Who challenges KU? (in hoops, of course)

I woke up today in a basketball mood. It happens occasionally, even at a time when baseball’s pennant races are heating up, college football is beginning to take form and the NFL RULES THE WORLD!!!!

I like basketball. I especially like college basketball and Notre Dame’s move to the ACC, which certainly strengthens that league’s

Can new TCU basketball coach Trent Johnson do what so many before him have failed to do? Don't bet ont it.

basketball fortunes as well as the membership now of Pittsburgh and Syracuse, made me wonder about the Big 12.

The additions of West Virginia and TCU have been advantageous for football, definitely, and diminish the pain of losing Missouri and Texas A&M a year after Nebraska and Colorado bolted the conference.

But what do West Virginia and TCU do for Big 12 basketball? And isn’t Big 12 basketball already perilously close to becoming lackluster outside of Kansas?

West Virginia, under Bob Huggins, has a quality program. And as long as Huggins coaches in Morgantown, the Mountaineers should remain viable. I would expect West Virginia to be situation safely inside the Top 25 most years while Huggins is there. So that’s a good trade-off with Missouri, I suppose, at least when it comes to a quality vs. quality argument.

TCU is a different story. I’m not sure the Horned Frogs acknowledge the sport of basketball. Their play on the floor during the past, oh, 80 years would seem to indicate interest in basketball is minimal.

Here’s one statistic that surprised and even amazed me about TCU basketball. Since the 1934-35 season, the Horned Frogs are 423-662 in conference games. During that long span stretching longer than seven decades, TCU has played in the Southwest Conference, the Western Athletic Conference, Conference USA and the Mountain West.

Eleven coaches have attempted to put basketball on the map at TCU during that stretch. And only one – one – has a winning conference record. That would be Billy Tubbs, whose 65-53 mark includes an undefeated 14-0 season in 1997-98 when the Horned Frogs were playing in the WAC.

Trent Johnson, who was successful as a head coach at Stanford and not so successful at LSU, is the first-year coach at TCU. That doesn’t necessarily scream out “Turnaround!!!,” does it?

However, what does the rest of Big 12 basketball look like?

You can take Kansas to the bank. The Jayhawks are one of the top five programs in the country. Don’t worry about them.

Which current program ranks second?

Texas? Baylor? West Virginia? Kansas State? Iowa State?

None of the above?

That’s the deal. I’m not sure KU has much competition, at least not as things currently stand. And any good conference needs a few teams capable of pushing the leader down the mountain once in a while.

Iowa State might be building something special under Fred Hoiberg. The Cyclones were one of the most improved teams in the country last season.

Baylor, under Scott Drew, has thrust itself into the national spotlight, but the light never stays on the Bears for long. It’s strange to say, but Baylor is one of the most over-achieving and under-achieving teams in the country. Know what I mean? If you follow the Bears, I think you do.

Texas and Rick Barnes are as close to a sure deal as any team outside of Kansas, I suppose.

Kansas State’s new coach, Bruce Weber, was the coach who followed Bill Self at Illinois. Let’s just say Weber didn’t make the Illini faithful forget about Self and leave it at that.

Huggins is a great coach and West Virginia has had a run of success under him and the previous coach, John Beilein, who is now at Michigan.

Oklahoma and Oklahoma State are attempting to rebuild. Texas Tech is dealing with the Billy Gillispie mess and might not be relevant for years.

Big 12 football has a bunch of ranked teams and the championship picture is as muddled as it has ever been. That’s good for the conference. I think three or four teams are capable of winning the Big 12 football title this season.

Basketball?

I’ll take Kansas and give you the field. Any takers?

I didn’t think so.