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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Men’s Big 12 games present challenges

After a tumultuous season last year, the Texas A&M men’s basketball team will return to the warpath to begin the rebuilding process.
Especially challenging this year, the Big 12 Conference boasts three top 25 teams in going into the season, including No. 1 University of Kansas, No. 7 Oklahoma State University and No. 16 University of Texas.
For the first time in almost 50 years, the Kansas Jayhawks will enter the season atop the nation and will be looking forward to an extended postseason after losing to Georgia Tech in the Elite Eight round of the NCAA tournament last season.
“There’s going to be expectations,” said Kansas head coach Bill Self. “I get concerned sometimes, but they are going to be there regardless. We have really good players, and we have some experience. That doesn’t put us ahead of anybody else.”
Kansas is led by the Big 12 Preseason Player of the Year, senior forward Wayne Simien, who is the conference’s leading returning scorer from 2003-04 with 17.8 points per game.
Another formidable foe in the Big 12 war zone are the Oklahoma State Cowboys.
“This team a year ago won 31 games and really has been the most fun team that we have had at Oklahoma State,” said OSU head coach Eddie Sutton. “They were a group of guys that were very unselfish. They understood their roles. They had great practice habits, and they handled success maybe better than any team that we have ever had.”
After going deep into the playoffs last year, the Cowboys will bring back two strong forces in senior forward Joey Graham and senior guard John Lucas. Graham was named the Big 12 Newcomer of the Year last season by the league coaches and was ranked third in the conference in percentage shot from the floor at 57.6. Lucas was second in the league and led the team in assists, averaging 4.5 per game and was ranked second in the Big 12 from the free throw line, shooting 88.7 percent.
Right down the road in Austin, the Texas Longhorns are warming up for another successful season and will be led by last season’s Big 12 All-Freshman P.J. Tucker. Another missile for Texas is senior center Jason Klotz, who had a team-high 14 points per game in the Big 12 Tournament, shooting 59.3 percent.
“I have always said this, and still believe this, where we begin right now is with our returning players,” said Texas Head Coach Rick Barnes. “But our older guys have given us great leadership, and we are counting on those guys to set the tone and lead us.”
A&M Head Coach Billy Gillispie is hopeful about the way the preseason has gone and is looking forward to a good season.
“Everything is going in a positive direction,” Gillispie said. “We are working extremely hard, excited about the season, excited about being part of the Big 12 and getting to the point where we can make some noise in there, taking baby steps right now, working extremely hard. I am extremely pleased with where we are right now.”
Gillispie said the team has talked about the level of play in the conference requiring a lot of time and effort in different areas. He said it’s going to be difficult to get to where the team needs to be.
“Every time you go on the road in any conference, but especially the Big 12, it is a difficult task to try to win. We are going to embrace it, enjoy it,” Gillispie said.

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