Five things to know this offseason
1. That's enough realignment for now, thanks: Though it won't have much effect on the upcoming season, conference realignment was the biggest story of the Big 12 offseason. For a while there, it looked as though the conference would essentially disintegrate, with a few schools fleeing for the Pac-10 and the rest -- including traditional hoops powerhouse Kansas -- desperately scrambling to find a home. It almost got that bad. Fortunately, the damage was minimal. The Big 12 (now the, um, Big 10?) was spared. Only Nebraska (2011) and Colorado (2012) will be leaving the conference, and while those departures have major implications for the football side of things, their effect on Big 12 hoops should amount to addition by subtraction. By this time in two years, the Big 12 will be a taut, highly competitive league with nary a doormat to step on. Assuming conference realignment is over, that is. Ahem.
Fran Fraschilla's Big 12 predictions
1. Kansas: A big key to the Jayhawks' season is in the hands of the NCAA right now as it investigates the eligibility of star freshman Josh Selby. Meanwhile, 6-foot-8 junior Marcus Morris is primed for an All-American year, and there is still a bevy of talented players on Bill Self's roster capable of winning another Big 12 title.
2. Kansas State: No team in the country mirrors its coach's intensity better than the Wildcats and Frank Martin. Senior point guard Jacob Pullen put himself on the radar of NBA scouts after a solid summer with the USA Basketball select team that practiced with the pros. Jamar Samuels is an under-the-radar warrior, 6-10 juco transfer Fred Asprilla is a beast, and if 6-10 senior Curtis Kelly continues to improve his intensity, another deep NCAA run is a probability.
3. Missouri: The eligibility of star recruit Tony Mitchell is iffy at this point, but Mike Anderson has a boatload of quality guards from which to unleash on Big 12 opponents. Juniors Kim English and Marcus Denmon and sophomore Michael Dixon Jr. are all capable scorers, and 5-10 freshman point guard Phil Pressey will dazzle with his passing.
4. Baylor: Replacing senior point guard Tweety Carter may be just as hard as replacing NBA lottery selection Ekpe Udoh. Fortunately, Baylor continues to attract quality recruits to Waco. Perry Jones, a 6-11 freshman, is one solid season away from being a top-five selection in next June's NBA draft. And, of course, LaceDarius Dunn -- who scores like he breathes -- is back for what should be a prolific senior season.
5. Texas: After a 17-0 start, nothing seemed to go right for Rick Barnes and the Longhorns. Graduation hit Texas hard, so fellow Canadian freshmen and McDonald's All-Americans, Cory Joseph and Tristan Thompson, will get to jump-start this team immediately. Joseph's leadership at point guard is sorely needed and will allow sophomore J'Covan Brown to play off the ball more.
6. Texas A&M: The Aggies were hit hard by the graduation of Bryan Davis and Donald Sloan, but they left behind a residue of recent success under coach Mark Turgeon. David Loubeau is just some more consistency -- especially on the glass -- away from being a Big 12 star as he enters his junior season. Senior B.J. Holmes is a spark plug.
7. Oklahoma State: Losing Big 12 player of the year James Anderson is a blow, but Travis Ford has recruited well. If 6-8 freshman Michael Cobbins and the other Cowboys newcomers are as good as advertised, the Pokes will be sneaky good.
8. Texas Tech: Pat Knight has his deepest team since taking over at Texas Tech. Seniors Mike Singletary and John Roberson helped the Red Raiders to the third round of the NIT last season and can use the strong finish to push for the top half of the conference this time around.
9. Colorado: New Buffs coach Tad Boyle inherits two of the Big 12's most underrated players and one of the league's four best backcourts as well in senior Cory Higgins and sophomore Alec Burks. In fact, if the coaching transition goes smoothly, a postseason appearance is not out of the question.
10. Nebraska: No one gets more out of his team in the conference than Nebraska head coach Doc Sadler. Unfortunately, there hasn't been much talent to work with recently. Junior college help is on the way for the nation's shortest team a year ago.
11. Oklahoma: The Sooners lost 52 points, 20 rebounds and four starters from a team that massively underachieved with three McDonald's All-Americans a season ago. It's back to the drawing board as Jeff Capel and his staff put an emphasis on character as well as talent this year. Senior Cade Davis fits that mold to a tee, but it probably won't be enough.
12. Iowa State: The big star in Ames right now is hometown hero and former Cyclones star Fred Hoiberg, who has taken over the coaching duties. He will have great support initially, but "The Mayor" takes over a team whose cupboard is almost completely bare.
10 key players around the league
Jacob Pullen, Kansas State: If KSU is going to win its first regular-season Big 12 title in more than 30 years, Pullen will be a big reason. The Wildcats will need him to score at the same high rate as last year's breakout performance, but they'll also need him to push the pace and manage the game at the same breakneck pace as departed point guard Denis Clemente.
Curtis Kelly, Kansas State: With Clemente gone and Pullen assuming even more of the scoring load, the Wildcats will need Kelly to do even more at forward. Kelly is a big-time rebounder and post defender already, but he'll have to be a consistent scorer in the post, too.
Josh Selby, Kansas: Assuming he gets eligible in time for the season, Selby could end up being the difference between a good Kansas team and a great one. He is one of a few true stars in the incoming class, a run-first point guard that could help the Jayhawks get over the loss of high-scoring backcourt mates Sherron Collins and Xavier Henry.
Marcus Morris, Kansas: Morris has always been somewhat of a role player during his time at Kansas, but with Cole Aldrich now patrolling NBA interiors, Morris will have to be much more than that. Fortunately, he has the game; few players of Morris' size and strength can play inside out and hit jumpers from the perimeter with consistency.
Kim English, Missouri: English was Mizzou's leading scorer in 2009-10, and he's back for what should be a productive junior season. The famously dedicated player -- he once bunked down in the Missouri gym so he could work out in the mornings before class -- will also need to be a leader, as the Tigers' top-15 recruiting class, while talented, will only go as far as the team's veterans can take them.
LaceDarius Dunn, Baylor: Much like Pullen, Dunn went from relative obscurity in 2008-09 to stardom in 2009-10. Much like Pullen, Dunn's team will need him to do even more, as the graduation of Tweety Carter leaves a big gap in the Baylor backcourt.
Perry Jones, Baylor: The Bears will also need their star freshman to live up to his hype. Jones is arguably the most tantalizing NBA prospect in the 2010 class, but he has the lottery-sized shoes of athletic forward Ekpe Udoh to fill. If he can approximate some of Udoh's production alongside Quincy Acy, Baylor could be even better than last season's Elite Eight team.
Jordan Hamilton, Texas: Hamilton was wild as a freshman in 2009-10 -- he often seemed to think he was in the game for no other reason than to shoot -- but his talent and pedigree are undeniable. If the swingman becomes more consistent and harnesses all that talent, he could make Texas' backcourt rotation woes a thing of the past.
Cory Joseph, Texas: Speaking of Texas backcourt rotation woes, much of the Longhorns' long slide in 2009-10 was due to an inconsistent backcourt with plenty of talent but little cohesion. Joseph is by all accounts a complete player, and he'll need to bring some measure of balance to the Texas guard corps if the Horns expect to compete for the Big 12 title.
David Loubeau, Texas A&M: Loubeau isn't a household name. What he is, after the departures of Donald Sloan and Bryan Davis, is A&M's leading returning rebounder (4.7) and second-leading scorer (9.2, just a smidge behind B.J. Holmes). If the Aggies want to avoid an uncharacteristic slide in 2010-11, Loubeau will have to prove he's more than a complementary piece.
10 freshmen we can't wait to see
Perry Jones, PF, Baylor: Based on talent alone, he should be one of the best impact freshmen in the country. There is very little that Jones can't do on the court, and he is probably the most talented incoming freshman in the Big 12. The loss of Ekpe Udoh leaves a hole on the interior. Jones is looking to go one-and-done, and the opportunity is there for him to put up major numbers.
Josh Selby, PG, Kansas: He is a dynamic scoring guard whose game is made for transition. It will be interesting to see him in a little more structure, assuming his eligibility issues are cleared up. Selby is a player that is looking to get to the NBA as soon as possible. The losses of Sherron Collins and Xavier Henry leave some openings on the perimeter for the Jayhawks, and Selby will be hunting those openings.
Tony Mitchell, PF, Missouri: Another player facing NCAA eligibility issues, Mitchell is a versatile forward who can play the wing forward or power forward positions, and is one of the better sleeper recruits in the country. He was definitely good enough to have been a McDonald's All-American. If he plays, look for him to be a major contributor, because Mizzou's baseline was not great last season.
Cameron Clark, SF, Oklahoma: The Sooners will be reloading after suffering three early-entry draft defections. But Clark is a great piece to start that process. He is an exceptional athlete who is great in transition and has a surprisingly effective mid-range game. He should be an impact player as a freshman.
Tristan Thompson, PF, Texas: The big Canadian lefty is one of the better post players entering college. Texas graduated Dexter Pittman to the NBA, so playing time is available. Thompson can score inside, rebound and help clog the lane. He will definitely play, and don't be surprised to see him starting. How much he progresses will determine how much he is on the court.
Cory Joseph, PG, Texas: He is a tremendous talent, but Texas has a crowded backcourt. From a total-package standpoint, he may be the best point guard on campus; however, he does lack experience. Joseph may have a tough time starting, but he will get significant playing time because he's just too talented not to.
Phil Pressey, PG, Missouri: He can play, but the Tigers' backcourt also has a few returning players. However (like Joseph), Pressey has as much, if not more, talent than all the point guard returnees. He is quick, strong, fast and a solid decision-maker. He will force coach Mike Anderson to put him on the floor.
Michael Cobbins, PF, Oklahoma State: He was injured as a junior, so it will be interesting to see how far he has progressed two years later. The Cowboys need impactful size inside, and though Cobbins is not thick, he is long and active and can block a shot.
Daniel Alexander, PF, Texas A&M: Alexander is a very good high-post player who can stretch the defense offensively. He is a solid athlete and a little undervalued nationally. As long as he stays aggressive, Alexander will see the court with his unique skill set.
Shane Southwell, SF, Kansas State: He is a mismatch offensively thanks to his size and skill set. Southwell could be a point-forward type for the Wildcats because he is a good passer and a solid decision-maker. He will give K-State solid size on the perimeter.
A look around the league
Baylor: The Bears took a major step forward in coach Scott Drew's seventh season -- capped by the program's first Elite Eight appearance in modern history -- thanks to an athletic and offensively potent group. That group was led by guards LaceDarius Dunn and Tweety Carter, as well as forward Ekpe Udoh. Udoh and Carter are gone now, but Dunn is back for what should be a big senior season. If the Bears can get uber-recruit Perry Jones to play up to his vast potential, the program could take another major step -- this time to the Final Four in Houston.
Colorado: The second-to-last chapter in Colorado's Big 12 story (the Buffaloes will reportedly not head to Pac-10 pastures until 2012) should go by with about as much fanfare as most Colorado basketball seasons. Which is to say, not much. That's too bad, because the boys in Boulder do have some talent worth watching. Most notable among it is sophomore guard Alec Burks, a 17-points-per-game scorer who flirted with a potential move to the NBA (and a transfer, too) after former CU coach Jeff Bzdelik bolted for Wake Forest. Cory Higgins, the team's leading scorer in 2009-10, is also returning. If the Buffaloes aren't an NCAA tournament team, they should at least prove a capable Big 12 foe.
Iowa State: Out with the old, in with The Mayor. That was the story of Iowa State's offseason, as former coach Greg McDermott bolted his hot seat in time to snag the Creighton job from an Oregon-bound Dana Altman. Into McDermott's office moved an ISU legend, Fred Hoiberg. He has little experience coaching, but Hoiberg has managed to wrangle a couple of troubled but talented players (former Minnesota forward Royce White, former Michigan State guard Chris Allen) to Ames already, but they will both have to sit out this season. In the meantime, 2010-11 will be a struggle. And that's putting it nicely.
Kansas: You already know the Jayhawks' story -- a comprehensive Big 12 season, a deserved No. 1 overall seed and, yes, a fateful meeting with starry-eyed Northern Iowa in the second round of the NCAA tournament. Rough stuff. Fortunately, this is Kansas, and at Kansas, even if you lose your senior point guard (Sherron Collins), your defensively dominant center (Cole Aldrich) and your one-and-done star freshman (Xavier Henry), you merely reload and make another run at the Final Four. Forward Marcus Morris will have a chance to shine. Assuming point guard Josh Selby gets eligible, he could be the best freshman guard in the country. And KU's trademark depth should assure that even if the Jayhawks take a step back from their 33-3 season, it will be a half-step at most.
Kansas State: Is this the Wildcats' year? Kansas State has nearly always lived in the shadows of its dominant in-state basketball rival, but with Naismith candidate Jacob Pullen returning and forward Curtis Kelly ready to make a leap into the college hoops elite, Frank Martin's upstart program could be considered the favorite to win the Big 12 title -- not to mention notch a rare Final Four appearance. The key questions for the Cats: Can they replace guard Denis Clemente's up-tempo style? (and do they need to?) and can a coterie of role players provide enough support for Pullen to work his thrilling offensive mojo? The answers will be the difference between a historic season and a disappointing one.
Missouri: Coach Mike Anderson has worked wonders at Missouri since taking over in 2006. He has succeeded there with the thoroughly unique -- and always entertaining -- "40 Minutes of Hell" hybrid style he learned under legendary Arkansas coach Nolan Richardson. It's designed to work even if the talent is inferior, but that shouldn't be a problem for the Tigers in 2010-11. Mizzou's three leading scorers will all return for their junior seasons. They'll be joined by ESPNU's No. 14-ranked recruiting class, a batch of athletic, fast-paced players perfect for Anderson's style.
Nebraska: Unlike Colorado, 2010-11 marks a farewell season for the Cornhuskers and their Big 12 compatriots. In football, this departure is marked by history and tradition. In basketball, it's hard to imagine many will notice. The Huskers are perhaps the Big 12's worst all-time program, and Doc Sadler's 2010-11 team isn't likely to deviate from that pattern. The good news? Nebraska is building a brand-new arena and practice facilities, which should be done just in time for the Huskers to make their big move to the Big Ten.
Oklahoma: Remember Blake Griffin? That was a much better time to be an Oklahoma hoops fan. The 2008-09 player of the year's departure was supposed to be alleviated by a talented group of youngsters (freshmen Tiny Gallon and Tommy Mason-Griffin, sophomore Willie Warren), all of whom disappointed -- in sundry and diverse ways -- before bolting to the NBA. That leaves Jeff Capel with a genuine rebuilding project, not to mention the specter of a Gallon-related NCAA investigation, on his hands. With little talent in the pipeline, things are likely to be just as depressing on the court.
Oklahoma State: All-American James Anderson was always an underrated talent at OSU, but his unique scoring skill couldn't get Travis Ford's Cowboys past the first round of the NCAA tournament last season. The Pokes also lost senior forward Obi Muonelo. That means seniors Marshall Moses and Matt Pilgrim will have to step up, diminutive sharpshooter Keiton Page will have to hit from deep even more often, and power forward recruit Michael Cobbins will have to contribute immediately. If all three things happen, Okie State should remain competitive, even as Anderson's loss proves hard to overcome.
Texas: How do you solve a problem like too much talent? That was Rick Barnes' issue during last season's historic collapse, which saw an insanely talented Longhorns team drop from No. 1 in the country to a sixth-place Big 12 finish. The Longhorns are still very talented, even after the recent transfer of previously injured guard Varez Ward to Auburn. The arrival of guard Cory Joseph could help the Longhorns stay consistent in the backcourt. Small forward Jordan Hamilton could be primed to make a major leap. A host of talented big men (like top recruit Tristan Thompson) should fill in admirably for Dexter Pittman and Damion James. But can the Horns put it all together?
Texas A&M: Another year, another quietly impressive season -- this is starting to become a hoops habit in College Station. Unfortunately, the main cause of last season's underrated tied-for-second Big 12 finish was a duo of now-departed seniors: Donald Sloan and Bryan Davis (not to mention Derrick Roland, whose horrific injury just before Christmas cost him the rest of his college career). Those were Texas A&M's three leading scorers, and though Mark Turgeon still has some experienced talent around in starters David Loubeau and B.J. Holmes, the Aggies will need surprising contributions from little-used role players to keep their own successful pace.
Texas Tech: If there's one thing the Texas Tech Red Raiders will have, it's experience. Coach Pat Knight returns five of last season's six most-used contributors, all of whom will be seniors. Most teams would love to have that senior core. The cause for concern is whether or not those players can improve on last season's 19-16 effort. Barring some sort of miraculous collective improvement -- and it will be interesting to see how high-efficient scorer John Roberson can take his game -- TTU is probably set for another just-OK season.-- Eamonn Brennan
Best case/Worst case
Nonconference games to watch
Texas vs. Illinois, (Coaches vs. Cancer), Nov. 18: UT has a very interesting nonconference schedule, and it kicks off with a game against an experienced and talented Illinois team in Madison Square Garden. It would be wise to give this young Texas team some time to congeal before judging it too harshly, but it will interesting to gauge their early-season progress against a wizened Illini squad.
Kansas State vs. Duke/Marquette (CBE Classic), Nov. 23: The more enticing matchup here is Kansas State-Duke, in what would be a late-November battle of two prospective Final Four teams in the Wildcat territory of Kansas City. But even if Marquette is the opponent, Kansas State will have a chance to build its tournament résumé early on.
Oklahoma State vs. Virginia Tech/Cal St. Northridge (76 Classic), Nov. 26: Assuming Virginia Tech handles Northridge, Oklahoma State will face a dangerous team returning most of its key pieces. It should be a pretty good barometer for judging where the Cowboys stand as the season kicks off.
Arizona State at Baylor, Dec. 2: Baylor doesn't have much on its nonconference schedule to get excited about, but the Bears will have to build something of a non-con résumé and can't afford to lose to an improved Arizona State team so early in the season.
Kansas vs. Memphis (Jimmy V Classic), Dec. 7: This game at MSG is shaping up to be a battle of two of the nation's premier freshman guards, KU's Josh Selby and Memphis' Will Barton. Barton was just declared eligible by the NCAA, while Selby is still waiting for the same news. Either way, the Jayhawks' ability to repeat their Big 12 title will get an early December test from a talented but unproven Memphis team.
Kansas State vs. Florida (Orange Bowl Classic in Sunrise, Fla.), Dec. 18: Ah, that's more like it. The Wildcats get another chance to prove their nonconference bona fides against a resurgent Florida program; Florida gets a chance to prove it can play with the best teams in the country before it sets its sights on the SEC East.
Baylor vs. Gonzaga (in Dallas), Dec. 18: If Baylor's nonconference slate isn't much to write home about, Gonzaga is its most notable foe. More than anything, this game will be a test of BU's interior players -- returner Quincy Acy and ultra-talented recruit Perry Jones -- as they try to stop Elias Harris and Robert Sacre from dominating the middle of the floor.
Texas vs. North Carolina (in Greensboro, N.C.), Dec. 18: Both teams have talent. Both teams are young. And both teams are trying to recuperate from disappointing seasons. Whether either team is able to do so will come down to how well top recruits like Harrison Barnes (UNC) and Tristan Thompson (Texas) mix with their teammates. This game will be a good place to get a read for how each will handle that challenge.
Texas at Michigan State, Dec. 22: The Longhorns' nonconference fun continues with a date in East Lansing against a loaded Michigan State team that many expect will make yet another Final Four appearance. If that's not a feet-to-the-fire experience for Rick Barnes' young team, nothing is.
Missouri vs. Illinois (in St. Louis), Dec. 22: This one is always fun. The Mizzou-Illinois rivalry is overshadowed in the college hoopsosphere, but it shouldn't be, especially when both teams look like outside shots to challenge for their respective conference titles.-- Eamonn Brennan
New Faces, New Places
Colorado: Colorado has a new coach and will eventually have a new league. But Tad Boyle's challenge is to bring something truly new to CU: winning basketball. Andy Katz
Iowa State: The rest of the basketball world may have raised its collective eyebrow when ISU tabbed Fred Hoiberg as its coach. But Cyclones fans across the state have a far different reaction to "The Mayor." Dana O'Neil
For a list of Division I coaching changes and our New Faces, New Places profiles, click here.
2009-10 Big 12 standings
|Big 12 record||Overall record|
* NCAA tournament berth