Is it just me or does it seem like no one respects the Big 12 this season?
Maybe it’s because this league is really top heavy this year. Let’s be honest, the bottom of the Big 12 is not at the level of a league like the SEC or the ACC. There are a bunch of teams rebuilding, Oklahoma State has been a disappointment, Texas Tech sure has some quality wins against the top of the conference, and Kansas State is just not ready to break into the upper echelon – yet. But the top features three legitimate national title contenders capable of making a magical run deep into March – Kansas, Texas, and Texas A&M.
Prior to Wednesday, Texas A&M was the least talked about number six team in the country that I can remember in a long time. A win in fabled Phog Allen Fieldhouse back in January got the Aggies a little bit of love, but Billy Gillispie’s squad has never gotten the pub they’ve deserved this season. A&M is one of the nation’s toughest teams with one of the country’s best players – Acie Law IV. It will be interesting to see if Law earns first-team All-American honors at the end of the year like he deserves. Is the nation watching this kid at all? The true barometer will be the number of postseason honors he garners. Gillispie, who just earned his second Coach of the Year honor in the Big 12, has one of the nation’s best defenses and the Aggies are extremely consistent.
A week ago, certain experts proclaimed Kansas cannot get to the “top line”, meaning it would not be able to claim a number one seed - my how that conversation has changed in a week. Yes, I realize that’s the fickle nature of the analysts featured in the world of college basketball, but seven days ago it was way to early to proclaim anything a given. Once the poll is released this week, Kansas should be number two, and somehow the Jayhawks have won eight straight and managed to “sneak up” on some people. Doesn’t it seem like since KU defeated Florida in the year, it’s been missing from the national radar? Only in the last week have people started to recognize that KU is playing some damn good ball. Guaranteed you’ll hear the name “Kansas” a lot this week.
Then there’s Texas.
Here’s a team that’s extremely young and incredibly talented. People are just now deciding freshman Kevin Durant is by far the most gifted player in the nation. Durant has certainly done quite a bit in the last week or so to state his case as national player of the year but I heard Dick Vitale say he JUST decided he’s giving the nod to Durant. If I had a dime for every time I’ve heard this week, “I had no idea how good that guy is”, I’d be rich. Granted I live in a football engulfed world here in Florida but come on, Durant has been outstanding since Day one.
As far as Texas goes, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Longhorns make the Final Four. They are one of the best offensive teams in the country, and that’s not just because they have a 6-9 dynamo who can basically get any shots he wants at any time.
The one drawback for Texas is its rebounding and defense, two areas where KU hurt the Horns this weekend. These two areas are strengths for the Aggies and Jayhawks and something Rick Barnes will have to harp on for Texas to have true postseason success.
Big 12 fans certainly know all about these teams, but the rest of the nation should remember, don’t forget about this terrific trio of teams come March.