To at least four Big 12 Conference basketball coaches, the past nine years evidently don’t mean much. Four of them selected the Oklahoma State Cowboys as the best basketball team going into the season. Oklahoma State tied the Kansas Jayhawks for first place in the (all but meaningless) preseason coaches poll.
Coaches are not allowed to vote for their program so we know Bill Self voted for his alma mater, and Travis Ford voted for the Jayhawks.
The other eight coaches split their vote for those two schools. Considering each finished with 77 points, neither school received a vote for finishing worse than second place.
The Jayhawks have won at least a share of 9 straight Big 12 Conference championships, including a tie with the Kansas State Wildcats last season. They have won a part 11 of the last 12 regular season championships and 13 of the conference’s 17 titles. In short, Kansas has ruled Big 12 play in basketball since it inception in the 1996-1997 season.
In the last ten seasons, those in which Bill Self has been the head coach, Kansas has a regular season record of 137-27 in conference play. That is a winning percentage of .835. Kansas has never lost more than four conference games under Self.
Go ahead, Big 12 coaches, vote for someone else. Maybe some of you aren’t as smart as you should be. History means nothing.
Of course, this statement is absolutely not true. History means nothing, or at best, next to nothing. What Kansas has done in the past means nothing going into this season. It does indicate, however, Bill Self’s ability to lose massive parts of his team year in and year and out, and continue to win with new parts. That does count for something.
This coaches’ poll is interesting in the fact that it shows not all of the coaches are drinking the kool-aid the national media is serving up. Kansas is an extremely young team. The Jayhawks will only have only 4 players with much playing experience at all, and two of those don’t really have that much. Only junior hold over point guard Naadir Tharpe, who has been very inconsistent in his first two years, and senior transfer Tarik Black have significant experience at the college level.
Neither sophomore big men Perry Ellis and Jamari Traylor logged many minutes as freshmen. Sophomore forward Andrew White III played some, but not near enough. That’s it! Everyone else Self will be counting on is either an incoming freshman or a redshirt freshman. Of course, some of these freshmen may be very good indeed.
Oklahoma State, on the other hand, is a very experienced, talented team. The Cowboys return 8 of their top 9 scorers from a year ago, including their top 4. Six of their top seven rebounders are back as well.
They are led by preseason All-American sophomore point guard Marcus Smart. He averaged 15.4 points, 5.8 rebounds, and 4.2 assists as a freshman. He decided to come back for a second season at Oklahoma State instead of bolting for the NBA, where he would have been a lottery pick in the 2013 NBA Draft.
The Cowboys should be a top 5 team nationally when the polls come out. They are a legitimate contender for the national championship. Until Kansas added Andrew Wiggins, Oklahoma State was the favorite to win the Big 12. Now, it should be a heck of a race.
It would have been easy to vote for Kansas as the best team in the Big 12. No one would have criticized those coaches if this vote would have resulted in only Bill Self voting for Oklahoma State, at least not outside of Stillwater anyway. Voting for Kansas, with their history and recruiting class, was almost a no-brainer.
Except that Oklahoma State may just be the best team in the nation, let alone the Big 12. Some of the conference coaches realized it would not be easy for the inexperienced Jayhawks to beat out the very experienced Cowboys. No team is going to hand Kansas anything.
That being said, the road to the Big 12 basketball championship will go through Lawrence and the Kansas Jayhawks.