Archive for Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Woodling: Jayhawks, Cowboys among unbeaten

December 14, 2004


From the drum-beating office of the Big 12 Conference came this breathtaking news Monday: The Big 12 has more undefeated men's basketball teams than any other league in the country.

Wow. And just think, each of the Big 12's unscathed teams has played six or seven whole games.

Kansas and Oklahoma State are two of the unbeatens. No surprise there. The Jayhawks boast four returning starters, have not faced a ranked team and won't hit the road until January. Meanwhile, the Cowboys (7-0) mostly have played in Stillwater, but they do own an impressive neutral court victory over Syracuse.

Checking in with spotless 6-0 records are Kansas State and Texas A&M;, a pair of perennial tail-enders. Neither the Wildcats nor the Aggies, as you probably suspected, have tramped down Burma Road.

Texas A&M;, under first-year coach Billy Gillispie, already has established a national record of sorts. The Aggies have whipped up on North Carolina A&T;, Prairie View A&M; and Alabama A&M; giving them the most wins ever for an ampersand school over other ampersand schools.

Surprisingly, Texas A&I; isn't on the Aggies' schedule, but Texas-Permian Basin is and -- you guessed it -- Gillispie's club won that one, too, and by a mere 62 points (98-36). Like Kansas, the Aggies haven't used their road uniforms.

Kansas State has tackled no ampersands, but the Wildcats do have a win over a hyphen school -- a 76-42 thumping of Arkansas-Pine Bluff. Still, the 'Cats can boast they've won away from home.

Technically, K-State's 64-61 win over Wyoming was on a neutral floor because the game was staged in Casper, Wyo., instead of the Cowboys' barn in Laramie, yet you have to figure more Santa Claus elves went through the turnstiles than K-State fans.

Three other Big 12 member schools -- Texas, Oklahoma and Texas Tech -- have one defeat apiece. Texas bowed by two points to Iowa in the Maui Classic, and Oklahoma lost by five points to Washington in the Great Alaska Shootout.

Texas Tech's lone defeat was an 83-68 flogging at Texas Christian -- the same school Kansas plowed, 93-74, in Allen Fieldhouse last week.

While the Big 12 Conference office has trumpeted its teams' glossy non-conference records against mostly suspect competition, league potentates have yet to emphasize what appears to be an impressive crop of freshmen.

Most people know Texas has two McDonald's All-Americans in point guard Daniel Gibson and big man LaMarcus Aldridge. Neither has disappointed. Gibson leads the deep and balanced Longhorns in scoring -- with an average of 12.7 points a game -- and in assists as well. Aldridge has battled foul trouble, but nevertheless is averaging 8.6 points and 6.1 rebounds.

Kansas' Russell Robinson is a keeper. The 6-foot-1 guard is the Jayhawks' sixth man, averaging 7.3 points while spending less than 15 minutes per game on the floor. Robinson would be a starter at three-fourths of the Big 12 schools.

Several other less ballyhooed freshmen also are making noise.

Texas Tech's Martin Zeno, a 6-5 guard from Sulphur, La., leads the conference in the important assist-to-turnover ratio with 26 assists and only six giveaways. Zeno also ranks among the league's top five in steals.

Colorado could make a case, however, that Richard Roby is a better all-around performer than Zeno. Roby, who spent the last four years at a prep school in Groton, Mass., leads the Buffaloes in scoring with a 14.8 average. The 6-6 Roby is also averaging 6.6 rebounds and ranks third in the league in steals.

Baylor boasts the league's highest-scoring freshman in guard Aaron Bruce, an Australian whose 17.8 scoring average is the fourth highest in the league. Another Australian, Nebraska's 6-11 Aleks Maric, is among the league's top rebounders at 9.0 per game. Maric also boasts a glossy .594 shooting percentage.

Finally, there is Texas A&M;'s Joseph Jones, a 6-9, 260-pounder from the small Texas town of Normangee who is averaging 11.0 points and 8.7 boards a game.

Kansas will begin conference play against A&M; on Jan. 5 in Allen Fieldhouse so we'll soon know if Jones is the real thing or a product of a nonconference schedule so soft you could spread it on Christmas cookies.

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