Big 12 Hoops Strong Up and Down, But How Good Is The Top?
To hear Big 12 coaches speak, you’d think they were coaching in the NBA, not the Big 12.
Bruce Weber of Kansas State says it’s the best league he’s coached in in 39 years of coaching, and he’s been in some good leagues.
West Virginia’s Bob Huggins has been saying since Day 1 that it’s the best league he coached in because it has “no bottom” and by that he meant “no bottom coaches, no bottom teams.”
Scott Drew of Baylor, who will face Huggins and WVU in the first round of the Big 12 Tournament, noted that “there are no bad losses, only good victories” in this league.
But the question remains, are they mistaking parity for excellence?
There is much talk now that the NCAA Tournament is looming right around the conference tournament’s corner that the Big 12 deserves to put nine of its 10 teams in the league … and should Iowa State make a run in the conference tournament …
After all, the Big East once had a record 11 teams in the 2011 Tournament.
In truth, that was too many.
And nine is too many this year from the Big 12.
Again, the league was tough, but even, which means there were no really outstanding teams and it’s hard to make a case for a conference being great if it doesn’t have a couple of great teams.
Even Bill Self, the Kansas coach who won the Jayhawks’ 14th straight regular season championship, understands that about the conference.
“I don’t think the teams at the top of our league are as talented as some of the teams at the top in the past, but all the teams are more talented,” he said. “I don’t know we have someone you expect to make a Final Four run but I think all leagues across America are the same as that.”
And he is probably right there.
Nine of the 10 Big 12 teams won eight conference games, but only four teams had winning conference records.
Kansas, the champion, was no better than 13-5 in the conference … a sign that they are not a great team and also that there is great depth in the league.
And, of course, those five losses could have been seven were it not for WVU’s generosity of blowing two double-digit leads in the second half to the Jayhawks.
The Big 12’s penchant for beating up on each other has kept it from gaining top recognition in the rankings, with only one Top 10 team; the ACC has three Top 10 teams and the Big Ten and even the Big East have two.
Where the Big 12 made its reputation was in its play in non-conference games and against nationally ranked teams, although even there it doesn’t have the best record.
Against AP Top 25 teams this season, the Big 12 is 41-53. True, that is beneath .500 but remember, this is against the top teams in college basketball.
Here are the major conferences records against AP Top 25 teams: SEC (36-44, .450), Big 12 (41-53, .436), Pac-12 (17-28, .378), ACC (36-60, .375), Big East (20-44, .312), American Athletic (11-43, .256), and Big Ten (22-69, .242).
We included the Big East and the American Athletic Conference in here because they both have a pair of Top 10 teams in their conferences.
The Big Ten obviously is in a down year while the SEC is surprisingly the best against Top 25 teams, especially since it doesn’t have any team ranked higher than No. 14.
So, should the Big 12 get nine spots?
Self believes it’s incredible that they are even being considered for that many in the 68-team NCAA field.
“It’s pretty remarkable that nine have a chance,” he said.”I don’t know if nine will make it but I know nine could make it. It speaks volumes to the depth of the league. It speaks to how difficult to go through the round robin schedule.”
One thing is certain. With as much at stake as there is and as competitive as this year’s Big 12 has been, this will be a wild and wacky conference tournament.