Spotlight on Big 12 as season unfolds

Wednesday, December 15, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 3:24 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 8, 2008

The ACC is touted by many pundits as the best conference for men’s basketball, but this year the Big 12 is giving it a run for its money.

The Big 12 is the only conference with four undefeated teams. The ACC and Big East each have three.

Oklahoma State assistant coach Sean Sutton said the Big 12 has definitely earned its spot at the top of the conference hierarchy.

“I think it’s going to be a great season for the Big 12,” Sutton said. “Kansas is playing as well as anyone in the country. Oklahoma has had some big wins. I think this league is going to be pretty good and one of the most respected in college basketball.”

While undefeated records by Kansas and Oklahoma State may not surprise anyone, the fact that Kansas State and Texas A&M have no blemishes on their records is a surprise.

Little was expected out of the Wildcats and the Aggies at the beginning of the season. Baylor coach Scott Drew said he expects the bottom half of the Big 12 to boost the conference.

“I see the Big 12, over the next few years, getting more competitive and having more teams ranked,” Drew said. “In the next couple of years, the bottom half of the conference will raise our level.”

Three teams from the conference are ranked in the top 25 in both The Associated Press and ESPN polls. Big 12 teams also boast a 60-16 record against non-conference opponents.

Oklahoma coach Kelvin Sampson said the early non-conference games don’t hold much importance when it comes to an NCAA Tournament bid.

“I just think it’s too early to tell,” Sampson said. “Last time I checked, they give out NCAA bids in March. If they gave them out in December, then I’d think of it a little differently.”

Still, the teams that remain undefeated are going to use their early season good fortune to their advantage. Kansas State (6-0) is off to its best start since 1997, when the Wildcats started 9-0.

“(The Wildcats will) use early wins to build confidence,” Wildcats coach Jim Wooldridge said. “(We’ll) use these games early on as an advantage as we move forward.”

Kansas coach Bill Self said he has not been able to see much of the Big 12 this year but what he has seen, he says, has improved.

“From what I can tell, our league is certainly better than what it was last year,” Self said. “I believe Oklahoma State is as good as anybody in America. Our league will be a five- or six-bid league.”

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