MADISON, WIS. The Big 12 Conference failed to produce a Final Four squad in its first five seasons.
Now it has two.
Top-seeded Kansas University defeated No. 2 seed Oregon, 104-86, on Sunday in the Midwest Regional championship game and earned its first Final Four berth since 1993.
The Jayhawks' victory came one day after second-seeded Oklahoma defeated No. 12 seed Missouri in the West Regional final to earn its first Final Four trip since 1988.
"I think it indicates how tough our league was all year," Big 12 assistant commissioner Kim Anderson said Sunday while watching the Jayhawks cut down the nets at Kohl Center. "To have six teams in the tournament and have two get through the pack to the Final Four, it says a lot about the players, coaches and institutions."
The Big 12 has never produced a Final Four team in women's basketball, either. That will change tonight when Colorado plays league champion Oklahoma in the West Regional final at Boise Idaho.
"It's great for the league and the schools, in terms of recruiting and television exposure," said Anderson, a former Missouri player and coach. "It brings to the forefront what a lot of us had thought all along Â that this was a great basketball league."Â
Play of the game: So many to chose from. How about freshman Keith Langford's follow slam of Drew Gooden's miss with 5:40 to play? It was part of a 14-3 run that stretched KU's lead from 77-72 to 91-75.Â
Make up your minds: While the Jayhawks cut down the nets, KU fans chanted "One more year" to both Gooden Â who might leave school after his junior year for the NBA Â and assistant coach Neil Dougherty, who is to be named head coach at Texas Christian today. Fans also chanted "Three more years" to Langford, who finished with 20 points and eight rebounds against the Ducks. The freshman reserve scored 15 points in Friday's regional semifinal victory over Illinois.Â
Best chant: KU's band chanted "Shrek" at 7-foot-2, 300-pound, green-clad Oregon center Chris Christoffersen, though he doesn't actually look like the cartoon character.Â
Most appropriate song: Those crazy band kids were at it again. As the Jayhawks cut the nets to celebrate their trip to the Final Four in Atlanta, the band serenaded the team with "Georgia on My Mind."
Too bad they didn't know the song.
"I passed out the music with about four minutes left in the game. I didn't want to jinx them," said band director Tom Stidham, who taught at Georgia Southern from 1968 to 1974. "We hadn't rehearsed it. We did OK. It's a great song. I hope we get to play it several more times when we get to Atlanta."Â
On the job: KU athletic director Al Bohl remained in Madison on Sunday following his father's death on Saturday in Vermillion, Ohio.
"My mother's already passed away, and my brother's the only one back in Vermillion," Bohl said while watching the Jayhawks from the bench during warmups. "Going there today wouldn't have served any purpose."
Bohl was expected to fly to Ohio early this morning and attend services for his father on Tuesday. Harry Bohl, 78, suffered a heart attack last weekend.
"There have been about 50 people come up to me and express their sympathy," he said. "People do care, and it's genuine."
Bohl planned to return to Kansas in time to travel with the team to Atlanta.Â
Most interesting useless fact: The Kohl Center contains enough concrete to build a sidewalk from Madison to Chicago.