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Texas wins without NBA picks, Big 12/SEC rankings and NCAA projections

Updated: 2014-02-04T00:54:12Z

By BLAIR KERKHOFF

The Kansas City Star

Texas is rolling. The Longhorns are off to their best start in three years with a 6-2 Big 12 record and No. 15 ranking in The Associated Press poll. Saturday’s victory over Kansas was Texas’ fourth straight against a ranked opponent.

The buy-in factor is in full force in Austin. The team is playing together and with great energy. Texas could be the best defensive team in the Big 12.

Is it a coincidence that for the first time in several years, no Texas players are showing up on NBA Draft projections?

This could be the first year in several that no Longhorn leaves early for the draft. None are projected to leave. In the past two years, Myck Kabongo and J’Covan Brown left early but weren’t drafted. In the two years before that, the Longhorns had four players drafted in the first round: three freshmen and one sophomore.

No coach would turn away talent, and Texas has had plenty. The program had eight players on NBA opening-day rosters, trailing only Kansas’ 14 among Big 12 teams.

But Barnes knows talent sometimes brings distraction, especially after the season has crossed the midpoint.

“It’s about this time of year,” Barnes said. “About mid-February when it gets ratcheted up to a whole different level.”

And it becomes a potential distraction.

“You can see it,” Barnes said. “We’ve experienced it, I can tell you for a fact. I’ve seen it with other teams.”

The impact can be felt in the locker room, affect a team’s energy on the floor, Barnes said. Runners for agents start showing up. Attention gets diverted.

“You might think coaches aren’t on top of it, but all of us coaches know there are people lurking around the program all the time trying to get inside trying and make initial contact, in case the kid is leaving. There’s no doubt it goes on. Everybody in basketball knows that.

“More than anybody, players inside the locker room know what’s going on. There are no secrets in there.”

Freshmen and sophomores showing up on mock drafts this year include Kansas freshmen Joel Embiid, Andrew Wiggins and Wayne Selden; Oklahoma State sophomore Marcus Smart; Baylor sophomore Isaiah Austin; and Kentucky sophomore Willie Cauley-Stein, who played at Olathe Northwest.

To reach Blair Kerkhoff, call 816-234-4730 or send email to bkerkhoff@kcstar.com. Follow him at twitter.com/BlairKerkhoff.

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