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October 31, 2010
League preview: Big 12
We continue with our league breakdowns for the upcoming season; we're working backward from league No. 32 to our top-ranked league.
2. BIG 12
By Jason King, Yahoo! Sports
One of the more remarkable streaks in college sports belongs to a school from the Big 12, and it involves something that seems to have been devalued a bit in today's basketball landscape.
With all the talk about Sweet 16s, Elite Eights, Final Fours, bubble teams and the last-four-in/the last-four-out of the NCAA tournament, the accomplishment of winning a conference championship often gets overshadowed during the madness of March.
That's a shame for a school such as Kansas, which is eyeing its seventh consecutive Big 12 title this season.
"Not enough people talk about it," junior F Marcus Morris said, "but it's something we're proud of."
The Jayhawks should be. They may not ever match Gonzaga, which has won 10 consecutive West Coast Conference titles. Still, to capture six titles in a row in a Big Six conference may be an even more impressive feat.
As tough as the road has already been, winning championship No. 7 may be the most difficult task of all.
The uncertainty surrounding the eligibility of freshman G Josh Selby caused voters to pick Kansas State ahead of Kansas in The Associated Press preseason top 25. The Wildcats are ranked No. 3, while the Jayhawks are seventh.
But if Selby plays - and coach Bill Self believes he will - it's hard to pick against the Jayhawks, who defeated their in-state rival three times last season.
Yes, Kansas lost three of its top players to the NBA. But even without Cole Aldrich, Sherron Collins and Xavier Henry, the Jayhawks still rank atop the Big 12 in talent, experience and depth, thanks to the return of players such as Marcus Morris, Markieff Morris, Tyshawn Taylor, Brady Morningstar and Tyrel Reed.
As good as Kansas should be, Kansas State is riding high on momentum following last season's Elite Eight appearance. The Wildcats are the top threat to end the Jayhawks' reign atop the Big 12. K-State boasts one of the nation's top frontcourts with Curtis Kelly, Wally Judge, Jamar Samuels and Freddy Asprilla. The key will be finding a mate on the perimeter for Big 12 Player of the Year candidate Jacob Pullen, who no longer has the luxury of playing with Denis Clemente.
The other school that appears capable of making a title run is Baylor. LaceDarius Dunn is the Big 12's leading returning scorer and is on pace to set the Big 12 career record in that category. The Bears also return starting F Anthony Jones and standout sixth man Quincy Acy, a future pro who should move into the starting lineup. The biggest difference for Baylor will be the addition of freshman F Perry Jones, who already is projected to go as high as No. 2 in next summer's NBA draft.
Missouri and Texas may not be title contenders, but both teams are talented enough to compete with any team in the league. In Austin, freshmen Cory Joseph and Tristan Thompson will try to help the Longhorns bounce back from a disappointing season. The return of standouts such as Kim English, Michael Dixon and Justin Safford have Missouri fans convinced that this could be Mike Anderson's best team yet.
While Texas A&M and Oklahoma State appear to be in rebuilding mode, Colorado and Texas Tech could have breakthrough seasons. The Buffaloes, who are in their first year under new coach Tad Boyle, tout two of the Big 12's best players in Gs Alec Burks and Cory Higgins. In Lubbock, Pat Knight is hoping the tandem of John Roberson and Mike Singletary can get the Red Raiders back into the NCAA tournament.
Oklahoma, Iowa State and Nebraska appear to be locks to finish 10th, 11th and 12th in the standings, although not necessarily in that order.
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