Inside the Big 12: June 15

15 Jun

By Sam Duren
National Hoops Report

The National Hoops Report checks in with an in-depth look at the latest happenings in the Big 12 Conference. Sam Duren is an Oklahoma-based writer and he will be providing his insight to the league every week on the National Hoops Report.

New Coaches

The conference is in a transitional period right now. Not only have two teams left but of the ten remaining teams, four will be debuting new coaches this fall. Here is a quick rundown of the four coaching changes.

Missouri

Out – Mike Anderson

In – Frank Haith

One of the bigger story lines of the off season was Arkansas’ courtship of the Tiger’s head man Mike Anderson.

From the moment Arkansas fired John Pelphery on March 13 the Anderson rumors started.  Multiple reports were made and change seemingly every other hour on if Anderson would be staying or leaving Columbia. Finally on March 23 the speculation came to an end and he left for Faytteville to be the new Arkansas Razorback head coach.

Missouri then flirted unsuccessfully with Purdue’s Matt Painter before hiring Frank Haith of the Miami Hurricanes.

At first the hire was meet with jeers as in eight seasons at Miami, Haith had a career conference record of 43-69. While the jury is still out of Haith’s coaching ability he has established one of the better coaching staffs in terms of recruiting in the Big 12.

Tim Fuller and Isaac Chew are both young but will be two of the top recruiters in Big 12, as evident by quickly locking up a pair of 2013 top 100 national players in Ishmail Wainright and Tyrek Coger.

Miami is notoriously known as a bad basketball job due to a lack of fan support among other reasons but now Haith has a fresh start with an experienced roster (Missouri only lost one senior).

Haith’s first big challenge at Missouri will be transitioning a roster built for Mike Anderson’s “40 minutes of Hell” brand to a more traditional scheme.

“We will be up tempo but our defensive philosophy will be different.  There will still be pressure but at different levels.  And maybe not always at the full court level.  I think we can get the same thing accomplished,” said Haith during the recent Big 12 teleconference on his team’s identity.

“Offensively we will run, we’ll pass ahead and attack in transition but do a little more when it comes to sets.”

Haith does understand his coaching style must adjust to the type of players he now coaches.

“We have certain type of players and as a coach I have to adjust to the type of personal we have,” he said.

Oklahoma

Out – Jeff Capel

In – Lon Kruger

The Sooners are only two seasons removed from a Blake Griffin lead Elite Eight appearance and a top 10 national recruiting class in 2009 headlined by McDonald All Americans Tiny Gallon and Tommy Mason-Griffin.

Since then they have suffered back to back seasons of 18 losses each season. Jeff Capel was shown the door in mid March and after pursuing Marquette head coach Buzz Williams, Oklahoma eventually landed UNLV’s Lon Kruger.

Kurger is well known for rebuilding programs with success at all five of his previous stops, with multiple NCAA tournament appearances at Kansas St, Florida, Illinois and UNLV.  His mission at OU is no different as he takes over a program that has just had two of their worst seasons since the 1980s.

With a quarter century of experience as a college head coach Kruger is no stranger to taking over at new places and that experience has helped him in Norman.

“You go through the process of trying to get a feel for the culture, the landscape.  You ask a lot of questions, get a lot of people’s input and a feel for where you are at,” said Kruger on the transition period.

With possible NCAA allegations hanging over the Sooners due to Tiny Gallon’s allegedly acceptance of 3,000 dollars from a finical advisor, Kruger looks to have his job cut out for him as starts the Oklahoma rebuilding job.

Texas A&M

Out – Mark Turgeon

In – Billy Kennedy

Not long ago A&M was consistently in the Big 12’s basement, they even had a notorious 0-16 conference record during the 2003-04 season.

Recently though its a different story as starting in the 2004-05 season A&M is one of only three Big 12 schools to win 20 or more games every season, along with Kansas and Texas.

They first hit it big by hiring Billy Gilliespie away from UTEP in 2004, then followed it up with Wichita St’s Mark Turgeon in 2007. Both had never been head coaches in a power 6 conference, but they both had A&M dancing regularly in March.

When they lost Mark Turgeon in early May they followed a similar path as their past two hires and hired Billy Kennedy out of Murray State. Kennedy has never been a head coach in a power conference but has had made NCAA tournament appearances at his last two stops (Southeastern Louisiana and Murray State).

It may not be a splash hire but with an experienced talent returning in Khris Middelton, David Loubeau and Dash Harris to go along with a pair of talented Texas guards (Jamal Branch and Jordan Green) in the 2011 class, A&M has a good base for Kennedy to build from.

“We have all our players back nobody left. They know how to work and they know how to win.  All the recruits are here in summer school and they want to come and be a part of A&M,” said Kennedy who also acknowledged how easy transition has been at College Station.

“When taking over a new job this late in the spring, its really good to have those things in place. It really gives you some pieces that I haven’t had in other situations because I haven’t taken over a good situation like this.”

Texas Tech

Out – Pat Knight

In -Billy Gillispie

Just a few years ago Billy Clyde was one of the hottest coaches in the Big 12 region. He had successfully rebuilt two floundering Texas schools (UTEP and Texas A&M) and looked primed for a long successful tenure at college basketball blue blood Kentucky.

After an eventful two years at Kentucky, GIllispie was shown the door following the 2009 season and make matters worse was arrested and plead guilty to a DUI in August of 2009.

The new Texas Tech head coach has spent the last two seasons out of the coaching game straightening up his life and preparing for his return to college basketball. Gilliepie is now ready to get back into the game with the r

“All of us know as a coach that we got the best job in the world that you can ever have. We have a great deal of passion for it,” said Gillispie who also acknowledged that he had missed coaching.

“Sometimes you get bogged down after been going at it for several years in a row. When you’re out of it you realized the most important things is the the relationship you have and develop with the players. That’s what I’ve missed the most.”

During his run at A&M, Gillispie was known as a workaholic on the recruiting trail and the film room. Expect nothing different now in Lubbock as he has worked hard to start rebuilding a Texas Tech roster depleted by the loss of six seniors.

The new “Big 10”

With Nebraska (Big 10) and Colorado (Pac-12) both out the door and no replacements, the Big 12 will become the only power conference with ten teams. Which also means they will be the only conference playing a round robin schedule for their conference games. This will be the Big 12’s first round robin schedule since the 1995-96 season when it was only the Big 8.

The transition back to the round robin schedule is an interesting talking point as heavyweight Kanas will now have to face all six of the southern teams twice a season. In the past Kansas has played their fellow north sides twice a season for ten of their six conference games, with only one game vs each southern team.

Kansas has won the regular season outright or shared it every season since 2005. During that time span Kansas’ fellow north schools have only appeared in seven NCAA tournaments total (Colorado and Nebraska both have goose eggs) while all six southern schools all have at least two appearances for a grand total of twenty-four.

While Kansas has been the class of the conference, the balance has been in the south and before this year they have been sparred double dipping versus many of the top conference teams.

Kansas’ head man Bill Self is looking forward to the new rivalries the new format will create.

“I think the great thing about it is will create more rivalries,” he said. “Playing Texas every other year in our Fieldhouse or in Austin I don’t think created the rivalry that should exist between us two schools. I think what its going to do the most for is from the fans.”

With the new round robin format there will be less grumbling by south teams and a true regular season champion.

To go along with the changes to the conference schedule the Big 12 tournament will have a new look as well. In the past, the top four teams in the conference have received byes from the first round of the Big 12 tournament. Starting this year the top six will be exempt from the first day of games. The battle for the last bye was often an intriguing sub plot to the Big 12 race but now with less teams and more byes, the importance should decline.

Rebuilding or Reloading?

Two of the perennial Big 12 powers will also look quite different this fall due to roster turnover.

Texas lost seven players who averaged double digits minutes this past season, four of the players who left had exhausted their eligibility in guards Dougus Balbay and Jai Lucas along with posts Gary Johnson and Matt Hill. While Rick Barnes had expected those loses, the decisions of sophomore swing man Jordan Hamilton, freshman post Tristan Thompson and freshman guard Cory Jospeh to go pro is what hurt the Horns.

Junior guard J’Covan Brown and senior forward Alexis Wangmene are the top returnees who contributed in 2010-11. Center Clint Chapman will also be back in the fold after choosing to redshirt this past season and will be a fifth year senior.

Texas has a recruiting class full of top 100 national players but the majority are in the top 50-100 range. Point guard Myck Kabango is the jewell of the recruiting class and should be a contender for Big 12 newcomers honors. The rest of the class is full of players who should go on to have successful Big 12 careers but its questionable on if they will be able to be constant contributors as freshmen. The Longhorns also missed out on two potential instant contributors when Louisiana Tech transfer Olu Ashaolu and top 10 2011 recruit DeAndre Daniels chose different schools.

Kansas is in a similar boat as six key contributors to their Big 12 champions squad are now gone. Things aren’t as desperate in Lawrence as Austin, as they return four players who played significant minutes this past season.  The guard trio of senior Tyshawn Taylor and juniors Eliajh Johnson and Travis Releford makes the transition period easier as Kansas replaces seniors Tyrel Reed, Mario Little and Brady Morningstar, plus One and Done Josh Selby.   In the front court the Morris twins (Marcus and Markieff) both skipped their senior seasons to enter the NBA draft, they do return one of the top rebounders in the conference, junior Thomas Robinson and the 6-foot-11 Jeff Withey.  Robinson averaged an impressive 6.4 rebounds in only 14.6 minutes of action this past season.

The recruiting class might not be a great one by Kansas standards but players like Ben McLemore, Naadir Thrape, Braeden Anderson and Jamari Traylor still make it one of the top incoming classes in the Big 12.  The difference in this Kansas class it the lack of a true 5-star recruit.  McLemore is the headliner and he is more in the range of a top 30-50 type then an instant 5-star impacter. Self has made a living cleaning up later when it comes to big names by bringing in the likes of Xaiver Henry and Brandon Selby in recent years. This year was a little different as he missed out Trevor Lacey and DeAndre Daniels, two five-stars in the spring signing period.

DeAndre Daniels Fallout

When DeAndre Daniels ended of the more entraining recent recruitments by choosing Connecticut, he left three Big 12 schools out in the cold. Texas, Kanas and even Oklahoma State had all been in the Daniels sweepstakes. The 6-foot-8 small forward would have been an instant contributor at any of the three schools Big 12 schools.

For Kansas, Daniels would’ve been another story of Bill Self locking down a kid late. The Jayhawks even have one of Daniels’ friend and IMG Academy teammate Christan Garret walking onto the program this fall and still could not close the deal. With over 50 points to replace, a scorer like Daniels would have been a huge get late in the game.

Oklahoma State was a surprise late entry into the race for the 5-star forward. Speculation started when Bob Gottlieb, a former college, high school and AAU coach, tweeted in late May that OSU lead for Daniels. With all the twists and turns Daniels’ recruitment had taken it wasn’t that shocking to see OSU in the mix for Daniels, especially with friend Cezar Guerrero also heading to Stillwater. If OSU had landed him they could’ve have paired next to fellow top forward recruit Lebrayn Nash.

Back in July of 2009 Daniels committed to Texas and held true to that commitment for just over a year. He was back on the market but August of 2010. Texas had the most to lose by not regaining the commitment of Daniels.  With the amount of talent they lost an instant impact type like him was sorely needed to help out guards Myck Kabongo and J’Covan Brown.

Recruit of the Week: J-Mychal Reese

At one time J-Mychal Reese was a grade school prodigy, the top recruit in the 2012 class.  Now he might not have lived up the hype around him that was built at such a young age but he is still one of the top point guards in the nation.

The 6-foot-1 Bryan high school product has pick of schools with Louisville, Baylor, Texas, Baylor and others all on his list but he has been considered a Kanas lean in recent months.  With a weak national point guard class, Reese has been one of Kansas’ top targets in 2012.

The decision for Reese might be a little different now though as his father, John Reese, could be joining a coaching staff at a Big 12 school soon.  As reported by CBSsports, John Reese now holds assistant coaching offers from Big 12 schools Texas A&M and Texas Tech along with SEC school Louisiana State.

Both Texas A&M and Texas Tech have new head coaches and are looking to make a splash on the recruiting trail. Offering John Reese a job, a respected high school coach in Texas, is a move that could make that splash. Especially if his son comes with him.

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