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Big 12 Notebook

February 19, 2003 Conference Notes No Comments

Big 12 Conference Notebook

by Mitch Schneider

We’re No. 5!

With three weeks remaining in the Big 12 season, the top spot in the conference is still up for grabs. The leading four teams – Kansas (9-1), Texas (9-2), Oklahoma State (8-2) and Oklahoma (8-2) – are separated by just one game, and any one of these schools could finish the season on top.

While one game separates the top four, just two games divide the next three squads. Missouri (6-4), Colorado (5-5) and Texas A&M (4-6) are all competing for the crucial fifth spot, which guarantees a first-round match-up against the Big 12’s last-place team in the conference tourney.

The fifth spot will also give some school a leg up in terms of receiving an at-large bid to this year’s NCAA Tournament. It appears the Big 12 will send at least five teams to the dance, and whichever club finishes fifth will have that much of an advantage over the rest of the league.

In Top Gun, there are no points for second place. But in the Big 12, fifth place sure sounds nice.

A Jayhawk flies again

There is good news and bad news to report out of Lawrence.

The good news (for all KU fans): Kansas forward Wayne Simien is officially back after missing 11 games with an injured shoulder.

The bad news (for all other Big 12 fans): Kansas forward Wayne Simien is officially back after missing 11 games with an injured shoulder.

Simien, a 6-9 forward, netted seven points and seven boards in the Jayhawks’ 70-51 rout over Iowa State on Sunday. The sophomore, who had been averaging almost 16 points and nine boards per game before his injury, played 18 minutes and received a standing ovation after entering the game in the first half.

Four minutes into the contest, Simien hit a jumper that gave KU a 7-1 lead and raised another loud cheer in Allen Fieldhouse.

“He is going to help us out,” Kansas forward Nick Collison told the Sports Ticker following the win. “He is going to get better every time out there. He still isn’t practicing at full intensity yet, but I think when he gets back in that form, he will help us out a lot more. He made a couple of shots and looked good.”

Simien’s return comes at a great time for Kansas (19-5, 9-1), which still has to travel to Oklahoma, Texas Tech and Missouri this season. A healthy Simien will bolster an already reliable front court and take some pressure off KU’s thin bench.

Although Simien now appears healthy, his return may make the rest of the teams in the Big 12 very, very sick.

These kids are fresh, man.

From Syracuse’s Carmelo Anthony to North Carolina’s Rashad McCants, a number of college freshmen are excelling on the basketball court this season. The same holds true in the Big 12, as several “diaper dandies” are quickly making names for themselves in 2003.

Texas A&M’s Antoine Wright is the cream of this year’s freshmen crop, as the guard/forward leads all newbies with a 16.4 scoring and 7.2 rebounding average. Last week, Wright dropped 22 and 25 points against Colorado and Texas, respectively, and has been the biggest reason why the Aggies (12-9, 4-6) have remained competitive in conference play.

Aside from Wright, Iowa State’s Adam Haluska (10.2 PPG), Oklahoma’s Kevin Bookout (9.7 PPG, 5.7 RPG), Missouri’s Jimmy McKinney (9.0 PPG), Colorado’s Antoine McGee (3.3 APG) and Texas’ Brad Buckman (5.4 RPG, 0.95 BPG) are all putting up solid numbers as freshmen, as well.

So much for first-year jitters. As for my freshman stint in college, it took me two-and-a-half years to find the library.

A rough Knight for Emmett

Talk about (not) shooting yourself in the foot.

After missing a pre-game shoot around, Texas Tech guard Andre Emmett, the Big 12’s leading scorer (21.5 PPG), did not see the floor in a 77-65 loss at Texas on Monday.

Red Raiders’ coach Bob Knight benched the junior, along with senior forward Nick Valdez, after both players failed to show up for the team’s morning walkthrough in Austin.

It hasn’t been made clear as to why either player missed the meeting, though sources speculate both Emmett and Valdez weren’t told of the team’s plans.

Emmett’s lapse could have not come at a worse time as the Red Raiders were set to play a meaningful conference game on the road against one of the nation’s best teams. On top of this, Texas Tech is presently a school on the NCAA Tournament “bubble,” and every loss from here on out carries Knight’s squad a step further from the Dance.

We here at Hoopville sincerely wish Andre Emmett the best of luck in practice this week while the General looks on.

Intriguing match-ups of the week:

Wednesday, Feb. 19 – Colorado at Kansas
Wednesday, Feb. 19 – Oklahoma State at Oklahoma
Saturday, Feb. 22 – Texas at Oklahoma State
Sunday, Feb. 23 – Kansas at Oklahoma


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