Yesterday I took a look at how I think the Big 12 standings will shake out, and today I am back with my preseason All Big 12 teams. As always, there are a lot of tough choices, but this year I think there’s more depth than there is front line talent, which makes the 5th spot on the first team and the second team picks a little more interesting.
Player of the Year - Udoka Azubuike, senior center, Kansas
Azubuike is a unique offensive force in college basketball. In his last (and sadly only) full season of college basketball, he led the nation in 2-point shooting at 77 percent. He was at 70 percent before he was lost for the year to an injury last winter. He’s “just” a dunker with the ball in his hands, but it’s what he does before the catch that’s special. He consistently moves himself into good position on the block, not only sealing his defender either behind him or to the side of him, but giving his entry passer a good wide target to throw to. And his hands, which were criticized coming into school, have proven to be able to catch a lot of entry passes almost regardless of quality.
Azubuike is also an underrated defender. When he doesn’t have to worry about committing fouls (remember, he was basically the only post player on the team until Silvio de Sousa was brought in), he’s a good shot blocker who anticipates well and also has improved his hedging around screens. He’s reportedly (and all you need to do to confirm is look at pictures) lost a ton of weight, which should improve his ability to defend and to stay on the floor.
He does have his issues. He’s not a great individual defensive rebounder, and a lot of time struggles to box out. He’s also had a ton of problems staying on the floor either due to fouls or to injuries, which makes me not that confident that he will be postseason player of the year. But at the end of the day, if he touches the ball Kansas is probably scoring. And if he touches it in the lane, he’s probably dunking on someone. 3-pointers are all the rage these days (and for good reason), but a dunk is still the best shot in basketball, and Azubuike should deliver more of those than anyone else. That’s why he’s the preseason player of the year.
Newcomer of the Year - TJ Holyfield, forward, Texas Tech
Fellow grad transfer Chris Clarke got the official nod by the league, but I think Holyfield is more set up for success. Offensively he isn’t the same player as Clarke or some of the other transfers as he was more of a complimentary piece (and a high turnover one at that) in the lowly Southland Conference, but defensively could be the linchpin for that Texas Tech defense with his long 6-8 frame.
Freshman of the year - Oscar Tshiebwe, forward, West Virginia
As anyone who has either read this site or listened to the podcast even one time knows, I am not a big recruiting guy. So I am deferring to others when I say Tshiebwe looks like an immediate impact player on both ends of the floor, and especially on the glass, for the Mountaineers.
Rest of First Team
Devon Dotson, sophomore PG, Kansas
Dotson surprised me last year on both ends of the floor, proving to be a high impact player from day 1. He struggled a bit passing the ball, ranking just 10th in the Big 12 in assist rate, but a less ball stopping offense this year should see that number shoot up. Most impressive was his ability to get into the lane at will and finish at the rim at a very good clip for his size. He also immediately was one of the best on ball defenders in the conference, and should be again this year.
Tristan Clark, junior forward, Baylor
Like Azubuike, Clark has had some issues staying on the court. Like Azubuike, when he’s played he’s been excellent. Clark shot 75 percent on twos last year prior to getting hurt for the rest of the season, and posted a block percentage just under 10 and a steal percentage over 2, providing a ton of value on both ends of the floor. He’s a poor rebounder for his size, but certainly a first team all league player.
Derek Culver, sophomore forward, West Virginia
As stated in the standings prediction post, Culver was the league’s best rebounder last season and also led the Big 12 in fouls drawn and free throw rate. While he wasn’t a great free throw shooter, he shot roughly 60 percent which over the course of the year is plenty valuable. He’s not a terribly efficient scorer, but the extra possessions he gives the Mountaineers on the glass add up fast.
Tyrese Haliburton, sophomore guard, Iowa State
Haliburton’s usage rate of roughly 10 makes it tough to square him as a first teamer, but he’s just so efficient. He ranked 4th in the league in offensive rating, 7th in effective field goal percentage, and 6th in true shooting percentage. He was incredibly versatile as well, with a 16 percent assist rate, 2.7 block percentage, and 2.4 percent steal percentage.
Desmond Bane, senior forward, TCU
Bane ranked 2nd in minutes played and 6th in offensive rating last year. He also led the league in 3-point shooting.
Matt Coleman, junior guard, Texas
Coleman ranked 3rd in the league in assist rate with a turnover rate under 15. Curiously, he hasn’t put the shooting together despite being excellent from the free throw line. If that changes, he could be a first teamer.
Isaac Likekele, sophomore guard, Oklahoma State
Likekele ranked 2nd in the Big 12 in assist rate last year and didn’t turn it over as much as you’d expect a freshman to. Like Dotson, he can get into the lane with alarming ease. Unlike Dotson, he hasn’t figured out how to score at the rim yet, but he will.
Davide Moretti, junior guard, Texas Tech
Moretti led the league in offensive rating last year while shooting the exact same percentage (53.5) on twos and threes. I think it’s fair to say he can shoot a bit. His defense improved to the point where opposing teams cant openly target him on that end of the floor. The question is whether he will have any room to shoot without a guy like Jarrett Culver to take all of the defense’s attention.
Kristian Doolittle, senior forward, Oklahoma
About 30 guys could have gotten this spot, but I will go with Doolittle, who ranked 9th in the league in minutes played last year, 4th in defensive rebounding, and 6th in fouls drawn per 40 minutes. He’s also one of the league’s better defenders.