|Kansas, Texas face bumpy road before big game|
|Written by Admin|
|Thursday, 07 January 2010 10:47|
Still a month away, that one game looms over the Big 12 as conference play starts this weekend. Two undefeated teams, No. 1 vs. No. 2, about a dozen future NBA players on the court. It could be the greatest game in the history of the Big 12.
Of course, they've got to get there first.
Back to being one of the toughest conferences in the country, the Big 12 offers plenty of banana peels to slip up the top two teams in the country.
If the Jayhawks and Longhorns end up undefeated when they meet in Austin on Feb. 8, they will have earned it.
``Anybody can go anywhere and get beat and being able to hold at home is going to be tough because the talent level is so good,'' Kansas coach Bill Self said Thursday. ``We've been fortunate to have quite a bit of success in the league the past few years, but I believe this will be the hardest year to win the league since I've been in the league - and I believe we have a good team.''
The 2008-09 season, at least by the previous year's standards, was a bit blah. There were some good teams, one great player (Oklahoma's Blake Griffin) and not a lot of respect from outside the conference.
Well, the Big 12 is back, baby.
Every team has a winning record, the conference has set a record with 140 non-conference wins and its teams are a combined 105-1 at home. The Big 12 has had at least four teams in the Top 25 for five straight weeks, including those two big names at the top of the poll, has the nation's second-best RPI, and an 8-3 record against ranked teams.
Clearly, the Big 12 isn't just two teams and a bunch of also-rans.
``I think so many people are focusing on Kansas and Texas as the best teams in the country, but they don't realize how good the Big 12 is,'' Kansas State forward Curtis Kelly said. ``If you sit back and stop focusing on two teams - they're great teams, no doubt - you'll notice there's other teams in this conference that are good.''
Kansas and Texas are about to find out.
The Jayhawks have to play at No. 16 Tennessee on Sunday and open conference play on the road against 12-3 Nebraska on Wednesday. The Longhorns will face six teams with at least 10 wins and have a non-conference road game against No. 13 Connecticut mixed in before the big game in Austin.
s both have to go to Manhattan, where the 11th-ranked Wildcats are confident, athletic and off to their best start in 61 years.
``They've lost one game, their wins have been impressive and they've done it away from home,'' Self said. ``I'd say I'm probably most impressed with K-State.''
It doesn't stop there.
Baylor has outstripped all expectations, opening 11-1 after being picked to finish 10th in the conference. Another surprise, Oklahoma State, is 12-2, as is No. 22 Texas Tech. Nebraska seems to be better than its 11th-place prediction.
M are both 11-3 and have seven teams in front of them. That's how good the conference is.
``It sets up for an unbelievable year as far as the fans are concerned, as far as the players are concerned, and it's going to be a long year for coaches because each and every night you better have your team ready to play,'' Nebraska coach Doc Sadler said. ``Whoever finishes 12th is going to win some big games this year, I promise you.''
They dive right in on Saturday.
M get to see how good they really are in College Station. Texas faces a much-improved Colorado team. Baylor faces Oklahoma, which is probably better than its 9-5 record. As for Kansas State, Frank Martin's bunch goes against the fastest 40 minutes of basketball in Missouri.
Let the grind begin.
M coach Mark Turgeon said. ``It's going to be a heck of a challenge. I imagine we're going to beat each other up over the next nine weeks, but it should be a lot of fun.''