College Basketball: Ranking the Coaches in the Big 12
As far as conference affiliation goes in college basketball, universities love being a part of a league that is not only competitive within itself, but also respected outside of its boundaries. The Big 12 is one of the toughest leagues nationwide, and with that aspect comes the honor of being considered a top three basketball conference.
Behind the Big East and the ACC, the Big 12 competes every season with the Big Ten for third place. Sporting superstar-studded squads such as Kansas to surprise teams like Baylor, the middle-American conference knows how to compete.
Unlike the NBA, college basketball competition comes down to less to the players and more to coaches. Due to the fact that the athletes can only stay in the program a maximum of four years, success is placed almost solely on a coach's ability to recruit and mold a team into a deadly offensive and defensive force.
The Big 12 is speckled with top-notch coaches who know how to get the job done. We take a look at the conference's staff and rank them accordingly on their squad's production this year.
No. 10 Billy Gillispie and Texas Tech
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Falling back to the Big 12 after an unsuccessful tenure at Kentucky, Gillispie has to be wondering what happened. Coaching Texas A&M up to a status worthy of many NCAA tournaments, the Wildcats snatched away the Aggies' prominent leader after just three seasons.
Texas Tech is the bottom of the pile when it comes to basketball in the Big 12. The Red Raiders didn't seem to be looking at resurgence anytime soon, until Gillispie came along boasting a history of program revival.
Just in his first season with the Red Raiders, Gillispie's machinations are still in their infancy. As of now, Texas Tech is 7-7 and on their way to last in the conference. Nothing special seems to be happening in Lubbock just yet, but in time, they may be a threat to the rest of the Big 12.
No. 9 Travis Ford and Oklahoma State
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Taking on his fourth season up in Stillwater, Ford and company are looking like they're going backwards. Reaching the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament's second round in his first year, OSU has rescinded back into the NIT. Now it sits at ninth in the conference and is not looking promising.
Holding up a 9-7 record with notable wins only coming against SMU and Oklahoma, Ford and Oklahoma State are not doing too well. Facing an undefeated Baylor squad in Waco next, things won't be getting any easier.
If this season goes worse than the last, Ford could be looking for a new job once March is over. Oklahoma State likes to win on the hardwood and has two national titles to prove that. If Ford and company aren't getting the wins the program wants, he'll be booted faster than you can say Oklahoma.
No. 8 Lon Kruger and Oklahoma
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The Sooners jumped into the national spotlight a few years ago when they possessed superstar forward Blake Griffin. Since he left, however, OU has been stuck trying to resurge and get back into Big 12 competition.
After several successful seasons heading up UNLV, Kruger took the job at Oklahoma just this past year. Now in his fourth big-time college coaching job, this storied leader has headed up Florida, Illinois and Kansas State. Additionally, Kruger spent time coaching the Atlanta Hawks and assisting the New York Knicks.
Now, though, he has returned to the Big 12 in hopes of producing a Big 12 title and possibly a national championship. Kruger is the right man for the job as his team is now 10-5 with big wins over Houston and Washington State. Taking on K-State next, OU is in position to possibly come out as a bubble team for the Big Dance.
No. 7 Billy Kennedy and Texas A&M
After Mark Turgeon took up Maryland's offer to head up its program, A&M had to go on another coaching search. They landed Billy Kennedy out of Murray State in a strong selection based mostly around record and recruiting ability.
So far, Kennedy has been just mediocre in College Station. After being diagnosed with Parkinson's disease, he has still been able to lead this Aggie squad to a decent 9-5 record, but with only one big win coming over St. John's, A&M's record needs to start reflecting its talent.
In a tough Big 12, things won't be getting any easier. Watch for Texas A&M to make a late surge to grab a seed in the tourney, hopefully showcasing its NBA-potential players to secure some wins.
No. 6 Rick Barnes and Texas
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Texas' Rick Barnes has transformed a decent program into a national powerhouse. Going 12 seasons with 20 or more wins, the Longhorns have one of the best in the business. Matching up against Kansas every season in the conference, UT has come into this year looking to rebuild.
Starting three freshman, Barnes and company are hoping that pure, raw talent will pull his team into the Big Dance. They have enough of it for three teams, but molding it correctly is solely put on Barnes and his staff.
Already up to an 11-4 record, Texas is looking stronger than expected. Big wins over UCLA and Temple highlight the year so far, but losses to both Iowa State and UNC are detriments to a squad running on emotion. With their next matchup against Texas A&M at home tonight, watch for Barnes and UT to come out swinging against their longtime rival.
No. 5 Fred Hoiberg and Iowa State
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The Cyclones have spun their way into the Big 12 basketball picture. Under the leadership of head coach Fred Hoiberg, ISU is stronger than it's ever been and is rising rapidly.
In just his first head coaching job ever, Hoiberg has transformed this program in just one season. With wins over Texas, Texas A&M and Providence, Iowa State is 12-3 and a danger to anyone who takes them on. Facing off against Mizzou next at home, ISU has a shot to really prove themselves to the nation.
Watch for this team to play a huge part in Big 12 play this season, as its undefeated conference record tries to remain untarnished under Hoiberg.
No. 4 Frank Martin and Kansas State
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I've said it once, I'll say it again. Frank Martin scares the crap out of me. Coming from Cuban descent, Martin has eyes that can pierce diamonds. Players do what he says without even thinking because they're are afraid he will destroy them in their dreams if they don't.
This is the reason that K-State is successful. Coaching the Wildcats is his first collegiate head coaching position, and Martin has done wonders with a program that thought that they would always sit in Kansas' shadow. Boasting a strong 12-3 record with victories over a formerly undefeated Missouri squad, Alabama and Virginia Tech, Kansas State is dangerous.
Their only losses have come to West Virginia in OT, Kansas in Lawrence by a ton and Baylor by just two points at home. The Wildcats once again present themselves as a threat in the Big 12 and a possible dark-horse squad to steal the conference title. All of that is due to Frank "Crazy-Eyes" Martin.
No. 3 Bill Self and Kansas
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Kansas is basketball. "Rock Chalk Jayhawk" hasn't even heard of this thing called a football field as they live on the hardwood, wanting wins more than anyone else in the Midwest. Bill Self is right in the middle of all that.
Under an immense amount of pressure every season, Self has come through with shining colors. Arguably the most storied program in the country, the Jayhawks are once again favorites for the Big 12 Title and a top seed in the Big Dance.
A 12-3 record this season isn't fathomable to Jayhawk fans, and losses to Duke, Kentucky and Davidson are beyond incomprehensible. However, three big wins over Georgetown, in-state rival Kansas State and a No. 2 ranked Ohio State team has helped to quell the death threats for the time being.
No. 2 Frank Haith and Missouri
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This first-year coach is having the ride of his young career, as he and his one-loss team look to surprise the Big 12 in their final year with the conference. Inheriting a program that has a lot more potential than most people give it credit, Haith has somehow made the Tigers a standout squad in the Midwest.
With Mizzou only his second head coaching job ever, Haith has been phenomenal beyond measure so far. He is obviously very good at what he does and will most likely be a very sought after head coach once the season finishes.
His 14-1 record is no joke. Missouri would be the center of attention if it weren't for the top coach on this list. Solid wins over Cal, Illinois and Notre Dame speckle what is actually a somewhat difficult schedule. Watch for the Tigers to take on Kansas and Baylor in what should be a fight to the death over the Big 12.
No. 1 Scott Drew and Baylor
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This very young coach walked into a program that was in turmoil. After one of its players was murdered by a fellow teammate, Baylor was the center of the college basketball world back in 2003. Trying to use the murder to cover up some huge NCAA violations, head coach Dave Bliss was forced to resign.
In steps Scott Drew, a man who had only had one season of head coaching experience under his belt, to take the reins. No one thought he could do it. Now just look at not only him, but also the program that he has built.
Running one of the few remaining undefeated squads in the nation, Baylor is on top of the world and won't come down without a fight. Drew and company have some huge wins over Kansas State, Mississippi State and West Virginia. Possibly the best story line of the past decade.