Here are my Big 12 men’s basketball head coach power rankings entering the 2020-21 season. By the way, I thought this was going to be easy. It wasn’t. It was incredibly tough to put this together, which speaks to the quality of the head coaching in this league. A low ranking isn’t indicative of the coach’s ability. It’s just that there are so many great coaches in the Big 12 somebody has to be toward the bottom. Since I did these rankings last year, I’ll note where I had them ranked entering last season (I did not do postseason power rankings after the 2019-20 season).
10. Bruce Weber, Kansas State (Last year: 5)
It’s a steep drop for Weber, and it really boils down to player development and recruiting. Weber had an incredible gift with Barry Brown Jr., Kamau Stokes and Dean Wade. It bought he and his staff time to develop talent. I felt they squandered it. The only players that developed were Xavier Sneed and Cartier Diarra, who played alongside those three. Sneed graduated and Diarra transferred. His 2018 (No. 103) and 2019 (No. 54) recruiting classes were tepid before tipping back up to No. 35 in 2020, but the Wildcats had to sign seven players to bridge the gap. It might be a little bit too early to start talking about Weber being on the hot seat, but his program’s player development deserves more scrutiny than it has received. Perhaps Weber turns it around this season as last year’s freshmen develop and take on more prominent roles, and should the 2020 class make an immediate impact (and it probably needs to). But the fact that his program lost so many transfers after last season, and that he’s had to practically remake the roster, could be a sign that his message isn’t getting through the way it used to.
9. Jamie Dixon, TCU (Last year: 8)
Dixon showed last season that he has the ability to remake his program after a wake of transfers. Dixon lost several transfer going into last season and he had to show he could recruit well and find good replacements to get his Horned Frogs back to .500. He has shown the ability to develop talent in a short amount of time, and that development was best displayed by the emergence of Desmond Bane, who ended his career last season as one of TCU’s all-time leading scorers. Still, TCU is not an easy school to recruit to, so Dixon and his staff have to develop whatever they are able to bring to Fort Worth. Relative to his immediate predecessors, Dixon has recruited better, coached better, and had more success. But in the context of the Big 12, the Horned Frogs are still trying to catch up with the pack and Dixon’s work in Fort Worth, to this point, hasn’t made the Horned Frogs a Top 5 program in the league.
8. Steve Prohm, Iowa State (Last year: 4)
Things can turn quickly in college basketball. Prohm is learning that the hard way. Two years ago his program looked ascendant with a great Chicago-based recruiting class and a solid core of returning players. Now, there are plenty of question marks, including Prohm’s ability to keep talent. The program was rocked by five transfers after the season, the second losing season in three years for the Cyclones. That great Chicago-based recruiting class is practically gone now. His 2020 class consisted of four players, one of which, Xavier Foster, was an in-state coup. But Prohm has to bring some steadiness to Ames right now. That’s the biggest thing this program needs. He faces a season with just as many question marks as the season before and the potential for a third losing season in four years. That might make the natives at Hilton Coliseum a bit restless.
7. Shaka Smart, Texas (Last year: 9)
The reason Smart moves up is that he’s able to recruit. Some of that is on the back of the Texas name. But let’s give him some credit for pulling a Top 10 recruit this cycle, signing local product Greg Brown when he only had one scholarship to give. For that reason, Texas’ 2020 class was ranked No. 96. But, Smart is already putting together a Top 20 class for 2021. Smart and his staff are also underrated in the player development department. Look at the progress that Jericho Sims made last year. Same with Matt Coleman III, Jase Febres and Courtney Ramey the past two years. As long as he can recruit, he’ll have talent. He’s shown he can turn that talent into something. Now, he has to show he can win an NCAA Tournament game. And that might be the difference between him staying in Austin beyond this season.
6. Mike Boynton Jr, Oklahoma State (last year: 10)
OSU hasn’t seen the on-court success it wants under Boynton. But it’s time to acknowledge that he’s starting to catch up with the recruiting acumen of the coaches ahead of him here, and that’s a big reason why he’s moved up. He’s accumulating talent at a prodigious rate. His 2019 class was No. 24 overall, according to 247Sports.com. His 2020 class was No. 13, as he pulled the nation’s No. 1 overall recruit in Cade Cunningham. Yes, we can acknowledge that a family member of Cunningham is on Boynton’s staff. But wasn’t Danny Manning’s father on Larry Brown’s staff so many years ago at Kansas? So get over it. You use every tool, and that’s what Boynton is doing. Now that Boynton has proven he can recruit, it’s time for him to prove he can coach, and doing it in a year in which the Cowboys are on a postseason ban and have ‘nothing’ to play for would be a great next step.
5. Lon Kruger, Oklahoma (last year: 7)
I probably didn’t give Kruger enough respect last year. He’s one of those coaches that you always ‘know about’ but you don’t always realize has been such a great coach for more than four decades in the NCAA and the NBA. It’s hasn’t been easy recruiting at OU lately, with the obvious looming presence of Kansas and the rejuvenated programs at Baylor and Texas Tech. But Kruger manages to lure solid talent year after year. More importantly, he develops them. Players like Kristian Doolittle and Brady Manek stay for four years and become All-Big 12 players. That’s part of the recruiting pitch for Kruger, because not every player is Trae Young. Kruger is starting to catch up with coaches like the ones ahead of him on this list in terms of using the transfer market to his advantage, and it’s extending his coaching life and the life of his program there in Norman. He has only two losing seasons at OU in nine years, but that trip to the NCAA Final Four in 2016 is starting to get further back in that rear-view mirror.
4. Chris Beard, Texas Tech (last year: 2)
Beard slides back a bit here. Why? Well, you do have to look at last season, and while the Red Raiders had a nice campaign, it’s proof that how transfers and new recruits come together from one year to the next can be much different. In 2018-19 that mix led to an appearance in the national finals against Virginia. In 2019-20 it led to being on the NCAA Tournament bubble. But you have to have the talent to be competitive, and I’m not sure a Big 12 coach leans into the recruiting and transfer landscape in combination quite like Beard. According to 247Sports.com, Beard has recruited six of Texas Tech’s top 10 recruits of all-time (and he’s only been there four seasons). On the transfer trail, he’s lured Matt Mooney, Tariq Owens, TJ Holyfield, Chris Clarke and a quartet for this season — Joel Ntawmbe (who sat out last year), Jamarius Burton, Marcus Santos-Silva and G Mac McClung (who just got his waiver to play this season). His ability to coach and recruit, plus the unprecedented success he’s brought to Lubbock, is why he’ll always be a flight risk for blueblood jobs.
3. Bob Huggins, West Virginia (last year: 3)
Huggs holds rock steady at No. 3 here. At age 67, he’s still recruiting and coaching at a high level, even if the National Basketball Hall of Fame continues to ignore him for induction (that’s 879 career wins if you’re scoring at home, or even if you’re alone, as they used to say). The last two years are why you keep a coach like Huggins around. After enduring a horrible 15-win season in 2018-19 (his worst since a 13-win season in 2012-13), he led the Mountaineers back to a 21-win season after putting together a solid recruiting class, led by Oscar Tshiebwe (and while he got a lot of the attention last year, that whole class was a Top 22 class nationally). Going into the 2020-21 season Huggins has a stocked roster with solid transfers and important depth. He eschewed the ‘Press Virginia’ style last year to craft a defensive philosophy that worked better for his personnel. Huggins can start drawing Social Security now, if he wants. But why not stick around a few more years and try to get his alma mater back to the promised land?
2. Scott Drew, Baylor (last year: 6)
Yeah, six seems low in relation to what happened last season. But, remember where the Bears were going INTO last season. They were coming off a season in which they lost Tristan Clark halfway through the season and still managed to get into the NCAA Tournament before losing in the second round to Gonzaga. There were still plenty of unknowns with the Bears. But last season was a complete display of Drew’s coaching acumen. First, the player development (Jared Butler, Matthew Mayer, Freddie Gillespie) showed up in full. Second, the transfers cultivated (MaCio Teague, Davion Mitchell) paid off handsomely. Third, and perhaps most importantly, Drew looked at his roster and his talent and made the biggest move of his tenure. He shelved his vaunted 1-3-1 zone and went full-time man defense and the Bears became one of the best defensive teams in the country. The Bears’ recruiting had fallen off just a bit, but Drew has taken care of that now, too. Baylor’s incoming 2020 class was No. 27 in the country with just three players, according to 247Sports.com. The 2021 class is shaping up to be epic, currently ranked No. 3 in the country and featuring five-star forward Kendall Brown, a player Drew and his staff plucked from Wichita, Kansas, which has to sting the Jayhawks. Baylor slowed down a bit after its Elite Eight run in 2012, with just two Sweet 16 appearances in 2014 and 2017. There is no slowing down the Bears now. Best of all, Drew appears to be doing it all the right way in every way.
1. Bill Self, Kansas (last year: 1)
The program remains under NCAA investigation, and since the boys in Indianapolis don’t appear to be in a hurry to resolve it, one has to assume that Self will be the head coach in 2020-21 once again. I’m tired of the narrative that Self isn’t a good coach. That’s ridiculous. I made the point here last year that there are plenty of examples of average coaches dragging down great programs. Self is not an average coach. It takes a great coach to keep a program like Kansas at the top. And if you want to make your ‘Payhawks’ jokes, well, I won’t stop you. But just understand this. The Jayhawks won the Big 12 last year. They entered the Big 12 Tournament as the No. 1 seed. They ended the season as the No. 1 team in the nation and likely would have been the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament. And last year’s team probably wasn’t among the Top 5 in Self’s tenure at Kansas. If we’re being honest, Self isn’t recruiting quite as well as he has in the past, at least not year to year. The Jayhawks haven’t had a Top 5 class since 2018, per 247Sports.com. But his staff develops quality players and they’re in the nation’s Top 10 just about every year. I tried making a case for another coach at the top, but when it comes to Self’s tenure at Kansas, the only real hole in the resume is ‘just’ one national championship. And guess which coach in the Big 12 is the only one with one of those? Yep, Self.
**Want to win a $20 gift card? Go sign up here and join our conversation! The best poster each week wins a gift card to your favorite establishment!**