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Big 12 coaches unite to defend league's might

2/16/2010

It seems each basketball season there comes a time when Big 12 coaches -- and likely coaches in any league across the nation not named Big East or ACC -- take to the bully pulpit. Monday's Big 12 coaches teleconference was that time.

With March quickly approaching and the conference teams beating up on each other, coaches are trying to position their teams and their leagues for a long, hard look by the NCAA Tournament selection committee. The Big 12, with seven teams boasting conference records of .500 or better and nine in contention to finish there, strongly believes it is the cream of the crop this season. They turn to the numbers to back their claim.

*The Big 12 has the best record (28-12) in the nation amongst the six major conferences when playing each other. The ACC is next at 24-21 and everyone else is below .500.

*The Big 12 also ranks No. 1 in conference RPI, or Ratings Percentage Index, something like a strength of schedule in college football.

*The Big 12 is 142-31 (.821) in non-conference play, the highest winning percentage in the nation.

*The Big 12 has six teams with 18 victories or more -- the most of any conference in the nation. Three of those squads have 20 wins which is tied for the most nationally. The Big 12 was the first league this season to have every

team post a double-digit victory total.

"I’m the third-longest tenured in the Big 12 and this is definitely the best it's been since I’ve been here," Baylor coach Scott Drew said. "I think we all look at statistics and the statistics are pretty easy when you see the No. 1 ranked RPI conference in America, and against the other six power conferences the Big 12 being 28-12, the ACC being 24-21 and then everybody else after that being below .500, that’s quite impressive for the Big 12."

The Big 12 wants at least seven teams selected to the Big Dance. It doesn't want to see another season in which a 9-7 team, such as Kansas State a year ago, gets dropped and only six teams get in. This season's K-State team, ranked No. 7 in both polls, is an example of how good the league is.

The Wildcats defetead then-No. 1 Texas, lost to No. 1 Kansas by two points, lost at home to Oklahoma State (5-5 in conference) and nipped Baylor (6-4) by two on the road.

"If you look at the overall work being done from nonconference wins to how the conference is playing out at this point, I think from top to bottom it is definitely the strongest league in the country," Oklahoma State coach Travis Ford said. "You’ve got great teams, you’ve got great individual players, you can go down the line, but I think the work that’s been done over the course of the season, no question, the Big 12, night in and night out, is the toughest league in the country."

The coaches have spoken.

LOOK AHEAD: Later in the week, I'll examine the bubble teams in the Big 12 and how many selections the Big 12 can expect.