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Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Woodling

Woodling: KU men could fall to seventh in Big 12

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Big 12 Conference officials sent their annual preseason football ballot to the media this week.

I'm glad it wasn't the basketball ballot.

In the wake of the NBA Draft, I've been thinking about the 2005-06 Big 12 basketball season and wondering how far Kansas University will tumble in the preseason rankings.

Let's face it. The Jayhawks won't be highly regarded even if coach Bill Self has three McDonald's All-Americans coming in to replace four starters.

Media folk don't make predictions based on potential. Right or wrong, they project using names they know, and they sure as heck won't recognize many names on KU's roster. They'll see that Christian Moody, a complementary-type player, is the Jayhawks' lone returning starter, and they won't be impressed.

Thus, Kansas surely will be downgraded. How low will the Jayhawks go?

I can see Kansas dipping all the way to seventh, which would be an all-time slide for the Big 12's most successful men's basketball franchise.

Sure, this is just the middle of July, but, on paper, six conference clubs appear to have more proven personnel than the Jayhawks.

Oklahoma, with practically everybody back from last year's team that tied Kansas for the league regular season title, certainly will wind up in first place on a bunch of ballots. At the same time, Sooners' stud Taj Gray may be the odds-on choice for Player of the Year.

Then again, I think I might go with Texas as my preseason choice to capture the regular-season title, assuming soph LaMarcus Aldridge bounces back from the hip injury that wiped out more than half of his freshman year.

Aldridge and teammate Daniel Gibson are the only Big 12 players listed as potential lottery picks in the 2006 NBA Draft. That's according to nbadraft.net, a Web site that has been reliable in the past when it comes to assessing talent.

Curiously, nbadraft.net has Oklahoma's Gray listed as the 27th pick which would mean that if he indeed were the Big 12 Player of the Year he would be a first-round tail-ender just like KU's Wayne Simien, the '05 Player of the Year.

Only one other Big 12 player, by the way, is listed as a potential first-round draftee. Is it Iowa State's Curtis Stinson? How about Colorado's Richard Roby? Or Texas A&M;'s Joseph Jones?

Nope. None of the above. The answer is Mohamed Kone. A 6-foot-11 center, Kone was one of the top juco players in the country last season at College of Southern Idaho and nbadraft.net taps him to be drafted two spots higher than OU's Gray.

Now you're wondering which Big 12 power signed Kone. Would you believe Baylor? That's right. The baleful, probation-riddled Bears, the team that finished 1-15 in the league last season and won't be allowed to play a single nonconference game during either the 2005-06 or 2006-07 season.

Based on that recruiting coup alone, perhaps the media should anoint Baylor's Scott Drew as preseason coach of the year.

Still, the media isn't likely to push Baylor ahead of Kansas on the preseason ballot even with Kone and guard Aaron Bruce, who finished as the league's second-highest scorer (behind Simien) last winter.

After Oklahoma and Texas, I wouldn't be surprised to see Oklahoma State and Texas Tech listed ahead of the Jayhawks on the preseason ballot. The Cowboys have some holes and prize signee Gary Green opted for the NBA, but coach Eddie Sutton still has a probable all-league pick in guard JamesOn Curry.

Iowa State and Texas A&M; also could be tapped higher than Kansas. The Cyclones have a proven performer in Stinson and A&M; has Jones, a quality big man.

So there you have six schools with the potential to be picked higher than Kansas in the Big 12 preseason poll. Not that the Jayhawks actually will be the No. 7 team in the final preseason accounting. That's unlikely because many media-types simply will refuse to do it based on their perception of the Jayhawks as the Yankees of Big 12 basketball.

As we've seen the summer, however, even the Yankees have underperformed. Nevertheless, most pundits expect the Yanks to be there at the end and it's not hard to imagine the Jayhawks in a similar scenario.

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