As sports fans, we all know football season is well underway. For Texas Longhorns fans, the excitement continues to build on a 4-0 start and a possible run to the national championship at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California in January. But the University of Texas and the Big 12 Conference, traditionally known as a football school and conference, has something else to be proud of this fall. Several coaches, players and programs from the conference were given national recognition last week as part of The Sporting News analysis of NCAA basketball over the last decade.
In review, Eyes Of TX will review and provide some perspective on The Sporting News’ Big 12 Conference-relevant selections for their “decade” awards.
Rick Barnes, head coach of the Texas Longhorns men’s basketball coach for the past 10 years, was named the recruiter of the decade.
It shouldn’t be any surprise to Texas fans that Barnes deserves this award. During his tenure, he has recruited and landed some of the best talent in the country year-after-year. He’s brought 10 McDonald’s All-Americans to the 40 Acres, including Kevin Durant, LaMarcus Aldridge, T.J. Ford, D.J. Augustin, and Daniel “Boobie” Gibson, who all now enjoy successful NBA careers. Although most of those marquee players didn’t stay in school for more than two seasons, Barnes has proven his recruiting and coaching prowess during his time in Austin. And, it’s not just the NBA guys – Barnes has had just as many successful college players who never went on to the NBA.
Looking forward, Barnes continues to drive the Longhorns team and program forward with his upcoming recruiting class, ranked #2, #3 or as far down as #6 depending on the recruiting service, typically behind only Kentucky and/or Villanova – both schools that are dominate basketball programs. With the help of his assistant coaches, and a little luck from the John Wooden basketball gods, Barnes brings in four highly-touted players for the 2009-2010 season – shooting guards Avery Bradley (video) and J’Covan Brown (video), and strong forwards Jordan Hamilton (video) and Shawn Williams (“Next Step” video analysis). With the eligibility of former Florida Gators guard transfer Jai Lucas (video), these “four horseman,” combine with an already stacked veteran team lead by Dexter Pittman, Damion James and Dustin Mason.
Despite an injection of youth, the ‘Horns – behind Barnes’ coaching and recruiting genius – should give Kansas a run for their money in the Big 12 Conference, while turning some heads during the NCAA tournament next year.
While no longer in the Big 12 Conference, former Kansas Jayhawks and current North Carolina Tar Heels head coach Roy Williams was tabbed the coach of the decade.
No surprise, and well deserved. Despite spurning the Jayhawks to take a job for his alma mater in Chapel Hill, Williams has been the model of consistency as a coach over the past decade. His teams – whether at Kansas or North Carolina – have been disciplined, talented, and wildly successful over the years. In 2003, he took Kansas to the national championship game, and in 2005 and 2009, he won national championships at North Carolina. That’s not a bad run. Keep in mind, current Jayhawks head coach Bill Self won the national championship with Kansas in 2008, and it is no secret who recruited the kids on that starting roster to Lawrence.
The Big 12 Conference’s Kansas Jayhawks were named the team of the decade.
Fairly obvious, minus a string of losses to team’s starting with the letter “B” in the NCAA tournament earlier in the decade. Building on the success of former men’s basketball coach Roy Williams, current coach Bill Self didn’t miss a beat. The Jayhawks have dominated the Big 12 basketball landscape throughout the decade – competing occasionally with Texas and Oklahoma for the Big 12 championship – but they are the only team to have consistent success in the Big 12 and NCAA tournaments, bringing home several conference championships, including the national championship in 2008.
While we’ll still be in the depths of the BCS and conference football schedule in November, both NCAA and Big 12 Conference roundball fans will be waiting patiently to see ESPN analyst Digger Phelps’ highlighter/tie combo, and whether or not Dick Vitale will have a heart attack when he learns Tyler Hansborough has graduated from North Carolina. Who will ESPN’s analysts drool over this year? Eyes Of TX’s guess? A to-be-determined Duke Blue Devils player. That’s sad reality people, really sad.
Contributions to this blog entry include EyesOfTX and BigBopper. More Texas Longhorns, and Big 12 Conference, basketball updates coming from BigBopper later this year on the EyesOfTX blog – stay tuned!