Nov. 25, 2003
Conference Previews: ACC | A-10 | Big East | Big Ten | Big 12 | C-USA | Pac-10 | SEC
As a new college-basketball season begins, I'm identifying three key questions for each of the eight major conferences. We're going in alphabetical order, and now it's time for the Big 12...
1. How will Kansas fare with Bill Self as head coach?
Former Kansas coach Roy Williams, now at North Carolina, did not leave the cupboard bare for new coach Bill Self (who came from Illinois).
Williams left some quality personnel. In fact, the Jayhawks have one of the most explosive tandems in America: super juniors Wayne Simien (at forward) and Keith Langford (at guard). They will be right up there with UConn's Emeka Okafor and Ben Gordon in terms of an inside-outside 1-2 punch.
Simien and Langford will provide plenty of big nights, putting smiles on the faces of "Rock, Chalk, Jayhawk" fans.
Look for a big year from another junior, guard Aaron Miles. I have a feeling his scoring totals will increase this season. His defense is stellar.
The impact of 6-11 freshman David Padgett, a real diaper dandy, will be a major force. This kid is ready to step in and be a factor.
Kansas won't miss a beat as it battles for a third straight Final Four appearance. Under Williams, the Jayhawks lost in the Final Four to the past two national champions, Maryland in 2002 and Syracuse in 2003.
Self is an outstanding leader, motivator and communicator who has handled pressure situations before. He is a flat-out winner, baby!
2. Will Bob Knight's Red Raiders compete for an NCAA berth?
At Texas Tech, the General is back for his third campaign in Lubbock. Just like John Chaney at Temple, a Bob Knight-coached team means respect, preparation and a readiness to play on both ends of the court.
The return of senior guard Andre Emmett provides a big-time point producer on offense (21.8 ppg last season). The Red Raiders must find a consistent replacement for Kasib Powell, who provided senior leadership last season. His production was key last season (15 ppg).
Knight has a number of quality newcomers ready to help out. Once they learn the Knight system, the focus of trying to make the NCAA Tournament will take over.
Last year, Texas Tech suffered an unlucky break due to a clock error against Oklahoma. A clock glitch gave extra time to the Sooners at the end of the game, allowing OU to beat the Red Raiders with a buzzer-beater that should not have counted. And that may have cost Texas Tech an NCAA Tournament berth (they ended up in the NIT).
The Red Raiders gained some winning experience before falling in the NIT semifinals to St. John's.
The Big 12 is so loaded with Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma, Texas, Oklahoma State, Colorado and Texas Tech. It won't be easy for the Red Raiders to get to the Big Dance, but Knight's kids will scrap and claw and play hard night in and night out.
3. Will Missouri overcome the pressure of an investigation?
The big question is, how much of a hangover will there be over the Ricky Clemons investigation? How will this situation affect the Tigers?
Let me tell you, players are very resilient, and they compete and play at a high level. But this could affect the coaches and their thinking process. There will be plenty of questions about the situation.
Coach Quin Snyder has assembled a dynamite team. The senior duo of guard Rickey Paulding and center Arthur Johnson will be special -- much like UConn's Okafor-Gordon pairing and Kansas' Simien-Langford duo. It's rare to have a big-time, inside-outside combo like that.
Junior forward Jason Conley, who flat-out knows how to score, will be eligible in December after transferring from VMI. Conley became the first freshman to lead the nation in scoring when he was at VMI.
Missouri will be a top-10 team with the opportunity for a big-time season. These kids want to play, so outside pressure won't bother them much. Kansas-Missouri should be an outstanding matchup, and Texas and Oklahoma aren't far behind. It should be a big year in the Big 12.
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