In the wake of realignment, there was some concern as to how the Big 12 would emerge as a basketball league.
The conference lost Missouri and Texas A&M, two programs with recent histories of success, but the Big 12 figures to still get six teams in the NCAA Tournament come March. That is also in a year where Texas and West Virginia, two programs with Final Four appearances in the last decade, are having their worst seasons in a few years.
The reason the league remains on solid footing is a deep crop of quality coaches.
It’s clear who sits atop the Big 12 coaching hierarchy, but after that, it gets a little muddled. Here is a power ranking of the Big 12 basketball coaches.
Chris Walker is the interim coach at Texas Tech, taking over for Billy Gillispie who resigned back in September.
This is Walker’s first experience as a head coach, and he has coached at seven different schools since 1992. He has been on the staff of four teams that have made the NCAA Tournament.
Understandably, the Red Raiders have struggled this season in the wake of Gillispie’s departure. They have already exceeded last year’s Big 12 win total when Texas Tech finished the year 1-17 in conference play.
Trent Johnson has taken Nevada, Stanford, and LSU to the NCAA Tournament, but he has not been to the big dance since 2009.
After Johnson made the interesting move from Palo Alto to Baton Rouge, things did not really go the way he planned. In his final three years at LSU, his teams were 40-54 and 12-36 in conference play.
Now, he is charged with building the TCU program as it moves forward in the Big 12.
Travis Ford’s tenure at Oklahoma State got off on the right foot with two straight NCAA Tournament appearances.
After finishing under .500 last year, Ford has Oklahoma State looking like a dangerous team as March approaches. Ford has landed a couple of blue chip recruits the last couple years, and freshman point guard Marcus Smart could take the Cowboys a long way in the NCAA Tournament.
Ford also did a nice job building the program at Eastern Kentucky and won at least 24 games in his final two years at UMass.
Fred Hoiberg is one of the more promising young coaches in the country, and he could certainly move his way up this list in the very near future.
Hoiberg is in his third year at the helm of his alma mater, and he is on his way to taking Iowa State to consecutive NCAA Tournaments for the first time since 2000-01.
He has done a solid job on the recruiting trail, and the Cyclones figure to be a factor in the Big 12 as long as Hoiberg is in charge.
Scott Drew took over at Baylor in 2003, and he had to rebuild the program after the scandal that forced the resignation of his predecessor Dave Bliss.
Drew has done a fantastic job on the recruiting trail and has taken the Bears to two Elite Eights in the last three years, although Drew does not have an NCAA Tournament win over a single-digit seed.
While the Bears have had some elite talent in recent years, Drew has not been able to fully put it together for a Final Four run.
Lon Kruger has certainly been around the block, having been a head coach at six different colleges since 1982 with a brief stint in the NBA thrown in there as well.
He is well on his way to taking Oklahoma to the NCAA Tournament this season, which would make five different schools that Kruger has guided to the NCAA Tournament in his career.
Kruger took Florida to its first Final Four back in 1994. Interestingly, he has never won an outright regular season conference championship.
Bruce Weber is off to a fantastic start at Kansas State, but that should come as no surprise. He experienced similar success at Illinois when he took the Illini to the NCAA title game in 2005, just his second season on the job.
The real key for Weber will be if he can sustain his early success at K-State, which is a tougher job than his last one. At Illinois, he made the NCAA Tournament in each of his first four seasons, but missed the tournament in three of his final five.
Rick Barnes certainly has his detractors, and it’s easy to see why. No one seemingly does less with more year in and year out.
Texas has not made it past the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament since 2008. In 2007, Barnes had one of the best college players of the last decade in Kevin Durant, and Texas bowed out in the second round.
Still, Barnes has made the NCAA Tournament in each of his 14 seasons in Austin, and he went to the Final Four back in 2003. Barnes also won at Clemson which is no small feat.
Bob Huggins has taken both Cincinnati and West Virginia to Final Fours, and he has been a consistent winner.
In his last 20 seasons on the sidelines, Huggins has taken his teams to 19 NCAA Tournaments. The lone exception was his year at Kansas State when he took the Wildcats to the NIT and set the wheels in motion for that program’s resurgence.
West Virginia is having a down year and won’t make it to the NCAA Tournament, but Huggins will have his program back sooner rather than later.
Bill Self is simply one of the best coaches in the country, and he has won everywhere he has been.
Prior coming to Kansas, Self took both Illinois and Tulsa to the Elite Eight. Since arriving in Lawrence, he has won eight consecutive Big 12 regular season titles with two trips to the Final Four. In 2008, Self won the school’s third NCAA Tournament Championship and the first since 1988.
Kansas has been a top four seed in the NCAA Tournament in each of Self’s nine seasons, making his program one of the most consistent in all of college basketball.