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Texas Tech had a glorious season, but the Big 12 needs a men's national championship

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Texas Tech's Brandone Francis covers his eyes after the Red Raiders lost to Virginia 85-77 in overtime of the NCAA championship game Monday night. [AP Photo]
Texas Tech's Brandone Francis covers his eyes after the Red Raiders lost to Virginia 85-77 in overtime of the NCAA championship game Monday night. [AP Photo]

Twenty seconds left in the game. Twenty seconds left in the tournament that transfixes us every spring. Twenty seconds left in the season, and Big 12/Big Eight basketball was on the verge of standing taller than it’s ever stood.

Taller than when Oklahoma and Kansas staged that memorable NCAA championship game in 1988. Taller than when two straight Final Fours, 2002 and 2003, consisted of two Big 12 teams. Taller than when the Jayhawks staged a comeback for the ages to win the 2008 national title.

Texas Tech, up three on Virginia in the national title game, with the wild west town of Lubbock ready to explode and Big 12 basketball ready to claim the ground as not just Kansas and a bunch of really good programs, but a league that could win it all even without Jayhawk blue.

You know what happened. Virginia star De’Andre Hunter hit a 3-pointer, Tech star Jarrett Culver missed a 3-pointer. An overtime replay review went against the Red Raiders. Virginia made its foul shots. The Cavaliers won 85-77.

And Big 12 basketball remains a conference clamoring for recognition.

This is nothing against Tech. What a team. What a season. What a great ambassador for Big 12 basketball. The Red Raiders, picked seventh in the conference preseason poll, instead tied for first. Seeded third in the West Regional, Tech beat three No. 1 or No. 2 seeds and darn near joined 1985 Villanova as the only NCAA Tournament team to ever beat four.

Texas Tech did much for the Big 12 basketball brand, and if Chris Beard keeps producing a product like this, the conference is going to soar.

But the Big 12 needed an NCAA men's championship. Desperately. For all the glories of Big 12 hoops, NCAA titles are in short supply, compared to the other power conferences.

Here are the schools that have won the championship under the Big 12/Big Eight/Big Seven/Big Six banner: Kansas. That’s it. Only the Jayhawks, in 1952, 1988 and 2008.

Here are the current or past Big 12 schools that have won the championship under any conference banner: Kansas and Oklahoma State, the latter as Oklahoma A&M in 1945 and 1946, when the Cowboys were in the Missouri Valley. That’s it.

OU has been to five Final Fours, Kansas State has been to four, Texas to three, West Virginia and Baylor to two each, Iowa State to one, now Texas Tech to one and TCU to none. All without winning the title.

The expatriates are no better. Colorado went to two Final Fours, both before 1956. Texas A&M and Missouri to none. Nebraska hasn’t so much as ever won an NCAA Tournament game.

This is a conference defined by Kansas. The Jayhawks have done virtually all the heavy lifting for Big 12/Big Eight basketball. And no other league is so one-school dominant.

The ACC has 15 members. Six have won NCAA titles, and all six have a championship since 1983 — Duke, North Carolina, Louisville, Syracuse, North Carolina State and Virginia.

The Big Ten has 14 members. Six have won NCAA titles, with only Ohio State (1960) and Wisconsin (1941) from the tournament’s early days, to go with Michigan State, Maryland, Michigan and Indiana.

The Pac-12 has 12 members. Six have won NCAA titles, though admittedly Cal, Utah, Stanford and Oregon won at least 60 years ago, to go with UCLA and Arizona.

The SEC has 14 members. Three have won NCAA titles — Kentucky, Florida and Arkansas, and all since 1994.

The Big East has 10 members. Three have won NCAA titles — Villanova, Georgetown and Marquette; all since 1977.

But the Big 12 sits at only two schools with championships, and one of those schools hasn’t won in 73 years and did so when it was in the Missouri Valley.

Heck, the Mountain West matches that, with Nevada-Las Vegas (1990) and Wyoming (1943).

Again, no disrespect to Tech. Wonderful season. Did Big 12 basketball proud. Sixty percent of the conference’s schools now have made a Final Four in the last 17 seasons. That’s excellent representation.

But until a Big 12 program other than Kansas takes the victory stage on the final Monday night, the conference’s basketball prestige will lag behind.

Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at 405-760-8080 or at btramel@oklahoman.com. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.

Berry Tramel

Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The Oklahoman,... Read more ›

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