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Archive for Friday, October 12, 2007

Big 12 coaches tap KU No. 1

Jayhawks atop poll for eighth time in 11 years

October 12, 2007

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Kansas is king of the hill in Big 12 Conference men's basketball ... again.

For the second straight year and eighth time in the past 11 seasons, the Jayhawks have been tapped preseason favorite to win the conference title in a vote of the league's head coaches.

Ten of 12 league coaches believe KU will win its fourth consecutive league crown and sixth in seven seasons. Texas A&M, which finished third in the poll behind Texas, received the other two first-place votes. Coaches cannot vote for their own teams.

Kansas State placed fourth, followed by Missouri and Oklahoma (tie fifth), Oklahoma State, Texas Tech, Baylor, Nebraska, Iowa State and Colorado.

"It is nice to be selected, but this is based only on what we accomplished last year and what we have coming back. This is a whole new team, and we hope we can play to this preseason expectation," KU coach Bill Self said Thursday.

Self indicated the league would be much stronger than some experts have indicated.

"The conference is good, really good," Self said. "Texas is loaded. They have their whole team back but Kevin Durant. We have our whole team back but Julian (Wright). Texas has six guys at least as big as Darnell (Jackson, 6-foot-8,. 250).

"They will run guys in and out. Texas A&M will be awfully good," added Self, who obviously voted for the Aggies tops, since coaches cannot select their own teams. "The surprise team in a positive way I think will be Missouri. Kansas State is good. They have a chance to be one of the top four teams in the league. I could go down the line about the rest of the teams as well. It's a tough league."

As far as his own team, KU seems to be in everybody's preseason top five nationally.

"I like our team. I can't say I love our chances or anything, because we haven't practiced yet, but the makeup and pieces ... if everybody is healthy and Brandon (Rush, coming off ACL surgery) gets right, then I think we could be an awfully fun team to watch play and coach," he said.

"We've got to stay healthy. A lot of things have to happen that need to happen for any team that wants to be good. If we have strong senior leadership, which I think we will, this could be a lot of fun."

Self said it might be a team that takes some time to click. Rush is expected back Dec. 1 or a month on either side of that.

"We will not be a finished product early because of Brandon," Self said. "We don't know where he's going to be. It will be a tinkering and all that. I do think we have enough returning talent and players hopefully we can get off to a more hungry start than a year ago. I do think we'll be a fun team to watch play."

NOTES: It should be noted the Big 12 had no poll in its first year of existence (1996-97). KU was tapped to win the league in the media poll that year. ... KU is one of two Big 12 schools that have gone on to win the conference championship after being dubbed No. 1 in preseason voting. The Jayhawks accomplished the feat in five of their seven Big 12 regular-season titles - 1998, 2002, 2003, 2005 and 2007. Kansas won the 1997 and 2006 titles but was not selected as the preseason favorite. ... Here are the poll results. KU 120 points, Texas 105, Texas A&M 101, K-State 91, Missouri and Oklahoma 66, Oklahoma State 61, Texas Tech 60, Baylor 55, Nebraska 29, Iowa State 22, Colorado 16.

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