A year ago, the Big 12 Conference was the nation’s best for college basketball. But this year, that may not be the case.
One of the most talked about teams in the country last year (and not always for good reasons) was Oklahoma State. The Cowboy’s explosive start included a 101-80 rout on national TV of a Memphis team who handed the Pokes their first loss less than two weeks later. The starting five for Oklahoma State during conference play last year of Marcus Smart (NBA Draft), Markel Brown (Graduation/NBA Draft), Kamari Murphy (Transfer), Brian Williams (Transfer) and LeBryan Nash is quite different this year. During a radio interview before their only exhibition against Missouri Western, coach Travis Ford said that two months ago Anthony Allen, the JUCO transfer from Jamaica, “wasn’t even a threat” offensively and couldn’t defend in the post or screens. To me that seems like a waste of a scholarship. Nonetheless, I’m not expecting much out of the Cowboys this year, when Travis Ford will essentially be coaching to keep his job.
Iowa State loses DeAndre Kane and Melvin Ejim from last year’s team, which lost to eventual National Champion UConn in the Sweet 16. However, Georges Niang and Naz Long return this year, but losing the leadership and explosiveness of Kane and Ejim is definitely going to make Fred Hoiberg’s job a little more difficult.
Kansas is always good. They lose Andrew Wiggins, Joel Embiid, Tarik Black and Naadir Thorpe from the core of last year’s team. However, Bill Self signed one of the most sought-after recruits oversees in Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk, who played for Ukraine in the FIBA Basketball World Cup, and Perry Ellis returns for his Junior year at Kansas. Look for Kansas to excel in the Big 12 as always, but I don’t think this team has the depth needed to make a run in the NCAA Tournament.
Texas signed the No. 2 recruit in the country, Myles Turner out of Trinity HS in Euless, Texas, and returned everybody from last year’s senior-less team. Connor Lammert is a Junior now and could potentially play a powerful post game to compliment the 6-11 Turner’s step-out ability. I may not be a big Rick Barnes fan, but the Longhorns will be dangerous this year.
Kansas State seems to never be out of it, even if it’s just Bruce Weber’s second season in Manhattan. The Wildcats return a large part of last year’s roster, including Marcus Foster.
Texas Tech lost everyone. Yes, their coach, Tubby Smith, has won a national championship at Kentucky. But, when their best player in Jordan Tolbert transfers, their spot-up shooter Dusty Hannahs transfers and they lose to Div. 2 Texas A&M-Commerce in overtime in an exhibition game, it isn’t looking good in Lubbock. The student body was mad about the name of the arena changing from United Spirit Arena to the United Supermarkets Arena, but I think they need to be more upset at how bad of shape former coach Billy Gillespie left the program in. If Smith had anybody, the Red Raiders might do something, but recruits don’t see the potential of Tubby Smith in the Big 12 and they don’t see the results from the Bobby Knight era, just that Texas Tech hasn’t made the postseason since 2007.
West Virginia returns Kevin Noreen, but that’s seemingly the only highlight of the Mountaineer roster. With Bob Huggins on the sideline they seem to never be truly out of any game, but I just don’t see them getting to the dance until WVU is able to sign a bigger recruit. They need the piece that brings everything together in Morgantown.
Baylor signed two freshman for this year, but it’s Baylor. The Bears make the tournament by flying under the radar until they upset someone. Occasionally though, they lose to someone they shouldn’t (see Texas Tech last year). Scott Drew’s team will get the postseason as always.
Oh, TCU. To sum up the Horned Frogs, no. No talent is present in Fort Worth on that team. Trent Johnson is doing the best he can with what he has access to, but I just don’t think it’s enough. TCU needs a bigger name than Trent Johnson to turn that program around.
Lon Kreuger was able to get TaShawn Thomas to transfer from Houston and return Ryan Spangler. Look for Spangler to be the go-to guy in Norman for the Sooners, and look for their to be crimson and cream somewhere in the field of 68 come March.
Projected 2014-15 Big 12 Standings:
3) Iowa State
4) Kansas State
7) West Virginia
8) Oklahoma State
9) Texas Tech
*Top 6 seeds receive first round byes in the Phillips 66 Big 12 Championship