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No favorites in tough Big 12

Coaches say it is too early in the season to choose
a conference winner.
Tuesday, January 27, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 8:47 p.m. CDT, Sunday, July 20, 2008

Kansas is on top, but it might not be there long.

Even though the Big 12 Conference has one team with an undefeated conference record, several coaches said the title remains up for grabs.

In the coaches’ teleconference Monday, Texas A&M coach Melvin Watkins said it is a little too early to declare a favorite for the title. Watkins’ Aggies (7-8, 0-4 Big 12) have played competitively in their four conference games but were unable to secure a victory.

“I think with only playing four games for us and looking around the conference and how competitive it is, our kids feel like, ‘You know, coach, we’re going to make a run for this thing,’ ” Watkins said.

“We are going to be in the middle of it, and so that’s the good thing about conference play. It’s like another season for you. The fact that we got off to a slow start doesn’t mean we have to finish up that way.”

A late Aggie rally came up short against Missouri in an 82-77 loss Jan. 10 in Columbia. Kansas defeated the Aggies 71-65 on Jan. 17, and Texas Tech needed a layup with six seconds left Saturday to win 80-78 in College Station, Texas.

The conference parity should bode well for the Tigers (8-7, 3-2), who played solidly against Texas and Nebraska. Watkins said it wouldn’t surprise him if Missouri won the title.

“With the talent they have, the personnel they have, that is definitely a realistic goal for them, and I’m sure they feel that way because they are capable of beating anyone in this conference, just like we feel we are,” Watkins said.

“We’re 0-4, and we can feel that way, which is a little strange for me saying that, but I surely would think Missouri would feel like this race is not over with.”

The Tigers dominated at times in a 72-51 win against Nebraska on Saturday, and the Tigers, who play Colorado (10-6, 2-3) on Wednesday, have played with more passion and intensity. This type of play, which was missing in the Tigers’ nonconference losses, has Buffaloes coach Ricardo Patten on warning.

Patten said he thinks the early season losses will motivate the Tigers for the rest of the season.

“I think they are out to prove their record is not indicative of the type of team that they have, and that’s always a dangerous team to play,” Patten said.

“They’re just a very talented basketball team, and when they put things together they’re awfully dangerous.”

The Tigers lost consecutive games to Illinois, Memphis and Belmont in late December.

OUTSTANDING COACHING: The effort of Baylor coach Scott Drew has attracted some laudable attention from his Big 12 peers.

Even though it has been a struggle from the beginning and the Bears probably won’t crack the Associated Press Top 25, they have produced a notable effort. The Bears have competed well and won their first conference game Saturday, 63-59 against Iowa State.

Oklahoma coach Kelvin Sampson said Drew has done “fabulous” work with his short-handed roster.

“He has put these kids in a position to be successful,” Sampson said. “They’ve gotten better as they go. With what he has, he’s doing the best coaching job in the league.”

WEEKLY HONORS: Texas Tech guard Andre Emmett was named Big 12 Player of the Week for the fifth time this season. He averaged 22 points in two Red Raider wins. Emmett scored the winning basket against Texas A&M on Saturday.

“Well, he works at (scoring),” Texas Tech coach Bobby Knight said. “He works hard without the basketball. I think one of the things that has been good from his standpoint is there has been a lot of attention given to him from defenses, and he still continues to work. On the other hand, our players do a good job of working to get him open.”

Emmett, who also leads the conference in scoring with 22.2 per game, became the first Big 12 player to receive the honor five times.

Kansas forward Drew Gooden and Iowa State forward Marcus Fizer earned Player of the Week honors four times in a season. Oklahoma State guard Joey Graham averaged 12.5 points and nine rebounds in the Cowboys’ two wins to earn the Rookie of the Week.

POSTSEASON TICKETS AVAILABLE: The Big 12 announced Monday that a limited number of tickets for the conference tournament March 11-14 in Dallas go on sale Monday at 10 a.m.

The tickets will be available on the American Airlines Center Web site, americanairlinescenter.com, or through a link to the American Airlines Center on the Big 12 Web site, big12sports.com.

The Big 12 also announced that more than 5,000 tickets remain for the NCAA Sub-Regional games March 19 and 21 in Kemper Arena in Kansas City.

Fans can buy tickets at the Big 12 Web site or the Kemper Arena box office.


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