Ashley Paris first furrowed her brow, then shook her head. Had she heard right? Texas A&M, an Elite Eight team a year ago, is fifth in the conference coaches’ preseason poll.
"They’re fifth?” the Oklahoma forward said. "Oh, my gosh.” Her eyes bulged, and her eyebrows arched. "That doesn’t seem right.” That, however, is the way it goes in the Big 12. Even though Paris and her Sooner teammates came to Big 12 media day as the favorite to win the conference, their position is tenuous. They have the talent to return to the Cox Convention Center for the Big 12 Tournament as the top seed. They have the experience to come back to Oklahoma City in March eyeing a top spot in the NCAA Tournament. Then again, they might finish fifth or sixth in the league. "I don’t think anybody in here is totally convinced they’re going to win” the league, Oklahoma State coach Kurt Budke said. "That’s how equal it is.” Bedlam bias? Hardly. "There are several teams that are capable and a couple that I think are significantly underrated,” OU coach Sherri Coale said. Who knows what we might see when these teams return in March? OU finished first in the coaches’ preseason poll with seven-first place votes, but four other teams received first-place votes, too. "I’ve been in coaching a long time,” said Iowa State coach Bill Fennelly, whose Cyclones received a pair of first-place votes but were picked third behind OU and Texas. "I don’t think I’ve ever seen a preseason poll where five teams got a vote for first place.