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12 Thoughts on This Week in the Big 12: Could Fred Hoiberg Leave Ames, T. Boone Pickens’ Pull, + More!

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1. I have no doubt Shaka Smart is going to do with the Texas basketball program exactly what Charlie Strong has done with the Texas football program: rejuvenate and energize the boosters, alums, students and fans. Sure, there will be the awkward “getting to know you” period, but I really have complete trust in Shaka Smart going to Austin and becoming a very successful coach in a Power Five conference. The most interesting transition will be how his “havoc” style works at Texas. It’s one thing to get the ‘under recruited’, ‘chip on the shoulder’ player to buy into the non-stop pressure. But, can Smart, who will now be recruiting 5 star studs, get them to trust him and his system?

2. So, there was plenty of speculation the past week or two that Travis Ford might be on thin ice in Stillwater and there were boosters willing to contribute to his buyout of nearly $10 million. But, then Oklahoma State mega booster T. Boone Pickens tweeted: “I’m in Travis Ford’s camp. He deserves more time at #OKState. Go Pokes!”

And just like that, the speculation was gone. It is amazing how college sports have become so similar to professional sports. Sure, there have always been boosters willing to donate big bucks and bend rules to get big time players to come to their school. But, then there is T. Boone, Phil Knight at Oregon, Drayton McLane at Baylor, and the list goes on. These boosters have, in a way, become the face of the athletics programs, and are in a similar position to those owning NBA, NFL, and MLB franchises. No one believed Travis Ford was safe, until, who else, but the biggest booster at the school spoke up. Amazing.

3. I was very surprised to see Kansas freshman guard Kelly Oubre Jr. declare for the NBA Draft. Oubre averaged under 10 points per game this season, with 5 rebounds per game. Yes, he has that NBA skill set, potential, and size (6’7’’, 205), that makes scouts drool. And yes, he may turn out to be a really good player in the League. But, as a top-10 recruit, he did not live up to the billing of ‘Andrew Wiggins replacement’, and spent much of the early season in Bill Self’s dog house for lack of effort on defense, and struggling with the Kansas half-court offense. Also, Oubre Jr. has plenty of room to improve on his shot (35% from 3P). Someone will draft him in the first round based purely on potential. But, another year under Self would have done him plenty of good.

4. Speaking of potential NBA Draft declarations, the Sooners’ Buddy Hield is apparently still debating whether or not he will leave Norman. Hield is a projected second round pick, so it makes zero sense to leave. While many are guaranteed, second round picks in the NBA Draft do not have to be guaranteed. Plus, as defenses focused more on Hield this past season, he saw dips in his 2-point and 3-point field goal percentage. Another year would do him well.

5. As for coaches that are being linked to the NBA … I don’t see anyway Fred Hoiberg takes a potential opening with the Chicago Bulls. With all the bad blood that is reported between current coach Tom Thibodeau and the organization, many believe he will leave after this season. Reports over the past couple of weeks indicate Hoiberg is the Bulls top choice.

I can’t see Hoiberg leaving his alma mater with a loss in the first round of the NCAA Tournament as a 3-seed. Had the Cyclones made a Final 4 run, then maybe Hoiberg decides he’s done everything he can for the program. The only concern: money talks. Hoiberg is made $1.6 million this season, while the Bulls paid Thibodeau over $4 million. Time for some Iowa State boosters to step up!

6. Here is our tweet of the week… a couple of Big 12 teams are ‘not-so-proudly’ on the list!

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7. Las Vegas has given the TCU Horned Frogs the third best odds in the country of winning the College Football Playoff. TCU sits at 8-1, only behind Ohio State (4-1), and Alabama (7-1). What Gary Patterson has built in Fort Worth is amazing. But, as we’ve discussed, with no Conference Championship game, the problem with the Big 12 is that a team will likely need to run the table to make the 4-team dance.

8. Baylor released their post-spring depth chart and Seth Russell is listed as the starting quarterback. All reports from Waco are that Russell has looked outstanding in spring camp, and will make fans forget about Bryce Petty fairly quickly. Russell has the wheels that Petty never had. This leads me back to freshman commit Jarrett Stidham, who flipped from Texas Tech to Baylor late in the recruiting process. If Stidham’s goal was to play early (which is what some people implied), then Texas Tech was the place to go. While Russell will likely be the QB for 2015 and 2016, that leaves Stidham, barring injury, etc., over 2 years away from hitting the field.

9. To continue… meantime in Lubbock, it appears that the Texas Tech QB battle between Davis Webb and Patrick Mahomes is going to drag into the summer. I’m not sure Stidham could’ve beaten them out, but he sure would’ve had a better chance than he did against Seth Russell. If Stidham was simply spooked by the late spark freshman QB Mahomes gave the Red Raiders last season, then that’s was a big time overreaction that he may end up regretting.

10. Following the indefinite suspension of Oklahoma running back Keith Ford, his father opened up about his son’s recent struggles. He says they are psychologically and mentally based, stemming from his leg injury suffered in last year’s Tennessee game. As I understand it, Ford has been missing classes and team workouts, meetings, etc. I respect Ford’s father speaking out about the struggles his son is having, The more public discussion about mental illness, the better.

11. Staying with the Sooners, many, including The Oklahoman’s Berry Tramel, believe former Tech transfer Baker Mayfield has locked down the OU starting QB job. Mayfield has had a great spring, but he’s also not facing the stiffest competition. Outside of one Sugar Bowl game, Trevor Knight has underwhelmed, and Cody Thomas far from impressed during his late season audition in 2014. Let’s not make Mayfield out to be a star just yet… because beating out Knight and Thomas for the job does not exactly mean he’s Peyton Manning.

12. As for a quarterback who will be a star: Oklahoma State’s Mason Rudolph. Rudolph is now the obvious #1 for the Cowboys, and it’s brought lofty expectations to the team, with some predicting a Big 12 championship. Heck, even ESPN’s Brad Edwards is predicting Oklahoma State to make the 4-team College Football Playoff! Rudolph sent a jolt into the previously stagnant OSU offense last season, and with that, he’s now carrying the hopes and dreams of an entire fan base on his shoulders.

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