Rise and Fall: Big 12 Program Review
Like civilizations, all great basketball programs eventually fall.. replaced by an upstart newcomer. In this week's Rise & Fall series, we'll take a look at which BCS programs are rising, falling, or merely treading water. Up today, the:
BAYLOR - RISING (QUICKLY)
The Bears RPI has jumped from 257th in 2005 to 43rd last year, and the future looks even brighter. With stud prospects like Cory Jefferson, Quincy Acy, and Perry Jones locked up in upcoming classes, Sweet Sixteen caliber teams are possible.
COLORADO - DECLINING (SLOWLY)
While last season was an improvement over a disastrous 2007 (just 7 D1 wins), its hard to say things are going in the right direction. Roby and Hall are gone, and the Buffs will be banking on a handful of potentially decent, yet unproven, recruits. I trust Bzdelik to turn things around eventually, but it might be another season or two before they're plugged into the rising category.
IOWA STATE - DECLINING (SLOWLY)
The Cyclones are in a similar situation to Colorado: coming off a couple sad seasons, with a handful of solid recruits to provide hope, but way to much uncertainty to expect anything but minimal success.
KANSAS - STATUS QUO
Nothing wrong with the status quo when you're coming off a well-deserved NCAA Tournament title. There will no doubt be a bit of a setback this season, but Bill Self is going about rebuilding the talent base in the right manner. What's most impressive about the five Top 60 quality prospects joining the program this fall, is that all should be around for at least a couple of seasons before bolting for the NBA.
KANSAS STATE - DECLINING (SLOWLY)
Considering last year's Wildcats featured one of the best pro talents in recent memory, the 20-12 record and RPI of 50 is rather blah. While there's still some talent on the roster, 6 or 7 wins in the league would have to be considered quite an accomplishment. Frank Martin hasn't proven to anybody that he can coach, so he'll need to pull off some Hugginsesque recruiting steals down the line.
NEBRASKA - STATUS QUO
The Huskers have been hanging around the 90-100 RPI range for almost 8 years now. This year's team also figures to be completely mediocre, and there's no reason to expect much deviation down the line. The epitome of the status quo designation.
MISSOURI - STATUS QUO
A lot of analysts expect big things from Missouri this year, but I'm not on the bandwagon. The reality is that the Tigers haven't broken through the 20-win mark since 2003, and another 17-18 win season seems likely in 08-09. Last year's 6-10 conference record was a disappointment, and the graduation of Stefhon Hannah and the recent transfer of Keon Lawrence (to Seton Hall) doesn''t help the cause.
OKLAHOMA - RISING
The return of Blake Griffin was huge news for Sooners fans. Credit his arrival for helping turn a dismal RPI of 102 in 2007 to a solid 29th last year. Even bigger things are expected this time around as Griffin returns, and another stud prospect, Will Warren, joins the program. There's simply a very positive vibe surrounding the program now that Jeff Capel has settled in, and big things are possible down the line.
OKLAHOMA STATE - DECLINING (SLOWLY)
It was only a handful of years ago that Oklahoma State was consistently a Top 10-quality team. Mercifully, the Sean Sutton experiment is now over, and Cowboy fans can look forward to the Travis Ford era. Sutton just wasn't winning enough league games, and though James Anderson was a nice catch, the overall talent level has been slipping. It will take some time for Ford to turn things around, but he will.
TEXAS - RISING (SLOWLY)
Rick Barnes has slowly built up Texas into one of the country's best programs. There's so much depth on the roster that despite losing star DJ Augustin, most consider the Horns a lock to win the Big 12 title. Eventually the good run will plateau, but I think there's room for improvement left to come.
TEXAS A&M - RISING (SLOWLY)
Following the meteoric rise under Billy Gillispie, anything Mark Turgeon does will seem ordinary. Still, Turgeon can coach, and the program is bringing in better talent than it has in years. David Lobeau and Dashan Harris are legit finds, who should help ease the losses of Kirk, Jones, and Jordan.
TEXAS TECH - STATUS QUO
Similar to Nebraska above, but at a slightly higher level, the Raiders seem destined to hover around mediocrity for the next handful of seasons. The Knight's don't really bring in the top prospects anymore, but they also manage to bring in just enough talent to prevent any dismal stretches.
- up next is the Big Ten -