Big 12 coaches stump for seeds

KU, A&M should vie for top spots, or Texas could play way into picture

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

With two teams in the top seven and a leading candidate for national player of the year, Big 12 coaches figure one of those coveted and prestigious No. 1 NCAA Tournament seeds should also be in their future.

There will be only four No. 1's when the bracket is announced March 11. But heading into this week, co-leaders Kansas and Texas A&M, ranked No. 3 and No. 7, respectively, both could put themselves in position to grab one.

"You could say that," said Kansas University coach Bill Self, whose team defeated Oklahoma on Monday. "But I think work still needs to be done. There's not any margin for error, and probably some other things will have to happen."

Texas A&M, meanwhile, must pass its own test Wednesday at No. 15 Texas.

The Longhorns and player-of-the-year candidate Kevin Durant go into the final week 11-3 in the league, one game behind the Aggies and Jayhawks.

But they're in complete control of their own destiny. After playing host to the Aggies on Wednesday, Durant and his teammates will travel to Kansas on Saturday for a nationally televised tilt that will wrap up the regular season.

Win both, and the Longhorns cannot be any worse than tied for first. And as for the Big 12 getting a No. 1 seed?

"I don't see why not," Texas coach Rick Barnes said. "I would like to think nothing is in cement right now. You'd like to think they haven't settled on that yet.

"You look at the year that both Kansas and Texas A&M are having, where they are right now," Barnes added. "Why shouldn't they be in the mix? And depending on how we finish, I could say, 'Why not us?' I like to think so."

Oklahoma State coach Sean Sutton said the Big 12 deserves a top-seeded team.

"I'd be disappointed if one of those, especially Texas A&M and Kansas, was not a No. 1 seed," Sutton said. "If Texas wins both their games this week and wins the Big 12 tournament, they'll put themselves in position. I'll always think the league champion of the Big 12 deserves to be a No. 1 seed because this league year in and year out is outstanding."

In the meantime, who's the top player in the Big 12 this year?

Hands down, most would say it's Durant. He's the top scorer and top rebounder and could be voted national player of the year when all those ballots are cast.

But what about Acie Law, Texas A&M's marvelous senior point guard? Voters in both the coaches' poll and The Associated Press media survey could face a tough choice.

There's little argument about who is the hands-down best player.

"I think Durant is the best player in college basketball," Sutton said. "But Acie may be the most valuable to his team in the Big 12. You could make the argument that Durant will be national player of the year and Acie Law could be Big 12 player of the year."

Texas Tech coach Bob Knight agreed.

"I think the best player in the country is Durant," he said. "I don't even think there's a question about that."

If there were a most valuable player award, what about Law?

"Well, I think if they were to win the league, I'd certainly think so," Knight said. "Next to Durant, he is the best player in the league. I love the way that kid plays. He does a lot of things. If it wasn't for the exceptional games Durant has had and the way he's dominated some games ... but even with that, you'd want to look at Law in that regard."

Law was named player of the week after averaging 25 points in victories over Oklahoma State and Baylor. He had a season-high 31 points and five assists against the Bears and 19 points in the road win at Oklahoma State.

That left the newcomer of the week award to the much-honored Durant. Texas' 6-foot-9 sensation averaged 24.5 points and nine rebounds in wins over Texas Tech and Oklahoma.

Against the Sooners, he had his 17th double-double with 32 points and 10 rebounds. It was his seventh 30-point game, extending his Big 12 record. He's won six rookie awards, another record, and nine weekly honors overall.

"What Kevin Durant has done, from a statistical standpoint, certainly gets your attention," said Iowa State coach Greg McDermott. "But there's a few guys - after playing Kansas Saturday - I think are playing pretty good as well. From a statistical standpoint, Kevin Durant is about as good as it gets right now."