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Bust a move

Tournament site, teams headed in new directions

Posted: Tuesday March 11, 2003 12:01 PM



Many people think David Harrison (right) and Colorado are NCAA tournament locks. AP
1   Kansas
2   Texas
3   Oklahoma
4   Oklahoma State
5   Missouri
6   Colorado
7   Texas Tech
8   Texas A&M
9   Baylor
10   Iowa State
11   Kansas State
12   Nebraska
0
Times Texas led Saturday's showdown against Oklahoma in the first 39 minutes, 6 seconds. The Longhorns took their first lead with 54 seconds left, then went on to a 76-71 victory that ended the Sooners' NCAA-best 37-game home winning streak.
"They can take their Antlers and put 'em ... I like to see the look on their faces after we win. All they do -- calling us on the phone -- is a waste. Now they get to be sick until they play us another year."

-- Kansas forward Keith Langford, referring to the Missouri spirit group that taunted the Jayhawks before KU beat the Tigers 79-74 on Sunday.

By Mike Finger, SI.com

After being played in Kansas City for the first six years of the new league's existence -- not to mention the final 19 years of the Big Eight era -- the Big 12 conference tournament moves to Dallas this week.

In fact, that seems to be the theme of the whole week.

Moving.

After all, it seems that reputations and NCAA postseason positions can move just as quickly as conference tournaments these days.

Some teams, like NCAA tournament top-seeds-of-the-moment Kansas and Texas, want to stay put. Others, like Colorado, Texas Tech and the league's stable of would-be Cinderellas, would love to move in a big way.

Here's an overview of how each team in the league can use this week's tournament to head in one direction or another, in order of their Big 12 seeding:

  • Kansas: The Jayhawks would appear to have the inside track on a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament, but their grip on that reward might be slippery enough to force them into a strong showing this week. Advancing to Sunday's championship game should make a top seed a lead-pipe cinch. Losing in the first round to either Texas A&M or Iowa State might give the selection committee some doubts.

  • Texas: The Longhorns are in virtually the same position as Kansas, but they stand to receive an even bigger prize. If they hold on to their stature as a No. 1 NCAA seed, they will have a great chance to be placed in the South Region, where the third- and fourth-round games are played in San Antonio -- just 70 miles down Interstate 35 from their campus.

  • Oklahoma: Last year, the Sooners beat Kansas for the Big 12 tournament title and still wound up as a No. 2 seed. This year, their resume is close enough to those of Texas and Kansas to at least make the committee consider moving them up if they repeat as champions. Even with a first-round loss, Oklahoma shouldn't drop any further than a third seed.

  • Oklahoma State: The Cowboys are a team that hasn't exactly met the committee's standards for strong finishes, OSU enters the conference tournament having lost five of its last seven games. Eddie Sutton's squad could be poised to either gain or lose more ground than any other Big 12 team in the brackets based on how it fares this week.

  • Missouri: One factor holding the Tigers' back in the seeding process is their 4-8 combined road/neutral record this season. They could answer a lot of questions by at least making the semifinals this week, but they'll need to beat the Cowboys to get there.

  • Colorado: Speaking of the road-challenged, the Buffaloes went 1-7 away from the Rocky Mountains in Big 12 play this year, which is the main reason some think they still aren't an NCAA tournament lock. Colorado should be in no matter what, but it wouldn't hurt to remove all doubt by beating Kansas State in Thursday's first round.

  • Texas Tech: The Red Raiders could have planted themselves back on the bubble by winning at Baylor on Saturday, but their regular season-ending loss means they're now a longshot at best. Even though Bob Knight said Monday his team needs to win the Big 12 tournament to get into the NCAA's, advancing to the championship game -- while beating Texas and Oklahoma on the way -- might at least get Tech some serious consideration.

  • Texas A&M: Just like every team seeded below them, the Aggies' only shot at the NCAA tournament is winning four straight games to earn the automatic bid. But a first-round victory would clinch A&M's first winning season in nine years, which would be a big step for a program moving forward.

  • Iowa State: The Cyclones are one of several Big 12 teams that figure to receive some interest from the postseason NIT. A decent showing in Dallas, coupled with some extra NIT practice time, could pay big dividends for a team that looks ready for a breakthrough next year.

  • Baylor: In addition to giving Dave Bliss a second consecutive victory over former mentor Knight, a first-round win would clinch the Bears' second winning season in three years and strengthen their case for an NIT invitation.

  • Kansas State: Milestones are important for a rebuilding program anywhere they can get them. A win this week would give the Wildcats their highest victory total in four years.

  • Nebraska: One of the Big 12's youngest teams, a respectable showing in Dallas might do wonders for offseason momentum. Like the rest of the league, the Huskers would like to keep moving forward.

    For much of his first two years at Colorado, David Harrison has been known as much for underachievement as his NBA-ready body.

    But he's gradually changing that perception.

    Harrison, a 7-foot sophomore, was named to the league's all-improved team this week, quite a step for a player that has had difficulty living up to the hype he received when he signed with the Buffaloes.

    Harrison averaged 13 points and 8 rebounds per game this season, which doesn't represent any great improvement over last year's numbers, but he started to make a bigger impact on games later in the year.

    On Saturday, he became the first player in Big 12 history to collect two triple-doubles in a single season, racking up 20 points, 10 rebounds and 11 blocks against Nebraska.

     

    HOT: Ivan McFarlin, Oklahoma State

    The junior forward looked unfocused and uninspired while suffering through one of the worst slumps of his career last month, but last week he posted his first two double-doubles in 11 games, collecting a combined 30 points and 25 rebounds over a two-game span.

    NOT: Arthur Johnson, Missouri

    The junior center saw his candidacy for first-team all-conference honors fall completely apart down the stretch. In his last three games, Johnson has averaged just 6 points per game and has missed 18 of 26 shots.

    HOT: Andrew Drevo, Nebraska

    One of the league's most promising newcomers, Drevo scored 43 points and made 60 percent of his field goal attempts in two games combined last week.

     

    Texas Tech athletic director Gerald Myers was caught off-guard last week when he received an unusual piece of news from Bob Knight -- the second-year coach told his boss he won't accept his $250,000 base salary this year.

    Knight, who according to Myers will accept the rest of his package estimated at $900,000 per year, told Myers he didn't feel he deserved his salary after the Red Raiders failed to meet his expectations. One year after finishing 23-9 and advancing to the NCAA tournament, Tech finished the regular season 16-11 with a 6-10 mark in the Big 12.

    "It was a surprise, but he feels like it was the right thing to do," Myers said. "I tried to talk him out of it, but he was set on doing it. I think it shows his integrity."

     

    T.J. Ford, Texas

    The sophomore guard added to his ever-growing highlight reel by coolly leading the Longhorns back to a thrilling come-from-behind win at Oklahoma on Saturday. He had 18 points, 10 assists, five rebounds and made clutch play after clutch play in the closing minutes.

    Kirk Hinrich, Kansas

    Another player familiar with making big shots, the senior guard scored 20 points and hit the game-winning 3-pointer as the shot-clock buzzer sounded as the Jayhawks completed a another regular-season sweep of arch rival Missouri on Sunday.

    Lawrence Roberts, Baylor

    Draped by Texas Tech defenders, the sophomore forward still managed to dominate the paint on Saturday, collecting 28 points and 16 rebounds as the Bears burst the Red Raiders' bubble.

     

    The teams on the floor won't be the only ones trying to make a big impression at this week's Big 12 tournament. The city of Dallas -- and the state of Texas -- will be feeling a little pressure as well.

    For decades, the Big Eight-turned-Big 12 tournament was one of the most popular events of the year in Kansas City. Kemper Arena was always full, while the hospitality and environment were superb.

    The Big 12's decision to move the event to Dallas on a two-year basis was greeted with skepticism by many across the conference, as traditionalists wondered if the football-crazy Lone Star State could support the tournament as well as Kansas City.

    Well, every game of this year's event has been sold out for weeks, and now Dallas has a chance to prove it's worthy of hosting it again when the tournament becomes available in 2006.

     

    Oklahoma coach Kelvin Sampson said Sooners fans should get used to seeing Ebi Ere -- who was the team's leading scorer for much of the nonconference season -- coming off the bench. Ere's struggles paved the way for freshman De'Angelo Alexander to become a permanent part of Oklahoma's starting lineup. "De'Angelo Alexander is embedded as a starter," Sampson said. "He'll start every game the rest of the year." ... Texas Tech coach Bob Knight reiterated this week that the Red Raiders will play in the NIT if they are invited. ... Kansas coach Roy Williams said that, in some ways, this year's regular-season Big 12 championship, when his team had to overcome the early departure of Drew Gooden and the injury to Wayne Simien, is more gratifying than last year's, when the Jayhawks went 16-0. "It's very satisfying for us," Williams said. "We had some adversity. We didn't get off to the best start in the world." ... Colorado and Baylor are the only two teams in the conference to have never won a conference tournament championship.

    Mike Finger covers the Big 12 for the San Antonio Express-News. His "This Week in the Big 12" column appears Tuesdays during the season.


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