Big 12 hoops tips off Saturday after one of the best non-conference showings certainly in recent years. At least three teams (Kansas, Texas, Texas A&M) have a legitimate shot at playing deep into the NCAA Tournament in mid-to-late March.
Circumstance prevents much exposure for teams in the northern half of the conference. But the class team is obviously Kansas -- off to its best start (15-0) since the 19996-97 team won its first 22 games.
Guard Sherron Collins has shaken effects of an early injury and continues to develop into one of the league’s best players among the league’s deepest quality backcourt that includes Mario Chalmers, Russell Robinson and Brandon Rush -- whose game continues to evolve after off-season knee surgery.
KU has as much quality depth as, oh, any team since the ‘Hawks did last year. “I like our team,” coach Bill Self said Thursday.
The Hawks get tested immediately, opening at Nebraska. How do I live with that statement considering KU won its two meeting with the Cornhuskers 76-56 and 92-39? I may be wrong, but the Huskers may be the most surprisingly good team in a yet-improving conference under second-year coach Doc Sadler. Keep and eye on that one Saturday.
The other most intriguing game will be Kansas State at Oklahoma. The Wildcats have two of the league’s best young players in Michael Beasley and Bill Walker, but OU made the biggest move up of any team through the non-conference schedule.
The other one to watch is Texas Tech at Oklahoma State. Expect Tech to win, but an upset even at home could provide a needed bounce for a young Cowboys team trying to find itself.
This should be fun.
-- Mike Jones