Big 12 on upswing thanks to growing power of Texas schools | Sports

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Perhaps no one in the Big 12 identifies more closely with the Lone Star State than Chris Beard, who grew up in Irving and was a student assistant to Tom Penders in Texas before eventually becoming the head coach of the Longhorns.

Beard attended no fewer than seven different Texas colleges, four of them in top positions.

When the AP Top 25 was released this week and all four of Texas’ Big 12 schools were ranked, you can bet Beard felt a measure of pride. Baylor was the headliner, tied with Kansas for fifth, while the Longhorns were at No. 12, TCU was two spots behind, and Texas Tech was last in the poll.

“Those things are always personal to me,” Beard said. “I’m a Texan, period. And if you think back to where basketball was in high school, in the Dallas and Houston area, basketball grew so much.

“I give a lot of credit to the high school coaches, the grassroots coaches. Undeniably, the best AAU basketball in the country is in Texas. It starts with the coaching and the grassroots and the high school basketball and from there.”

It has made football-mad Texas a fertile field for hoops, and the state’s colleges have undoubtedly been the biggest beneficiaries. Beard had Texas Tech play Virginia for the national championship three years ago, and two seasons ago Scott Drew Baylor passed then-undefeated Gonzaga to win his first men’s basketball title.

The Bears will be in the Final Four mix again this season. The Longhorns think they can run away. Texas Tech comes off a Sweet 16 appearance and TCU has its highest preseason finish in school history.

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“When it was the Southwest Conference, they were pretty good back then,” said Horned Frogs coach Jamie Dixon, who was playing for TCU at the time. “But that doesn’t surprise me. I think there are just better players in Texas now.”

If the Big 12 want to get greedy, they could claim Houston a bit early. The third-ranked Cougars, who will enter the league next season, followed a Final Four trip with an Elite Eight appearance last spring.

“I couldn’t be prouder of how far the state has come in the last 20 years,” said Baylor coach Scott Drew. “You could have multiple teams from the state in the Final Four. It’s definitely a great time to be playing basketball in the state of Texas.”

BACK-TO-BACK CHAMPS

The Big 12 has long been considered one of the toughest conferences in the country, whether it’s head-to-head results or advanced metrics only to fail on the national stage. But now the Big 12 are riding on the strength of back-to-back titles after Kansas followed the Bears by cutting the nets in April.

“You would hear the knock: not enough national championships or different teams that could win one,” Drew said. “In the last three tournaments, we could very easily have three different champions. But winning the last game means a lot.”

SCOUTING

For all their strength, the Big 12 don’t necessarily stand a chance of being NBA lottery picks next summer. The closest could be two freshmen: Texas swingman Dillon Mitchell and Baylor shooting guard Keyonte George.

OLD HANDS

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The preseason All-Big 12 team chosen by the league’s coaches shows just how experienced their teams are this season. Due to a tie, there were six players: grad student Marcus Carr and senior Timmy Allen of Texas, redshirt senior Adam Flagler of Baylor, senior Avery Anderson III of Oklahoma State, redshirt junior Jalen Wilson of Kansas, and TCU junior Mike Miles, preseason of the League Player of the Year.

BACK IN THE SADDLE

Oklahoma State is again qualified for the NCAA Tournament after serving a year-​suspension as part of the aftermath of an FBI investigation into corruption in college basketball. But such harsh penalties could be a thing of the past now that the rules of name, image and likeness have changed in relation to compensating athletes and how the NCAA administers penalties.

“While I’m disappointed that it looks like our program will be the last to go through this,” said Cowboys coach Mike Boynton, “I’m glad future kids don’t have to go through this for something, for that.” they had nothing to do with.”

PLANNING STRONG

Kansas prides itself on having the toughest schedule in the country, and the Jayhawks are making another run for that title with games against No. 7 Duke in Indianapolis, No. 13 Indiana at Allen Fieldhouse and No. 4 Kentucky in January.

Other non-conference marquee games are Baylor vs. No. 2 Gonzaga and No. 10 Arkansas; Texas vs. the Bulldogs, No. 23 Illinois and No. 11 Tennessee; and Texas Tech against No. 9 Creighton at the Maui Invitational.


More AP college basketball: https://apnews.com/hub/college-basketball and https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-college-basketball-poll and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25

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