No conference had a more beneficial spring than the Big 12.
Marcus Smart made the decision to return to Oklahoma State for his sophomore season, which immediately propelled the Cowboys into the top ten in most preseason rankings.
For a while, that decision also seemed to make the Pokes the favorite in the conference, but that was before Andrew Wiggins went out and threw everyone for a loop by signing with Kansas. With the most hyped-up recruit that we’ve seen since Kevin Durant in the fold and a recruiting class that should help Bill Selfs club immediately reload, the Jayhawks shot into the top five.
And that wasn’t it, as Baylor also found a way to keep themselves in the conversation for the top 25 with Cory Jefferson and Isaiah Austin returning to school.
Austin’s decision, at the time, was almost as surprising as Smart’s, as just about every potential first round pick and returned to school, leaving Austin with a good chance of ending up in the lottery. But the 7-foot-1 sharpshooter decided against the pros, returning to school largely due to a shoulder injury that required surgery. Austin went under the knife on May 6th, with recovery timed pegged at 4-to-6 months.
How’s that recovery going?
“It’ll probably be another two or three weeks before he’s cleared to shoot 3-pointers,” Baylor coach Scott Drew told Gary Parrish of CBSSports.com. “But he’s been doing well. When they tell you [four-to-six months], you’re always shooting for [four]. And he’s still ahead of that schedule. So he’s good.”
That’s a good sign, as Austin should be healthy and back in shape in time for Baylor’s first game o the season.
The question is going to be just how good Austin ends up being. The knock on Austin is that he’s too slender and that he spends too much time floating around the perimeter for a player that’s seven feet tall. Spending his summer with an arm in a sling isn’t exactly the best way to add strength and size, and certainly isn’t the ideal way to improve on your low-post game.
Regardless, Baylor is better off next season with Austin back in the fold, especially when he once again teams up with Jefferson and Rico Gathers on the Bear’s front line.
If they can find a way to replace Pierre Jackson at the point, Baylor should be on their way back to the NCAA tournament after spending last March in the NIT.