Because the current NCAA tournament is going so well, I would argue that this is the best time to look back at the conferences during the last year that the conferences are as we know them. The ACC was first followed by the Big East and the Big Ten. Next up, the Big Twelve.
Rule 1: Because of the nature of the way this is structured, only truly transcendent 1-year players make the list.
Rule 2: The conferences here are the same at the start of the season. For this it means Missouri is still in the Big 12.
Rule 3: College and Pro Performance are measured equally.
Baylor: People assume that the Baylor Bears have always been sort of the Big 12’s kickdog. It’s wrong. They’ve had good players through the entirety of this program, but not huge supernova stars. David Wesley was one of these. But the best Baylor Bear of all-time was another guy who came through the league and was a key member of a 2-time champion. Without him, the Pistons wouldn’t have won their 2 NBA titles and wouldn’t have come as agonizingly close to a third as they did. Vinnie Johnson, the Microwave, one of the greatest bench scorers in NBA history,
Iowa State: Iowa State has always brought a certain type of player to the NBA. A sharp-shooting dead-eye shooter who was a linchpin on good teams. Fred Hoiberg was this way. So was Jamaal Tinsley. But the best example of this was an unassuming guard who did great things in Philadelphia and Phoenix. But it wasn’t until he arrived in Utah and was the third wheel alongside one of the game’s most famous duos that he really blossomed. The all-time greatest Cyclone is Jeff Hornacek.
Kansas: This is, as much as my friends from Missouri would hate to admit it, the champagne program of the Big 12. Some of the people who didn’t make the cut for this list would have been clear winners for just about any other program. Paul Pierce, Clyde Lovelette, and Jo Jo White would be clear winners just about anywhere else. But here, they don’t meet the standard. Because the standard here is perhaps the greatest regular-season player in NBA history. Admittedly, he is also one of the most polarizing players in the history of the league. Wilt Chamberlain is the all-time greatest Kansas Jayhawk.
Kansas State: The Wildcats are the masters of developing scoring wing players. Michael Beasley is exactly this kind of player, as is Rolando Blackmon. But the best type of player for this is the middle member of one of the NBA’s coolest trios. They didn’t win as much as they should have, but that wasn’t his fault. And then when the trio was split up, he went to Sacramento and became one of the NBA’s best 2-guards. Mitch Richmond is the all-time greatest Kansas State Wildcat.
Missouri: The Tigers have always been very good at developing guards. Kareem Rush is one and so is Keyon Dooling. But the best guard is one of the guys who had the misfortune of following the Showtime Lakers. Make no mistake, he was a very good player. It just was a bad era that he got dropped into. Anthony Peeler is the all-time greatest Tiger.
Oklahoma: the Sooners can make a real case for being the best dual-sport program in the Big 12. The football program is without dispute in this regard. But think about their basketball program. Mookie Blaylock, one of the best point guards of the 1990’s, was a sooner. So was 15-year NBA veteran Wayman Tisdale. But the greatest Sooner of all-time is also, depending on who you talk to, the single greatest Phoenix Sun of all-time. That’s right. Greater than Nash, or Barkley, or KJ. His number was retired for years. The greatest Sun of all-time is Alvan Adams, and frankly, he’s also the greatest Sooner.
Oklahoma State: The Cowboys are interesting. Their best players are usually get above the rim guys. Tony Allen is an example of this, as is Desmond Mason truthfully. But the best Oklahoma State Cowboy is nothing like this. He couldn’t jump. He barely ran. But despite all of that, he was still successful. For a time, he was the linchpin of an entire franchise. Admittedly, that franchise moved and later became one of the league’s coolest. But for a time there, he was the Vancouver Grizzlies. Bryant “Big Country” Reeves is the all-time greatest Oklahoma State Cowboy.
Texas: The Longhorns have been sort of a nouveau-riche power. TJ Ford started it and LaMarcus Aldridge kept it going. But the guy who took it to another level is one of the only 1-and-done players to make it on this list. It’s fair to ask what you have to do to be a 1-and-done player and make it on a list like this. Here’s the answer: Average a 25-11 for your one season with 2 steals and 2 blocks, and do all of that while being the first freshman to win the AP Player of the Year and the Naismith Award winner ever. Win the Wooden Award too, while you’re at it. That’s as good a season as any freshman could ever have had. Kevin Durant is the all-time greatest Longhorn.
Texas A&M: The Aggies are not the program, in just about any sport, that Texas is. Somehow this doesn’t feel as controversial as Aggie fans might make it. And in that vein, the Aggies have a few contenders for the best basketball player. But just a few. DeAndre Jordan is one. But the best Aggie basketball player is a guy who never played in the NBA. But that doesn’t mean anything. Some of your best players never played in the NBA. He was a three-time all-star in the ABA. And that, above anything else, makes John Beasley the greatest Aggie in program history.
Texas Tech: Again, this is one of those programs that doesn’t get a whole lot of players to come to Lubbock. But they did get some rotational players. Tony Battie and Cory Carr are two examples of this. But the best Red Raider was about more than rotational skill. He was about one thing, and one thing only: Dunking your face off. If you gave him the chance, he was going to put you on a highlight reel. Darvin Ham is the all-time greatest Red Raider.