Bob Huggins: 'Right now, Oklahoma is the best team in the league'

Kansas guard Devonte' Graham (4) gets a shot to drop before Oklahoma guard Christian James (3) during the first half, Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2017 at Lloyd Noble Center in Norman, Okla.

Kansas guard Devonte' Graham (4) gets a shot to drop before Oklahoma guard Christian James (3) during the first half, Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2017 at Lloyd Noble Center in Norman, Okla. by Nick Krug

It was no surprise when the Kansas men’s basketball team was a unanimous selection to win the Big 12 in the preseason coaches poll. Bill Self, unable to vote for his own team, cast the only vote against the Jayhawks in early October.

Entering Big 12 play this week, as the Jayhawks aim for their 14th consecutive conference title, West Virginia coach Bob Huggins said he would change his vote if he was given the chance.

“I mean if I had to revote, I’d pick Oklahoma right now,” Huggins said on the March Madness 365 podcast with Andy Katz earlier this week.

Oklahoma (10-1, ranked No. 12) will open Big 12 play on the road against unbeaten TCU at 1 p.m. Saturday. The Sooners have caught everyone’s attention with sensational freshman point guard Trae Young and their high-flying offense.

In non-conference play, the Sooners earned wins over Wichita State, USC, Northwestern and Oregon.

“I would say right now, Oklahoma is the best team in the league,” Huggins said. “They’ve got a great coach in Lon Kruger. They’ve got the best player, probably, in the country surrounded by a whole bunch of veteran guys. … They are loaded inside. They do a great job with their post guys.”

Young leads the nation with 28.7 points and 10.4 assists per game. He tied an NCAA record with 22 assists in a win against Northwestern State earlier this month.

The 6-foot-2 point guard has scored at least 26 points in his last nine games. That includes a 29-point, 10-assist performance vs. Wichita State in a 91-83 victory. The Shockers had already picked up wins over a pair of Big 12 teams, Oklahoma State and Baylor, giving coach Gregg Marshall a unique look at how Young may look in Big 12 play.

“What I was most impressed with is his touch on passing,” Marshall said of Young on the podcast. “He’s got a real feel for the game and he sees things a little bit before most young players see them. Then he has a great touch. He’s kind of a combination between Chris Paul and Steve Nash, along with a Steph Curry jump shot.”

Earlier this week, ahead of the start of Big 12 play, Self said he thought a 13-5 record would win the conference “free and clear.”

“Everybody in the league is going to lose two in a row,” Self said before the Jayhawks’ win at Texas. “That's going to happen. The league's too good. How you respond to those negative performances will probably be very important.”

In this week’s AP poll, six Big 12 teams are ranked in the Top 25, including four in the top 12. Two more schools are receiving votes, but outside of the Top 25.

At the beginning of the season, there was belief that it would be a rebuilding year for most Big 12 schools. Look no further than Oklahoma State, which lost its coach and best player from last year, and posted a 10-2 record entering league action.

Before West Virginia’s 85-79 road win over Oklahoma State on Friday, Huggins praised the Cowboys as proof of how strong the Big 12 will look this year.

“They got picked 10th in our league and I guess it was, ‘We don’t know whether the guy can coach or not,’” Huggins said, referring to first-year OSU coach Mike Boynton. “I can help them with that now after watching the tape. He can really coach. If they are the 10th best team in our league, which they are not … I don’t know who is 10, though. Maybe us. What a great league.”

Comments

Jeff Coffman

And that is why they play the games.

Trae Young is very impressive however, he fades during the game. At WSU which he was great, he scored 16 in the first 12 min, 6 in the next 8 and 6 in the last 20, with four from Ft at the end. This has been generally true for his performances throughout the year. I think early big xii could wear on him. Yes I would take 28 points in the game, but just interesting to follow.

6 months, 2 weeks ago

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Andy Godwin

Yes only 39 points, 14 assists (but 7 TOs), and 4 rebounds, plus the tiebreaking free throws with 7.9 seconds left against undefeated TCU. He has free rein under Lon Kruger and wants to break KU's streak. As KU currently stands, I find it hard to believe OU is not the best team. OU has the length and depth upfront to make life miserable for KU and others and a no fear point guard.

6 months, 2 weeks ago

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Dirk Medema

Smart move by Huggins to deflect attention from his team which is tops of the ratings after KUs 2 Ls.

Young is now the trendy journo topic so throw a lob to the folks who will be writing about your team while helping to keep your underdogs hungry.

6 months, 2 weeks ago

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Mike Nicco

TCU did us no favor today. Not the last shot/play I would call.

6 months, 2 weeks ago

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Joe Ross

Huggins is *right!* OU IS the best team in the league...right now. "But"...when Kansas gets Preston and De Sousa, Kansas will once again be King of the Hill.

You could build a national championship team easy with Big 12 players.

1-Young
2-Graham (he often played the off-guard with Mason)
3-Lagerald Vick
4-Azubuike (He's not a four, but you could play two bigs)
5-Bamba

This best of conference team would beat any other best of conference team by 20 points, especially if Bamba played like he did against Kansas.

6 months, 2 weeks ago

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Andy Tweedy

You think Preston will ever suit up? I'm starting to think we'll never see him in blue

6 months, 2 weeks ago

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Joe Ross

Yes. The NCAA knows they've hosed Kansas before by taking an inordinate amount of time to clear players (Exhibit A: Cheick Diallo). Kansas did its due diligence with Preston prior to turning it over to the NCAA. I feel like Coach Self, that this is close to a resolution.

6 months, 2 weeks ago

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Jay Hawkinson

Self keeps expressing lots of optimism that not only will both guys be cleared soon, but that they will contribute enough to go back to a 2 big lineup. Maybe he's just trying to put pressure on the NCAA or keep hope alive for Billy, but he also knows way more about the situation than we do.

6 months, 2 weeks ago

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Joe Ross

I feel similarly. There are times when Self did NOT express confidence publicly that Preston would be cleared. The fact that he has now must mean that he has been given some inside information that has not been publicly shared, but which leads him to believe the end is in sight.

6 months, 2 weeks ago

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Aaron Paisley

Oklahoma is not the best team right now. They're giving up 80 points per game and are ranked in the 300's nationally in scoring defense. That's not the best team in the Big 12.

6 months, 2 weeks ago

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Joe Ross

The problem with isolating a small number of stats and noting that they're out of sync with the picture of a conference leading team is that in most cases you can find a stat for EVERY team that is unexpected for a conference leader (including the conference leader).

So, for example, if you suppose that Kansas is the best team in the Big 12, you could say that the fact that Kansas doesn't shoot as many free throws as other conference teams make is not the picture of a conference leader.

If you suppose West Virginia is the best team in the Big 12, it goes against the grain when you note that they're the worst shooting team in the conference.

So, uh...

6 months, 2 weeks ago

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Joe Ross

Clemson, the leader in the ACC...*"right now"*...is only middle of the pack in their conference in terms of three-point field goal %, free-throw %, and POINTS PER GAME. They're in the bottom half of their conference in rebounding. Of course, that's not the best team in the ACC.

...or *is* it???

6 months, 2 weeks ago

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Austin Lopez

I guess all you need is one player and your the best in the conference, well let's see it didn't work for Kevin Durant, or Blake Griffin, so what makes you think he can knock Kansas from the top? Kevin Durant was a much bigger threat than trae Young, I'm not worried.

6 months, 2 weeks ago

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Jay Hawkinson

I agree that it's far from certain that Young will produce the way Durant did in conference play, but I also think the 2007 KU team was quite a bit better than this one, at least so far.

6 months, 2 weeks ago

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Dirk Medema

Austin - I don't disagree with you at all but a huge significant difference is that Trae is the PG so he will almost always have the ball in his hand. In CBB, a PG that can control the game can be all the difference. Still cringing at the memory of Burke when Elijah melted in the footsteps of Tyshawn. Hopefully Graham fares better.

6 months, 2 weeks ago

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Barry Weiss

Man I miss Tyshawn. I know he had his detractors and did some things to get in coach's doghouse at times, but him bringing the ball up court always made me feel good. He could break down the opponents defense better than just about anyone. Mason was better at drawing the foul, but Tyshawn, with his length, was what I would say is almost the perfect size for a PG and could just about do it all.

6 months, 2 weeks ago

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Dirk Medema

TT got flack, and coach too, because it took some time for him to harness all his ability into a refined form. Coach knew it was in there, and rode through his challenges because he could see his NC game when others were quitting on him because they could only see what was immediately in front of there noses.

6 months, 2 weeks ago

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Craig Carson

I would say OU has the most steam heading into conference play, but the best teams can usually win tough games even when their top player struggles...Young will eventually have some bad games..Im not sure if their defense can make enough stops if their offense has a cold night...he played great in OU's win @ WSU, but he will have to bring that every night in BIG 12 play....

6 months, 2 weeks ago

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