By Chris Williams, CycloneFanatic.com PublisherFollow Chris on Twitter @ChrisMWilliams
KANSAS CITY – Hoops is here. Can I get an amen?
Below are some notes that I took during the press conference portion of the Big 12’s basketball media day that went down on Thursday morning in Kansas City.
The bulk of this piece will be focused on the rest of the Big 12. More on the side and Iowa State related notes will be published at a later time.
*** Fred Hoiberg did drop one nugget during his press conference though. That’s that the Cyclones will travel to Nebraska for a scrimmage at "the end of the month." This is likely why Iowa State only has one exhibition game on its schedule for the upcoming season.
*** Everywhere you look, there are intriguing storylines to follow this year within the Big 12. Among the most interesting is this one.
The programs with that have the most quality experience coming back have new coaches (Missouri & Texas A&M).
The programs with coaches that perennially dominate the league (Kansas, Texas & to a lesser extent Kansas State), don’t have as much experience coming back.
Note that Baylor doesn’t really count in the above scenario. Yes, the Bears return a ton of talent but no, I don’t consider Scott Drew as a premier coach.
College basketball is a coaches sport correct?
So I pose this question for you to ponder today. Which do you prefer? The top of the line coach (Bill Self) or a good chunk of talent (Texas A&M)?
I’ll go with the coach.
*** Texas’ Rick Barnes made some refreshing and honest remarks regarding conference realignment during his press conference. Essentially, the Longhorn head coach sent a message to the rest of the league, or Missouri and Texas A&M specifically.
"I think we’ve got a special league," said Barnes. "And believe me, if somebody wants to leave it, let them leave, and there will be other people that will want to be a part of it if we choose to do that."
*** With the Big 12’s new schedule format where everybody will play everybody twice, Barnes believes that the Texas vs. Kansas rivalry will only grow.
"I think it has been and I think it will even get better with being one of the best rivalries in college basketball."
*** The Big 12’s coaches showed faith in Texas A&M’s new head man Billy Kennedy by voting the Aggies tied for first in the league with Kansas. Still, Kennedy wasn’t in attendance on Thursday. Kennedy is currently away from the team while nursing an undisclosed medial reason.
When Kennedy will return to the team is still in question. However, associate head coach Glynn Cyprien (who filled in for Kennedy at media) said that he expects Kennedy to be back, "Real soon. Real, real soon."
Kennedy spent the last five seasons at the head coach at Murray State, where he compiled an impressive 70-24 record in Ohio Valley Conference play.
*** Oklahoma’s first-year head coach Lon Kruger is glad to be back in the Big Eight…I mean the Big 12. Things are confusing now days…
"I’ve referred to it as the Big Eight several times by mistake," admitted Kruger. "But it is back to the roots."
Kruger grew up near Kansas City and played at Kansas State from 1971-1974. He coached the Wildcats from 1986-1990.
*** I found the following Scott Drew quote on sophomore Perry Jones returning for another season humorous for multiple reasons.
"Hopefully the trend continues, because at the end of the day, they only have one chance to be in college and sometimes it’s not bad to spend a couple of extra years and socially develop, spiritually, academically, as well as basketball, before you go into the professional ranks."
Good stuff coach. Thanks for the early morning laugh.
*** Kansas State’s Frank Martin is high on the Big 12.
"By far, the best league in the country," said Martin.
Here’s more on how Martin came to that conclusion.
"If you look at the wins over the last five years by the ten teams in our league, they don’t rival — they don’t fall second to any other ten teams in any league in the country. You look at the success as far as NCAA wins, as far as players in the league, nonconference records, you go up and down the line, you look at every statue want to look, how many different teams have been to Elite Eights and Sweet 16’s and yada yada yada. It’s remarkable. And now we have to play each other twice."
Note that I managed to avoid looking Martin in the eye all day long. He’s a great coach, but Frank scares the bejesus out of me.
*** Baylor’s frontcourt is stacked, but guard play will likely determine if the Bears will live up to high expectations for 2011/12.
"I think we really like the options we have," said Drew. "We just don’t have experience."
Baylor’s season could weigh on the shoulders of Pierre Jackson, the 2010/11 NJCAA Division 1 Player of the Year. Jackson averaged 18.6 points and 4.4 assists per game last season for College of Southern Idaho. But there’s always a transition period from junior college ball to the Big 12.
"I think he’s going to have a big impact on our team," said Drew. "I think the big question will be just how long that experience takes to kick in though."
"Junior college basketball is good, but it’s not Big 12 basketball."
*** I only heard the letters "TCU" once on Thursday. That was when a reporter asked Texas Tech’s new coach Billy Gillispie about the Horned Frogs joining the league next season.
"I’ll tell you, they are a progressive, emerging university as far as athletics go," Gillispie said. "And I think it’s been led by the football program, but I think that there are other sports will do just as well. Their basketball program has been in the World Series. I think they must have great leadership and they must have great commitment. Now, they definitely want to win, and I think they’ll be a great member of the Big 12 Conference."
*** This is opinion here and nothing more. Oklahoma State is the best team in the Big 12 that nobody is talking about.
Having said that, Cowboy head coach Travis Ford noted his team’s "overly tough" non-conference schedule for the upcoming season. It’s a slate that features non-league games against the likes of Pittsburgh, New Mexico, Alabama, Virginia Tech and a true road game at Missouri State.