Monday, October 30, 2006

Big Twelve Conference Preview


Player of the Year: Brandon Rush, SF, Kansas

Newcomer of the Year: Kevin Durant, SF, Texas

All-Conference Team:
G- Jarrius Jackson, Texas Tech
G- Acie Law, Texas A&M
F- Brandon Rush, Kansas
F- Cartier Martin, Kansas State
C- Joseph Jones, Texas A&M

Second Team:
G- Mario Chalmers, Kansas
G- Richard Roby, Colorado
F- Rahshon Clark, Iowa State
F- Julian Wright, Kansas
F- Mario Boggan, Oklahoma State

Third Team:
G- Russell Robinson, Kansas
G- Martin Zeno, Texas Tech
G- JamesOn Curry, Oklahoma State
G- Aaron Bruce, Baylor
C- Alexs Maric, Nebraska

1. Kansas- Like last year, the Big 12 is not going to have much of a title chase this season. However, this year will be dominated by the Jayhawks. Kansas is head-and-shoulders above the rest of the conference heading into the season. Moreover, it is a young team with room to improve over the course of the year. They are led by an excellent perimeter group. Brandon Rush, the preseason Player of the Year in the Big 12 and a bonafide All-America candidate, is the go-to-guy. He has the ability to be a star. He can create his own shot and is a very good scorer. However, he was too unselfish last season and deferred to his teammates too often. Fellow sophomore Mario Chalmers could be on the verge of a breakout season. He developed steadily as the year went on and was voted the Big 12 Tournament's most outstanding player. He is a good scorer who led the Big 12 in steals. Russell Robinson might be the best defender in the conference and is the leader for the young Jayhawks. He is an underrated point guard on a national level and can do a little bit of everything. Coming off the bench is Sherron Collins, a McDonald's All-American. He is a tough combo guard who will make an immediate impact. His athleticism and quickness will help right away. Up front, another sophomore, Julian Wright, leads the way. He is one of the more versatile players in the Big 12. The athletic Wright can play nearly every position on the floor. Furthermore, he is an outstanding passer and can finish in the lane. Sasha Kaun is the main man down low. He has an underrated all-around game, but will be out for much of the non-conference season with an injury. C.J. Giles would have stepped in for him, but he was dismissed for academic reasons. Freshman Darrell Arthur and junior Darnell Jackson will be the other two players in the paint. Arthur can play anywhere on the frontline and will make an immediate impact. He is very athletic and loves to run the floor. Jackson is a banger who is a solid contributor in terms of points and rebounds. Kansas has one of the most talented teams in the country, but also one of the youngest. If the newcomers live up the hype and the sophomores mature, the Jayhawks could be still dancing in April. Prediction: NCAA

2. Texas A&M- The team most likely to give Kansas a run during the regular season is Texas A&M. The Aggies improved as the season went on last year and look to carry some of that momentum over to this season. They are led by arguably the best inside-outside combos in the country. Point guard Acie Law is one of the top players at his position in the nation. He is extremely quick with the ball and loves to lead the fast break. He is a very good passer and scorer who is poised for a huge season. Post player Joseph Jones is a dominant inside performer. He is a load for opponents to defend in the paint with his size and variety of post moves. He is an excellent rebounder and is capable of taking over any game with his scoring ability down low. On the perimeter with Law is Dominique Kirk and Josh Carter. Kirk is an outstanding defender who can stroke the three with efficiency. He does a little bit of everything. Carter is the best shooter on the team, capable of getting hot at any time. Look for him to be a potential third option on the wing. Up front, Marlon Pompey and Antanas Kavaliauskas will fight for a starting job. The athletic Pompey started last season and deservedly so. He is a solid defender and rebounder who will also provide a handful of points every night. Kavaliauskas came on strong down the stretch and will get more minutes this year. He is a good scorer who can put up points both inside and outside. The 6-10 Kavaliauskas also provides size and rebounding. Freshmen Donald Sloan and Bryan Davis will produce off the bench. Sloan is an excellent athlete in the backcourt, while Davis will make an impact down low. The Aggies will live and die with Law and Jones. Without a proven third option, A&M needs both of them to have big games in order to win. If A&M develops complementary scorers, look out for them in March. Prediction: NCAA

3. Texas- The team with the best chance to be like last year's North Carolina or Kansas is Texas. They lost all five starters, and six of their top seven players. However, the Longhorns bring in one of the best recruiting classes in the country. The freshman will need to make an immediate impact if Texas wants to be a threat in March. It all starts with Kevin Durant. The 6-9 newcomer is my pick of National Freshman of the Year. He can play any position on the floor and has a chance to be a very special player this season. He's extremely talented and will make an impact at both ends of the floor with his athleticism, length, and scoring ability. His forward tandem will likely be another highly-touted freshman, Damion James. James is a similar player to Durant in that they are both very versatile and capable of playing multiple positions. James is a relentless player who can score both inside and outside and is also a good rebounder and passer. Rounding out the frontcourt newcomers will be centers Matt Hill, Dexter Pittman, and Harrison Smith. Hill is the most likely to start. He is a workhorse who is a solid rebounder and scorer. Pittman and Smith will provide post depth. The main newcomer in the backcourt is McDonald's All-America D.J. Augustin. He is an outstanding passer and loves to run the floor. He is also a good defender and a decent scorer. Justin Mason is another impact freshman. He is adept at driving to the basket and is also a very good defender. The only returnee expected to start is sophomore A.J. Abrams. He improved as the season went on, and could have a big year this season. He is a very good passer who takes care of the ball. Abrams can also score if necessary. Fellow returnees J.D. Lewis and Craig Winder provide depth in the backcourt, while Connor Atchley could see starting time early at center while the freshmen develop. Texas could take awhile to come together as a team with all of the fresh faces and inexperience. However, by the time March rolls around, the Longhorns will be a team no one wants to play. Prediction: NCAA

4. Oklahoma State- The Cowboys had a disappointing season a year ago, going from 26 wins two seasons ago to a 17-16 overall record and a 6-10 Big 12 record last year. However, with all five starters returning and a nice batch of role players also coming back, OK State could be back in the Big Dance again. The key to this team will be point guard play. Byron Eaton and Jamaal Brown split time at the lead guard spot last season, and will likely do so again this year. However, both were turnover-prone and need to improve on taking care of the ball if the Cowboys are going to reach their potential. Eaton is a powerfully-built player who can get into the lane, while Brown is more of a shooter. JamesOn Curry also returns in the backcourt. The All-Big 12 guard took a step back last year after a very impressive freshman season. However, he has excellent scoring ability and is one of the best three-point shooters in the conference. Sophomore Terrel Harris has excellent potential and could become a starter at some point. Freshman Obi Muonelo was a McDonald's All-American and will make an immediate impact. He is a big-time scorer who can also create opportunities for his teammates. Wing Marcus Dove is one of the best defenders in the conference. He is 6-9 and very long and athletic. He needs to improve his offensive production. Up front, All-Conference big man Mario Boggan returns. Boggan is a versatile scorer who can dominate in the low post and also step out and hit the jumper. He played extremely well down the stretch and could breakout this season. Forward David Monds is better equipped to play on the perimeter, but can also contribute on the block. He is a good scorer and rebounder. Kenny Cooper provides size and defense in the paint. Oklahoma State has a lot of talent and depth. If everything comes together, they could compete for 2nd in the league behind Kansas. Prediction: NCAA

5. Kansas State- If you are looking for a national sleeper in the Big 12, the Wildcats are your best bet. They had a decent campaign last season, going 15-13 overall. However, for the second season in a row, KSU started very strong in the non-conference before falling to the bottom half of the Big 12 during the conference portion. That should change this season with the welcoming of new coach Bob Huggins. He has a nice group to work with. A terrific forward trio leads the way for the Wildcats. Cartier Martin is an all-Big 12 player who is one of the best all-around players in the country. He is an outstanding scorer who can put up points from inside and outside. He is an excellent shooter and is also a good rebounder and defender. David Hoskins also returns. He is a difficult player to match-up with due to his size. Hoskins is also a solid rebounder and defender. He improved throughout the season and could be poised for a breakout season. The only thing that could potentially hold him back is the arrival of freshman Bill Walker. One of the top rated players in the 2007 class, Walker (O.J. Mayo's high school teammate) graduated high school early and will be eligible to play this season for Kansas State. He is extremely athletic and loves to run the floor. He is expected to play sometime in December. Rounding out the frontcourt are freshmen centers Jason Bennett and Luis Colon. The 7-3 Bennett is highly-touted newcomer who will make an impact on the defensive end, while Colon is a good rebounder and deceptively athletic. In the backcourt, JC transfer Blake Young should start right away. He is a terrific shooter who can play both guard spots. Akeem Wright and Clent Stewart return as starters on the perimeter. Wright is the team's best defensive player, while Stewart is a steady point guard. Double-figure scorer Lance Harris will likely be the sixth man again this season. If Walker makes his expected impact, the Wildcats will be extremely difficult to deal with up front. As long as Huggins finds a point guard to run the show (Young? St. John's transfer Jermaine Maybank?), the Wildcats will be dancing. Prediction: NCAA

6. Texas Tech- After a disappointing campaign a season ago, the Red Raiders will be looking to rebound in what will be a record-breaking season for Bobby Knight. He needs 11 victories to become the winningest coach in Division-1 history. When it comes depends a lot on Jarrius Jackson. The All-Big 12 guard is one of the best scorers in the country and is also a terrific three-point shooter. He is one of the five best point guards in the country. However, it was announced yesterday that he will be academically ineligible for at least the first semester. Tech needs Jackson if they are going to make a run at an NCAA bid. His backcourt partner, Martin Zeno, will have to pick up the slack in Jackson's absence. He is not a great shooter, but he is very good at getting points in the lane and when driving to the basket. He is also a solid rebounder and defender who can pass the ball. Charles Burgess will start at the point while Jackson is out. He is very quick with the ball and is an excellent passer. Wing Decensae White will also see immediate playing time on the perimeter. Guard Alan Voskuil will see time. Up front, Darry Dora and Jon Plefka return. Dora is a good inside-outside offensive player who can also distribute the ball and rebound. Plefka has good potential scoring and rebounding the ball. JC transfers Rodrick Craig and Jay Mitchell will fight for starting jobs at forward, while another JC transfer, 7-footer Esmir Rivic will likely step in down low as the starting center. Returnee Tanner Ogden will contribute. The loss of Jackson hurts the Red Raiders big-time, especially this late in the preseason. If they are able to survive without him, it could be one of Bobby Knight's best coaching jobs. Prediction: NIT

7. Baylor- After last season's rollercoaster season that saw them play only conference games, Baylor will be glad the new season is upon us. As a result of NCAA sanctions, the Bears were not allowed to play non-conference games last season. Baylor did show some signs of potential, though, with close losses late in the season. They should be much improved this year. One of the conference's best backcourts returns in Aaron Bruce and Curtis Jerrells. Bruce is an all-conference-caliber player who needs to return to his freshman form when he averaged over 18 points per game. He is a good scorer and an excellent three-point shooter who can distribute the ball effectively. Jerrells is a very good all-around player who is underrated on a national level. He is a good scorer and passer who is also one of the team's best defenders. The Bears also have several other solid perimeter options. Wing Patrick Fields is a very good three-point shooter who is a solid scorer, while guard Henry Dugat is a very productive player off the bench. Freshman Demond Carter is an outstanding scorer who will make an immediate impact. Up front, Tim Bush and Mamadou Diene return as starters. Bush is a solid performer who is one of the team's leaders, while Diene is one of the best shot-blockers in the country. Kevin Rogers might be the best player in the frontcourt. He came off the bench last season but will likely move into the starting lineup this year. Baylor has an excellent perimeter group but lack a go-to-guy player up front. If they find a consistently productive frontcourt player, they could surprise some people. Prediction: NIT

8. Oklahoma- With the loss of coach Kelvin Sampson and three starters, in addition to three stud recruits, the Sooners could be primed for their worst season in years. Several things need to go right if this team is going to make the postseason. Michael Neal leads the way. The Big 12 Newcomer of the Year will need to become a go-to-guy for Oklahoma. He is an outstanding three-point shooter but needs to develop a more well-rounded offensive game if he is going to increase his numbers from last season. Joining him in the backcourt will be David Godbold and Austin Johnson. Godbold is the ideal role player and can do a little bit of everything on the court. He is one of the best defenders in the conference. Johnson is a lanky point guard who was a part-time starter last season. Freshman guards Tony Crocker and Bobby Maze will see immediate playing time in the backcourt. Up front, Nate Carter and Taylor Griffin form a potentially solid forward combo. Carter is an inside-outside player who can create match-up problems due to his versatility. Griffin has a lot of potential and could be poised for a breakout season. Longar Longar will continue is role as a contributor off the bench, while freshman Keith Clark will make an impact right away. Oklahoma simply doesn't have the talent to compete in the Big 12 this season. New coach Jeff Capel will have to wait a few years ago before he goes to the Big Dance with the Sooners. Prediction: No Postseason

9. Missouri- The Tigers looked like a potential Big 12 threat early in the conference season last year, but went 2-11 in their final 13 games and fell short of the postseason. With the loss of three starters, including all-Big 12 wing Thomas Gardner, Missouri does not look like a team that will compete in the Big 12 this season either. Marshall Brown is the go-to-guy. He is extremely athletic and is one of the best dunkers in the country. He is excellent on the fast break and is very good when he is slashing to the basket. He could be poised for a breakout season. Another 6-6 forward, Glen Dandridge, will see an increase in playing time this season and could start. He is a versatile scorer who could become a nice second option if he plays to his potential. Down low, Kalen Grimes will start. Grimes is a banger who is a solid rebounder and defender. He needs to improve his offensive game but he is a space-eater and gives the Tigers some size. Leo Lyons provides depth. He showed flashes of potential last season and is athletic. In the backcourt, Jason Horton returns. He is a very good passer and a solid defender who is somewhat turnover-prone and is not much of an offensive threat. That's where JC transfer Stefhon Hannah comes in. He is very quick and athletic and could start immediately at the point. Senior Marcus Watkins is a solid role player, while freshman Keon Lawrence has the potential to be a big-time scorer. While the present is not overly optimistic, the future in Columbia looks bright thanks to new coach Mike Anderson and plenty of youth on the roster. Prediction: No Postseason

10. Iowa State- The Cyclones came into last season with high expectations after a solid finish to the 2005 season. However, they never seemed to get it together and ended up 16-14 with a 7th place finish in the conference. They did not even go to the NIT. While they will likely not make the postseason this year either, ISU could pull an upset or two sometime during the season. They are led by Rahshon Clark, who could be on the verge of a huge season. The 6-6 forward is one of the best athletes in the Big 12 and is an excellent all-around player. He can score and rebound very well and is a good defender due to his athleticism and length. He will be joined in the frontcourt by freshman Wesley Johnson and returnees Jiri Hubalek, Jessan Gray, and Ross Marsden. Johnson is an athletic forward who could start immediately. Hubalek is a solid big man who produces decent scoring and rebounding numbers, while Gray and Marsden provide depth inside. The backcourt is made up entirely of newcomers. JC transfers Corey McIntosh and Michael Taylor will likely start immediately. McIntosh is a very good point guard who can score and pass the ball well, while Taylor is an excellent long-range shooter. Freshman Dodie Dunson will see minutes. Prediction: No Postseason

11. Nebraska- The Cornhuskers had a very solid season last year, going 19-14 overall and finishing 6th in the conference at 7-9. Had they picked up a few more quality wins along the line, they could have been on the bubble heading into Selection Sunday. This season, they won't be anywhere near the bubble or even the NIT, for that matter. However, they do have one of the best players in the conference in center Aleks Maric. He is a double-double threat every night out and could have a big season this year now that he is the focal point of the offense. He was going to leave the team with the hiring of new coach Doc Sadler, but he returned and it could mean a few extra wins for Nebraska. Sophomore Kyle Marks will contribute up front. On the perimeter, Jamel White is the main returnee. He is a decent scorer who can also distribute the ball. Seniors Charles Richardson and Marcus Perry also return. Richardson takes care of the ball and is a good passer, while Perry can score. Freshmen Mike Smith and Sek Henry will fight for starting spots in the backcourt. Smith is extremely quick while Henry is a very good shooter. Prediction: No Postseason

12. Colorado- Like Nebraska, Colorado was very close to losing their best player for the upcoming season. While they won't make noise either way, the return of Richard Roby will mean the Buffaloes will be somewhat competitive. CU was on the bubble for much of the season last year, finishing 20-10 and 9-7 in the conference. Their lack of a big-name win or two ultimately did them in, though. Roby is the key returnee, obviously. He is an excellent long-range shooter who entered his name in the NBA Draft pool last Spring, but took it out eventually. He has good athleticism, but needs to develop his offensive game. Joining him on the perimeter will be returnee Dominique Coleman and freshmen Kalvin Bay and Xavier Silas. Coleman is a solid all-around player who will likely improve his numbers this season. Bay is a very good distributor and a decent scorer who will start right away. Silas is a good contributor. Up front, former Ohio State transfer Jermyl Jackson-Wilson is the go-to-guy. He is a versatile forward who can do a variety of things in the frontcourt. He needs to become more of a leader this season with such a young team. Freshman Jeremy Wiliams will likely start next to Wilson at forward, although freshmen centers Sean Kowal and Marc Van Burck will fight for time. Prediction: No Postseason


  1. Might want to rethink that first team as Jackson is done at Tech. And only one Hawk on the first team? Are you forgetting that Julian and Brandon are both pre-season co-POY's?

  2. You do not give Julian Wright nearly enough credit. He will easily be all conference. Not to mention the most exciting player to watch in NCAA basketball. And the coolest.