Big 12 Champion — Kansas
At some point, when a team has grabbed a share of nine consecutive Big 12 titles, you have to give them the benefit of the doubt. And so the Jayhawks, despite returning no starters from last year's Sweet 16 group, get the nod here because of one of the nation's top recruiting classes that includes three five-star prospects in Andrew Wiggins, Wayne Selden and Joel Embiid, as well as a key addition in big man Tarik Black, a transfer from Memphis. Naadir Tharpe had a sizable role on last year's team as a backup point guard, while Perry Ellis came on late as a low-post scorer. They'll help to team with the new guys in a team that could take a bit to jell, but that should be among the nation's best at the end of the season. The Jayhawks will certainly be among the most talented. Oklahoma State, with the big three of Marcus Smart, Markel Brown and LeBryan Nash, will also compete for the Big 12 title, and could also be a top-10 to top-15 team, though the Jayhawks are deeper, should be better in the low post and will benefit from Bill Self's steadying hand.
Big 12 Player of the Year — Marcus Smart, Oklahoma State
It's hard to argue with his production. Looking at per-game averages, Smart is the Big 12's leading returning scorer, seventh-leading returning rebounder, leading returning assist guy, leading returner in steals and the returning top guy in free throw percentage. Oh, and he's the returning Big 12 Player of the Year. Smart (6-foot-4 225) is a huge point guard who can defend, distribute, impact games on the glass and barrel through defenses with the pick and roll. He needs to improve his shot, but he still averaged 15.4 points per game without it a year ago, thanks in part to his ability to draw fouls. Smart will likely be an All-American, and he'll push for a top-five draft spot next summer. The only reason this is even a conversation is because of …
Big 12 Newcomer of the Year — Andrew Wiggins, Kansas
If you believe the rumors, Wiggins breaths fire, has laser beams coming from his eyes, bench presses Cadillac Escalades for fun and can dunk with both hands tied behind his back. If you talk to the Big 12's coaches, many of whom scouted Wiggins since the ninth grade … you'll find they don't think that description is too far off. Don't expect Wiggins to put up Kevin Durant or Michael Beasley type scoring numbers. For one thing, he's unselfish, and for two, he has a more balanced team. But do expect Wiggins to make a huge impact everywhere else, using his length and unreal athleticism to grab rebounds and dominate defensively. It says something when the top recruit in the class is considered to be the top defensive player in the class, and the 6-foot-8 Wiggins should be among the country's best. The good news? He's only around for a year, so those coaches can breathe a bit easier.
First Team All Big 12
G Marcus Smart, Sophomore, Oklahoma State
G Markel Brown, Senior, Oklahoma State
F Andrew Wiggins, Freshman, Kansas