Big 12 M5: 10.08.12 Edition

Posted by dnspewak on October 8th, 2012

  1. No need to remind Chris Walker how difficult his job is this season at Texas Tech. He may have inherited one of the messiest situations in major college basketball after the resignation of Billy Gillispie, but he’s likely just happy to have the interim job at this point. With no expectations whatsoever, Walker is now pledging to get out and run with his new roster this season. Walker says he likes the Red Raiders’ athleticism, but as the article points out, his up-tempo style may depend on how well his new point guards perform. Last year, Gillispie’s point guards were nothing short of abysmal, and he did not ever find a viable option to take care of the basketball and facilitate offense. Those who’ve seen freshman Josh Gray say he’ll be a difference-maker at the point, but it’s hard to rely on a frosh for leadership and immediate production. No matter who takes the reins as the point guard, though, it’s nice to see Walker attempting to create an identity for this program. That’s the first step in the recovery process after the Gillispie debacle.
  2. Two former Kansas basketball players joined the Kansas Sports Hall of Fame over the weekend, placing a Jayhawk stamp on the state with Bud Stallworth and Wayne Simien. As younger folks, we had to google Stallworth to make sure to cover all of our facts. He starred in the early ’70s, reached the Final Four in 1971 and saw his number retired by the school in 2005. Googling Simien was not necessary, however. Simien played in two Final Fours under Roy Williams and blossomed into one of the nation’s top forwards as an upperclassman, averaging a double-double as a senior in 2004-05. He played briefly in the NBA before heading to Europe, and he’s now listed as retired by Wikipedia. A bit surprising, sure, but Simien built quite a basketball pedigree in his short career.
  3. We’re a little late on this, but Bill Self signed an extension last week to stay at Kansas through 2022. We’re not sure what we’ll be doing in 2022, but if Self makes it that far, he’ll rake in millions. The deal increases his annual salary, too, which begs the question: Is Bill Self still underpaid? Forbes took a look at the situation and makes a decent argument. The economic impact Self has made at Kansas is stunning. Forbes claims Self has increased the Jayhawks’ financial stock, from the eighth-most valuable college basketball program to the third-most valuable in just a few years. That alone is enough to justify Self’s salary.
  4. Speaking of money, Kansas State just shelled out $18 million for a new practice facility. It’s 50,000 square feet and gives the basketball program luxurious courts, offices, locker rooms and other facilities. It may not translate directly to a national championship, but it’s the sort of thing that helps in the recruiting business and adds an extra benefit to potential prospects. It’ll also make Bruce Weber’s job a little easier as he begins to mark his place in Manhattan.
  5. Oklahoma State represents Travis Ford‘s fourth coaching stop, and he’s had an interesting tenure with the Cowboys. After immediate success on the shoulders of the likes of Byron Eaton and James Anderson, he’s fallen on hard times lately and needs a rebound. As this piece points out, he’s slowly rebuilt the three previous programs at which he coached, but he’s now attempting to bounce back from an injury-riddled season and two straight seasons without an NCAA Tournament. It’s odd to say, but the pressure might be on Ford with Marcus Smart joining the crew this season. It’s silly to say he’s on the hot seat, but the direction of his program probably depends on how his team fares in 2012-13.
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Living in the Past, Part One: The Big 12 Ten Years Ago

Posted by cwilliams on October 28th, 2011

The past is a tricky thing. It can create false hope, persistent illusions, and distractions from the present. Especially in sports. Fans often live in the past, like an Indiana hoops fan relishing their team’s rich history while ignoring their recent downfall. That being said, the past can be a blueprint for a team’s future, a documentation of what has worked and what hasn’t. Today, I’ll explore where the ten remaining Big 12 teams were ten years ago, and compare that to where they are now.

Pervis Pasco Wants You to Remember Him. (courtesy:Kansas State)

Baylor

In the 2001-02 season, the Baylor campus had not yet been rocked by the Patrick Dennehy scandal. The Bears of that season were led by two dynamic freshman, Lawrence Roberts and John Lucas, III. After the Dennehy scandal, Roberts would transfer to Mississippi State, and Lucas to Oklahoma State, where they both found instant success, and were at one point two of the best players in the national college hoops landscape. Despite their young stars, inexperience weighed down the Bears in 2001-02, and they finished with a 14-16 (4-12) record.

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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

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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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