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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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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RTC Live: Kansas vs. Texas (Big 12 Championship)

Posted by Brian Goodman on March 12th, 2011

Game #214. After going to town on a burnt end sandwich, we lick our fingers for the Big 12 Tournament Final in Kansas City.

Kansas and Texas have given us some of the most memorable games in Big 12 history. In 2003, KU beat the Longhorns behind 24 points and 23 rebounds from Nick Collison. In the 2006 Big 12 final, a young Kansas team starting three freshmen and two sophomores shut down LaMarcus Aldridge to capture tournament gold. The next year, Kevin Durant lit up Allen Fieldhouse for 25 first half points and followed it up a week later with a 37-point, six-block effort in the last game of the conference tournament. Kansas and Texas met up again in the 2008 final, with national championship hero (or villain, depending on your tastes) Mario Chalmers torching the nets for 30 points on 8-12 shooting from beyond the arc.  This year should be no different. Kansas lost to UT on January 22 after the Jayhawks were up all night grieving with Thomas Robinson over his mother’s death, and were zapped by the second half. Texas took advantage and rolled to victory, and from the minute the clock ran out that day, KU has longed for a second shot at the Longhorns. Both teams have taken care of business this week in Kansas City, and after yesterday’s semifinals played to seed, we very well could have another classic brewing tonight, so pull up a chair and join us as the Big 12 crowns a tournament champ!

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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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