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February 2, 2012

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: Big 12 is nation most entertaining conference

> SOUTHERN INDIANA — There are better college basketball conferences than the Big 12 in 2011-12.

But there are none more entertaining.

The Big 12 has three of the nation’s top eight teams, and of the conference’s 10 teams, nine are capable of beating good teams.

The league title will likely come down to No. 8 Kansas, which is atop the conference standings at 7-1, No. 4 Missouri and No. 6 Baylor. The Tigers and Bears are half-game back of Kansas at 7-2 in the Big 12 standings. No conference has a trio of teams more fun to watch than Kansas, Missouri and Baylor.

Outside of North Carolina, Kansas has the best inside-outside duo in the country with Thomas Robinson, who is averaging 17.5 points and 11.8 rebounds per game and point guard Tyshawn Taylor, who scores 16.5 points and hands out 5.2 assists per night.

Missouri is arguably the best shooting team in the country. The Tigers shoot 49.8 percent from the field, including Ricardo Ratliffe’s nation-leading 75.1 percent, 37.7 percent from behind the 3-point arc and 77.7 percent from the foul line. Mizzou has four players who shoot very well from deep, including Kim English, who is shooting 49.5 from the 3-point line, and Marcus Denmon, who is fourth in the Big 12 at 17.2 points per game.

There’s not a team in the nation that can match Baylor’s athletic big men. Perry Jones III is a 6-11 forward who can run, jump, handle and shoot. Quincy Miller — a 6-9 freshman — is athletic and has a soft touch. Six-foot-10 forward Anthony Jones can light it up from the 3-point line, and 6-7 senior Quincy Acy is a dunking machine. Throw in junior college-transfer point guard Pierre Jackson and sharp-shooting Brady Heslip, and the Bears are among the most fun teams to watch in the country.

What sets the Big 12 apart, though, is that it has another six teams that can play spoilers. Iowa State, Kansas State, Oklahoma State, Oklahoma, Texas and Texas A&M will likely play as big a role as the Big 3 in determining the conference champion.

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