A soft chuckle could be heard on the Big 12 Coaches Teleconference call when Colorado's Ricardo Patton was asked about his squad averaging just 2,098 fans a game entering Wednesday's 8 p.m. battle against Kansas at Coors Events Center.
"Well, I guess I need to just say that I appreciate the people that have come out and just leave it at that," Patton said diplomatically.
Kansas coach Bill Self, who has played rounds of golf in the past with Patton, said the Buffs deserved fan support.
"Ricardo has done a real good job there," Self said. "Just two years ago they were 10-6 in the league and should have been an NCAA team. Not long ago they were second in the league when they they had Chauncey (Billups, now with Detroit Pistons). It seems to me ... without going into detail that team deserves to be supported.
"I know there's a lot of things to choose from in Colorado on beautiful afternoons. You can ski, do a lot of different things which obviously is a big reason people choose to live there. He is a good guy and does it right," Self added.
Rugged road: Nebraska's 59-58 victory over then-No. 12 Oklahoma cost the Sooners quite a bit of ground when the latest rankings by the AP came out Monday.
But to Big 12 coaches, the Sooners' defeat on Saturday - and their 10-spot drop to No. 22 - just served as one more reminder of the difficulties in winning conference games on the road.
"I think there's genuine respect for what is being done around the conference, by the teams and the coaches," Nebraska coach Barry Collier said.
The Cornhuskers' win highlighted a day on which home teams went 5-0 in their Big 12 openers.
"I think it was pretty evident that that game would be competitive," KU's Self said. "It's also pretty evident that the homecourt advantage means something, at least so far."
Texas A&M's Billy Gillispie, whose team came back from a nine-point halftime advantage to beat Texas Tech 63-55 on Saturday, said he expects the Big 12 to be competitive top to bottom - and among the nation's strongest conferences.
"I'm tired of people saying our league is not as good as it is," Gillispie said. "Our league is going to be better than a lot of leagues in the country."
Challenging for position: With perennial Big 12 powers Kansas and Oklahoma State dealing with the challenges posed by youthful rosters, this might appear to be a year for teams such as Texas A&M (11-1) or Nebraska (11-3) to make a move up the ladder.
But it's not as easy as that, Gillispie said.
"I'm not saying they can't be beat," he said. "But over the first 10 to 12 games of the year - no matter if their teams are inexperienced - most coaches in this league are masters, and they're going to take those games and develop a team."
Self praised Gillispie's Aggies.
"His team is ready to make a move," Self said. "Colorado's ready to make a move. Kansas State is ready to make a move. There's more parity than there has been in years."
Monday blahs: Missouri coach Quin Snyder sounded a bit weary during the conference call.
"Monday morning, man," he joked. "I'm fine," said Snyder, whose team opened with a 69-61 victory over Oklahoma State. "It's common knowledge, whether it's been said for the record or not, that my job's on the line, whatever that standard is. We've been through an investigation and faced recruiting restrictions, but it makes you stronger," he said. "I've become a better coach than I was two or three years ago."