MU men’s basketball team No. 1 in Big 12 Conference

Thursday, October 23, 2003 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 9:33 a.m. CDT, Thursday, July 10, 2008

Missouri is the team to beat in the Big 12 Conference.

At least that’s the way the men’s basketball coaches voted in a preseason poll.

The conference released its preseason coaches’ poll Wednesday with the Tigers the favorite to win. The Tigers received seven of 11 first-place votes from the coaches, who were not allowed to vote for their team.

The first-place selection is the Tigers highest preseason position since 2001-02 when they were No. 2.

Texas, which received three first-place votes, is second, and defending conference champion Kansas garnered the third spot, receiving the final first-place vote.

The Big 12 released several individual accolades as well. The Tigers’ Detroit duo, center Arthur Johnson and guard Rickey Paulding, were named to the All-Big 12 Team. Johnson, a 6-foot-9 senior, averaged 16.1 points and 9.6 rebounds in 2002-03.

Paulding (6-5) led the Tigers in scoring with 17.4 points per game.

Johnson and Paulding were named to the 2002-03 All-Big 12 Second Team.

The Big 12 also recognized MU’s Jason Conley, naming him Preseason Newcomer of the Year. Conley, who transferred from VMI, will be eligible to play after the end of the fall semester in mid-December.

Andre Emmett, Texas Tech’s senior forward, was named the Preseason Player of the Year and joins Johnson and Paulding on the All-Big 12 Team. Emmett was the only player who appeared on all 11 ballots.

After his junior season, in which he averaged a league-best 21.8 points, Emmett had initially decided to skip his senior year to go to the NBA, but before the deadline, he withdrew his name.

Texas center James Thomas and Kansas forward Wayne Simien complete the All-Big 12 Team.

Thomas, the conference’s most prolific rebounder from a year ago at 11 per game, leads a team that lost catalyst T.J. Ford to the NBA. The Longhorns lost to Syracuse 95-84 in the 2003 Final Four.

Simien, who played in only 16 games in 2002-03 because of a right shoulder injury, is the only junior on the team. He will be looked to replace Nick Collison and Kirk Heinrich, both of whom are in the NBA.

Oklahoma, winner of the Big 12 Tournament, is fourth, and Oklahoma State is fifth. Colorado, which played in the NCAA Tournament last year for the first time since 1996-97, is sixth. The top six teams in the preseason poll appeared in the 2003 NCAA Tournament.

Texas Tech and coach Bobby Knight are ranked seventh. Kansas State, Texas A&M, Iowa State, Nebraska and Baylor round out the final five spots.

This is the sixth year the Big 12 has completed a preseason poll, and Kansas is the only team to win the conference after being named preseason No. 1. The Jayhawks did it in the previous two seasons as well as the 1997-98 season.

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