Big 12 Conference 2003-04 Season Recap
by Zach Ewing
Go back and take a look at the Big 12 Conference preseason polls. Go ahead. It doesn’t matter if it’s a Hoopville prediction, a coaches’ poll or any other media poll. Invariably, you saw Missouri’s name toward the top and Oklahoma State somewhere in the middle of the pack. Now come back to the present and examine these handy Big 12 final standings.
Texas, Kansas, Colorado and Texas Tech finishing in the 2-5 spots doesn’t seem too unlikely, but OSU and Mizzou flip-flopped from where those teams were supposed to be in November. For the Cowboys, the emergence of John Lucas as one of America’s top point guards and Tony Allen as a legitimate number one scorer helped catapult the team into first place and Eddie Sutton’s first Big 12 championship. Oklahoma State was able to beat Texas twice and Kansas once to win the title.
Missouri, on the other hand, struggled in non-conference play with losses to Gonzaga, Illinois, Memphis, Syracuse and, shockingly, Belmont. Then the highly-touted Tigers floundered in Big 12 play. They finally found a groove midway through February and rattled off six straight wins to end the month, including a thrilling, double-overtime 93-92 victory against OSU. But the Tigers limped to the finish line and lost to Kansas in the Hearnes Center’s final game. MU not only did not meet expectations; the Tigers failed to make the NCAA Tournament.
Texas and Kansas were both mostly good but sometimes bad: KU was blown out by both Texas and Oklahoma State, and UT lost road games at Iowa State and Kansas State. In the bottom half of the conference, there were teams that nobody wanted to play lurking everywhere. Iowa State lost only one game at home all year (to OSU), but beat Texas, Kansas, Colorado and Missouri in Ames. The Cyclones, however, couldn’t win a game on the road. Nebraska was mere points away from being 9-7 or 10-6. The Huskers lost close games at Oklahoma State and Texas and inexplicably was swept by Kansas State. But they beat Kansas, Missouri and Texas Tech convincingly. Baylor wasn’t expected to win anything, but the Bears were able to compete in just about every game they played. They even managed wins over Iowa State and Texas A&M twice.
Big 12 Tournament Recap
Unlike many conference tournaments around the country, the Big 12 Tournament in Dallas went basically according to plan. In the quarterfinals, Texas beat rival Oklahoma for the third time and Kansas beat rival Missouri for the third time. Missouri started the game strong but was buried in the second half.
In the semifinals, Oklahoma State beat Texas Tech and Texas again beat Kansas, setting up a third meeting between the Cowboys and Longhorns. This time wasn’t as close as the first two Cowboy victories. Midway through the second half, OSU shut the door defensively and beat Texas handily. The ‘Pokes had backed up their regular-season championship with a Big 12 Tournament title.
CU finished fourth in the Big 12 but was rewarded with only a NIT assignment to play at Oregon. Free-throw shooting, a long-time Buff nemesis, hurt them again. The Buffaloes shot only 52 percent and lost 77-72 in the first round.
Iowa State Cyclones
The Cyclones certainly made the most of their first postseason experience in two years. First, ISU rode its big home-court advantage to beat Georgia 82-74 in the first round. The Cyclones shot an unbelievable 74 percent from the floor. In the second round, ISU got a rare road win against Florida State 62-59 in overtime, and then returned home to down Marquette 77-69 in the NIT quarterfinals. In Madison Square Garden, the run finally came to end when ISU fought back from a big deficit to tie Rutgers and send the game into overtime, but Rutgers won it 8-81 in the extra period. Freshman phenom Curtis Stinson carried Iowa State with 32 points, but Quincy Douby scored 35 for Rutgers and ISU had no answer when Stinson fouled out in OT.
The career of four Tiger seniors, including Rickey Paulding and Arthur Johnson, came to a close with a thud in the NIT’s first round. In a game played at Michigan, Johnson scored 26 points on 10-of-18 shooting for MU, and the Tigers led 48-40 with less than ten minutes to go. But, in a microcosm of MU’s entire season, Michigan came back to win a close game in the final seconds 65-64.
Unlike most of the teams listed above, any kind of postseason play was a welcome sight for Nebraska. The Huskers got one victory, 78-70 over Niagara in the NIT behind 17 points and 8 rebounds from John Turek, but lost in the second round to Hawaii 84-83. The Rainbow Warriors led by 17 at the break, but NU went on an 18-2 run to start the second half and even took the lead at several junctures before falling short.
In the NIT’s first round, Oklahoma took care of another team that had its bubble burst, the Louisiana State Tigers. Freshmen Drew Lavender and Brandon Foust combined for 34 points and the Sooners stretched their lead to 60-48 before holding off LSU in the final minutes for a 70-61 victory. In the second round, OU ran into a Michigan team that had just finished off Missouri and would eventually win the NIT. OU got within two points with less than four minutes to play, but Michigan held on for a 63-52 win.
Kansas Jayhawks, No. 4 seed, St. Louis region
The Jayhawks were fortunate to have a good geographical tournament draw, high-seeded teams fall in their region and a red-hot Wayne Simien in this year’s NCAA Tournament. KU took advantage of these circumstances to make an Elite Eight tournament run.
The first two Jayhawk tournament games were in nearby Kansas City, where first No. 13 seed Illinois-Chicago and then No. 12 seed Pacific never stood a chance. Simien had 13 points and 9 rebounds and freshman J.R. Giddens had 17 points in the first round. Pacific gave Kansas trouble for a few minutes in the second half, even tying the game at 51 with about 10 minutes to play. But KU pulled away to win 78-63. Simien had 18 points and 12 rebounds, which was nothing compared to his next game.
In a Sweet Sixteen matchup with UAB, it appeared Kansas was playing its JV team. KU had a 10-point lead before anyone blinked, and won the game 100-74. Simien had 30 points, 9 rebounds and 5 assists. It was a different story, though in the regional final against Georgia Tech. The Yellow Jackets were able to stay just barely ahead of KU all day long, until Giddens’ tied the game with a late three. The Jayhawks’ season ended in overtime, however. Will Bynum hit a three-pointer to give Tech a three-point lead, and the Jackets hung on for the 79-71 win.
Oklahoma State Cowboys, No. 2 seed, East Rutherford region
After a successful regular season, OSU came up big in the NCAA Tournament, too. A slow start against No. 15 seed Eastern Washington didn’t stop the Cowboys in the first round. They rebounded from a tie game at the half for a 75-56 win. In the second round, OSU didn’t mess around, burying No. 7 seed Memphis before the Tigers had a chance. The Cowboys led 21-8 and 54-27 before winning 70-53 behind Joey Graham’s 20 first-half points.
In the Sweet Sixteen, Oklahoma State took a tie with No. 3 seed Pittsburgh late in the game and turned it into a commanding lead with a 17-5 run that was keyed on the defensive end. Tony Allen had 23 points and 7 rebounds. A great game awaited OSU in the regional final. The No. 1 seed St. Joseph’s Hawks had lost only once all season and used defensive pressure and bad shooting by the Cowboys to take a six-point halftime lead. The Hawks still led 62-61 when John Lucas, who had struggled from the field, nailed a three-pointer from the left wing with 6.9 seconds left. Jameer Nelson missed a shot at the other end and OSU had survived.
Georgia Tech, however, awaited the Cowboys in a national semifinal and, like they did to Kansas, ended Oklahoma State’s dream season. Again OSU was forced to fight from behind as Tech took a double-digit lead in the second half. It was another Lucas three-pointer that tied the game at 65, but this time it was with 26.3 seconds left, enough time for Will Bynum to wait, receive the ball and drive down the lane for a last-second lay-up and a 67-65 victory.
Texas Longhorns, No. 3 seed, Atlanta region
Texas struggled against No. 14 seed Princeton in the first round, but pulled away from the pesky Tigers for a 66-49 win in the first round. Six different Longhorns scored at least 7 points in a second-round win against No. 6 seed North Carolina. Texas used a long bench full of big men to hold UNC’s Sean May to 2-of-10 shooting before he fouled out, and the Longhorn’s bench outscored UNC’s 34-7 in a 78-75 victory.
Then came a Sweet Sixteen game against red-hot Xavier. The Musketeers’ Romain Sato was unstoppable, and Texas’ season came to a end with a 79-71 loss that was closer than the score would indicate.
Texas Tech Red Raiders, No. 8 seed, East Rutherford region
Bob Knight’s team came out strong against No. 9 seed Charlotte in the first round and then held off the 49ers in the second stanza to win 78-75 behind Andre Emmett’s 20 points. But in the second round, a quick Tech start wasn’t enough. St. Joseph’s used a 24-2 run late in the first half to gain the advantage and then TTU didn’t have enough to come back, losing 70-65. Emmett had 18 more points, but Jameer Nelson had 24 for the Hawks.
Hoopville’s All-Big 12 team
John Lucas, Oklahoma State
Tony Allen, Oklahoma State
Wayne Simien, Kansas
Andre Emmett, Texas Tech
David Harrison, Colorado
MVP: John Lucas, Oklahoma State 2nd: Wayne Simien, Kansas
Defensive Player of the Year: Tony Allen, Oklahoma State 2nd: David Harrison, Colorado
Freshman/Newcomer of the Year: Curtis Stinson, Iowa State 2nd: J.R. Giddens, Kansas
Coach of the Year: Eddie Sutton, Oklahoma State 2nd: Scott Drew, Baylor
Baylor Bears (8-21 overall, 3-13 Big 12)
This is the only time a 3-13 season is a pleasant surprise, but Scott Drew did a masterful job keeping the postseason-ineligible Bears motivated. Harvey Thomas and Terrance Thomas made a nice inside-outside combination, and BU definitely put a scare into some teams who ventured into Waco.
Team MVP: Terrance Thomas (15.9 ppg, 6.9 rpg, 3.2 apg)
Top Scorer: Terrance Thomas
Top Rebounder: Terrance Thomas
Top Assists: Matt Sayman (4.0 apg)
Key Players Leaving: Terrance Thomas (graduation), Sayman (graduation), R.T. Guinn (graduation)
Key Players Returning: Harvey Thomas (15.6 ppg, 5.5 rpg), Tommy Swanson (6.4 ppg, 4.1 rpg)
Outlook: It’ll take a long time before the Bears can compete, but they should have some more surprises up their sleeve.
Colorado Buffaloes (18-11 overall, 10-6 Big 12)
It’s hard to believe a team that went 10-6 in a power conference didn’t make the NCAA Tournament, but that’s the case with the Buffs. David Harrison and Michel Morandais had great campaigns, but non-conference losses to Pepperdine, Richmond and Utah hurt CU’s at-large chances.
Team MVP: David Harrison (17.1 ppg, 8.8 rpg)
Top Scorer: Harrison
Top Rebounder: Harrison
Top Assists: Michel Morandais (3.2 apg)
Key Players Leaving: Morandais, Lamar Harris, Blair Wilson (graduation), possibly Harrison (NBA)
Key Players Returning: possibly Harrison, Jayson Obazuaye (5.7 ppg)
Outlook: It all depends on Harrison’s decision on whether to jump to the NBA. But even if he stays, the Buffs will miss the combined 29 points per game from Morandais and Wilson.
Iowa State Cyclones (20-13, 7-9)
The story all year long for ISU was win in Ames, lose anywhere else. The Cyclones’ only road wins came early in the season against Drake and against Florida State in the NIT. There were certainly some impressive wins at home, though, against the likes of Xavier, Iowa, Missouri, Kansas and Texas.
Team MVP: Curtis Stinson (15.0 ppg, 6.1 rpg, 4.6 apg)
Top Scorer: Stinson
Top Rebounder: Jackson Vroman, 9.7 rpg
Top Assists: Stinson
Key Players Leaving: Vroman, Jake Sullivan (graduation)
Key Players Returing: Stinson, Jared Homan (11.2 ppg, 6.1 rpg), Will Blalock (8.0 ppg)
Outlook: Watch out for the Cyclones next year. Another year of experience will help guys like Stinson and Blalock win on the road. The biggest question is Homan, who will have to fill in for Vroman.
Kansas Jayhawks (24-9, 12-4)
Under new coach Bill Self, the Jayhawks barely missed a beat. Early-season losses to Nevada and Richmond ended up not looking so bad when Self led KU to the Elite Eight for the third straight year. The fans in Lawrence are already salivating for next year.
Team MVP: Wayne Simien (17.6 ppg, 9.0 rpg)
Top Scorer: Simien
Top Rebounder: Simien
Top Assists: Aaron Miles, 7.4 apg
Key Players Leaving: Jeff Graves (graduation), David Padgett (transferring)
Key Players Returning: Simien, Miles (9.4 ppg), Keith Langford (16.1 ppg), J.R. Giddens (10.7 ppg)
News: David Padgett announced he will transfer to another school where he can exclusively play power forward. That leaves a hole in the middle for the Jayhawks, who may have to rely on a freshman to start.
Outlook: Even with Padgett’s departure, Kansas should be a consensus top-five team next year.
Kansas State Wildcats (14-14, 6-10)
K-State suffered through another long season. The Wildcats were able to take Oklahoma State to the wire, beat Texas and sweep Nebraska, but other than that, all they could do is hope to stay close. Massey holds the key to a bright future, but he’s got to be consistent. KSU can’t afford any more 41-point losses at UMKC.
Team MVP: Jeremiah Massey (15.1 ppg, 8.0 rpg)
Top Scorer: Massey
Top Rebounder: Massey
Top Assists: Frank Richards, 3.6 apg
Key Players Leaving: Jarrett Hart, Tim Ellis, Richards (graduation)
Key Players Returning: Massey, Marques Hayden (8.0 ppg, 6.5 rpg), Cartier Martin (7.1 ppg)
Outlook: A good recruiting class from last year may come to fruition, but without Hart, Ellis and Richards, who’s going to control the offense? Somebody will have to step up.
Missouri Tigers (16-14, 9-7)
Misery is more like it. The Tigers suffered through a very disappointing season. It didn’t help that an NCAA investigation loomed overhead all year long, and that Rickey Paulding didn’t seem ready to take on expectations as a preseason All-American. A six-game winning streak in February showed what this team was capable of, but losing four of the last five games after that was more reminiscent of the Tigers’ season.
Team MVP: Arthur Johnson (15.7 ppg, 7.5 rpg)
Top Scorer: Johnson and Rickey Paulding (15.7 ppg each)
Top Rebounder: Linas Kleiza (8.4 rpg)
Top Assists: Jimmy McKinney (3.2 apg)
Key Players Leaving: Johnson, Paulding, Travon Bryant (graduation)
Key Players Returning: McKinney (9.4 ppg), Jason Conley (7.4 ppg), Linas Kleiza (11.1 ppg, 8.4 rpg), Thomas Gardner (6.4 ppg)
Outlook: The Tigers will finally have a true point guard when freshman Jason Horton comes in, but now there is no depth inside. Either Kevin Young or a freshman will have to start with Linas Kleiza, which is a scary proposition for Tiger fans.
Nebraska Cornhuskers (17-13, 6-10)
Like a few other bottom-feeders in the Big 12, the Huskers were able to play well and spring some upsets, but couldn’t find the consistency that breeds winning records. If the Huskers had just managed to beat Kansas State and win some close games against Oklahoma State, Texas and the Wildcats, they might have made a run at the Big Dance. Still, a second-round NIT appearance is a success for a rebuilding team.
Team MVP: Jake Muhleisen (7.8 ppg, 3.3 rpg)
Top Scorer: Nate Johnson, 13.3 ppg
Top Rebounder: John Turek, 5.8 rpg
Top Assists: Charles Richardson, 2.3 apg
Key Players Leaving: Johnson, Brian Conklin, Andrew Drevo (graduation)
Key Players Returning: Muhleisen, Turek (9.5 ppg), Richardson (2.2 ppg)
Outlook: Muhleisen is the heart and soul of this team. With him returning for another season, the Huskers won’t be bad. In fact, this is such a balanced team that it should be able to absorb the loss of Johnson, Conklin and Drevo and still improve from last year.
Oklahoma Sooners (20-11, 8-8)
Things started out very well for the Sooners and they vaulted into the top 10, but all along Kelvin Sampson warned that this year’s OU team was too young. He turned out to be right. Too young and not deep enough. When Kevin Bookout when down with an injury, there was next to nothing left inside and it left OU in the NIT for the first time under Sampson.
Team MVP: Drew Lavender (11.3 ppg, 3.9 apg)
Top Scorer: Jason Detrick, 11.4 ppg
Top Rebounder: Kevin Bookout, 5.5 rpg
Top Assists: Lavender
Key Players Leaving: Detrick, Jabahri Brown
Key Players Returning: Lavender, Bookout (7.6 ppg), De’Angelo Alexander (9.9 ppg, 4.8 rpg)
Outlook: With a healthy Bookout and Lavender with a year of experience, this team will be much better than last year. Look for a return to the NCAAs.
Oklahoma State Cowboys (31-4, 14-2)
It couldn’t have been scripted better for the Cowboys: come up from under the radar to win the Big 12, win the Big 12 Tournament, and then make a fantastic run to the Final Four. For a team that lost so much in a tragic plane crash just a few years ago, OSU has done exceptionally well with transfers: John Lucas from Baylor, Joey Graham from Central Florida and Daniel Bobik from BYU all played big roles on this year’s team.
Team MVP: John Lucas (14.9 ppg, 4.8 apg)
Top Scorer: Tony Allen, 16.1 ppg
Top Rebounder: Ivan McFarlin, 6.5 rpg
Top Assists: Lucas
Key Players Leaving: Allen, McFarlin
Key Players Returning: Lucas, Joey Graham (11.5 ppg, 4.8 rpg), Daniel Bobik (7.8 ppg)
Outlook: Without Allen on the wing and on defense and without McFarlin’s presence inside, an encore is unlikely. But with Lucas and Graham, the Cowboys will have talent and experience – remember, nobody picked OSU last year, either.
Texas Longhorns (25-8, 12-4)
A look up and down the Texas roster this year showed a front line as deep and as talented as any in the country: Thomas, Buckman, Klotz, Tucker, Boddicker, the list goes on and on. On paper, UT probably could have beaten anyone in the country with that front line alone. The Longhorns looked good at times this year, but they never went to great. A perfect example is the NCAA Tournament, where Texas followed a great win over North Carolina with a disappointing loss to Xavier.
Team MVP: Brandon Mouton, 13.4 ppg
Top Scorer: Mouton
Top Rebounder: P.J. Tucker, 6.8 rpg
Top Assists: Royal Ivey, 4.3 apg
Key Players Leaving: Mouton, Ivey, Brian Boddicker, James Thomas
Key Players Returning: Tucker (11.1 ppg), Kenny Taylor (8.0 ppg), Brad Buckman (5.9 ppg, 5.0 rpg), Jason Klotz (6.5 ppg, 3.6 rpg)
Outlook: The Longhorns still have a solid front line with Tucker, Buckman and Klotz, but you can’t lose four seniors like the group Texas did and not decline.
Texas A&M Aggies (7-21, 0-16)
Ouch. By the time the Big 12 season was half over, Melvin Watkins was sending out his resume. The Aggies didn’t look good in non-conference play and it got worse in the Big 12. Some of the losses are understandable, but Baylor twice? That’s pretty bad.
Team MVP: Andy Slocum (8.1 ppg, 9.0 rpg)
Top Scorer: Antoine Wright, 13.2 ppg
Top Rebounder: Slocum
Top Assists: Acie Law, 3.9 apg
Key Players Leaving: Slocum, Jesse King, Leandro Garcia-Morales
Key Players Returning: Wright (4.0 rpg), Kevin Turner (8.0 ppg), Law (7.4 ppg)
News: Melvin Watkins resigned before the Aggies’ Big 12 Tournament game with Missouri. UTEP’s Billy Gillispie took the job shortly after his NCAA Tournament run ended.
Outlook: The young nucleus of the Aggies returns, and Gillispie can coach. Add in a little luck, and there might be five Big 12 wins coming out of College Station next year. Maybe.
Texas Tech Red Raiders (23-11, 9-7)
It was a nice rebound season for Bobby Knight, who gave up his salary last year because he felt he didn’t do his job. The Red Raiders got out of the gates quickly and, at one point, looked like they would threaten for the conference title. Then, after a February lull hit, Knight had his team playing well again. They had huge wins over Missouri, Iowa State and Colorado in early March and then gave St. Joe’s a run for its money in the tourney’s second round.
Team MVP: Andre Emmett (20.9 ppg, 6.8 rpg)
Top Scorer: Emmett
Top Rebounder: Emmett
Top Assists: Ronald Ross, 3.3 apg
Key Players Leaving: Emmett, Robert Tomaszek
Key Players Returning: Jarrius Jackson (11.3 ppg), Ross (10.0 ppg), Devonne Giles (8.7 ppg, 4.9 rpg)
Outlook: The loss of Emmett will certainly hurt, but Knight’s schemes often work better without one go-to guy. If a reliable inside threat emerges, the Red Raiders will be good again.
2004-05 Big 12 Preview
Any talk about the Big 12 next season has to start and end with Kansas. The Jayhawks’ only senior this year was Jeff Graves, who was too mercurial to be counted on anyway. The transfer of David Padgett was unexpected, but KU should be able to shore up that hole and compete for a conference and national championship. Oklahoma State and Texas should both be good again, although they won’t finish 1 and 2 in the conference again. Iowa State, Oklahoma and Nebraska are all teams that are on the rise and will be heard from in the top half of the conference. Texas Tech will always be a threat under Bob Knight.
Colorado has lost some big stars and may suffer through a rebuilding year before contending again. For Kansas State, Texas A&M and Baylor, it will be another year of hoping for upsets, but mostly just losses. Missouri is an interesting case. The Tigers lose their star players, but may benefit from lessened expectations and no continual media attention regarding an NCAA violation (either way, that mess will be straightened out this summer). Plus, MU has a real point guard coming in. Don’t be surprised if Mizzou experiences some addition in wins due to subtraction in players and expectations.
I know this is crazy and stupid, but I’m going to try to predict the Big 12 final standings of 2005. Of course, my opinion will change 1,000 times between now and November, but here goes:
2. Oklahoma State
4. Iowa State
5. Texas Tech
11. Texas A&M
12. Kansas State