Building An All-Big 12 Team

Taking a different kind of look at the All-Big 12 team, builds a squad from the league's best players.

1) Jeff Withey, C, Kansas

Why is Withey the No. 1 pick? Because there are so few impact centers in the Big 12, and because he can provide arguably the best shot-blocking presence in the country. If defense truly wins championships — and recent studies of Adjusted Defensive Efficiency numbers have proven that to be true in the college game — it's hard to pick somebody other than the most impactful player in the league, somebody who ranks at the top in both blocks and defensive rebounds per game, while also scoring 13.6 per contest.

2) Marcus Smart, G, Oklahoma State

If Withey gives an elite defensive presence in the post, Smart provides one at the top of the defense. I'm taking Smart as a point guard here, relying on him to provide the kind of pressure and all-around game that made him the best player in the Big 12. Smart was tops in the Big 12 in steals per game while placing in the top 15 in points (15.1), rebounds (5.7) and assists (4.3) per game. He's not a great shooter, but Smart has a sense of timing beyond an ordinary freshman — he knows when his team needs him to take over.

3) Ben McLemore, G, Kansas

With a post threat and a point guard, now it's time to lock up a long-range shooter and scorer. And McLemore is one of the most efficient scorers in the country, shooting better than 50 percent from the field, 43.4 percent from three and a Big 12 best 86.3 percent from the free throw line. McLemore is one of the league's best overall athletes, as evidenced by the fact that he rebounded at an outstanding rate (5.3 per game) as well.

4) Romero Osby, Oklahoma

With Withey down low, Smart at the point and McLemore on the wing, it's time to grab a pick-and-pop big man who can also add value as a high-low option against zones. Osby is one of the toughest players to defend in the Big 12, as evidenced by the fact that he scored 17.8 points per game in league play, the second-best mark, while shooting 54.0 percent from the field. He has the ability to stick a jumper or take his man off the dribble with his quickness and strength. He was also a top-five rebounder at 7.3 boards per game.

5) Rodney McGruder, Kansas State

Perhaps no player was as hounded by defenders as McGruder was this year in Kansas State's motion offense. Still, he displayed a balanced offensive game, scoring 16.1 points per Big 12 contest and shooting a solid 46.2 percent from the field. As Kansas State's primary option, he still got the job done. Here, teams will have a harder time focusing on him, allowing him more open looks and lanes to the basket. McGruder is also an excellent defender.

6) Travis Releford, Kansas

This team was built around defense to start, and here, I tap the Big 12's top perimeter defender. Releford may be the most undervalued talent in the Big 12, one of the top defensive players in the country but also a guy who can score at an efficient clip and one of the league's best transition finishers. Releford scored 12 points per game while shooting an astounding 57.9 percent from the floor for a wing. He's not a score-first type player, but on this team, he really doesn't need to be.

7) Tyrus McGee, G, Iowa State

Why so high for McGee? Because three-point shooting is the great equalizer in college basketball, and McGee is by-far the most dangerous and prolific three-point shooter in the league. He averaged 13.5 points per game and leads the Big 12 in three-point percentage (47.0) and three-pointers made per game (2.81). Only two players in the league made 1.5 three-pointers per game and averaged 40-plus percent from behind the arc. McGee is one. McLemore is the other. We'll take both.

8) Pierre Jackson, G, Baylor

With Smart as the defense-first point guard on roster, it's time to grab an offense-first guy to provide some versatility. Jackson's outstanding quickness and explosive athleticism creates issues for anybody guarding him and he led the Big 12 both in points per game (19.4) and assists per game (6.6). You know how NBA teams always have those point-a-minute scoring point guards that come off the bench? Perfect role for Jackson.

9) Melvin Ejim, Iowa State

Like Releford, Ejim is an outstanding glue guy. And while Releford's elite glue talent is as a defender, Ejim is the Big 12's top rebounder. He's a pogo stick on the glass, grabbing 12.8 percent of the available offensive boards and 25.6 percent of the available defensive rebounds. At 6-6 230, he's too quick for most fours, but thick enough to hold his own. And he's also a deceptive offensive threat, making almost 55 percent of his twos and 37 percent of his threes.

10) Cory Jefferson, Baylor

Here, we provide cover for both Withey and Osby, while providing somebody who can play both the four and the five. Jefferson is a solid all-around big who can score (12.1 PPG), rebound (8.2 RPG) and block shots (2 BPG). He's not as dynamic as his teammate, 7-foot-1 freshman Isaiah Austin, but he provides more defensively, and for what we're looking for, he fits a bit better.

11) Myck Kabongo, Texas

With four big men and four wing players, it's time to grab a third point guard. While Angel Rodriguez was certainly considered here, we already have a quick, undersized point in Jackson. And Kabongo provides the kind of table-setting point guard that would blend well with wing shooters like McGee. Kabongo has the length to be a good defender, and he scored (15.8 PPG), rebounded (5.3 RPG), passed (5.3 APG) and stole the ball (1.9 SPG) at a high rate.

12) Le'Bryan Nash, Oklahoma State

There were a number of candidates for this spot. Austin was one. Nash's teammate Markel Brown was another. Chris Babb could have supplied another wing defender, while Elijah Johnson could have been a point guard/two guard combo. But the final spot on roster goes to Nash, because when he's on, there might not be a better low-post scorer in the Big 12. With Ejim and Jefferson as our second-team bigs, there's a bit of a need for a scoring four, and Nash plays that role better than anybody. Austin provides a more well-rounded presence, but for what is needed, Nash is the best pick, as he can also play some minutes as a small forward if need be.

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