|Big 12: More to it than just Jayhawks|
|Written by Admin|
|Thursday, 22 October 2009 11:04|
Kansas, Kansas, Kansas.
What about the rest of the Big 12? Well, they're not exactly chumps. The Big 12 will be as good as ever, maybe better.
Even the Jayhawks know it.
``I like our team. We have a chance to be a special group,'' Kansas coach Bill Self said Thursday at Big 12 media day. ``We'll have to be very special because I think the league is the best since I've been in it and the best it's going to be in since the inception of the league.''
First, let's get the Kansas stuff out of the way.
some schools don't get in 10 years, much less one.
Deep, talented, confident, Kansas is clearly the team to beat.
``KU is pretty stacked,'' Iowa State forward Craig Brackins said. ``They didn't really lose anybody and they brought in a lot of weapons.''
Don't give the title to the Jayhawks just yet.
Texas has much of last year's NCAA tournament team back, including seniors Damion James, Dexter Pittman and Justin Mason. Coach Rick Barnes put together another stellar recruiting class that includes speedy guard Avery Bradley, a top 5 recruit, and could have a rotation up to 14 players deep.
Oklahoma lost Naismith and Wooden Award winner Blake Griffin, but still has 2008-09 Big 12 freshman of the year Willie Warren and enough athletes to give opponents fits.
Kansas State's top-notch recruiting class of 2007 has matured and is starting to live up to its billing, even with Michael Beasley in the NBA. Coach Frank Martin pulled off another stellar class this year, bringing in talented players like forward Wally Judge and guard Rodney McGruder, considered among the best 100 recruits by most services.
M, which has won a first-round game in the NCAA tournament four straight years, returns eight of its top nine scorers from a year ago. Oklahoma State has a three-guard combination that could be as good as any in the country. Baylor could be looking at another NCAA tournament run, Missouri still plays that infuriating defense and Texas Tech has become more athletic.
So Kansas will have competition.
``This is my seventh season and by far this is the best, top to bottom, the league has been as far as parity and outstanding players,'' Baylor coach Scott Drew said.
The Big 12 gained prominence over the past few years behind players like Kevin Durant of Texas, Kansas State's Beasley and Griffin at Oklahoma. Those stars opened the door for more talent to pour into the conference and many of them have stayed.
Collins and Aldrich had chances to bolt for the NBA, but decided they wanted to try to win another national championship together. Brackins, the Big 12's scoring leader at 20.2 points per game last season, opted for another season with the Cyclones over turning pro.
Warren at Oklahoma, James and Pittman at Texas, and Denis Clemente of Kansas State all probably could have made money as pros, but stayed home instead.
Every game, no matter where it's played, is going to have talent worth watching.
``This is a very special year, there's no question,'' Oklahoma State coach Travis Ford said. ``I've been telling our fans, you'd better get your jackets because when January gets here, you're not going to want to miss this. Every night in and night out, you're going to be witness to three to four to five NBA players on the court, and there's going to be great talent out there.''
Enough talent to knock Kansas off its perch? Even if the Jayhawks do manage to live up to expectations, it's not going to be easy. Not in this conference.
``It's not a cakewalk,'' Pittman said. ``It's tough. We know from past experiences you've got to bring it every night. You can't take a night off.''