Big 12 Men's Basketball Preview

The Big 12 enters conference play this season with a wide open race for the title. Some of the top teams have lost key players, resulting in the lack of a clear favorite for the title. Who will finish on top this year? Read on for my predictions and analysis.

In 2002 the Kansas Jayhawks, who went undefeated in conference play, dominated the conference.  In the NCAA tournament Oklahoma became the first Big 12 team to reach the final four.  Both of these teams will return some key members of those teams, but they also lose important inside scoring threats.  This leaves the big 12 with very few proven inside scoring threats.  In a conference loaded with great perimiter players, the conference title will be decided in the paint.  The teams that can establish a good inside game will have the best chance at winning the conference.


Conference play will play an important role in determining which Big 12 teams make it into the NCAA tournament.  In past years it has been normal for the Big 12 to get 6 teams into the tournament, but this may change this season.  The Big 12 has had a lackluster performance in non-conference play so far.  The low number of quality non-conference wins combined with a tight conference race will hurt the conference when it is selection time.  I expect just 5 teams to make it into the NCAA tournament.  This makes conference play even more important because there will be 6 teams fighting for just 5 spots.


How They'll Finish


1.  Oklahoma


Oklahoma returns Hollis Price and Ebi Ere from last season's final four team.  The Sooners will continue to play the same tough defense that they are known for, but there are some questions on the offensive end.  The perimiter game is as good, if not better, than it was last year, but Oklahoma has not really established an inside game.  This lack of an inside game will leave the Sooners vulnerable if opponents can find a way to slow down Price and Ere.  Despite this problem the Sooners will win because of the tenacious defense they play every game.


Quality Wins: Michigan State

Bad Losses: None


2.  Kansas


Kansas proved themselves to be the best team in the Big 12 last season, but that isn't the case this season.  The Jayhawks will benefit from playing in the weaker North division of the conference.  This easier schedule will allow them to leapfrog the runner-up in the south.  Kansas offers more of an inside game than Oklahoma, but they will miss Gooden a lot this season.  Nick Collison is the biggest threat inside, while Kirk Hinrich is the leader oon the perimiter.  Forward Wayne Simien will be out for an indefinite amount of time because of a dislocated shoulder.  If this injury keeps Simien out for a significant amount of time Kansas could drop as far as fourth in the conference.


Quality Wns: None

Bad Losses: None


3.  Texas


Texas returns most of the player's from last year's team.  The Longhorns' offense relies on the ability of point guard T.J. Ford to create opportunities for his teammates.  The Primary scoring threats for Texas are Brandon Mouton, James Thomas, and Ford.  Thomas is the toughest player to stop because of his ability on the offensive glass.  These rebounds allow Thomas to score on easy shots.  If Texas can establish Thomas as a key part of their offense, they could be tough to beat.  Defensively the Longhorns have some problems.  Texas has had problems guarding teams that move the ball effectively.  The other problem has been fouls.  These fouls have placed important players on the bench during some key games.


Quality Wins: Georgia

Bad Losses: None


4.  Texas Tech


Texas Tech entered Bob Knight's second season with some questions.  The first was how to replace Andy Ellis.  The Red Raiders have found the answer with Robert Tomaszec.  The second question was how good Andre Emmett could be.  The answer to that one is still undecided.  Rght now it looks like he will be as good as he want's to be.  This team is led by Andre Emmett and Kasib Powell.  These two players provide a potent offensive threat from anywhere on the court.  Tomaszec could be the last piece in the puzzle.  If Tomaszec can provide consistent scoring the Red Raiders could easily improve their ranking in the conference.


Quality Wins: @Minnesota

Bad Losses: None


5.  Missouri


Like Kansas, Missouri will benefit from playing in the weaker North division.  The biggest problem for the Tigers will be consistency.  The Missouri offense is reliant on good guard play.  Rickey Paulding, Rickey Clemons, and Najeeb Echols provide most of the Missouri scoring.  Arthur Johnson could be a major assett to the Tigers if he can become a bigger part of the offense.


Quality Wins: Memphis

Bad Losses: None


6.  Oklahoma State


Oklahoma State is a team that can play with any of the top teams, but they have some problems that will probably keep them from finishing any higher than sixth.  The first is the lack of an inside game.  Ivan Mcfarlin has provided decent scoring so far, but he won't have the same success against the teams in the Big 12.  The other problem is the schedule.  Playing in the Big 12 South means games at Texas, Oklahoma, and Texas Tech.  The Cowboys must also play at Kansas.  Victor Williams makes this Oklahoma state team work.  If opponents can deny Williams the ball, it could be a tough season for the Cowboys.


Quality Wins: Michigan State, BYU

Bad Losses: College of Charleston


7.  Iowa State


Iowa State finds itself as the leader of the lower half of the Big 12.  Jake Sullivan is the key to this team.  If Sullivan plays well the Cyclones have a chance to win, if he doesn't they don't stand much chance.  Iowa State plays solid, fundamental basketball, which can prove troublesome for opponents.  The Cyclones also have an excellent home court advantage which may provide for an upset or two over better teams.


Quality Wins: @Iowa

Bad Losses: None


8. Colorado


Colorado can boast of the best center prospect in the Big 12 in David Harrison.  The problem is finding players to help him out.  The key to beating Clorado will be slowing down Harrison.  The best way to do this is probably to attack Colorado on the perimiter, where they are weakest.  If Clorado can get consistent play from the guards, they could be a dangerous team.


Quality Wins: None

Bad Losses: New Mexico State


9.  Baylor


The Trio of Kenny Roberts, Kenny Taylor, and John Lucas lead Baylor this season.  One problem for the Bears this year is quality depth.  The talent level drops off quickly after the starters.  This will be a major problem during the long Big 12 schedule.  Baylor will play a disciplined style of basketball, which has proven to be troublesome for some of the teams in the conference.  The weak non-conference schedule and lack of depth will prevent the Bears from finishing higher than ninth.


Quality Wins: None

Bad Losses: TCU, SMU


10. Texas A&M


Texas A&M enters big 12 play with two primary scoring threats.  The play of Antoine Wright and Bernard King will determine how good the Aggies can be this season.  The lack of a true inside scorer will probably be the biggest weakness of this team.  Look for Texas A&M to get an upset or two over an upper division team this season.


Quality Wins: LSU

Bad Losses: Miami (FL), Texas-San Antonio, Princeton


11.  Nebraska


The player to watch for Nebraska is Andrew Drevo.  Drevo is a big body inside, and could prove tough to defend for some teams.  Even with a solid inside scoring threat, the Big 12 schedule will be tough for the Cornhuskers.  The lack of solid perimiter play will keep Nebraska in the bottom third of the conference.


Quality Wins: Minnesota

Bad Losses: Alaska-Fairbanks, South Florida


12.  Kansas State


Kansas State faces the possibility of finishing dead last in the conference.  The Wildcats enter conference play without a clear leader offensively.  This has resulted in a balanced offensive attack that has 4 starters averaging over 10 points a game.  Kansas State simply doesn't have the players to keep up with the upper division teams in the conference.  The lack of size and speed will be the downfall of this team.


Quality Wins: None

Bad Losses: Northwestern, Wisconsin-Green Bay

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