Texas Tech coach Chris Beard celebrates on the court with fans after the team's NCAA college basketball game against Oklahoma, Tuesday, Jan. 8, 2019, in Lubbock, Texas. (AP Photo/Brad Tollefson)

Men's Basketball

12 big things about Big 12 basketball, Week 4 — Being thankful for Chris Beard; Texas regresses to expectations

Posted November 27th, 2019

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12. NCAA and Oklahoma State

The NCAA served Oklahoma State a notice of allegations last week steaming from — what else! — the FBI investigated recruiting scandal.

The NOA was expected, as are future ones for other teams, because OSU was one of a handful of schools who had a coach arrested more than two years ago when the Justice Department announced the investigations.

The assistant, Lamont Evans, was given a Level 1 unethical conduct charge. Evans pleaded guilty to bribery charges in January and was sentenced to three months in jail.

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Just a hunch, but it’s unlikely Evans ever coaches in the NCAA again. Not impossible, but unlikely, so I’m not sure what a show cause penalty and what a Level 1 infraction against him does. Evans has a real chance of getting deported let alone another college coaching job.

What it does for OSU, and what punishment OSU will receive, is one of the more intriguing parts of this case.

Evans admitted to accepting bribes from 2016 to 2017. He was hired by OSU in 2016 by former Cowboys coach Brad Underwood and was fired before he could start his second season with new coach Mike Boynton.

Here’s the OSU response:

One player, former All-Big 12 first team guard Jeffrey Carroll, was suspended three games in 2017 for accepting $300 from Evans. Evans was also found in court transcripts talking about former South Carolina player P.J. Dozier. Evans said he accepted $22,000 in bribes while at Oklahoma State and South Carolina.

South Carolina said earlier this year it isn’t being investigated by the NCAA. 

I doubt Oklahoma State is facing a postseason ban and I personally think it’s puzzling the NCAA went after OSU before Arizona and Louisville, but here we are.

The Cowboys appear ready to argue that Evans acted without the interest of the university in mind but they also have fired the coach in question, which is something that happened to all the coaches arrested and sentenced, but not all the coaches linked in this scandal (Bill Self, Kurtis Townsend, Sean Miller, Bruce Pearl, Will Wade and more).

Perhaps OSU will accept probation and a loss of a scholarship, but does that punishment lessen the impact of a Level 1 violation, which is supposed to be the worst level of allegations there is?

My biggest fear is this scandal is so big that at the end of it, fans are going to casually refer to Level 1 allegations and dismiss them as no big deal like some are, and have been since the 1990s, doing with the word “impeachment.”

It seems as if the NCAA is going to be releasing these NOAs pretty steadily for the next few months. Partly because it should and partly because the NCAA would be wise to have all these programs start serving their punishments next season as if they were ripping a Band-Aid off.

If the NCAA hasn’t notified all these schools by at least the end of January (and that’s cutting it close), the organization risks more public relations nightmares as postseason bans or vacations of wins will be announced after the start of the 2020-2021 season.

As for Mike Boynton and his program, which is dealing with a lot of off court things this month,  I’m not sure how the NOA impacts it.

A postseason ban next season would be the worst case scenario and probably overkill compared to what we know happened with Adidas schools and Arizona.

OSU already landed its big fish in the recruiting cycle, the No. 2 player in the country in Cade Cunningham, so will it be really bad if OSU doesn’t have an active spring signing period? They might already be done on the trail for this cycle.

Boynton himself wasn’t implicated in this. He didn’t even originally hire Evans to the staff but inherited him when Underwood left for Illinois (he wasn’t mentioned either in the NOA). Boynton retained Evans to his staff and while in retrospect it looks terrible, at the time it was a good move because Evans was an experienced assistant who had coached under Frank Martin at Kansas State and South Carolina.

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: AP Top 25 poll; Week 4

11. NCAA and Kansas

It was unlikely that No. 4-ranked Kansas, the preseason favorite to win the league, was going to have to deal with NCAA penalties steaming from the recruiting scandal this season.

Few envisioned Kansas being forced to miss the postseason this season because it had 90 days to respond. Then there would be appeals, hearings — everything pointed to the summer. Then the NCAA pushed back the date schools could respond and now Kansas has until February to answer the NCAA’s NOA.

This unofficially officially means KU won’t have to worry about penalties this season and the time frame means we won’t know what the KU punishment could be until maybe August.

From there it’s anyone’s guess.

No matter what the penalties will be, it’s a good bet Kansas will dispute them and perhpas even head to court to fight them.

My take is that it all depends on the severity.

If the punishment doesn’t include a postseason ban and isn’t a year-long suspension to coach Bill Self, then I just don’t see KU going nuclear in response.

I do see Kansas assistant coach Kurtis Townsend moving on if he’s suspended — it wouldn’t surprise me if he retires and pops up later. I do think Self could be in line for a 20-game suspension if that’s what NCAA offers to avoid some long, drawn out legal fight with a member school in a Power 5 league.

My stance is that a recruiting violation and a booster giving money to a player isn’t as severe as a school committing academic violations. Syracuse had this happen to its Hall of Fame coach and after the team was already out of contention to make the NCAA Tournament, announced a postseason ban. Syracuse had more than just academic issues, obviously, but it was a big part of it.

That’s just my opinion though and some feel recruiting and paying players is a bigger sin, but what are we doing here if that’s the case?.

If the NCAA comes down harder on people who have allegedly cheated in recruiting than people who have had tutors take tests and created fake classes designed to keep players eligible, what’s the message the NCAA is sending? We don’t care as much about what they do in college as long as they got there without incident?

We can argue all day on how the NCAA should punish these schools involved in the biggest recruiting scandal this decade. One thing we shouldn’t be arguing is that Kansas will get disciplined in some way.

If KU doesn’t, it’s a black eye for the NCAA  and signals that a wide swath of teams benefited from cheating and got away with it regardless of whether you agree with the rule to begin with.

Who’s up, who’s down this week

10. Up: West Virginia

Last week the NCAA gave the green light for Arkansas transfer Gabe Osabuohien to play this season. Osabuohien was dismissed from Arkansas in August and landed in Morgantown not long after. It’s a little surprising he got cleared by the NCAA, but it has been wildly inconsistent in the waiver policy recently.

His numbers are less than modest, averaging less than three points and three rebounds a game in 54 games for Arkansas, but he does give the Mountaineers even more depth and one more big body (6-foot-7-inches, 235 pounds).

Texas forward Gerald Liddell, left, and Georgetown guard Jahvon Blair fight for control of the ball beneath the basket during the Longhorns’ 82-66 loss to the Hoayas last week as Georgetown center Qudus Wahab and Texas guard Courtney Ramey look on. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

9. Down: Texas

Maybe Penn State is just really good this season and I looked too hard at the Nittany Lions’ win over Georgetown when I downgraded the Hoyas.

The Hoyas went toe-to-toe with Duke in the championship of the 2K event in Madison Square Garden. But I doubt many people saw what Georgetown had done the first month of the season and saw what Texas was doing and didn’t have Texas advancing to play Duke.

Texas played a terrible second half against Georgetown and in a two week span went from beating Purdue on the road to losing to Georgetown by 16 points on a neutral floor. 

I don’t think Texas fans should panic too much.

The Longhorns came back and demolished a very bad Cal team the next night. The Georgetown game was more about the Longhorns sliding back to where we thought they’d be in the preseason than where we thought they could go following the win over Purdue.

Texas loses a chance to play its toughest non-conference opponent, but that only makes the Purdue win that much more important when March comes.

8. Up: Baylor

The Bears beat Villanova on Sunday in one of the better games of the season so far to win the Myrtle Beach Invitation. It was a back-and-forth game and Baylor hit big shots to win 87-78. The Bears trailed by three at halftime and survived a 27-point performance from Collin Gillespie to win.

Jared Butler is making a case for Big 12 Player of the Year  as he scored 22 points. Baylor had five players score in double figures, including transfer MaCio Teague who had 18. He and Butler made four 3-pointers apiece and Baylor was 11-for-19 overall from three.

The Bears also tried a variety of defenses, jumping from man to the program’s old standard zone and back to man after Villanova made some threes. They also handled Villanova’s press with ease at the end.

Scott Drew, the November Tournament master, did it again.

7. Down: Oklahoma

The Sooners were 5-0 and had two wins over Power 5 schools. Then they went to the Hall of Fame Classic and were run out of the gym by Stanford, a team picked to finish at the bottom of the Pac-12. This was one of our games to watch last week because Stanford has a lot to play for, coaching wise, this season and I thought it would be a tough one. But Oklahoma was non-competitive for most of the game and lost 73-54.

Not great.

Monday wasn’t a good day for the Big 12. Sure, Kansas won by 30 against Division II Chaminade at the Maui Invitational, but Michigan State being upset by Virginia Tech meant Kansas has one less marquee non-conference game. Kansas State was in a back-and-forth close game with Pittsburgh and lost. Pitt is slated to be one of the worst teams in their conference and lost to Nicholls State by five at home earlier this month.

Here are four dates to watch in December: 

We’ll preview some of these games closer to tip off, but get your schedule ready!

6. Dec. 21

Kansas travels to Philadelphia to play Villanova in next month’s Big 12-Big East challenge. That’s the headliner for the entire challenge.

Also on Dec. 21 is Texas at Providence, a team some had picked to with the Big East.

An improving Saint Louis team, under former Oklahoma State coach Travis Ford, travels to Manhattan to play Kansas State, Central Florida plays Oklahoma and Oklahoma State plays Minnesota of the Big Ten.

Also fun? West Virginia is at Youngstown.

BYU forward Dalton Nixon tries to maintain control of the ball after losing his footing as Houston guards Nate Hinton, left, and guard Quentin Grimes watch during the teams’ matchup earlier this season. (Michael Wyke/Houston Chronicle)

5. Dec. 14-15

December 15 has just one game, but it’s a good one: Oklahoma State at Houston. The Cougars are picked to win the league and Kansas transfer Quentin Grimes is off to a hot start after receiving a waiver to play right away for the Cougars.

The day before that, Saturday, is a loaded slate that is highlighted by Oklahoma at Wichita State and Kansas State at Mississippi State, which could be one of the best teams in the SEC this year.

The other games that day, to be honest, are not great. Kansas plays in the Sprint Center against Kansas City and Texas hosts Central Michigan of the mighty MAC. The only team not playing this weekend are Texas Tech, Iowa State and Baylor.

4. Dec. 10

There are a lot of good games on Dec. 29, that almost made the list. That day features Kansas at Stanford, West Virginia at Ohio State and Tulsa at Kansas State with Texas Tech and Oklahoma State also playing.

But even though it’s a Tuesday with just three Big 12 teams playing, Dec. 10 has to be on this list because it’s probably the only day where we’ll see Texas Tech get challenged — truly challenged (though DePaul, led by Kansas transfer Charlie Moore, who Tech plays on Dec. 4, looks like a tournament team) — before Big 12 play.

The Red Raiders play No. 2-ranked Louisville at the Jimmy V Classic in New York.

That alone makes this a must-watch night of Big 12 basketball, but you also have Butler playing at Baylor, two of the best programs in their conferences, which should be an outstanding game.

The third game is the worst game, Milwaukee at Kansas.

3. All the games on Dec. 6-8

Here it is:

Friday:

  • TCU vs. USC in Dickies Arena in Fort Worth

Saturday

  • West Virginia at St. John’s

  • No. 14 Arizona at Baylor

  • No. 21 Colorado at Kansas

  • Marquette at Kansas State

Sunday:

  • Wichita State at Oklahoma State

  • Texas vs. Texas A&M in Fort Worth

  • No. 13 Seton Hall at Iowa State

Texas guard Matt Coleman III should be in consideration for Big 12 Player of the Year. (AP Photo/AJ Mast)

2. 12 players who are in the race for Big 12 player of the Year right now

I was ready to write Kansas center Udoka Azubuike off for Big 12 Player of the Year, but he scored 21 points on 10-of-13 shooting with seven rebounds and four blocks with a +/- of 7 against a good East Tennessee State team and it’s still clear that he’s going to be a problem for teams.

Here are 11 other players who are in the race as of now. I’ll update this as the season goes on. 

  • Tyrese Haliburton, sophomore, Iowa State

  • Jared Butler, sophomore, Baylor

  • Devon Dotson, sophomore, Kansas

  • Desmond Bane, senior, TCU

  • Jahmi’us Ramsey, freshman, Texas Tech

  • Xavier Sneed, senior, Kansas State

  • Kristian Doolitle, senior, Oklahoma

  • Matt Coleman, junior, Texas

  • Kevin Samuel, redshirt sophomore, TCU

  • Lindy Waters, senior, Oklahoma State

  • Marcus Garrett, junior, Kansas

Big thought: Marcus Garrett is the only player that’s a stretch to be on that list, but he’s Kansas’ best defender and most confident player. Texas Tech big man T.J. Holyfield, a graduate transfer is off to a strong season, but before I add any more Texas Tech players, I want to see them beat a good team.

1. This year the Big 12 is thankful for…

Chris Beard.

The Texas Tech coach is actually about to do something that I didn’t think was possible: He’s about to make a Big 12, Power 5 school, from the state of Texas, a basketball school. Perhaps the athletic department doesn’t want that distinction, but it seems Tech has been trying to be a basketball for nearly 20 years.

It all started when they hired a guy many didn’t think would get another big chance, one of the greatest basketball coaches ever, Bob Knight. Then they hired a guy who was once such a hot commodity he got the Kentucky job (Billy Gillespie), then they hired a coach who actually won a National Championship at Kentucky, Tubby Smith, and now they’ve created an actual could be long-term challenger to Kansas in the Big 12.

And they did so by hiring its least heralded basketball coach of the bunch.  Sure Tech hired Pat Knight, but Bob Knight retired midseason and Pat was the interim coach who didn’t last very long after they lifted the interim tag. It wasn’t true hiring process.

You have to give some credit to Smith who recruited many of the players Beard found success with in his second season, including Keenan Evans, but that team, and last year, was powered by transfers and recruits Beard brought in.

The Big 12 is thankful for Chris Beard because he chose to stay for this season despite some big jobs available he probably could have landed if he just raised his hand. If he was truly interested in the UCLA job, he’d be the UCLA coach right now. Beard not only chose to stay for this season, he signed giant contract, one that makes it especially hard for him to leave for a school in conference.

For a conference that’s seen Roy Williams, Kelvin Sampson, Fred Hoiberg, Tim Floyd, Kansas State Bob Huggins, Brad Underwood, Frank Martin, Missouri’s Mike Anderson and Texas A&M’s Billy Gillesipie all leave for other jobs, any time a coach decides to stay at a Big 12 school that’s not Kansas or Texas is a positive.

Beard is staying, like Scott Drew has at Baylor, and it looks like he’s going to build a power there that people in Austin want to have. Tech is soaring in recruiting. They’ve won a lot games since Beard has arrived. They have a Big 12 championship they didn’t have to share with Kansas. The school is spending money on facilities. The coach is being paid like he’s the coach at Kansas.

This isn’t a slight at Baylor. The Bears have been the second most consistent program in the league the last 15 years, but Drew hasn’t led the Bears to a Final Four, hasn’t won a league title and get bashed nearly every time they play Kansas, especially in Kansas. It’s just been different at Texas Tech.

The league wants its North Carolina to Kansas’ Duke. Texas hasn’t been doing that for a decade. Perhaps the league has finally found it.

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