Big 12 Preview
The Big 12 was formed with the hopes of becoming a powerhouse football conference. While this has come true, a secondary result has occurred: the Big 12 has become the toughest conference in the country in basketball, too. Three teams are ranked in the top 4 spots of the preseason AP poll after two teams (Kansas and Oklahoma) made Final Four appearances last year. Team previews and predictions as follows (Teams listed in projected order of finish):
1. Kansas - www.kuathletics.com
Last Year: Final Four; 33-4, 16-0 Big 12
Key Losses: Drew Gooden, Jeff Boschee, and Jeff Carey
Outlook: A very talented team that could easily return to the Final Four if they stay healthy. Collison and Heinrich are preseason All-Americans and are obviously very talented. Keith Langford has improved and Bryant Nash will be a solid sixth man off of the bench. Depth could be a problem, but if the big two stay healthy the Jayhawks will be just fine.
Prediction: Elite Eight; 31-6, 13-3 Big 12
2. Texas - www.texassports.com
Last Year: Sweet 16; 22-12, 10-6 Big 12
Key Newcomers: Brad Buckman
Key Losses: Chris Owens and Fredie Williams
Outlook: All five starters return from the Sweet 16 team last year and are led by the best point guard in the Big 12, T.J. Ford. Ford is simply amazing and has a Ben Wallace-type big man in James Thomas. Erskin might be the best dunker in the league. This team is young and will be a top contender next year with only one meaningful senior (Erskin) leaving.
Prediction: Final Four; 30-5, 12-4 Big 12
3. Oklahoma – www.soonersports.com
Last Year: Final Four; 31-5, 13-3 Big 12
Key Newcomers: Kevin Bookout and De'Angelo Alexander
Key Losses: Aaron McGhee and Daryan Selvy
Outlook: This Final Four team must find a way to replace McGhee in order to return to that level. Price, Ere, and White lead a great backcourt, but the frontcourt is somewhat thin. If Bookout can produce like he is capable of doing, then this team is a viable National Championship contender.
Prediction: Elite Eight; 27-6, 12-4 Big 12
4. Missouri – www.mutigers.com
Last Year: Elite Eight; 24-12, 9-7 Big 12
Top Returnees: Rickey Paulding, Arthur Johnson, and Travon Bryant
Key Newcomers: Jimmy McKinney, Ricky Clemons, and Young Kevin
Key Losses: Kareem Rush, Clarence Gilbert, and Wesley Stokes
Outlook: The key player this year is Paulding. He must step up to the challenge of replacing two great players in Rush and Gilbert. Ricky Clemmons will be asked to step in for the departed Gilbert and Stokes at the point and should be able to do the job. In order for this team to take a step forward from last year, it will need Arthur Johnson to finally use his big frame to its full potential.
Prediction: Round of 32; 22-9, 10-6 Big 12
5. Texas Tech – www.texastech.com
Last Year: NCAA First Round; 23-9, 10-6 Big 12
Top Returnees: Andre Emmett, Kasib Powell, and Will Chavis
Key Losses: Andy Ellis
Outlook: The surprise team of the Big 12 last year will really miss Andy Ellis and his 16.5 points per game, but talent remains for Bobby Knight. Andre Emmett is one of the best players in the Big 12 and Kasib Powell is a nice inside presence. A good team, but could really struggle if Emmett is hurt for a long period of time this season.
Prediction: NCAA First Round; 20-10, 9-7 Big 12
6. Nebraska – www.huskers.com
Last Year; 13-15, 6-10 Big 12
Key Losses: Cary Cochran and John Robinson II
Outlook: This could be a breakout year for Nebraska. The talent level has drastically increased, but the intensity and discipline have remained at the same high level. Johnson, Wilkinson, and Drevo will all contribute greatly and depth will be an advantage all year for the Huskers. They are the surprise team of the Big 12 this year.
Prediction: NCAA First Round; 21-11, 9-7 Big 12
7. Oklahoma State – www.okstate.com
Last Year: NCAA First Round; 23-9, 10-6 Big 12
Top Returnees: Victor Williams, Ivan McFarlin, and Melvin Sanders
Key Newcomers: Tony Allen, Janavor Weatherspoon, and Jason Miller
Key Losses: Maurice Baker and Fredrik Jonzen
Outlook: The Cowboys will really miss Baker and Jonzen and because of that will not make the NCAA tourney this year. Williams and McFarlin are a formidable inside-outside presence, but are probably not good enough to really do some damage in the Big 12.
Prediction: NIT; 19-12, 8-8 Big 12
8. Iowa State – www.cyclones.com
Last Year: 12-19, 4-12 Big 12
Key Losses: Tyray Pearson and Shane Power
Outlook: The Cyclones look to bounce back after a horrendous year last year and have added a lot of new faces for this year. Barnes and Vroman are JUCO transfers that will impact this team immediately. Sullivan is the only returning player with any real talent, so a lot is unknown with this team. If the newcomers gel quickly then this team may sneak into the NCAA tourney, but don't count on that.
Prediction: NIT; 20-11, 8-8 Big 12
9. Baylor – www.baylorbears.com
Last Year: 14-16, 4-12 Big 12
Top Returnees: Lawrence Roberts, John Lucas, and R.T. Guinn
Key Losses: Wendell Greenleaf and Greg Davis
Outlook: The Bears are looking to take advantage of their young talent this year, but they probably are not deep enough to go any further than the NIT. Roberts and Lucas are very good sophomores and Terrance Thomas looks like a great transfer pickup, but height is a problem and that's not a good thing in a talented league like the Big 12.
Prediction: NIT; 17-11, 6-10 Big 12
10. Colorado – www.cubuffs.com
Last Year: 15-14, 5-11 Big 12
Top Returnees: Stephane Pelle, Blair Wilson, and David Harrison
Key Losses: D.J. Harrison and Nick Mohr
Outlook: Probably the best frontcourt in the Big 12 and one of the best in the country with Stephane Pelle and Davide Harrison, but the guard play is very suspect at this point. Antoine McGhee could step right in and be a great point guard, but don't count on it.
Prediction: 15-14, 5-11 Big 12
11. Texas A&M – www.aggieathletics.com
Last Year: 9-22, 3-13 Big 12
Top Returnees: Bernard King, Nick Anderson, and Andy Slocum
Key Losses: Andy Leatherman
Outlook: The Aggies should have been better last year with King's talent alone, but they did not take advantage of it. Wright and Garcia-Morales could provide a great scoring spark this year, but this team does not look much better than last year's.
Prediction: 10-18, 2-14 Big 12
12. Kansas State – www.kstatesports.com
Last Year: 13-16, 6-10 Big 12
Top Returnees: Pervis Pasco and Matt Siebrandt
Key Losses: Larry Reid, Nick Williams, and Travis Reynolds
Outlook: This could be a really ugly year for the Wildcats. Reid is gone after carry this team by himself at times last year. Pasco has the most talent on the team and is probably a second team All-Big 12 talent. The newcomers have some ability, but not enough to help Kansas State avoid the cellar this year.
Prediction: 9-21, 2-14 Big 12
G - T.J. Ford – Texas
G - Kirk Heinrich – Kansas
F- Nick Collison – Kansas
G – Andre Emmitt – Texas Tech
G – Hollis Price – Oklahoma
Big 12 Player of the Year
T.J. Ford - Texas
Big 12 Newcomer of the Year
Nate Johnson - Nebraska
Big 12 Freshman of the Year
Kevin Bookout – Oklahoma
Big 12 Coach of the Year
Barry Collier - Nebraska