Missouri beat Texas Tech Saturday as the Big 12 regular season came to an end. The conference named its award winners on Sunday, as voted on by the Big 12 coaches. Kansas’ Bill Self and Iowa State’s Fred Hoiberg were named co-Big 12 Coaches of the Year. Despite Missouri’s surprising season (27-4, 14-4 in Big 12 play), Tiger coach Frank Haith was shut out from the coach of the year honor. Some Missouri fans cried conspiracy, thinking the Big 12 and its coaches didn’t want to reward a coach and a school that will be leaving for the Southeastern Conference this summer. While I understand Missouri fans’ disappointment, here are three reasons why I’m just fine with Haith not winning the award. (Note: Haith did win the AP Big 12 Coach of the Year award, though. Coach of the Year awards for everyone!)
1. Self and Hoiberg were deserving
Maybe this is the sportsman in me talking. Coach of the year is a very subjective honor, bus ask yourself, how do you determine who is the coach of the year?
If it’s who finishes the most places above their preseason prediction, that would be Hoiberg. His Cyclones were picked to finish eighth, and they actually finished third.
If it’s simply whoever finishes with the best record in conference play, that would be Self. The more partisan Missouri fans may need to put on earmuffs for this part, but Self took a supposedly down Kansas team and won the Big 12 title by two games.
2. I don’t need an award to tell me Haith had a remarkable season
Yes, Missouri is loaded with seniors. But this same group struggled under coach Mike Anderson and seemed to be at a crossroads. Senior forward Laurence Bowers was lost for the season due to an injury before a game was played.
And yet Missouri won big this year, finishing in second place for just the second time in the 16-year history of the Big 12. Missouri has been in the top 10 for much of the season. We don’t need an award to cherish and appreciate this season.
And remember, award voting is fluky. In football last fall, Kansas State’s Bill Snyder was the Big 12 Coach of the Year, but then Oklahoma State’s Mike Gundy won the national coach of the year award.
3. There are bigger fish to fry, starting right now
Missouri’s last Big 12 Tournament kicks off with two games Wednesday night in Kansas City. Missouri plays at 6 p.m. Thursday night against the winner of the Oklahoma State-Texas Tech game. Should the Tigers win that, they will play in the semifinal Friday evening against the winner of Thursday’s Iowa State-Texas game. Winning one more conference tournament title, especially in Kansas City, home to multiple Tiger players and all those Big Eight and Big 12 tournaments through the years, would mean more than an award.
Winning the Big 12 Tournament would also give Missouri hope for a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, the biggest fish of them all. The Selection Show is at 5 p.m. Sunday on CBS. I can hear that March Madness Music now.