th, 2014

Rewind to October 2011 when it was announced that West Virginia would become one of the Big 12′s newest members. Within the scope of college basketball, at least, it seemed like a home run addition to the Big 12. The Mountaineers were just a year removed from a Big East Tournament title and an appearance in the Final Four. Unfortunately the Mountaineers’ first season in the Big 12 was less than spectacular. In fact, Bob Huggins lost more games in 2012-13 than he had in any other year as head coach. But could WVU’s recent stretch of success be the breakthrough the program has waited for? Huggins’ team currently stands at 5-4 in the conference, with wins at Baylor and Kansas State in its back pocket and the second half of league play sitting before them. With Kansas, Oklahoma, Iowa State (twice), Texas, and Baylor next up on the schedule, we’ll see how serious this team’s at-large chances are. Below are this week’s rankings. If you disagree with us, let us know.

WVU's Juwan Staten just won Big 12 Player of the Week. He now joins the million other big time PGs in the Big 12. (Cooper Neill/Getty Images)

WVU’s Juwan Staten just won Big 12 Player of the Week. He now joins the million other big time PGs in the Big 12. (Cooper Neill/Getty Images)

1. Kansas — 3 points (previous: 1st; Brian, Nate & Taylor-1st)

Comment: “No one expected Kansas to run the table in the Big 12, but the effort at Texas on Saturday was a little concerning. As Bill Self said on Monday, the important thing is to not let one loss turn into two or three.” – Taylor Erickson (@tc_erickson)

2. Texas — 6 points (previous: 3rd; Brian, Nate & Taylor-2nd)

Comment: “While Rick Barnes is rightfully getting a boatload of attention for going from the hot seat to NCOY consideration, he wouldn’t be able to make that journey without vast improvements from Cameron Ridley and Jonathan Holmes, who were two keys to the Longhorns’ upset over Kansas. Texas was the only team that could match up well against Kansas’ size, and they executed about as well as Barnes could have asked.” – Brian Goodman (@BSGoodman) Read the rest of this entry »

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Big 12 M5: Day After The Super Bowl Edition

Posted by Nate Kotisso on February 3rd, 2014

morning5_big12

  1. We’re not wrong when we say Saturday in the Big 12 was more Super than the so-called Super Bowl. Kansas brought its perfect conference record to “The Drum” in Austin and left imperfect. Jonathan Holmes’ jumper with 16:38 left in the first half gave Texas a lead it would never relinquish. This makes it six wins in a row for the Longhorns, and while it’s still a surprise considering what the Longhorns went through a year ago, we shouldn’t really treat it as a surprise. Think about Rick Barnes’ best teams from the 2000s: Barnes had multi-year players like T.J. Ford, Brandon Mouton, A.J. Abrams and Damion James that took the program to the next level. This year, the junior Holmes and a crop full of sophomores continues to defy logic while shooting up the national polls.
  2. One of those heralded Texas sophomores will be out for Tuesday’s game against TCU. The school announced that Javan Felix will be unavailable because of a concussion he suffered in the team’s win over Kansas two days ago. Texas will try to extend its winning streak to seven without Felix’s 12.0 PPG in the lineup. I should the mention that the game will take place in Fort Worth, and with all the craziness that’s gone down in conference play so far, the Horns had better be on Upset Watch headed into this one.
  3. Speaking of craziness, Baylor ran into problems just making its way to Stillwater for a weekend tilt with Oklahoma State. According to Jimmy Dykes, who worked color commentary on the game for ESPN, their flight was re-directed to Oklahoma City due to icy conditions near the Oklahoma State campus. The bus from OKC to Stillwater cautiously braved the ice with high speeds topping out at five miles an hour. On top of that, starting point guard Kenny Chery was out because of a turf toe injury. So it only made sense for the Bears to win their first game in three weeks, right? Gary Franklin and Brady Heslip stepped up big-time, combining for nine threes between them, and we also got to see Rico Gathers start and finish a sweet fast break dunk. It was that kind of day for the Bears and who knows, maybe this is the turning point in the season that Baylor fans have been waiting for.
  4. On the other sideline, backup point guard Stevie Clark was arrested and charged with “outraging public decency” early Sunday morning. This marks the second arrest for Clark in a little more than a month after he was caught with possession of marijuana around New Year’s Day. Most of us also remember that Clark was suspended for four games and sent home from the Old Spice Classic for another undisclosed reason back in November. Travis Ford has yet to comment on Clark’s status but it will be interesting to see how he rules on his talented but troublesome freshman this time around.
  5. Can you guess the team that sits in fourth place in the Big 12 ahead of Iowa State and Oklahoma State? It’s OK if you had to Google it for the answer, but yes… it’s West Virginia. WVU took down Kansas State on Saturday to get to 5-4 in Big 12 play (K-State also has a 5-4 record but they might as well be fifth with the Mountaineers owning the head-to-head advantage). This win coupled with their road victory at Baylor appears to have brought some at-large possibilities back to life. If they’re able to beat Oklahoma this week and continue to add a few more good wins, that might be able to offset the missed opportunities the Mountaineeers had in non-conference play to earn a Tournament bid. Could we be talking about EIGHT teams dancing from the Big 12? Wow!
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Big 12 Power Rankings: Baylor is Losing its Mind Edition

Posted by Nate Kotisso on January 27th, 2014

Here was a team that was picked to finish third in the Big 12 by the league’s 10 coaches. They fought their way to the Maui Invitational championship game where they lost to a still-unbeaten Syracuse team. They didn’t seem phased by arguably the best recruiting class in decades against Kentucky, beating the Wildcats on a neutral floor in Arlington. But for whatever reason, Baylor currently stands at 1-5 in the Big 12 with two-thirds of league action still to play. Granted, two of those losses came at Iowa State and at Kansas, but the Bears haven’t been able to take care of business at home either, falling to Oklahoma on January 18 and Texas over the weekend. But hey, if it took six games to get us all freaking out over Baylor, it’s entirely possible they can turn their season around in the final 12 contests, right? (Right?!) Well last week, our power rankings had two groups of two that found themselves tied. We did better this time around: only one!

As best told by this photograph, there are a lot of things not going Scott Drew's way lately. (Rod Aydelotte/Waco Tribune-Herald)

As best told by this photograph, there are a lot of things not going Scott Drew’s way lately. (Rod Aydelotte/Waco Tribune-Herald)

1. Kansas — 4 points (previous: 1st; Brian, KoryNate & Taylor: 1st)

Comment: “What can be said about the Jayhawks that hasn’t already been said? Wayne Selden Jr. has been a different player since Big 12 play began and Andrew Wiggins had a career-high of 27 points against TCU. Curious to know how Joel Embiid’s knee is after bruising it in the second half Saturday. Based on how little media coverage it got after the TCU game, it probably isn’t serious.” – Nate Kotisso (@natekotisso)

2. Oklahoma State — 10 points (previous: 2nd; Brian, Nate & Taylor-2nd, Kory-4th)

Comment: “Marcus Smart played his worst game of the season, as this chair would tell you if it could, you know, talk. No matter, though, since the Cowboys still beat the Mountaineers.” – Brian Goodman (@BSGoodman)

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Big 12 Power Rankings: Kansas is Finally Finding Itself

Posted by Nate Kotisso on January 13th, 2014

Going into last Wednesday’s game against Oklahoma, Bill Self told his players that conference play was a “new season” and that everything would be “fresh and new from this point forward.” The young Jayhawks have heeded that message so far, getting past the Sooners and soundly beating Kansas State on Saturday. With a 2-0 start in the Big 12, we all figured they would rise in this week’s power rankings, but by how much? Is your top 10 shaped differently than ours? That’s what the comments are for.

It appears safe to close the panic button for Bill Self and the Jayhawks. (AP Photo)

It appears safe to close the panic button for Bill Self and the Jayhawks. (AP Photo)

1. Kansas — 6 points (previous: 3rd; Brian-1st, Kory-1st, Nate-3rd, Taylor-1st)

Comment: “It’s looking like Kansas’ non-conference struggles were nothing more than one of the youngest teams in the country playing one of the toughest schedules in the country. The Jayhawks have looked good the last two games and now have four legitimate threats to have a big game any on night: Andrew Wiggins,  Perry Ellis, Joel Embiid, and Wayne Selden.” – Kory Carpenter (@Kory_Carpenter)

2. Iowa State — 7 points (previous: 1st; Brian-2nd, Kory-2nd, Nate-1st, Taylor-2nd)

Comment: “I didn’t feel like I should drop the Cyclones in my top 10 — they lost to a pretty good Oklahoma team by five on the road. The winner of Kansas-Iowa State tonight will likely take my top spot next week.” – Nate Kotisso (@natekotisso)

3. Oklahoma State — 13 points (previous: 4th; Brian-3rd, Kory-3rd, Nate-4th, Taylor-3rd)

Comment: “Travis Ford’s squad avoided a disastrous start to conference play by knocking down a big three late to give them the win in Morgantown. If the Cowboys would have dropped two of their first three in league play to teams in the middle tier of the conference, they could have kissed their Big 12 title hopes goodbye.” – Taylor Erickson (@tc_erickson)

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Who Won The Week? Shabazz Napier, Memphis and Villanova…

Posted by Kenny Ocker on December 6th, 2013

Who Won the Week? is a regular column that will outline and discuss three winners and losers from the previous week. The author of this column is Kenny Ocker (@KennyOcker), a Spokane-based sportswriter best known for his willingness to drive (or bike!) anywhere to watch a basketball game. But he’s not biking anywhere with a sub-zero wind chill. 

WINNER: Shabazz Napier

UConn guard Shabazz Napier can claim two things after a buzzer-beating winning shot against Florida: Being America's top player, and being Who Won The Week's top winner.

UConn guard Shabazz Napier can claim two things after a buzzer-beating winning shot against Florida: Being America’s top player, and being Who Won The Week’s top winner.

The stellar UConn guard and his team only played one game last week, matching up against a ranked Florida squad. And Napier stole the show. Including the buzzer-beating free-throw-line fadeaway for the 65-64 win, the junior guard finished Monday night’s game in Storrs with 26 points on 9-of-15 shooting and a game-high three steals. It’s impressive to think that Kemba Walker’s backup backcourt mate during the Huskies’ 2011 title run has a solid case in being judged the best player in college basketball this season. If he keeps playing at his current level – the senior guard averages 16.4 points, 7.3 rebounds, 5.6 assists and 1.9 steals per game – he could solidify that claim by the end of the year. Of course, some more luck coming his team’s way couldn’t hurt; including Monday’s game, three of the Huskies’ eight wins have come by a single point.

LOSER: Florida

Already down the services of Eli Carter for the year and freshman five-star recruit Kasey Hill for a couple more weeks due to injuries, Billy Donovan’s Gators could ill afford to lose another point guard. Bad news in Gainesville: Starting point guard Scottie Wilbekin is expected to be out indefinitely after sustaining a similar injury with three minutes left in Florida’s aforementioned loss to UConn. Wilbekin, who already missed five regular-season games due to an offseason suspension, was tough enough to replace as the starting point guard when Florida’s second and third options at the position were healthy. Instead, the Gators face an onslaught of Kansas and Memphis back-to-back on the next two Tuesdays.

To give credit where it’s due, the 67-66 home win over rival Florida State last week is nothing to sneeze at, though Wilbekin did have seven points, eight assists and five steals in that match-up.

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What Did We Learn From Ohio State’s Weekend Loss To Kansas?

Posted by Deepak Jayanti on December 26th, 2012

Except for a tough road game against Duke, the Ohio State Buckeyes had not been tested during their non-conference schedule until their date with Kansas last Saturday afternoon in Columbus. Losing to the top ranked team in the country in their building did not set off any alarms about Thad Matta’s squad, but the 74-66 loss to the Jayhawks has raised a few questions about the players’ overall toughness against good competition. Filling the void left behind by the departures of Jared Sullinger and William Buford was the primary concern coming into the season for these Buckeyes. It is very clear that Matta has a deep and athletic roster but regardless of their talent, they will need to be mentally tougher if they want to compete for a Big Ten title and beyond. It is understood that the younger players will take some time to gel with each other and get used to extended playing time, but after 11 games this season, two aspects of their game clearly needs to improve – patience and fortitude. Let’s examine why they appeared to be soft on both ends of the floor against Kansas.

Deshaun Thomas needs to be more patient against tougher defensive teams like Kansas.

Deshaun Thomas needs to be more patient against tougher defensive teams like Kansas.

  • Poor Shot Selection: Deshaun Thomas has a quick release on his jumper and is one of the main reasons why he is the primary scoring option for Thad Matta. But he relies on the jumper too much during crunch time and smart defensive teams can lock up his mid-range game which tends to frustrate him. This was a glaring issue during the second half against KU when Travis Releford and Elijah Johnson crowded him immediately once he caught the ball in the high post or in the corner around the perimeter. Any time he came off a ball screen, he found a defender right next to him because the Jayhawks wanted him to put the ball on the floor. But rather than making the necessary adjustments and using his quickness to cut to the hoop, Thomas shied away from contact and instead forced up multiple bad shots. As the Buckeyes looked to make a run while down eight points around the four-minute mark, Thomas took an ill-advised 24-footer just a few seconds into the shot clock, thereby setting a horrible example to the rest of his team that had already been too content settling for jumpers throughout the second half. Thomas even admitted as much after the game when he said, “I don’t think they did anything special, they just played hard.” To make matters worse, Aaron Craft, the other experienced Buckeye, took way too many three-point attempts. Craft has never been a great shooter (career: 33% 3FG) but he has been trying to improve his shot selection this season. If he isn’t able to hit consecutive shots from long-range (2-of-6 from beyond the arc), then he should attempt to either drive the ball or defer to his teammates for scoring. Sophomore guard Shannon Scott was on a roll in the first half (15 points), but he did not look for his shot when Thomas and Craft were struggling. Both of the veterans need to be smarter and more patient with their shot selection and make the necessary adjustments when it is clear that opposing defenders are forcing them into taking poor shots. Read the rest of this entry »
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Big 12 M5: 11.07.12 Edition

Posted by Nate Kotisso on November 7th, 2012

  1. Jeff Borzello and his CBSSports.com companions near the end of their Preseason Top 25 +1 Countdown with a look at the Kansas JayhawksKU is going to finish the regular season as Big 12 Champions. There’s no point in fighting it anymore. It’s as much of a sure thing as Steve Spurrier getting a daily round of 18 in or Skip Bayless uttering something nonsensical. The only reason Borzello has a “Why This Team Will Disappoint” section of the preview because he has to. I’m sure the Bible has a passage that reads, “Thou shalt doubt not Bill Self.” Check again, it’s in there.
  2. Burnt Orange Nation released its full Big 12 preview yesterday. When making our own predictions here at the microsite, we came to the conclusion that predicting three through eight in the league was a total crapshoot. They have Texas ranked second in the league behind the Jayhawks, much like the mid-2000s. Their all-Conference team has the names you’d expect but a couple of their honorable mentions are from squads that will appear to finish at the bottom of the league. They aren’t as crazy as you’d think.
  3. The Remember the Miners Scholars Program is announcing the release of the Huggins Horrible Hankie. What fans can do with the “Triple-Hs” is wave them around (a la the Terrible Towel; forget that I just used a Pittsburgh reference) at West Virginia sporting events. The program’s Honorary Chairman is West Virginia coach Bob Huggins, who provides financial aid to miners, dependents of miners, and students pursuing an education in the world of mining. We all know mining is a major part of the Mountain State’s identity, so if you would like to get yourself a hankie or if want to know more about Remember the Miners, do check out remembertheminers.org.
  4. The Pistols Firing Blog has now hit number eight on its player-by-player countdown. Forward Kamari Murphy was the topic yesterday and he’s definitely going to get his share of attention as a freshman starter for the Cowboys. His high school coach at IMG in Florida was particularly high on him, and I am too, despite Travis Ford complaining about Murphy not doing enough with the ball when it’s in his hands. I hope Ford’s trying to keep Murphy under the radar now just so he can have a chance to surprise us all toward the end of the year.
  5. The Collegian just ran a story on the best player in the Big 12 that nobody’s talking about. Rodney McGruder was the top scorer from last year’s Kansas State squad and he leads a team with the experience of playing a bunch of big games under their belt. I have the Wildcats finishing fourth in the Big 12 and that has a lot to do with no important losses from the program other than Frank Martin’s departure. In fact, I’ll even go as far to say that K-State could be a sleeper team to make the Sweet Sixteen this year.
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Big Ten Non-Conference Schedule Analysis: Ohio State Buckeyes

Posted by KTrahan on November 1st, 2012

The Big Ten microsite will be analyzing the non-conference schedules for some of the Big Ten teams in the coming weeks. Today, we continue with the Ohio State Buckeyes. Check out their full schedule here.

Where we left off: Ohio State sure isn’t afraid to play anyone, and the Buckeyes proved that with last year’s non-conference schedule. OSU played Florida in the second game of the season, drew Duke in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge and played at Kansas. The Buckeyes won the first two but lost in Lawrence without top forward Jared Sullinger. Even the rest of the non-conference slate wasn’t a slouch, as OSU also visited South Carolina. That kind of schedule helped prepare the Buckeyes for a tough Big Ten slate, and they’ll be tested again this year before conference play begins.

Matta’s Team Will Be Challenged By the Buckeyes’ Non-Conference Schedule

Major tournaments: Ohio State will play some top-tier teams this non-conference season, so there’s little to nitpick, but the one criticism of the Buckeyes’ schedule is that they’re playing in a lackluster tournament. OSU will compete in the Basketball Hall of Fame Tipoff, matching up with Rhode Island followed by either Washington or Seton Hall. Those games will be played in Uncasville, Connecticut, and games against Albany and Missouri-Kansas City — one before and one after the Uncasville games — will be played in Columbus. Washington would be a decent opponent, but considering the other tournaments around the country, this isn’t the most exciting set of match-ups around.

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Big 12 M5: 10.19.12 Edition

Posted by Nate Kotisso on October 19th, 2012

  1. WE GOT OURSELVES A COUPLA FEUDIN’ COACHES AT BIG EAST MEDIA DAY! Jim Boeheim and Rick Pitino coach teams that do not play in the Big 12, obviously. But a reporter at Big East Media Day asked Boeheim about Rick Pitino saying the additions of Memphis and Temple to the Big East will “more than make up for” the losses of Notre Dame, Pittsburgh and Syracuse. Jimmy B responded by saying that Pitino was full of, uh…”Schmidt” if he said that and added that if he were in the Big 12 “like he wanted to be,” he’d call them the best league. OH SNAP! Pitino responded to Boeheim’s quote by saying Boeheim was also full of “Schmidt.” While understanding the loss of Syracuse isn’t ideal, Pitino remained optimistic about the new teams coming next season. I think it’s only a matter of time before Louisville will be a member of the Big 12 but man I wish I was at Big East Media Day! If you’re a reporter going to one of these things, you could only dream of hearing something other than PC statements and coachspeak. It makes them seem like regular people.
  2. Calling fouls in the paint are probably the toughest thing to do if you’re a college basketball official. So Curtis Shaw, supervisor of officials for the conference, shone a little light on the issue and laid out how this league will rule on such fouls. I’m not a fan of coming out and saying how refs are going to rule on this because now teams are going to practice charges in a way to get the bang-bang plays to go in their favor every time. If I were Shaw, staying quiet and keeping everything ambiguous maintains a balance within everyone in the league.
  3. Can you keep a secret: The freshmen in the Big 12 are pretty good. The Oklahoma State Cowboys, Texas Longhorns and Baylor Bears are all quite similar. Opposing coaches like them to finish in the top-third of the league and now they each have players on the Wayman Tisdale Freshman of the Year Watch List. Seems like everything that’s been said about how much Marcus Smart can make an impact has already been said, but not enough has been said about Texas’ Cameron Ridley and Baylor’s Isaiah Austin. Remember how epic DeJuan Blair vs Hasheem Thabeet was, before they played against each other and Thabeet was found to be nothing more than a tall stiff? Yep, it’ll be just like that. But better.
  4. Speaking of the Baylor Bears, it received a recent commitment from 2013 forward Ishmail Wainwright.  The former Missouri commitment considered St. John’s, Texas, Ohio State, and Baylor in his final four. In this Rumble in the Garden link, the Johnnies seem to have been the favorites to land the wing but Wainwright becomes the second big-time talent to have seriously considered St. John’s to end up with Baylor (Ricardo Gathers is the other). If you think Baylor recruiting hasn’t truly gone national yet, then you are sadly mistaken.
  5. The 2007-08 Kansas basketball team will be inducted into the Kansas Athletics Hall of Fame during K Club and Homecoming Weekend next week. This is hardly a shock. The Kansas-Memphis national championship game gave college basketball one of the better ends to the season in recent memory. It won’t be long before Bill Self has his own Hall of Fame induction ceremony, KU and the Basketball HOF included.
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Team of the 2000s: #2- Kansas

Posted by zhayes9 on August 19th, 2009

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Ed. Note: Check the category team of the 2000s for our other entries in this feature.

Stepping away from this decade’s rankings for a moment, one could make the argument that the runner-up recipient on our list would top a list of the greatest college basketball programs of all-time. Sure, UCLA and Kentucky fans may quibble, but the combination of legendary players (Lovelette, Chamberlain, Manning, Pierce), pantheon coaches (Naismith, Allen, Brown, Williams) and an arena that every true college basketball fan should visit (Allen Fieldhouse) could surely provide enough ammunition to make an argument to head an all-time list. The successes of this program’s basketball has extended into the current decade, complete with Final Fours, national championship heartbreaks and a comeback for the ages. Let’s take a closer look:

#2 – Kansas

team2000skansas

Overview. As one can tell from the chart above, Kansas has been the model of consistency over the course of the decade. Not even a Hall-of-Fame coach departing for his alma mater could deter the Jayhawks program in the 2000s. In fact, Kansas is the only school to reach the top-five in every single category considered, including a runner-up rank in Sweet 16s and Final Fours reached with seven and three, respectively. Other teams on the list have gone without a losing campaign and reached the NCAA Tournament each season, but none of those schools lost a coach midway through the decade. After Roy Williams departed, Kansas made a tremendous hire, luring Illinois coach Bill Self to Lawrence. He’s responded by capturing a Big 12 regular season title each season with the exception of 2003-04, a year in which he finished second and reached the Elite Eight (ho hum). The peak for Kansas may have come in the early part of the decade under Williams, though. The Jayhawk squads from 2001-03 were truly memorable. The 2001-02 club is still the only team in Big 12 history to finish conference play undefeated, a Drew Gooden-led group that finished first in the nation in field goal and winning percentage. A year later, Kansas led the nation in scoring margin and reached the national title game.

Pinnacle. KU’s only national championship in the decade would not have occurred if Derrick Rose or Chris Douglas-Roberts had sunk one more measly free throw during the thrilling 2008 National Championship Game in San Antonio. You know the story: Memphis leads Kansas 60-51 with two minutes left, the national title within their grasp…only to experience heartbreak of the highest order. Give the Jayhawks credit, though, for going perfect from the field and line during those waning minutes. Mario Chalmers’ game-tying three-point shot with 2.1 seconds left will forever be etched in the mind of college basketball fans and may be the single greatest moment in Kansas basketball history (from the wayback machine: RTC’s “morning after” analysis of the game). And that’s saying something. Long known for NCAA Tournament chokes, (we’ll delve into that in a bit) Bill Self finally reached the pinnacle, a pinnacle that is still going strong today. That national title squad was stripped of nearly every contributing player besides sixth man Sherron Collins and little-used big man Cole Aldrich, yet Self’s superb coaching led Kansas to another Big 12 title and Sweet 16 appearance in 2008-09. As the preseason #1 team in the land entering the next decade, the pinnacle has yet to conclude.

Tailspin. Many fans would immediately point to the heartbreaking loss to Syracuse in the 2003 National Championship game (you remember the infamous Hakim Warrick block), a last hurrah for Kirk Hinrich, Nick Collison and Roy Williams gone awry. But I’d be shocked if diehard Kansas fans didn’t select the consecutive first round losses in 2005 and 2006 to Bucknell (as a #3 seed) and Bradley (as a #4 seed) as the lowest points of the decade. The 2004-05 Kansas team completely collapsed after starting the season 20-1 and reaching the top spot in the polls, a squad led by Wayne Simien, Keith Langford and Aaron Miles during Self’s second season. They would go on to lose six of their last nine games before the shocking Bucknell last-second upset. The following season was different yet finished eerily similar. After a rough start, KU rebounded to win 15 of their last 17 games and the Big 12 tournament before falling to Bradley in the opening round. After the loss, Bill Self was labeled a perennial March choke artist and many questioned whether the Kansas program could ever return to prominence.

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Outlook for 2010s: Grade: A+. Kansas has returned to prominence. The Jayhawks enter the 2009-10 season as the near-unanimous favorite to raise another rafter in Allen Fieldhouse, a feat that would complete the quickest rebuilding job in the sport’s history. Aldrich appears to be one of the early favorites to win the Naismith Award and Self lured another McDonald’s All-American into the fray for next season in talented wing Xavier Henry, coupled with two more top-ten players at their respective positions in Elijah Johnson and Thomas Robinson to go with Tyshawn Taylor, Marcus Morris and Collins. Self is a recruiting machine and appears to be the frontrunner for Harrison Barnes, the top player in next year’s class. Kansas is the height of the coaching chain and, barring an unforeseen flameout, Self should be the KU coach for years and years to come (especially after rejecting a monster package from his alma mater, Oklahoma State). The March monkey is off his back and the future is extremely bright for one of the most storied programs in college basketball.

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