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Wendell Barnhouse is a nationally-known and respected columnist who has spent over 20 years covering collegiate athletics. He has reported from 23 Final Fours and more than three dozen bowl games and has written about th Big 12 and its schools since the conference's beginning. Barnhouse will be updating the Big 12 Insider on happenings and behind-the-scenes information about the conference. 

April 2010

Friday, April 30

NBA early entry names from the Big 12
The following Big 12 players have placed their names on the NBA Draft's early entry list. Players have until next Saturday (May 8) to either withdraw their names from the draft and return to college or remain eligible for the draft. The only Big 12 player who likely will consider withdrawing his name is Texas freshman guard Avery Bradley. The list:

Cole Aldrich, 6-11, 245, C, Jr., Kansas
James Anderson, 6-6, 210, SG, Jr., Oklahoma State 
Craig Brackins, 6-10, 230, F, Jr., Iowa State 
Avery Bradley, 6-2, 185, G, Fr., Texas
Keith "Tiny" Gallon, 6-9, C, Fr., Oklahoma
Xavier Henry, 6-6, 220, SG, Fr., Kansas 
Tommy Mason-Griffin, 5-11, 200, PG, Fr., Oklahoma 
Ekpe Udoh, 6-10, 240, PF-C, Jr., Baylor
Willie Warren, 6-3, 200, G, Soph., Oklahoma 

Linked up
Here's a great story by Tom Kensler of the Denver Post about Tad Boyle, Colorado's new men's basketball coach.

Harvey Perlman, Nebraska's chancellor, is in the middle of many duties while rumors and talk of conference expansion swirls around his school.

Athlon Sports, which publishes college football preview magazines, did a series of "insider" stories where they chronicled the decision-making process regarding predictions for each conference. Here's the link to the story about the Big 12 meeting.

Kevin Sherrington of the Dallas Morning News writes that Tim DeRuyter, Texas A&M's new defensive coordinator, is the right guy to reform the Aggies' defense.

Friday, April 23

Thoughts on NCAA Tournament expansion, TV deal
Your Humble Correspondent is old enough (obviously; look at YHC's picture) to remember the days of black and white television with three channels and no remote. (YHC also remembers walking to school 10 miles - up hill, both ways - in blizzard conditions.)

And now one of this nation's premier sporting events - the NCAA Tournament and the Final Four - will air games on cable television. In 2014, the Final Four won't be on CBS but on TNT. That's the product of the NCAA's new television agreement with CBS and Turner Broadcasting that spans the next 14 seasons and will pay the NCAA $10.8 billion.

Also, the NCAA will expand the number of teams from 65 to 68. Exactly how that will impact the bracket won't be decided until this summer. On Thursday's teleconference, neither NCAA interim president Jim Isch nor vice president (and men's basketball impressario) Greg Shaheen would say the (bad) idea of expanding to 96 teams was dead or even on life support. The bottom line on 96 teams: Everything is still on the table.

If you're not cabled or dished or connected, you're out of luck. As cable television continues to surpass over-the-air television, the Final Four is the first major championship that will not air on "free" TV. If that's a downside, then the upside is that CBS and Turner (with its cable channels TNT, TBS and TruTV) will air each NCAA game in its entirety. No more regional coverage. No matter where you are, you can watch every one of your alma mater's NCAA games ... as long as you've paid the cable bill.

* YHC thinks it's interesting that the NCAA folks, in doing their "due diligence" on how a 96-team NCAA Tournament would be structured, apparently gave no thought to how mini-expansion would work. How a 68-team bracket works won't be decided until this summer. Media types are already weighing in with suggestions, which will cloud the issue and ultimate outcome.

* Iowa State coach Bill Fennelly posted this Tweet on his Twitter account Thursday: "If men go to 68 teams in the NCAA tournament doesn't the women's tournament have to move in that direction as well eventually?" Maybe so, coach, but only when the women's tournament starts commanding TV contracts that equal the GNP of third-world countries.

* The decision to expand to 68 teams - for now, at least - quiets the talk that expanding the tournament field was a money grab. A 14-year contract at $10.8 billion is a lot of money and a lot of grab. CBS and Turner executives both said that they're fine with 68 teams and they don't need a 96-team field in order to make a profit from this deal. If that is the case, what reasons could/would the NCAA use to expand the field to 96 some time during the next 14 years?

* Kansas coach Bill Self on NCAA Tournament expansion: "I think expanding to 68 teams is good for our sport. Many people thought it would go to 96 teams, but this will be a good way to see if the tournament needs to move toward 96 teams. "I like the fact that every game will be televised in its entirety. I think that is very good for college basketball."

* North Carolina and former Kansas coach Roy Williams: "I really was torn myself with what to do, so taking the field to 68 seems like a good step. This will give them time to decide if this is just an intermediate step to a larger event or not. There are so many good teams, and adding three more helps get some of them in the bracket without tarnishing the specialness of the tournament."

* Thursday probably wasn't the happiest day in Dick Vitale's life. The NCAA television contract announcement means that Vitale will probably end his television career having never worked the Final Four.

* Think Turner broadcasting would like a do-over on naming TruTV, one of the outlets that will carry NCAA Tournament games? TruTV previously was Court TV. Really. YHC is not making that up.

* Here are several links to stories from some of the nation's top college basketball writers about the NCAA expansion/TV contract announcement: Dana O'Neil of ESPN.com; Mike DeCourcy of The Sporting News; Gary Parrish of CBSSports.com; Jeff Goodman of FoxSports.com.

NFL Draft thoughts
It has been years since Your Humble Correspondent was under house arrest and watched the first round of the NFL Draft. The 32 selections were televised in prime time by ESPN. For Big 12 fans and those who write about it, Thursday was a great night.

The NFL Draft in prime time? Kinda like Las Vegas - the best and the worst of America all in one place.

Never has so much been said about so little action. And it appeared that the five ESPN analysts at the anchor desk at Radio City Music Hall tried their best to all talk (loudly) at the same time.

From what I could glean from all the babbling, every player selected in the first round will be Pro Bowlers and half of 'em will wind up in the Hall of Fame.

Quarterbacks Colt McCoy of Texas and Jimmy Clausen of Notre Dame weren't drafted in the first round. The consolation for their wasted nights is that they got to spend four hours in the company of ESPN reporters Jenn Brown and Erin Andrews.

Will ESPN send both reporters back to the Clausen and McCoy camps for Friday's second round? And if so, will that cut into Erin Andrews' rehearsal time for "Dancing With The Stars?"

The Coors Light commercial that aired 378 times? Memorized it.

Tuesday, April 20

Condolences (updated)
The Big 12 Conference sends thoughts and prayers to the Meier family. Dylan Meier, who played quarterback at Kansas State from 2002-06, died Monday of injuries suffered during a family hiking trip in Arkansas. He was 26.

Meier, a native of Pittsburg, Kans., played in 35 games with the Wildcats. He completed 55 percent of his passes for 2,287 yards and 12 touchdowns. He was the starter the first five games of 2006, his senior season.

Meier's older brother Shad was a Kansas State tight end from 1997 to 2000. His younger brother Kerry just completed a record-setting career as a wide receiver at Kansas.

"For all of us here, it's a difficult time," Kansas State coach Bill Snyder said Tuesday on the Big 12 coaches spring football teleconference. "He was an unbelievable young man. He was as good a leader as one could wish for. He possessed all the intrinsic values that make people successful and he guided people with those. Those are the things that will live on in our minds and hearts.

"He did more in his short lifetime that most of us do in an entire life. He had experienced so much of life. He would want people to celebrate his life and not mourn. But that's not easy for us to do.

"He was quite a young guy."

MEN'S BASKETBALL NOTES
Colorado hires Tad Boyle
Less than a week after Wake Forest hired Jeff Bzdelik, Colorado found his replacement. Buffs athletic director Mike Bohn announced Monday that Tad Boyle would take over the men's basketball program in Boulder.

Boyle, a Colorado native who played basketball at Kansas under Ted Owens and Larry Brown, has been the head coach at Northern Colorado the last four seasons. UNC won four games in his first season but in 2009-10 the school had a break out 25-8 record.

Boyle, 47, takes over a Colorado program that appeared on the rise under Bzdelik. One of Boyle's first challenges will be keeping all of the players on the roster. Big 12 freshman of the year Alec Burks says he will consider looking at other schools and might - or might not - transfer from Colorado. He supported Steve McClain replacing Bzdelik.

Boulder Daily Camera columnist Neill Woelk and Denver Post columnist Mark Kiszla both supported Boyle's hiring. And B.G. Brooks of CUBuffs.com writes about Boyle's background and path to become Colorado's coach.

Kansas finds missing piece - point guard Josh Selby
Kansas coach Bill Self had jokingly told his assistants that they would be fired if the Jayhawks didn't sign Josh Selby to a letter of intent. The KU coaching staff can laugh now. Saturday night at the Jordan Brand Classic in Madison Square Garden, Selby announced that he would attend Kansas.

Selby, a Baltimore native, chose the Jayhawks over a list of suitors that included Kentucky, UConn, Arizona and Tennessee. He was considered the nation's top unsigned prospect.

"I think that's the best place for me to mature and get to the next level," Selby told reporters of his decision to become a Jayhawk. "They run an NBA-type offense with pick and roll and pick and pop. When I get to the next level I don't want to be looking around [thinking] this [system] is different. I'll already know it."

Paul Biancardi, a former college coach who writes for ESPN Recruiting, says that Selby "Is an electric, explosive athlete who is one of the best scorers in this class. He always is in attack mode with the ball and constantly has the defense on its heels."

Selby figures to step in and replace departed point guard Sherron Collins. With Selby, the Jayhawks figure to be a pre-season top 10 team.

Nervous days at Missouri
One year after Georgia came a-courtin' its basketball coach, Missouri again had to wait and wonder when Oregon made a bid to hire Mike Anderson. The Tigers' coach and a representative from the Pacific-10 Conference school met in El Paso last Thursday. It wasn't until Saturday that Anderson announced he was staying in Columbia.

Oregon, which has been searching for a new coach for over a month, reportedly was willing to over Anderson over $2 million per season. After Georgia's overtures a year ago, Anderson signed a seven-year contract that pays him $1.55 million annually.

"It's confirmation to me that this is a program that everyone wants," Anderson told the Columbia Daily Tribune. Here's the paper's complete story about Anderson's decision to stay put.

Another Capel in coaching ranks
Jason Capel, younger brother of Oklahoma coach Jeff Capel, was hired as Appalachian State's new basketball coach. Jason Capel, 30, played at North Carolina and has been an assistant coach for one season after playing professionally overseas. He replaces Buzz Peterson, who took the job at UNC-Wilmington.

Friday, April 16

A sideline extra for Nebraska's spring game
A crowd approaching 80,000 is expected for Saturday's spring game at Nebraska's Memorial Stadium. Few if any of the fans will focus on the officials, especially a side judge. For Ed Cunningham, that might be a good thing.

Cunningham, a college football analyst for ESPN and ABC, will be part of the officiating crew for the Huskers' spring game. Big 12 staff members Walt Anderson (coordinator of officiating), Ed Stewart (assistant commissioner for football) and Bob Burda (assistant commissioner for communications) worked with ESPN to find an analyst who would become an official during a spring game.

Burda told the Omaha World-Herald the idea is to help educate the Big 12's broadcast partners "because they have such an effect on the perception of officiating during a game."

Cunningham, a former Washington player who played at Memorial Stadium in 1991, attended a three-day officiating seminar in San Antonio. He has been studying a DVD that contains 726 plays and he has spent an estimated 50 to 60 hours preparing. Gene Semko, the side judge for last year's Big 12 Championship game, will shadow Cunningham but will not be involved with judgment calls.

"I always try to do something along the lines of extending my education, so this was really a unique opportunity to learn it from their side," Cunningham told the World-Herald. "I think we all think we would be great officials, so this is a chance to find out."

Colvin transfers from Iowa State
Freshman point guard Chris Colvin will transfer from Iowa State because he wants to play "run and gun" basketball. Colvin is the third Cyclones player to transfer since the end of the season.

"I played that style in high school, and that's what I thought I was recruited to play at Iowa State," Colvin told the Des Moines Register. "As the season went on, we didn't play that style very much. "It's nothing to do with playing time and nothing to do with my relationship with coach (Greg McDermott). After the season, I talked to my parents and my advisors and we all decided together that it would be best for me to transfer to somewhere that better fit my style."

Iowa State has six players on scholarship. Center Justin Hamilton and guard Dominique Buckley are the other two Cyclones who are transferring.

Timeout for an opinion
Your Humble Correspondent has some thoughts regarding Chris Colvin and Justin Hamilton transferring from Iowa State. YHC stresses that there's an age gap; YHC is old enough to be the grandfather of both players.

First, Hamilton. When he announced that he was transferring, the Utah native announced he was leaving Iowa State because he wanted to be closer to his home. Hamilton is from Alpine, Utah. According to Mapquest.com, Ames is 946 miles from Alpine while Baton Rouge is 1,348 miles.

Second, Colvin. In February, Colvin said he planned on spending his entire college career at Iowa State. "I am here to stay," he said. "I am here to play. I love these guys, this group of guys. I love coach (McDermott) and I am here to stay." Also, when he announced his desire to play in a more up-tempo style, Colvin said he didn't like the style the Cyclones played, particularly over the last half of the season. And never mind that Iowa State was down to eight scholarship players and playing at a fast pace was not the smart way to play.

Coaches often are criticized for the amount of money they make or for changing jobs. But sometimes they have to deal with players who change their minds like they shuffle songs in their iPods.


Aggies land high-profile transfer Kelsey Bone
Texas A&M has landed its highest-ranked women's recruit but in a circuitous manner.

Kelsey Bone has transferred from South Carolina to the Aggies. A year ago, she was considered the nation's second-best high school prospect. Baylor's Brittney Griner was No. 1. Bone played at South Carolina last season and averaged 14 points and 9.2 rebounds a game on her way to become Southeastern Conference Newcomer of the Year.

Texas A&M coach Gary Blair said that Bone, who is from the Houston suburbs and attended Sugar Land Dulles High School, became homesick.

"I'm a Texan, born and raised through and through," Bone said. "I felt it was the best decision for me to transfer and come home to be closer to my family. The Texas A&M coaches were still waiting for me with open arms. I am really excited to join the Aggie family and be a part of the winning tradition that Coach Blair, his staff and players have built there."

Bone chose South Carolina over Texas A&M, Texas and Illinois. Blair, who said he had never had a Division I player transfer into his program, had recruited Bone since the seventh grade. She'll have to sit out the 2010-11 season under NCAA transfer rules and will have three season of eligibility remaining.

Congratulations to Pistol Pete
Doug Gottlieb, ESPN.com college basketball analyst, conducted the Doug Gottlieb Mascot Madness "tournament" on his ESPN Radio show. Fans voted to "advance" college and pro mascots in a bracket format similar to the NCAA men's basketball tournament.

Oklahoma State mascot Pistol Pete won the college bracket and then defeated Chicago Bulls mascot Bennie the Bull to win the overall title. (By the way, Oklahoma State is Gottlieb's alma mater but there's no hint of vote rigging.)

Your Humble Correspondent, back in the days when his beard was full and black, was sometimes accused of being the model used to design Pistol Pete's over-sized head. YHC will have no further comment on this matter.

Linked up for a Friday
Here's a look at the new rule changes in college football for the 2010 season.

Texas coach Mack Brown is concerned with the consistency of how the unsportsmanlike/taunting penalties will be called when the stricter penalties take effect in 2011.

Interesting background story on the history of "super conferences" by Dennis Dodd of CBSSports.com.

High school coaches who observed Kansas' practices last weekend were impressed with the energy and organization implemented by first-year coach Turner Gill.

Texas A&M sophomore pitcher John Stilson, whose pitches have been clocked as high as 99 mph, is making an impact as the Aggies' closer.

Kansas State athletic director John Currie has plans to take advantage of the Wildcats' break-through men's basketball success.

Colorado senior Cory Higgins admits he was "angry" when coach Jeff Bzdelik left the Buffs to take the Wake Forest job but that he and his teammates are ready to move on.

Baylor's basketball fortunes for next season received a boost when guard LaceDarius Dunn announced that he will return to the Bears for his senior season.

DeCourcy on Wake Forest hiring Bzdelik
On The Sporting News' web site, college basketball writer Mike DeCourcy was asked to answer this question: "Was Jeff Bzdelik an odd hire for Wake Forest, considering his losing record at Colorado?"

Here's his answer: In the traditional sense of an athletic director trying to impress boosters and those in the media who don't follow the game closely - and demand a "name" coach any time a job comes open - "odd" doesn't even begin to capture it.

In the non-traditional sense of finding someone who has actual coaching talent, which too few ADs consider, it's a fine choice.

I've not spoken with anyone who both knows the game and knows Bzdelik's work who does not consider him a first-rate coach.

The greatest concerns involve his recruiting ability, which Wake has addressed by ensuring assistant Jeff Battle, who is extraordinary in that department, remains on staff. And Bzdelik did bring Alec Burks to Colorado; he was as good as any freshman in the Big 12 this past season.

Colorado basketball background/update
Here are two links about the Colorado men's basketball coaching opening:

Colorado's current associate head coach Steve McClain turned down a chance to join Bzdelik at Wake Forest because he hopes to take over for the departed Buffs coach.

Colorado athletic director Mike Bohn plans to talk to former CU star and current Denver Nuggets guard Chauncey Billups and will also consult Nuggets coach George Karl and Charlotte Bobcats coach Larry Brown about the school's coaching vacancy.

Penn State's Joe Paterno on Big Ten expansion
During the Big Ten Conference's spring football conference call with its coaches, Penn State coach Joe Paterno was asked two questions about the conference's possible expansion plans.

Q: How are you with the progress of expansion talks?

A: "I think expansion is coming. Now, in what form? There's a lot of talk about the Pac-10 getting two or more teams in their conference. I'm not privy to that ...

"I think the trend is there are going to be bigger conferences. I think there are going to be 12-, 14-team conferences and maybe even 16-team conferences. Do I know what I'm talking about, who knows?

"It would appear to me that with the television situation what it is and the great impact that it has on exposure and what that exposure does to recruiting, we're naïve to think ... we can sit back and see everybody else move ahead because they're going to move ahead. We better start thinking about where we're going."

Q: If you did get a say in this, what would you advocate?

A: "When all this happens, I'll probably be out of this thing. I'd like to see our particular conference move East a little bit. It would give us a little broader television market and a little more exposure and if we had 12 teams we'd have a chance to get into some kind of championship [game} ...

"Whether that means you go 12 [teams] or you go 14. I don't know. I don't know all the consequences. The thing you have to do is when you get married, you better get married to somebody you love. We've got to get people in our conference that are AAU [research] schools, the same kind of commitment academically ...

"Along with that bring along some people that have a comprehensive athletic program. That it's going to be a happy marriage and we're all on the same page ... Can you find one, two, three, four, I don't know?

And here's why Paterno's comments are just comments
ESPN.com college football writer Ivan Maisel weighed in on Paterno's comments: "I enjoyed reading Joe Paterno's thoughts about Big Ten expansion that he relayed in the Big Ten teleconference this week, but asking the typical head coach his thoughts about expansion is like asking me about ESPN's plans to televise games next fall. My short answer is, I don't know and the people making the decision don't care what I think. Same way with coaches and expansion. They don't know and the commissioners are pulling the trigger."

Tuesday, April 13

Hot links, served fresh
Kevin Sherrington of the Dallas Morning News writes about how important sophomore quarterback Robert Griffin is to the Bears' success.

Berry Tramel of the Oklahoman says that the honeymoon is over for Sooners basketball coach Jeff Capel.

New Colorado women's basketball coach Linda Lappe, a former player for the Buffaloes, says she has landed her dream job. Former Colorado coach Ceal Barry, now an administrator in the athletic department, will oversee the women's program.

SPRING FOOTBALL NOTES
Shhhhhh ... Bill Snyder suffers knee injury
There is nothing funny about torn knee ligaments. But Kansas State coach Bill Snyder found humor while others found irony when the 70-year-old coach suffered a torn ACL and MCL during a recent spring practice.

Snyder is known for not disclosing even minor injuries to his players. After 265-pound defensive tackle Prizzell Brown and 295-pound offensive lineman Ethan Douglas fell into their coach during a drill, Snyder did his best to keep his injury secret. But those darn web sites and their rumors forced his hand.

"We're going to do away with the Internet," Snyder joked during his weekly news conference after admitting he had been injured.

Snyder remained on his feet and finished practice after the collision. When he was examined by a doctor, he learned the full extend of his injury. He's not sure if or when he'll have surgery.

"Doctor jerked my leg around and said your golf game is over unless you have surgery," Snyder said. "But the last time I played golf was an awful long time ago."

Experiencing shredded knee ligaments has given Snyder new perspective on what his players sometimes experience.

"I don't know if you've ever had 600 pounds fall on your knee or not, but that's what I did," Snyder said. "Unless you've ever experienced it, you don't quite understand. I never really understood, as hard as I tried to study it, exactly the kind of impact it can have on a young guy."

Hansen is Colorado's No. 1 QB ... for now
Junior Tyler Hansen and senior Cody Hawkins were in a neck-and-neck battle for the Colorado starting quarterback job during spring practice. After Saturday's spring game, Hansen was listed as the starter on the depth chart ... not that that means much.

In the spring game, In Saturday's spring game, Hansen threw three touchdowns and completed 17 of 22 passes for 170 yards. Hawkins completed 20 of 26 passes for 220 yards and two TDs.

"You'd love to make a decision after the spring's over, but it's great for our competition and great for our guys to keep battling," said Colorado coach Dan Hawkins, Cody's father. "Unless you had a guy who won 10 games, (you) would say, 'Yeah, you're the guy.'"

The last two seasons, Hansen and Hawkins have been interchangeable. Last season, it appeared that Hansen was headed for a red shirt season but took over at quarterback in the second half at Texas.

Short yardage
*
Texas Tech's first spring game under coach Tommy Tuberville is Saturday and hopefully the defense will be sharper than it was during last Saturday's scrimmage. Sophomore Seth Doege and freshman Jacob Karam each threw for five touchdowns while running back Harrison Jeffers ran for 139 yards on nine carries that included touchdown runs of 40 and 29 yards. Doege and Karam will get most of the snaps Saturday because senior QBs Steven Sheffield and Taylor Potts are sidelined with injuries.

* Quarterbacks at two South Division schools are being treated like fine china. Baylor sophomore Robert Griffin is recovering from his torn right ACL and was held out of contact during the Bears' spring practice that concluded Saturday. Griffin, who expects to be 100 percent when practices start in August, badgered his coaches to allow him to play. Texas A&M is limiting the action for senior Jerrod Johnson, who is recovering from arthroscopic surgery to his right (throwing) shoulder. Johnson participated in three snaps in Saturday's scrimmage.

* Just as it did last season when Griffin was injured, Baylor turned to Nick Florence in last Saturday's spring game. The sophomore proved that he should be a more-than-capable backup by completing 20-of-31 passes for 242 yards. Florence threw for two touchdowns - a 66-yarder to Terrance Williams and a 40-yarder to Josh Gordon.

* Colorado senior kicker Aric Goodman had surgery to his right hip and it's uncertain if he'll be ready for the 2010 season. Goodman believes he will recover in time to kick this season but nothing is certain until he goes through rehabilitation following the surgery. Punter Zach Grossnickle and walk on Marcus Kirkwood will contend for kicking duties if Goodman isn't ready.

Monday, April 12

Three Big 12 gymnastics teams advance to NCAA Championships
Saturday was a huge and successful day for Big 12 women's gymnastics. The conference placed three of its four teams in the 2010 NCAA Women's Gymnastics Championships and the conference will have three of the 12 teams that will compete at the University of Florida April 22-24.

No. 15 Missouri, which had come close to qualifying for the national meet in 20 previous regional appearances, finally broke through in the South Central Regional that it hosted Saturday.

The Tigers finished first with a score of 196.50, ahead of eighth-ranked Oregon State and fifth-ranked Georgia, the five-time defending national champion and the regional's heavy favorite.

"We were just on tonight," Missouri coach Rob Drass told the Columbia Daily Tribune. "A fantastic meet from top to bottom."

Second-ranked Oklahoma set a school record with its sixth score of 197.00 or higher. The Sooners won the Northeast Regional title (197.250) at University Park, Pa., with a score of 197.250. Oklahoma won its fourth regional title and will be making its 10th appearance in the NCAA Championships.

"We had a lot of goals coming in and we met those goals," Oklahoma coach K.J. Kindler said. "One of our scoring goals was to hit a 197.000. I knew coming in that this was going to be one of the more difficult regions in the country, we knew we had our work cut out for us."

The Sooners clinched the title on the beam, where they totaled their highest score (49.475) of the night.

"Wow, that beam ending was something out of a movie," Kindler said. "It was amazing.  I was energized by it and I know the athletes were as well.  They were a model of consistency all night, which they have been all season."

No. 12 Nebraska finished second in the Central Regional in Lexington, Ky. The Huskers (195.875) finished second to top-ranked Alabama (197.40). The Huskers (21-5) secured their 19th appearance at the NCAA Championships by scoring a 49.0 or better on vault, bars and floor.

"It's good to get back to the big dance," Nebraska coach Dan Kendig said. "We're very pleased with everything we did today. We're elated to be going back to nationals. This team has worked really hard all year."

Missouri senior All-American Sarah Shire captured the all-around title (39.625), setting a school record of 11 all-around wins in a season. Shire finished first on vault (9.950), tied for top honors on bars (9.90) and floor (9.90), while placing second on beam (9.875). She was also named the South Central Regional Gymnast of the Year for the second straight year.

Nebraska junior Erin Davis tied for first on vault (9.90) and Junior Brittnee Habbib hit a 9.90 on bars to tie for first in the event.

Oklahoma senior Hollie Vise posted a 9.95 to win the beam event and senior Jackie Flanery finished first on floor with a 9.95.

Iowa State sophomore Michelle Browning became the first Cyclone since 2007 to qualify as an individual in the NCAA Championships. Browning, who scored a 39.150 in all-around competition at the Los Angeles Regional, will compete for individual titles in addition to the all-around.

Friday, April 9

Missouri hires Robin Pingeton as women's basketball coach
Robin Pingeton, a former Iowa State assistant who coached Illinois State to three consecutive 25-win seasons, has been hired as Missouri's new women's basketball coach. She replaces Cindy Stein, who resigned after 12 seasons. Pingeton was introduced as the Tigers' new coach at a news conference Thursday morning.

Illinois State made the post-season five times in seven seasons under the 41-year-old Pingeton, who was named Missouri Valley coach of the year twice. The Redbirds had not had a winning record in six consecutive seasons when Pingeton arrived in 2003. Illinois State reached the semifinals of the WNIT this season and that run included a victory over Kansas.

Illinois State has won three straight Missouri Valley Conference titles, going 81-23 in that span. This season the Redbirds finished 28-8.

Pingeton chose to leave St. Ambrose University to become an assistant coach for Bill Fennelly at Iowa State in 2000. She was head coach at the NAIA school but chose to give up security for experience at the Division I level.

Thursday, April 8

Women's softball
Two one-run victories in games between in-state rivals highlighted Wednesday night's softball action.

No. 12 Oklahoma State (33-7, 5-0) stayed on top of the Big 12 standings with a 3-2 victory over No. 11 Oklahoma (29-9, 3-2) in Stillwater. Mariah Gearhart connected for a three-run homer in the fifth inning to give the Cowgirls all the runs they would need.

Texas A&M freshman Melissa Dumezich's two-out single in the bottom of the seventh gave the 20th-ranked Aggies (32-9, 4-2) a 1-0 victory over No. 16 Texas (32-9, 5-1) in the State Farm Lone Star Showdown in College Station. The loss ended the Longhorns' eight-game winning streak and dropped them out of first place in the standings.

The Aggies will host Oklahoma State in a two-game series Saturday and Sunday.

Spring sports news
*
Oklahoma's baseball team bounced back from a weekend sweep by Texas by winning at 11th-ranked TCU on Tuesday. The Sooners got a strong performance from Jeremy Erben out of the bullpen to boost their record to 23-6.

* Texas won its fifth straight by completing a two-game sweep of Texas A&M-Corpus Christi with a 6-2 victory Wednesday night. The sixth-ranked Longhorns are 23-7.

* Texas A&M's 12th-ranked men's tennis team won its 12th consecutive match with a 6-1 upset of No. 9 Baylor in College Station Wednesday. The Aggies (19-4, 4-0) beat the Bears (16-4, 0-1) for the first time since 2006.

* Baylor rallied from a 2-0 deficit for the second consecutive game and defeated Northwestern State, 15-3, Wednesday in Waco. Brooks Pinckard went 3-for-4 with two runs, two RBI and two stolen bases for the Bears (17-10).

* Tony Thompson's run-scoring double in the top of the ninth gave Kansas a 5-4 victory at Creighton Wednesday. The Jayhawks (19-10-1) have beaten the Bluejays by one run twice this season.

* Missouri rallied from an early 4-1 deficit to defeat Illinois Wednesday at Busch Stadium in St. Louis. The teams used wood bats and the Tigers' Aaron Senne went 3-for-4 to extend his hitting streak to 13 games. The Tigers (17-11) have a three-game series at Oklahoma this weekend.

News and notes
*
Here's a look at where some national writers have Big 12 teams projected in their early men's basketball Top 25 rankings for 2010-11:
Andy Katz, ESPN.com: 6, Baylor; 8, Kansas State; 16, Kansas; 23, Texas; (listed as "on the cusp" - Missouri).
Jeff Goodman, FoxSports.com: 6, Kansas State; 15, Kansas; 16, Baylor; 23, Missouri; (on the "20 more to watch list" - Texas.)
Gary Parrish, CBSSports.com: 7, Kansas State; 11, Baylor; 16, Kansas; 18, Missouri.

* In the final men's basketball RPI released by the NCAA, the Big 12 had three teams in the top eight and four in the top 13; both the most of any Division I conference. Kansas was No. 1, Kansas State was No. 5, Baylor No. 8 and Texas A&M No. 13.

* The final women's basketball coaches top 25 had seven Big 12 teams ranked: 3, Oklahoma; 4, Baylor; 7, Nebraska; 13 Iowa State, 14 Texas A&M; 22, Oklahoma State and 25, Texas.

* Nebraska women's basketball coach Connie Yori was named the Naismith coach of the year Wednesday. That's her fifth coach of the year award. Yori  was named the inaugural winner of the Kay Yow Award and also received coach of the year honors from th Associated Press, the Women's Basketball Coaches Association and the U.S. Basketball Writers Association.

* Here's an item from ESPN.com's Ivan Maisel's daily 3-Point Stance feature: Lawyers at Texas and Maryland, the two schools with head-coaches-in-waiting, are working together to convince the NCAA to rescind the rule that HCIWs must abide by the stricter recruiting rules for head coaches (example: no travel in May, when schools evaluate seniors-to-be). Last month, the NCAA postponed the effective date to 2011. The Terps are in a trick box. If Maryland wants HCIW James Franklin, its best recruiter, on the road, it would have to take the title away. According to his contract, that would cost the university $1 million.

* Siena has promoted assistant Mitch Buonaguro to be its new basketball coach. He was an assistant coach at  at Texas A&M for Tony Barone from 1991-96.

* Tully Corcoran of the Topeka Capital-Journal writes that new Kansas football coach Turner Gill is staging open practices this spring - a 180-degree shift from his predecessor.

Tuesday, April 6

Shoeless Curtis Shaw
It doesn't roll off the tongue like "Shoeless Joe Jackson" but Curtis Shaw nonetheless left his final game as an official shoeless.

Shaw, who will become the Big 12's Coordinator of Men's Basketball Officials on July 1, hung up his whistle after officiating the Duke-West Virginia Final Four semifinal game Saturday. He walked off with his whistle but he symbolically left his ref shoes on the court.

"I know some guys who are baseball umpires," Shaw said. "They told me they have a tradition where after their last game of their career, they leave their shoes on home plate. I thought that was kinda interesting. I haven't heard anybody else in college basketball do something like that ... most guys don't know when they're working their last game."

Shaw, with his new role with the Big 12 about to begin, knew this would be his last season officiating college basketball. What he didn't know was if he would be selected to advance through the NCAA Tournament. The NCAA starts with a pool of 96 officials. They're evaluated and the best ones move on each week.

Shaw worked the first weekend in Milwaukee, was selected to work the East Regional in Syracuse and the Final Four.

"If a Big 12 team had made it to the Final Four, I told the NCAA I didn't even want to be considered," Shaw said. "I got a call Monday afternoon following the regionals. I would have been disappointed in myself if I hadn't done well enough to be considered. Had they picked someone else, that wouldn't have bothered me.

"I really thought we were gonna have a Big 12 team get to the Final Four so I really didn't think I'd be working in Indianapolis anyway."

After he worked Saturday's second semifinal game, Shaw walked off the court for the final time ... shoeless.

A memorable Monday night
Your Humble Correspondent attended and wrote about every Final Four from 1986 through 2008. This is the second consecutive year that YHC has watched the Final Four from the comfort of an easy chair and a television.

One of YHC's colleagues, Stewart Mandel of SI.com, Tweeted near the end of Monday night's Duke-Butler title game for the ages: "I've never been more nervous covering a game in my life."

YHC knows how Mr. Mandel feels. A game of that magnitude that comes down to the final seconds - kind of like the Texas-USC national championship game in 2005 - can be as draining for journalists as it is for the fans and the participants.

Missing the last two Final Fours has done wonders for YHC's nervous system because he no longer sweats bullets on a newspaper deadline. Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski and four of his players didn't arrive on the interview podium until 11:29 p.m. CT. That's too late to do newspaper writers much good.

The national championship game came down to a final shot from half court for the victory. Gordon Hayward's shot had too much velocity based on where it banked off the backboard. Another inch or two difference and Butler would have been on the podium answering questions about winning the national championship.

After watching Big 12 teams scratch and claw but come up short during March Madness, YHC is more convinced than ever that the difference between winning and losing has been reduced to factors so miniscule that a microscope is a handy game-watching tool.

There's an old joke/saying among writers after witnessing a great game: "If ya can't write this one, get outta the business." Duke 61, Butler 59 was 40 minutes of intensity, a game where each team played defense on every possession like it was the last possession. Butler missed two game-winning shots. YHC was at the 1992 East Regional final and saw "two" game-winning shots - Kentucky's Sean Woods made a clutch runner to give the Wildcats the lead in overtime before Christian Laettner made The Shot.

Uncertainty ... last-second drama ... imposing deadlines ... YHC flashed back to those feelings Monday night. And then Tuesday morning YHC read this classic column on a classic game by Joe Posnanski of Sports Illustrated (formerly of the Kansas City Star). Read it if you want a perfect summation and description of a memorable national championship game.

Monday, April 5

WOMEN'S FINAL FOUR NOTES
Baylor will be back
When it comes to predictions, Your Humble Correspondent has been wrong more often than right (it probably started with that Dewey over Truman call in '48). But YHC is fairly certain that he's right about this:

Baylor will participate in a minimum of two of the next three NCAA women's Final Fours. The Lady Bears' 70-50 loss to Connecticut Sunday night in the Final Four semifinals was by no means a blowout. Anyone who watched the game had to think that there wasn't that much difference between Baylor and The Team That Never Loses.

Coach Kim Mulkey's team reached the Final Four with one senior (Morghan Medlock) and four freshmen playing significant minutes. Brittney Griner, the 6-8 phenom, gained the most attention of the first-year players but Jordan Madden, Kimetria Hayden and Shanay Washington all received a crash course in Division I women's basketball.

"One statement I can just bluntly make is without those five we wouldn't have been here, period," Medlock said. "And they have a bright future ahead of them. All I can say is the teams just better watch out."

Next year Baylor's Fab Four will be sophomores. Point guard Kelli Griffin and Melissa Jones, the team's glue girl, will be seniors. Add in two transfers from Division I programs - Brooklyn Pope and Destiny Williams - plus more outstanding freshmen and the Lady Bears will be loaded for, well, bear.

"With all the playing time we got and experience in tournaments, it's going to be something special," Griner said of Baylor's future. "I feel like we will be back next year. We played a lot of top teams, and just learning from them and the experience of seeing how much it takes and just having everybody on the same page for where we want to go -- it just really helps."

Griner finished the season averaging 18.4 points, 8.5 rebounds and 6.4 blocked shots per game. Her defensive prowess can be game changing. Her offensive game can be honed. When Griner gets stronger and starts using her lower body to gain position for shots and to block out while rebounding, her numbers in scoring and rebounding will increase.

"She is so eager to learn and develop," Baylor assistant coach Leon Barmore said. "But you ain't seen nothing yet. She's about 60 percent of what she's going to be. ... There's so many things she's got to learn but she's willing to do it."

In the Baylor locker room on the dry erase board, Mulkey wrote two destination cities - Indianapolis and New Orleans, the sites of the Final Fours in 2011 and 2012.

"So much was expected of Brittney Griner and how many freshmen carry their team to the Final Four," Mulkey said. "I told her to build on it. This basketball team is special and I'm a very lucky women to get to coach 'em.

"I didn't see a lot of devastating tears. It was a locker room that was disappointed but really focusing on what they need to get back here."

Dribbles
*
Brittney Griner had five blocks against Connecticut to give her 223 blocked shots this season. That's an all-division NCAA record. Lakisha Phifer of Division II St. Paul's had 219 blocks in the 1995-96 season. Griner's 40 blocks is an NCAA Tournament record. She played in five games; the previous record of 30 was shared by two players who played in six games.

* In her five NCAA games, Griner averaged 16.0 points, 7.6 rebounds and 8.0 blocked shots.

* Sunday's two Final Four semifinals was not exactly a 3-point shooting clinic. The teams combined to make just 9 of 56 3-pointers tonight (16.1 percent). Oklahoma's Amanda Thompson (2-of-6) and Connecticut's Maya Moore (3-of-8) were the only players to make more than one shot from beyond the arc. In five NCAA games, Moore is an eye-rubbing 17-of-28 on 3-pointers.

* Baylor's 50 points equaled the most that a Connecticut opponent has scored in the NCAAs. Florida State had 50 in the regional final but allowed the Huskies to score 90.

* Stanford players have a habit of blowing up for career games against Big 12 opponents. Sophomore Nnemkadi Ogwumike had a career-high 38 (the second-most ever scored in a women's Final Four) against Oklahoma Sunday night. Last year in the regional final, the Cardinal's Jayne Appel went for 46 against Iowa State.

* Oklahoma junior guard Danielle Robinson not only scored a team-high 23 points against Stanford, she had six of the Sooners' seven assists. In five NCAA games, Robinson had 31 assists.

* Hall of Famer Hakeem Olajuwon watched his daughter Abi for the first time in person. He had avoided attending any of her previous games because of the distraction of fans asking for autographs and pictures. "It was kind of hard hiding my dad," Abi Olajuwon told the Oklahoman. "I knew they were going to figure it out, but the fact that he got here and he got to see me play, it was nice."

* Baylor shot 37.8 percent from the field. Connecticut has gone 221 consecutive games without allowing an opponent to shoot 50 percent. Only twice during that streak has a team shot better than 40 percent.

Saturday, April 3

WOMEN'S FINAL FOUR NOTES
Expansion of men's tournament bad news for women's tournament?

The news out of Indianapolis at the men's Final Four is that the NCAA appears committed to expanding the men's bracket to 96 teams. To squeeze the extra games into the current three-week schedule, games will start on a Thursday of the first week with games on 10 of 11 days until the regional finals.

That would mean that the first week of the women's tournament - as it is currently scheduled - would basically be in a head-to-head competition with the men's tournament. As it is now, the women open first-round play on Saturday and Sunday with prime-time slots open for women's telecasts. Second round women's games are on Mondays and Tuesdays.

"The great way the (women's) tournament is structured, the second-round game on Mondays and Tuesdays are sort of our nights," ESPN analyst Kara Lawson said Saturday at the women's Final Four in San Antonio. "That definitely would be a concern. We try to schedule around the men's tournament to draw in viewers. We get the casual fan because they want to watch basketball.

"If it's head to head with March Madness, you're not winning that."

If the new men's format is adopted, Saturday and Sunday would be similar to the current first-round games played on Thursday and Friday - games from noon to midnight. Unless the women's tournament is rescheduled (pushed into April?) then it figures to be swallowed up by a 96-team men's tournament.

"I have no idea what's going to happen," said ESPN analyst Carolyn Peck. "There's probably an answer that somebody will come up with."

When worlds collide
The Baylor-Connecticut Final Four semifinal features a player match up that could be intriguing. The Huskies have 6-4 Tina Charles, the national player of the year, at center. The Lady Bears counter with 6-8 Brittney Griner, the national freshman of the year.

For much of the nation, it will be the first chance to watch Griner, who is averaging 18.6 points and 8.6 rebounds per game while blocking 218 shots.

"All I can say, from what I've seen, is that this kid is one of the most unique individuals I have ever seen," Connecticut coach Geno Auriemma said. "I don't know that you can prepare for her. You can't go to practice and plan for her. You just have to go and play the game and if she blocks your shot hope it goes out bounds and play on."

After the Huskies defeated Iowa State, 74-36, in the Dayton Region semifinal, Cyclones coach Bill Fennelly weighed in on the Charles-Griner match up.

"Brittney will have to catch Tina before she can guard her," he said. "Brittney changes the game. Baylor is playing at a very high level right now, but I'd be surprised, from what I've seen, if Baylor can compete with (UConn). I mean, I believe Baylor can compete, they are physical enough and Griner is such an X-factor. It's hard to really know how to attack her.

"But with Connecticut's skill set, inside-outside, and depth, I just can't see anyone beating them. Obviously, I'm a Big 12 homer and I'm going to pray that someone does. But if they continue to play the way they're playing, they're going to be very hard to beat."

And another Duke-Connecticut opinion
Duke women's basketball coach Joanne P. McCallie, whose team lost to Baylor in the Kansas City Region final, provided the Associated Press a scouting report on the Baylor-Connectiut Final Four semifinal. Her Duke team also lost to Connecticut, 81-48, in January.

"The biggest problem Baylor has is the Lady Bears haven't played Connecticut yet. You can't be successful against UConn unless you play them regularly and are used to the Huskies' incredible intensity, passing, and the way they attack. You look up at the scoreboard, and the next thing you know, it's 20-2. You have to be extremely concerned about the start of the game.

"Connecticut makes incredibly quick decisions, and the game just moves quicker for them. If you're not used to the quickness of their execution, the quickness of their decision-making, you find yourself watching. Any time that starts, a team is done.

"It's going to be a lesson for a young Baylor team.

"Everyone is talking about the Brittney Griner-Tina Charles matchup, but UConn has so many weapons. Maya Moore, Kalana Greene, Tiffany Hayes. Griner will score and block some shots, but she hasn't played anyone as quick as Charles or who is as polished.

"In the Final Four, anything is possible the first 10 minutes because of nerves. But after a 40-minute game, it won't look any different from any game you've seen UConn play this year. This is the greatest women's team ever playing in a Final Four. And the Huskies have been waiting for it all year."

Remember the Alamo City
Oklahoma coach Sherri Coale's first Final Four in 2002 was in San Antonio but that's not the only reason she loves having women's college basketball championship weekend in the Alamo City.

"The atmosphere that surrounds the Riverwalk - it's just festive, and it presents opportunities for the charm of the tournament to really grow," Coale said. "The city of San Antonio loves basketball. Here's the most impressive thing. I've been to Final Fours, not as a participant but as a coach attending a convention and a championship, all over the United States.

"You go in some cities and three-fourths of the people don't know what's going on in their city. I didn't encounter one individual in San Antonio who said, 'Now why are you here?' Everybody would say, 'Oh, you must be here for the women's championship.' That was a cool feeling."

Dribbles
*
Nebraska coach Connie Yori was named national women's coach of the year Saturday by the Associated Press. Yori, who had already been named the Women's Basketball Coaches Association and U.S. Basketball Writers Association Coach of the Year, received 28 votes from the AP's 40-member media panel. Connecticut's Geno Auriemma finished second in voting with 10.

* Domed stadiums have been good to the Big 12. The conference's first Final Four team (Oklahoma) played in the Alamodome in 2002. Baylor won the Big 12's first national championship in 2005 in Indianapolis' RCA Dome. And this weekend in the Alamodome, the Big 12 has two teams in the Final Four for the first time.

* How's this for a 10-year anniversary present? Baylor coach Kim Mulkey was hired as Baylor's women's coach on April 4, 2000. Ten years later, she's in the Final Four and facing a Connecticut team that has won 76 consecutive games.

* Oklahoma is the 12th No. 3 seed to reach the Final Four. In six appearances in the national championship game, a No. 3 seed has won twice.

* Oklahoma's 10 losses is the most for a Final Four team since Tennessee reached the 1997 Final Four (both teams had 27-10 records). The Lady Vols were a No. 3 seed and won the national championship.

* Oklahoma coach Sherri Coale is the only coach at this Final Four without a national championship. Stanford coach Tara Vanderveer was asked about the dividends of winning a title. "Nothing against Sherri, but I hope she doesn't get it this year," Vanderveer said. Asked about being the only non-championship coach, Coale was ready with a one liner: "I'm younger than the others."

* Baylor's expected starting lineup against Connecticut - Brittney Griner, Kelli Griffin, Melissa Jones, Morghan Medlock and Shanay Washington - is 14-0 this season.

* Brittney Griner has 218 blocks this season. That ranks sixth on the Big 12 Conference's career list for blocked shots.

* Baylor and Connecticut are scheduled to begin a home-and-home series next year with the Lady Bears the visiting team next season and the Huskies traveling to Waco on 2011-12.

* Nebraska's Kelsey Griffin and Oklahoma's Danielle Robinson were named to the Women's Basketball Coaches Association's 10-player All-America team. Connecticut's Tina Charles won the WBCA player of the year award for the second time. She's only the third player to win the award twice.

* ESPN didn't have enough feature material on Baylor and coach Kim Mulkey granted the network special access earlier this week. A crew followed Brittney Griner around campus for a "day in the life" feature. It will air during Sunday's coverage of the Final Four semifinals.

* Baylor is the ninth school to play in a Final Four in its home state and the first since 2004 when LSU reached the Final Four in New Orleans.

Overheard
*
Oklahoma junior guard Danielle Robinson on the Sooners being the only Final Four team without a "star" player:
 "That's a good thing, that we don't have one premier name. You know that if one of us is off, somebody else is going to pick up the slack. You just never know with us who it's going to be and that's a great thing. We don't need the so-called recognition to know how great we are. We know that night in and night out, we're going to play for each other and that's what's carrying us right now. ... We're just going out there and having fun."

* ESPN analyst Kara Lawson picked Oklahoma to win the Kansas City Region: "I thought they had experience having played in the Final Four last year. I think Sherri Coale has done as good a job coaching this team as she's ever done. They're a very close-knit team and her game management during the tournament has been very good."

* ESPN analyst Doris Burke on Baylor: "They don't have a bunch of experience but they've played with outstanding mental toughness in closing out wins against Tennessee and Duke. They comport themselves at level that their age wouldn't indicate. I think they're playing with house money, they're probably a year ahead of schedule and can afford to play loose."

* Connecticut coach Geno Auriemma reacting to the theory that his team's 76-game winning streak and dominance is detrimental to women's college basketball: "Obviously there's people thinking that for whatever reason, we're pushing people away and not growing the game. But that's not my job. My job is to make my team the best it possibly can be. ... I don't think anybody can say that being this good is bad. I guess only in America could people make comments like that."

Friday, April 2

BASKETBALL NOTES
Martin determined to keep Kansas State on top
After a record-setting 29-8 season that ended with a loss in the Elite Eight, Kansas State is now relevant in college basketball. Getting there required hard work. Staying there requires more of the same.

Wildcats coach Frank Martin acknowledged that fact this week during a season wrapup news conference.

"When you get to this point, one of two things happen: You can just sit around and think that everything you have accomplished has been easy and then the next thing you know, I am on the unemployment line and the program is back to scrambling to make the NIT," Martin said Tuesday. "Or you embrace the responsibility that comes with where we are at right now and you take advantage of the opportunity and work harder to move forward."

The Wildcats currently have five front court players and seven guards on scholarship. The current signing class includes features junior college transfer Freddy Asprilla, Kansas City guard Will Spradling and New York guard Shane Southwell. Martin said this season's success has helped with the program's visibility in terms of recruiting.

The biggest loss from this season's team is guard Denis Clemente. Martin said he expects Jacob Pullen, who will be a senior next season, to take over the majority of the ball handling duties.

"You do not make improvement by thinking that you do not have to work harder than you have worked before and that is the message that we are going to deliver to our guys each and every day from here until next season," Martin said. "This program has got to embrace this moment that we are in right now. The challenge in front of us now is taking advantage of this wave of success that we are riding right now."

Travis Ford assesses his team
Oklahoma State's NCAA Tournament appearance lasted one game. The Cowboys finished 22-11 but beat a top-ranked team (Kansas) for the first time in 21 seasons and defeated a top 10 team (Kansas State) on the road for the first time since 1958.

In addition to the Wildcats, Oklahoma State also defeated Baylor - the Big 12's other Elite Eight team. The first-round loss to Georgia Tech is still bugging Cowboys coach Travis Ford.

"Probably more than any year in a while, I have had a tough time moving on a little bit," he said. "And I have probably hidden it pretty well, but it has bothered me."

Ford agrees that his team, which lost freshman point guard Ray Penn in January, over achieved. But the victories over Kansas State and Kansas convinced Ford that his team had potential if it could play perfect games.

"I told my team I am trying to achieve perfection, especially when it comes to February and March," he said.

The Cowboys have to replace senior Obi Muonelo and junior James Anderson, who will enter the NBA Draft. Ford, though, believes next year's team will be deeper and more athletic than this year's.

Dribbles
*
Ceal Barry, Colorado associate athletic director for academics and student services, is chairing the search committee that will hire the replacement for women's basketball coach Kathy McConnell-Miller. Colorado fired McConnell-Miller, who replaced Barry as the school's coach, after her fifth season. Barry told the Boulder Daily Camera said that the coaching opening already has created a lot of interest. "People want to work in this environment," Barry said. "They look at it as a great job."

* Oklahoma State men's and women's basketball teams were in their respective NCAA Tournaments in the same year for the first time in 15 seasons. It was just the fifth time that both men's and women's teams were in the NCAAs in the same season.

* The Tulsa World reported Wednesday that Oklahoma is investigating the possible involvement of a financial adviser with OU's men's basketball program. A web site reported earlier this month that Jeffrey A. Hausinger, a financial adviser based in Tampa, Fla., had  reportedly transferred $3,000 into a bank account held by OU freshman Tiny Gallon and his mother.

* Two former Big 12 coaches have resurfaced at Conference USA schools. Houston announced Thursday that it has hired former Texas Tech coach James Dickey to replace Tom Penders (the former Texas coach). And earlier in the week Texas-El Paso named former Iowa State coach Tim Floyd as its new coach.

* Last Sunday's Baylor-Duke South Regional championship game had a Nielsen rating of 8.7 and an audience of 13.8 million viewers on CBS. That tied it with the Kansas-Davidson Midwest Regional final in 2008 as the highest-rated NCAA Tournament game (excluding the Final Four) on CBS since 2005.

* The Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports that the final details are being worked out for a contract extension for Texas A&M basketball coach Mark Turgeon. The new deal would increase his annual compensation from $1.2 million to $1.5 or more. The announcement that the contract has been finished and signed could come over the next few days.

* You can use this nugget of information to wow your friends with your basketball knowledge or to win a bar bet: For 10 consecutive years, the Big 12 has placed at least one player on the top three Associated Press All-America teams.

Women's Final Four links
Chuck Carlton of the Dallas Morning News writes that Baylor coach Kim Mulkey is as excited about her 12th Final Four as was about her first.

Back to back Final Four appearances helps elevate Oklahoma to a different level.

Charlie Crème of ESPN.com writes that Connecticut vs. Baylor in Sunday's Final Four semifinal pits the game's most dominant team against the game's most physically dominant player.

Tracy Schultz of SI.com points out four story lines for the women's Final Four.

Oklahoma reaching the Final Four in San Antonio brightens what has been a dismal 2009-10 for Sooners sports.

Thursday, April 1

SPRING FOOTBALL NOTES
Tuberville on social networking
After Monday's spring practice, Texas Tech coach Tommy Tuberville talked about how the impact that social networking Web sites are having on college football.

"It has changed the face of what everybody does," he said. "There's a lot of information out there. One thing we want to make our players understand is that everybody reads what they put on, because they read what everyone else puts on it. Of course we've got to take control of it, but I think it's great.

"It's the thing of the future for all of us. It really helps us in recruiting and I bet you'll see some changes in terms of recruiting with Facebook."

Speaking of Facebook, Tuberville's fan page on Facebook will soon make its debut.

"We're getting ready to crank that up," he said. "We've got it going but it will keep getting better and better. It looks like media guides might be a thing of the past and you're going to have to have an Internet page where you can have everything recruits all over the country look at, and you can sell. Of course we can use it to communicate with our fans and alumni and everyone involved."

Unscheduled scheduling drama
Normally future football scheduling doesn't have much drama or intrigue. However, Texas Tech and Alabama managed to stir up a little controversy this week involving the 2012 season opener.

It started when the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal reported that Texas Tech had tentatively agreed to face Alabama in the 2012 season opener with the game being played at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

The next day, the newspaper in Birmingham, Ala., reported that if Alabama played its 2012 season opener in Cowboys Stadium, it would be against an opponent other than the Red Raiders. Stay tuned for further developments. Now, the Tuscaloosa News has thrown more water on the story after talking with Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban.

"It's not something that we've agreed on. We have a lot of different options for 2012, and we're in the process of considering them right now," he said. "That's one of them. But we're going to weigh all the other options that we have and see what we feel is most beneficial to the program for us in the future."

Dig a little deeper and there's more reason to understand why Alabama might not want to play Texas Tech. The Red Raiders are now coached by former Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville. His Tigers beat the Crimson Tide six consecutive seasons. 'Bama fans and administrators are like elephants: They don't forget things like that. Tuberville's presence alone could keep Alabama from wanting to play a showcase game in a season opener in a foreign state.

Short yardage
*
Texas Tech lost two quarterbacks Wednesday. Steven Sheffield, who had been the most impressive QB during spring practice is out of the rest of the spring because he needs surgery to repair the broken bone he suffered last season. Sheffield will need about 10 weeks to recover. Taylor Potts sliced the webbing of his throwing hand when his hand hit a helmet after throwing a pass near the end of practice. He's expected to be out the rest of the week.

* Iowa State wide receiver Darius Reynolds has been moved to an outside receiver spot in the Cyclones' offense. Iowa State, which averaged 20.5 points per game last season, is seeking to juice up its passing game. As a slot receiver last season, Reynolds had 14 receptions for 72 yards in the first four games before suffering a fractured fibula in practice.

* Oklahoma running back DeMarco Murray is not taking part in live drills during spring practice. However, the injury plagued running back hopes to stay healthy his senior season thanks to yoga. "I'm not very flexible," Murray told the Oklahoman. "It's to get me stretched out, keep my hamstring and things loose and not tight. And I've heard it helps prevent a lot of injuries, especially from running backs."

* Through six of Oklahoma State's 15 spring practices, coach Mike Gundy has been impressed with some of the younger players on the Cowboys roster - receiver Isaiah Anderson, running back Travis Miller, inside receiver Justin Horton , linebacker Joe Mitchell and cornerback Devin Hedgepeth.

* Texas A&M senior-to-be quarterback Jerrod Johnson has missed most of spring practice after having surgery on his right (throwing) shoulder. Johnson will be re-evaluated next week and could increase what so far has been limited action. "He's pretty close," Texas A&M coach Mike Sherman said. "We're very cautious with him."

* Colorado coach Dan Hawkins has brought in referees even during drills as the Bufflaoes go through spring practice. Colorado was 10th in the Big 12 in penalties last season but often seemed to make mistakes at the worst possible times. "This spring we're real focused on penalties, Coach Hawkins is really on the penalties, the small details," safety Anthony Perkins said. "Just really the small details we haven't been good at taking care of so far."

* Nebraska coach Bo Pelini on how little importance he believes in depth charts during spring practice: "I've never worried about it. You can sit there and get caught up in all that crap. You guys (the media) can talk about it all you want. It's about competition around here. And that competition is going to go a long way beyond spring ball."

* Conner Teahan, a walk-on for the Kansas basketball team who hasn't played football in three years, is giving football a shot. A former all-district quarterback at Rockhurst High in Kansas City, is getting a tryout this spring. If he earns a spot on the Jayhawks roster, Teahan would have three years of eligibility remaining in football.

* Former Kansas State head coach Ron Prince, who was on Virginia's staff last season, has been hired by the Indianapolis Colts as an assistant offensive line coach.

BASEBALL, SOFTBALL NOTES
Red River Rivalry renewed
With Easter Sunday this weekend, some Big 12 baseball schedules are altered with three-game series starting Thursday instead of Friday. The most important series will take place in Norman with the renewal of the Red River Rivalary.

Texas (18-7, 4-2 in the Big 12) is tied for third behind Kansas State and Oklahoma. The Sooners (22-3, 3-1) have been bashing the ball of late (they outscored Arkansas-Pine Bluff 42-4 in a two-game series this week) and will try to continue their offensive assault against the UT pitching staff.

Texas has been struggling to score runs. The Longhorns lost to Oral Roberts, 3-2, Tuesday and there is concern in Austin that the team's record thus far could wreck any chance of being a top eight seed in the NCAA tournament.

Texas is striking out an average of seven times a game. The failure to make contact has limited the Longhorns' scoring chances.

"We're still striking out way too much," Texas coach Augie Garrido told the Austin American-Statesman. "We're taking a better approach at the plate, but you've got to put the ball in play."

Texas has won the series with Oklahoma 11 consecutive years and five times, including last season, the Longhorns swept the Sooners. Add in the fact that both teams are ranked in the top 10 of the ESPN/USA Today college baseball rankings and the three-game series at L. Dale Mitchell Park should be rockin'.

 "It will be the biggest series we've had here in a long time. There's no question about it," Oklahoma coach Sunny Golloway said.

News worth noting
*
Texas Tech's baseball team has been battling inconsistency. The Red Raiders (12-15, 2-4 in Big 12) will host No. 20 Kansas State (20-3, 3-0) in a three-game Big 12 series that starts Thursday. The Red Raiders had four victories with double digits in hits then followed that up with three losses where they combined to score 10 runs. Texas Tech's 6.64 ERA is last in the Big 12.

* The other Big 12 baseball series this week included Texas A&M at Kansas starting Thursday. The Aggies are in a third-place tie with Texas in the league standings while the Jayhawks are alone in fifth. Baylor is at Missouri and Nebraska is at Oklahoma State in series that will start Friday and end Sunday.

* Nebraska has lost right handed starter Mike Nesseth for the rest of the season. A precautionary MRI revealed an injury in his right elbow. If Nesseth, a 15th-round draft pick in last year's draft, has surgery to repair the elbow, he could be sidelined for at least a year.

* Missouri sophomore pitcher Chelsea Thomas has a stress fracture in her right wrist and likely will miss the rest of the season. As a freshman last season she led the Tigers to their first College World Series appearance since 1993. Thomas is still eligible for a medical redshirt this season. She is 12-1 with a 1.71 ERA and 123 strikeouts over 77 1/3 innings.

* The Big 12 has six teams ranked in this week's ESPN/USA Softball top 25: No. 4 Missouri, No. 13 Oklahoma, No. 15 Oklahoma State, No. 17 Texas, No. 18 Texas A&M and No. 24 Baylor.

* Arkansas-Pine Bluff has lost four non-conference games against Big 12 baseball teams Missouri and Oklahoma. The combined score in those four losses: 79-6.

 

 

 

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