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 2012.
THE BIG 12 IN 2012
The 2010-11 season was the last season of Big 12 basketball, as in 12 members. For the 2011-12 season, things changed, and those changes would ripple outside inside and outside of the Big 12. It fact, it nearly destroyed the conference.
In the space of three days in June — June 11-14 — Colorado accepted an invitation to the Pac-10 Conference, and Nebraska accepted an invitation to the Big Ten Conference. It was the first change to league membership since the Big 12 was created before the 1996 season. What’s more, the Pac-10 wasn’t done trying to poach the Big 12. Pac-10 commissioner Larry Scott had a super-conference on his mind, and he had four more Big 12 schools on his wish list — Texas, Texas Tech, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State. The departures of those schools would pretty much kill the conference.
Shortly after, those four schools announced they were staying. The Big 12 would have 10 teams, and the Big Ten would have 12 teams (insert your joke here). Put the Pac-10 was now the Pac-12 (the conference later lured Utah from the Mountain West) and now the Big Ten had 12 teams. The Southeastern Conference had 12 teams. At some point, someone was going to power up.
The SEC did just that in 2011. The conference invited Missouri and Texas A&M. The latter invitation was seismic in collegiate sports in the state of Texas. Truth be told, the Aggies were considering bolting for the SEC during the summer of 2010, and chose to stay. But the Longhorn Network — and the network’s proposed plan to broadcast live high school games featuring future Longhorn recruits (which was eventually scuttled) was the final straw. The Aggies accepted the invitation from the SEC, ending one of the nation’s longest college football rivalries with the Longhorns in the process. Missouri, meanwhile, made no guarantees that the Border War with Kansas would continue beyond the 2011-12 season.
So the 2011-12 basketball season would continue with 10 teams. And, oddly enough, the two teams leaving the league had coaching changes.
Mike Anderson had been at Missouri for five seasons, winning 117 games and helping the Tigers to the NCAA Tournament three times. That included a conference tournament title and Elite Eight run in 2009. But, when the Arkansas job came open after the 2011 NCAA Tournament — where Anderson had been Nolan Richardson’s assistant for more than a decade — he scampered off to Fayetteville, and the locals in Columbia were not happy. Not to worry. They would get their chance to get some revenge starting in 2012.
To replace Anderson the Tigers hired Frank Haith. He was a long-time college assistant (he did time at both Texas A&M and Texas) before taking the Miami (FL) job in 2004. Basketball isn’t the biggest priority at the U, but he fared well, winning 129 games in seven seasons and taking the Hurricanes to one NCAA Tournament and four NITs. With the Nevin Shapiro scandal swirling around Miami — a scandal that would suck Haith in during the course of the near-three year investigation — he took the Missouri job.
Mark Turgeon, who had led the Aggies to four straight NCAA Tournament berths and won at least 24 games in each of his four seasons in College Station, bolted for Maryland. Gary Williams, the man who had guided Maryland for 21 years and led the Terrapins to their 2002 national title, retired after the 2010-11 season. Basketball would never be a priority at Texas A&M. It was always a priority at Maryland. Turgeon headed to College Park.
Billy Kennedy took over the Aggies. Kennedy had a long, expansive career as an assistant coach, with head-coaching stints at Centenary and Southeastern Louisiana. But the Aggies plucked Kennedy from Murray State, where he led the Racers to 107 wins in five years, including an NCAA Tournament win in 2010.
One other coaching change remained. Texas Tech parted ways with Pat Knight after the 2010-11 season. The coach-in-waiting deal just didn’t work. Pat didn’t have his dad Bobby’s magic. He went 50-61 in three-plus seasons in Lubbock, taking the Red Raiders to one NIT berth.
To replace Knight the Red Raiders went out and got … Billy Gillispie? Yep, that’s right. The former Texas A&M coach was supposed to be at Kentucky, right? Well, it got weird right away. Gillispie took the job, but didn’t actually have a contract. He and the school had a memorandum of understanding and a 60-day window to get a contract done. But they never did get one done, and yet Gillispie coached two seasons, winning 40 games and taking the Wildcats to one NCAA Tournament and one NIT Tournament.
And then it got really messy. The Wildcats fired him. Remember that Gillispie had never signed a formal contract? Well, Kentucky considered that memorandum of understanding to be a series of one-year deals. What’s worse is that the Wildcats reportedly offered Gillispie a seven-year deal and he didn’t sign it. Gillispie filed a lawsuit and he and the program settled out of court.
Well, Gillispie was a free agent at that point and the Red Raiders were all too willing to take him in. He was a west Texas guy through and through. He was born in Abilene, Texas, and coached throughout the western part of the state. It was hard to find a better fit. But there was a lot more going on than any of us realized. But we’ll get to that.
Yes, there was basketball to be played that season. With just 10 teams in the league, the Big 12 adopted an 18-game, round robin schedule. Every team would play each other, home and road, for the first time in league history. Kansas dominated once again, going 16-2 in league action behind Thomas Robinson (17.7 ppg), Tyshawn Taylor (16.6 ppg) and Elijah Johnson (10.2 ppg). Marcus and Markieff Morris were off to the NBA, but the Jayhawks were still among the country’s best starting the season at No. 13 and ending it at No. 6.
Missouri, in its first season under Haith, would be the second Big 12 team with at least 30 wins overall, but the Tigers finished second behind Kansas (14-4). Haith took the Tigers as high as No. 2 in the nation, and they finished No. 3 in the final poll. He inherited a great team, including guard Marcus Denmon (17.7 ppg), Kim English (14.5 ppg) and Ricardo Ratliffe (13.9 ppg), all of which were seniors. Sophomore Phil Pressey (10.3 ppg) and junior Michael Dixon (13.5 ppg) gave the Tigers five players in double figures for the season.
Iowa State and Baylor tied for third at 12-6. ISU went from 3-13 the previous season in Fred Hoiberg’s first season to near the top of the Big 12. It was an incredible turnaround. The Cyclones peeked into the Top 25 at one point, but finished the season unranked. Still, with Royce White (13.4 ppg), Scott Christopherson (12.6 ppg) and Chris Allen (12.2 ppg) leading the way, the Cyclones had their eyes on an NCAA Tournament berth.
So did Baylor. The Bears finished the season with 30 wins, got as high as No. 3 in the nation and finished the season at No. 9. After missing the NCAA Tournament the previous year, Pierre Jackson (13.8 ppg), Quincy Acy (12.0 ppg), Perry Jones (13.5 ppg) and Quincy Miller (10.6 ppg) were out to make sure it didn’t happen again. All of them went to the NBA one day. Brady Heslip averaged 10.2 ppg, and another future NBA player, Cory Jefferson was deep on the bench.
Kansas State (10-8) and Texas (9-9) both won at least 20 games that season. The Wildcats reached No. 18 in the AP poll and Rodney McGruder led the Wildcats with 15.8 ppg. Jamar Samuels (10.0 ppg) also hit double figures. Texas was never ranked that season, but J’Covan Brown averaged 20.1 ppg and Sheldon McClellan added 11.3 ppg.
Oklahoma State (7-11), Oklahoma (5-13), Texas A&M (4-14) and Texas Tech (1-17) brought up the rear.
The regular-season award winners included Robinson (player of the year), Kansas C Jeff Withey (defensive player of the year), White (newcomer of the year), Miller and Oklahoma’s Le’Bryan Nash (freshman of the year), Dixon (sixth man) and Hoiberg and Kansas coach Bill Self (coach of the year). The All-Big 12 First Team included White, Robinson, Taylor, Denmon and Brown.
The Big 12 Tournament remained at the Sprint Center in Kansas City. Kansas and Missouri fans were hoping for one last Border War. But it did not materialize. Baylor took down Kansas in the semifinals, 81-72, while Missouri defeated Texas, 81-67. In the championship game Missouri walked away with its final Big 12 Tournament title, 90-75, beating the Bears handily. English was the tournament’s most outstanding player, while Jones, Heslip, Pressey and Brown were named to the All-Tournament team.
On Selection Sunday the Big 12 received six invitations to the NCAA Tournament — Kansas (No. 2), Missouri (No. 2), Baylor (No. 3), Iowa State (No. 8), Kansas State (No. 8) and Texas (No. 11).
Missouri’s final NCAA Tournament as a member of the Big 12 turned into one big meltdown.
The Tigers were one of two Big 12 teams to lose in the first round, and by the Tigers did it with a flourish. As a No. 2 seed, the Tigers were a near-lock to win their first-round game. Well, No. 15-seed Norfolk State had something to say about it. Missouri became the sixth No. 2 seed in NCAA Tournament history to lose in the first round, falling 86-84 to NSU.
Norfolk State had an incredible game, shooting 54.2 percent from the floor and led by Kyle O’Quinn’s 26 points. Pendarvis Williams and Chris McEachin each had 20 points. Missouri’s Marcus Denmon and Phil Pressey started and scored 20 points each, while Michael Dixon added 22 off the bench. Mizzou’s last-second shot ended its run in the Big 12.
Kansas cruised to a first-round win over Detroit, 65-50. Baylor defeated South Dakota State, 68-60. Iowa State took care of UConn, 77-64, and Kansas State beat Southern Miss, 70-64.
The other Big 12 team to lose in the first round was Texas. The Longhorns fell to Cincinnati, 65-59. The Bearcats stormed out to a 31-17 halftime lead and never looked back, even though Texas rallied. The Longhorns were led by J’Covan Brown with 19 points, followed by Julien Lewis with 14 points, Clint Chapman with 10 points and Sheldon McClellan with 10 points. Yancy Gates led the Bearcats with 15 points, one of four Bearcats in double figures.
Both Iowa State and Kansas State faced No. 1 seeds in the second round of the NCAA Tournament and both didn’t fare well.
The Cyclones fell to No. 1 Kentucky, 87-71. This Kentucky team had Anthony Davis in the middle and he scored 15 points and had 12 rebounds. Marquis Teague had 24 points, Darius Miller had 19 points and Doron Lamp had 16 points. Royce White led the Cyclones with 23 points, while Chris Allen had 16 points and Scott Christopherson added 15 points.
But the season was a success for the Cyclones, as second-year coach Fred Hoiberg led the Cyclones to 23 wins, and more was to come.
Kansas State, meanwhile, fell to No. 1 Syracuse, The Orange was up by one point, 25-24, at the break, but rolled out to a 50-35 second half to claim a 75-59 win over the Wildcats. Scoop Jardine led the Orange with 16 points, but the bench really came through for Syracuse, as Dion Waiters had 18 points and James Southerland added 15 points. Rodney McGruder led four Wildcats with 15 points, but a 31 percent shooting night ended things for K-State. And change was coming to Manhattan once again.
Kansas and Baylor rolled on to the Sweet 16. The Jayhawks needed everything to get by Purdue, 63-60. The Robbie Hummel-led Boilermakers were right there until the very end, but Kansas, led by Elijah Johnson’s 18 points, managed to upend the Boilermakers in the end.
Baylor exacted a little revenge over Colorado for leaving the Big 12 with an 80-63 victory in the second round. Brady Heslip had a huge night for the Bears hitting nine 3-pointers and leading Baylor with 27 points.
Kansas and Baylor had their eye on reaching the Final Four the following week. But first the Jayhawks and Bears had to get through two more opponents. Both were armed with the players to get there, and both had what looked like favorable draws in the regional semifinals.
Kansas took on No. 11-seeded NC State, but the Wolfpack were not going away quietly. C.J. Leslie scored 18 points to lead NC State, while Richard Howell added 16 rebounds. But as a team NC State shot 28.4 percent from the floor. And even at that Kansas needed everything it had to win the game. Thomas Robinson led the Jayhawks with 18 points while Elijah Johnson added 11 points.
Baylor, meanwhile, also faced another No. 11 seed, Xavier. And like Kansas, the Bears had to hang on to win. Tu Holloway led the Musketeers with 22 points while Kenny Frease added 18 points. Brady Heslip came down to earth after hitting nine 3-pointers in the second round, but that was all right since Quincy Acy had 20 points, Pierre Jackson had 16 points, Perry Jones had 14 points and Heslip pitched in 11 points.
The Bears won, 75-70 and moved on to the Elite Eight, along with Kansas.
Kansas had its eye on the Final Four. To get there, the Jayhawks had to get past an old friend — Roy Williams. Yep, North Carolina stood in Kansas’ way in the Elite Eight, and this time it wasn’t even a contest. Kansas defeated North Carolina, 80-67. The game was tied 47 all at the break, but Kansas outscored North Carolina 33-20, in the second half to claim another berth in the Final Four.
All five Kansas starters were in double figures — Tyshawn Taylor with 22, Thomas Robinson with 18, Jeff Withey with 15, Travis Releford with 11 and Elijah Johnson with 10. James Michael McAdoo came off the bench to lead the Tar Heels with 15 points, while Harrison Barnes added 13 points and Tyler Zeller with 12 points.
Baylor, meanwhile, wasn’t as fortunate. Scott Drew and his Bears ran into a No. 1 seed, Kentucky, in the regional final and couldn’t turn the corner, losing 82-70. Kentucky had already taken out one Big 12 team in the tournament, Iowa State, and Anthony Davis led the way with 18 points and 11 rebounds. But this time, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist came to the fore, scoring 19 points, along with two other Wildcats.
Baylor’s Quincy Acy scored 22 points and grabbed eight rebounds, while Perry Jones scored 17 points and got eight rebounds of his own. Pierre Jackson scored 22 points. But the Bears shot 42 percent from the field and only 4-of-14 from the 3-point line. For the second time in three years, the Bears fell in the regional final.
FINAL FOUR (NATIONAL SEMIFINALS)
Kansas went to its 14th Final Four with the victory over North Carolina. That gave head coach Bill Self the chance to do something no Kansas coach had done to that point — win multiple NCAA Tournaments. On one side Kansas would face Ohio State. On the other Kentucky would face Louisville.
The Jayhawks needed everything it could muster to beat Ohio State. The Buckeyes were up 34-25 at the break. William Buford (19), Jared Sullinger (13), Aaron Craft (11) and Lenzelle Smith (10) all hit double figures and played most of the game for the Buckeyes.
Four players were in double figures for Kansas — Thomas Robinson (19), Travis Releford (15), Elijah Johnson (13) and Tyshawn Taylor (10). The Jayhawks rallied in the second half, outscoring the Buckeyes by 11 points in the final 10 minutes.
Kansas took the lead late in the game and held off the Buckeyes to reach the national championship game for the sixth time.
FINAL FOUR (NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP GAME)
It doesn’t get much better than Kansas and Kentucky in a national championship game. Two of the game’s true blueblood programs. Jayhawks vs. Wildcats. Bill Self vs. John Calipari. This should have been one of the best games of all-time.
And, well, not so much.
Kentucky came out of the gate on a tear and took a 41-27 lead at the break. Anthony Davis didn’t have the best game scoring, as he had just six points. But he snagged 16 rebounds. Instead, it was Doron Lamb who led the Wildcats with 22 points, while Marquis Teague had 14 points and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist had 11 points.
Kansas’ biggest problem was its shooting, going 35.5 percent from the floor. Tyshawn Taylor led the Jayhawks with 19 points, while Thomas Robinson scored 18 points and Elijah Johnson added 13 points.
The Wildcats claimed their eighth national championship with the 67-59 win. For Self and the Jayhawks, it would be their first national championship game loss during his tenure.
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