Big 12 Basketball

The Big 12 Conference’s Future Changed Forever on Thursday

Syndication: Austin American-Statesman

March 23rd, 2023.

Mark that date on your calendar, Big 12 fans. This may be a date that we will, or should, forever remember as a day that helped change the Big 12’s future.

Let’s set the stage for how we got to this day. It has been reported for the last several weeks that Big 12 commissioner Brett Yormark has his eyes set on the Big Apple. More specifically, he’s reportedly interested in exploring the idea of expansion with basketball-only schools, with a potential eye on some of the staple programs in the Big East.

 

We all know Brett Yormark’s background as an NBA guy with the Brooklyn Nets to his time at ROC Nation, along with his New York City background and his love of basketball. Combine all this, plus the fact that he sees an opening when it comes to the basketball side of the college athletics business being undervalued. He’s discussed as much publicly, and he’s probably right.

Plus, when it comes to finding the competitive edge in the ever-changing, fast-paced world of college athletics, we can all admit that the Big 12 is not going to be the SEC in football. It probably won’t be at the Big Ten level in football. I believe it will be the clear No. 3 football conference in America, but it’s unlikely to reach Top 2 status.

However in hoops, the Big 12 has had the best basketball in the country for multiple years running. The Big 12 has the last two National Champions in Baylor and Kansas, while the league got a nation-leading 70% of its teams to reach the NCAA Tournament this year. And every advanced metric clearly shows the Big 12 was the best basketball conference in America this season.

All this leads us to Thursday, March 23rd, 2023.

 

The Day That Was

On Thursday morning, the Big 12 Conference made a big announcement that the league would be partnering with the legendary Rucker Park in New York City.

According to a press release, the Big 12 will operate youth clinics at Rucker Park for local youth in grades six and below. The clinics will be held across multiple days and will be led by head coaches from both men’s and women’s Big 12 basketball programs. Additionally, the Big 12 Conference will host men’s and women’s summer exhibition games at Rucker Park, pending NCAA approval. The Big 12 is also planning a variety of entertainment enhancements and community engagements throughout the Conference’s Rucker Park activations.

“Rucker Park is one of the great landmarks in basketball and is a cultural icon – we are excited to be able to bring Big 12 Basketball to its court,” said Big 12 Commissioner Brett Yormark. “We are committed to growing the Conference’s footprint in a variety of ways, and we want kids across New York City to experience Big 12 Basketball first-hand.”

So, that was the first part of the day. Pretty darn good start.

 

Night Cap

Then came the night cap.

Kansas State made the trip from the Little Apple to the Big Apple for their Sweet 16 match up against Michigan State. The Wildcats have four players on their roster from New York City, including All-American guard Markquis Nowell, who hails from Harlem.

Then, the Cats ended up playing in one of the most incredible basketball games I’ve ever witnessed. Barring something even more unbelievable in the next 10 days, it should go down as the best basketball game of this NCAA Tournament. It was a clean game (only 17 total turnovers, five for K-State), both teams combined to shoot nearly 50% from three-point range, there was injury drama (Nowell), and there were seven lead changes or ties.

The game went to overtime where Kansas State pulled off the 98-93 win over the Spartans to reach the Elite 8 in Madison Square Garden.

And who was the star of the game? Harlem’s own Markquis Nowell. He set an NCAA Tournament record with 19 assists in the game and recovered from an ankle injury early in the second half to lead his team to victory.

 

So here we have a new Big 12 commissioner who we know wants to plant a flag in New York City, and this is what the league’s day looked like on Thursday.

  1. Rucker Park Announcement
  2. A Big 12 team wins the best game of the NCAA Tournament
  3. … in New York City
  4. … led by a New York City native

What more could Yormark have asked for?

Oh, well how about the back page on the two biggest New York City tabloid papers? He got that too.

What Now?

There will be no obvious sign of a noticeable difference in the short-term in terms of how the Big 12 is perceived. But as time goes on, as Yormark’s vision for this league continues to be implemented, we will have to look back on this period of time, specifically March 23rd, 2023, as a day when the Big 12 Conference began making a legitimate mark on a part of the country Yormark wants to penetrate.

Yormark could not have written a better script if he tried.

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