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: 12.08.11 Edition

Posted by dnspewak on December 8th, 2011

  1. Tonight is it: Bob Huggins returns to the state of Kansas to face Kansas State, which he spurned for West Virginia after the 2006-07 season. Despite the fan outrage– Huggins spent just one year at KSU, after all– there’s no denying he helped build the successful program Frank Martin currently oversees. True, Huggins did not even make the NCAA Tournament in his lone season as the Wildcats’ head coach, but he overachieved with a blue-collar roster and made the NIT. From there, he left his stamp on the program by luring Michael Beasley and Bill Walker to Manhattan, Kansas. As the article points out, he could have easily taken his entire coaching staff and those two star recruits with him to West Virginia. He didn’t, however, and it set up a solid foundation for Martin.
  2. Kansas’s Jeff Withey was once a heralded recruit when he originally committed to Arizona. After leaving for Kansas, Withey toiled in anonymity for awhile, but he’s back in action this season as a key contributor. The junior center nearly tallied a triple-double on Tuesday, and he has started every game so far this season. With Thomas Robinson and Tyshawn Taylor the only players on the roster with major experience at the Big 12 level, Withey’s continued production is a must for Bill Self.
  3. We all know the difficult story of Billy Kennedy, who had to take a break as Texas A&M‘s coach this fall due to a diagnosis of Parkinson’s. Luckily, he’s starting to regain his strength and normal level of energy. That’s great news for the Aggies, who should also get star wing Khris Middleton back from an injury very soon. A&M has lost just one game thus far, and it has handled the inferior opponents on its schedule. From here, the season should only trend uphill.
  4. Iowa State is Newcomer U with so many transfers this season, but freshman Percy Gibson is starting to make a name for himself as well. Gibson started his first game of young career on Tuesday in a win over Prairie View A&M, scoring 15 points and grabbing seven rebounds. Although he may not stay in the starting lineup, he’s poised to earn major playing time with his performance so far this year.
  5. If Missouri keeps winning, you will probably see quite a few more articles that are basically mea culpas for criticizing the hiring of Frank Haith, which at the time was widely criticized and had little support from fans or analysts. If they did so privately, they certainly wouldn’t have gone public with that opinion. Haith had very little success at Miami, and there was almost nothing to suggest he could succeed in Columbia. That, folks, is why they play the games. Haith’s team hasn’t lost yet, and it looks like the top team in the Big 12 right now with blowout wins over Notre Dame, Cal, and Villanova. 
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Big 12 Morning Five: 12.07.11 Edition

Posted by dnspewak on December 7th, 2011

  1. The departure of Missouri from the Big 12 raised questions about the future location of the Big 12 Men’s and Women’s Basketball Tournaments last month, but league athletic directors now say both tourneys will stay in Kansas City. The city is still a prime location for the tournaments with Kansas and Kansas State located so close, but it’s still interesting to consider that the Big 12 will host a tournament in a state where no member school will be located. As long as the 10 teams in the conference don’t mind, however, Kansas City is a fine centralized spot for fans to travel to.
  2. Soon, Kansas State and West Virginia will meet twice a year, and that means KSU coach Frank Martin will face Bob Huggins, who spurned the Wildcats for his hometown school in 2008. However, there’s a first time for everything — and that first time will take place Thursday night. Eventually the excitement of facing Huggins will wear off for Kansas State fans, but this first meeting will be quite an awkward encounter. Huggins did a terrific job setting the foundation for KSU’s turnaround, in particular by helping sign Michael Beasley and Bill Walker. But there’s still a lot of hard feelings about the way he left after one season too.
  3. In related news, another future Big 12 game happened last night between Texas Tech and TCU, and the Horned Frogs proved they may belong in this league. Jim Christian‘s team is now 7-2 after the six-point win over Tech, and the game drew more than 6,000 fans. That sounds modest, but it’s TCU’s largest showing in a non-conference contest since 2004. That fact alone might be frightening for the long-term viability of TCU’s program and to fellow Big 12 schools, but at least there’s an obvious improvement taking place here.
  4. With the new 18-game schedule, conference play will begin especially early in January this season. Until then, though, Oklahoma State has a tremendous challenge ahead. From now until New Year’s Day, OSU will play against Missouri StatePittsburgh, New Mexico, Alabama, SMU and Virginia Tech. Um, what? That’s all before Big 12 play starts? Good luck, Travis Ford. That’s not an easy road to 2012.
  5. Missouri stayed undefeated by beating Villanova in New York City last night, helped in part by gritty effort by MU senior Kim English. He’s revitalized his game this season after struggling as a junior, and ESPN’s fantastic Dana O’Neil profiled English and his much-publicized bout with a childhood stutter. English is one of the more outgoing players in college basketball, and now that he’s seeing his production skyrocket on the court, it’s hard not to root for him.
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Learning Curve Begins for Kansas State

Posted by dnspewak on December 1st, 2011

After losing star guard Jacob Pullen to graduation, Kansas State was one of the more difficult teams to peg during this preseason. Frank Martin has recovered just fine from past departures from Michael Beasley, Bill Walker, and Dennis Clemente, but there’s no question this 2011-12 team is vastly different than the squad that earned a five-seed in the NCAA Tournament a year ago.

And through three games, Kansas State still hasn’t answered any questions: it overcame sluggish first halves defeat Charleston Southern, Loyola Chicago, and Maryland Eastern Shore. None of the Wildcats’ wins were particularly troublesome, but they weren’t exactly convincing either. They trailed by 14 at halftime to Charleston Southern and led by single digits at the break in its two following wins. What do we make of these Kansas State Wildcats?

Frank Martin Is About to Learn A Lot About His Team

We’ll find out starting tonight, when they host a decent George Washington program at 7 PM. This isn’t the same Colonials team that once ran the table in the A-10 during the middle of the decade, but first-year head coach Mike Lonergan has his team off to an impressive 4-1 start. With a veteran squad returning from a 4th-place team in 2010-11, GW has already knocked off Detroit and Austin Peay, both considered favorites to win their respective conferences.

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Big 12 Morning Five: 11.10.11 Edition

Posted by dnspewak on November 10th, 2011

  1.  The one word a college basketball coach never wants to utter is “suspension.” In Lon Kruger’s case, however, the suspension of junior guard Steven Pledger could be much, much worse. Pledger, who averaged 10.9 PPG last season for Oklahoma, will miss just one game after playing in a professional event this summer. If you’re wondering, OU plays Idaho State in its season opener Friday night, a team which finished 9-20 last season and lost three starters. Needless to say, when Pledger returns for the second game of the season against Coppin State on November 18, the damage should be minimal.
  2. The Michael Beasley lawsuit, part of which accuses Kansas State of serious NCAA violations, hasn’t gained much steam in the national media lately. One outlet in Manhattan, Kansas, is covering the story, of course, and this article breaks down the situation pretty coherently. Basically, it all comes down to any knowledge the coaching staff had of Beasley’s allegations. It’s very difficult to prove “knowledge,” though. Just ask Frank Haith, who’s embroiled in the same sort of scandal from his days at Miami. The issue for Haith is whether he knew about a payment to a recruit at UM, and that’s the same question raised in this case.
  3. The resignation of Penn State football coach Joe Paterno made national headlines Wednesday night, and it’s interesting to draw comparisons to the Baylor murder scandal from 2003. Like at PSU, the Bears’ situation also dealt with a cover-up by head coach Dave Bliss, though his role in that scandal was significantly more active. Bliss actually tried to paint the victim — former player Patrick Dennehy — as a drug dealer to hide several violations that had occurred during Dennehy’s career. The two scandals aren’t quite parallel, but they’re both landmark incidents in the continuing stain of college sports.
  4. Basketball prospects signed letters of intent all across the Big 12 on Wednesday, which marked the first day of the early signing period. And although Iowa State didn’t make national headlines with its signings, it did add Mr. Popularity. Georges Niang is already a Twitter sensation, and coach Fred Hoiberg says he’ll be replaced by Niang in terms of popularity “the minute he steps on campus.” And we’re talking about The Mayor here, folks. Here’s to a healthy and productive career for the likeable Niang over in Ames.
  5. Do you dare pick against Kansas in the Big 12 after seven league titles in a row? We didn’t, but Seth Davis has. He tweeted on Wednesday that he thinks Baylor would win the league — “eight is too much,” he said. After losing so much production from last season, it’s an understandable position. But with so many outspoken Jayhawks roaming the social media world nowadays, Davis had better be ready to defend his position.
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Big 12 Morning Five: 10.28.11 Edition

Posted by dnspewak on October 28th, 2011

  1. In news so shocking it’s hard to even comprehend, Texas A&M coach Billy Kennedy announced Thursday night that he has Parkinson’s disease. He had taken a leave of absence earlier this month to deal with medical problems, and now we know why. Things are looking up for Kennedy and his family, though. He said he’s already started treatment and expects to continue coaching. In the meantime, associate coach Glynn Cyprien will continue to run the team. It’s impossible to know when Kennedy will come back, but that’s irrelevant at this point. Here’s to successful management and eventual recovery from the disease.
  2. Somebody stop the madness: is Missouri joining the SEC or not? Not even the freakin’ league knows, for goodness sake. Last night, the SEC’s website posted a press release welcoming the Tigers — for about ten minutes. It may have been a hoax. Or, perhaps somebody accidentally clicked the wrong button. Either way, it’s a real fiasco for the SEC, and it’s not exactly the best way to interact with the public in this age of mass media.
  3. Finally, some basketball news now… although it’s not good news. Kansas forward Thomas Robinson has hyperextended his knee,  which may sideline him temporarily. Coach Bill Self doesn’t sound too worried about the situation, but he can’t afford to lose Robinson for any period of time. He and Tyshawn Taylor are the two known commodities on this team for the most part. It also may be an issue if the injury nags at Robinson during the season. Again, though, this doesn’t sound like too serious of an injury, so that may not be the case at all.
  4. We brought you this story yesterday, but it’s important enough to worth mentioning again: A lawsuit by Michael Beasley may implicate Kansas State in recruiting violations. All of this is speculation at this point, but the suit claims Beasley’s mother received improper benefits while in Manhattan. The case is enormous and reaches all sorts of areas besides just Kansas State basketball, but there could still be trouble for the Wildcats. Coach Frank Martin and former assistant Dalonte Hill said they know nothing about the allegations. This story may drag out for awhile, but it’s worth keeping an eye on.
  5. Fran Fraschilla‘s got an idea: put Bill Self in the Hall of Fame. Fraschilla said this week that Self, Tom Izzo and Rick Pitino should gain entry to the Hall as active members. He has a point. Self’s resume already stacks up with several of the all-time greats. He has close to 450 wins, he’s got his National Championship and he has countless conference championships to his name. Even if we don’t throw him in the Hall just yet, he’ll get there eventually.
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ACC Morning Five: 10.28.11 Edition

Posted by mpatton on October 28th, 2011

  1. Tracking the Terps – Baltimore Sun: Maryland assistant coach Dalonte Hill was named as a third party in a lawsuit by Michael Beasley that could have major ramifications for college basketball. Hill coached Beasley on the AAU circuit with the DC Assault before moving on to an assistant coaching position at Kansas State. While I don’t think the lawsuit will affect Hill directly, it could expose some ugly realities about his role in Beasley’s recruitment (see Dave Telep’s article from two days ago for possibilities). I don’t expect Hill to make any comments on the case, but this is definitely something to keep an eye on.
  2. Terrapins Insider – Washington Post: Although Beasley’s lawsuit is bigger news for college basketball, Pe’Shon Howard‘s injury is bigger news for Maryland. Howard broke his foot and is expected to be out for around ten weeks. If it’s much longer than ten weeks, Mark Turgeon will consider redshirting Howard to keep his eligibility intact. But Turgeon also sounds focused on this season, and Howard’s presence would be a big boost for a team that will have major depth issues. While Howard is sidelined, Terrell Stoglin will have to handle the point guard position. This could go either way, but my guess is Stoglin will take some time to adjust to the new role.
  3. Boston Herald: Boston College freshman Patrick Heckmann wasn’t surprised with the team’s last place conference selection at Operation Basketball: “It’s kind of understandable. We lost pretty much all of our scoring options from last year […] We should surprise a lot of people how good we can actually play [sic].” My only revision would be to remove the “pretty much” from his first sentence. But the Eagles haven’t given up (and are “scrappy as heck,” according to Steve Donahue), which should serve them well in a conference where a lot of teams are rebuilding or have major flaws.
  4. ESPN: Mitch McGary is nearing a decision (ETA next week). He’s trimmed his list to three: Duke, Michigan and Florida (he claims North Carolina is still in the race, but it sounds like a combination of not hearing from them and Brice Johnson’s recent commitment to the Heels has them off the list). Maryland was the other school to get axed. His latest blog post also reminds fans that the recruiting process isn’t all fun and games: “To be honest, it’s been really stressful and, at times, it’s been hard on my family.” As a top power forward in the Class of 2012, McGary would be a huge get for the Blue Devils.
  5. Recruiting Insider – Washington Post: The NCAA has finally caught up with the 21st Century and will allow coaches unlimited calls and texts to high school juniors and seniors. Although the summer evaluation period has been tightened up a little, an April evaluation period will be re-opened. One of the less-reported points that seems like a bigger deal is that coaches will now be able to give an on-court evaluation of players during official visits.
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Washington Post: Beasley Lawsuit Claims Violations by Kansas State

Posted by dnspewak on October 27th, 2011

A countersuit filed by former Kansas State 1-and-done phenom Michael Beasley against an NBA agent suggests recruiting violations by Kansas State, according to an investigation by The Washington Post.  The Post‘s story centers more around the DC Assault AAU program, but the Kansas City Star does a better job explaining the KSU ties. Beasley’s civil suit alleges that an acquaintance of DC Assault president Curtis Malone provided funds to his mother, Fatima Smith, to pay for six months of rent in Manhattan, Kansas, as well as relocation costs. And this same man faces other allegations in the lawsuit– notably, that the agent, Joel Bell, told Beasley’s mother that her rent and car payments would be handled.

KSU's Michael Beasley Makes Some Bold Allegations Against KSU in a Lawsuit

Former KSU assistant Dalonte Hill, known for his ties to the DC Assault team, told the Post he did not know of any payments received by Beasley’s mother. Current KSU coach Frank Martin told the Star he also knew nothing about the lawsuit or the Post‘s investigation. Keep in mind that Bob Huggins was the head coach at the time of Beasley’s recruitment, though Martin was still on staff as an assistant. This could mean trouble for Kansas State, but the NCAA must prove two things before it can slam the Wildcats with any penalties. First, did these alleged payments even occur? And second, did any member of the K-State program know anything about them?

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Big 12 Morning Five: 10.26.11 Edition

Posted by dnspewak on October 26th, 2011

  1. Still nothing official on the realignment front… but the rumors are heating up with respect to West Virginia. The New York Times reported Tuesday that a WVU official said the school has gained acceptance to the Big 12. The Mountaineers, of course, would replace Missouri, who according to numerous sources were expected to withdraw from the league earlier this week. That never happened — not officially, at least — but the next few weeks could be a real firestorm. In fact, it’s arguable that these are some of the most important times in college sports history, as the entire landscape could change by Thanksgiving. That’s why we’ll make sure to bring you the latest analysis when this information moves from secret sources and rumors to official statements and press releases.
  2. Sticking with realignment, we’ve already told you of Notre Dame’s interest in the Big 12. It hasn’t exactly been a secret — a document mentioned ND as a candidate last month. But the talk of the Irish is getting louder and louder, and it’s worth mentioning that has reported that the two sides are “actively” discussing an inclusion of Notre Dame’s non-revenue sports in the conference. According to the site, the school won’t make a final decision until after football season ends.
  3. One interesting aspect of a possible Missouri departure is what to do with the Big 12 Tournament. It’s slated for Kansas City through 2014, but can you really hold a basketball tournament in a state where no school participates? According to the Kansas City Star, the answer may be “yes” to that question. A Sprint Center official said there is no reason to believe the league would pull the tournament from KC if the Tiger program were to leave for the SEC. With Kansas State and Kansas so close to Kansas City, it would still be a prime target as a central Big 12 location. Still, it might be a bit odd for the city to host a major tournament without a single conference member located in that state.
  4. Also, if West Virginia were to join the Big 12, it would obviously play Kansas State each year. And that means a regular trip back to Manhattan for WVU coach Bob Huggins, who you’ll recall left KSU after just one season as head coach there. In the end, everything worked out for KSU: Michael Beasley and Bill Walker stayed despite Huggins’ departure, Martin continued the school’s success after they bolted for the NBA, and the program appears to be in fine shape right now. Still, it seemed like the end of the world at the time, and needless to say, Wildcat fans were devastated by his departure. Looks like they may get a chance to air their grievances soon, though.
  5. Although we missed this piece of info on Monday, it’s still worth reporting: Braeden Anderson will now attend Fresno State after failing to qualify at Kansas. The 6’9″ forward who was rated as a top-50 recruit could have gone to junior college and joined the Jayhawks as a junior. Anderson told, though, that he did not want to take that route. That means Bill Self will need to find another power forward on the recruiting trail, and with his track record finding talented big men, that probably won’t be much of an issue.
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The Big 12’s New Faces: Kansas State’s Lamont Evans

Posted by dnspewak on October 20th, 2011

Lamont Evans: The Essentials

  • Previous coaching stop: Kansas State, graduate assistant
  • Career overview: Student manager (2008-09), graduate manager (2009-11)
  • Playing experience: Drake University, 1999-2001
  • Accolades: Missouri Valley Conference Newcomer of the Year (1999-00), All-MVC (1999-00)

The Breakdown

Entering his fourth year with the Kansas State program, Lamont Evans isn’t exactly a “new face” in Manhattan. The 2011-12 season marks his first, though, as a full-time assistant coach for Frank Martin. Normally, the promotion of a graduate manager to full-time assistant wouldn’t be especially noteworthy, but in this case, Evans has some large shoes to fill. He replaces one of the nation’s top recruiters in Dalonte Hill, who left for an assistant position at Maryland. At KSU, Hill was the highest-paid assistant in college basketball, pulling in more than $400,000 a year. And it’s not as if he didn’t earn that salary — Hill’s AAU ties landed Michael BeasleyBill Walker, Jacob Pullen, Rodney McGruder and others.

Lamont Evans Landed a Promotion This Summer (photo by Jeffrey D. Allred/Deseret News)

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