When Oklahoma visits the Coliseum on Saturday, it marks the beginning of the Big 12 Basketball Era for West Virginia.
Remember the record-shattering beginning to the Big 12 Football Era when Baylor was at Mountaineer Field? It was a 70-63 win for West Virginia with Geno Smith’s 600-plus yards passing performance raising his Heisman Trophy stock higher than the price of Apple on the New York Stock Exchange.
Smith wasn’t bucked off the Heisman horse until the Mountaineers had lost three straight Big 12 games and the bottom of the losing skid wasn’t in sight.
Now it’s time for an entirely new set of circumstances.
It’s time for Big 12 basketball.
The traditions at each of the other nine conference schools are often much different than what was brought by the football teams.
The landlord presiding over the tenants has been Kansas. The Rock Chalk Jayhawks were a miserable 1-11 in football. But with venerable Allen Fieldhouse as its home quarters and James Naismith and Phog Allen in its history, Kansas believes in a system laced with the staus quo. Once king, always king. This isn’t a republic or a democracy. We play you. We beat you. Every game. Every year.
Kansas reached the national championship game in March before falling, 67-59, to Kentucky and completing the season with a 32-7 record.
A loss in the second game of this season has been muted by a 10-game win streak. Another lofty national ranking follows the Jayhawks like a fawning ESPN analyst.
Oklahoma State couldn’t keep pace in the football race for a BCS bowl spot, but the basketball Cowboys are off to a 10-1 start while occupying a Top 20 position in the polls.
Beating the Cowboys in Stillwater will call for a masterful game from any conference team, including the prideful Kansas Jayhawks.
While Kansas State lost only one football game and landed a BCS football bowl, the Purple Storm has been changing basketball coaches with regularity. First-year Wildcat coach Bruce Weber flies in from Champaign-Urbana where he was fired at Illinois. Frank Martin, a Bob Huggins protege, left Manhattan after accepting Huggins’ K-State position when the Mountaineers called the WVU graduate back to Morgantown.
Wildcat fortunes are positive enough to find them at 9-2 in non-conference skirmishes.
Baylor revived its football fortunes after losing the scoring slugfest to West Virginia. There was a bowl date for the Waco-based Bears. The basketball Bears have an 8-3 non-conference record with one of those wins coming at Kentucky.
The NCAA tournament was a plush Baylor home this past March.
Oklahoma football has been more accomplished than Oklahoma basketball. Bowl games with BCS class are all over the Sooners’ history books.
Finding such basketball success takes more effort. Coaches don’t last too long. The fan base clamors for more basketball wins and attendance is high, but finishing ahead of Kansas and Texas hasn’t been the trend.
Oklahoma defeated WVU, 77-70, in a November tournament in Florida. And the Sooners were 7-3 in their first 10 games.
The grand scale Texas provides its athletes is just as much in place for basketball as its other well-funded sports. University of Texas-Austin football is nothing shy of a paragon of virtue for many citizens of the state of Texas. Losing two or three games in any season brings whispers (and shouts) that Mac Brown should ride off into his last sunset and find retirement.
Coach Rick Barnes has taken the burnt orange Longhorns to many an NCAA tournament, but this year’s edition is only 7-5 in its first dozen games.
The Iowa State Cyclones scratch out enough football wins for a bowl visit. And the basketball team does much the same . . . at times reaching the NCAA tournament as an eighth or ninth seed.
After winning three straight, Iowa State moved to 9-3 in non-conference basketball games.
“Upsets” in Ames against highly-ranked conference buddies are an annual occurrence. Iowa State has no blood rival in the Big 12 — the same situation where West Virginia finds itself.
First-year conference member Texas Christian is more football-oriented than it is a historically-productive basketball school.
The Horned Frogs are 8-4 in non-conference basketball games, but folks in Fort Worth have eyes only for this season’s bowl game.
And that leaves us with only Texas Tech and its recent basketball past with coaches Bobby Knight and his son, Pat. This will be the Red Raiders first season without leadership from a Knight for a number of years.
Tommy Tuberville just left Texas Tech football for Cincinnati. And that’s the sports story that interests people in Lubbock.
Nothing much of interest has happened in Texas Tech basketball for years.
This season’s non-conference record is 5-4 and the Mountaineers could find a road win in west Texas if they have five or six players shooting more than blanks when they trudge out to Lubbock.
West Virginia’s Big 12 Basketball Era opens on Saturday. Chances are slim that the equivalent of a 70-63 football game will be seen. With its 7-5 overall record, the Mountaineers will be satisfied with a fundamental, no-frills win by any score.