Jan 3, 2013, 3:01 PM EDT
Conference play is right around the corner, so to help you get out of that post-holiday haze, we’ll be catching you up on all the happenings in the country’s top 12 conferences. Here’s our Big 12 Conference Catchup:
Yep. Again. You may feel like one of these other Big 12 programs is about due to win the league, but this sure isn’t looking like the year to bet the ranch on it. Jeff Withey has become a force majeure under his own basket, and Ben McLemore is the enfant terrible who collects outlet passes and embarrasses his elders any chance he gets. They’re such an effective one-two punch that I had to speak in tongues to do it justice. Surrounded by steady, capable upperclassmen like Travis Releford, Kevin Young and Elijah Johnson, the dynamic duo doesn’t even have to do it all.
Contenders: Oklahoma State is coming on fast and strong, with a super-solid nucleus of Marcus Smart, Markel Brown, Le’Bryan Nash and Phil Forte. Gallagher-Iba’s going to be a miserable place for opponents to visit this season, and quite a few will want to roll up the welcome mat when the Cowboys take to the road as well. It’s not just about offensive fireworks, either. The Cowboys are playing elite-level defense as well.
Kansas State is rolling in their first season under Bruce Weber, but we’ll hold off on getting too excited about that just yet. Baylor needs to locate a little defense to go with a high-powered offense, but they’re very much in this race. Iowa State seems to be lurking in the shadows, waiting to strike.
Biggest Surprise: Kansas State
We’ve all come to expect some pretty uneven results from Bruce Weber, so it wasn’t much of a surprise that his Wildcats were chosen to finish fifth in the league after he took over for the hastily-departed Frank Martin. So far, he’s wisely played to his team’s strengths, keeping them in the top-25 of defensive efficiency and taking offensive opportunities as they come. Michigan and Gonzaga were able to crack the code, but Florida was not, and the Wildcats carry a national ranking into the new year.
Biggest Disappointment: Texas
It’s popular to lay blame for the Longhorns’ deficiencies on the NCAA, for not letting Myck Kabongo play most of this season. That seems a bit naive. Great as Kabongo is as a point guard, shouldn’t Rick Barnes — who’s coached in the Big 12 since 1998 — be able to get a little more out of the talent he’s accumulated in Austin this season? The guy used to be able to win 20+ games with Dogus Balbay and a spool of baling wire.
Player of the Year: Ben McLemore, Kansas
McLemore’s situation last season had to be galling to Bill Self. He made it to the national title game with one of his best players sitting out a season. Bygones are bygones, however, and now Self has a nominal freshman who spent a year getting his house in order and stepped on the court ready to dominate this season. McLemore can drive and dunk or splash a three, making him exceptionally hard to guard, and he creates his own opportunities on defense, swiping 1.2 steals per game. This may be his only season in Lawrence, but it’s bound to be a memorable one.
Best Freshman: Marcus Smart, Oklahoma State
I know. That’s two freshmen. But they’re both worthy of a nod. Smart caught the nation’s attention with this stat line against NC State: 20 points, 7 rebounds, 7 assists, 4 steals, 4 blocks. The only team that’s really slowed him down since is Missouri State, by being so inept that Travis Ford decided to sit Smart for half the game rather than humiliate the Bears any further. I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait for the McLemore/Smart battles coming our way this season.
- Texas will bounce back. The offense is struggling, granted. But Texas is playing lights-out defense, coming in third nationally in defensive efficiency according to Kenpom. That includes a DI-best perimeter defense. All it will take is for one or two things to start clicking offensively, and this team will be a threat.
- TCU will win a single league game. Trent Johnson will start his first season in the Big 12 off with a win over Texas Tech, then proceed to lose every game thereafter. What the Big 12 is, the basketball Horned Frogs ain’t ready for.
- Hardin-Simmons will wish they had asked for more money. Baylor travels to Kansas on January 14, then hosts Oklahoma State on the 21st. In-between, they’ll paste the tar out of the poor, frightened Hardin-Simmons Cowboys of DIII for no apparent reason except that they can. I’m with Harten – can’t we just end these shenanigans?
Power Rankings (* = tourney team):
2. Oklahoma State*
3. Kansas State*
5. Iowa State*
8. West Virginia
9. Texas Tech
10. Texas Christian
Eric Angevine is the editor of Storming the Floor. He tweets @stfhoops.
Sep 29, 2014, 11:45 PM EDT
Long Beach State has four commits in 2015.
Sep 29, 2014, 9:50 PM EDT
Pauley Pavilion has gone under plenty of changes in the last few seasons and dealt with a flooding issue several months back.
Sep 29, 2014, 8:00 PM EDT
UNLV continues to tap into the local powerhouse.
Sep 29, 2014, 7:47 PM EDT
All four commits are ranked in the Rivals150.
Sep 29, 2014, 7:15 PM EDT
Spoiler: Kentucky is going to dunk a lot this season.
Sep 29, 2014, 6:30 PM EDT
A decision could come within the next three weeks.
Sep 29, 2014, 5:15 PM EDT
John Calipari’s loaded roster has required a new position on the Kentucky staff.
Sep 29, 2014, 3:54 PM EDT
Logwood had previously signed with Auburn.
Sep 29, 2014, 3:13 PM EDT
Spoelstra is now the head coach of the Miami Heat.
Sep 29, 2014, 2:36 PM EDT
New head coach Mike Rhoades is from the Shaka Smart coaching tree.
Sep 29, 2014, 1:36 PM EDT
Will this hurt Cuonzo Martin’s program?
Sep 29, 2014, 12:47 PM EDT
Deville Smith has completed the tough task of playing for four different schools in four seasons.
Sep 29, 2014, 11:53 AM EDT
This provides more context into why Smart did what he did.
Sep 29, 2014, 11:05 AM EDT
There is only one truly strange ranking in this top 25.
Sep 28, 2014, 11:40 PM EDT
The Yellow Jackets will have new uniforms as they look to account for the loss of four of their top five scorers from last season.
Sep 28, 2014, 10:30 PM EDT
After having to worry about rehabbing from two hip surgeries last summer, Omar Calhoun could simply work on his game this summer.
Sep 28, 2014, 8:36 PM EDT
The task of rebuilding the USC program will be a difficult one, but these two forwards will help matters next season.
Sep 28, 2014, 7:05 PM EDT
The Gamecocks are looking to add even more depth to their front court in the Class of 2015.
Sep 28, 2014, 5:04 PM EDT
If the Red Storm are to reach the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2001, their guards will have to be as good as they say they are.
Sep 28, 2014, 3:28 PM EDT
The junior forward started 26 games last season for the Blue Devils.
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