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

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.

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Big 12 Morning Five: 01.16.12 Edition

Posted by dnspewak on January 16th, 2012

  1. In a sign of the times at Texas Tech, coach Billy Gillispie praised his walk-ons for their second half performance at Texas A&M after the conclusion of the 67-54 loss. On the road against one of the Big 12′s biggest disappointments, the Red Raiders used Clark Lammert and Luke Adams after halftime, and they combined for 17 points. “It came down to pride,” Lammert said. That doesn’t appear to be a major problem for this team, though, and Gillispie says the rest of the guys are “trying like crazy.” That’s a good start at least.
  2. Oklahoma State lost to undefeated Baylor this weekend. That surprised nobody. But the 105-65 margin? That’s a little concerning even for a crumbling Oklahoma State team playing on the road against the league’s best team. Ford says his team needs to move on and try to learn from the experience, which had to be humbling for these Cowboys. Interestingly, Markel Brown did say Baylor “could be beat” after the game though he did also offer words of respect. Sure, Baylor can be beat. But not by Brown’s team.
  3. Despite the ugly loss, the future looks bright for Oklahoma State thanks to a few incoming recruits. Marcus Smart and Phil Forte sat down with The Oklahoman to talk about that future and they will be catalysts in trying to right the ship for Travis Ford. Smart is the more heralded recruit, but he and Forte are good friends that go way back. So far back, in fact, that most refer to them as brothers. That family tie may come in handy next season.
  4. Frank Martin‘s post-game comments keep getting better and better. After Saturday’s loss to Oklahoma, Martin lashed out at the world: ““That’s why I tell you to not look at a team’s record,” Martin said. “Did Oklahoma look like an 0-3 team in conference play today? Did they look like a team that scored 48 points their last game out?” He has a point. Lon Kruger is one of the league’s most respected veteran coaches, and he’s going to get things rolling in Norman eventually. He also has a decent core this year that has the potential to play well at home and spring a few upsets as it did on Saturday.
  5. And staying with Oklahoma, Kruger says the Kansas State win was big for his program in the early stages of the rebuilding process. Sure, Oklahoma played reasonably well in the non-conference, but it still lost an ugly game to Saint Louis and blew a lead at Cincinnati. Then, after an 0-3 conference start, it appeared the Sooners may fall apart. But they’ve changed their approach lately, and as Kruger says, they are playing with a tougher attitude. Kruger’s not all that pleased yet, however. “We’re not anywhere near Big 12 (tough), physical and aggressive… We need to be a lot more physical, be a lot tougher.”
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