2010 Phillips 66 Big 12 Men's Basketball Championship Coverage

Wendell Barnhouse is a nationally-known and respected columnist who has spent over 20 years covering collegiate athletics. He has reported from 23 Final Fours and more than three dozen bowl games and has written about the Big 12 and its schools since the conference's beginning.

SATURDAY

Bracketology
For those of you who love expert speculation, here's what two NCAA Tournament bracket projections have to say about the Big 12. Seeds, projected first-round sites in parentheses.

ESPN's Joe Lunardi has Kansas (1, Oklahoma City), Kansas State (2, Oklahoma City), Baylor (3, New Orleans), Texas A&M (6, New Orleans), Oklahoma State (8, Milwaukee), Texas (8, Buffalo), Missouri (10, Milwaukee).

Bracketology 101.com has Kansas (1, Oklahoma City), Kansas State (2, Oklahoma City), Baylor (5, New Orleans), Texas A&M (6, Providence), Texas (7, Buffalo), Oklahoma State (8, New Orleans), Missouri (9, Jacksonville).

Your Humble Correspondent would say that Texas A&M is better than a No. 6 seed but if the Aggies are a six seed and get past their first-round game they could be a nightmare for a No. 3 seed. Once you get past the top two seed lines, the rest of this bracket is going to be balanced.

Dribbles
* Kansas junior guard Tyrel Reed, who scored a career-high 15 points, is shooting 46 percent from 3-point range. He made three-of-four in three Big 12 Tournament games. In his last five games, he's made eight-of-12. "Tyrel being Tyrel," Sherron Collins said. "He hit big shots the whole tournament. (Against Kansas State) we needed him and he stepped up."

* When Kansas won the national championship in 2008, the Jayhawks also won the Big 12 Tournament title in the Sprint Center. The Jayhawks have won seven Big 12 tournament times and four of the last five.

* After the first two games of this year's Phillips 66 Big 12 Men's Championship resulted in upsets (No. 9 Texas Tech over No. 8 Colorado and No. 12 Nebraska over No. 5 Missouri) the last nine games all went according to seeds. The 2004 Big 12 Tournament had the fewest upsets (one). This year's two upsets matched the 2006 and 1998 tournament in number of upsets.

* Kansas has 32 wins for the seventh time in school history, including three of the last four years.

Overheard
Kansas guard Sherron Collins:
"There's always expectations playing at Kansas, we love that. It's satisfying to do what everybody thought we were going to do, and now we can finally start talking about the national championship."

Kansas State coach Frank Martin:
"I just told the team it's OK to hurt. When you invest and take a chance on being special, you've got to understand there's a chance that you might fall a little short of your dream. And when that happens, it should hurt."

The Phillips 66 Big 12 All-Tournament team
Sherron Collins, Kansas*
Cole Aldrich, Kansas
Denis Clemente, Kansas State
Jacob Pullen, Kansas State
Donald Sloan, Texas A&M
* - selected as Most Outstanding Player.

Phillips 66 Big 12 Men's Championship results
Here are the 14 championship results for. Rankings listed are for Associated Press. UR - unranked.
March 13, 2010 No. 1 Kansas 72, No. 9 Kansas State 64
March 14, 2009 No. 14 Missouri 73, UR Baylor 60
March 16, 2008 No. 5 Kansas 84, No. 6 Texas 74
March 11, 2007 No. 2 Kansas 88, No. 15 Texas 84 (OT)
March 12, 2006 No. 17 Kansas 80, No. 8 Texas 68
March 13, 2005 No. 10 Oklahoma State 72, UR Texas Tech 68
March 14, 2004 No. 7 Oklahoma State 65, No. 11 Texas 49
March 16, 2003 No. 6 Oklahoma 49, UR Missouri 47
March 10, 2002 No. 4 Oklahoma, No. 1 Kansas 55
March 11, 2001 No. 16 Oklahoma 54, No. 20 Texas 45
March 12, 2000 No. 7 Iowa State 70, No. 15 Oklahoma 58
March 7, 1999 UR Kansas 53, UR Oklahoma State 37
March 8, 1998 No. 4 Kansas, UR Oklahoma 58
March 9, 1997 No. 1 Kansas 87, UR Missouri 60

Pre-game nuggets
*
This is the eighth Phillips 66 Big 12 Men's Championship where both teams were ranked (Kansas is No. 1, Kansas State No. 9). The top championship game in terms of rankings occurred in 2002 when No. 4 Oklahoma beat No. 1 Kansas 64-55. Both of those teams reached the Final Four.

* Kansas and Kansas State are meeting for the third time. In Big 12 history, it's the 65th time that teams have met three times in the same season. It's the fourth time in this year's tournament where teams are meeting for the third time (Missouri-Nebraska, Oklahoma-Oklahoma State and Baylor-Texas). There have been 31 times that a team has swept all three games.

* Kansas has 12 three-game sweeps since the start of Big 12 play in 1997. Six of those have come against Kansas State including three consecutive seasons (1999, 2000 and 2001).

* This is the fifth time in 14 seasons that the top two seeds have met in the championship game. It's happened every other year since 2002. The No. 2 seed has won three of the previous four meetings. The only No. 1 seed to beat a No. 2 seed in the championship game was Oklahoma State which defeated Texas, 65-49, in 2004.

* Kansas is playing in its fifth championship game as the No. 1 seed. The Jayhawks are 3-1 in the title game as the top seed. The only loss came in 2002 when Oklahoma beat Kansas, 54-55.

* Kansas and Kansas State met twice in the championship game of the old Big Eight Conference. In 1980, Kansas State defeated Kansas, 79-58. In 1981, the Jayhawks defeated the Wildcats, 80-68.

* Kansas coach Bill Self recorded his 200th victory at the school with the Jayhawks' semifinal victory over Texas A&M. Self is 200-42 with the Jayhawks. He has reached the 200 victory plateau faster than any coach in school history.

* Andy Katz of ESPN.com, who has been in Kansas City for the Big 12 Tournament, writes that the NCAA Tournament committee will have a difficult time deciding where to seed Texas.

* According to the Dallas Morning News, three different web sites project Texas Tech as being one of the 32 teams that will be selected for the NIT. (Yes, there are web sites that drill into the NIT trivia - nitology.com, bloggingthebracket.com and collegehoopsnet.com. The Red Raiders finished the season 17-15.

The best darn conference ... and championship game
It will be nearly a month before we know if the Big 12 Conference can declare itself the best conference of this season. That will be when the NCAA Tournament is complete and we'll know how well the conference's seven teams performed and whether or not the Big 12 produced its second national championship.

The Conference has had the best non-conference record, is tops in the RPI and has exhibited depth one through 12. Saturday the Big 12 can stake another claim, even though it's unofficial: Best conference championship game.

Regardless of the outcome or the level of play, No. 1 Kansas vs. No. 2 Kansas State is by far the best Final Day match up on Championship Weekend. The ACC? A seeds No. 11 and No. 12 reached the semifinals. The Big East? Three top seeds dropped out by losing their first games? The Big Ten? C'mon, really, Slow Ball isn't exciting. The SEC? Kentucky should be indicted if it doesn't win. The Pac-10? Is it still playing the sport?

There's a palpable buzz in Kansas City Saturday. The Sprint Center will be full and electric by 5 p.m. when the Jayhawks and the Wildcats square off. The sluggish economy isn't a factor to ticket scalpers or anyone lucky enough who has a ticket and wants to make a profit.

"I've got to think that it's going to be the best environment of any conference championship game in the country," said Kansas State coach Frank Martin, who as he has been most of this season, is right.

A K-State victory could earn a No. 2 NCAA Tournament seed and a trip (along with KU) to Oklahoma City for the opening weekend. And after losing two hotly contested games this season, the Wildcats desperately want to avoid the sweep.

FRIDAY

Iowa State players leave
Two players expected to leave are departing Iowa State's roster but two other players unexpectedly announced Friday that they won't be back next season.

Cyclones coach Greg McDermott said that junior Craig Brackins will bypass his senior season and make himself eligible for the 2010 NBA draft. And senior Marquis Gilstrap, whose NCAA appeal for another year of eligibility was denied earlier this week, is turning professional.

Sophomores Justin Hamilton and Dominique Buckley have been granted their releases and intend to transfer. Hamilton, a 6-11 center from Utah, wants to play at a school closer to home. Buckley, a 6-2 guard from Detroit, wants to transfer in order to receive more playing time.

Dribbles
* The Baylor-Kansas State semifinal game is more than just for the right to play in Saturday's championship game. Both teams are in the top 10 of the NCAA's latest RPI and could be in the running for a No. 2 seed and a chance to play in first- and second-round games in Oklahoma City.

* Two former Big 12 coaches are battling in the Conference USA tournament semifinals - Houston's Tom Penders (Texas) and Southern Mississippi's Larry Eustachy (Iowa State).

* Here's the breakdown of North-South teams that have reached the Big 12 Tournament semifinals. Friday's North-South, North-South match ups (Kansas vs. Texas A&M, Kansas State vs. Baylor) is the first time the semifinals have broken down that way. Four other times (1998, 2003, 2006 and 2007) both divisions have been equally represented. There has never been all four semifinal teams from one division. 30 South teams and 22 North teams have played in the semifinals.

* Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius attended Friday's Big 12 Tournament semifinals. She is the former governor of Kansas so she had rooting interests for both games.

* Some follow up regarding Kansas winning the 2,000th game in program history. Once the buzzer sounded, Big 12 senior associate commissioner Tim Allen grabbed the game ball and took it to press row where he handed it to Kansas radio analyst Chris Piper, who played on the Jayhawks' 1988 national championship team. "He was part of this," Allen said. The ball then wound up in the KU locker room. The Jayhawks also were wearing special commemorative t-shirts that had the words "Kansas 2,000 Victories: 1898-2010".

A link worth clicking
Forbes Magazine is in love with lists (Your Humble Correspondent anxiously awaits its "Lists of top lists). Nonetheless, here is Forbes' list of the nation's top 10 college towns. Three Big 12 cities made the list.

Getting linked up
ESPN.com's Andy Katz offered these 10 observations from Thursday's quarterfinal games.

FoxSports.com Jeff Goodman came away from Thursday's quarterfinal games impressed by Baylor.

And Dennis Dodd of CBSSports.com has spent the last few days "embedded" with Baylor. Here's his report on the Bears' victory over Texas.

http://www.cbssports.com/collegebasketball/story/13044320/baylor-shows-its-claws-continues-to-bear-down-on-rival-texas?tag=headlines;collegebasketball

Mike Jones of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram says that Texas A&M senior guard Donald Sloan was "The Donald" in the Aggies' victory over Nebraska.

Kansas State's dominating performance in its victory over Oklahoma State left the Kansas City Star's Jason Whitlock impressed.

Even the Big 12 men's programs at the bottom of the standings have coaches who have proven they don't belong on the hot seat.

THURSDAY

Dribbles
*
The four top seeds have advanced to Friday's semifinals. The last time that happened was in 2005.

* Baylor has defeated Texas four consecutive games. That's the longest win streak for the Bears over the Longhorns since winning six straight in the series from Feb. 7, 1981 through Feb 26, 1983.

* Kansas State's 25 victories equals the school record set previously in the 1950-51, 1958-59 and 1987-88 seasons.

* Kansas State's Denis Clemente notched his first career double-double (12 points, 10 assists). The 10 assists were a career high.

* Oklahoma State's James Anderson has 723 points. That's good for fourth place on the school's single-season scoring list. He passed Bryant "Big Country" Reeves.

* Anderson was 12-of-32 from the field and 5-of-19 on 3-pointers in the Cowboys' two games in the Big 12 Tournament.

Observations worth observing
*
Late in the Kansas State-Oklahoma State game, as the clock was ticking toward the one-minute mark, a voice from the stands yelled "How much time's left?" He was anticipating the announcement made when there's 60 seconds remaining. The public address announcer then said, "One minute left in the game." Well played, Mr. Fan.

* At halftime of the Oklahoma State-Kansas State game, the dance teams from each team performed to some music that was as loud as the average rock concert. ESPN analyst Bob Knight had his fingers in his ears as he sat at courtside.

* When the public address announcer in the Sprint Center makes the pre-game announcement about no flash photography, it's guaranteed to produce at least half a dozen camera flashes.

* Your Humble Correspondent wishes to share a sports writing truism: Any statistical research during a game is usually for naught. When Kansas State's lead on Oklahoma State peaked at 33 (67-34), YHC began looking up the largest margins of victories in the Big 12 Tournament (the biggest is 43 points). So, of course, the final score wasn't anywhere close to a record (83-64).

No Dash for Texas A&M?
Texas A&M coach Mark Turgeon says that sophomore point guard Dash Harris is "day to day" as he recovers from injuries to his right (shooting) hand. Harris says don't expect that "day" to come Friday when the Aggies face top-ranked and top-seeded Kansas in the semifinals of the Phillips 66 Big 12 Men's Championship.

"I don't think I'll be able to go," Harris said as he sat in a locker room at the Sprint Center after the Aggies' 70-64 quarterfinal victory over No. 12 Nebraska. "I'm icing it, getting treatment but I want to make sure I'm ready to help the team in the NCAA Tournament."

Harris' wrist was in a soft plaster cast. He is suffering from a bone bruise on the inside of the wrist, which has had tendinitis all season. Harris sprained the wrist when he fell during Saturday's final regular-season game at Oklahoma. 

2K for KU
Not only did Kansas win its 30th game and advance to the semifinals of the Phillips 66 Big 12 Men's Championship, the Jayhawks also reached a milestone for its storied program - its 2,000th victory.

Kansas joins Kentucky (2,017 as of Thursday) and North Carolina (2,000) as the only schools to have reached the 2,000 victory level.

"I think when we're all done playing basketball we'll look at it and just kind of hang our hats on being a small part of that 2,000," Jayhawks junior center Cole Aldrich said. "And having so many great players at the university that played before us is really special."

Coach Bill Self has been part of 199 of the 2,000 victories plus the school's third national championship.

"I think to be one of three programs in America to reach that milestone, I think it does speak volumes worth of history and tradition of the program," Self said. "We're very proud of it. It hadn't been a big point of emphasis for this team, but I think the guys respect the past enough to know it's a big deal."

NCAA Tournament expansion talk
One of the hot off-court topics during March Madness is possibly expanding the NCAA Tournament to 96 teams. According to the Kansas City Star and Dennis Dodd of CBSSports.com, Big 12 administrators received an update via an Internet video conference Wednesday morning.

"It was information gathering," one athletic director told the Star. "I can't say whether something is imminent, but I have a feeling (an expanded bracket) will happen sometime in the next few years."

According to Dodd, here are some of the details for a 96-team bracket:

* The first, second (and third) round would extend from Tuesday through Sunday. That means first, second and third-round games would be Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday in some sites. Other sites would have Wednesday, Friday, Sunday games.

* The 32 teams in the top half of the bracket would have to win six games to win the national championship. The bottom 64 would have to win seven.

* Concern about missed class time is negligible. The NCAA, which also runs the NIT, sends those 32 teams to 16 different sites during the week that starts the NCAA Tournament. Even with 96 teams, the field would still be reduced to a Sweet 16 heading into the second weekend.

* What hasn't been decided is revenue distribution. How the money is shared and divided, particularly when concerning the Big Six conferences, will be a key issue.

Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe, who is in his first year as a member of the influential NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Committee, said earlier this week that the one of the reasons to expand the Tournament is economic.

 "About 98 percent of the NCAA budget comes from the men's basketball tournament, and they're planning for future television," Beebe said on a teleconference Monday.

Rockin' the mic
If you watched all four opening round telecasts on the Big 12 Network Wednesday, you might be spending Thursday trying to get Reid Gettys' voice out of your head. The former Houston Cougars point guard was the analyst for all four games.

Thursday, he had a "day off" - he just worked the first two games of the quarterfinals.

"It was easy," Gettys said at halftime of Game One, the Kansas-Texas Tech game. "I've done four games in one day on radio before but never on television. A hard day is swinging a hammer for eight hours."

Gettys worked two games with two play-by-play partners, Mitch Holthus and Dave Armstrong. And Gettys didn't wind up with a sore throat from all of his analyzing.

"I had lozenges ready, hot tea with honey," he said. "But I never had any problems."

Dribbles
* Kansas is 25-7 in Big 12 Tournament history, 12-2 in quarterfinal games. Texas Tech is 12-14 in the Big 12 Championship and 12-2 in quarterfinals contests. Texas Tech is 12-14 in the Big 12 Tournament with a 4-5 record in the quarterfinals.

* Texas A&M is 4-13 in the Big 12 Tournament. Three of those victories have come in the quarterfinal round.

* Texas A&M will play top-ranked, top-seeded Kansas in Friday's semifinals. It will be the sixth time in program history that the Aggies have played the nation's No. 1 team and three of those meetings have occurred this season (Texas and Kansas).

* Oklahoma State fans have former Cowboys player, assistant coach and head coach Sean Sutton in their thoughts.

* Kansas fans lit up their verbal victory cigar (Rock Chalk Jayhawk) with 45.4 seconds remaining in Thursday's quarterfinal victory over Texas Tech. Late in rival Missouri's loss to Nebraska on Wednesday, a few KU fans mocked the Tigers with some Rock Chalk chanting.

* Nebraska was only the second No. 12 seed to win an opening round game when it knocked off fifth-seeded Nebraska. Lincoln is about three hours North of Kansas City but the Huskers didn't need to run home for extra clothes or make an emergency shopping trip for clean underwear. "I brought a lot of clothes,"' senior guard Sek Henry told the Omaha World-Herald after Wednesday's opening round victory over Missouri. "I was expecting us to win. If I had brought nothing, then that would have meant my mind-set was we were going to lose. I brought a lot, and my bag is heavy."

WEDNESDAY

Hulley Gulley
Although Oklahoma State's 81-67 victory over Oklahoma was well in hand, Cowboys coach Travis Ford thought it appropriate the 3-point basket that gave his team a 79-56 lead.

The 3-pointer was made by freshman Fred Gulley, his first make after missing 19 3-point tries this season. The shot came in front of the Oklahoma State bench and Ford celebrated with an emphatic fist pump.

"I was excited for him," Ford said. "His percentage isn't the best but I keep telling him shoot it. Shoot it. If you're open, shoot the basketball. You're not going to make it unless you shoot it. And he makes them in practice."

Ford was a point guard at Missouri and Kentucky but he has a shooter's mentality.

"I'm one of these guys, I just always think the next one's going to go in," he said. "I was glad that he shot it. I'm glad that it went in and I'm glad it was a big one."

The end of a long season
Oklahoma finished with a 13-18 record and a nine-game losing streak. That's the Sooners' worst record since going 9-18 in 1980-81, Billy Tubbs' first season in Norman. A year ago, OU came within a victory of reaching the Final Four.

"Well, it's certainly not the way we wanted it to turn out," Oklahoma's Cade Davis said. "There were some factors we couldn't control with injuries and things like that. It's never fun having a season like this."

Oklahoma coach Jeff Capel agreed.

"It wasn't fun for me. Not one second of it," he said. "A very difficult year from the beginning. It's not just the wins and losses. For me, frustrating I wasn't able to do a better job for my team. Frustrating I wasn't able to help them have more success than we did this year. I felt I let them down."

So, was it best to just lose and get it over with?

"If I ever get to that point, Joe (Castiglione) or whoever is my AD, should fire me, if I ever get to the point where I'm relieved that it's over," Capel said. "Or I will just walk away, because I shouldn't be doing what I'm doing. I was maybe crazy enough to believe that we could come here and win the Big 12 Tournament."

Dribbles
* According to Jeff Goodman of FoxSports.com, sources indicated that Iowa State junior Craig Brackins and senior Marquis Gilstrap will declare for the NBA Draft. Gilstrap and Iowa State recently said they would appeal to the NCAA for an extra season of eligibilty. Brackins, who returned to Iowa State after being an All-Big 12 first teamer last season, averaged 16.5 points and 8.6 rebounds this season. Gilstrap, a junior-college transfer who played one season at Iowa State, averaged 14.8 points, 9.4 rebounds.

* Thanks to two long-range 3-pointers by Diante Garrett in the last two minutes, Texas defeated Iowa State by single digits. The first three opening round games were decided by scores of 82-67, 75-60 and 81-67. Opening round of the Big 12 Tournament has never had all four games decided by double digits.

* Iowa State lost five of its last seven. Those five losses were by a total of 21 points.

* Check out this link. Dennis Dodd of CBSSports.com spent the last day or so embedded (no flak jacket required) with Baylor's team. Good inside stuff.

* Counting the second half of Oklahoma State's 97-76 victory over Oklahoma on Feb. 13 and the first half of Wednesday's 81-67 victory over the Sooners, the Cowboys made a 34-of-54 shots (62.9 percent) and 14-of-23 3-pointers (60.8 percent).

* Oklahoma State continued its winning streak in first round games. The Cowboys are 8-0.

* Oklahoma State and Oklahoma have met three times in the Big 12 Tournament. The Cowboys have won all three - 81-67 Wednesday, 71-70 in 2009 and 60-57 in 1999.

* Oklahoma State's James Anderson, the Big 12 player of the year, moved past Byron Houston into fifth place on OSU's single- season scoring list with 697 points. He is just 14 points away from passing Bryant Reeves for fourth place.

* Damion James and Gary Johnson of Texas recorded double-doubles in the same game for the second time this season. James and Johnson both notched double-doubles in Austin vs. Texas A&M. In that game, James had 26 points and 12 rebounds; James had 18 and 10. Against Iowa State, James had 28 and 16, Johnson had 15 and 10:

* Texas senior Damion James appeared in his 140th consecutive game and set a Big 12 record by making his 138th career start.

Dribbles
* Texas Tech coach Pat Knight was asked about the challenge of facing No. 1 seed Kansas in Thursday's quarterfinals. Yeah, it's going to be tough," he said. "It's like comparing my win/loss record to my old man's. ... We just have to go out there and play hard and just compete and see what happens. Because a lot of funny things happen in these conference tournaments."

* Because of seeding, the most evenly matched game, theoretically, is the one between the eight and nine seeds. That's been the case in 14 Phillips 66 Big 12 Men's Championship. The victory by ninth-seeded Texas Tech over No. 8 seed Colorado was the seventh by a No. 9 seed; the No. 8 seed has also won seven times.

Nebraska became the second No. 12 seed to win an opening round game but the argument can be made that the Cornhuskers' victory over Missouri Wednesday was more impressive. The other No. 12 to win was Colorado in 2008 but the Buffaloes needed double overtime to subdue Baylor. Nebraska bested the Tigers by 15 points.

* Texas Tech's last two victories in the Big 12 Tournament have both come as the lower seed. As a No. 11 seed last year, the Red Raiders beat Texas A&M in the opening round.

* Texas Tech is now 3-0 against Colorado in opening round games. The Red Raiders beat the Buffs 81-71 in 2007 and 79-69 in 2004.

* Nebraska's 75 points are the most that the team has ever scored in a Big 12 Tournament game and its 56 percent shooting percentage is the school's best ever in a Big 12 Tournament game. It is also the best shooting percentage by a Missouri opponent this season.

* Seven players from the Kansas City area played in the two opening round games. Missouri's  Michael Dixon (Lee's Summit West), Marcus Denmon (Hogan Prep), Jarrett Sutton (Oak Park), Steve Moore (Truman); Colorado's Alec Burks (Grandview) and Casey Crawford (Overland Park, Kan. Blue Valley North) and Texas Tech's Robert Lewandowski (Overland Park, Kan. Blue Valley West).

Missouri offense in cold storage
Missouri goes into the NCAA Tournament having lost three of its last four. The Tigers are averaging 78 points a game but have averaged just 56 a game in those three losses. No. 5 seed Missouri was upset by No. 12 seed Nebraska, 75-60, in Wednesday's opening round of the Phillips 66 Big 12 Men's Championship.

"We just haven't been shooting the ball well," said Missouri's Laurence Bowers, who scored 11 points and was the only Tiger in double figures against the Huskers. "I don't want to blame the game on that. But it's hard to beat a team if you're shooting 35 percent. The games where we haven't shot the ball well, our defense can only hold us in the game for so long. You gotta put up points."

In their last three losses, Missouri is shooting 33.6 percent from the field and 25 percent from 3-point range. Against Nebraska, the Tigers' front court players - Keith Ramsey and Bowers - were a combined 8-of-12; everybody else was 11-for-44.

"We are an energy team," Missouri coach Mike Anderson said. "We're an attacking team. I thought we settled for more jump shots instead of attacking, getting to the basket.

"But you have to put the ball in the hole. We'll get back in the gym and do some things. And get prepared for what's going to take place. I'm confident that good things are in store for this team."

Knight talks NIT
After his team ended a seven-game losing streak its opening round defeat of Colorado, Texas Tech coach Pat Knight's team is 17-14 and assured of no worse than a 17-15 record. Have the Red Raiders done enough to earn an invitation to the 32-team NIT?

"I think we should be in," Knight said. "You know, we're the only other team with a winning record (not going to the NCAA Tournament). I know it's been a tough three weeks, but we're also in the best league in the country.

"We've played good basketball this year. And, you know, for them to overlook us and overlook a team in the best conference would be a shame. But I honestly believe that we deserve it."

Buffs' bright future
An opening round loss to Texas Tech doesn't detract from Colorado's improvement, says coach Jeff Bzdelik.

"We've taken a step forward this year," he said. "And we need to just keep taking steps forward. We finished our season winning three out of our last four. We're knocking on the door. We just need to bust it down and bust through it.

"I told our players that - they all feel awful. I do, too, with the way we finished it. But at the same time, we need to keep things in perspective and reflect back on the things that we were able to accomplish and move forward. If you look back, all you do is get a stiff neck."

Colorado had finished last in the Big 12 in three consecutive seasons but they were 6-10 in Big 12 play and finished eighth this season.

Senior Dwight Thorne II is the only player who won't be back for the Buffs next season.

"This team is going to be a good team next year," he said. "I'm the only guy leaving, to have everything pretty much coming back. So I'll be excited to see where they're headed ... see the direction they're going. And it's going to be up."

Reversals of fortune
The opening round game between No. 9 Texas Tech and No. 8 Colorado was the sixth time in the history of the Phillips 66 Big 12 Men's Championship that teams met after facing each other in the regular-season finale. The Red Raiders' 82-67 victory was the sixth time that the loser turned the tables and won the rematch. Here's a look:

Year   Reg. season result   Tourney winner
1998   Texas A&M over Baylor   Baylor
2003   Baylor over Texas Tech   Texas Tech
2006   Missouri over Nebraska   Nebraska
2007   Nebraska over Oklahoma State    Oklahoma State
2009   Nebraska over Baylor   Baylor
2010   Colorado over Texas Tech   Texas Tech

Barnes likes officiating change
Texas coach Rick Barnes is pleased that Curtis Shaw is taking over as the Big 12's supervisor of officials.

"We've gone through a tough year with the officiating," Barnes said Tuesday. "But with Curtis Shaw coming in, I don't see that there is any doubt our officiating situation will be a model program. The league's gonna take a huge step forward. He's gonna teach guys. I'll bet there are young guys in our league who have not gotten any feedback. That's been my complaint forever.

"After a game, we have to go back and evaluate what we do. Officials need somebody doing that. The fact is, if officials don't cut it after a time, Curtis is gonna say, we gotta go to someone else. We haven't had that in our league, ever. Now, it's gonna be done right."

Dribblings from Kansas City, Part 1
* The United States Basketball Writers Association's All-District VI team included six players from the Big 12. Cole Aldrich, Sherron Collins and Xavier Henry of Kansas, Denis Clemente and Jacob Pullen of Kansas State along with Missouri's Kim English were selected for the 10-member squad. District VI team covers Missouri, Iowa, Kansas, Oklahoma, Nebraska, North Dakota and South Dakota.

* Texas A&M point guard Dash Harris re-aggravated his right (shooting) wrist injury in the season finale against Oklahoma. Harris was wearing a soft cast on his wrist through Wednesday. Harris leads the Aggies in assists and steals. A&M will start play Thursday in the quarterfinals of the Phillips 66 Big 12 Men's Championship. "He's pretty sore," A&M coach Mark Turgeon said. "It's just been a tough year on his wrist. It's a little worse than I thought it was."

* Oklahoma showed up at the Sprint Center about 15 minutes for their 40 minutes of practice time Tuesday. The explanation? "Bus driver got lost," Sooners coach Jeff Capel said. "That's the kind of year we've had."

* Oklahoma sophomore guard Willie Warren said this week that he hasn't decided whether he'll return to the Sooners next season.  "I'm not sure what I'm going to do," Warren told the Oklahoman. "We'll see how the rest of the season goes, and then after the season, me and Coach (Jeff) Capel and my mom and the rest of the coaching staff will talk. And we'll make the best decision for me and my family." Warren didn't make the trip to Kansas City as he is recovering from arthroscopic surgery to repair cartilage damage in his right ankle. ...

* Oklahoma freshman center Tiny Gallon told the Tulsa World that he'll play for the Sooners next season. "I'm going to come back another year," he said Tuesday. "That's for sure." ... Iowa State freshman point guard Chris Colvin said that he plans to be back with the Cyclones next season.

* Colorado coach Jeff Bzdelik on his program's birght future: "If we can add a couple of major pieces in recruiting, some big bodies, we've got a chance to be special. (Rising to eighth place) is tangible evidence that we're taking steps forward," the coach said. "Next year we need to finish higher than that. If we do, then there is a good chance we'll be going to the dance (NCAA Tournament)."

* Missouri sophomore forward Laurence Bowers is playing with a bandaged left wrist. Bowers said he hurt the wrist earlier in the season and re-injured in Monday's practice after catching a pass. He was examined by doctors after practice and he might require post-season surgery. With fellow big man Justin Safford sidelined by a torn ACL injury, Bowers has vowed to continue playing despite the injury.

TUESDAY

News and notes from Kansas City
Greetings from Your Humble Correspondent, reporting from Kansas City, courtside at the Sprint Center as the teams that play in the first-round of the Phillips 66 Men's Big 12 Championship go through open-to-the-public practices.

Here are some news, notes and numbers from the world of hoops.

* The Sporting News named its All-American teams. Oklahoma State junior James Anderson earned a first-team selection. Sherron Collins of Kansas and Damion James of Texas were named to the second team. Kansas State's Jacob Pullen was named to third team and Baylor's Tweety Carter earned a spot on the fourth team.

* Seth Davis of SI.com has Baylor as one of his Final Four sleepers.

* One day after sources said that Kansas assistant coach Joe Dooley was a candidate for the vacant East Carolina head coaching job, Dooley is expected to withdraw his name from consideration. Jeff Goodman of FoxSports.com reported that Dooley is no longer in the running to return to the school he coached from 1995-99.

* In the Phillips 66 Big 12 Women's Championship, No. 1 seed and No. 2 seed Iowa State have made history. It's the first time that two schools from the North Division has been seeded one and two. The last time a North school won the Championship was in 2001 (Iowa State).

* Nebraska's Kelsey Griffin was named player of the week for the 11th time in her career and sixth time this season. She won the weekly award the last four weeks of the season to become the first player in Big 12 history to win four consecutive player of the week honors.

* The United States Basketball Writers Association selects all-district teams and District VII includes players from Texas, Arkansas and Louisiana. Texas' Damion James was selected District VII player of the year and was also on the all-district team that included Mike Singletary of Texas Tech, Donald Sloan of Texas A&M and Ekpe Udoh of Baylor.

Not a fond memory
Returning to the Sprint Center is bittersweet for Texas. This Kansas City facility is where the Longhorns' season started to unravel even though it wasn't evident at the time.

Before facing Pittsburgh in the O'Reilly Auto Parts CBE Classic on Nov. 24, sophomore Varez Ward was in the pre-game layup line when he ruptured a quadriceps tendon and was lost for the season. Ward had started the first three games of the season at point guard.

"There as an eerie feeling in the locker room after Varez got hurt because the guys knew how much he meant to us," coach Rick Barnes said Tuesday before his team's practice at the Sprint Center. "He had established himself as the leader, the vocal guy on our team."

Beebe on Griner's suspension
During a conference call with the media Monday, Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe explained the Conference's decision on the two-game suspension handed down to Baylor's Brittney Griner.

NCAA rules called for Griner, who punched Texas Tech's Jordan Barncastle, to be suspended for one game. The Big 12 agreed with Baylor's decision to suspend Griner for a second game - the team's first-round game in the Phillips 66 Big 12 Women's Championship.

Beebe said the Conference took a number of factors into consideration - previous history, remorse, the nature the injuries and the circumstances surrounding the incident were all considered.

"I hope the lesson has been learned and that others understand we're not going to tolerate this kind of action," he said.

One man's Big 12 awards
Pat Forde of ESPN.com, in his weekly Forde Minutes, selected his award winners for each conference. Here's what he wrote about the Big12:

Player of the year: James Anderson, Oklahoma State. Great scorer who diversified his game this season, becoming a more aggressive driver. Anderson has attempted 241 foul shots in 30 games, after trying 269 free throws in his first 68 college games. He's especially torrid heading into the postseason, having scored 25 or more points in seven of his past 10 games.

Coach of the year: Frank Martin, Kansas State. He has competition from Baylor's Scott Drew and Texas A&M's Mark Turgeon, but who among us expected the Wildcats to win 24 regular-season games and lock up the No. 2 seed in the Big 12 tourney? (If you're raising your hand, put it back down. You're lying.)

Freshman of the year: Xavier Henry, Kansas. Henry looked as if he'd hit the freshman wall in late January and early February, but he's broken through it and had a productive last month. In the Jayhawks' past eight games he's averaged nearly 17 points and five rebounds.

Bust of the year: Texas. It takes a special kind of collapse to plummet from No. 1 in the nation to unranked. The Longhorns stagger into the postseason having lost eight of their past 14.

Tournament winner: Baylor. The Jayhawks are the best team in the league and are playing well over the past week, but their motivation is low with a No. 1 seed sewn up. They know the next tournament is all that matters. The athletic Bears, meanwhile, want to improve their NCAA seeding and could be extremely dangerous in both tournaments.
 
Dark horse: Baylor. The third-seeded Bears have won seven of their past eight.

Early upset candidate: Texas. The Longhorns face an 11th-seeded Iowa State team that won at Kansas State to close the regular season and gave Texas a scare back in January.

Looking beyond the rankings
Gary Parrish of CBSSports.com likes to critique voting each week in the Associated Press and coaches polls. Here's what he wrote about Texas A&M:

"I, like most of you, thought Texas A&M might slip when Derrick Roland shattered his leg just before Christmas. But it didn't happen, and now the Aggies enter the Big 12 tournament with a 21-8 record featuring wins over Baylor, Texas, Clemson, Oklahoma State and Missouri (and zero losses outside of the top 50).

"So we can argue where to rank Texas A&M if you want. I have them 18th. A little higher or lower is fine."

And here's what he wrote about Texas:

"I'm not going to spend too much energy defending Texas because the Longhorns have been disappointing, and they seem headed toward nowhere significant. But do you really believe there are 25 better teams in the country? With five wins over schools projected to make the NCAA tournament -- including Pittsburgh, Michigan State and Texas A&M -- and just two losses outside of the top 50, Texas clearly has one of the best 25 bodies of work, and it's not like Rick Barnes' team been losing one bad game after another.

"The Longhorns have lost four times in the past month. They lost to Kansas. They lost at Missouri. They lost at Texas A&M. They lost at Baylor.

"Obviously, that shows they aren't the nationally prominent team everybody once believed them to be, but it doesn't mean they aren't a legitimate Top 25 team. There's a middle ground, you know? And Texas belongs in that middle ground.

"Are the Longhorns great? Clearly not. But there aren't 25 better teams.Which is why I can't understand how UT only got seven points in the coaches' poll."

Links to click
Iowa State's upset victory at Kansas State Saturday showed why
Greg McDermott should continue as the Cyclones' coach.

Jenni Carlson of the Oklahoman writes that there is little drama regarding NCAA Tournament berths in the men's and women's Phillips 66 Big 12 Championships this week in Kansas City.

Basketball helped Kim English, Missouri's leading scorer, overcome stuttering.

Dribbles

* The four top seeds have advanced to Friday's semifinals. The last time that happened was in 2005.

* Baylor has defeated Texas four consecutive games. That's the longest win streak for the Bears over the Longhorns since winning six straight in the series from Feb. 7, 1981 through Feb 26, 1983.

* Kansas State's 25 victories equals the school record set previously in the 1950-51, 1958-59 and 1987-88 seasons.

* Kansas State's Denis Clemente notched his first career double-double (12 points, 10 assists). The 10 assists were a career high.

* Oklahoma State's James Anderson has 723 points. That's good for fourth place on the school's single-season scoring list. He passed Bryant "Big Country" Reeves.

* Anderson was 12-of-32 from the field and 5-of-19 on 3-pointers in the Cowboys' two games in the Big 12 Tournament.

Observations worth observing

* Late in the Kansas State-Oklahoma State game, as the clock was ticking toward the one-minute mark, a voice from the stands yelled "How much time's left?" He was anticipating the announcement made when there's 60 seconds remaining. The public address announcer then said, "One minute left in the game." Well played, Mr. Fan.

* At halftime of the Oklahoma State-Kansas State game, the dance teams from each team performed to some music that was as loud as the average rock concert. ESPN analyst Bob Knight had his fingers in his ears as he sat at courtside.

* When the public address announcer in the Sprint Center makes the pre-game announcement about no flash photography, it's guaranteed to produce at least half a dozen camera flashes.

* Your Humble Correspondent wishes to share a sports writing truism: Any statistical research during a game is usually for naught. When Kansas State's lead on Oklahoma State peaked at 33 (67-34), YHC began looking up the largest margins of victories in the Big 12 Tournament (the biggest is 43 points). So, of course, the final score wasn't anywhere close to a record (83-64).

The best darn conference ... and championship game

It will be nearly a month before we know if the Big 12 Conference can declare itself the best conference of this season. That will be when the NCAA Tournament is complete and we'll know how well the conference's seven teams performed and whether or not the Big 12 produced its second national championship.

The Conference has had the best non-conference record, is tops in the RPI and has exhibited depth one through 12. Saturday the Big 12 can stake another claim, even though it's unofficial: Best conference championship game.

Regardless of the outcome or the level of play, No. 1 Kansas vs. No. 2 Kansas State is by far the best Final Day match up on Championship Weekend. The ACC? A seeds No. 11 and No. 12 reached the semifinals. The Big East? Three top seeds dropped out by losing their first games? The Big Ten? C'mon, really, Slow Ball isn't exciting. The SEC? Kentucky should be indicted if it doesn't win. The Pac-10? Is it still playing the sport?

There's a palpable buzz in Kansas City Saturday. The Sprint Center will be full and electric by 5 p.m. when the Jayhawks and the Wildcats square off. The sluggish economy isn't a factor to ticket scalpers or anyone lucky enough who has a ticket and wants to make a profit.

"I've got to think that it's going to be the best environment of any conference championship game in the country," said Kansas State coach Frank Martin, who as he has been most of this season, is right.

A K-State victory could earn a No. 2 NCAA Tournament seed and a trip (along with KU) to Oklahoma City for the opening weekend. And after losing two hotly contested games this season, the Wildcats desperately want to avoid the sweep.