Coach turnover, draft declarations change Big 12
AP Sports Writer
The Big 12 will have a new look in men’s basketball next season and not just because Nebraska and Colorado are leaving.
Four of the remaining 10 teams will have new head coaches and underclassman declarations for the NBA draft will leave Texas with no returning starters and take three players out of seven-time defending champion Kansas’ lineup.
The coaching shake-up is the most significant in the conference since 2006, when six schools had first-year coaches. Only the Atlantic Coast Conference has had as many coaching changes this year.
Billy Gillispie takes over at Texas Tech, Lon Kruger at Oklahoma and Frank Haith at Missouri. Texas A&M’s job is open for the third time in seven years after Maryland hired Mark Turgeon.
“That’s a lot of turnover for 10 teams,” Kansas coach Bill Self said. “The old-timers are Barnes and Drew and Self. It’s an unbelievable coaches’ league when you really look at it.”
Rick Barnes will be going into his 14th season at Texas and Baylor’s Scott Drew and Self are entering the ninth years at their schools. No one else has been in his job more than four years.
Barnes and Self are taking the biggest hits with underclassmen declaring for the NBA draft.
The league had seven players leave early, including Colorado’s Alec Burks. It would have been 10 had Missouri’s Laurence Bowers and Kim English and Texas A&M’s David Loubeau not decided to come back.
Texas, which ranked as high as No. 3 nationally and challenged Kansas for the league title, is losing Jordan Hamilton, Tristan Thompson and Cory Joseph in addition to senior starters in Dogus Balbay and Gary Johnson.
Hamilton averaged a team-leading 18.6 points, Thompson was Big 12 freshman of the year and Joseph was on the conference all-rookie team.
Barnes can take solace in having assembled one of the nation’s top-ranked recruiting classes, highlighted by point guard Myck Kabongo of Toronto. Problem is, Kabongo might play just one season at Texas. He’s already projected as a first-round draft pick in 2012.
Kansas loses twin forwards Marcus and Markieff Morris and guard Josh Selby, all of them hoping to land in the NBA.
Marcus Morris was the Big 12 player of the year and Markieff Morris was the league leader in field-goal percentage and rebounding. Selby, the celebrated freshman, averaged 12 points in his first 13 games but wasn’t nearly as productive after injuring his foot Feb. 1.
Self caught a break when guard Tyshawn Taylor and Thomas Robinson announced last month that they would return to a team that went 35-3 last season and reached the NCAA tournament regional finals. Still, Self said, his team probably has as many uncertainties as it did after losing seven players from the 2008 national championship team.
Self said Baylor and Texas A&M, even with a new coach, should be the preseason favorites.
“There’s a lot of ground to make up for everybody,” Self said. “Kansas could make up ground. Everybody could make up ground moving forward because it looks so wide open to me.”
Texas A&M athletic director Bill Byrne said he’s confident the Aggies can continue on the roll they’ve been on since Gillispie, Turgeon’s predecessor, took over in College Station in 2004. Turgeon took the Aggies to the NCAA tournament the last four years.
“The good thing about this compared to when we hired Billy and when we hired Mark is that we have built ourselves a basketball fan base and we’ve built ourselves some incredible facilities,” Byrne said. “So going out and attracting a great coach to Texas A&M is going to be a lot easier.”
Another change in 2011-12 will be the league’s round-robin schedule. It requires each team to play every conference opponent once on the road and once at home. Previously, teams played home-and-home against members of its own division and met opponents in the opposite division once.
“It’s going to be wild and it’s going to be harder,” Self said. “Protecting your home court is going to be more important now. You protect your home court and you go 8-0 at home, and split on the road, that will look like a pretty good record.”
AP Sports Writer Doug Tucker in Kansas City, Mo., contributed to this report.