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 2010.
THE BIG 12 IN 2010
Kansas. Dominance. Let’s start there.
The Jayhawks had won three straight Big 12 titles (two solo, one shared). But the races were always close. Not in 2009-10. No, sir.
Kansas (15-1) won the Big 12 regular-season crown that season by a whopping four games over Kansas State (11-5), Baylor (11-5) and Texas A&M (11-5), the three of which tied for second place.
The Jayhawks had a ridiculous eight NBA prospects on the team, starting with senior guard Sherron Collins (15.5 points per game). Freshman Xavier Henry was the second-leading scorer (13.4 ppg), followed by sophomore Marcus Morris (12.8 ppg, 6.1 rebounds) and center Cole Aldrich (11.3 ppg, 9.8 rpg). Sophomores Tyshawn Taylor (7.2 ppg) and Markieff Morris (6.8 ppg) were also NBA-bound one day. The other two prospects — Thomas Robinson and Jeff Withey — were freshmen who didn’t play huge roles.
But what Kansas had was more than enough. Kansas was No. 1 in 14 out of the 18 AP Top 25 polls that season, ending the regular season as the nation’s No. 1 team, making them a prohibitive favorite to win the NCAA Tournament. The Jayhawks lost two games in the entire regular season — a road game at Tennessee and the lone Big 12 loss to Oklahoma State.
Kansas State had success in its first two seasons under Frank Martin, but nothing quite like this. The Wildcats won 29 games by season’s end, featured a pair of NBA prospects in Jacob Pullen (19.3 ppg) and Rodney McGruder. Senior Denis Clemente, who led the Wildcats in scoring the previous year, averaged 16.6 ppg in his swan song in Manhattan. Kansas State wasn’t in the preseason Top 25 poll but the Wildcats ended the season at No. 7.
The hard work of head coach Scott Drew in Baylor was really paying off. After missing the NCAA Tournament the previous year with a 5-11 league record, the Bears turned that around with the talent of three future NBA players — Ekpe Udoh (13.9 ppg, 9.8 rpg), Quincy Acy (9.3 ppg, 5.1 rpg) and freshman Cory Jefferson, who didn’t factor much. Meanwhile LaceDarius Dunn led the team with 19.6 ppg. Baylor ended the season No. 19 in the final AP Top 25.
Texas A&M had just one player in double figures for the season in future NBA prospect Donald Sloan, as he scored 17.8 ppg. Bryan Davis (9.6 ppg), B.J. Holmes (9.3 ppg) and another NBA prospect, Khris Middleton (7.2 ppg) were the core of an Aggies team seeking another NCAA Tournament berth. The Aggies finished the season No. 23 in the country.
Missouri (10-6) remained a quality team after reaching the Elite Eight the previous season. Returning guard Kim English led the charge for the Tigers, and averaged 14.0 ppg. Marcus Denmon (10.4 ppg) and Laurence Bowers (10.2 ppg) also hit double figures, and Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year J.T. Tiller was back once again.
Texas (9-7) and Oklahoma State (9-7) were the other Big 12 teams that finished the league season over .500. Texas’ Big 12 record looked mediocre, but the Longhorns had the talent to compete with any Big 12 team thanks to a quartet of NBA prospects who all averaged double figures that season — forward Damion James (18.0 ppg), Avery Bradley (11.6 ppg), Dexter Pittman (10.4 ppg) and Jordan Hamilton (10.0 ppg). Meanwhile, James Anderson had a huge season for the OSU Cowboys, averaging 22.3 ppg, while Obi Muonelo followed with 13.3 ppg. Keiton Page had 10.7 ppg to add to the offense.
Colorado (6-10), Texas Tech (4-12), Oklahoma (4-12), Iowa State (4-12) and Nebraska (2-14) all finished under-.500 in league play. Oklahoma would forfeit all of its wins from that season due to NCAA sanctions. The nine-game drop could almost entirely be explained by the fact that Blake Griffin had moved on to the NBA after the previous season.
Incredibly, there were no Big 12 coaching changes going into the 2009-10 season. But there was a big one in the offing.
The regular-season award winners included Anderson (player of the year), Aldrich (defensive player of the year), Udoh (newcomer of the year), Colorado F Alec Burks (freshman of the year), Kansas State F Jamar Samuels (sixth man) and Martin (coach of the year). The All-Big 12 First Team included Aldrich, Collins, Pullen, Anderson, James and Sloan.
The Big 12 Tournament returned to the Sprint Center in Kansas City, and the Jayhawks held court. Kansas rolled, beating Texas Tech and then Texas A&M before setting up a Sunflower State showdown with Kansas State. The Jayhawks won that matchup, too, 72-64. Collins was the tournament’s most outstanding player, with Aldrich, Clemente, Pullen and Sloan named to the All-Tournament team.
On Selection Sunday Kansas was, naturally, a No. 1 seed. Kansas State claimed a No. 2 seed, while Baylor was a No. 3 seed and Texas A&M was a No. 5 seed. Oklahoma State was a No. 7 seed, Texas a No. 8 and Missouri a No. 10. For the first time the NCAA Tournament took seven Big 12 teams.
Most expected Kansas to cruise in the first round, and the Jayhawks did, beating Lehigh, 90-74. Kansas State punished North Texas, 82-62. Baylor glided too, beating Sam Houston State, 68-59. And Texas A&M advanced relatively unchallenged, beating Utah State, 69-53. So the higher seeds held true. So did Missouri, which scored a nice upset by beating No. 7 Clemson, 86-78.
But Texas and Oklahoma State fell in the first round. The Longhorns ended up falling in overtime to Wake Forest, 81-80. Given the Longhorns’ talent, that seemed strange to see. The Longhorns had spent two weeks at No. 1 in the nation as late as mid-January, but the Longhorns fell to earth, and out of the AP Top 25, by season’s end. Damion James led the Longhorns with 16 points. But it was the Texas bench that came through, as Jordan Hamilton scored 19 points and J’Covan Brown scored 20 points. Al-Fauroq Aminu led the Demon Deacons with 20 points. Wake Forest took the game late and Texas was left wondering, ‘What if?’
Oklahoma State’s loss to Georgia Tech was a bit less of a thriller, as the Yellow Jackets won, 64-59. Marshall Moses actually led the Cowboys in scoring with 14 points off the bench.
To many, Kansas was the prohibitive favorite to win the NCAA Tournament. But in the NCAA Tournament that doesn’t always mean you take the prize. The Jayhawks learned that the hard way in the second round.
The No. 1 Jayhawks fell to Northern Iowa, 69-67. Given the immense talent on this Kansas team, it was one of the most significant upsets of the 2010 NCAA Tournament. Kansas shot 44 percent from the floor and Marcus Morris led the way with 16 points. Cole Aldrich had 13 points and 10 rebounds, while Sherron Collins scored 10 points, along with Markieff Morris.
Ali Farokhmanesh led the Panthers with 16 points, while Jordan Eglseder had 14 points and Jake Koch added 10 points.
Kansas, incredibly, found themselves playing from behind and couldn’t catch up. A potential Final Four run ended before the first weekend ended.
Missouri and Texas A&M also bowed out in the second round.
The Tigers ran into an old friend in West Virginia head coach Bob Huggins in the second round, and the Mountaineers claimed a 68-59 win as a No. 2 seed in the region. Michael Dixon came off the bench to lead the Tigers with 15 points, but the star of the game was West Virginia’s Da’Sean Butler, who led all scorers with 28 points.
The Aggies went for a trip to the Sweet 16 against Purdue, but the Boilermakers stole a 63-61 win in overtime. Bryan Davis had a great game for A&M, scoring 17 points. But the Aggies shot 35.4 percent from the floor and it hampered them throughout. Chris Kramer was one of four Purdue players in double figures, leading the way with 17 points.
Kramer would also hit the game-winner.
Baylor and Kansas State would move on to represent the Big 12 in the Sweet 16. Baylor rolled past Old Dominion, 76-68, while Kansas State beat BYU by 12 points, 84-72.
The last time the Kansas State Wildcats reached the Sweet 16 was the 1988 NCAA Tournament. That Wildcats team, coached by former Kansas State player Lon Kruger, reached the regional final before losing to Kansas in the Elite Eight. The last time Baylor had been to the Sweet 16 was in 1950, when the Bears advanced to what was then called the regional final (which in reality was that tournament’s Final Four). That trip capped a five-season run in which the Bears reached a national final (1948) and a regional semifinal (1946). So both teams were trying to reach something that most considered unreachable at the start of the season.
And both rolled on through the Sweet 16. Kansas State needed two overtimes to beat Xavier in a classic, 101-96. Jordan Crawford poured in 32 for the Musketeers, while Tu Holloway added 26. Jacob Pullen scored 28 points to lead Kansas State, while Denis Clemente had 25 points and Curtis Kelley added 21.
Xavier extended the game twice — tying it on free throws in regulation and hitting a frantic 3-pointer at the end of the first overtime. But the Wildcats held on in double overtime after taking a 97-94 lead.
Baylor, meanwhile, rolled to a 72-49 win over Cinderella St. Mary’s. In the first three games of the tournament the Bears had beaten a No. 14, a No. 11 seed and a No. 10 seed, taking advantage of a busted bracket. Plus, the regional was in Houston, giving the Bears a unique homecourt advantage.
LaceDarius Dunn led the Bears with 23 points, while Tweety Carter scored 14 points and Quincy Acy added 10.
Could the Wildcats and Bears find a way to the Final Four? Only the Elite Eight stood in the way.
The idea of a Kansas State-Baylor matchup in the national championship game was a tantalizing one. If the Wildcats and Bears had kept winning, that would have happened. But, instead, fans watched the Wildcats and Bears lose to the teams that would end up in the national championship game, one that is considered a classic.
Kansas State was seen as the favorite against Butler, a No. 5 seed led by head coach Brad Stevens and forward Gordon Hayward. Double overtime against Xavier must have been exhausting for the Wildcats, as they fell behind by seven points at the half and never could catch up. Denis Clemente led the Wildcats with 18 points, while Jacob Pullen and Curtis Kelly added 14 points each. Hayward poured in 22 points, with 9 rebounds, while Shelvin Mack added 16 points. Butler was on its way to Indianapolis, which made the Final Four practically a home game for the Bulldogs.
Baylor had to stand up to No. 1 Duke in its regional final. The Bears had a three-point lead at the break, but the Blue Devils rallied to claim the victory, 78-71, to reach the Final Four. Dunn had another fantastic game with 22 points, while Ekpe Udoh had 18 points and Tweety Carter added 12 points. But the Blue Devils were paced by Nolan Smith’s 29 points, while Jon Scheyer added 20. Duke was on its way to its 15th Final Four.
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