Friday, March 20, 2015


Column: Big 12 needs big comeback


— Down goes Iowa State. Down goes Baylor. Down goes Texas.

Just a bad day for the Big 12, or a good day to stop referring to it as the best basketball conference in the country?


Kansas University, regular-season champ, went 6-2 against Thursday’s three losers, so it’s not time for anybody to panic, but it does serve as a reminder that the gap between so-called power conferences and mid-majors steadily shrinks, courtesy in many ways to the absurdity of the one-and-done climate.

Today’s game against No. 15 seed New Mexico State is no layup, not that a layup is the sure thing it used to be in college basketball anyway.

If UAB can knock off Iowa State by a point and Georgia State can send Baylor home by a point, outscoring the Bears 13-0 in the final 2:54, the Aggies can make Kansas sweat.

KU Sports Extra — Omaha Edition

Matt Tait and Tom Keegan preview Friday's Kansas basketball game against New Mexico State, in Omaha, Nebraska.

After all, New Mexico State has won 13 in a row, and even against the weak competition the WAC has to offer, that’s not easy to do. The Aggies have a decent full-court press and rank ninth in the nation in offensive rebounding, but turn it over a ton.

What the champions, regular-season and post-season, of the WAC don’t have is the best basketball player in today’s game.

That would be Perry Ellis, who appeared to move well Thursday, at least from what can be learned watching a public practice, which amounts to little more than players throwing up shots at an easy pace.

“It’s almost there, man,” Ellis said of his sprained right knee. “It’s definitely getting better and better, and it’s almost there. And when you get out there for the tournament, the adrenaline gets going, and that makes you feel even better.”

Asked to put a percentage on his recovery, Ellis said, “Maybe like 90-plus, maybe,” he said. “I’m jumping well, moving well on it, feeling real comfortable on it.”

Ellis, who takes hard steps when he’s executing his patented spin moves, reiterated that playing in the Big 12 tournament helped him to learn how to play through injury.

“Getting a little pain, that kind of messes with your mind a little bit, a little pain when you’re spinning and stuff,” he said. “Now I’m not getting that much, so it’s been great in that aspect. Now it’s feeling a lot better. No problem with that.”

Media sessions with the Kansas players took place before the Big 12 reeled off three losses, which could only add to shaky forecasts about KU’s tournament fate, a reality not lost on the players.

“A lot of people may be doubting us,” Ellis said. “We’re just using that for fuel to motivate us. You’re just kind of like, ‘Dang,’you know? Kind of just thinking, like, ‘Why’s that, you know?’ But it’s just fuel. I think it definitely could help us, playing with that chip on your shoulder and going from there.”

New-found disrespect for the Big 12 was the story of the day in the tourney Thursday. Naturally, Oklahoma State coach Travis Ford didn’t buy it.

“Obviously, it’s been a rough day for the Big 12,” said Ford, whose Cowboys face Oregon today. “You know, I fielded a lot of questions the last two to three days about the Big 12 has been the best league in America all year long. All the numbers say it. You can go through it all, and the popular question was, well, what if you don’t do so good? And I said that doesn’t matter. I’m not going to base anything on one day or three weeks on what we have done in the last four months.”

Still, the tournament’s the best vehicle for comparing leagues. So far, so bad. That can change today with a pair of games in Omaha involving Kansas and Oklahoma State and a pair in Columbus, Ohio (West Virginia vs. Buffalo, Oklahoma vs. Albany).

“In my opinion, I think it’s the toughest league in America,” Oklahoma State guard Phil Forte.

To prove it, the league will have the stage the sort of comeback this tournament that Iowa State did game after game to win the Big 12 tournament championship.


Kristen Downing 7 years, 6 months ago

About a knee, saying it's almost there in the tournament is not good. One tweak and he is out of the game. And Trav, I'll take the PAC12 over your coaching any time.

Nathan Scholl 7 years, 6 months ago

The Big Twelve can still go 4-7 Kristen! Rock Chalk first!!

Dirk Medema 7 years, 6 months ago

The Big 12 can still go quite a bit better than 4-7, tho the important thing is that KU get that first W.

Keith Gellar 7 years, 6 months ago

Yesterday was just assurance that Big 12 isn't really a tough conf. All year, every year- we hang our hats on the fact that we own the toughest conference and revel in winning the conference championship...when in reality, does it even mean anything? We constantly use this fact to clam ourselves when we lose- we're in the toughest conf, its not a cake walk. Maybe its time to take a step back and reanalyze.

IMO @ KU, we've been satisfied by winning the conf championships and all we really care about is the streak. No matter how good/bad our team is, how good/bad our season is, as long as we continue the streak- the majority is happy. As long as Bill continues to do so and underperform in the tournament, he will never be on the hot seat..its his safety net.

But in reality, the NCAA tournament is what we need to be focusing on. Recruits pay attention to tournament and NCAA championships. I've yet to see a recruit say my goal is to win a conf championship.

As much as i hate Calipari, he's the leader/innovator in college bball. Its clear all he cares about is the ncaa championship..he doesn't give 2 clicks about the conf tournament. If Cal's doing it, there must be something to it.

Big12 is in a bad spot. the Conf as a whole needs to do a review/reorg- else Big 12 will always be a football conference and outside of us, basketball will just be an after thought.

Cody Riedy 7 years, 6 months ago

I don't understand all the hand-wringing that occurs on this website so much. Either people are saying our program has gone to crap because of one and done's, or our conference sets us up for failure in the tournament, or our fans and program are too self-satisfied with winning the league, etc, etc. After two consecutive years of embarrassing first round losses, this is what KU has done in the tournament: 06-07: Elite Eight, 07-08: National Champions, 08-09: Sweet Sixteen, 09-10: Round of 32, 10-11: Elite Eight, 11-12: National Runner-Up, 12-13: Sweet Sixteen, 13-14: Round of 32.

So in 8 Seasons we've played in: 2 National Title Games, 2 Final Fours, 4 Elite Eights, 6 Sweet Sixteens, and have had two early exits in the round of 32. In these 8 years, 4 of our tournament losses have been to a team that won or played in the national championship that year. Seems like we are doing just fine.

Cody Riedy 7 years, 6 months ago

Comparing KU to other top level programs in the past 8 Seasons:

Title Games: 2-Connecticut (2-0); 2-Kentucky (1-1); 2-Kansas (1-1); 1-Duke (1-0); 1-North Carolina (1-0); 1-Louisville (1-0); 1-Florida (1-0; the second of two in a row); 1-Michigan State (0-1); 0-Arizona;

Final Fours: 3-Connecticut; 3-Kentucky; 2-Kansas; 2-Michigan State; 2-North Carolina; 2-Louisville; 2-Florida; 1-Duke; 0-Arizona;

Elite 8's: 5-North Carolina; 4-Kansas; 4-Kentucky; 4-Florida; 4-Louisville; 3-Connecticut; 3-Michigan State; 2-Arizona; 2-Duke;

Sweet 16's: 6-Kansas; 6-Michigan State; 5-North Carolina; 5-Louisville; 4-Kentucky; 4-Florida; 4-Duke; 4-Arizona; 3-Connecticut;

Opening Weekend Losses and (Missed Tournaments): 2-Kansas (0); 2-Michigan State (0); 2-North Carolina (1); 2-Kentucky (2); 2-Arizona (2); 2-Florida (2); 2-Connecticut (3); 3-Louisville (0); 4-Duke (0);

Conclusions: Only UConn and maybe Kentucky can be said to have had higher peaks. UConn is weird, they either miss the tournament or win the national championship. Kentucky's success has mostly all come in an incredible 5 year run starting in 2010, though there is a missed tournament in there. KU and North Carolina are neck in neck in terms of consistent high level results, with probably Michigan State and Louisville just behind. Surprises: Duke won a title, but after that, them and Arizona are at the bottom of the pile for tournament success.

Cody Riedy 7 years, 6 months ago

Conclusion: KU doesn't have a problem, KU fans who lament our crumbling program have a perception problem or historical memory problem. I think maybe mostly, it is Kentucky's recent run of recruiting and tournament dominance that is distorting our self-assessment.

Marc Frey 7 years, 6 months ago

Over the course of the regular 30 game season, the Big 12 was the best conference. The conference racked up some quality wins, and fought each other on the court. Go back a few years and remember how the media used to fawn over the ACC as the top 5 teams would beat up on each other, yet that was it was labeled the best League. Now, I agree that yesterday was an Epic Fail for the Big 12. I usually root for the Big 12 in the tournament, but found myself rooting for UAB and HCJH. If the last three teams can rack up a couple wins each, maybe getting two to the Elite 8, then opinions may change.

Robert Brown 7 years, 6 months ago

I'm not sure why some people thing that a poor performance in the tournament by other conference teams somehow hurts KU's perception nationally. KU's perception and reputation will be determined solely on how well KU plays and not any other team in the conference.

Steve Corder 7 years, 6 months ago

KU is, by any measure one uses, still the class of the B12 by which everyone else is measured...go back as many years as you desire.

Roy Williams returned KU to it's national place of prominence, and Bill Self has perpetuated it. Win or lose in this tournament, KU's place in college basketball is a mighty prestigious one.

Go get 'em Hawks!

Michael Bennett 7 years, 6 months ago

I don't think two games instantly make the conference go from great to crap. Even though it happened during the most important part of the season, that's still a pretty small sample size. Those low-seeded mid-majors often come out with absolutely nothing to lose and knock off a few big programs, but it's not usually sustainable. That's why it's Madness.

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