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Big 12 Top 25 Returning Players: 20-16

Andy Lyons

If you're a little unsure as to what is going on here, read the first post in this series. Otherwise, all you need to know is we are counting down the best 25 players in the Big 12, excepting Freshmen and transfers. Today we have players 20-16 on the list.

20. Royce O' Neale, Senior, Baylor

O'Neale didn't get to shoot much for Baylor last year, attempting the second fewest shots on the team. That alone makes me a bit wary of  having him 20th, but O'Neale shot the ball really well (58.6% eFG) and I suspect that even without Brady Heslip to open things up, O'Neale will get the same quality of looks this year as he did last.

O'Neale was good on the offensive glass as well, which is obviously important, and he had the third highest assist rate on the team. O'Neale shot 45% from three and also appeared to be a good perimeter defender, though admittedly sometimes Scott Drew's system makes it tough to tell.

19. Rico Gathers, Junior, Baylor

Gathers takes over for Markel Brown as my favorite non Jayhawk in the league this year. The 6'8" Junior probably would be more at home on the football field (and would probably be KU's best player) but even though he played in just under half of the Bears' minutes, he certainly contributed when he was in.

Gathers had the 4th best offensive rebounding rate in the country last year (17.4%) and was a big part of why Baylor was 3rd best nationally in that category. He also drew nearly 6 fouls per 40 minutes. Unfortunately, he committed just as many fouls and that's why he found himself on the bench a lot.

In order to earn this lofty of a spot on the list, Gathers needs to do better at the rim: despite taking 75% of his shots there, he made just 53% of them. For comparison's sake, Frank Mason shot 50% at the rim (all stats via Hoop-Math).

18. Javan Felix, Junior, Texas

I might be the only writer to have Felix ahead of his backcourt mate, but I do so for a few reasons. First, Felix is a better defender than Isiah Taylor. Secondly, while Felix also struggles at shooting inside the arc, he was an acceptable three point shooter last year, and shot well from the line as well. Finally, Felix took care of the ball really well last season (12.8% assist rate) despite getting put into some unfavorable situations by his teammates.

It would be nice if he could shoot even 45% from two, but that's probably not who he is at this point. Fortunately with the talent around him this year Felix should put up some good assist/turnover numbers, be a threat from deep (especially considering he should get some more open looks this year) and play good on ball defense.

17. Isiah Cousins, Junior, Oklahoma

Cousins had maybe the most trying Summer on this list, as he spent a large portion of it recovering from a gunshot wound. Unfortunately the nature of this gig is that I have to analyze what that will mean for his on court performance, and unfortunately it probably means he won't progress as much as he otherwise would have.

Still, Cousins would belong on this list even if he doesn't improve much. He wasn't a standout in any one category for the Sooners last year, but he contributed everywhere. He shot 46% from two, 40% from three, grabbed some steals, had some assists, and contributed a bit on the glass (though he could stand to do more there). If Cousins improves a bit across the board, or shows marked improvement in any one thing, he could push for all conference honors.

16. Jamari Traylor, Junior, Kansas

I mentioned in the comments section of the last post that I'm very high on Traylor this year. Although he didn't see a lot of action last year, it's not hard to see why: he shot 67% from two, and was the third best offensive and defensive rebounder on the team last year. He's shown the ability to protect the rim as well, with an 8% block rate in his Freshman year.

His offensive game is still limited, but without giving too much of a preview of a longer post I'm doing, he developed a couple of offensive moves and has a couple other things going for him that generally point to a strong 2014-15 season coming. If he can stay on the floor (5.8 fouls per 40 minutes) and take care of the ball (26.8% TO rate), Traylor will be enjoying a coming out party in about 4 months time.