Thursday, April 5, 2007

Big 12 Hoops Notes

A quick swing around the league.

That Bz You’re Hearing: I never thought I’d say this, but Colorado made a home run hire by luring Jeff Bzdelik to Boulder this week. In fact, they probably achieved the best PQC:RSP (Proven Quality of Coach to Recent Success of Program ratio) of any school in the country in this hiring circle (at this point, Frank Broyles would give an appendage to land someone as good as Bzdelik at once-proud Arkansas). The Buffs are getting an exceptional coach with local ties who has proven he can win at a very high level even without elite talent. His NBA credentials and the move from a service academy to a Big 12 school should give him a chance to recruit better athletes to plug into his already successful scheme. If he can’t win in Boulder, there aren’t many guys who can.

The move marks a subtle but perceptible shift of coaching power within the league. Assuming Bob Huggins stays at Kansas State (see below for more on that), all six of the programs in the north will feature experienced, proven head coaches who previously led other programs to the NCAA Tournament. When Bob Knight finally hands the reins over to his son Pat at Texas Tech, Rick Barnes of Texas and Texas A&M’s Billy Gillispie (assuming he stops flirting with every big-name job in the country) will possess a significant gap of experience and success over their four southern counterparts.

The Passion of the Hugs: OK, yeah, so I’m enjoying the melodrama surrounding West Virginia’s courtship of Bob Huggins. It makes for great theater. And while it would be a low-rent move to leave after just one year, you can’t blame Hugs for thinking about it. How could he not? The top job at your alma mater opens up, perhaps for the last time during your career, and your lifelong friends ask you to leave a place you’ve barely established roots to return as conquering hero and earn seven figures annually. It’s beyond tempting.

And it almost makes me feel sorry for the purple people of the little apple, for whom this could be a soul-crushing development. Those folks bought in hard, only to face the prospect of the rug being pulled out. It’s like the most elaborate episode of Punk’d ever.

Au Contraire, Blair: I think Kansas City Star college hoops writer Blair Kerkhoff is very good at what he does, but his projection of Kansas State as a top ten team in 2007-08 seems a reach. Despite the losses of Cartier Martin and Lance Harris, the Cats’ first and third-leading scorers, respectively, there is some returning talent. David Hoskins, a destitute man’s Charles Barkley, has become a better player than he has any right to be, Clent Stewart and Blake Young are competent guards, and Jason Bennett and Luis Colon are large. Beyond that, though, the hopes seem pinned squarely on Bill Walker, an explosive athlete now dealing with surgically-repaired ACLs in both knees, and Michael Beasley, a million-dollar talent who may have a ten-cent head.

I think Beasley, the MVP of the McDonalds’ game, can help make the Cats very good, but can he take them to a higher stratum than Kevin Durant was able to take Texas this past season? Beasley is a top five national talent (KSU fans like to call him number one, but only one major service puts him there; no one else has him higher than fourth), but Durant was a once-in-a-generation player, perhaps the best freshman ever, and he was complemented by a talented (if inexperienced) roster that included D.J. Augustin, a guard light years beyond anyone on the Wildcat team.

I think K-State can lose twice to Kansas, finish in the top third of the league, and make the NCAA field, maybe even as a five or six seed. But top ten? With inexperienced talent up front and a starless back court, I doubt it.

That’s Quite A Limb You’re Standing On, Frank: Kansas State recruiting coordinator Frank Martin goes out there – way out there.

"I think he [Michael Beasley] will make the same type of impact that Kevin
Durant [sic]," Martin said. "I saw both of them in high school, and in my
opinion, Michael is a better player (than Durant). I felt that way and I
still feel that way."
No pressure, kid. Just be better than the best freshman there’s ever been.

The K-State staff’s evaluation of Beasley certainly explains why Bob Huggins prison shanked his good pal Bobby Lutz. Doesn’t justify it, but it explains it.

Our Best to Bob: Former Missouri assistant Bob Sundvold (also known as Jon’s big brother) is at home recovering after a truly frightening ordeal. Here’s to a thorough recovery.