The loss of the NCAA Tournament and March Madness got you down? At Heartland College Sports, we get it. We’re down about it too. Well, leading up to the night that would have been the 2020 national championship game, April 6, we will rewind what happened to the Big 12 in March Madness for each year of its existence. Today, we dissect 2006.
THE BIG 12 IN 2006
The end of the 2006 season would mark some significant upheaval among the coaching staffs in the Big 12. But during the 2005-06, there was one midseason change.
Missouri’s Quin Snyder had been on thin ice for a bit, stemming from 2003 and 2004 NCAA allegations levied against him and the Tigers for the recruitment of Ricky Clemons. That led to a three-year probation for the program, and on Feb. 10, 2006, when the Tigers lost by 26 points to Baylor, Snyder decided it was time to get out. He finished 126-91 at Mizzou, leading the Tigers to four NCAA Tournament berths (all in his first four seasons at the helm). Former Texas A&M coach Melvin Watkins would finish out the season. It was just the beginning of an offseason coaching carousel that would mark the most significant turnover in Big 12 history.
In the meantime, there was basketball to be played, and Texas and Kansas tied for a share of the Big 12 regular-season title. Kansas’ first-round loss in the 2005 NCAA Tournament was certainly disappointing. So was the loss of several NBA-ready players. But it’s Kansas, right? You replace NBA-ready prospects with other NBA ready prospects. This 20050-06 team had five NBA players. Center Sasha Kaun and forward Darnell Jackson were the returners. The other three were freshmen that made an immediate impact, and are names familiar to Jayhawk fans — guard Mario Chalmers, guard Brandon Rush and forward Julian Wright. Rush (13.5 ppg) and Chalmers (11.5 ppg) led the Jayhawks in scoring.
Meanwhile, Texas was led by a trio of future NBA players — forward P.J. Tucker (16.1 ppg, 9.5 rpg), forward LaMarcus Aldridge (15.0 ppg, 9.2 rpg) and guard Daniel Gibson (13.4 ppg). All were holdovers from the year before, and the maturity showed. Texas hosted Kansas on Feb. 25 in Austin, Texas, and blew the doors off the Jayhawks, 80-55. If the Longhorns could have gotten past the Aggies a few days later, the Longhorns could have held the title to themselves. But, alas, Texas had to share.
Oklahoma (11-5) and Texas A&M (10-6) finished third and fourth, respectively, in the Big 12. The Sooners had just one future NBA player on the team, a freshman named Taylor Griffin. You may know him as the older brother of Blake Griffin. Forward Taj Gray led the Sooners in scoring with 14.2 ppg. Texas A&M, in its second year under head coach Billy Gillispie, had its best finish in the Big 12 to that point. Led by future NBA player Acie Law, who averaged a team-leading 16.1 ppg, the Aggies went into the Big 12 Tournament as the No. 4 seed.
Colorado (9-7) was the only other team with a winning record in Big 12 play. Oklahoma State, Texas Tech, Kansas State and Iowa State all finished 6-10, while Missouri was 5-11 and Baylor was 4-12.
The regular-season award winners included Tucker (player of the year), Aldridge (defensive player of the year), Oklahoma guard Michael Neal (newcomer of the year), Rush (freshman of the year) and Kansas coach Bill Self (coach of the year). The All-Big 12 First Team included Aldridge, Tucker, Rush, Colorado guard Richard Roby and Texas Tech guard Jarrius Jackson.
The Big 12 Tournament returned to the American Airlines Center in Dallas, Texas. Nebraska played spoiler in the quarterfinals, upsetting Oklahoma, 69-63. Otherwise the other Top 4 seeds — No. 1 Texas, No. 2 Kansas and No. 4 Texas A&M — advanced.
Texas and Kansas advanced to the championship game, where the Jayhawks got a little revenge, defeating Texas, 80-68. Chalmers was the tournament’s most outstanding player, while Wright, Aldridge, Tucker and Law made the All-Tournament team.
Texas went into the NCAA Tournament as the conference’s top seed, slotted at No. 2. Kansas was a No. 4 seed, while Oklahoma was a No. 6 seed and Texas A&M was a No. 12.
For the second straight year, the Kansas Jayhawks found themselves on the wrong side of an upset in the first round. In 2005 it was No. 14-seeded Bucknell. In 2006 it was No. 13-seeded Bradley. So maybe it was just schools that start with the letter ‘B’? At any rate, Bradley won, 77-73, sending Bill Self and his crew on an early soul-searching spring and summer.
Yes, those are the highlights. But better things were coming for these Jayhawks.
Oklahoma also suffered a first-round loss, falling to UW-Milwaukee, 82-74. It was the second straight season the Sooners failed to get out of the tournament’s first weekend, and transition was ahead in Norman.
Texas and Texas A&M both managed to get out of the first round. Texas handled Penn, 60-52, while the Aggies upset Syracuse, 66-58. It marked the first time the Aggies got out of the first round of the NCAA Tournament since 1980, when Shelby Metcalf led the Aggies to the regional semifinals.
Texas was undaunted in the second round, destroying NC State, 75-54. The win meant that Rick Barnes and his Longhorns would play on the tournament’s second week for the fourth time in five years, and Longhorn fans felt they had a team with enough talent to get them to another Final Four.
The Aggies, meanwhile, saw their season come to an end in the second round. The Aggies fell to LSU, 58-57, in a thriller. Acie Law had 15 for the Aggies, while Antanas Kavaliauskas had 12 points off the bench. LSU got 21 points from Glen Davis and 16 points from Darrel Mitchell. And it was Mitchell who shot the game-winner to send the Tigers to the Sweet 16 and the Aggies back to College Station.
Texas was the focus of the Big 12’s attention on the Tournament’s second weekend. The Longhorns had their eye on reaching the Final Four for the second time in four tournaments. First up, the Longhorns had to beat West Virginia, and did so, 74-71. LaMarcus Aldridge had a huge game for Texas, scoring 26 points and 13 rebounds, while P.J. Tucker had 15 points. West Virginia’s Kevin Pittsnogle led the Mountaineers with 19 points, while Mike Gansey had 18 points. Patrick Beilein added 14 points off the bench.
It was a buzzer-beater for the Longhorns, and it was beautiful.
The look on John Beilein’s face said it all. And with that, the Longhorns were on their way to the Elite 8.
To make a trip to the Final Four happen, the Longhorns would have to beat LSU. The Tigers, of course, had taken out Texas A&M in the final seconds in the second round. The game would go to overtime. In one the most chaotic scenes you’re likely to find in an NCAA Tournament game, Daniel Gibson tied it up with a 3-pointer at 52-all.
But in overtime, the Tigers outscored the Longhorns, 18-8, to win, 70-60. Gibson had a team-leading 15 points. Brad Buckman had 13 points, while LaMarcus Aldridge and Kenton Paulino had 10 points each. Three different Longhorns had more than 10 rebounds — Aldridge (10), Tucker (13) and Buckman (14). But that wasn’t enough. Glen Davis had 26 points and 9 rebounds for LSU, while Tyrus Thomas added 21 points and 13 rebounds.
Still, it was a brilliant season for the Longhorns. Unfortunately, it was the last, best trip to the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament that Texas would have under head coach Rick Barnes.
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