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Big 12 coaches expecting big things<br>for conference at tournament time

Monday, March 3, 2008 | 10:14 p.m. CST; updated 11:33 a.m. CDT, Saturday, July 19, 2008

KANSAS CITY — The Big 12 has an RPI rating that’s second in the country, nine teams already boasting at least 16 wins, and the nation’s best winning percentage against ranked outsiders.

So what would be a realistic number of NCAA bids for the Big 12?

“Realistic? Six,” Kansas coach Bill Self said. “I think that’s very realistic.”

Figuring postseason berths as a whole, Pat Knight will see Self’s six and raise him four.

“This has got to be a league I think that needs to get at least six teams in the NCAA and four to the NIT,” the Texas Tech coach said Monday. “I think it’s a league where 10 teams should be considered for both the NCAA and NIT. There are some teams people haven’t been aware of and now they’re in the mix. That means those coaches have done a good job of building up that program. We have to be one of the top two leagues in the country.”

The ACC is first in RPI rating, while the Pac-10 is third and the Big East is fourth. But adding to the Big 12’s argument is that it has a winning record against every one of them.

“Every year you hear coaches talk about the league being as balanced as it’s ever been,” Texas coach Rick Barnes said. “But when you look around ... our league has gotten better. Texas Tech is a better team than when they played us here. The same can be said about Nebraska, about Oklahoma State. We all know that regardless of what outside people think, there’s not a gimme in this league. If you don’t play, you’re going to get beat.”

The Big 12 received six NCAA bids when it had the No. 2 RPI rating in 2003 and five when it was No. 2 in 1997.

Going into the final regular-season week, Kansas and Texas are tied atop the Big 12 standings at 13-3.

“I said coming in I thought (the Jayhawks) were the best team we played all year,” Barnes said. “I haven’t changed my mind about that. They would tell you they’ve had to battle throughout this conference season. I know how much we’ve had to battle. We win one in overtime at Iowa State where we had to fight for our lives. There have been no easy games in this league.”

Self, whose Jayhawks faced Texas Tech on Monday night, said the Big 12 has been penalized in tournament selection when its RPI has been relatively low.

“If RPI matters in individual (team) ratings, it should also matter in conference ratings,” Self said.

One Big 12 team the NCAA selection committee could have trouble figuring out is Texas A&M. The inconsistent Aggies crushed Texas Tech last week 98-54, but then turned around on Saturday and got smashed 64-37 at Oklahoma. The Aggies have also lost 77-50 at Texas and beaten the Longhorns 80-63.

“This is new ground for me, new territory,” Aggies coach Mark Turgeon said. “It’s probably the most frustrating season I’ve been through as a coach. With that said, we’ve still won 21 games. The ups and down are unexplainable. I just keep trying to figure it out so it doesn’t happen again.”

Kansas State’s Michael Beasley has won his 10th weekly conference award, tying the record set last year by Texas’ Kevin Durant. The 6-foot-10 Wildcat was named rookie of the week for the sixth time in a row, after averaging 34.5 points and 13 rebounds in losses to Texas and Kansas.

Beasley shot 47.7 percent from the floor and 44.4 percent from 3-point line and hit 23 of 27 foul shots.

Chosen co-winners of player of the week were Kansas’ Brandon Rush and Kevin Rogers of Baylor.


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