Looking Ahead to the Big 12 in 2010-2011

via www.usnews.com

Throughout the season the Big 12 proved itself to be one of the deepest and toughest conferences in the country.  Seven teams in the tournament as many as five ranked at one time and a balance from top to bottom that has never really been seen. 

The North division took a major step forward with the progression of the Wildcats, the continued  success of the Tigers and even the Colorado Buffaloes out west made a little noise with two extremely talented players on the roster.  Add that to the always reliable Kansas Jayhawks and the North took a major step toward staking claim as the basketball division of the Big 12.


In the South, Baylor and Scott Drew cemented a spot in the top 25, Mark Turgeon has the Aggies playing solid basketball.  Oklahoma State was just dangerous enough and despite their struggles down the stretch the Texas Longhorns are still a program with some gusto.

Ultimately the three teams with legitimate Final Four hopes all fell short in Kansas, Baylor and Kansas State, but that doesn't change the fact that the Big 12 is becoming a major player on the college basketball landscape. 

With that in mind, it's time to take a brief glance ahead.  Who returns, who departs, what names are being added to the mix and who might be moving on to the NBA?  How does the Big 12 bounce back after such a competitive year and what teams will be in the mix for a conference crown?

First off a glance back at where the standings stood at the end of this season.  From their will breakdown each team briefly in their order of finish from this year.  With that, a projection in terms of what tier they finish next season.  First tier(top 4), second tier(middle 4), third tier(bottom 4).

Standings Conference Overall
  W L GB PCT W L PCT
Kansas 15 1 - .938 33 3 .917
Kansas State 11 5 4 .688 29 8 .784
Baylor 11 5 4 .688 28 8 .778
Texas A&M 11 5 4 .688 24 10 .706
Missouri 10 6 5 .625 23 11 .676
Texas 9 7 6 .563 24 10 .706
Oklahoma State 9 7 6 .563 22 11 .667
Colorado 6 10 9 .375 15 16 .484
Texas Tech 4 12 11 .250 19 16 .543
Iowa State 4 12 11 .250 15 17 .469
Oklahoma 4 12 11 .250 13 18 .419
Nebraska 2 14 13 .125 15 18 .455

 

Kansas

Key Losses: Sherron Collins, Cole Aldrich

NBA?: Xavier Henry

Additions: Royce Wooldridge(SG)

Potential Additions: Josh Selby(PG), Doron Lamb(SG)

Prognosis: The Jayhawks take some big losses in the departures of Sherron Collins and recently announced Cole Aldrich.  Xavier Henry still left to be decided but many expect he'll follow.  With that in mind this will be a very different looking Kansas team, but one that should still compete for the conference title.

The Morris brothers return on the interior to go along with Jeff Withey and Thomas Robinson.  At guard Tyshawn Taylor will look to bounce back after a frustrating sophomore campaign.  The Jayhawks will have two salty veteran guards in Brady Morningstar and Tyrel Reed and add to that a sophomore Elijah Johnson who is explosive and athletic. 

Two players with the potential to make the biggest impact will be Mario Little and Travis Releford both taking a redshirt this season.  If they can step in at the wing and provide solid perimeter defense to go along with an offensive threat, Kansas will be deep and dangerous once again.  Plus you just can't count Bill Self out when it comes to the conference crown.

Projection: Top Tier (1-4)


Kansas State

Key Losses: Denis Clemente

NBA?: Jacob Pullen(? slim chance)

Additions: Will Spradling(PG), Shane Southwell(SF), Freddy Asprilla(C)

Potential Additions: Rico Richardson(PG)

Prognosis: Kansas State went on a run in the tournament and looked as good as anyone before a pesky Butler defense finally stopped the guard combo of Pullen and Clemente.  While the Wildcats don't lose much, they do lose their motor and that's Clemente.  There were few guards in the country that could push the tempo and attack the basket the way Clemente did and he created opportunities for everyone in a Kansas State uniform.

The Wildcats to return Jacob Pullen and Curtis Kelly, both having played great in the tournament.  Factor in Wally Judge, Jamar Samuels, Dominique Sutton, Rodney McGruder and Montavious Irving and Frank Martin will once again have a deep and experienced group at his disposal.

If Kansas State can manage the transition to basketball without Clemente, they'll be the favorite in the eyes of many for the Big 12 conference title.

Projection: Top Tier(1-4)

 

Baylor

Key Losses: Josh Lomers, Tweety Carter

NBA?: Ekpe Udoh, LaceDarius Dunn

Additions: Stargell Love(PG), Bakari Turner(SG), Perry Jones(PF)

Potential Additions: Julian Washburn(SF), Jordair Jett(PG), DJ Peterson(PG)

Prognosis: Baylor is very much up in the air right now but Scott Drew does have the program building in the right direction.  The loss of Tweety Carter is probably the most glaring concern because losing a point guard of his stature always hurts a little.  If for some reason Ekpe Udoh and LaceDarius Dunn find the NBA calling, then things look to be in a full rebuild. 

If was assume for a moment that Udoh and Dunn are back, then Baylor should stay in contention with AJ Walton and Quincy Acy both stepping up at times during the past season.  Baylor would certainly remain athletic keep their length and the addition of a blue chip recruit in Perry Jones helps compensate for the loss of Lomers on the interior.

Projection: Top Tier(1-4) with Dunn and Udoh,  Middle Tier(5-8) without.

 

Texas A&M

Key Losses: Donald Sloan, Bryan Davis, Derrick Roland

NBA?: None

Additions: Daniel Alexander(PF), Tobi Oyediji(PF), Kourtney Roberson(PF), Keith Davis(C)

Potential Additions: Rico Richardson(PG)

Prognosis: A&M loses a lot.  Granted Roland only played 12 games this season so they've already transitioned to life without him, but losing Sloan and Davis is losing the two leading scorer remaining.  David Loubeau and BJ Holmes will be looked to for help in the scoring column.  While Dash Harris and Khris Middleton will also be relied upon more heavily. 

Mark Turgeon has definitely recruited well this year but it's primarily on the interior.  Expect a little bit of a transition year for the Aggies, but this program won't be going anywhere in the longterm.

Projection: Middle Tier(5-8)

 

Missouri

Key Losses: JT Tiller, Zaire Taylor, Keith Ramsey

NBA?: None

Additions: Phil Pressey(PG), Ricky Krekow(SG), Tony Mitchell(SF), Kadeem Green(PF)

Potential Additions: Ricardo Ratliffe(PF), Titus Rubles(PF)

Prognosis:  The biggest thing Missouri loses is leadership.  The Tigers will still be as deep as anyone in the conference, as athletic in the backcourt as anyone and if a player like Kim English can step into that leadership role they will be dangerous. 

The biggest concern with Missouri continues to be the play on the interior.  Mike Anderson Justin Safford, Laurence Bowers and continue to hope Steve Moore develops.  Add to that two freshman underneath that saw limited action in Tyler Stone and John Underwood.  That's five options right there.  If Tony Mitchell and Kadeem Green can contribute as freshman or Missouri manages to land one of it's last remaining targets in Ratliffe or Rubles, then the Tigers will be almost as deep in the front court as they are in the backcourt.  Proven? no, but deep and talented yes.  

With Mike Anderson at the helm, that can be a dangerous combination.

Projection: Top Tier(1-4)

 

Texas

Key Losses: Damion James, Dexter Pittman,

NBA?: Avery Bradley

Additions: Darius Terrell(SG), Tristan Thompson(PF)

Potential Additions: Cory Joseph(PG), Julian Washburn(SF)

Prognosis: Chemistry seems to be a bit of an issue for the Longhorns and they lose some pretty key players in the offseason including Avery Bradley who apparently has not returned to school following spring break. 

Still it's hard to write off Texas because Rick Barnes simply recruits talent.  Jordan Hamilton will be the top returning scorer and J'Covan Brown will be looked to after stepping up later in the season.  Jai Lucas, Dogus Balbay, Gary Johnson and Clint Chapman all provide senior experience and depth to a Texas team that actually has quite a bit of experience overall.

Projection: Top Tier(1-4), Middle Tier(5-8), The fate of the Longhorns might be decided by what happens in Waco.

 

Oklahoma State

Key Losses: Obi Muonelo

NBA?: James Anderson

Additions: Markel Brown(SG), JP Olukemi(SF), Brian Williams(SF), Michael Cobbins(PF), Darrell Williams(PF)

Potential Additions: None

Prognosis: Oklahoma State is likely going to be looking for a replacement for James Anderson.  If Anderson does in fact make the jump they will be looking to replace their top two scorers from the season in Anderson and Muonelo.  Travis Ford has recruited a mix of talented freshman and juco players that could help soften the blow and the Cowboys will return several seniors to help ease the transition.

The big question here is whether or not the like of Keaton Page can continue his hot shooting without a guy like James Anderson being the focal point for most defenses.  OSU is likely a middle tier team with a shot at the tourney again, but without Anderson, it's hard to put them much higher.

Projection: Middle Tier(5-8) or Bottom Tier(9-12)


Colorado

Key Losses: None

NBA?: None

Additions: None

Potential Additions: Guy Marc Marcel(C), Aziz N'Diaye(C), Gorgui Dieng(PF)

Prognosis: Colorado has the potential to be the biggest mover of next year if they can add something on the interior.  If you want to look at what they are missing, all you need to do is look at their offer list which is littered with BIGS.  Colorado returns two of the best one on one players in the Big 12 in Cory Higgens and Alec Burks.  

If Jeff Bzdelik can find a big man and keep things rolling up hill in Boulder, then we could see a surprise team in the conference.  It's hard to push them into the top tier, but it's not completely out of the realm of possibilities.

Projection: Middle Tier(5-8)

 

Texas Tech

Key Losses: Nick Okorie, Darko, Cohadarevic

NBA?: None

Additions: Javarez Willis(PG), Jamel Outler(SG), Paul Cooper(PF)

Potential Additions: None

Prognosis: Texas Tech returns most everybody to a team that finished in the bottom tier a year before.  Basketball wouldn't appear to be in a good place in Lubbock right now and if Texas, Baylor and A&M continue their trend, it will be tough to find their way back in the mix.  The biggest opportunity for Tech to move to the middle tier of the conference lies in the hands of the Cowboys in Stillwater and where they fall with the departure of some pretty key ingredients to their successful season.

Projection: Bottom Tier(9-12), Middle Tier(5-8) Looking at you Okie State.

 

Iowa State

Key Losses: Craig Brackins, Marquis Gilstrap

NBA?: None, Brackins already declared.

Additions: Demarcus Phillips(SG), Melvin Ejim(SF), Jordan Railey(C)

Potential Additions: Will Clyburn(SF), Darrell Haley(C), John Wilkins(PF)

Prognosis: Well it's not pretty in Ames.  The departures of Brackins and Gilstrap will be huge losses and tough to recover from in one year.  The Cyclones are bringing in some junior college help, but with the early departures will it be enough to make a serious move in the Big 12.  Especially in the North where K-State, Missouri, Kansas and now even Colorado are all becoming increasingly difficult games.

Projection: Bottom Tier(9-12)

 

Oklahoma

Key Losses: Tony Crocker, Tommy Mason Griffin,

NBA?: Tiny Gallon, Willie Warren

Additions: TJ Taylor(PG), Cameron Clark(SF), Tyler Neal(SF),

Potential Additions: Aziz N'Diaye(C), Marquis Carter(SG), Terrence Ross(SG),

Prognosis: Things are looking ugly in Norman.  After the departure of the Griffin brothers Jeff Capel had a disastrous season and now is facing a near mutiny.  If Tiny Gallon find trouble with agent contact and Willie Warren goes to the NBA it's unlikely next year will see a rebound.   Jeff Capel might want to begin turning to the old Kelvin Sampson formula at OU that includes plenty of JUCO mixed in with your MCD's All American talent.

Projection: Bottom Tier(9-12)

 

Nebraska

Key Losses: Sek Henry, Ryan Anderson, Quincy Hankins Cole, Myles Holley, Ray Gallegos

NBA?: None

Additions: Andre Almeida(C)

Potential Additions: Caleb Walker(SG)

Prognosis: Graduation and transfers leave Doc Sadler with a depleted roster.  It's hard to imagine a scenario where the Corn get out of the bottom tier but if there is one, it involves the Asian German exploding into a hybrid of Dirk Nowitzki and Yao Ming.  Unfortunately, that's not happening.

Projection: Bottom Tier(9-12)

 

WAY TOO EARLY Projections

1. Kansas State

2. Kansas

3. Missouri

4. Baylor

5. Texas

6. Colorado

7. Texas A&M

8. Oklahoma State

9. Texas Tech

10. Oklahoma

11. Iowa State

12. Nebraska

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