Roll over pigskin, the round ball is moving up in Texas. At least when it comes to March Madness, anyway.
In a quick count by MaxPreps.com, Texas high schools produced the most players in this year’s NCAA Tournament with 76, edging California's 70.
It’s a long drop to third place with Florida at 43, followed by Maryland (42), Indiana (39) and Georgia and North Carolina with 35 each. There are 42 March Madness players who played high school basketball outside of the United States.
It certainly helps that Texas teams qualified a record seven for the tournament – Texas, Baylor, Texas A&M, North Texas, Houston, UTEP and Sam Houston. (California only qualified four – Cal, UC Santa Barbara, St. Mary’s and San Diego State).
From those seven teams, 55 are from Texas high schools, including 11 each from Texas A&M and North Texas. Experts maintain that Texas basketball has been rising for years.
"Texas has always been a top-notch basketball state," MaxPreps basketball editor Jason Hickman said. "I just think it gets overlooked because of the football reputation."
Hickman has Yates of Houston No. 1 in his Xcellent National 25 rankings. Houston's Bellaire and San Antonio's Wagner also spent much of the season in the the national rankings.
"In terms of quality high school teams, I’m not sure that Texas consistently produces top 25-caliber squads the way that other power states do because the talent is more spread out," he said. "Private schools don’t dominate there the way they do in other states."
R.V. Baugus, publisher and editor of Tex Preps Basketball magazine and TexPrepsBasketball.com, said hoops in the state is now comparable to football in terms of recruiting.
"Teams from outside the state recruit Texas as heavily now as in-state schools do," he said. "Before, you truly only could say that for football."
That may be so, but from the top four No. 1 seeds in the tournament – Duke, Kentucky, Kansas and Syracuse - only two players attended a Texas high school, Kansas junior guard Chase Buford (Alamo Heights, San Antonio), a walk-on, and Syracuse junior forward Wesley Johnson (Corsicana). Johnson also attended prep schools in North Carolina and Michigan.
Baugus, who has covered high school basketball in Texas since 1992, thinks play has steadily risen in the state.
"Texas is definitely becoming recognized for the basketball talent it produces," he said. "I don’t know that it will ever rival football, but the main thing is that while before recruiting for basketball talent was an afterthought, today I can guarantee you there are dozens and dozens of Texas players on recruiters’ radars.
"It has definitely become a hotbed for recruiting."
Hickman said he saw that while attending AAU tournaments over the summer in Las Vegas.
"It seems like there are Texas teams loaded with good players everywhere you look," he said.
Though Texas and California prep products dominate the March Madness list, two of the more eye-opening numbers come from Maryland and Indiana. Those two produced the fifth- and sixth-most players, yet rank 19th and 16th, respectively, in U.S. state population. On the other end, New York, which ranks third in population, was No. 11 in tournament players produced with 29.
NCAA Tournament players by state (high schools they last attended):
1. Texas (No. 2 in population) 75
2. California (1) 70
3. Florida (4) 46
4. Pennsylvania (6) 43
5. Maryland (19) 42
6. Indiana (16) 39
7t. Georgia (9), North Carolina (10), 35
9t. Ohio (7), Tennessee (17), 32
11. New York (3) 29
12. Illinois (5) 27
13t. Michigan (8), New Jersey (11), 26
15. Virginia (12) 25
16. Minnesota (21) 24
17t. Washington (13), Wisconsin (20), 17
19. Missouri (18) 16
20t. Massachusetts (15), Nevada (35), South Carolina (24), 15
23. Louisiana (25) 14
24t. Kentucky (26), New Hampshire (41), Oklahoma (28), 13.
27. Utah (34) 12.
28. Iowa (30) 11
29. Connecticut (29) 10
30. Arizona (14) 9
31t. Alabama (23), Arkansas (32), Oregon (27), 8
34. Mississippi (31) 7
35. District of Columbia (49) 6
36. New Mexico (36) 5
37t. Alaska (47), Colorado (22), Kansas (33), West Virginia (37), 4
41t. Montana (44), Nebraska (38), Vermont (49), 2
44t. Delaware (45), Idaho (39), Maine (40), North Dakota (48), Rhode Island (43), South Dakota (46), 1
50t. Hawaii (42) 0, Wyoming (50) 0