For the first time in five years, Kansas University's men's basketball team is not the preseason pick to win the Big 12 Conference.
The Big 12 coaches Wednesday tapped Missouri as the favorite to win the league title, followed by Texas, two-time defending champion Kansas, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Colorado, Texas Tech, Kansas State, Texas A&M;, Iowa State, Nebraska and Baylor.
"I can understand why the coaches would put us there. I think that's fine to be picked there," KU first-year coach Bill Self said Wednesday afternoon.
"I think it reinforces what we've been saying all along ... people on the outside may see this as a transitional opportunity to gain some ground on the University of Kansas. I am not happy and not upset (by poll). All that preseason stuff does not matter at all anyway. All it makes for is recruiting mail-outs. I am not the least bit insulted. It also can be motivation for our team."
KU's Wayne Simien was named to the five-player all-Big 12 team, joining preseason player of the year Andre Emmett of Texas Tech, Arthur Johnson and Ricky Paulding of Missouri and James Thomas of Texas. KU's Keith Langford earned honorable mention.
David Padgett of KU and Drew Lavender of Oklahoma were named co-freshmen of the year.
"That is great," Self said of Simien and Padgett being honored, "but of those guys, one hasn't made a basket yet (in college) and the other was hurt the majority of the year. It's great that other people see so much potential in them and I do as well. There's a strong case for 10 to 12 guys to be picked all-league. I can make a case for Wayne and others on our team as well."
Self -- he was not allowed to vote for his own team or own players in the poll -- was one of eight coaches in the league to pick Missouri as preseason conference champ.
The Tigers received eight first-place votes and 114 points. Texas had three first-place votes and 108 points. KU had one first-place vote and 106 points. OU was a distant fourth with 92 points.
"I can see on paper why Missouri was picked -- because of their returning players and talent," Self said. "Add transfers and it's easy to see why they have the best returning team."
Self also understands why Texas, like KU a Final Four team last year, hopped over KU in the poll.
"They are probably the deepest team in the league," Self said. "Coming off a Final Four berth and losing one lottery pick (T.J. Ford), while we lost two lottery picks (Kirk Hinrich, Nick Collison)."
Joining Langford as honorable mention all-league picks were: Tony Allen, Oklahoma State; David Harrison, Colorado; Michael Morandais, Colorado; Brandon Mouton, Texas; Antoine Wright, Texas A&M.; Missouri's Jason Conley, a transfer from Virginia Military Institute, was named was named preseason newcomer of the year. KU's J.R. Giddens received votes for freshman of the year.
Notes: This marks the highest Missouri has been picked in the preseason coaches poll. In 2001-02, MU was tapped second. ... Kansas was picked first the past four years, the Jayhawks finishing the year first the past two seasons, tying for second in 2000-01 and placing fifth in 1999-2000. Oklahoma State was tapped first in the poll in 1998-99; KU first in 1997-98. There was no poll in 1996-97. ... The media poll will be released at next week's Big 12 Media Day in Dallas. ... KU's Simien and Langford are two of 50 candidates for this year's John Wooden national player of the year award. Other Big 12 players on the list: Emmett, Texas Tech; Harrison, Colorado; Kevin Bookout, Oklahoma; Johnson, Paulding, Missouri; Mouton, Thomas, Texas.