Big 12 goes from dead to top hoops conference


Turns out the Big 12’s demise was greatly exaggerated.

Thanks to commissioner Dan Beebe’s last-minute proposal to Texas, the Big 12 isn’t disintegrating. Colorado and Nebraska may be gone, but the conference will continue, simply with 10 teams.

Rod Aydelotte/AP

Cue sighs of relief from various parts of Kansas, Missouri, Iowa and Texas. There. Feel better?

Now, if the Big 12 stays at 10 teams (forget naming issues for a moment), we can thank the football-driven realignment for providing us with the nation’s best college basketball conference.

That’s right, the best. Ditching deadweight like Nebraska and Colorado left the Big 12 with no weak links. (Well, maybe Iowa State. Though who knows? Maybe Fred Hoiberg will be a natural…)  Check this lineup:

Kansas is one of nation’s elite programs. Texas brings in elite recruits and hasn’t missed the Big Dance since ’98. Baylor and Kansas State were Elite Eight teams this season. Missouri and Oklahoma got there last season. Oklahoma State has won two NCAA titles and continues to be a March contender. Texas A&M has turned itself from laughingstock (0-16 in league play in 2004) to NCAA tournament mainstay. Texas Tech started the last decade strong and has faded a bit, but is far superior to the ‘Huskers or Buffs.

Those were the league’s worst teams the last 10 years.

Nebraska was the picture of mediocrity. It was 159-149 overall, won 37 percent of its league games and hasn’t been to the NCAA tourney since ’98. It’s average league finish? Eighth.

Colorado was worse. It wasn’t as consistently mediocre, making the Big Dance in 2003 and winning 20 games twice in the last 10 years. But it was dead last in the Big 12 three of the last four years and just lost its coach.

That leaves Texas Tech and Iowa State as the league’s two “pushovers,” though that’s’ hardly the case. Both are among the league’s best home teams – leaving Lubbock or Ames with a victory is about as easy as leaving Lawrence with one – and figure to stay that way.

The new Big 12. It’s not a MEGA conference, and it’s still football driven. But its basketball takes a backseat to no league.

Mike Miller’s also on Twitter, usually talkin’ hoops.

#CBTtop100: Counting down the Top 100 Players in college basketball

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We’ll be counting down the top 100 players in college basketball all week long. Be sure to check back here throughout the week as the countdown continues over @CBTonNBC.

Jalen Coleman-Lands cleared to practice

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - MARCH 10: Jarrod Uthoff #20 of the Iowa Hawkeyes defends against Jalen Coleman-Lands #5 of the Illinois Fighting Illini in the second round of the Big Ten Basketball Tournament at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on March 10, 2016 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
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When Illinois takes on Southeast Missouri State in the opener of the 2016-17 season, the Fighting Illini should have it’s starting backcourt out on the floor.

According to Jon Rothstein, Jalen Coleman-Lands has been cleared for all basketball activities. The sophomore two-guard has been recovering from a broken bone in his right hand.

The 6-foot-3 guard averaged 10.3 points per game, while shooting 42 percent from three, as a freshman. He, along with Malcolm Hill and Michael Thorne Jr., is one of three returning players who averaged double figures last season.

Coleman-Lands will team up with Tracy Abrams, a point guard who was granted a sixth year of eligibility after missing the past two seasons due to injuries.

This could prove to be a make-or-break year for John Groce, who enters his fifth season at the helm. He guided the Illini to an NCAA Tournament in his first season, but hasn’t been back since.

The key for the Illini is health. Abrams gives them experience and leadership, but it won’t be a surprise if there’s some rust in his game after spending the past two seasons on the sideline. Having a healthy Coleman-Lands will help stabilize the backcourt, while Hill, an all-conference caliber forward, and Thorne anchor the frontcourt.

NBC Sports projected Illinois to finish eighth in the Big Ten this season.

Curtis Jones jumps over Tom Crean

Tom Crean
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Indiana held its annual Hoosier Hysteria on Saturday night.

One of the highlights from the team’s dunk contest was when freshman guard Curtis Jones jumped over Indiana head coach Tom Crean.

This isn’t the first time we’ve seen a newcomer us his coach as a dunk contest prop. Last week, Rawle Alkins cleared Arizona head coach Sean Miller en route to a reverse jam.

Like Alkins, Jones was a sought-after scorer. The 6-foot-4 two-guard was rated No. 69 overall in the Class of 2016 by Rivals. He picked Indiana over offers from Cal, Cincinnati, Georgetown and more than a dozen other high-major programs.

WATCH: Edmond Sumner take off from the foul line

CINCINNATI, OH - FEBRUARY 03:  Edmond Sumner #4 of the Xavier Musketeers dunks the ball during the game against the St. John's Red Storm at Cintas Center on February 3, 2016 in Cincinnati, Ohio.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
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Edmond Sumner is a big reason why Xavier is likely going to be a preseason top-10 team.

On Saturday night, during Musketeer Madness, Sumner won the team’s dunk contest when he took off from the foul line.

Sumner defeated freshmen Tyrique Jones and Quentin Goodin. J.P. Macura, the reigning Big East Sixth Man of the Year, took home the honors last year.

The 6-foot-6 redshirt sophomore is coming off a debut season in which he averaged 11.0 points, 3.4 rebounds and 3.6 assists per game.

WATCH: Duke goes crazy for Chase Jeter’s bottle flip

PROVIDENCE, RI - MARCH 17:  Chase Jeter #2 of the Duke Blue Devils looks on in the second half against the North Carolina-Wilmington Seahawks during the first round of the 2016 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Dunkin' Donuts Center on March 17, 2016 in Providence, Rhode Island.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

The bottle flip has become an international sensation in recent months.

It’s as simple as it sounds: flipping a water bottle in the air, attempting to have it land upright.

Duke sophomore forward Chase Jeter, in front of 9,300-plus fans, successfully pulled off the bottle flip on Saturday night at Duke’s Craziness.

Jeter, the 6-foot-10, played in a reserve role as a freshman, averaging 1.9 points and 1.9 rebounds per game last season. He will be part of a loaded frontline that includes heralded freshmen Harry Giles and Marques Bolden, as well as redshirt senior Amile Jefferson, who returns to the lineup following a foot injury.