They will gather Oct. 24 at the Sprint Center in Kansas City armed with optimism and kind words.

That’s just generally how all college basketball coaches are before the season begins, but you should be cautious in how much you allow yourself to believe in what comes out of Big 12 men’s basketball media day today.

Some stuff will be good, like the conversation about whatever it is WVU coach Bob Huggins decides to wear. He was conservative last year with a jacket and slacks, but in past years, he’s gone with a letterman’s jacket, a bow tie to honor WVU president E. Gordon Gee and blue pants with the Flying WV logo all over them.

You’ll hear some discussion about Kansas State and Oklahoma improving, Oklahoma State dealing with the FBI scandal and a new coach and TCU coach Jamie Dixon will be a hit after guiding TCU from the bottom of the Big 12 to winning the NIT last season.

The Horned Frogs return just about everyone, too.

But please, don’t get sucked into the talk about the Big 12 being a deep and talented conference, because it just isn’t.

Don’t get me wrong, the Big 12 is not dysfunctional and will probably have the top RPI ranking in the country this season.

It does have a ton of talent that will eventually make its way to the NBA some day.

It’s just not a conference in the truest sense of the word ... not as long as Kansas continues to dominate it.

The Jayhawks will be going for their 14th consecutive regular-season title this season.

Let me say that again, 14 in a row, which has never been done before in ths history of college basketba.. in this country.

Not by Gonzaga, which is the absolute king of the West Coast Conference.

Not by UCLA, which was the king of the world in the 1960s and ‘70s under coach John Wooden.

“It’s amazing in this league,” said Huggins, whose Mountaineers were selected to finish second behind the Jayhawks in the Big 12 preseason poll. “I could see it happening in some leagues, but not this league. It’s incredible what they’ve done.”

Not to hark on the old days, but the Big East was truly a conference.

Sure, the old Big East had its share of bottom feeders, but when you also had 10 NCAA tournament teams that were generally good enough to win at least one game in the tournament, it made for a lot of intrigue.

What intrigue is there in the Big 12? For the past 13 years — more times than not — you already knew what was going to happen.

The Big East had great runs by Connecticut, Georgetown, Pitt, Syracuse, Louisville and Villanova.

Looking at the Big East’s preseason poll was sort of a big deal, to steal a line from Ron Burgandy.

Looking at the Big 12’s poll is only to see who is No. 2, or to see who Kansas coach Bill Self voted for since he couldn’t vote for his own team.

No one talked about the old Big East women’s conference as a solid league, because UConn just destroyed everyone else, even though there were a lot of other good teams in that conference.

It’s the same thing with the Big 12 men. When it’s Kansas and everybody else — it doesn’t necessarily kill the league — but it surely makes it all that more difficult to take it seriously.

The NCAA basketball rules video did not carry the disclaimer, “This is all because of you, Bob Huggins,” but it probably should have.

“You sit down and start watching it and it looks like its directed at the things we’re doing,” Huggins said.

For the past few seasons, the NCAA rules committee has been tinkering with several rules in an attempt to try to bring more of an offensive rhythm to the college game.

With each rule change or point of emphasis made, the likelihood of tough defensive basketball became more endangered.

No more grabbing. No more putting the forearm into an offensive player’s side or back to try and direct him to a certain point on the floor.

At past Big 12 media days, Curtis Shaw, the Big 12’s Coordinator of Officials, put out a video for the media to try to show some examples of what the NCAA wants to eliminate.

Many times, the examples were of a WVU game in which a WVU defender was harassing an opponent.

And each season Huggins voiced his concerns, then made adjustments and life generally went on.

One of his adjustments was introducing “Press” Virginia, which has led the nation in forced turnovers for three years running, but that is where the NCAA is looking next.

“They don’t want any contact and there is going to be contact. That is the nature of the game,” Huggins said. “They talk about, ‘Slide your feet and stay in front of the guy.’ Well, if I slide my feet and stand in front of you and you come into me — the way I’m looking at it — the foul is going to be on the defense.”

What is basically going on is this is the rules committee’s reaction to a pile of complaints since the turn of the century, when it became more fashionable to start grabbing and playing more physical on defense.

Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, games between competitive schools generally finished in the high 70s if not into the 80s and 90s.

People began to complain about how there was no defense being played in the game and so grabbing and bumping and hand-checking came into play.

Then games started dipping into the 50s and were becoming a struggle to get into the 60s — Ah, those old Big East days, right? — and so we started complaining about teams not having enough offense.

So we started seeing rules being changed, and now offensive players have about 85 percent of the advantage in any given possession.

Except when facing a full-court press, which often comes fast and furious, it is difficult for an offensive player to get the advantage, because he’s usually being chased by two defenders.

If a player gets trapped, well, then there’s contact all over the place, because defenders are trying to go after the ball for a steal, while the offensive guy is trying to get the heck out of there.

So, Huggins sat and watched the NCAA video and probably just started shaking his head when he saw how referees are going to be instructed to officiate trapping situations this season.

“It’s different in the trap,” Huggins said. “They’re saying you have to give the offense more space.”

If you give the offense more space in a trap, then that’s really not much of a trap.

“That’s the point,” Huggins said. “We’ll figure it out, but it could change a lot of people’s style of play.”

Justin Jackson is a sports writer for The Dominion Post. Email him at