50 in 50 is a feature here at RCT counting down until the Jayhawks kick off the 2011 basketball season on November first. Got an idea for something you'd like to see featured here? tweet @rockchalktalk or @fetch9 or email me at fetch9 at gmail dot com.
I mentioned a week or so ago that I am going to be the Big 12 correspondent for Rush The Court this year, and my first assignment is a Big 12 preview. The Big 12 is one of the more confusing conferences in the country this year with all of the great players who graduated or left early for the NBA over the summer. General consensus is that the league will be down, which is probably the case, but the more interesting thing from an amateur analyst standpoint is that it should be pretty confusing and pretty wide open.
For the third time in the past four years, a major analyst has said KU isn't the team to beat in the Big 12, as Andy Katz says either Baylor or Texas A&M. One of those is at least plausible (the other is patently ridiculous) but seriously folks, when will these people learn?
As for my rankings, I see the Big 12 shaking down this way (tons of feedback is, of course, appreciated):
Why they should be here: After winning the Big 12 for seemingly every year since the Nixon Administration, at this point you just have to pick them right? Also, they have a Senior-Junior backcourt and one of the best big men in the country up front. They're not a complete team, but they have the best building blocks in the conference.
Why they should be lower: Other than those three players, Kansas is pretty unproven. Self has won the league with two or three good players and a bunch of question marks before, but the big question is where on Earth does the offense come from? Really this year more than any other I have questions as to how they score at an elite, or even above average, level.
Why they should be here: They have the most talented player in the conference (Perry Jones) and maybe the best group of talent in the conference. So that's something.
Why they should be lower: Scott Drew has never really struck me as a great coach, and they'll have to rely on a lot of youngsters.
Why they should be here: They have the best point guard in the league, which is always a good start.
Why they should be lower: A new coach, who I don't love, and a couple important injuries really give me pause when trying to rank this team. They were definitely the toughest team for me to rank.
4. Oklahoma State
Why they should be here: The Cowboys return three starters, including one guy, JP Olukemi, who doesn't have great tempo free stats but has a ton of physical tools and I think will take a big step forward this year. LeBryan Nash should be the best Freshman in the league and might be one of the league's best players period.
Why they shouldn't be: They lost their best player off last year's team, and they don't have a ton of strong guard play. They also finished 9th last year, so I'm a bit nervous about projecting this big of a jump.
Why they should be here: J'Covan Brown is pretty awesome. And Texas has the 8th rated recruiting class by Rivals, headlined by Canadian guard Myck Kabongo.
Why they shouldn't be: Brown is really the only veteran, who will play a lot, and I don't know if they'll have the defense to mask some offensive inabilities like they did last year.
6. Kansas State
Why they should be here: K State returns a lot of talent from last year's team. Assuming Will Spradling can shoot that well from three again (which is no lock) he could be an all Big 12 type of guy, and I really think Rodney McGruder can be a great player for them.
Why they shouldn't be: Jacob Pullen did so much for them that it's tough to know how they'll do without him until we see them on the court. Also, they don't have the front court talent they did in years past.
7. Texas A&M
Why they should be here: A&M lost two of the best three players off a team that ended up a 7 seed in the NCAA tournament. And also really can't shoot at all.
Why they should be higher: Khris Middleton is potentially really really good and hey, Andy Katz thinks they're good.
8. Iowa State
Why they should be here: They won 3 Big 12 games last year, so yeah. They're not good
Why they should be higher: They have a couple intriguing transfers with a lot of talent, including Royce White, who I think broke a record for getting into trouble at Minnesota, but there's no doubt he has a lot of talent.
Why they should be here: The Sooners were the worst offensive team in the conference last year and had the 2nd worst 2 point defense.
Why they should be higher: They return four starters, so with some improvement they can maybe get up into the 7th range.
10. Texas Tech
Why they should be here: They lose 4 Seniors off the team with the 2nd worst KenPom in the league last year, and they have a new coach. Red flag alert!
Why they should be higher: They shouldn't.