Yesterday I unveiled my preseason rankings for the Big 12, and since I am doing a 50 day countdown to the season I decided to break the rankings and awards up into 2 parts to get a free extra day out of this. I am never doing this again. Why.
Anyway, the Big 12 doesn’t have a slam dunk player of the year like last year, but like last year there are roughly 100 people who could be first team all league.
Player of the Year - Jawun Evans, Sophomore G, Oklahoma State
When picking the preseason player of the year, I am usually left wondering whether the coaches media pick the guy who has done the most up to this point, or whether they are trying to predict who will be the player of the year at the end of the season. If the former, Iowa State’s Monte Morris seems like the safe bet. But if I am trying to predict the best player in the league this year, I am going with Evans.
Evans probably won’t win the award at the end of the season due to people’s obsession with counting stats (Brad Underwood was 299th, 2013rd, and 212th in tempo in his three years at Stephen F Austin), but his stats should nonetheless be impressive. Evans shot 47 percent on twos and 47 percent from three with a 41.9 percent assist rate and just a 20.4 percent turnover rate last year. He was even better in conference, although it is worthwhile to note he played in just 9 Big 12 games due to injury. He had one of his weaker games of the Big 12 season against Kansas, and still scored 22 points, with 6 rebounds and 8 assists (but 6 turnovers) to go with it.
Rest of First Team
Devonte Graham, Junior G, Kansas
Much of the discussion surrounding Graham centers on his offensive explosion towards the end of last year, but he is probably the best perimeter defender in the league. He’s big enough to get through screens and bother guys when they try to shoot, and he’s fast enough to stick with ballhandlers up top. His steal rate fell half a percent from his freshman year to his sophomore year, but I think that’s more to him not gambling as much rather than him getting worse defensively. Offensively, Graham led the league in effective field goal percentage last season, shooting 53 percent on twos and 46 percent from three. He did, however, post a higher turnover rate than assist rate, which needs to improve.
Monte Morris, Senior G, Iowa State
I honestly flirted with leaving Morris off this list (you can clip this passage when he dominates this year) but, while his assist/turnover ratio is impressive (although I prefer percentages), his usage rate and shot percentage were both under 20 percent. He’s also a terrible defender. I’m not saying he doesn’t belong, but he probably won’t have as many open shots this year, and probably won’t have as many easy assists. If that ends up being the case, he could get left off the postseason team.
Carlton Bragg, Sophomore F, Kansas
Bragg by percentage took 27.3 percent of the shots while on the floor, shot 54.8 percent on twos, and 44 percent from three while showing off the ability to shoot from deep, put the ball on the floor, and score at the rim. Oh wait, sorry, that’s Perry Ellis. Bragg took a slightly smaller number of shots percentage wise (22.6 percent), but shot a hair better on twos (54.9 percent) and was 4-7 from deep. He also was the team’s best non Landen Lucas offensive rebounder. It would be hypocritical of me to not point out his defense was abysmal last year, but a lot of that was due to a lack of strength, and if you’ve seen photos of him this preseason compared to last, that looks fixed. Bill Self’s 4 man always gets a ton of shots, and Bragg should be no different. With his skill set, he’s going to be a monster.
Johnathan Motley, Junior F, Baylor
Motley was in many ways Baylor’s best player last season. He didn’t get the shots of some other guys, but finished 4th in 2 point percentage, 6th in offensive rebound rate, and he ranked 2nd in the league in offensive rating among guys with a usage rate of 20 percent or higher. He was also 3rd in the league in block percentage.
Frank Mason, Senior G, Kansas
Mason does some stuff that makes me incredibly mad (ie driving into 4 huge guys), but there’s no doubt he is one of the engines of the KU basketball team. He was 9th in the league in offensive rating among players with usage rates over 20, and finished 3rd in free throw rate. He also shot 39 percent from deep. His 2-point percentage was hurt a bit by the fact that he’s the guy who ends up having to heave up terrible shots late in the shot clock. He’s also one of the best perimeter defenders in the league.
Aaron Ross, Senior F, Texas Tech
Ross led the league in free throw percentage, shot 50 percent from two, and 42 percent from three. He struggled with foul trouble, but also drew a ton of them. He’s also a really good defender and probably the most athletic guy in the league.
Josh Jackson, Freshman G/F, Kansas
It’s tough to leave the top recruit in the country off both all league teams, even with the 3 main in Bill Self’s offense mostly being a shooter. If Jackson has fixed his shot he probably will have a Wiggins like season and end up on the 1st team, but even if he hasn’t he will contribute enough all over the place to knock on the door.
Jarrett Allen, Freshman F, Texas
The last two spots on the second team could go to about 5,000 people. Allen was the 17th ranked player in the 247 Sports Composite, and with the fact that he’s a big man who can run the floor, he’ll probably compile great counting stats in Shaka Smart’s system.
Landen Lucas, Senior F, Kansas
What an ascent for a guy who was recruited as basically a scholarship filler. He fulfilled the prediction I had during his first exhibition game where I said he’d be the best rebounder on the team by the time he’s done, but he’s become much more than that. He improved his offensive game over the course of last season, and his defense at the rim both shut off driving guards (and big men), but also enabled Frank Mason and Devonte Graham to play tighter defense on the perimeter. Oh and he ranked 2nd in both offensive and defensive rebounding in the Big 12 last year.
Freshman of the year - Josh Jackson, Kansas
Coach of the year - Bruce Weber, Kansas State
This is one I do a prediction of who will end up winning the postseason award, because saying Bill Self is the best coach over and over gets boring. Kansas State is picked as low as 9th in the preseason polls, and as I think they’ll comfortably finish top half, Bruce Weber looks like a lock for coach of the year. Hopefully that earns him a lifetime extension. If I had to a guess a team that would outperform my preseason ranking, it would be Oklahoma, so I’ll probably end up giving my postseason award to Lon Kruger.
Newcomer of the year - Mareik Isom, Texas
Isom didn’t shoot a ton at his previous stop (Arkansas Little-Rock), but the grad transfer finished 1st and 2nd in offensive rating in the Sun Belt the last two years, chiefly due to shooting 49 and 46 percent from three the last two years. He won’t be as prominently featured as some of the other transfers, but he might be more important than any.