Kansas is not the Big 12's only punch this year

BY foxsports • February 16, 2010

The Big 12 is on a roll.

For this week at least, the league with the No. 1 team in America also sports the No. 1 RPI and the No. 1 record against outsiders.

That makes it tough for Big 12 coaches to fake modesty. So does their sterling record against all comers from the other major conferences. Nobody tops the Big 12's 28-12. The ACC, at 24-21, is the only other conference that's over .500 against the other majors.

``Obviously, we all think it's the No. 1 conference in America,'' Colorado coach Jeff Bzdelik said Monday.

He'll get no argument from any of his Big 12 colleagues.

``I think from top to bottom it is definitely the strongest league in the country,'' Oklahoma State coach Travis Ford said. ``You've got great teams, great individual players.''

Starting with No. 1 Kansas, the league has five teams ranked in the Top 25. Frank Martin's Kansas State Wildcats are No. 7, the highest they've been since John F. Kennedy was just getting settled in the White House.

Texas is No. 15, Baylor is No. 22 and Texas A&M cracked the rankings on Monday at No. 24.

In the latest RPI, no league can match the Big 12 with seven teams in the top 40 and eight in the top 45. The Big 12 also has six teams with 18 or more wins, more than any other league.

And of course, no one has forgotten that absolutely astounding 106-1 home record against outsiders.

``I have the third-longest tenure in the Big 12 and this is definitely the best it's been since I've been here,'' said Baylor coach Scott Drew. ``The statistics are pretty easy when you see the No. 1 RPI conference in America, and against the other power conferences the Big 12 being 28-12. That's quite impressive.''

Maybe this will be the year a Big 12 team squeezes into the NCAA tournament with something less than a break-even conference mark. That hasn't happened since the Big 12 was formed in 1996 although Iowa State did it three times as a member of the Big Eight, including in 1995 when the Cyclones were 22-10 overall but only 6-8 in the league.

Since the NCAA tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985, 33 teams with losing conference records have made it to the Big Dance.

``ACC teams have gotten in with below .500 records,'' Texas Tech coach Pat Knight said. ``The way we keep beating up on each other, I would not be surprised if somebody got in at 7-9. But I think the league's so tough and some of the other leagues are weaker this year. It depends on the last couple of weeks and what kind of run they have in the Big 12 tournament. I would not be surprised if someone gets in at 7-9.''

Rick Barnes of Texas, the dean of Big 12 coaches, said he has never seen the league this strong.

``In the 12 years I've been here, there's no doubt,'' he said. ``Any given night, anybody in our league can beat anybody. There's no way you can say, `We can have a bad night and win this game.' It hasn't always been like this. You knew some times in the past that if you just got the effort you needed, you'd be OK.''

But does the rest of the country appreciate how good Big 12 basketball has become?

``Nope,'' said Jeff Capel, who played at Duke and coached at Old Dominion and Virginia Commonwealth before heading West in 2006 to Oklahoma.

``I definitely think there's an East Coast bias. I certainly had it when I grew up there,'' he said. ``You just don't think of any other schools outside of the East Coast because it's all basketball on that side. You could take our first team all-league and make a case for each guy to be a first-team All-American. I think that shows you the depth and the quality of our league.''

Real basketball insiders know, Bzdelik said.

``The rest of the nation, the media and the fans will find out come tournament time when we have some teams make noise in the tournament,'' the Colorado coach said. ``That's not a rah-rah for our league. I think it's just a fact.''

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