Big start for Big 12 teams in tournament Print
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Friday, 20 March 2009 14:29
NCAAB Headline News


 KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) -The Big 12 is off to a big start in the NCAA tournament.
When Missouri finished off Cornell 78-59 Friday, it gave teams from the Big 12 a perfect 6-0 record through the first round.
M also won their opening games.
``First of all, that's great for the conference,'' Oklahoma senior Taylor Griffin said. ``We know how tough the Big 12 is, even though the Big East got a lot of attention this year and rightfully so. But at the same time, you know, the Big 12 has been tough this year.
``I know a lot of people said it's kind of been a down year. But I think it's been just as tough as ever. But that's great for us, great for the program, great for the conference, actually. Best of luck to everybody out there,'' he said.
had at least one team lose in the first round.
Kansas beat out Oklahoma to win the Big 12 regular-season title. Missouri won the conference tournament.
``Been underrated all year long,'' Sooners coach Jeff Capel said. ``One of the things that happens in our league, we beat up on each other. When you get to this point, it's kind of refreshing to have an opportunity to play against someone else.
``Again, I don't think people understand how good this league is and how many good players we have and the really good coaches we have in our league. Hopefully this is an example to show the country, to show the college basketball country, how good it really is,'' he said.
M takes on Connecticut. Guard Donald Sloan said his Aggies are ready after bumping into Big 12 teams all season.
``Different faces, but the same type of skill level. Talent-wise, we've seen it before,'' he said.
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LIKE FATHER, LIKE SON: UConn guard A.J. Price must have wanted to linger around the Palestra a little bit after Friday's practice. All the Philadelphia city teams play games at the Palestra, the historic basketball cathedral that serves as Penn's home court.
ic Johnson's Michigan State team in the semifinals and haven't come close to a return in 30 years. Price said he's talked to his father about what it would mean to for both of them to say they played on college basketball's grandest stage.
M on Saturday in the West Regional.
``He's told me it was one of the greatest times in his life,'' A.J. Price said. ``I definitely would like to experience that.''
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WHAT ABOUT US? Poor Conference USA. The mighty Big East has three No. 1 seeds in the NCAA tournament and the heralded ACC always challenges for national honors. But Conference USA, the league Memphis dominates like a dog shaking a rag doll, struggles for respect.
Even Maryland guard Greivis Vasquez, whose team meets Memphis on Saturday in the second round of the West Regional, took a shot.
``They're pretty good,'' he said of Memphis. ``They've got pretty good athletes. But their conference is pretty much questionable.''
Asked to explain further, the Terps' top scorer backed down only a bit.
eat any team. Our conference (and) the Big East are the toughest conferences. But that's my opinion. Their conference, you can say it's tough. But I don't think it's as tough as our conference. We'll see what happens tomorrow.''
Afterward, Maryland coach Gary Williams did his best at damage control.
``I think any conference, when you go on the road, there are tough games,'' he said. ``I'm sure they were in tough situations. When you're Memphis, you're the giant. Everybody gets ready to play against you.
``They're a No. 2 seed for a reason and we're a 10 for a reason.''
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BEILEIN'S OFFENSE: Michigan runs a complicated offense that includes lots of moving, cutting, backdoors and 3-pointers.
The Two Guard Offense, as it's called, is the creation of Wolverines coach John Beilein, who developed it back in the 1980s at LeMoyne College.
Frustrated that his team couldn't run a traditional point guard offense, Beilein started talking to his mentor and uncle, Tom Nylan, a college player in the 1940s and LeMoyne's AD at the time. Nylan suggested he go back to the way the game was played in the 1940s and 1950s by putting the two forwards in the corners with a high post, spread the floor and run scissor-cuts off the post.
decided even when we got athletic, this was the way we're going to play,'' Beilein said.
Beilein continued to run the offense at Canisius and Richmond, and really honed it in five seasons at West Virginia before arriving in Ann Arbor in 2007.
``What makes them difficult is how much movement they have in their offense,'' said Oklahoma coach Jeff Capel, Michigan's opponent in the second round Saturday. ``It has some of the Princeton offense similarities, but it's its own unique style. They have a lot of moving and cutting. They keep great spacing and have five guys on the floor all the time that can shoot the basketball.''
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HOOK 'EM, HEELS? There's so much reverse psychology being used in Greensboro, N.C., this weekend that it's tough to keep track of who's rooting for which team.
The North Carolina fans who packed the arena are expected to take up the cause for Texas in the second round Saturday night because the Longhorns are playing the Tar Heels' fiercest rival, Duke. That, after their efforts to cheer on 15th-seeded Binghamton in the first round were fruitless.
Still, it's probably a safe bet that the Blue Devils' fans will pull a switcheroo, too, and pull for LSU in the early game when the Tigers take on North Carolina.
o have North Carolina fans yelling for you,'' Texas guard A.J. Abrams said.
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READY, CHRIS?: LSU's Chris Johnson has provided interior defense and rebounding for the Tigers, but the lanky center will probably face his toughest challenge of the season Saturday.
Johnson will likely match up with reigning national player of the year Tyler Hansbrough when LSU faces North Carolina in the second round of the NCAA tournament's South Region. The 6-foot-9 Hansbrough is 2 inches shorter, but has a 40-pound advantage on the long, lean 210-pound senior.
And when Hansbrough goes to the bench, Johnson's job won't get easier. North Carolina also has 6-8 junior Deon Thompson, 6-10 freshman Ed Davis and 7-foot freshman Tyler Zeller.
Marcus Thornton, the SEC's player of the year, figures Johnson won't need any motivating words from him before the game.
``I don't think we should tell Chris anything,'' he said with a laugh. ``If he can't get up for this game, he doesn't need to be playing basketball, period.''
 

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