Expansion talk looms over Big 12 hoops as season draws near
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Chris Beard got right to it. His Texas Longhorns will have a target on their backs.
“We’ve already begun talking to our players about how difficult it’s going to be,” he said. “But it’s really no different than anywhere else I’ve ever coached. If you’re going to try to be in the fight, then you have to understand you’re going to have to overcome a lot of adversity.”
The Longhorns and the Oklahoma Sooners enter the Big 12 season with their future move to the Southeastern Conference leading to unease among coaches at Big 12 Media Day on Thursday. Fortunately, the event was held in a very large room at the T-Mobile Center.
“When you play at Texas, you’re going to be a big game on everybody’s schedule,” Beard said. “With the move to the SEC at some point is there going to be some extra ‘stuff’? Yes. I think there will be some adversity on the road.”
Beard is in his first season with the Longhorns after taking Texas Tech to previously unattained heights. He knows the Big 12 well from his 15 years as a head coach and an assistant.
Porter Moser, who is in his first year at Oklahoma after a very successful run at Loyola Chicago, is going to experience the Big 12 for the first time. He expects the reception will be tough from fans eager to jeer the Sooners before they bolt in a few years at the latest.
“You’ve probably got to anticipate it,” he said. “Even watching on TV, all those places are hostile anyway. If it’s additionally (hostile), it is what it is. You control what you can control. You find that as a way to use that as a motivating factor at some point.”
Many of the remaining Big 12 coaches chose to look at the positive side of expansion, focusing on the new teams coming in, as opposed to the two schools leaving.
“No one cares what I think about that,” Oklahoma State coach Mike Boynton said about whether the rivalry with Oklahoma will continue after the Sooners leave the conference. “Those decisions are going to be made way above me. I’ll do what the people in charge of the athletic department tell me to do.”
With the addition of BYU, Houston, Cincinnati and Central Florida in the coming years, the consensus is that the conference will remain one of the toughest in the country.
“We’ve certainly got four great programs (coming in),” TCU coach Jamie Dixon said. “I think there’s no way we could have done any better.”
Scott Drew, the coach of the defending national champion Baylor Bears believes that the four programs coming in will get better when they join the Big 12.
“Definitely it’s four schools with tradition,” he said. “Basketball-wise, BYU has great fan support, and has been very successful on the court. Coach (Kelvin) Sampson has done a great job with Houston. They were a Final Four team last year. Cincinnati (has) great tradition and history. The Central Florida program is going to get better and better.”
That transition won’t happen in the 2021-22 season, and that’s probably a good thing for the returning schools. The Big 12 is regularly one of the highest-rated conferences in the country and this season doesn’t look any different. Three Big 12 schools (Kansas, No. 3; Texas, No. 5; Baylor, No. 8) are ranked in the top 10 of the AP Top 25.
The Bears were picked to finish third in the Big 12, partly because of losing four seniors from the championship squad.
“At this time of year most coaches will tell you the same thing: they like their team, they like their players,” Drew said. “Then they have their first scrimmage and about half the coaches say, ‘We like our guys, we like our team.’ The other half say, ‘We’ve got to get better.’ It’s going to be a transition year for us. But the league is better than ever.”
West Virginia coach Bob Huggins, one of the longest-tenured coaches in the conference, said the Big 12 will continue to thrive because of the quality of coaches.
“It’s a great players league and an even better coaches league,” Huggins said. “I’ve been in leagues where you look down there and you think you can outsmart the guy sitting down there. I’ve never felt that way in this league.”