Depending on what transpires Thursday at its board of directors meeting, the beleaguered Big 12 will start anew: with or without a lawsuit from Baylor trying to block Texas A&M’s exit to the Southeastern Conference; with or without Dan Beebe as commissioner; with or without Chuck Neinas as interim commissioner; with or without an acceptable profit-sharing formula from The Longhorn Network; but definitely three teams short come July 1, 2012.
No matter what reform comes out of Thursday’s meeting, the Big 12 Titantic must get back on an even keel. The best way to do that would be to add three teams. Don’t keep it at nine teams and insist you can survive. Don’t add one team and deem it sufficient. Don’t add one team and promise to re-evaluate down the road. Add three teams, pronto, for the 2012-13 school year.
Conditions are ripe to pluck TCU, so do it. The school is 30 measly miles from the Big 12 office, closer than any existing member. Louisville and West Virginia are scrambling for a life raft, so throw them one. The Big 12′s ship might be listing, but the Big East has capsized and is about to go under.
BYU would be isolated in the Big 12, the only team in the mountain time zone, way up there in high altitude, just like Colorado, which couldn’t take it anymore and headed for the Pacific Ocean. BYU just claimed its major independence and created its own network. The school no doubt wants to prove these decisions were wise. Besides, the Big 12 already has experienced enough headaches with the Bevo Network and doesn’t need to invite another.
Adding TCU, Louisville and West Virginia would make the Big 12 simpatico again, not only in name but also in scheduling, which is crucial. The Big 12 could return to its six-team, North-South alignment and rekindle its football championship game, which has long been a money maker. Dallas Cowboys Stadium could host the Big 12 football championship. Kansas City could host the Big 12 basketball tournaments. Same sites as before, only with three new entries.
Replace Texas A&M with TCU and schedule accordingly against the opposite division — just like before. Pair Texas with Texas Tech, Oklahoma with Oklahoma State, Baylor with TCU, Kansas with Kansas State, Iowa State with Missouri and West Virginia with Louisville. Like a glove.
While other conferences freak out and form 16-team mega-conferences, the Big 12 can stabilize itself and show an even dozen is a far more manageable number.
The Big 12′s existing deal with ABC is up for renegotiation in the next two years, so there’s no time to waste. Make the Big 12 whole again. Twelve means 12. Enough squabbling. It’s time for the Big 12 to act, pronto.
The Thunder has the NBA’s third-youngest roster and its second-youngest starting lineup. Several players should still be in college, or are not that far removed from college.
Of the Thunder’s 14 roster players, only three attended college for four years — Nick Collison (Kansas), Royal Ivey (Texas) and Eric Maynor (Virginia Commonwealth).
This youth certainly is evident inside the Thunder locker room in March during the NCAA Tournament. Four Thunder players are No. 1 seeds in Daequan Cook and Byron Mullens (Ohio State), plus Cole Aldrich and Collison (Kansas).
Ohio State faces Nazr Mohammed’s No. 4-seeded Kentucky team on Friday in Newark. Cook playfully suggested he and Mohammed might not pass to each other Wednesday or Friday night becaause of that game. KU plays Richmond in San Antonio on Friday and potentially could face Maynor for a berth to the Final Four on Sunday.
Kevin Durant and Ivey were underseeded at No. 4 and Texas suffered a painful 70-69 loss to Arizona in large part due to a questionable five-second violation against the Longhorns on an in-bound play, which still has Durant shaking his head. Russell Westbrook’s No. 7-seeded UCLA team ousted Michigan State in the opening round, but couldn’t survived Florida. Nate Robinson’s No. 7-seeded Washington Huskies could have, and probably should have, beaten No. 2 North Carolina, but wilted down the stretch.
No one is puffing out his chest more than the 175-pound Maynor, who was recruited to VCU by former Oklahoma coach Jeff Capel. Maynor is a No. 11 seed who many inside (and outside) the locker room believed didn’t deserve a tournament berth. Instead, VCU is two wins away from advancing from the so-called First Four (play-in games) to the Final Four. The Rams have beaten teams by an average of 16.3 points — Southern Cal by 13; Georgetown by 18; and Purdue by 18.
Each time VCU has a game, someone from the other side of the locker room (usually Cook) tells Maynor to enjoy his last game of the season. “You’ve been saying that for three games now,” Maynor said.
The only player on the Thunder roster from a school that didn’t qualify for the tournament is Arizona State’s James Harden.
Since 1952, when the Final Four started being staged at one site, only three teams have gotten to play the event when it’s staged in their hometown.
Louisville lost to West Virginia in a national semifinal at Freedom Hall in 1959.
UCLA played in the 1968 and 1972 Final Fours at the Sports Arena in Los Angeles. Granted, it was the home gym of arch-rival Southern California, but the games were still played in the Bruins’ quaint hometown of 2.8 million residents at the time.
This week, Butler gets to play at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, which is seven miles from campus.
Other teams have been close to home for the Final Four.
Kansas played in the 1952, 1953, 1957 and 1988 national title games in Kansas City, Mo., which is 42 miles from Lawrence.
Kentucky played in the 1958 national title game in Louisville, which is 80 miles from Lexington.
Cincinnati played in the 1962 and 1963 national title games in Louisville, which is 105 miles away.
Kansas State played at the 1964 Final Four in Kansas City, which is 120 miles from Manhattan.
North Carolina State won its 1974 national title in Greensboro, which is 80 miles from Raleigh.
In 1950, CCNY won the national title in Madison Square Garden III, but back then there were only eight teams in the entire NCAA Tournament field.
- With its enrollment of 3,899 undergraduate students (4,200 total), Butler is the smallest school to reach the Final Four since St. Bonaventure in 1970. Broken Arrow and Tulsa Union High School have larger enrollments than Butler. The University of Tulsa, with its undergrad enrollment of 2,800 (and 4,200 total), nearly joined the Final Four’s small-school elite in 2000, losing to North Carolina 59-55 in the South Regional final in Austin.
- The seats at Victory Field, stretching from first base and curling around to third base, spell out “GO DAWG” for the Butler Bulldogs. Victory Field is home of the Pittsburgh Pirates’ Triple-A affiliate Indianapolis Indians and a facility that was studied in the design of Bricktown Ballpark.
- The term “Final Four” did not appear in an NCAA publication until 1975 and the organization registered a trademark for the term in 1981.
- Local economist said having a team from Indianapolis in this week’s Final Four potentially could cost the host city 10-15 percent ($5-7.5 million) in revenue. Hotels and restaurants could take a hit because West Virginia and Michigan State are less than a seven-hour drive away and Duke is 10 hours.
“The whole key to economic impact is getting people to stay overnight. Once that goes away, then you lose that hotel stay, you lose that dinner and breakfast exposure,” Daniel Rascher told the Indianapolis Star. He is president of California-based SportsEconomics, which has studied the economic impact of four Final Four tournaments.
The proximity of Michigan State and West Virginia could decrease revenues another 5-10 percent on top of Butler.
WATCHING HISTORY — ALMOST
Northern Iowa players were still in the Ford Center when No. 1-seeded Kansas was struggling against No. 16-seeded Lehigh late Thursday. At one point, the Jayhawks trailed 12-4 and eventually went on to a 90-74 victory.
The Panthers remained in the arena for the first half before returning to their hotel.
“We just wanted it to kind of be a close game, I guess,” UNI forward Adam Koch said. “It was fun to be able to watch it. I wouldn’t say were were pulling for (Lehigh). It’s exciting to get the opportunity to play Kansas, but at the same time, it would have been a pretty historical upset if Lehigh would have pulled it out.”
No. 1 seeds are 104-0 all-time against No. 16 seeds (since 1985).
DON’T LOOK AT ME
When asked who Fredette reminds them off, KSU’s Pullen looked at teammate Curtis Kelly, who plays forward.
“I don’t know. You guard the guards,” Kelley said, looking back at Pullen and drawing laughter. “What are you looking at me for?”
Pullen compared Fredette to Washington State guard Klay Thompson, who had 22 points earlier this season against the Wildcats.
“He has a real mentality to score the ball,” Pullen said of Fredette, who had 37 points in a double-overtime victory over Florida in Thursday’s tournament opener. “Klay is probably the only person we faced that really used screens like that. (Oklahoma State’s) James Anderson is a flat-out scorer.”
MARTIN REACHES OUT
When BYU coach Dave Rose was diagnosed with pancreatic neuroendocrine tumor cancer last summer, one of the first people in the coaching profession to call him was Kansas State’s Frank Martin.
Martin, who had pancreatitis (the swelling of the pancreas) a few years ago which for a couple of weeks was feared to be pancreatic cancer, admitted it hit home when he learned of Rose’s disease.
“I’m laying in the hospital bed, and I looked at my phone and searched to see what it is, and I found out, I believe, it’s 4 percent of the people diagnosed with pancreatic cancer survive it,” Martin said. “I lived with that fear for 10 days, but the good man upstairs didn’t give me that disease. When I heard coach Rose was battling that, it kind of hits close to home, someone you know actually is going through it.”
Rose, however, has had clear cancer scans since the fall and has been able to keep coaching. “His was a tumor that I believe happens to 2 percent of the people who have pancreatic cancer that can actually get cut out,” Martin said. “God is good to good people. I’m sure he’s taking care of him.”
Kansas center Cole Aldrich is running away with the school’s single-season blocked shots record. The junior center has 123 rejections this season including his five-block performance against Lehigh. Aldrich is also third on the school list with 94 blocks last year.
Today’s meeting is the second time Kansas and Northern Iowa have met in men’s basketball. KU knocked off UNI 94-60 in 1973 at Allen Fieldhouse.
NO DEJA VU, SAYS KU
Farokhmanesh hit a deep 3-pointer to give the Panthers a 69-66 first-round win over UNLV.
Kansas forward Marcus Morris is hoping he doesn’t see anything like that when the Jayhawks face UNI.
“That was a big-time shot,” Morris said. “He’s a big-time player to shoot it from that deep. Hopefully it won’t come down to that with us because he’s a clutch player and he did it once so he can do it again.”
Tyshawn Taylor isn’t surprised by what he’s seen in the first two days of the tournament.
The Kansas guard has watched No. 3 seeded Georgetown and No. 4 seed Vanderbilt fall and he doesn’t want to see the same happen to the top-seeded Jayhawks.
“I’m not surprised at all because it’s March,” Taylor said. “Everybody who is playing deserves to be here. I’m not expecting anybody to lay down.”
Compiled by Brandon Chatmon, Jake Trotter and John Rohde
Opening tip is still three hours away here in the Ford Center. Some questions need to be answered from teams competing in the first round of the NCAA Tournament:
- Who will score more points today, Brigham’s Young junior guard Jimmer Fredette or Lehigh freshman guard C.J. McCollum? Speaking of Fredette, the BYU record for most points in an NCAA game is 37 by Danny Ainge in 1981 against UCLA.
- Exactly how good is Northern Iowa’s defense? Will the UNI-UNLV game be in the 40′s or 50′s?
- Who is keeping BYU’s stats? Can a team really shoot that well — 78.6 percent from the free-throw line (first nationally); 83.0 points (second); 17.8-point margin of victory (second); 41.9 percent from 3-point range (third); and 48.6 percent from the field (13th nationally)?
- How does today’s Florida team compare now its national championship teams in 2006 and 2007?
- North Texas has won 11 straight and Kansas State has lost three of its last five, yet no one gives the Mean Green a chance in blazes of winning.
- Why would the No. 15 seed (North Texas) have to travel only roughly half the distance (150 miles to 300 miles) as the No. 2 seed (Kansas State)? Isn’t there a rule a lower-seeded team should have such a travel advantage against the higher-seeded team? Actually, there is. From the NCAA’s own principles and procedures to bracketing: “To recognize the demonstrated quality of such teams, the committee shall not place teams seeded on the first five lines at a potential ‘home-crowd disadvantage’ in the first round.”
- Kansas is No. 1 in all the important categories, but is this the week the Jayhawks finally reach their full potential? They’ve won 32 times, yet have played up to their capabilities an average of roughly 15 minutes per game. What’s that mean? That means KU has the greatest margin for error of any team in the country, a terrific recipe for success when you have to go on a six-game winning streak to win your second national title in three seasons.
- Finally, you had to love how Lehigh answered all their Wednesday questions about playing the No. 1 overall seed in Kansas. No bulletin board material here. Nothing but respect. You might say they were great answers:
C.J. McCollum: “(KU reserve guard Brady) Morningstar is a great player. Kansas is a great team.”
Marquis Hall: “We’re looking forward to the challenge of playing a great team like Kansas.”
Hall: “You know, we’ve played some pretty good teams as far as Richmond and things like that. Kansas is so deep, we probably haven’t seen a team exactly like them.”
Hall: “For me, you know, I’m not just happy to be here. I’m looking forward to the challenge of playing a great team in Kansas.”
Coach Brett Reed: “… You look no further than one of the top programs in the country in Kansas. If we look back beyond Thursday night, whether it’s the 30 wins, the rich tradition and history, we may be setting a trap for ourselves to try to find one gleaning example when they have so much history and so much — so many accomplishments in their back pocket as well.”
Reed: “It’s not going to be one player that’s ever going to beat Kansas or a No. 1 seed. It’s going to be a collection of individuals who are playing to the best of their ability defensively.”
Reed: “They definitely are a complete team … Looking at it, it’s really hard to find a lot of weaknesses. There’s a reason why they’re so well-respected nationally both by the media and by coaches and put them in a No. 1 seed.”
Reed: “They’re extremely well-coached (Bill Self). They have a leader in their point guard (Sherron Collins), who is tremendous. They have interior presence that is very tough, both offensively and defensively, and they have wings and forward who can no only shoots the basketball but also can drive and create offense for themselves.”
Kansas beat Texas A&M 79-66 in Friday night’s first Big 12 Tournament semifinal, giving Jayhawks coach Bill Self his 200th win at Kansas.
“That’s not a big deal,” said Self, the former Oklahoma State player and Edmond Memorial High School product who got to the milestone 11 games faster than previous coach KU Roy Williams. “But it is nice to get it. We’ve been on a pretty good roll here lately. I’d like to get to (No.) 207. That’d be nice.”
Getting to 207 wins this season would give Self his second national championship in the last three years. Self, who is in his seventh season at the school, is now 200-42 (.826) at KU and.407-147 (.735) in 17 seasons overall that included previous stops at Oral Roberts, Tulsa and Illinois.
On Thursday night, Kansas became the third program in history (Kentucky and North Carolina) to reach 2,000 all-time victories.
Texas leads its all-time series against Baylor 155-79. The Longhorns basically beat the Bears two of every three times they meet. Under such lopsided circumstances, intense rivalries rarely are formed, but Baylor has changed all that in a span of one year.
Texas coach Rick Barnes, who arrived in Austin in 1998, went unbeaten in his first 24 meetings against the Bears. Baylor snapped the streak last March with a victory inside the Ford Center at last year’s Big 12 Tournament. The Bears pushed their winning streak to four straight against the Longhorns with an 86-67 victory in a Thursday night quarterfinal at the Sprint Center.
“When I first got here, you never know what you’re getting yourself into when you come to a program that had been down for so long,” BU senior point guard Tweety Carter said. “I always wanted to be part of something special.”
The game featured three technical fouls and several verbal exchanges between players. The day before the game, Texas forward Damion James had said the game against Baylor was “personal.”
“Anytime you hear a comment like that you’re going to come out with another boost of energy,” Carter said. “We just wanted to come out and show that we belong here.”
Texas will have to wait until next season to snap its losing streak against the Bears. “But you never know,” Carter said. “We might see them again (in the NCAA Tournament).” Not the way the Longhorns are playing, they won’t.
Oklahoma coach Jeff Capel hasn’t been the only Big 12 coach trying to push all the right buttons this season. Texas coach Rick Barnes has been looking for answers since his team’s freefall began in mid-January.
In a span of just seven weeks, the Longhorns went from the nation’s top spot to completely out of the weekly Associated Press rankings.
“We’ve just been so inconsistent, and not just one guy,” Texas coach Rick Barnes said after Thursday night’s 86-67 loss to Baylor in the quarterfinals of the Big 12 Tournament. “To be quite frank, I’m baffled that we could go and do what we did today through a five-minute period. I thought we had taken some steps forward, which we seemed to do. Then we’ll take a step backwards.
“If I knew how to fix it, I would. I know what it is, it’s inconsistency. It’s from game to game wondering who is going to do their job, night in, night out.”
Sounds similar to some answers from Capel this season.
“I’m not sure, but as of right now I am. I’ll sit down with Coach (Jeff) Capel and have conversations about certain things. That’s going to determine what I’m going to do. Pretty much right now I am.” – freshman point guard Tommy Mason-Griffin, on whether he will return to OU next season
“There was one NBA player on that floor tonight. That was (Oklahoma State’s) James Anderson. It’s an insult to players in the NBA for anyone on our team to be … for anyone to think that those guys are NBA players right now.”– Capel, on whether Mason-Griffin and freshman forward Tiny Gallon should declare early for the NBA Draft
“They played their butts off, and many kids would have quit after the three weeks they had (losing seven straight).” – Texas Tech coach Pat Knight on his team’s effort in an 80-68 loss Thursday to Kansas
”Pass.” — Kansas coach Bill Self, when asked to make some opening comments during his post-game interview session, which drew laughter
“We don’t care what comes out of the stands. We know there will be a lot of Jayhawks in here, but we’ve become a pretty good road team down the stretch.” – Texas A&M coach Mark Turgeon, who played at KU and faces the Jayhawks on Friday in a 6 p.m. semifinal
Seven Big 12 men’s teams know they’re in the NCAA Tournament, they’re just waiting to find out where.
The only certainty is Kansas will be a No. 1 seed in Oklahoma City, no matter what happens Friday or Saturday during the Big 12 Tournament inside the Sprint Center. An announcement on how fans can purchase tickets for the Ford Center regional was made during the second half of Thursday’s KU-Nebraska game.
First-round destinations remain unknown for all other Big 12 teams, however. Kansas State presumably would head to the Ford Center with a good showing in the Big 12 Tournament. Baylor and Texas A&M could finish in the No. 3-4 range for a seed, which could be good enough to earn one of them a path to New Orleans and then to the Houston Regional.
But if the Bears and Aggies finish with the same NCAA seed, which team would get the nod for Reliant Stadium? Baylor is No. 8 in the RPI while Texas A&M is No. 12. The teams split the regular-season series, but could meet in the Big 12 Tournament final on Saturday. If that’s the scenario, perhaps the Baylor-A&M winner would get preferential treatment in the NCAA Tournament.
There’s no telling where the Big 12′s lower-seeded teams — Texas, Oklahoma State and Missouri– will be shipped.
First- and second-round sites:
March 18 and 20 - Oklahoma City, New Orleans, Providence and San Jose; March 19 and 21 - Buffalo, Jacksonville, Milwaukee, Spokane.
March 25 and 27 - Syracuse and Salt Lake City
March 26 and 28 - St. Louis and Houston
Final Four: Indianapolis (April 3 and 5)