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 2011.
THE BIG 12 IN 2011
Kansas was in dominance mode going into the 2010-11 season. Iowa State was in turnaround mode. Four years of Greg McDermott as head coach had yielded nothing but four straight losing seasons. So the Cyclones were looking for an injection of excitement to turn the program around. They needed something different.
They needed the Mayor.
Fred Hoiberg was an Ames, Iowa, institution. While he was born in Lincoln, Neb., he went to high school in Ames, stayed at home to play for Iowa State all four of his college seasons (1991-95), helped the Cyclones to three NCAA Tournament berths and earned All-Big Eight selection twice. The locals called him The Mayor because he received write-in votes as a college student during the Mayoral race in Ames, Iowa, in 1993.
Hoiberg parlayed a second-sound selection in the 1995 NBA Draft into a 10-year career with Indiana, Chicago and Minnesota. Hoiberg hit the Timberwolves front office, and when the Cyclones came calling he jumped at the chance to be a head coach for the first time.
Now, don’t cry for McDermott. He ended up at Creighton and has done a fine job for the Blue Jays. But ISU needed a chance, and while Hoiberg’s hire wouldn’t pay off this season, it would pay off down the line.
The only other job change in the Big 12 entering the 2010-11 season was at Colorado. After three unsuccessful seasons under Jeff Bzdelik the Buffaloes went out and hired Tad Boyle. The former Kansas player (he played for the Jayhawks from 1981-85) traveled a long road from high school basketball in Colorado to assistant jobs at Oregon, Tennessee and Wichita State before taking over at Northern Colorado in 2006. That meant a homecoming for the Greeley, Colo., native. In four seasons he took the Bears from four wins to 25 wins and that interested the Buffs enough to hire him. His impact, unlike Hoiberg’s, would be immediate.
Kansas, once again, would be one of the nation’s dominant teams, with the Jayhawks starting the season No. 7 and ending the season at No. 2 (with a brief stop at No. 1). The Morris brothers — Marcus and Markieff — led the way, averaging 17.2 points and 13.6 points per game, respectively. Four other NBA prospects dotted the roster — Tyshawn Taylor, Thomas Robinson, Josh Selby and Jeff Withey — but the Morris brothers led the way all season.
Texas (13-3) had a bit of a bounce-back and challenged the Jayhawks (14-2), but they still finished a game behind the Jayhawks in the Big 12 that season. The infusion of two freshmen helped a great deal — Tristan Thompson (13.1 ppg, 7.8 rpg) and Cory Joseph (10.4 ppg). Holdover Jordan Hamilton led the way with 18.6 ppg, while Gary Johnson (11.5 ppg) and J’Covan Brown (10.4 ppg) were also in double figures. Texas rose as high as No. 3 in the country, but finished the year at No. 8 in the final AP Top 25.
Texas A&M (10-6) and Kansas State (10-6) tied for third in the Big 12. Khris Middleton led the Aggies, averaging 14.3 points per game, while David Loubeau averaged 11.8 points per game. Kansas State saw Jacob Pullen have a huge year, scoring 20.2 points per game, while Rodney McGruder added 11.1 points and 5.9 rebounds per game.
Colorado and Missouri were both 8-8 in league action, as Boyle ended up winning 23 games overall in his first season in Boulder. Baylor and Nebraska were 7-9, Oklahoma State was 6-10, Oklahoma and Texas Tech were 5-11 while Iowa State went 3-11 in Hoiberg’s first season.
The regular-season award winners included Marcus Morris (player of the year), Texas G Dogus Balbay (defensive player of the year), Missouri forward Ricardo Ratliffe (newcomer of the year), Thompson (freshman of the year), Missouri guard Michael Dixon (sixth man) and Kansas coach Bill Self (coach of the year). The All-Big 12 First Team included Baylor guard LaceDarius Dunn, Colorado guard Alex Burks, Marcus Morris, Pullen, Missouri guard Marcus Denmon and Hamilton.
The Big 12 Tournament remained at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, and Kansas was out to win the title again. After wins over Oklahoma State and Colorado, they waited to see who they would face in the championship game. It ended up being Texas, the No. 2 seed, which beat Oklahoma and Texas A&M. In the title game, the Jayhawks rolled, 85-73, winning their second straight Big 12 Tournament crown. Marcus Morris was the tournament’s most outstanding player, while Markieff Morris, Hamilton, Thompson and Burks were named to the All-Tournament team.
On Selection Sunday Kansas found itself in a familiar role as a No. 1 seed. Texas was a No. 4 seed, Kansas State was a No. 5 seed, Texas A&M was a No. 7 seed and Missouri was a No. 11 seed. The Big 12 would carry just five teams into the NCAA Tournament.
The melt rate on the Big 12’s invitations to the Big Dance was high. Texas A&M, hoping to put together another solid tournament run, ended up falling to Florida State, 57-50. After the tournament the Aggies would lose their head coach, Mark Turgeon, for another job.
Missouri fell as well, losing to Cincinnati, 78-63. Oddly, that would be the end of the line for Mizzou head coach Mike Anderson too, but we’ll get to that.
The other three Big 12 teams rolled on. Kansas handled Boston University rather easily, winning 72-53. Kansas State had to sweat it out a bit, but the Wildcats beat Utah State, 73-68. And Texas really had to sweat it out against Oakland, but the Longhorns prevailed, 85-81, making the Big 12 3-2 in the first round (though, for clarity, it was called the second round that year as the NCAA was working through how to name the rounds after adding the ‘First Four’ games).
Kansas was the only Big 12 team to move on to the Sweet 16 in 2011, beating Illinois, 73-59. The significance there, of course, was that Self coached Illinois before moving to Kansas. The Jayhawks looked primed for another run to the Final Four with the Morris brothers setting the pace.
Texas found itself facing Arizona in the second round, and the Longhorns fell, 70-69. Texas fell behind big at halftime, 36-25, but rallied to make it an incredible game down the stretch. Jordan Hamilton scored 18 points, Tristan Thompson scored 14 points and J’Covan Brown came off the bench to lead the Longhorns with 23 points. Derrick Williams had 17 points for Arizona, followed by Jordin Mayes with 16 points and Solomon Hill with 16 points.
How did it end? Texas had two shots to win and the end couldn’t get either to fall.
Kansas State found itself facing Wisconsin and the Wildcats lost, 70-65. Jon Leuer led the way for the Badgers with 19 points. While the Wildcats lost, Jacob Pullen had the game of his life, scoring 38 points and setting a K-State scoring record in the process.
But it wasn’t enough to get the Wildcats into the Sweet 16. It was Kansas or nobody as far as the Big 12 was concerned.
Kansas had gone largely unchallenged to this point of the NCAA Tournament, and Richmond presented no resistance either, as the Jayhawks beat the Spiders, 77-57. Kansas was up 41-22 at the break and they never looked back. Brady Morningstar poured in 18 to lead the Jayhawks, while Marcus Morris scored 13 points and Thomas Robinson scored 12.
Now all Kansas had to do was win its Elite Eight game against … well … wouldn’t you know it?
Virginia Commonwealth had been a solid mid-major program for some time. But Shaka Smart was taking the Rams to a new level. In just his second year VCU was making its first appearance in the second weekend of the Tournament. Smart had the Rams playing some of the best basketball at the right time entering the game with Kansas. It really shouldn’t have been a contest. But that’s why we play the games, right?
VCU had a 41-27 lead at halftime. Jayhawks fans kept waiting for the comeback, and it never quite happened. The Rams ended up winning, 71-61. Jamie Skeen led VCU with 26 points. Marcus Morris had 20 points for Kansas, while Markieff Morris added 13 and Tyshawn Taylor with 14. Kansas shot 35.5 percent from the field, but was an awful 2-of-21 from the 3-point line. Kansas had to watch as VCU celebrated its first Final Fourth berth and wonder whether it could have claimed another national title.
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