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Big 12 Tournament Preview

March 6, 2002 Conference Notes No Comments

Big 12 Tournament Preview

This much is clear: Six teams (Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas,
Texas Tech, Oklahoma State and Missouri) are marching
on. The other six teams (Nebraska, Kansas State,
Colorado, Baylor, Iowa State, Texas A&M) are relegated
to spoiler status.

Six in. Six out. That type of
competitive symmetry might suggest that the conference
tournament begins on Friday as opposed to Thursday.
However, it is March, and no matter how consistent and
dominant Kansas and Oklahoma have been, madness in the
air. And when you consider that this will be the last
time the conference tournament will be played at
Kemper Arena, the stage is set for something special.

The Jayhawks are the No. 1 team in the country and are
assured of a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament by
virtue of their immaculate conference record. They
haven’t lost a game in nearly two months but their last
three road wins came by a total of 9 points and suggests
that Kansas is a little vulnerable right now.

Then there is Oklahoma, who find themselves vying for a
No. 1 seed as well, where it’s going to come down
to the wire between Cincinnati, Alabama and the
Sooners. Something has to give, right?

And how can you count out the General, after what he’s
done this year in Lubbock? 9-19 to 21-7, the
difference has been as plain as Knight and day.
Oklahoma State has been the conference’s sentimental
favorite all year, and if senior guard Maurice Baker
can somehow get healthy over the next two days, the
Cowboys are capable of making some serious noise.

That brings us to the Longhorns, who may turn out to be
the dark horse in this year’s tournament. Rick Barnes
has done a terrific job of keeping the team together
ever since they lost star forward Chris Owens earlier
this year. With the emergence of T.J. Ford, the Big 12
Freshman of the Year, Texas figures to be right in the
thick of things. Another Longhorn to look out for is
sophomore center James Thomas, who has recorded six
double-doubles in his last 10 games.

The bottom line: Despite their dubious March
reputation under Roy Williams, the Jayhawks are just
too good to pick against. After being named the Big 12
Coach of the Year on Wednesday, edging out Bobby
Knight, it’s no secret that this is Williams’ best
team in his 14 years in Lawrence.

Big 12 Player of the Year, Drew Gooden, Nick Collison,
Jeff Boschee and Kirk Hinrich, get and deserve most
of the credit for KU’s success. But truth be told,
they would not be where they are without the emergence
of freshman guard Aaron Miles and freshman forward
Wayne Simien.

“Roy has done a special job,” said Iowa State head
coach Larry Eustachy. “You know he likes his team when
his coat stays on and his tie isn’t loosened. The last
couple of years, his coat would come off, his tie would
get loose.”

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