Skip to content

Conference Catchup: Best Cowboy up if you want to beat Kansas

Jan 3, 2013, 3:01 PM EST

Pistol Pete courtesy of Oklahoma State Athletics Pistol Pete courtesy of Oklahoma State Athletics

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:

Favorite: Kansas

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.

Three Predictions

  • 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):

1. Kansas*
2. Oklahoma State*
3. Kansas State*
4. Baylor*
5. Iowa State*
6. Texas
7. Oklahoma
8. West Virginia
9. Texas Tech
10. Texas Christian

Eric Angevine is the editor of Storming the Floor. He tweets @stfhoops.

Latest Posts
  1. Tennessee assistant coach resigns amid NCAA probe

    Nov 24, 2014, 8:30 PM EST

    cd0ymzcznguwzdbhnduynddiytjhm2yyzthlmtjjotqwyyznpte3owi1njbhnjg0mtc2yjbkzdgzmdzhnzm2mtbjytc1 AP

    Tennessee is losing an assistant coach as a NCAA investigation into head coach Donnie Tyndall’s time at Southern Mississippi continues.

  2. No. 3 Arizona takes down Missouri in opening game at Maui Invitational

    Nov 24, 2014, 7:27 PM EST

    Parker Jackson-Cartwright, Keith Shamburger AP

    No. 3 Arizona held off Missouri the whole game and cruised to a double-digit win in Maui.

  3. Hall of Famer Jerry Tarkanian due for hospital release

    Nov 24, 2014, 6:30 PM EST

    Morehead State v UNLV Getty Images

    After spending some time in the hospital battling pneumonia, legendary coach Jerry Tarkanian is leaving the hospital.

  4. Florida Gulf Coast suspends senior for three games

    Nov 24, 2014, 5:15 PM EST

    Jamail Jones AP

    Florida Gulf Coast suspended a key player for three games on Monday.

  5. Baylor loses a 2015 commitment

    Nov 24, 2014, 4:25 PM EST

    AP Photo AP Photo

    Baylor lost a commitment from a 2015 guard.

  6. 2016 Maui Invitational field announced

    Nov 24, 2014, 1:36 PM EST

    WQRRQGLEMIHIBXT.20110727142752

    Once again, the Maui has put together a loaded field.

  7. Pregame Shootaround: Maui Invitational, Legends Classic highlight night

    Nov 24, 2014, 1:00 PM EST

    weber AP

    There will be some fun basketball games on Monday night.

  8. #POSTERIZED: Travis Atson dunks all over a 6-foot-11 defender (VIDEO)

    Nov 24, 2014, 12:19 PM EST

    Screen Shot 2014-11-24 at 12.18.01 PM

    Atson was called by one scout the “Chris Herren of New Haven”.

  9. Weekly Awards: LaDontae Henton, West Virginia with notable performances

    Nov 24, 2014, 11:41 AM EST

    LaDontae Henton (AP Photo) LaDontae Henton (AP Photo)

    Henton went for 38 against Notre Dame, while West Virginia won the Puerto Rico Tip-Off.

  10. College Basketball Talk’s latest top 25: Kentucky reigns, but how far will Kansas, Florida slide?

    Nov 24, 2014, 7:00 AM EST

    Miami v Florida Getty Images

    Putting together a top 25 this early is tough to do as we balance expectations with early season performance.

  11. Late Night Snacks: West Virginia, Miami win in-season tournament titles

    Nov 24, 2014, 1:10 AM EST

    Juwan Staten (AP Photo) Juwan Staten (AP Photo)

    No. 1 Kentucky set a new school record, Ohio State’s Shannon Scott broke Aaron Craft’s single-game assist record and more.

  12. Miami caps 4-0 week with second Gildan Charleston Classic title

    Nov 23, 2014, 11:49 PM EST

    McClellan Fernandez Palmer Rodriguez Lecomte Thomas McClellan Fernandez Palmer Rodriguez Lecomte Thomas

    A week that began with a win at No. 7 Florida ended with a commanding victory over Charlotte at the Gildan Charleston Classic.

  13. West Virginia shows signs of progress in Puerto Rico Tipoff win over No. 17 UConn

    Nov 23, 2014, 9:57 PM EST

    Bob Huggins Bob Huggins

    West Virginia has better depth and toughness than they had a season ago, and those improvements paid off in Puerto Rico this weekend.

  14. #POSTERIZED: Texas A&M-Corpus Christi’s John Jordan takes flight (VIDEO)

    Nov 23, 2014, 8:55 PM EST

    John Jordan, Miles Reynolds John Jordan, Miles Reynolds

    The 5-foot-10 guard has a standing vertical of 38 inches. That’s pretty good.

  15. Rutgers’ Kadeem Jack scores 13 points in first action of the season

    Nov 23, 2014, 8:10 PM EST

    Kadeem Jack, Chris Hooper, Antonio Jenifer AP

    Kadeem Jack missed the first two games of the season with a thumb injury.

  16. New Mexico guard breaks bone in his hand during loss to Texas A&M

    Nov 23, 2014, 6:55 PM EST

    Peyton Allen, Arthur Edwards Peyton Allen, Arthur Edwards

    With Cullen Neal already dealing with an ankle injury, Arthur Edwards is the latest Lobo dealing with a health issue.

  17. Reserve big man one of four UConn players suspended for violation of team rules

    Nov 23, 2014, 5:34 PM EST

    Hunter Ware, Ryan Boatright Hunter Ware, Ryan Boatright

    Rakim Lubin was averaging five minutes per contest in UConn’s first three games.