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5 BIG 12

Conference powerhouses Kansas (page 68), Iowa State (page 95)
and Texas (page 108) had better be careful not to underestimate
Missouri, a team that traditionally seems to gain strength when
no one is watching. The Tigers have three starters returning,
including multifaceted senior guard Jason Sutherland, who
averaged 14.0 points per game in 1995-96. The key to their
season will be how quickly juco transfer Dibi Ray settles in at
the point.

Experienced ball handling won't be an issue at Colorado, where
sophomore guard Chauncey Billups will be the target of double
teams after a season in which he was named the co-Big Eight
freshman of the year. "With a year under my belt, a lot of
players will be looking for me," says Billups, who averaged 17.9
points and 5.5 assists per game, both team highs. "I don't want
to carry us." The 6'3" All-America candidate won't have to if
freshman Will Smith can help senior forwards Fred Edmonds and
Martice Moore in the paint.

Nebraska may be the conference's most curious squad. Last season
the Huskers busted out to a 15-4 start, lost nine straight, then
got hot and won the NIT. Sophomore guard Tyronn Lue and 6'7"
senior forward Bernard Garner (10.7 ppg, 6.3 rpg) will try to
keep the Cornhuskers' play on a more even keel.

Even with the efforts of 6'6" swingman Mark Young (8.6 ppg),
Kansas State will find itself lost without the top two scorers
from last year's 17-12 squad.

The music flowing from the piano of Oklahoma State junior
forward Jason Skaer will be a good gauge of how the season is
going for the Cowboys. "If we're playing well, I'll play
something slow and soft to keep me focused," says Skaer. "If we
start poorly, I'll take out my frustrations on the keys and play
something really loud." Local keyboards took a pounding last
year due to Oklahoma State's lack of an inside game, which
killed the team in conference play. Skaer (8.8 ppg, 6.0 rpg) and
senior forward Chianti Roberts will get post-up help in the form
of Brett Robisch, a 6'11" transfer from Illinois. The Cowboys
will also rely on the outside game of sophomore guard Adrian
Peterson, a three-point sniper.

Texas Tech is still loaded with capable scorers despite the loss
of four starters from last year's 30-2 team, which fell to
Georgetown in the Sweet 16. Junior guard Corey Carr was the best
sixth man in the nation last year, averaging 16.1 points a game
off the bench, while 6'11" junior center Tony Battie added 9.7
points as a starter. With only three career starts between them,
guard Stanley Bonewitz and forward Gionet Cooper will have to
pick up where standouts Jason Sasser and Koy Smith left off last

Inexperience will also play a big role at Oklahoma, where guard
Nate Erdmann (12.8 ppg) is the lone senior on the squad. Baylor
center Brian Skinner is a 6'10" shot-blocking monster who can
score (17.6 ppg) but doesn't have much support. Texas A&M has
four starters back, including senior guard Tracey Anderson (a
team-best 13.3 ppg) but doesn't have the inside game to be a
force in the Big 12.


COLOR PHOTO: MANNY MILLAN Carr paces Texas Tech's air raid. [Corey Carr in game]


1 Kansas (3) 29-5
2 Iowa State (16) 24-9
3 Missouri 18-15
4 Colorado 9-18
5 Nebraska 21-14
6 Kansas State 17-12


1 Texas (24) 21-10
2 Oklahoma State 17-10
3 Texas Tech 30-2
4 Oklahoma 17-13
5 Baylor 9-18
6 Texas A&M 11-16