Big 12 M5: 01.03.13 Edition

Posted by dnspewak on January 3rd, 2013


  1. West Virginia has not exactly lit up the world during non-conference play. That may not bode well for the Mountaineers’ inaugural season in the Big 12, but this league seems entirely up for grabs at this point outside of the top spot. So despite some of their horrendous moments during this 7-5 start, there is no reason Bob Huggins should not feel at least a little optimistic heading into the league opener against Oklahoma this weekend. Funny thing is, West Virginia already faced the Sooners back in the Old Spice Classic during Thanksgiving weekend, which set its field before the Mountaineers departed from the Big East, but lost. Good thing it did not count toward the Big 12 standings.
  2. Ben McLemore has had a heck of a season. Is it the best by any freshman in college basketball? Debatable, but there is an argument to be made. These guys seem high on Shabazz Muhammad and Glenn Robinson III, but you could also throw Duke’s Rasheed Sulaimon, Indiana’s Yogi Ferrell, or a host of other players in the conversation as well. McLemore’s as good as any of those diaper dandies, though, especially because he has exploded as the leading scorer for a team that desperately needed to replace the production of departed stars Thomas Robinson and Tyshawn Taylor.
  3. Kansas’ end of the bench might be the most interesting in college basketball. You have Tyler Self, son of head coach Bill Self, and you also have Evan Manning, the son of former assistant/legend and current Tulsa head coach Danny Manning. Manning made the first three of his career earlier this week. He has a long way to go to catch his father — the all-time leading scorer at Kansas — but it is a start, we suppose.
  4. It’s never, ever a bad thing to see your name listed alongside Kevin Durant. That’s where Isaiah Austin finds himself in an article that describes him as a “poor man’s” Durant. Heck, to even be considered a “broke, homeless man’s Durant” would be quite the compliment. We understand where this guy is coming from, since Austin is a skilled big who can score from all over the floor and extend defenses with his three-point shot. He has played well so far, too, even though the doubters thought Scott Drew would misuse him. That has not happened. Still, as the years have gone by, it is easy to forget just how dominant Kevin Durant was at Texas. Austin has not approached that level yet and there is no telling how he will eventually fare in the NBA.
  5. The Longhorns could use Durant right about now, but you knew that already. Regardless, take a detailed look at where Texas stands heading in to Big 12 play. It’s not that pretty. The comparison between the suspended Myck Kabongo and freshman Javan Felix is especially important. As the numbers point out, it is actually the loss of Kabongo’s scoring ability that has significantly impacted Texas. Felix is creating for his teammates, evidenced by terrific performances against North Carolina (eight assists) and Michigan State (11 assists), but he is shooting a horrendous 13 percent from three. Kabongo would have likely taken on a greater scoring role in the absence of J’Covan Brown — instead, both are gone, and that has had a huge effect on this Longhorns team.
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Big 12 Weekly Five: 06.21.12 Edition

Posted by dnspewak on June 21st, 2012

  1. With the NBA Finals in full swing, the folks over at Grantland have dissected Kevin Durant’s role as a college player at Texas. Bryan Curtis wonders about Durant’s full impact with the Longhorns, claiming his stay seemed to last about “five minutes” as he struggled to recall defining moments from that 2006-07 season. Curtis admits it was a year full of highlights, but he seems to argue with himself over just how much of a legacy Durant left. If you ask us, Durant’s one magical season was enough to cement his legacy forever as one of the best players to ever set foot in the college game. The longevity may not be there, but rarely do players dominate from start to finish like Durant did that year. His team was extremely young–essentially all freshmen and sophomores– and if there were more experience, he could have cut down the nets. And by the end of his article, Curtis seems to come around to this line of thinking.
  2. Marcus Smart probably won’t have a freshman season like Durant, but his coach seems to think he will be pretty special. Travis Ford said Smart is the “ultimate competitor” who will “rip your heart out.” That’s partly why Smart is considered one of the top signees in the Class of 2012 in the Big 12. Of course, Le’Bryan Nash entered the 2011-12 season with similar expectations and struggled to live up to the hype, though he did eventually wind up playing very well for the Cowboys. With Nash and Smart in the mix, Ford will certainly have more depth to work with after playing with a razor-thin roster last year.
  3. Bruce Weber needs to learn about his team, so he is taking them to Brazil. Kansas State will spend more than a week in South America this August to acclimate themselves to its new coach, and these sorts of trips always seem to have positive effects on college basketball teams. The Wildcats have a good nucleus of returning players, but these experiences can strengthen bonds even between players that have been around the block– not just newcomers.
  4. Bob Huggins will return to the Big 12 with West Virginia this year, marking his second trip to the league after coaching Kansas State for a season in 2006-07. He said he is looking forward to the move from the Big East, and he thinks his team may be able to increase tempo on the offensive end and get out and run a little bit. The styles in the Big 12 and Big East may contrast a bit, but Huggins and the Mountaineers shouldn’t have many issues getting used to a new league. They learned plenty from playing in the rough-and-tough Big East.
  5. TCU has a different perspective, though. The Horned Frogs, the other new program in the Big 12 this year, hail from the Mountain West. That league was no slouch when TCU played there, but Trent Johnson‘s program is not as Big 12-ready as West Virginia. Johnson, who takes the reigns after resigning his post at LSU, senses a cautious approach from his team’s fans so far. It’s hard to blame them. TCU’s basketball history is not stellar, and it has not experienced much recent success either. Luckily, the basketball program is expected to see facility upgrades and renovations to its arena, so it appears the Horned Frogs are at least trying to keep up with the rest of the conference.
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Morning Five: 06.20.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on June 20th, 2012

  1. There are many coaching hires where the logical process makes normal and complete sense to everyone – a longtime assistant is promoted to the top job; a big personality moves on to a school to match his ego; a mid-major guy is looking for more resources and talent. Occasionally, though, a random hire has everyone around the industry scratching his head wondering what they missed. It’s not very often that you’ll see a career assistant coach — mostly at the collegiate level, at that — make the jump to NBA head coach, but that’s exactly what St. John’s assistant Mike Dunlap did this week. Other than a handful of games when head coach Steve Lavin was out with prostate cancer last season, Dunlap has spent the last six seasons as an assistant, and the extent of his head coaching experience came at Division II Metro State from 1997-2006. Dunlap reportedly beat out more prominent names such as Jerry Sloan, Brian Shaw, and Quin Snyder for the position, and although according to Jeff Goodman everyone knows he can coach, this is a real gamble on the part of the GOAT as part owner of the Charlotte Bobcats.
  2. If a player only sets foot on your campus for the better part of eight months, is it OK for an alumnus to claim that star as one of his own? That’s the question posed by Grantland’s Bryan Curtis as a Longhorn considering the provenance of one Kevin Durant, one of the NBA’s brightest stars but a player who probably wasn’t around Austin long enough to even witness the bats on Congress Avenue Bridge. Curtis ultimately settles on the answer “yes,” – shocking, we know – but he actually digs up some thoughtful and relevant examples of other prominent Texas grads who were early entries into the work force well before it was fashionable. A couple of those names? Walter Cronkite and Michael Dell.
  3. Stop the presses, but Fab Melo has decided to speak about his suspensions last season at Syracuse. If you recall, the Big East DPOY was suspended twice during the season, including a devastating NCAA Tournament suspension that essentially killed the Orange’s realistic chances at a national title. The reason: (drum roll) academics. Melo is touring around the country in an effort to improve his draft stock, and he decided to talk about his time away from Jim Boeheim’s team during his sophomore year this week. To wit, “They ask, I explain (what) happened — that I came from another country and until four years ago didn’t even speak English.” This is all fine and well, but if we were an NBA scout, we might be willing to look past one indiscretion — but dropping the ball during the most important month of his collegiate career is an altogether different story. Did he forget how to stay eligible between the first part of his sophomore year and his second? Or did he realize he was going to be a millionaire soon and decided to stop caring about classes? That’s the question that should be asked — whether the answer is relevant to his future prospects as a ball player isn’t for us to decide.
  4. With all the bad blood surrounding conference realignment, we’re actually surprised that we haven’t seen what the CAA has decided to do more often. The league announced on Tuesday that departing members Old Dominion and Georgia State – both of which will remain in the league in 2012-13 – will not be eligible to compete for conference championships next year. The CAA’s Council of Presidents voted unanimously to uphold a longstanding rule meant to dissuade schools from jumping ship. VCU, which will join the Atlantic 10 next month, will obviously not be impacted, but this goes to show that conference realignment at its core is something of a bloodsport, and memories of such influential people at the highest levels tend to not easily erase.
  5. We sorta love it when in-state rivalries are exacerbated through the local media, and NC State is only the latest and greatest to use the old standbys — billboards and television ads — to make declarations of grandeur based on nothing more than marketing, spit, and perhaps a little duct tape. Whether you measure it by success or fans, there’s virtually no possible way to justify an assertion that the great state of North Carolina belongs to NC State, but hey, whatever gets the juices running (and it’s still funny). Of course, even if NC State has won the last 10,000 football games against UNC, Duke, and Wake Forest combined, that’s still not what matters in the Tar Heel State any more than Auburn beating Alabama in basketball matters a lick. Kudos to NC State for giving it a shot, but nobody is fooled.
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Big 12 Weekly Five: 06.13.12 Edition

Posted by dnspewak on June 13th, 2012

  1. With the NBA Finals at the forefront of our sport right now, it’s easy to forget the series between Oklahoma City and Miami actually has a bit of a college flavor to it. We are all focused on the individual matchup between Kevin Durant and LeBron James, but Durant has an even more familiar foe on the opposing Heat bench: Dexter Pittman. Pittman and Durant entered Texas as a part of the same 2006 recruiting class for Rick Barnes, and Pittman said this week he credits Durant for helping to build the Texas program. Since Durant left after that magical 2006-07 season — a year Pittman hardly saw in action on the court — the two were not exactly the Bash Brothers in Austin. But Pittman went on to have a very successful career after Durant’s departure, losing an unbelievable amount of weight over the course of four years to eventually develop into a pro player.
  2. The Darrell Williams saga rages on. The Oklahoma State forward, charged on five counts of both rape and battery, has now seen his trial delayed until July 9. That’s only a week later than it was supposed to begin, but it’s been a long time coming for Williams. He has pleaded not guilty to all charges. Oklahoma State originally suspended Williams after the event became public and he will remain off the team until the legal system sorts itself out.
  3. When Frank Martin left Kansas State for South Carolina, he left behind a budding star in Rodney McGruder. McGruder’s over it, though: Read as he describes the process of Martin’s departure. It is refreshing to see a player stay loyal to his school no matter the circumstances, but it has to be hard for McGruder to adjust to an entirely new system as a senior. Especially in this instance, Martin had such a unique style of coaching and motivating, that it will be a challenge for Bruce Weber to replace that. And that goes for all the players he inherits, not just McGruder.
  4. Remember Doc Sadler? That guy who coached Nebraska as recently as, um, a few months ago? Well, the fired Cornhusker is now expected to join Bill Self‘s staff at Kansas as the director of basketball operations. That may not sound very enticing because it’s not technically an assistant coaching position, but it worked out for the last guy. Barry Hinson, after his firing from Missouri State, joined Self’s program as the director of basketball operations and then got a job at Southern Illinois this spring. Doesn’t sound like a bad deal when you think about it. Spend a little time learning under one of the best coaches in the game then use that knowledge and the connections to get another job.
  5. Staying with coaching hires in the Big 12, Texas Tech has also added Jeremy Cox to its staff as an assistant. He’s a Billy Gillispie guy, having coached under him at both Texas A&M and Kentucky. The man he replaces, Jeff Kidder, left for a job as a high school coach, so it’s a good opportunity for Cox. Interestingly, he comes to Tech from Nebraska, where he worked under Sadler.
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NBA Finals Features Plenty of College Stars

Posted by EJacoby on June 12th, 2012

The 2012 NBA Finals between the Oklahoma City Thunder and Miami Heat begins tonight in a dream matchup of star-studded teams that is sure to draw huge viewer ratings. The major media narrative of the series centers around the two superstars — LeBron James and Kevin Durant — and all basketball fans should enjoy watching them battle at the highest level. But digging deeper, diehard college hoops supporters are in for a real treat as each team features veteran players that were once stars at the collegiate level for Final Four-bound squads. Thought the Fab Five was a distant memory? Juwan Howard, former Michigan star from 1992-94 and current Miami reserve forward, thinks otherwise. Before the current John Calipari era, Kentucky’s last run of glory came in the late 90s, during which Nazr Mohammed was on the star-studded 1996 championship team before playing a much bigger role on the 1998 championship team. Fans surely remember Mario Chalmers‘ performance during the 2008 National Title game as well, featuring arguably the biggest shot in recent NCAA history. Chalmers is Miami’s starting point guard who will have to knock down some more big shots in order for the Heat to win. There are plenty of other players in this championship series that will bring college fanatics down memory lane.

Nick Collison and Cole Aldrich were stars for Kansas before being drafted by Oklahoma City (C. Landsberger, The Oklahoman)

The rosters of the Heat and Thunder combine to feature 12 (!) different players that once played in a Final Four during their college careers. Oklahoma City’s Final Four attendees include Cole Aldrich, Nick Collison (twice), Daequan Cook, Royal Ivey, Russell Westbrook (twice), and Mohammed (three times). Miami, meanwhile, features Shane Battier (twice), Dwyane Wade, Udonis Haslem, Mike Miller, Howard (twice), and Chalmers. These 12 players combined for five National Titles. Miller and Haslem were teammates at Florida for the 2000 Gators team that lost in the Championship Game to Michigan State. And this list doesn’t even include Durant, who won the National Player of the Year award in his only season at Texas (2007). Battier was also a NPOY winner at Duke during his accomplished college career. March Madness fans probably remember Derek Fisher, Eric Maynor, and Norris Cole, too, each of whom led small schools to the NCAA Tournament through leading point guard roles. Now they are all valuable reserves for potential NBA champions, though Maynor has missed this season with an ACL tear in his knee.

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Big 12 Mount Rushmore

Posted by dnspewak on February 22nd, 2012

When Missouri and Texas A&M bolt for the SEC in July, the departure will mark the Big 12’s first shift since its inception in 1996. For the most part, the past 15 seasons have belonged to Kansas, which has captured the only National Championship during this time period and has also won or shared 11 regular-season championships. The Jayhawks’ dominance extends all the way through the old Big Eight’s history, too. Naturally, we’ve selected two Jayhawks as the most influential figures. Perhaps it’s unfair to place so much KU emphasis on our four Mount Rushmore selections, and yes, it’s probably unfair to ignore the rest of the league as a result. However, we made our selections with an eye toward postseason success and long-term legacy. Frankly, no other Big 12 program can even come close to Kansas in either of those departments, so its players and coaches simply must be included.

Here’s our Big 12 Mount Rushmore:

Wayman Tisdale: The late Tisdale was more than just a basketball player. He was a musician, a man who publicly fought cancer for two years, and most importantly, a man remembered for being one of the most genuine people in sports. The forward had a productive NBA career, but he thoroughly dominated the Big Eight for three seasons at Oklahoma. As a freshman, sophomore and junior, Tisdale took home Big Eight Player of the Year honors, and he was unique in that he made such an immediate impact early in his career. Unlike most freshmen at that time, Tisdale didn’t need time to acclimate himself to the college game. He was a one-and-done kind of player who stayed and dominated the nation for three seasons. Frightening.

Danny Manning: These days, Manning roams the Kansas sidelines as a towering, hard-to-miss assistant coach. Two decades ago, though, Manning’s Jayhawks soared through the 1988 NCAA Tournament as a six-seed, shocking the nation by knocking off #1 Oklahoma in the title game in Kansas City. To this day, even fans who never watched Larry Brown’s team play still refer to that squad as “Danny and the Miracles.” Manning may have scored the most points in Big Eight history, but we’ll remember him for the way he lit up the scoreboard in those six games in March.

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Big 12 Morning Five: 02.06.12 Edition

Posted by dnspewak on February 6th, 2012

  1. In the aftermath of Missouri‘s victory over Kansas on Saturday, The Sporting News helps keep the win in perspective. Yes, the Tigers could not afford to lose the final home game against the Jayhawks with the series ending after 2011-12, and they could not afford to slip in the Big 12 standings. By all accounts, it was a monumental win. But it’s also a long season, something Bill Self knows very well. “I’m leaving here disappointed we lost, but I’m leaving here knowing we’ve got a good team.” On the Missouri side, Kim English tried not to oversell the win either: “Just a game we needed to win to continue our quest to win the Big 12.” The storylines are now all set for the February 25 rematch, a game that actually could define the season for both programs.
  2. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch had a different take on MU’s win, as Bryan Burwell accurately captured the drama and hype of the whole weekend. It’s interesting to note here that Hubert Davis, no stranger to raucous crowds after his career at North Carolina, said the atmosphere was as charged as any he’d ever experienced. That’s high praise for MU. But we also think Davis would say the same thing if he attends the Border War rematch in three weeks.
  3. After a midseason surge, Oklahoma has now fallen back to earth. The Sooners have lost four of five games, but there’s a formula to get Lon Kruger’s team back on track. A couple of things stand out here. First, the writer has advocated for Cameron Clark as a permanent bench player, an issue we’ve written extensively about this year. Also, he says the Sooners should use more zone to hide their lack of depth and utilize Romero Osby better offensively. Perhaps the most interesting part of the article is the idea that Carl Blair should handle the ball more in order to give starting point guard Sam Grooms a break. Ballhandling may be OU’s biggest concern, so maybe Kruger will heed this advice. Or not. Either way, he knows what he’s doing — we’re sure of that.
  4. Missouri and Kansas aren’t the only rivals ending their series after the season. Texas and Texas A&M are experiencing the same thing with the Aggies leaving for the SEC, and one writer took a look back at the most memorable games of the last 30 years. You’ll surely remember some of the games included from the past decade, especially the 2006 and 2007 matchups. In the first of those two, ice-in-the-veins point guard Acie Law made a buzzer-beater, and in the rematch the next season, Kevin Durant overcame Law’s heroics in an overtime win. Enough of this nostalgia. Play each other, people!
  5. Royce White’s terrific season has earned him some national buzz, meaning he’s now showing up on the NBA’s radar. According to Jalen Rose, though, White should stay in school. Rose said the forward would be a Player of the Year candidate next season, and it’s hard to disagree with him. White’s rise to the top has been amazing — and fast. We knew he could play when he attended Minnesota as a blue-chip recruit, but nobody could have envisioned the kind of production he’s putting up as a Cyclone this season.
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Who’s Got Next? Noel Re-Classifies to 2012, Jefferson Close To Deciding And More…

Posted by Josh Paunil on February 2nd, 2012

Who’s Got Next? is a weekly column by Josh Paunil, the RTC recruiting guru. We encourage you to check out his website dedicated solely to college basketball recruiting, National Recruiting Spotlight, for more detailed recruiting information. Once a week he will bring you an overview of what’s going on in the complex world of recruiting, from who is signing where among the seniors to who the hot prospects are at the lower levels of the sport. If you have any suggestions as to areas we are missing or different things you would like to see, please let us know at

Lead Story: Nerlens Noel Re-classifies To Class of 2012

Nerlens Noel Is Now One Of the Top Seniors In the Country. (Daryl Paunil/NRS)

Elite Junior Will Graduate A Year Early. There’s been ongoing speculation for a long time that center Nerlens Noel might re-classify from the Class of 2013 to the Class of 2012, but he didn’t gave much of an indication that he was going to. However, late Wednesday night the best shot-blocker in the prep ranks in the country confirmed that he was indeed going to graduate a year early and move to the Class of 2012. What does that mean? Well, other than getting to see him in college a year early, it means that he will have to decide which school he’s going to commit to in the next couple of months. Syracuse and Kentucky have long been the favorites for Noel and while a couple sources have told RTC that they think he will pick the Orange, it’s going to be a close race between the two. Other than John Calipari and Jim Boeheim‘s squads, Noel is considering multiple other schools and has already visited Providence and Connecticut while he plans on visiting Syracuse (February 11), Kentucky, Florida, Georgetown and North Carolina soon. He doesn’t have a timetable for committing but keep in mind that the regular signing period is April 13-May 18. We will be interviewing Noel some time in the next several days so if you’re interested in his recruitment, make sure you check back next week to see what he has to say about the schools on his list.

What They’re Saying

  • Senior star Rodney Purvis on why he’s happy he made the Jordan Brand Classic: “Being from the same city and with John [Wall] being like my big brother, I wanted to do all the things he did. I didn’t tell a lot of people, but I really, really wanted to play in the Jordan Brand Classic. Like a whole lot.”
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Big 12 Morning Five: 11.16.11 Edition

Posted by dnspewak on November 16th, 2011

  1. As the early signing period winds down, the folks at NBE Basketball decided to analyze the Big 12’s success this year on the recruiting trail. Two Texas schools hit it big. UT scored the top-ranked class in the league, as coach Rick Barnes hauled in a terrific group of forwards. Once again, Baylor’s Scott Drew made noise in the recruiting game, signing stud center Isaiah Austin to come to Waco. The best guard in the group might be Oklahoma State’s Marcus Smart, a physical five-star recruit in the mold of former Cowboy, John Lucas, III.
  2. A few weeks ago, Oklahoma City star Kevin Durant made headlines by playing a flag football game on the Oklahoma State campus. Now, he may make even more waves in Big 12 country. Apparently, Durant and a group of NBA players are organizing an exhibition game in Waco. It’s slated for Dec. 1, and John Wall, Tracy McGrady, Jason Terry and several other players will participate. With no NBA basketball to watch, this is a prime opportunity for basketball fans in Texas to see the game’s top stars. Tickets cost only $14, so it’s an incredible deal in the midst of this lockout.
  3. Frank Haith was obviously not the most popular hire in the world, but Missouri fans may finally be warming up to him a bit. Off to a 2-0 start already with wins over Southeast Missouri and Mercer, Haith seems to have won over his players and could win over his fan base if he continues his winning ways. Haith’s mediocre record at Miami and the ensuing Nevin Shapiro scandal has hurt his reputation, but he’s done a decent job of damage control lately. In fact, it seems as though all of that talk has just about blown over now that the games have begun.
  4. It’s early — really early — but the guys at have already put together power rankings for the league. We haven’t learned a whole lot about any one team yet, but it is interesting to see Texas in their fifth slot. Now 2-0, UT hasn’t knocked off any worldbeaters, but J’Covan Brown‘s early performances have been nothing short of shocking. We knew he’d be good, but averaging 30 points per game? That’s a gamer right there.
  5. One of the more unknown teams in the league right now is Oklahoma State. We’re not quite sure what to expect out of the Cowboys, as much of it depends on LeBryan Nash’s play as well as their newcomers in the front court. As OSU’s student newspaper mentions, it’ll be obvious right away whether these Cowboys can play thanks to a difficult non-conference schedule. Currently in the midst of the Preseason NIT, Oklahoma State has a chance to make its mark immediately on the national scene with games against two power conference schools among Stanford, Virginia Tech and Syracuse. It will also play Pittsburgh and Alabama in coming weeks.
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A Closer Look at the Texas/Kansas Rivalry

Posted by dnspewak on October 13th, 2011

There’s just something about Kansas that spurs all kinds of rivalries. Although it has dominated the Border War with Missouri lately and has traditionally beaten up on Kansas State (until Michael Beasley came along), the Jayhawks have found a new bitter rival to tangle with: the Texas Longhorns.  KU’s geographic rivalries will never be replaced, of course. But for now, the most bitter, cold-blooded rivalry in the league is between Bill Self and Rick Barnes‘ programs.

Rick Barnes Always Finds Himself in a Battle With Kansas

And there’s a simple reason for that. It’s all about the competition on the court. Kansas has won seven Big 12 regular season titles in a row, but the Jayhawks have shared two of those crowns with Texas. To illustrate the rivalry a little further, consider the following statistic: since Barnes arrived at Texas in 1998, the two teams have finished 1-2 in the Big 12 seven times. For you math whizzes, that’s more than 50 percent of the time. It began with Barnes vs. Roy Williams, and the fun has continued under Self. Even though this rivalry dates back to the beginning stages of the Big 12, it has seemed to particularly gain steam during the past five years or so. The two teams have produced some of the more dramatic contests in league history. Take a look:

Feb. 26, 2006

  • Texas 80, Kansas 55: Texas embarrasses Kansas in Austin to move into first-place in late February, eventually setting the foundation for a shared regular season title.

March 3, 2007

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