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Rest of Big 12 lagging behind KU in March

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Oklahoma State players, from left, Tony Allen, Joey Graham and Ivan
McFarlin watch the NCAA Tournament selection show after the Big 12
Conference tournament championship game. The Cowboys were selected
as the No. 2 seed in the East Rutherford (N.J.) Regional and will
play in Kansas City, Mo., after beating Texas, 65-49, Sunday in
Dallas.

Oklahoma State players, from left, Tony Allen, Joey Graham and Ivan McFarlin watch the NCAA Tournament selection show after the Big 12 Conference tournament championship game. The Cowboys were selected as the No. 2 seed in the East Rutherford (N.J.) Regional and will play in Kansas City, Mo., after beating Texas, 65-49, Sunday in Dallas. by AP Photo

Try to remember the last time someone told you, "The Big 12 is a great basketball league," and you completely agreed.

Hopefully that happened sometime around 2002 to 2004. Because, in terms of overall NCAA Tournament success for the league as a whole, that statement hasn't exactly held true in about a decade.

Quick. Name the last men's basketball team from the Big 12 besides Kansas University to reach the Final Four.

Texas' T.J. Ford drives on Syracuse's Josh Pace in the first half of a semifinal game of the Final Four on Saturday, April 5, 2003, in New Orleans. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

Texas' T.J. Ford drives on Syracuse's Josh Pace in the first half of a semifinal game of the Final Four on Saturday, April 5, 2003, in New Orleans. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

Playing this game in my head, I went to Rick Barnes' 2003 Texas team, led by dynamic, though slight, guard T.J. Ford. Somehow, I skipped over Eddie Sutton's 2004 Oklahoma State team, featuring Tony Allen's amazing all-around game and the at times unstoppable offense of John Lucas.

Point being: It's been a while. It was 10 years ago that a Big 12 team not coached by Bill Self advanced all the way to the Final Four. When Sutton took the Cowboys, Self had just completed his first season at KU.

In the Big 12 men's basketball season review, sent to media from the conference in April, the league highlights its postseason accolades, including its seven bids in the 2014 tourney. And rightfully so. Seventy percent of the conference went dancing and each program got in with a single-digit seed.

But not a one of them — not even Kansas — could make it beyond the Sweet 16 this year. Of course, only two, Iowa State and Baylor, even survived that long.

Iowa State's Dustin Hogue reacts to Iowa State's 81-76 loss to Connecticut in a regional semifinal of the NCAA men's college basketball tournament Friday, March 28, 2014, in New York. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

Iowa State's Dustin Hogue reacts to Iowa State's 81-76 loss to Connecticut in a regional semifinal of the NCAA men's college basketball tournament Friday, March 28, 2014, in New York. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

The Big 12 failed to reach the Elite Eight in 2005 and 2013, as well. But the more telling statistic regarding the league's ability outside of Kansas to contend for a national championship lies in the number of Final Four appearances in the past 10 tournaments by conference teams who don't wear crimson and blue: zero.

In that same span, Kansas reached the sport's ultimate showcase in 2008 and 2012. Meanwhile…

The old Big East sent six programs — Georgetown, Connecticut, Villanova, West Virginia (now in the Big 12), Louisville and Syracuse — to the Final Four.

The Big Ten? Five: Illinois, Michigan State, Ohio State, Michigan and Wisconsin.

The SEC checks in with three: Florida, LSU and Kentucky.

Three different leagues have produced two representatives: the ACC (North Carolina and Duke), Conference USA (Louisville and Memphis) and even the Colonial Athletic Association (George Mason and VCU).

That leaves the Big 12 in the same tier as the former Pac 10 (UCLA), the Horizon League (former team Butler) and the Missouri Valley Conference (Wichita State), with one program representing their leagues at the Final Four from 2005 to 2014.

Don't forget. No league in the country has reached the same stratosphere as the storied American Athletic Conference, which hasn't existed without one of its teams winning the national championship (Connecticut).

When the Big 12 boasts it is among the national leaders in Final Four appearances, it uses data form 2002 to present. In 2002, both Oklahoma — then coached by Kelvin Sampson — and Kansas made it, and in 2003, KU and Texas represented the league.

That just reads better than the facts from the past 10 years: two appearances, one school.

Kansas big men Thomas Robinson (0) and Jeff Withey (5) grab a rebound from Ohio State forward Jared Sullinger during the second half on Saturday, March 31, 2012 at the Superdome.

Kansas big men Thomas Robinson (0) and Jeff Withey (5) grab a rebound from Ohio State forward Jared Sullinger during the second half on Saturday, March 31, 2012 at the Superdome. by Nick Krug

As long as the flawed RPI exists, Big 12 coaches will continue to reference that as proof their league is one of the toughest around. The Big 12 had the best RPI in the nation this past season. Same goes for 2009-10. It has ranked in the top three in conference RPI seven of the past 10 years.

Big 12 RPI rank, past 10 seasons

2013-14: 1st

2012-13: 5th

2011-12: 3rd

2010-11: 3rd

2009-10: 1st

2008-09: 3rd

2007-08: 3rd

2006-07: 7th

2005-06: 5th

2004-05: 3rd

— (Source: statsheet.com)

A lot of good that did in a decade's worth of NCAA Tournaments.

The Big 12 rarely has disappointed in January and February, when games are exciting to watch, KU inevitably finishes first and that year's crop of other top dogs beat each other up just enough to lag behind the Jayhawks.

But, really, could one team win the regular-season title — outright or a share of it — 10 years in a row if the league truly was great?

Maybe Texas can end the rest of the Big 12's slump in March of 2015. Barnes' chances improved immensely when KU target Myles Turner, a 6-foot-11 center from Euless, Texas, announced he'll stay in state and join UT's talented Jonathan Holmes, Cameron Ridley, Demarcus Holland, Isaiah Taylor and Javan Felix as a member of the Longhorns.

Final Four representatives, by conference, 2005-14

Big East: Connecticut (2), Louisville (2), Georgetown, Syracuse, Villanova and West Virginia.

Big Ten: Michigan State (3), Ohio State (2), Illinois, Michigan and Wisconsin.

SEC: Florida (3), Kentucky (3) and LSU.

ACC: North Carolina (3) and Duke.

Conference USA: Louisville and Memphis.

Colonial Athletic Association: George Mason and VCU.

Big 12: Kansas (2).

Pac 10: UCLA (3).

Horizon League: Butler (2).

American Athletic Conference: Connecticut.

Missouri Valley: Wichita State.

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