On today’s Big 12 Conference coaches’ teleconference, Baylor’s Scott Drew made a passing remark about all 10 teams making this year’s NCAA tournament.
Of course, the likelihood of that happening is not very great but the Big 12 is off to another strong start in non-conference play.
“Two through 10 this is the deepest this league has been since I’ve been here - this is my 14th season,” Drew said. “I think the numbers would show that.”
At the beginning of this week, three Big 12 teams have already won nine games, three more have eight victories and all 10 have winning records. The preseason No. 3 pick in the media poll, Texas, is the only team barely above .500 at 5-4, but the Longhorns show out-of-conference losses to Northwestern, Colorado, Michigan and UT-Arlington.
Oklahoma, coming off a Final Four appearance last year and no longer with All-American guard Buddy Hield, has lost three times so far this year, but those three losses are against North Carolina, Maryland and Wichita State.
Iowa State, too, shows three losses but those have come against Gonzaga, Cincinnati and Iowa.
Oklahoma State is the only other Big 12 team with multiple defeats so far this year, but the Cowboys’ two losses, like Oklahoma, have come against North Carolina and Maryland.
On the other hand, Baylor has been one of the surprise teams in the country with an 8-0 record and the No. 1 RPI in college basketball this week. The Bears count non-conference wins so far against Oregon, VCU, Michigan State, Louisville and Xavier and should finish the non-league portion of the schedule 12-0.
Kansas is where Kansas normally is at this time of the year. Following a season-opening loss to Indiana, the Jayhawks (9-1) have won nine in a row, including wins over Duke, Georgia, Stanford and Nebraska with out-of-conference games remaining against Davidson and UNLV.
Kansas State and TCU have outstanding 9-1 records, the Wildcats’ with Power 5 Conference wins over Boston College and Washington State so far and the Horned Frogs, under first-year coach Jamie Dixon, featuring wins against UNLV and Washington, twice.
Texas Tech is now 8-1 under first-year coach Chris Beard with its lone loss coming by two points against Auburn.
And West Virginia, picked in the preseason to finish second behind Kansas, is off to an 8-1 start, including a nine-point victory at then-No. 6 Virginia on December 3. The Mountaineers are favored to win their remaining three non-league games and should enter conference play with an 11-1 record.
Based on this week’s NCAA RPI rankings, the Big 12 has four teams in the top 50, seven in the top 100 and all 10 in the top 150.
“Big 12 fans are really in for a treat come January and February when conference play begins,” Drew noted.
Indeed, they are.
* On today’s morning teleconference, West Virginia’s Bob Huggins was asked about his pressing, trapping style of play that currently shows 11 different players averaging roughly 10 minutes per game. Two others are averaging almost nine minutes per game.
“It works for us. Guys get tired,” Huggins said. “The way we play they do a lot of running. The majority of the time when we substitute it is people asking out.”
This is the same style Huggins used in the mid-1990s when his Cincinnati teams were ranked in the top 25 and making deep runs in the NCAA tournament on an annual basis.
Huggins was asked if playing all these guys has made for one big, happy bench.
“I’m more interested in them keeping me happy,” he answered.
* Huggins was also asked about becoming just the ninth Division I coach to win 800 games, which come as early as this Saturday when the Mountaineers play host to UMKC at the WVU Coliseum on Saturday at 2 p.m.
“It means I’m old,” he said. “I don’t know. I really don’t think about the past. I try to live in the present.”
As for the present, Huggins said this year’s team has generally met his expectations so far with just one loss to Temple up in Brooklyn, New York.
“I would have hoped we would shoot free throws a little better than we have and just be a little more consistent, particularly on the perimeter,” he said. “We’re playing a lot of guys with a lot of experience and I think as the season goes they’re going to have to be more consistent in what they do.”
* The weekly Big 12 awards were announced this week with Kansas’ Frank Mason III earning player of the week honors and Oklahoma State guard Brandon Averette claiming newcomer of the week accolades.
Through five weeks, West Virginia has not had a player tabbed on the Big 12’s weekly honor roll and that’s not too surprising considering West Virginia’s style of play. Guard Daxter Miles Jr.
became the first Mountaineer player to score 20 points in a game this year - nine games into the season. With eight different players averaging roughly seven points per game or better, that’s likely to be the case all season long.
* Huggins was asked about the development of senior forward Nathan Adrian
, who ranks second on the team in scoring this week with an average of 10.6 points per game. The Morgantown resident leads the team in rebounding (6.4) and is second in assists with 36.
“I think what I’m most pleased about is his leadership,” Huggins said. “He’s done a great job of helping the young guys. He’s done a great job of trying to keep everybody on point and motivated. He knows what he’s doing. He’s without question our leader on the floor in terms of making sure everybody knows what’s going on and getting people in the right places. He’s been terrific.”
* And finally, Huggins is becoming quite the comedian. Following Saturday’s somewhat lackluster performance against VMI, Huggs was asked about the technical foul he received in the first half when West Virginia was only leading one-win VMI by just eight points.
It was his second technical so far this year, although technicals called on anyone sitting on the bench fall under Huggins’ jurisdiction as well.
“(The official) was like, ‘Do you want me to give you a technical?’ and I said, ‘Like I’ve never had one. If that’s supposed to scare me you really need to have another tactic because I have had enough of those,’” Huggins remarked. “You used to be able to get three back in the day - I got two at Cedarville.
“I guess it was in the first three or four minutes of the game and afterwards I had this kid, he’s a doctor now and a really bright kid. He came up and put his arm around me and said, ‘I think I have experienced a lot of things in my basketball career, but this is the first time that I have ever played a game with my coach in foul trouble!’” he said.