The Border War between Kansas and Missouri has not been played since the Tigers left the Big 12 for greener football pastures in the SEC in 2012.
Missouri athletic director Jim Sterk wants the rivalry to be renewed. Kansas head coach Bill Self has deflected those questions, previously stating, “… that’s a decision that will be made at a university level, not just at a basketball level.”
On Thursday, former Missouri Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin blamed the Self and his “big ego” for not restarting the Border War, stating that an offer was on the table for a football game between the Tigers and Jayhawks to be played at Arrowhead Stadium.
“Tell the ex-Missouri chancellor that I coach basketball, not football,” Self wrote in a text message to The Capital-Journal. “That we would never play a game in Arrowhead or even discuss it. It’s too cold. We play our games indoors. But (I) look forward to meeting him someday if he’s ever in Lawrence.”
These comments serve as nothing more than as a deflection and Self’s disinterest in reigniting the series with Mizzou.
But it’s important that Missouri is aggressively pursuing this. There’s plenty of hype surrounding the program right now: Cuonzo Martin taking over the program, projected top pick Michael Porter, Jr. committing to the Tigers, ticket sales up, etc. If that hype can be turned into on the court success, you’d have to imagine Sterk’s pursuit of this annual game only intensifies.
March Madness 2017: Big 12 Tournament Preview, Bracket and Conference Postseason Awards
Big 12 Player of the Year: Frank Mason III, Kansas
Mason’s play this season makes him the no-brainer conference player of the year and perhaps the frontrunner for the national award. He’s averaging 20.5 points, 5.1 assists and 4.2 rebounds while shooting 48.8 percent from the field and a sizzling 49.3 percent from 3-point range for the potential No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA tournament.
Big 12 Coach of the Year: Bill Self, Kansas
There was a temptation to reward Brad Underwood for Oklahoma State’s turnaround, but it’s impossible not to recognize Self leading his program not only to a 13th-straight conference title, but doing it by four games in the country’s toughest league. Kansas may have the top talent in the league year in and year out, but Self’s presence on the sideline guarantees it comes together year in and year out. This season was no exception.
First-Team All-Big 12:
Frank Mason III, Kansas (POY)
Monte Morris, Iowa State: The nation’s leader in assist-to-turnover ratio is as consistent an elite presence on the floor as there is in the country.
Jawun Evans, Oklahoma State: The most dynamic and important piece of the country’s best offense, Evans averaged 18.7 points per game.
Josh Jackson, Kansas: Mason is Kansas’ MVP, but Jackson is the Jayhawks’ most difficult matchup and is a likely top-five NBA draft pick.
Johnathan Motley, Baylor: The big man doubled his rebounding output this season to average a double-double of 17.5 points and 10 rebounds per game.
The thought was coming into the year that the Big 12 would be down this season, but for the fourth-straight year it ranked as the country’s best conference by KenPom. Another thing that didn’t change was Kansas winning the league, making it 13 in a row for the Jayhawks. The league isn’t going to send a huge number to the NCAA tournament this season, but make no mistake, the conference’s round-robin schedule was a grind, making it all the more impressive Kansas cleared the league by four games.
The Jayhawks are clearly the class of the Big 12, winning the conference by its largest margin since 2010. Kansas isn’t invulnerable at the Sprint Center, as the rest of the league has more than enough firepower to threaten them, but there’s no argument that makes anyone else the favorite.
And if they lose?: West Virginia
The Mountaineers should have swept Kansas this year. They rocked them in Morgantown, but blew a late lead in spectacular fashion in Lawrence later in the season. Their Press Virginia style seems to seriously bother the Jayhawks, and it could make for a raucous title game.
Baylor: The Bears went 2-4 against the top-four of the conference, but their length and the talent of Johnathan Motley makes them an intriguing matchup
Iowa State: The Cyclones have won six of their last seven and three members of their core — Monte Morris, Naz Mitrou-Long and Matt Thomas — who have won two Big 12 tournament titles in their career. They’ve also have claimed wins against each of the other top teams in the league this year.
Sleeper: Oklahoma State
The Cowboys opened the Big 12 slate with six-straight losses, but then won nine of 10 before ending the season with losses to Iowa State and Kansas. Their defense is porous, but their top-ranked KenPom offense, led by point guard Jawun Evans, makes them a legitimate threat to reel off three wins in three days.
The Bubble Dwellers: One
Kansas State: Most projections have the Wildcats just on the bad side of the field of 68 line, which means they’ll probably have to score a win against Baylor in the quarterfinals to move the needle. Depending on what happens around the rest of the country, that one more win could be enough to earn a berth.
Defining moment of the season: Kansas erasing a 14-point deficit in the final three minutes at home against West Virginia. This is Peak Phog Allen.
CBT Prediction: Kansas
College Basketball Conference Reset: The Big 12’s best players and biggest story lines
College basketball’s non-conference season is coming to a close, and to help you shake off post-holiday haze and the hangover of losing in your fantasy football playoffs, we’ll be providing you with some midseason primers to get you caught up on all the nation’s most important conferences.
Today, we’re taking a look at the Big 12.
PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Frank Mason III, Kansas
Josh Jackson is the Jayhawks’ top draft prospect, but Mason is their most important, and though 12 games, their most productive. He’s shooting 50 percent from 3-point range and dishing out 4.7 assists while quarterbacking an offense that ranks in the KenPom top five. He’s the Big 12 player of the year and on the short list for contenders for national player of the year.
1. The league is much better than anticipated: The thought coming into the season was that it was Kansas and everybody else. Well, the thought was it was like that more than it usually is in a league the Jayhawks have won 12-straight times. Instead, the league looks again as tough as any in the country and in some sense, maybe the deepest it has ever been. Baylor and West Virginia have established themselves as top-10 teams, but what’s maybe even more interesting is there appear to be no bottom feeders. TCU is vastly improved, and Oklahoma State looks for real. There doesn’t look to be an easy night on the schedule for anyone.
2. The Scott Drew jokes have to stop: Drew has been among the sport’s favorite punching bags for some time. Whether it was questions about his high-level recruiting, his ability to turn talent to wins or his sometimes odd in-game decisions, there’s not much of a more mocked coach in the country. Rarely do his two Elite Eight appearances come into the conversation, and if they do, they’re qualified by an easy path. What about this Bears team, though? They’ve got one of, if not the, best resumes in the country with an undefeated record and wins over Oregon, Xavier and Louisville. And it’s not like Drew and the Bears are doing it with a ton of guys that topped recruiting boards. It’s more of a rag-tag group. Drew, and his guys, are getting it done.
3. Press Virginia is maturing: When Bob Huggins pulled the handbrake on his program and quickly shifted directions into a full-court pressing team in 2014, it was unclear if Huggins would stick with it beyond that year or if it would even be sustainable. It’s looking like the Mountaineers are just starting to perfect it. Their turnover rate of 35 percent is by far the best of the Press Virginia era. Yes, it’ll come down in conference play, but that’s an astounding number.
1. Is there a contender to Kansas?: Probably not, right? Every year we ask this question and for the last 12, the answer has been no team has been good enough to knock off the Jayhawks. Tie them in some instances, yes, but never best. Baylor and West Virginia look like the real deal, but Kansas still would appear to be a tier better – plus they still play nine games at Allen Fieldhouse.
2. Is the Big 12 still tops?: The conference has been the consensus top league in the country in recent years, but was expected to take a step back this season. The ACC might have more better teams, but it’s also got 14 members to the Big 12’s 10, which, as of Christmas day, all were ranked in the KenPom top-70. With Kansas carrying the banner, Baylor and West Virginia following closely behind and a host of solid squads, the Big 12 could once again be the country’s top league.
3. How many bids?: Last season the league sent 70 percent of its members to the NCAA tournament. For that to be repeatable, Oklahoma State, Kansas State and Texas Tech all have to prove to be more than just good-looking records against soft schedules and none of the other league’s expected dancer can take a step back. It’s doable for the Big 12, but also a tall task.
BETTER THAN THEIR RECORD: Oklahoma sits just a game above .500 with a 6-5 mark, but two have their losses have come in overtime, another two were by a combined seven points (and leading scorer Jordan Woodard missed one of those game) and then there was a 20-point loss to Wisconsin. If the Sooners can get Woodard back healthy, they’re good enough to compete for a top-half finish in the conference behind one of the country’s most underrated coaches, Lon Kruger.
BEAT SOMEONE AND WE’LL TALK: Chris Beard has led Texas Tech to an 11-1 record in his first year in Lubbock, but the schedule is as soft and nondescript as a blanket of snow. Right now, the Red Raiders’ top KenPom win is Rice, which is ranked 112th. Texas Tech might be OK-to-good, but its resume doesn’t reveal much.
COACH UNDER PRESSURE: Since sharing the league title in his first season of 2013, Bruce Weber and Kansas State have seen their fortunes steadily decrease over the last three seasons. Oklahoma State snapping up Wildcat alum Brad Underwood after his dominating run at Stephen F. Austin only ratcheted up the scrutiny. Weber has the Wildcats at 11-1 this season, but they don’t have anything close to a “good win.” The win total looks nice, but it’s not really indicative of much growth.
POWER RANKINGS, POSTSEASON PREDICTIONS
1.Kansas: The Jayhawks continue to be the toast of the league and look every bit the part of a national title contender. The backcourt of Mason and Devonte Graham has been superb and while the loss of Udoka Azubuike (wrist) hurts the front line, Josh Jackson has been as good as advertised.
2. Baylor: It’s been one of the best stories this season in the country as the Bears remain undefeated with some serious wins to their name. Despite not having the five-star recruits that powered the early part of his tenure, Scott Drew might have his best team in Waco.
3. West Virginia: Bob Huggins just got win No. 800 for his career and has the Mountaineers looking like another Final Four possibility for Huggs. West Virginia’s success over the last three years is proof enough their new style of play is sustainable against even the best teams in the country. The Mountaineers will be one of the most difficult matchups for any team on its schedule.
4. Oklahoma State: The return from injuries of Jawun Evans and Phil Forte has allowed first-year coach Brad Underwood to hit the ground running in Stillwater. The defense is still a concern, but the Cowboys look to have a formula that works.
5. Iowa State: The Cyclones have struggled some to adjust to a post-George Niang world, but their defense has been markedly improved and the offense figures to catch up at some point. Iowa State really needs Monte Morris to be a bigger scorer and its wings to shoot it consistently from deep.
6. Texas Tech: It’s been a Charmin-soft schedule for the Red Raiders, but their offense – especially their offensive rebounding – will probably translate enough to the Big 12 to put them in a position to hear their name called for a second-consecutive Selection Sunday.
7. Oklahoma: The Sooners enter conference play on a down note of three-straight losses, but getting Jordan Woodard healthy should help them steer out of the skid and finish above .500.
8. TCU: Jamie Dixon’s first season at his alma mater is making the school look smart for bringing him back home, but the schedule has allowed them to pile up wins without too much resistance. An NIT bid would be a nice start to his tenure with recruiting picking up.
Autobid or bust
9. Kansas State: The Wildcats have exceeded expectations through the non-conference portion of their schedule but they haven’t been tested at all, either. Their younger players will certainly be put to the test in the grinding 18-game conference slate.
10. Texas: How about this? Seeing the Longhorns struggle so mightily in Year 2 under Shaka Smart is pretty shocking, especially given he’s bringing McDonald’s All-Americans to Austin, but the total lack of guard play has been crippling to Texas. The Longhorns can’t really shoot it, either, which in basketball is a problem, I’m told. It’s hard to see them being able to correct that enough to climb the conference ladder.
For the first time in conference history, the Big 12 will be playing its league games on both sides of New Year’s Day.
The Big 12 will have a showcase day on Friday, Dec. 30, with Texas Tech at Iowa State (4 p.m. eastern), followed by Baylor at Oklahoma (7 p.m.) and Kansas at TCU ( 9 p.m.). Kansas State will host Texas and Oklahoma State will welcome West Virginia as well, though times have yet to be determined, on the league’s first-ever December day of games.
The league’s first signature Big Monday contest is Jan. 16, with Kansas traveling to Hilton Coliseum to face Iowa State.
Final day of league action is Saturday, March 4, before all 10 teams travel to Kansas City for the conference’s tournament starting March 8.
While the league may be starting at a new time, one thing will remain the same: Kansas is the heavy favorite to claim its 13th-straight conference championship.
Wednesday afternoon the matchups for ESPN’s “Big Monday” were announced, with for the third consecutive season the ACC in the 7:00 p.m. Eastern time slot and the Big 12 in the second half of the doubleheader. Of course some of the nation’s top teams will be on display, with North Carolina and Duke making three appearances apiece in the ACC and Kansas getting four games in the Big 12 portion of the slate.
Iowa State and Oklahoma, expected by many to be the biggest threats to Kansas’ current streak of 11 straight Big 12 regular season titles, will make three appearances apiece as will Texas under first-year head coach Shaka Smart.
In regards to the Big 12 schedule, it shouldn’t take too long to get a feel for the conference race with the Jayhawks, Cyclones and Sooners being featured during the first three weeks of the schedule. Kansas will host Oklahoma January 4, with the Sooners taking on Iowa State in Ames January 18 (the 11th is taken by the College Football Playoff title game) and Kansas visiting Iowa State January 25.
As for the ACC portion of the schedule, either North Carolina or reigning national champion Duke will be in action during each of the first five weeks beginning with the Tar Heels’ trip to Florida State January 4. Duke will host Syracuse January 18 and then head to Miami the following Monday, with the Tar Heels taking on Louisville February 1 and the Blue Devils hosting the Cardinals February 8.
Two-time ACC regular season champion Virginia gets two appearances, as they’ll host another expected contender in NC State February 15 and visiting Miami February 22. Below is the full schedule for “Big Monday” during the 2015-16 season.
7 p.m. North Carolina at Florida State
9 p.m. Oklahoma at Kansas
7 p.m. Syracuse at Duke
9 p.m. Oklahoma at Iowa State
7 p.m. Duke at Miami
9 p.m. Kansas at Iowa State
7 p.m. North Carolina at Louisville
9 p.m. Texas at Baylor
7 p.m. Louisville at Duke
9 p.m. Texas at Oklahoma
7 p.m. NC State at Virginia
9 p.m. Oklahoma State at Kansas
7 p.m. Virginia at Miami
9 p.m. Iowa State at West Virginia
7 p.m. Syracuse at North Carolina
9 p.m. Kansas at Texas ESPN
Big 12 Tournament to remain in Kansas City through 2020
Since the Big 12 came into existence in 1996, 14 of its men’s basketball tournaments have been played in Kansas City with Kemper Arena hosting seven and the Sprint Center hosting seven with an eighth scheduled for next season. Thursday afternoon the Big 12 announced the sites for multiple conference championships, which includes the decision to leave the Big 12 tournament in Kansas City through 2020.
The league’s contract with the Sprint Center was due to expire after the 2016 edition of the event.
“We are thrilled to announce the future sites for the championships,” Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby said in the release. “Every city that submitted a bid did a phenomenal job – making our decision very difficult. We look forward to growing the success of our men’s basketball championship in Kansas City, while also exposing fans throughout our footprint to our postseason competitions.”
The Big 12 tournament has been well-attended during its time in Kansas City, with the conference noting in the release that the average per session attendance for tournaments at the Sprint Center have exceeded 18,000. Of the 14 Big 12 tournaments played in Kansas City, Kansas has been the most frequent winner as the Jayhawks have won seven of them.
Iowa State, which has won the last two Big 12 tournaments, has won three (2000, 2014, 2015) of the 14 staged in Kansas City with Oklahoma (2001, 2002) winning two and Oklahoma State (2005) and former member Missouri (2012) winning one apiece.