Big 12 no longer the league without a championship Print
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Thursday, 23 October 2008 21:36
NCAAB Headline News

 OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) -Year after year, Big 12 coaches were pestered by the same lingering question in the preseason: After producing their fair share of Final Four teams, when was the league going to finally win its first national championship?
Now, they can all thank Bill Self and Kansas for putting that to a rest.
``We've had so much success as a league basketball-wise, that's just a question that had to be answered and Kansas did answer it,'' Texas coach Rick Barnes said Thursday at the league's annual media day. ``So we'll give everybody a chance to come up with another question to ask now: What do we need to do now?''
The Big 12 can boast the most Final Four appearances in the past seven years, the most nonconference wins of any league against ranked opponents last season and the most nonconference victories overall in its first dozen years.
And don't forget Kevin Durant and Michael Beasley, the last two No. 2 picks in the NBA draft.
al Four and Elite Eights over the time that the league's been in existence,'' Self said.
The league's coaches say the Jayhawks' national championship is paying dividends throughout the Big 12. New Oklahoma State coach Travis Ford said he'll sometimes talk to recruits more about Kansas' title than he does about his own team.
Even Colorado coach Jeff Bzdelik, whose team finished 12th in the league and was picked to finish last again, said his recruits are intrigued by the opportunity to face the best in the nation, even when he's going after international players.
M coach Mark Turgeon, himself a former Kansas player.
``When you have a national champion, coming off a great year,'' he added, ``I do think it gives you more credibility going into the next season, which might help us as the season goes on and on Selection Sunday.''
Jeff Capel, who played at Duke and grew up in North Carolina, said he had only fleeting knowledge of the Big 12 before he arrived at Oklahoma. He knew of the top programs like Kansas, Oklahoma and Missouri from the Big Eight days and the occasional star player like Kansas State's Mitch Richmond.
ow underrated it is and it has been,'' Capel said. ``Not many leagues have done what we've done on a consistent basis year in and year out. It's a testament to the players, and it's a testament to the coaches that have been here.''
Capel thinks the Big 12 has made strides, displayed by the conference getting six teams into the NCAA tournament for only the second time in the last five years and by the seeds they got. He was surprised when his Sooners, who were considered a bubble team late in the season, got in as a No. 6 seed.
For Capel, the conference's growth has been accelerated by the recent attention-grabbing stars.
``Kevin Durant was must-see TV. I found myself, if we weren't playing and if Texas was playing, like 'I need to watch this,' because you never knew what was going to happen and he was so exciting to watch,'' Capel said.
``Kansas State wasn't on TV as much, but when Beasley played it was that way. You never knew when he was going to explode for 40-plus. And I think you still have some guys in this league that are going to be that way.''
Capel, whose team was picked to win the Big 12 in the coaches' preseason poll, has one of them in 6-foot-11 forward Blake Griffin, who opted not to make an early jump to the NBA draft along with Beasley, Texas point guard D.J. Augustin and the Kansas trio of Brandon Rush, Darrell Arthur and Mario Chalmers.
e of an obvious one-and-done freshman star create the perception that the league is wide open this season. Four teams received first-place votes, including Kansas, which was in a tie for third in the poll after losing all five starters.
``I will tell you this: Expect the unexpected,'' Self said. ``That's the way it always works in this league. ... K-State may not have Beasley and we may not have our guys and that kind of stuff, but there are nice pieces to replace them. And sometimes the pieces can lend itself to becoming very, very good teams. And that's the goal is not to have the best players, the goal is to have the best team.''

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