Earlier in the week, I blogged about the Big 12 coaches standing up for their little conference as being the best in the nation, right up there with the Big East. There clearly remains a perception among Big 12 coaches that the league doesn't get proper respect, especially from those immersed in East Coast hoops. Later I'll have a column up looking at the Big 12's strengths and which teams are in the NCAA Tournament and which teams are on the bubble.
But, first, Kansas State coach Frank Martin's comments from Monday's coaches teleconference need to be shared. Always intense, always animated and always sincere, Martin laid down the hammer when asked if this is a season in which a Big 12 team with an 8-8 conference record, or even 7-9, deserves a berth in the NCAA Tournament. Enjoy:
"I would hope so. It’s the whole body of work, it’s what you do in conference and in non-conference, it shouldn’t be about the first 10 or the last 10, it should be about what you do the whole year. And our league should not get discredited in any way, shape or form because teams are beating each other up in our league. On the contrary, our league should be applauded because as a whole we had so much success in the non-conference schedule against all the quality teams across the country, not just some, all of them, of every league across the board.
"And now that we’re in league play, I’m tired of hearing people say that Texas got issues. Texas don’t have issues, it’s that our league is good. I’m tired of hearing people say that we’re not playing well. We are playing well, it’s that our league is good. Our league is good top to bottom, there’s not an easy out. There’s some big-time coaches in this league. I said this from the word go: Everyone discredited Missouri before the season. How different are they from Villanova? They return all their guards and have substitute front-line guys that are now their starters. It’s the same thing Villanova did, but Villanova’s in the Big East so everyone says 'Well, they’re great.' Well, Missouri’s in the Big 12, well Missouri was one game away from being in the Final Four, a couple possessions away from being in the Final Four, and for whatever reason they were viewed differently than Villanova was going into the year.
"But that’s our job as coaches in this league, is to keep winning and keep doing what we’re doing and get our league to be the best league in the country and the RPI, and if we keep doing that all that takes care of itself."