Monday, October 29, 2007

Big 12 Conference Preview


Player of the Year: D.J. Augustin, PG, Texas

Newcomer of the Year: Michael Beasley, F, Kansas State

All-Conference Team:
G- D.J. Augustin, Texas
G/F- Brandon Rush, Kansas
F- Michael Beasley, Kansas State
F- Joseph Jones, Texas A&M
C- Aleks Maric, Nebraska

Second Team:
G- Mario Chalmers, Kansas
G- Stefhon Hannah, Missouri
G- Martin Zeno, Texas Tech
G- Curtis Jerrells, Baylor
F- Darrell Arthur, Kansas

Third Team:
G- Richard Roby, Colorado
G- Josh Carter, Texas A&M
G- Sherron Collins, Kansas

F- Bill Walker, Kansas State
F- David Hoskins, Kansas State

1. Kansas: The Jayhawks have seen disappointment each of the past four seasons in the NCAA Tournament. Four years ago and last year, Kansas fell in the Elite Eight, only one game from the Final Four. In the other two years, the Jayhawks lost in the first round, not even lasting a game in the Big Dance. This year could be the season Bill Self gets over the hump. It starts with the backcourt, potentially the most talented group in the country, depending on All-America wing Brandon Rush’s return from an ACL injury. He is expected to be back in November, but it remains to be seen how effective he will be once he returns. When healthy, Rush is a versatile offensive player, with the ability to take the ball to the basket as well as shoot a jumper with equal efficiency. Bill Self has also called Rush his best defender. Mario Chalmers would likely dispute that last comment. He has led the Big 12 in steals the past two seasons, and is also a good scorer and passer. Russell Robinson is a solid point guard who does not turn the ball over and, like Rush and Chalmers, is one of the best defensive guards in the country. Sherron Collins might be the most important player on the team. He is the most aggressive offensive player for Kansas, and is in the game in crunch time. While the Jayhawks’ perimeter group gets most of the headlines, don’t sleep on the frontcourt. Darrell Arthur is expected to become one of the best players in the country this season, after showing glimpses of his talent and ability last year. He is a very good shot-blocker and rebounder who can be tough to stop up front. Sasha Kaun provides a couple of baskets and rebounds per game, while Darnell Jackson is a banger and a terrific offensive rebounder. Cole Aldrich is expected to see time right away, and could even start sometime this season. Projected Finish: NCAA

2. Texas A&M: The Aggies made a great run last year, getting a No. 3 seed in the NCAA Tournament and finishing only one game behind Kansas in the Big 12. However, A&M loses All-America Acie Law IV and coach Billy Gillespie, the two key cogs in the Aggies’ basketball resurgence over the past few years. Leading the way for A&M will be the frontcourt. Despite the loss of starter Antanas Kavaliauskas, the Aggies will still have a formidable duo up front with Joseph Jones and DeAndre Jordan. Jones declared for the NBA Draft, but made the smart decision by returning to school. He is very strong and is difficult to stop once he gets position on the block. Jones also has a decent shooting touch from the mid-range. Jordan is one of the top incoming centers in the country. He can score inside, and is also adept at getting offensive rebounds and putbacks. Bryan Davis has shown flashes of his potential, and freshman Denzel Bowles is solid. One of the top wing duos in the country resides on the wing for the Aggies. Josh Carter is a top-five three-point shooter in the nation, hitting 50% of his long-range shots. He can also rebound and defend well. Dominique Kirk is one of the top defenders in America, and has the ability to score points if needed. Replacing Law will be sophomore Donald Sloan, who played very well off the bench last year. Freshman B.J. Holmes will help Sloan fill Law’s shoes at the lead guard position. It will be the key to A&M’s season.
Projected Finish: NCAA

3. Texas: Life after Kevin Durant begins this season in Austin—but the Longhorns might not see too much of a drop despite the loss of last year’s National Player of the Year. Durant did it all for Texas a season ago, but UT will have more size, depth, and versatility this year. The backcourt is one of the best in the country, but it will be interesting to see how this group plays now that Durant is in the NBA and no longer taking defensive attention away from the guards. D.J. Augustin and A.J. Abrams are a smallish but productive duo, and will be the key to the Longhorns’ season. Augustin is one of the best point guards in the country, and will have to take on more of a scoring responsibility this season. He can shoot the ball well from long-range, and is extremely quick at getting into the lane. Abrams is a great three-point shooter, but needs to develop a more well-rounded offensive game. He has improved as a defender as well. Justin Mason is a good all-around player who was unheralded last season. He is a very solid defender and three-point shooter who might come off the bench this season. Dogus Balbay was expected to provide depth, but he tore an ACL this week and could miss the year. Up front, Damion James could be poised for a break-out season. He was forced to play down low because Texas lacked size last season, but he will move to more of a combo forward role this year. He is a very good defender and a great rebounder who will develop into an extremely versatile player this year. Down low, the Longhorns have options. Junior Connor Atchley can stretch the defense with his shooting ability, while Matt Hill is a solid rebounder and defender. Dexter Pittman provides size. Freshmen Alexis Wangmene and Clint Chapman will also fight for time in the post. The key, though, could be frosh Gary Johnson. He has not been cleared to play due to a heart condition found in the summer, but was expected to start before the news. Projected Finish: NCAA

4. Kansas State: The Wildcats won 23 games and 10 Big 12 games last year, but failed to reach the NCAA Tournament. This year could be the season KSU breaks through into the Big Dance. First, though, it will have to replace coach Bob Huggins, who left after one season to go to West Virginia. Frank Martin, he of just seven years of assistant coaching experience, will take the reins. The team starts with freshman Michael Beasley, one of the best newcomers in the country. He can score in a plethora of ways, and could end up being the best player in the Big 12 by the end of the season. He will team with another extremely talented forward in Bill Walker. He played only six games last year after rupturing his ACL, but is healthy this year and will be able to get up and down the court with the best of them. David Hoskins is an all-Big 12 forward who can get to the basket and is a good rebounder and defender. The backcourt is in the hands of combo guards Clent Stewart and Blake Young. Both are good three-point shooters, but neither is a true point guard. The depth will come from sophomore big man Luis Colin, and freshman guards Jacob Pullen and Dominique Sutton. Projected Finish: NCAA

5. Missouri: The Tigers are another team that could make a jump to the NCAA Tournament this season. Mizzou went 7-9 in the conference last season, and returns four starters from that group. All-Big 12 guard Stefhon Hannah leads the way. He can do everything on the court for the Tigers, from scoring and rebounding to terrific distribution and defense. With more options this season, Hannah could have an even better season this time around. He is surrounded on the perimeter by wings Keon Lawrence and Matt Lawrence (no relation). Keon is more adept at driving to the basket for points, while Matt is the team’s best long-range shooter and a very good second option. Jason Horton provides solid point guard play, while J.T. Tiller is a solid scorer and a good defender. Up front, athletic forwards Marshall Brown and DeMarre Carroll will likely start. Brown is more of a wing type who will have to defend bigger players this year. Carroll, a Vanderbilt transfer, is a fierce rebounder who can also run the floor and can score offensively. Leo Lyons provides good scoring and rebounder down low, with Darryl Butterfield also scheduled to see time. Projected Finish: NCAA

6. Oklahoma: The Sooners missed the postseason for the first time in 25 years last season, but will not repeat that feat this year. Jeff Capel returns three starters and brings in a very good recruiting class. The strength of the team will be down low in senior Longar Longar and freshman Blake Griffin. Longar is a very solid center who can score in double-figures and rebound well, while Griffin is expected to be one of the best forwards in the conference immediately. He is athletic and can rebound. He might replace his older brother, Taylor, in the starting lineup. Taylor is a good athlete and defender. Keith Clark and Cade Davis will fight for a starting job up front. The backcourt is led by returnees Tony Crocker and David Godbold, two solid shooters who are also very good defenders. The point guard position will be in the hands of juniors Austin Johnson and Omar Leary. Johnson was the starter last season, and provides good defense and shooting. He can also take care of the ball well. However, Leary might start due to his potential and leadership skills. Tony Neysmith will also fight for time. Projected Finish: NIT

7. Baylor: Baylor could be in the mix for an NCAA Tournament bid if everything works out right. Read that again. The Bears, who went 4-12 in Big 12 play last year, and won only 21 games the previous three seasons, are primed to make a move in the conference. It all starts with their exceptionally deep and talented backcourt. Curtis Jerrells and Aaron Bruce are both all-conference candidates, with Jerrells being named to the preseason all-Big 12 team. He is an outstanding all-around player who can do a little of everything. He is a very good scorer who can also distribute the ball and defend at the other end. Bruce is a terrific shooter who has proven he can score if needed. Henry Dugat is another double-figure scorer on the perimeter for Scott Drew, while Tweety Carter can shoot the ball well and was a part-time starter last year. Also fighting for time is freshman LaceDarius Dunn, a big-time scorer. Up front, Kevin Rogers was an underrated forward in the Big 12 last year, and could make a name for himself this year. Down low, Mamadou Diene needs to stay healthy and provide rebounding and defense, which he is capable of doing. Josh Lomers will come off the bench. Projected Finish: NIT

8. Oklahoma State: The Cowboys were expected to make a run in the NCAA Tournament last season as of mid-January. However, they lost 12 of their final 19 games, missed the NCAA Tournament completely and lost in the first round of the NIT. This year, they lose stars JamesOn Curry and Mario Boggan from that group. The perimeter will lead the way for Sean Sutton and OSU. Byron Eaton runs the show. He is a good defender and a solid distributor who does not score much. On the wings are double-figure scorers Terrel Harris and Obi Muonelo, as well as Marcus Dove. Harris is a good shooter, from both inside and outside the arc, while Muonelo can score in a variety of ways and is also a solid defender. Speaking of defense, there’s always Marcus Dove at small forward. He is one of the best defenders in the country and causes headaches for opponents with his length and athleticism. James Anderson is a highly-touted freshman who will make an immediate impact at forward. Up front, JC transfer Anthony Brown will start right away down low. Scott Warner is a redshirt freshman who will fight for time in the paint, as will Martavius Adams. Projected Finish: NIT

9. Texas Tech: The Red Raiders always seem to lose a lot of talent and production, sign a bunch of no-name recruits, and get back to the NCAA Tournament. This season could be much of the same. Bob Knight loses Jarrius Jackson, the team’s leading scorer, and signed several recruits who were not found on many experts’ lists. However, Knight might not get back to the NCAA Tournament this year. The returnees are led by Martin Zeno, an all-conference guard who can score in a variety of ways and will be the go-to-guy in Lubbock this season. He could primed for a big year. Charlie Burgess is a solid scorer and rebounder who can also pass the ball, while Alan Voskuil is a good shooter. Freshman John Robertson could start immediately in the backcourt. Up front, wing Decensae White came on strong late in the year, while Esmir Rizvic also returns down low. Junior Damir Suljagic saw time last year and will continue to do so this season. Newcomers Travor Cook and Rogdrick Craig will fight for minutes. Projected Finish: NIT

10. Nebraska: The Cornhuskers won a surprising 17 games last season thanks to a nice late-season run which saw Nebraska go .500 over the latter part of the Big 12 season. They hope to carry some of that momentum over to this season, starting with All-American candidate Aleks Maric at center. He is underrated on a national level due to where he plays, but he is one of the most productive players in the conference and can dominate down low. Starting next to him will be either Alonzo Edwards or Toney McCray, and double-figure scorer Ryan Anderson. Anderson will play his natural position, small forward, while Edwards and McCray will make immediate impacts up front. In the backcourt, a slew of newcomers will see time. At the point, freshman Brandon Richardson and junior college players Cookie Miller and Steve Miller will fight it out for the starting job. Sek Henry, a solid all-around player; Paul Valender, a good long-range shooter; and Jay-R Stowbridge, the team’s best three-point gunner, all return as well. Ade Dagunduro is a good defender. Projected Finish: No Postseason

11. Iowa State: The Cyclones could have been poised to make a move this season in the Big 12, after surprising many experts by going 15-16 overall and 6-10 in the conference last season. However, the entire backcourt either left the team or was kicked off the team during the offseason, most notably Mike Taylor, the team’s most productive player a year ago. Heading into this year, Iowa State has no experience in the backcourt other than seldom-used Brock Jacobson. At the point will be a battle between JC transfer Bryan Petersen, and freshmen Diante Garrett and Marcus Brister. The two will also be manned by a triumvirate of newcomers in JC transfer Sean Haluska, and frosh Lucca Staiger and Charles Boozer. The frontcourt is in much better shape, and could end up being one of the best in the conference. On the wing will be Rahshon Clark, who took a step back last season after breaking-out two seasons ago. He might not even start this year. Big men Wesley Johnson and Jiri Hubalek both return. Johnson is a good scorer and an excellent rebounder who can also block shots, while Hubalek is a good scorer around the basket who also rebounds well. Furthermore, freshman Craig Brackins is expected to start up front. He is a highly-touted recruit—one of the biggest in ISU history. Iowa transfer Alex Thompson will also fight for time. If you're in the market for a deep, deep sleeper in the Big 12, Iowa State could be that team. Projected Finish: No Postseason

12. Colorado: The Buffaloes are going to be the worst team in the Big 12 by a good margin. They won only 7 games last season, including a paltry 3-13 record in the conference. They simply don’t have a lot of Big 12-level talent and will struggle to beat the majority of teams on their schedule. One player that can definitely compete in the conference is guard Richard Roby. He had a great season two years ago, but took a step back last year and really needs to regain his shot in order to return to the form of two seasons ago. He should have gone to the NBA Draft when he originally declared. Also in the backcourt will be double-figure scorer Xavier Solis, a good three-point shooter, and Marcus Hall, a solid point guard who can distribute. Up front, Jermyl Jackson-Wilson leads the way. He is a good scorer and a very good rebounder who needs to improve with new coach Jeff Bzdelik and his Princeton-style offense. Marcus King-Stockton can block shots, and Jeremy Williams is a good scorer and rebounder. Projected Finish: No Postseason

1 comment:

  1. Curtis Jerrells is listed on both the second and third-teams.