Big 12 South Hoops Long on Talent

The recent news of Damion James return for his senior season has Longhorn fans excited about the 2009-10 season. While Texas will be one of the top ranked teams in the nation, navigating through the Big 12 South schedule will be tough as always.

Last season, the Oklahoma Sooners had a near dream regular season finishing 27-4 before finishing the season 30-6 including a Sweet 16 appearance. Along with the Sooners, the Longhorns, Oklahoma State Cowboys and Texas A&M Aggies advanced to the NCAA Tournament winning first round games while Baylor advanced to the finals of the NIT.

Gone are several of the top players in the conference hailing from the Big 12 South programs, but a terrific recruiting year for the conference has replenished much of what was lost in terms of talent with experience being the question mark.

The south division also returns several players that look to be first round picks in the 2010 NBA draft in Willie Warren and James Anderson with Damion James having a shot to enter that group.

Oklahoma Sooners (30-6, 13-3)

The Sooners lost the national player of the year Blake Griffin, his brother Taylor Griffin and point guard Austin Johnson. Throw in the recent dismissal of power forward Juan Pattillo and veteran back-up point guard Omar Leary and the Sooners are left with question marks along the front line and in terms of experience.

Key losses:

PF Blake Griffin (22.7 points, 14.4 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 1.1 blocks, 1.1 steals)
PF Taylor Griffin (9.6 points, 5.8 rebounds and 1.3 steals)
PG Austin Johnson (8.6 points, 3.0 rebounds, 3.9 assists, 1.3 steals)
PF Juan Pattillo (6.2 points, 3.6 rebounds and 1.0 blocks)
PG Omar Leary (1.9 points and 1.1 assists)

Key returnees:

SG Willie Warren (14.6 points, 2.2 rebounds, 3.1 assists)
SG Tony Crocker (9.6 points and 3.2 rebounds)
G/F Cade Davis (4.7 points and 1.7 rebounds)
G/F Ray Willis (3.3 points and 1.4 rebounds)
PF Ryan Wright (1.8 points and 2.1 rebounds)

Newcomers:

PG Tommy Mason-Griffin (5-9, 195)
PF Tiny Gallon (6-9, 285)
PF Andrew Fitgerald (6-8, 250)
SG Steve Pledger (6-3, 185)
PF Kyle Hardick (6-8, 225)

The Sooners will be very good again if Tommy Mason-Griffin and Tiny Gallon play at or above the level they are expected to as McDonald's All-American's. Because of Griffin last year, teams had to pick their poison in man or in zone against an Oklahoma team that featured four quality three-point shooters. That will not be the case this year as the opponent will be able to pressure the ball much more and work to get the ball out of Warren's hands on a consistent basis.

Oklahoma struggles if Ryan Wright doesn't step up and give consistent minutes and Tiny Gallon doesn't provide a back to the basket game and lives in foul trouble. Oklahoma will have to become a very good group of team rebounders.

The Sooners lost 60% of their scoring and more than 70% of their rebounding from a year ago.

Texas A&M (24-10, 9-7)

Texas A&M received bad news on Monday as junior big man Chinemelu Elonu announced his intentions to remain in the 2009 NBA draft. With the news, the Aggies will now have to replace the production of wing Josh Carter and their best big man.

The losses, while big, aren't post season ending for Texas A&M with the return of guard Donald Sloan, power forward Bryan Davis and guard Derrick Roland as well as key players off the bench. The Aggies return a lot of big game experience and are bringing in some talented wing prospects to off-set the loss of Carter.

Key losses:

G/W Josh Carter (13.8 points, 4.3 rebounds and 39.9% from three)
F/C Chinemelu Elonu (9.8 points, 7.3 rebounds and 1.6 blocks)

Key returnees:

G Donald Sloan (11.8 points, 3.6 rebounds and 3.1 assists)
PF Bryan Davis (10.8 points, 6.5 rebounds and 1.3 blocks)
G/W Derrick Roland (6.3 points, 2.5 rebounds and 1.8 assists)
PG B.J. Holmes (8.8 points, 2.1 rebounds and 1.4 assists)
PF David Loubeau (4.6 points and 3.2 rebounds)
W/F Nathan Walkup (3.5 points and 2.5 rebounds)
PG Dash Harris (1.8 points and 1.9 assists)

Newcomers:

G/W Jeremy Adams (6-4, 195)
W/F Khris Middleton (6-6, 190)
W/G Naji Hibbert (6-5, 185)
PF Ray Turner (6-8, 215)
PF Kourtney Roberson (6-8, 220)

The Aggies will have a good season if sophomore Loubeau takes his game to another level on both ends of the floor, especially defensively, and the Aggies have a player step up as a go to scorer late in games.

If A&M doesn't get quality play opposite Davis on the interior and the Aggies struggle scoring in the final four minutes, they will likely be a bubble team.

Another positive sign for A&M would be freshman guard Jeremy Adams out of Mississippi or Khris Middleton out of South Carolina becoming a consistent scoring threat on the wing. If A&M is reliant on Sloan and Homes only, they will struggle mightly on the offensive end.

Baylor (24-15, 5-11)

The Bears were the major disappointment in the Big 12 last season coming off of a NCAA Tournament appearance couple with an experienced and talented team returning.

If the Bears are to finish in the top six of the league and get back to the NCAA Tournament, a top 20 ranked 2009 recruiting class will have to produce one or two impact players.

Key losses:

Curtis Jerrells (16.3 points, 4.5 rebounds and 4.9 assists)
Kevin Rogers (12.6 points, 7.6 rebounds and 0.8 blocks)
Henry Dugat (9.4 points, 3.1 rebounds, 2.o assists and 1.6 steals)
Mamadou Diene (1.8 points and 1.8 rebounds)

Key returnees:

SG LaceDarius Dunn (15.7 points, 4.9 rebounds and 0.6 assists)
G Tweety Carter (10.6 points, 2.5 rebounds and 3.2 assists)
PF Quincy Acy (5.4 points and 3.6 rebounds)
C Josh Lomers (3.4 points and 1.9 rebounds)
F/W Anthony Jones (2.4 points and 1.3 rebounds)

Newcomers:

C/F Ekpe Udoh (6-9 Michigan transfer)
G/W Nolan Dennis (6-5, 180)
PG A.J. Walton (6-0, 175)
PF Cory Jefferson (6-8, 200)
G/W Mark McLaughlin (6-4, 190)
W/G Givon Crump (6-6, 205)

The Bears face the tough task of replacing talent plus experience and players that were relied on late in games. Dugat was by far the best perimeter defender and his ability to create turnovers will be missed.

The play of Ekpe Udoh on the interior will be key. Udoh is a defender and shot blocker, but will have to provide offensive production along with Acy and Lomers.

Freshmen A.J. Walton at point guard and Nolan Dennis on the wing have to be as good or better than expected.

Junior sharp shooter LaceDarius Dunn needs to become a more complete player for the Bears. To this point, he hasn't made hi teammates better and he has to become more than a jump shot hunter and sneaky offensive rebounder.

Oklahoma State (23-12, 9-7)

The Cowboys made an unexpected run to the second round of the NCAA Tournament before losing to Pittsburgh a season ago. Head coach Travis Ford has brought an up tempo system to Stillwater and look for that to continue in 2009-10 with a roster lacking size, but featuring a boatload of quickness.

The Cowboys return the top offensive player in the Big 12 in wing James Anderson along with a tough match-up in forward Obi Muonelo as well as quickly improving undersized power forward, Marshall Moses.

Key losses:

PG Byron Eaton (14.3 points, 3.7 rebounds, 5.7 assists and 2.2 steals)
SG Terrel Harris (13.9 points, 4.8 rebounds, 1.9 assists and 1.8 steals)
PF Anthony Brown (2.4 points and 2.1 rebounds)

Key returnees:

G/W James Anderson (18.2 points, 5.7 rebounds and 1.4 assists)
F/W Obi Muonelo (12.7 points and 7.2 rebounds)
G Keiton Page (8.6 points, 1.1 rebounds and 1.3 assists)
PF Marshall Moses (7.0 points and 6.1 rebounds)

Newcomers:

PG Fred Gulley (6-1, 175)
PF Karron Johnson (6-7.5, 210)
G/W Roger Franklin (6-4, 210)
C/PF Torrin Walker (6-9.5, 225)
PG Raymond Penn (5-9, 165)
PG Reger Dowell (6-0, 175)
PF Jarred Shaw (6-8.5, 195)

There may not be a team in the conference that needs a point guard to come through more than the Cowboys after the graduation of Byron Eaton. Page isn't a drive and kick point guard making the play of freshmen Fred Gulley and Raymond Penn the key to the season.

James Anderson can get his own shot, but Obi Muonelo excels in catch and shoot situations as well as Page.

The Cowboys also have to have someone other than Moses step up on the interior defensively and rebounding.

Texas Tech (13-15, 3-13)

The Red Raiders struggled throughout the 2009-10 season, but could very well be the most improved team in the conference next year with three experienced players at guard led by one of the top point guard in the country in John Roberson, a solid young post player in Robert Lewandowski as well as a pair of junior college recruits that will add athletic ability to a team that has to improve in terms of rebounding, quickness and leaping ability.

Key Losses:

SG Alan Voskuil (14.1 points, 4.1 rebounds and 44.9% from three)
F Michael Prince (3.8 points and 2.8 rebounds)

Key returnees:

PG John Roberson (14.4 points, 3.6 rebounds and 6.5 assists)
G/W Nick Okorie (11.5 points, 3.1 rebounds and 1.4 assists)
F/W Mike Singletary (11.1 points, 5.7 rebounds and 1.8 assists)
W/F D'walyn Roberts (5.1 points and 3.7 rebounds)
F Trevor Cook (7.6 points and 3.4 rebounds)
PF Robert Lewandowski (6.9 points and 3.8 rebounds)

Newcomers:

W/F Brad Reese (6-6 junior college transfer)
F/W Theron Jenkins (6-6 junior college transfer)
G Mike Davis (6-2, 185)
G Jaye Crockett (6-4, 180)
G David Tairu (6-3 junior college transfer)

The Red Raiders will be a much improved team if Lewandowski make big gains and the junior college transfers add athleticism and defensive ability. The job of John Roberson will be tougher in 2009-10 without the ability to drive and kick to Voskuil or a set play late in the shot clock to get Voskuil an jumper coming off of a series of screens.


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