Men's Basketball Summer Notebook
There will be plenty of brainpower on the court this year for Big 12 men’s basketball games.
With Texas Tech’s recent hiring of Tubby Smith, six out of the league’s 10 coaches now have at least one Final Four appearance to their credit.
Smith led Kentucky to a national championship in 1998 and boasts 17 NCAA tournament appearances on his résumé.
Kansas’ Bill Self also shows an NCAA title in 2008 to go with a pair of Final Four appearances and 15 total trips to the national tournament.
West Virginia’s Bob Huggins and Texas’ Rick Barnes are tops among Big 12 coaches with 20 career NCAA appearances each; Huggins has two Final Four trips, one with Cincinnati in 1992 and another with West Virginia in 2010, while Barnes has one Final Four trip with Texas in 2003.
Oklahoma’s Lon Kruger and Kansas State’s Bruce Weber have also taken teams to the Final Four during their successful coaching careers.
“I don’t know of there has ever been another league with 60 percent of its coaches having coached in the Final Four,” Huggins said last week on the league’s summer coaches’ teleconference. “That’s extremely impressive and a few of those guys have actually won a national championship. Tubby reminds me of that virtually every time I see him.”
All 10 of the coaches working Big 12 games this year have at least two NCAA trips to their credit and all but two have advanced to at least one Sweet 16.
Ad one of the two coaches that hasn’t yet – Oklahoma State’s Travis Ford – might have the best team in the league this year with the return of guard Marcus Smart, who turned down an opportunity to go in the first round of this year’s NBA draft to play his sophomore season in Stillwater.
“I don’t know if we played against a player who controlled the game from the point guard position like he did since maybe we played against Jason Kidd,” said Huggins. “He totally controls the game, and he’s got such a great will. I think Oklahoma State is extremely talented.”
As is Kansas, particularly now with the addition of the nation’s No. 1-rated high school player Andrew Wiggins, who many have pegged as the next great player in the Big 12.
“He brings so much athleticism to any place he plays,” said Huggins. “He is a world-class athlete and a guy who is probably more college-ready in a lot of regards. He was at Huntington (W.Va.) Prep for two years and was not at home so it was more of a college atmosphere from a social standpoint. When everybody says you are the best player in the country, obviously you’re pretty good.”
As for his team, Huggins said last year was a big learning experience for the Mountaineers, which finished with a disappointing 13-19 record and was eliminated in the first round of the Big 12 tournament by Texas Tech.
“It’s just a different style of league than the one we came from,” Huggins explained. “I think the officiating was different, and I think a year in we’ll know a little bit better what to expect. Hopefully, we’ll be able to deal with those things a whole lot better than we did a year ago.”
Huggins will also be dealing with a bunch of top-shelf basketball coaches as well.
“It makes it hard,” he said of matching wits against five other coaches that have taken teams to the Final Four.
Indeed, it’s a pretty impressive list of coaches.