BIG TWELVE NOTES AND RAMBLINGS
-The Big Twelve finished 7th in the overall conference RPI ratings last year, but that really didnt really mean a whole lot. It didnt keep Kansas from receiving a #1 seed and advancing to the Elite Eight. The so-called Major Conferences consider anything outside of the top six a down year, and Im sure there were Big Twelve fans who were collectively disappointed last year, but the league appears to be stronger overall this year.
-Kansas State was 10-6 in league play, but was left out of the NCAA Tournament. They were just the third Big Twelve team to win ten conference games and not be invited.
-Although the standings are kept as if it was one division of 12 teams, the schedules are put together as if there were a North and South division. That is one of the reasons Kansas State was left out of the NCAAs last year despite finishing higher than Texas Tech. BIG TWELVE TEAMS
-KANSAS looks like a Final Four caliber team again this year, and the Jayhawk fans are starved for the team to win its first national championship since 1988. Theyre so starved, that last years 33 wins and Elite Eight appearance doesnt seem like was enough. The Jayhawks did lose Julian Wright
to the NBA and Brandon Rush
has suffered a torn ACL, which could effect his play this season. Still, four starters are back, as well as the entire bench. Darrell Arthur
should be able to fill in for Julian Wright
this year, and freshman Center Cole Aldrich
should step in right away and make the Jayhawk frontcourt even stronger. This team is loaded. I would be surprised if they didnt make the pod system, and believe they have what it takes to contend for the national title. They return so much experience from a team that had so much success last year, and add to it a top notch recruiting class. Thats an ingredients for winning if Ive ever seen one.
-TEXAS A&M has gone from one of the worst teams in the league to one of the best over the past three years. Head coach Billy Gillispie, who was as popular as a rock star on TAMUs campus and generated a ton of enthusiasm around the basketball program, left to take the job at Kentucky. Aggie fans were heartbroken, but talent-wise they wont miss a beat. Acie Law
IV has gone on to the NBA, but they have three starters coming back. Guards Josh Carter
and Dominique Kirk
make up a talented backcourt. Carter was the best three-point shooter in the nation last season, and Kirk is a tremendous defensive player. The Aggies also have a very strong recruiting class. Center DeAndre Jordan
was considered the top high-school player and Texas, and with the leadership of Joseph Jones
the Aggies should make up a very talented frontcourt. New head coach Mark Turgeon definitely has the pieces he needs to equal last years success.
-TEXAS lost Kevin Durant
to the NBA, but returns pretty much everything else. Even without Durant they are very talented, and there is reason to believe that theyll be just as strong this year as they were last year. For starters, the scoring will be distributed more evenly without Durant, and players will be given the opportunity to step up and play more important roles. Guards A.J. Abrams and D.J. Augustin
make up one of the more talented backcourts in the country. Both players averaged over 14ppg, and Augustin did a fantastic job distributing the basketball. They arent quite as experienced in the post, but freshmen Clint Chapman and Gary Johnson
(pending being cleared medically) should be able to step up and contribute right away. Id say theyre definitely a tournament team who is good enough to contend for the pod system with a seed of #4th or better. Expect to see them in the rankings for most of the year.
-KANSAS STATE is absolutely stacked with young talent. The only big question mark about them is that head coach Bob Huggins left to take the job at West Virginia. Frank Martin has had several assistant jobs at the collegiate level, but this is his first head coaching job. Freshman forward Michael Beasley
was one of the best high-school players in the country last year, and is probably good enough to play in the NBA right now. Hes joined by Bill Walker
, who didnt play much last season due to injury, but for the moment is healthy and is also good enough to play in the NBA. If there is an area where the Wildcats are unproven, its out on the perimeter, but Clent Stewart was an effective guard last year, and freshman Dominique Sutton, if he can become academically eligible, should be able to contribute this season as well. They missed the NCAA Tournament last year, but it was still one of the better seasons K State had had in quite some time. They are definitely good enough to dance this year.
-MISSOURI is another team that we could see in the NCAA Tournament this year. Head coach Mike Anderson has them moving in the right direction. They won 18 games last season after winning just 12 the year before, and although they were inconsistent last year, they are more experienced this year and that should result in more wins. Four starters are back, and they have three talented guards in Stefhon Hannah
, Matt Lawrence and Keon Lawrence, who can push the pace and play the up-tempo style that Mike Anderson is known for. One setback is that Kalen Grimes was dismissed from the team, but freshman power-forward Justin Safford should be able to come in right away and help them underneath. Marshall Brown
, who averaged double figures last year, will join him in the frontcourt this year. This is a program thats trying to get to a point to where they are consistently in the Top 25, and although we may not see them rise to the level of the elite teams this year, they should be able to contend for a spot in the Big Dance and continue to build and improve.
-OKLAHOMA STATE got off to a fantastic start last season at 15-1 and was ranked very high. Things sort of fell apart in the later in the year and they ended up not even making the NCAA Tournament. One of the problems was that there were just seven players on the roster toward the end, and that certainly effected their play. They also lost their two leading scorers, so new players will have to step up and contribute. Guards Obi Muonelo
and Terrel Harris both averaged in double figures last year and give them some experience out on the perimeter. Freshman James Anderson
, who can play both forward and guard, should be a big time contributor right away as well. Freshman Center Martavius Adams should be able to give them a frontcourt presence right away. There are quite a few questions surrounding the team and its hard to say whether or not theyll be able to make the NCAAs this year.
-The bad news for TEXAS TECH is that guard Jarius Jackson has graduated. However, guards Martin Zeno
and Charlie Burgess are back and they are talented enough to contribute in a big way this year. The good news is that The Red Raiders have their best recruiting class since Bobby Knight has taken over. Several young players will probably be called upon to contribute right away. Knights teams tend to improve as more time goes by, and the fact that there are so many young players could hurt them out of the gate, but they should be playing well by the end of the season. Whether or not theyve won enough games to be in the mix for the NCAA Tournament remains to be seen, though.
-BAYLOR is a program who hasnt had all that much to celebrate in quite some time, but head coach Scott Drew appears to be building something. All five starters are back from last yar, and they also add freshman LaceDarius Dunn
to the lineup, who was one of the best high-school shooting guards in the nation last year. The Bears have quite a few offensive weapons, and four returning starters averaged in double figures last year, but they need to improve on the defensive end if they want to see their win total go up. Forwards Curtis Jerrells
and Kevin Rogers
give them a decent frontcourt presence, but they should still have a hard time matching up against other teams in the league.
-IOWA STATE was just 15-16 last year, but head coach Greg McDermott looks like hes doing a good job rebuilding up the program. Hes done a great job recruiting, and has six newcomers this season. The Cyclones suffered a setback when guard Mike Taylor
, who led the team in scoring last year, was dismissed from the team over the summer. Still, the other four starters are back along with some pretty talented freshmen. We may not see them in the NCAA Tournament this year, but things are definitely on the upswing. They have a fairly strong frontcourt thats led by center Jiri Hubalek
and forward Wesley Johnson
. Freshman Craig Brackins
should also be able to contribute. The dismissal of Mike Taylor
could mean that freshman point guard Diante Garrett could step into a contributing role right away.
-OKLAHOMA used quite a few different line-ups last year as new head coach Jeff Capel tried to find a combination that worked. As a result, several players were able to get a fair amount of experience, but its also still hard to identify who the key players will be this year. Center Longar Longar
led the team in scoring and rebounding, and was an effective defensive player as well, and he helps make up what looks to be a rather impressive frontcourt. The team really struggled on offense last year, and that is one thing that definitely needs to improve if they want to get back to being a tournament caliber team. They also need some players to contribute out on the perimeter. Juco transfer Omar Leary, who plays the perimeter, may see quite a few minutes this year.
-NEBRASKA returns three starters, including center Aleks Maric
, who is the top scoring and rebounding Big Twelve player returning from last season. Guard Ryan Anderson
is a pretty good perimeter player as well. Lots of new faces are in the line-up this year, including several transfers. Freshman Cookie Miller should see some playing time at the point guard position. Hopefully the Huskers will continue to improve under head coach Doc Sadler, who was able to generate some enthusiasm in his first year last year.
-COLORADO has a new head coach in Jeff Bzdelik (formerly of Air Force). He was very successful with the Falcons, but the competition is tougher in the Big Twelve, and in looking at his current line-up of players, his new team isnt nearly as good as his old one. Guards Richard Roby
and Xavier Silas make up a fairly talented backcourt, at least in terms of offense, but where the team really needs to improve is on defense. That is one thing that Bzdelik will certainly emphasize. They also turned the ball over and shot the ball poorly last season, and rated among the worst nationally in both categories. Theyve certainly got a lot of work to do.