Just one simple man’s opinion on how the Big 12 stacks up right now.
1. Kansas – You want to bet against Kansas winning it again? The past decade says you are wrong. Forever, “this year” has been the year that the reloaded Jayhawks would falter and their new cast of stars would not win the Big 12. Perry Ellis, a secondary player for Kansas the past few seasons, seems primed for a breakthrough year as the main guy for the Jayhawks.
2. Oklahoma – With Buddy Hield emerging as a potential star, and double-double machine Ryan Spangler patrolling the paint, the Sooners have an offense as good as any in the Big 12. Will their defense improve enough to contend for a Big 12 title? I am not one to bet against Lon Kruger, and he gives the Sooners the edge over some more talented teams.
3. Texas – The biggest surprise in the Big 12, and possibly the nation in 2013, the Longhorns return all but 1-rotation player and add one of the best recruits in the nation in Myles Turner. Isaiah Taylor will need to take a big step forward for the Longhorns to challenge the Jayhawks, but they might have the best mix of talent and experience in the Big 12.
4. Baylor – After the first three teams, the drop off is pretty steep. The next few teams are pretty close in my eyes. Call me Homer though, as I think the Bears have enough returning fire power to hold off the other challengers. Kenny Chery is one of the best returning guards in the Big 12, and has a chance to put together a full season together, after battling injuries in 2013. Rico Gathers is one of the best rebounders in the nation, and could see his numbers sky rocket with a large increase in minutes.
5. Iowa State – Gone are the two stars from last year’s tournament team in DeAndre Kane and Melvin Ejim. Dustin Hogue looks to take on a much larger role alongside Georges Niang. They have a new cast of impact transfers waiting to get started in guard Bryce Dejean-Jones, forward Jameel McKay, and forward Abdel Nader.
6. Kansas State – The Wildcats return one of the best players in the Big 12 in Marcus Foster, and a good post player in Thomas Gipson. They have brought in some more height with junior college center Stephen Hurt, Brandon Bolden a Georgetown transfer. Will the Wildcats get enough scoring around Foster though?
7. West Virginia – The best player in the Big 12 probably resides in Morgantown, with Juwan Staten and his 18 points per game coming back for his senior year. Outside of him though, there are a lot of question marks for coach Bob Huggins. They lost three key starters off of last year’s team, and hit the junior college ranks hard looking for reinforcements.
8. Oklahoma State – With Lebyran Nash and Phil Forte the only main rotation guys returning for Oklahoma State, this should be a rebuilding year in Stillwater. It isn’t easy to replace guys like Marcus Smart, Markel Brown, Kamari Murphy and Brian Williams.
9. Texas Tech – It was tough to keep the Red Raiders out of last place. I guess it comes down to me believing in Coach Tubby Smith more than Trent Johnson for TCU. The Red Raiders lost their two best players in Jaye Crockett and Jordan Tolbert, and a few other key contributors. They do have Robert Turner back to run the offense, but this will be a very different looking team this year. It will be a big success for the Red Raiders to not be in last in the Big 12 this year.
10. TCU. – They will probably be better than they were in 2013, but still not good enough to get out of the basement of the Big 12. Kyan Anderson is one of the best scorers in the Big 12, and Karviar Shepherd had an excellent freshman year. If Amric Field can stay healthy and the team as a whole can grow under Trent Johnson, the Horned Frogs have a chance to move up a few spots.