|Elijah Johnson and his fellow Jayhawks were the toast of Big 12 media day. (US Presswire)|
Before the Kansas players even took their seats on Wednesday at Big 12 media day in Kansas City, their table was surrounded by a parade of reporters, photographers and TV cameras. It was a symbol of what's obvious to the rest of the conference: There is Kansas and everyone else.
The Jayhawks are coming off their second Final Four in the last five years, they have won eight straight Big 12 titles and their success, even for the players, is impossible to ignore.
"Only way you can't hear that is if you can't hear," senior guard Elijah Johnson said, "and you've still got to read the shirts as you're walking around. It's everywhere."
It's no surprise that the Jayhawks are once again the favorite in the Big 12 -- they were the unanimous choice by the coaches as the preseason champion -- and they continue to dominate the headlines.
Yet the rest of the conference still convened for media day and was reintroduced to the comedy of West Virginia coach Bob Huggins, the hype of Oklahoma State guard Marcus Smart and a new coach who is challenging Baylor's Scott Drew for most energetic and positive.
Here is the best of the best from the coaches and players at Wednesday's media day.
Best line: Huggins had so many great one-liners, we couldn't pick just one. Here are his best three.
- On whether his one year at Kansas State helped ease the transition to the Big 12: "I don't know. I know where to go eat."
- On who will be West Virginia's rival: "Probably Iowa State. They're the closest. Only 853 air miles."
- On playing KU at Allen Fieldhouse: "We went in there and lost by I think it was 106 my year at Kansas State. My 7-2 center fouled out in seven minutes." (It was 37 points, and his center, Jason Bennett, fouled out in 11 minutes.)
Best player: Baylor's Pierre Jackson was preseason player of the year and he got quite the compliment from Kansas coach Bill Self.
"Without question, I think he's the best guard in the country," Self said.
Biggest player crush: Oklahoma State coach Travis Ford on Smart, the Big 12's preseason freshman of the year. You get the sense that Ford is going to be naming his next son Marcus.
Here's Ford on what impresses him most about his freshman point guard: "Just how hard he goes on every drill we do. How he's trying to make an effect on the game every second he's out there. It's just refreshing to see a player that's not just worried about scoring. That's his least concern, almost to the point he's too unselfish at times. You just don't find many players with his reputation -- one of the best players in the country -- and his concern is making players around him better. That is really his concern."
Don't sleep on: Iowa State. The Cyclones were picked to finish eighth by the league coaches, but like last year, they have impact transfers who could help them far exceed expectations. Michigan State transfer PG Korie Lucious played on two Final Four teams and Utah transfer guard Will Clyburn was the leading scorer in 2011 for the Utes.
"We lose our top three scorers, but what I saw in practice last year with Clyburn and Lucious building chemistry together, I was very excited about what was to come even though I knew what we were losing," coach Fred Hoiberg said. "The guys that had a little lesser role last year, they're ready to step up. Melvin Ejim coming into his junior year now is primed for a big year. Chris Babb and Tyrus McGee I think can have big impacts."
A new rivalry? Without Missouri around, KU's rivalry against Kansas State gets taken to another level -- at least new Kansas State coach Bruce Weber would like that to happen.
"I hope we make it a rivalry," Weber said. "It's obviously a rivalry, but we hope we can compete and have a chance to really get them worried about us also."
Most positive outlook: Drew typically wins this by a landslide, but Texas Tech interim coach Chris Walker oozes energy and positivity. His team might not win many games after the mess Billy Gillispie left, but he is approaching the challenge he has with a dose of reality that you don't hear often from coaches.
"I was remarking to somebody the other day, there are a lot of interim coaches out there; they just don't know it," Walker said. "I look at this situation, and people look at it as if I've been diagnosed with cancer. They give me six months to live. I've really flipped it and said it's six months to give."
Biggest disappointment: West Virginia big man Deniz Kilicli shaved his beard in the offseason and he said he doesn't plan to bring it back this year. The Big 12 doesn't know what's it's missing. Kilicli has a cool story and had one awesome beard.
For more up-to-the-minute news and analysis from Big 12 bloggers C.J. Moore and Patrick Southern, follow @CBSSportsBig12 on Twitter. You can also follow C.J. (@cjmoore4) and Patrick (@patricksouthern).