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Archive for Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Big 12 coaches: Road victories prove parity

January 17, 2006

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After home teams went unbeaten in the first week of Big 12 Conference play, the conference's coaches talked about how hard it was to win on the road.

In the following week, eight of them did just that. Eight lost at home. Five teams - Oklahoma, Colorado, Missouri, Kansas University and Kansas State - did both.

"Last week kind of turned everybody's thinking on their heads," said Missouri coach Quin Snyder, whose Tigers beat then-No. 22 Oklahoma, 62-59, in Norman before losing to Colorado, 74-71, on Saturday at home. MU won again at home, 89-86 in overtime, Monday against Kansas.

"I still think it's going to be tough to win on the road," Snyder said Monday during the Big 12 coaches' weekly conference call, "but this might be one of those years where you throw that out the window."

Kansas State coach Jim Wooldridge, whose team rebounded from a 57-42 home loss to Nebraska to stun Kansas, 59-55, Saturday in Allen Fieldhouse, said he still considered last week an aberration - for now.

"It's stunning, isn't it? Not stunning, maybe, but surprising, that that many teams went on the road and won," said Wooldridge, whose Wildcats snapped a 31-game losing streak against the Jayhawks. "I don't think that's going to be the case as season progresses from here. We're projecting the future here, but I don't see that happening very often."

Oklahoma coach Kelvin Sampson, whose Sooners followed their home loss with a 45-44 victory Saturday at Texas A&M, said last week's results showed the conference's parity.

"Texas has kind of separated itself," Sampson said. "They're the one team that can not be at their best and win, because they're good. There's not that much difference between the rest of us right now. We're all searching."

The Longhorns are, too, coach Rick Barnes said.

"I want to see us play better," Barnes said. "We haven't played as well as we are capable of playing, but we have the attitude of trying to get better."

There is a price to that parity. Last week's rash of home losses left the Big 12 with two ranked teams - but just barely.

Texas moved up three spots to No. 5 after going 2-0 for the week, including a 58-55 nonconference victory on Saturday over then-No. 3 Villanova. Oklahoma, meanwhile, dropped three places to No. 25 when the latest rankings by the Associated Press came out Monday.

Kansas, which had been inching closer to its first ranking of the year, was still receiving votes but lost significant ground after Saturday's defeat by Kansas State snapped the Jayhawks' seven-game winning streak.

The coaches' response?

Just wait until next year.

"I think parity is a good thing," Oklahoma State coach Eddie Sutton said. "In the ACC and the Big 10, their teams are overall - top to bottom - better than ours right now. But you look at the makeup of some of these Big 12 teams and they're very young. I think a year from now, the parity will be good, because all of our teams will be better."

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Struggling to score: It hasn't taken a lot of points to come out on top in a Big 12 game this season.

After the first 15 games, the average winning score was 69.5 points, with four winning scores of 60 or fewer points. Nebraska is off to a 2-0 conference start despite not breaking the 60-point barrier in either of its Big 12 games.

"I haven't studied all the teams in this league, but I know it's hard to make baskets in this league," Texas A&M coach Billy Gillispie said. "I think it's attributable to the good defenses out there. There are good offenses out there, good offensive schemes, so I would say it's good defense."

Is that a code for "zone?"

In some cases, it might be. Kansas State's second-half comeback got a big boost from a 2-3 zone that frustrated the Jayhawks, and Oklahoma has seen a steady diet of the zone as opponents try to exploit the Sooners' struggles in the backcourt.

Sampson, though, didn't think more Big 12 teams were relying on the zone this year.

"It seems this topic comes up every year on the conference call since Syracuse won the national championship" in 2003, Sampson said. "We see a lot of zone for obvious reasons - because we have a hard time making 3s."

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Weekly honors: Colorado guard Richard Roby, who scored a career-high 33 points in the Buffaloes' win at Missouri, was named the conference's latest player of the week in voting announced Monday.

The 6-foot-5, 195-pound sophomore averaged 24 points for the week.

Oklahoma State forward Torre Johnson, a junior transfer from Garden City Community College, was the conference's top newcomer for the second time this season.

Johnson averaged 19 points and 7.5 rebounds last week, with career highs of 26 points and 12 rebounds in Saturday's 66-48 victory at Baylor.

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