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Originally published January 13, 2009 at 12:00a.m., updated January 13, 2009 at 09:20a.m.

Keegan

Big 12 teams young

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Did playing a game in East Lansing, Mich., Kansas University coach Bill Self was asked on Monday’s Big 12 conference call, get his players ready for what to expect in the Big 12?

Self paused and then gave the predictable affirmative answer. But the truth is Kansas already has scratched off the toughest game on its schedule. Tougher, even, than traveling to Norman on Feb. 2 to play Oklahoma, and heading to Waco on Feb. 23 to face Baylor.

Sure, KU has some difficult games ahead, not the least being a Feb. 9 date in Columbia and a March 8, season-ending game in Allen Fieldhouse against Texas. But the truth is, compared to most seasons, the Big 12 is down, not as deep as usual, not as experienced.

Beginning with tonight’s conference opener in Allen Fieldhouse against Kansas State, the “we’re young,” explanation for subpar performance won’t fly more often than it will.

The Big 12’s a young conference. Thanks to kenpom.com, a nifty Web site that tracks experience and just about everything else, we’re able to see just how young.

Baylor, the most experienced team in the conference, ranks 54th among 344 Division I schools. The rest of the Big 12: 90. Texas; 100. Nebraska; 106. Oklahoma State; 148. Oklahoma; 156. Texas A&M; 180. Missouri; 188. Texas Tech; 202. Iowa State; 250. Kansas State; 328. Colorado; 333. Kansas.

Not that experience is everything in college basketball. After all, Butler University, ranked 17th in the nation, is ranked 340th in experience. Not just its head coach, Brad Stevens, 31, is young. Obviously, the Bulldogs are an exception.

Throughout the Big 12, coaches are battling some of the same issues as Self: Uneven performances from young players, suspect shot selection, and especially, difficulty winning on the road.

Kansas State coach Frank Martin has a pair of ultra-fast guards in Denis Clemente and Jacob Pullen. When the K-State guards force turnovers, the Wildcats tend to win. When they turn it over too often, they tend to lose. The Wildcats are averaging roughly 18 turnovers in their losses, 12 in their wins. Both guards have been known to take wild shots.

“When you ask players to accept the responsibility of leadership, young players think it’s their job when the team is struggling to go create a basket, go take a shot,” Martin said. “It takes time. It takes experience. It takes the burden of that responsibility to understand why that’s not what you’re supposed to do, and they’ve gotten better at that.”

Taking care of the basketball is tougher on the road, especially for young guards. Turnovers often are the result of guards getting flustered, which happens more on the road. That’s why Kansas should win tonight and shouldn’t have much problem going, say, 7-1 at home in conference and at least 3-5 on the road, and maybe 2-1 in the Big 12 tournament, leaving the Jayhawks waiting for a bid on Selection Sunday with a 23-11 record.

Meanwhile, Kansas State has an identical 11-4 record to KU, but it lacks a marquee victory for the selection committee. (Kansas defeated Tennessee).

There are 16,300 reasons to believe that extra motivation won’t be enough for K-State to end KU’s 33-game Allen Fieldhouse winning streak.

Kansas 79, Kansas State 71.

Comments

RockChalkJayBlog 11 years ago

344 Division 1 Schools:Baylor-54thTexas-90thNebraska-100thOklahoma State-106thOklahoma-148thTexas A&M-156thMissouri-180thTexas Tech-188thIowa State 202ndKansas State-250thColorado-328thKansas-333rd____

KUPROUD 11 years ago

Right now I'd take 23-11 and skip happily down the road toward to the Big 12 tournament. That would mean we have grown-up significantly and are ready for March.

Sally Presson 11 years ago

I know we're young, but we've got so much talent. By March these guys are going to be experienced and ready for March madness!! AND watch out for next year, hopefully everyone stays--we'll be outstanding. I wouldn't trade this team with any team in the nation!! GO HAWKS!!!

Dirk Medema 11 years ago

RockChalkJayBlogThanks for the correction on the list of 344 Division 1 Schools. I was wondering how Baylor could be both the most experienced team in the B12 and also middle of the conference. I wonder if the editors will wake up and correct it.It is also interesting to see just how young our Hawks.

JayCeph 11 years ago

My grandfather always used to say, "...youth is wasted on the 'young'."I just love it! Go Hawks!!

JJHawq 11 years ago

Jayceph - your granpa must have gotten that from a smashing pumpkins song...

Dirk Medema 11 years ago

The last 2 games, including KState, and this insightful article, seem to point to KU faring very well in the BigXII this season - maybe even winning the tourney if not the season out right, but making an early exit at the hands of a tenacious, 40 minutes veteran team in the tourney. We don't have the conditioning/endurance that comes with maturity to maintain D1 intensity for 40 minutes. The BigXII, as noted above, is also so young, that they can't do it either, and tonight was a good example of it.Unfortunately, there are plenty of D1 teams out of the 345 that have the maturity to play with intensity for a full 40 minutes, and IMHO one of them wil give us an early exit from the big dance. That's alright also. It's about learning, improving, and moving forward.Rock Chalk

yates33333 11 years ago

JJHawq. G. K. Chesterson supposedly said it. Go Hawks.

trich424 11 years ago

"Right now I'd take 23-11"9 losses would be more realistic probably. KU should run the North, and take two in the South (A&M and Ok State). That would be four losses, and losing AT Mizzou is possible, though with Lyons getting suspended that is up in the air.

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