Texas A&M on brink of NCAA invite

Tuesday, March 1, 2005 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 1:03 a.m. CDT, Thursday, July 10, 2008

Texas A&M coach Billy Gillispie likes simple math and in college basketball that’s not always easy to practice.

With the start of the NCAA tournament two weeks away and 11 of the Big 12 Conference’s teams at .500 or better, speculation about which teams are vying for postseason berths is increasing, as is the discussion of Ratings Percentage Index and win-loss records.

Gillispie prefers not to grapple with this process, avoiding equations such as the RPI, a measurement the NCAA men’s basketball committee uses to determine NCAA tournament qualification, and other factors that divert players’ focus.

“We haven’t talked about wins and losses, and we won’t change now,” said Gillispie in league’s weekly teleconference call Monday. “I really believe in playing as hard as you can and trying to continue to get better, and you add them up at the end and see where you’re supposed to go.

“I believe if you start talking about winning and stuff like that all the time then you put winning before the process by which you must go by to win, and I think you’re making a big mistake if you take that approach.”

Throughout the season, Gillispie has classified his team as a work-in-progress and an upstart, but with 18 wins it has a chance to be more than that.

“I do think we’re going to be a postseason team,” Gillispie said.

Coaches across the Big 12 said 20-win teams like Kansas, Oklahoma State and Oklahoma are locks to make the NCAA tournament, while Texas Tech (17-8, 9-5) and Texas (19-8, 8-6) are almost in that position.

Questions arise when it comes to the status of Texas A&M (18-7, 7-7) and Iowa State (15-10, 7-7).

“A&M and Iowa State have the potential to make the (NCAA) tournament but they need to finish strong,” Kansas coach Bill Self said. “There are 11 teams, in my opinion, that still have a chance for the postseason.”

Among the bottom five teams in the Big 12, four could finish above .500 overall and make the National Invitation Tournament.

The Big 12’s RPI is No. 3 in the country, behind the Big East and ACC.

“We’re playing in one of the great leagues; you’ve annually got teams that can play in the Final Four and win national championships,” Kansas State coach Jim Wooldridge said. “Over the last four or five years this league has risen to heights that we haven’t seen before.”

Oklahoma State coach Eddie Sutton is quick to note that his team is not as good as it was last year when it made the Final Four.

“I think we’re a very good basketball team, one of the 10 or 15 best teams in college basketball,” Sutton said. “But I know where not as good of a team because we’re not as good defensively as we were a year ago.”

That said, Sutton believes if the Cowboys improve defensively they have the experience to play deep into March.

HUSKER HONORED: Nebraska’s Aleks Maric is beginning to adjust to the size and quickness of players in the Big 12.

The freshman center from Sydney, Australia, led Nebraska to two wins last week and was named Big 12 Newcomer of the Week on Monday.

“Aleks has made unbelievable progress,” Nebraska coach Billy Collier said. “He’s a little bit of an old-style center in that he wants the ball in the deep post and he likes the physical game, which is a little unusual for an international big kid because most of the time they’re out dancing around on the perimeter.”

Maric averaged 14 points and seven rebounds and made 64.7 percent of his shots from the field as the Cornhuskers topped Oklahoma State and Iowa State. Against the Cyclones, he had 13 points and 12 rebounds. It was his third double-double of the year, tying the NU freshman record which was set in 1973.

SMALL BALL: Kansas State is thriving with a small lineup.

For three straight games, the Wildcats’ starting lineup has included Jeremiah Massey and Cartier Martin at the forward spots and Lance Harris, Fred Peete and Clent Stewart at the guard positions.

Since the change Kansas State (15-10, 5-9) has gone 2-1, the one loss coming at the last second against Oklahoma.

On Saturday, Massey was 10-for-13 from the floor and scored 28 points to go with 19 rebounds in a win against Colorado. Harris, a Hickman graduate, added 20 points on 8-of-11 shooting.

The Wildcats will look to maintain the trend Wednesday when they play Kansas at Allen Fieldhouse, which will celebrate its 50th anniversary.

Kansas’ Wayne Simien received recognition as the Big 12 Player of the Week on Monday, averaging 24.5 points and nine rebounds in the past two games.

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