Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Despite record, Big 12 feels it gets no respect


After fuming for years that an East Coast bias hurts their league, Big 12 Conference coaches have picked up a credible ally.

Jeff Capel, who played at Duke and coached in Virginia before becoming head coach at Oklahoma, says they’re right.

“Many people look at this part of the country as football,” said Capel, whose Sooners are seeded No. 2 in the South Region. “I was there until I came here, and that’s what I thought when I lived there.”

The Big 12 got six teams into the NCAA field this year, as many as the Pac-10 and only one fewer than the ACC, Big East and Big Ten.

But it’s their seeding and bracketing that has some Big 12 teams upset. For example, ACC powers Duke and North Carolina get to play their opening-round games in Greensboro, N.C. But neither Kansas nor Missouri, the Big 12’s regular-season and postseason champions, respectively, were assigned to Kansas City for their first games. The Jayhawks are in Minneapolis, while Missouri is at Boise, Idaho.

Oklahoma, which lost to both Kansas and Missouri head-to-head, is the Big 12 team that gets to open in Kansas City’s Sprint Center.

“You can’t sit there and cry about it,” Missouri coach Mike Anderson said. “We’re excited to be a part of it, and the seeds are what they are. It would have been nice to have been in Kansas City, no question about it, being closer to home. But Oklahoma got the nod and now we’ve just got to move forward.”

The Big East got three No. 1 seeds. But Oklahoma, as a No. 2, is the highest among Big 12 teams. Kansas, the defending NCAA champion and regular-season Big 12 winner, is a No. 3 seed in the Midwest, while Missouri is a No. 3 in the West. Texas A&M; is seeded No. 9 in the West Region. In the East, Oklahoma State is No. 8 and Texas is No. 7.

Nobody is more unhappy than Kansas State’s Frank Martin, and not just because his Wildcats, who were seeded No. 4 in the Big 12, were left out of the NCAA field.

“The seedings that Kansas, Missouri, Texas, and those other teams have gotten, it’s kind of unfortunate they’ve gotten the lower seeds and been sent places that are so far away from home, unlike the winners of those (other) leagues,” Martin said.

“It continues to be the lack of respect this league receives on a national basis. We have to figure out a way to be more forceful in how we sell our league. If you look at the history of the NCAA Tournament over the last nine or 10 years, there’s not another league that’s been better than ours. And for us to continue to get disrespected the way we do is a crying shame.”

The Big 12 has plenty of arguments in its favor. Six of its teams were in the top 41 of RPI, more than any other league but the Big East. In addition, the Big 12 was second in the nation with 137 nonconference victories and has eight teams with 20 or more wins, the most of any other conference.

Capel and others think one problem facing the Big 12 is the East Coast background of many ESPN and other national commentators.

The passion East Coast residents feel for basketball is another reason, Capel figures, that national commentators may overlook the Big 12’s basketball prowess.

“And I can say this, because I was like that: Until you come out here, until you see a game here, until you go to an Iowa State and see the passion there, until you go to a Kansas State and see the passion there ... you won’t appreciate it,” he said.

“This region is known for football. In the East, it’s all basketball. That’s really all anyone cares about.”

Kansas winning the Big 12’s first national championship last year didn’t do much to help the league’s image, Capel said, because “the only school in this region that people think of as basketball is Kansas.”


craigers 11 years, 10 months ago

Respect or not, a good Big XII team will give any school a run for their money. The Big XII slugs out games. A good example is what KU did to UNC last year and what Oklahoma will do to UNC when they meet in the Elite 8. UNC will not win the championship this year. Too many physical teams out there for them.

maclothier 11 years, 10 months ago

Clearly, none of the Big XII teams were worthy of a #1 seed, and who out there believes KU, MU, or OU are more worthy of a #2 seed than Memphis, Duke, or Michigan State? Okay, so that leaves one spot in KC, based on the pod system, for a #2 seed, and a Big XII team got it. How is that East Coast bias? I could see if another Big East team got the #2 seed, but they didn't. It may not have been the Big XII team people in this area wanted to see, but that's hardly East Coast bias.

And Capel is clearly wrong when he says basketball is "all anyone cares about" on the East Coast. That may be true at Duke and North Carolina, whose football programs have been mediocre to horrible over the past few decades, but to characterize the whole East Coast as basketball-centric to the detriment of football is laughable. Penn State? Miami? Virginia Tech? Georgia? West Virginia? Ohio State? If Louisville falls under the umbrella of benefiting from East Coast bias (and only caring about basketball), then Ohio State must as well, and probably South Bend, which sits almost due north of Louisville. Exactly where does this bias stop? Any schools east of the Mississippi?

Perhaps the Big XII is viewed as Kansas and eleven other teams (and I say this as an Oklahoma State grad) because Kansas is the only team to have won a championship in the past 63 years. Oklahoma State is the only other Big XII member to have won an NCAA basketball title, and that was in 1946. The Big XII has sent a lot of teams to the Final Four, but have struggled until last year to break through, and even then it was by the usual suspect. Until the Big XII can list two teams as champions in the modern era, as the Big East, Pac 10, SEC, ACC and Big 10 all can, then perhaps the Big XII isn't deserving of the respect Frank Martin and his hapless Cats so desperately clamor for.

Annette Lee 11 years, 10 months ago

maclothier, you make a good point. Last year Texas had a good bracket as a 2. Ku should have focused more in okc.. Now it's harder but the key to this team is energy and focus so just play your A game and then move on.. I think it will be a gut check but they will still make sweet16.. after that A game !!!!

Ryan Wood 11 years, 10 months ago

Respect is for self-absorbed egomaniacs. Just win.

wlbjayhawk 11 years, 10 months ago

Clearly, maclothier does not live in the east, and does not read the stories written by the eastern sports writers.

While I am a KU grad, I have lived in NJ all of my life, and I read several NJ and NY papers each day. The sports writers have no clue about any college team west of Penn State unless they are the number on ranked team and that team loses.

College basketball is no different. Trying to get information about Big 12, Big Ten, Pac 10 or for that matter any other conference in the NY press is very difficult. At best you get two column inches that was written by the AP the night before. Good sports stories about teams other than Seton Hall, St. John's, UNC, Duke, Maryland and other Big East, ACC, or local colleges are typically not included in the local papers.

Only one team can be the national champion each year. For one to equate the number of Big 12 teams that have been national champions as the barometer of college basketball success it what is laughable.

Lets go back to 1988. The national championship game was between two then Big 8 teams, KU and OU, and only one of them could end up the winner. The caliber of this years Big 12 teams can be measured by how many are included in the road to the final four (6). And yes, there are several conferences with just as many.

The bottom line is, that the east coast, and especially the NYC sportscasters, commentators, and writers are bias. I was listening to WFAN (NY radio station) yesterday, and the commentator was talking about various college teams, mostly the #1 seeds. He was clueless about those teams outside of the greater New York region. I read the NY press everyday, I would rather read the sports pages of midwestern papers about basketball than those that are delivered to my home every day.

Rock Chalk Jayhawk.

Steve Gantz 11 years, 10 months ago

I agree that there's east coast bias. I don't think it comes into play in the NCAA tourney often however. As far as NY local writers being biased, well aren't all local writers and papers? This paper sure is. The Chicago Tribune that I read sure is.
Now the national media, yes it's there in so many ways, not just sports. Every thing that happens out east is bigger than if it happens somewhere else.

Jacobpaul81 11 years, 10 months ago

Just to play around a bit with some numbers:

National Championship Finals Appearences:

West of Mississippi: 44 East of Mississippi: 96 - includes Wisconsin and Memphis.

Now that seems like a large descepency until you compare how many division 1 programs are east vs. west of the mississippi. The west has actually outperformed the East, grabbing about 30% of the finals appearences in the 70 years of the tourney, when they have less than 30% of the qualified schools.

Here's a list of western teams to have played in the final game: Kansas, UCLA, Arizona, Oklahoma St. (A&M), Oregon, Kansas St., UTEP (Texas Western), Washington, Washington St., Baylor, Wyoming, Oklahoma, Stanford, San Fransisco, California, Arkansas, and Utah.

5 Big XII Teams have played for the title and 8 of the 12 have made the Final Four adding: Texas, Iowa State & Colorado to the mix.

The top 2 west teams have the same amount of final four appearances as the top 2 East teams:

UCLA & Kansas = 31 North Carolina & Duke = 31 The next three teams come from the central region: Kentucky, Indiana, and Lousiville, and combine for only 29 tourney appearences.

One more fun stat: Final Four Apperances:

104 - West of Mississippi 176 - East of Mississippi

The West is kicking the East's butt if you base that on percentage of actual schools.

Jacobpaul81 11 years, 10 months ago

Just to follow that up to explain my "kicking butt" reasoning, there are only 2 major conferences west of the Mississippi: The Big XII and Pac 10. The other 4 are east of the Mississippi: Big 10, SEC, ACC, Big East:

There are 22 Major conference teams West of the Mississippi There are 51 Major conference teams East of the Mississippi

Slight Discrepency. There are less than 1/3 of the Major conference teams in the west, yet the West accounts for nearly 40% of the Final Four appearences and 31% of the finals appearences.

I think the east coast bias is justified due to percentage of east coast teams, but in overall performance, the West is actually better.

RockChalkGumbyHawk 11 years, 10 months ago

This is going to sound odd coming from a diehard KU fan, but I thought it was very odd that K-State didn't get in given that they were the 4th best team in the Big XII regular season (9-7) and 21-11 record overall. Their first round loss in the Big XII tourney was a 3 point loss to a solid Texas team. I guess it's the Kansas native in me thinking that if they aren't getting any respect, it diminishes our performances in Allen Fieldhouse West (Bramlage)!

Go Jayhawks! Win it all!!!

Dan Pawlowski 11 years, 10 months ago

There is definitely an East Coast Bias in basketball. I lived on the East Coast for 15 years and it was not until the internet came of age that you could actually get any kind of information about Big 8 and later Big 12 basketball before the NCAA tournament rolled around. If you were lucky you might hear something about some west coast teams. To get anything before the season started you had to pick up Street and Smiths College Basketball. During the season you had to hope for some Sports Illustrated coverage of other teams. When the bracket was chosen you could then count on the USA Today special tournament section to give you some info on the non East Coast teams that made the tournament. The only consistent basketball coverage you got was on the ACC , The Big East and sometimes the Atlantic 10. It took quite a few years of the Big East having down years before you actually heard east coast media admit that the Big East was not what it used to be. If you followed a non East Coast team that was on a roll or having a much better year then they usually had you might be able to catch an ESPN story about them. Caple is dead on. I witnessed basketball coverage that definitely overshadowed football where I lived (DC/Northern Va). Football was lower on the totem pole. Yes there was Penn State Football but even then Basketball cast a far bigger shadow.

Lone_salina_kufan 11 years, 10 months ago

This is good news, and exactly why I picked the Big 12 teams in my bracket to do better than most people think. The whole conference is going in with a chip on its shoulder. And most teams, our Hawks included, play better when they're angry.

maclothier 11 years, 10 months ago

wlbjayhawk - I was actually hoping my East Coast roots didn't come through in my post - I spent the first 18 years of my life growing up in Delaware, so I have read East Coast reporting, and yes, the majority of the reporting focuses on those issues, teams, topics most pressing for the readers of the stories. I think it would be strange if the Lawrence Journal World was constantly running sports headlines about random Providence basketball games or Arizona State football games. How much has the Midwestern media covered the Pac-10 this year? Is that the dreaded "Midwestern Bias" coming in to play?

I-AA Delaware routinely sells out their 22,000 seat football stadium. Their D-1 basketball counterparts struggle to fill the 5,000 seat Bob Carpenter Center. Football rules at the University of Delaware.

Which professional team do Philadelphians care more about - the Sixers or the Eagles?

Capel might be right about the place of basketball in Virginia and North Carolina, but his characterization of the ENTIRE EAST COAST as dismissive of football in favor of basketball is pure hyperbole.

And I ask once again, where does the "East Coast" end when talking about "East Coast bias"? The Mississippi River?

Thanks for the great stats, Jacobpaul! But, in the last 50 years, teams east of the Mississippi have won 32 championships, compared to 18 for teams west. Take out UCLA from those west championships, and you have only 7 championships for the west. The most any team from the east has won in that time is 3. But we're still talking about the "east" as if it extends from the Atlantic to the Mississippi, which is crazy!

Lin Rahardja 11 years, 10 months ago

Just win baby, and Big-12 will get the respect it deserves. If OU can blast Syracuse & UNC this year, and KU can reach final-4 through Louisville, we will get the respect for the next few years.

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