Top 25 Countdown: Others receiving votes

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Throughout the month of October, CollegeBasketballTalk will be rolling out our previews for the 2012-2013 season. Check back at 9 a.m. and just after lunch every day, Monday-Friday, for a new preview item.

To browse through the preview posts we’ve already published, click here. To look at the rest of the Top 25, click here. For a schedule of our previews for the month, click here.

Butler:

  • Last Season: 22-15, 11-7 Horizon (t-3rd); Lost in the CBI semifinals
  • Key Losses: Ronald Nored, Chrishawn Hopkins
  • Key Returnees: Andrew Smith (10.9 ppg, 5.2 rpg), Khyle Marshall (9.8 ppg, 4.3 rpg), Roosevelt Jones (7.8 ppg, 6.0 rpg)
  • Key Newcomers: Rotnei Clarke, Kellen Dunham
  • Outlook: Butler is always a tough team defensively, they are much more athletic than you would expect a Butler team to be, and they addressed their biggest issue from last season (perimeter shooting) with the additions of Clarke and Dunham. The problem? The point guard spot. They lost their best defender (Nored) to graduation and their best play maker (Hopkins) to the dreaded violation of team rules.

Cincinnati:

  • Last Season: 26-11, 12-6 Big East (t-4th); Lost to Ohio State in the Sweet 16
  • Key Losses: Yancy Gates, Dion Dixon
  • Key Returnees: Sean Kilpatrick (14.3 ppg, 4.6 rpg), Cashmere Wright (10.9 ppg, 4.6 apg, 2.0 spg), JaQuon Parker (9.4 ppg, 5.6 rpg), Justin Jackson (5.2 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 1.6 bpg)
  • Key Newcomers: Titus Rubles, Shaquille Thomas
  • Outlook: Cincinnati’s perimeter attack is promising as they bring back Kilpatrick, who will compete for Big East Player of the Year, and one of the most underrated point guards in the conference in Wright. The key will be Parker’s ability to rebound and defend at the four spot, which allows the Bearcats to play small. Cincinnati will  have to do that quite often, as they have quite a few question marks up front.

Davidson:

  • Last Season: 25-8, 16-2 SoCon (1st); Lost to Louisville in the Opening Round
  • Key Losses: None
  • Key Returnees: De’Mon Brooks (15.7 ppg, 6.2 rpg), Jake Cohen (14.3 ppg, 6.1 rpg, 1.7 bpg), Nik Cochran (10.9 ppg, 3.6 apg), JP Kuhlman (10.8 ppg, 3.8 rpg), Chris Czerapowicz (10.1 ppg, 4.9 rpg)
  • Key Newcomers: None
  • Outlook: Davidson won the usually-balanced Southern Conference by four full games last season. They went into Kansas City and knocked off Kansas. They gave Louisville a fight in the first round of the NCAA tournament. And they bring everyone back from last season. The Wildcats have a chance to be very, very good this season.

Drexel:

  • Last Season: 29-7, 16-2 CAA (1st); Lost in the NIT Quarterfinals
  • Key Losses: Samme Givens
  • Key Returnees: Frantz Massenat (13.7 ppg, 4.8 apg), Damion Lee (12.0 ppg, 4.4 rpg), Chris Fouch (10.8 ppg)
  • Key Newcomers: Tavon Allen, Casey Carroll
  • Outlook: With VCU leaving the CAA, the Dragons look like they will be the favorite to repeat as conference champions. Losing Givens will hurt, but Bruiser Flint has plenty of big bodies at his disposal. The perimeter attack will be as good as ever, as Massenat will be preseason 1st team all-CAA while Lee (a sophomore) has a chance to be the conference player of the year before he graduates.

Florida State:

  • Last Season: 25-9, 12-4 ACC (3rd); Lost to Cincinnati in the Round of 32
  • Key Losses: Bernard James, Luke Loucks, Deividas Dulkys
  • Key Returnees: Michael Snaer (14.0 ppg, 3.8 rpg), Ian Miller (10.3 ppg), Okaro White (7.7 ppg, 4.4 rpg)
  • Key Newcomers: Montay Brandon, Aaron Thomas, Devon Bookert, Boris Bojanovsky
  • Outlook: Florida State is always going to be a tough team defensively. They are always going to have big, physical post players. That’s never going to change. This year, they’ll have one of the best all-around guards in the country in Snaer in the mix. The key will be if Miller or the talented crop of freshmen guards can develop and provide Snaer with some offensive support.

Kansas State:

  • Last Season: 22-11, 10-8 Big 12 (5th); Lost to Syracuse in the Round of 32
  • Key Losses: Frank Martin (coach), Jamar Samuels
  • Key Returnees: Rodney McGruder (15.8 ppg, 5.2 rpg), Angel Rodriguez (8.3 ppg, 3.2 apg), Jordan Henriquez (7.6 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 2.4 bpg)
  • Key Newcomers: Bruce Weber (coach), Michael Orris, Darrell Johnson
  • Outlook: The Wildcats have a solid core to build their team around. McGruder is a potential Big 12 Player of the Year candidate while Rodriguez is a guy that will be on quite a few breakout performer lists. Throw in Will Spradling in the back court on a front court anchored by Henriquez and the big-bodied Thomas Gipson, and K-State’s got a chance to win the league if they can adapt to Bruce Weber’s coaching style.

Marquette:

  • Last Season: 27-8, 14-4 Big East (2nd); Lost to Florida in the Sweet 16
  • Key Losses: Darius Johnson-Odom, Jae Crowder
  • Key Returnees: Vander Blue (8.4 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 2.6 apg), Junior Cadougan (6.3 ppg, 5.4 apg), Davante Gardner (9.5 ppg, 5.3 rpg), Todd Mayo (7.9 ppg)
  • Key Newcomers: Trent Lockett, Steve Taylor, Jamal Ferguson
  • Outlook: Marquette has a slew of quality players on their roster, particularly on their perimeter, but there are a couple question marks I have for this group. Is there a go-to guy on the roster? How good will Arizona State transfer Trent Lockett be playing meaningful games? Who has the ball in their hands at the end of a clock? Who fills the role of the face-up power forward vacated by Crowder?

Miami:

  • Last Season: 20-13, 9-7 (t-4th);  Lost in the Second Round of the NIT
  • Key Losses: Malcolm Grant, DeQuan Jones
  • Key Returnees: Durand Scott (12.9 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 3.1 apg), Kenny Kadji (11.7 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 41.8% 3’s), Reggie Johnson (10.0 ppg, 7.2 rpg), Shane Larkin (7.4 ppg, 2.9 apg)
  • Key Newcomers: Bishop Daniels
  • Outlook: The ‘Canes look like they could end up being the best team in the ACC outside of the Triangle this season. Kadji and Johnson form a nice inside-outside duo in the front court while Scott and Larkin headline a versatile group on the perimeter. If Miami is going to make some noise, this is the year to do it: six of their top seven players are seniors.

Minnesota:

  • Last Season: 23-15, 6-12 Big Ten (9th); Lost in the NIT Final
  • Key Losses: Ralph Sampson III
  • Key Returnees: Trevor Mbakwe (14.0 ppg, 9.1 rpg, 1.7 bpg), Rodney Williams (12.2 ppg, 5.6 rpg), Julian Welch (9.5 ppg, 2.9 apg, 43.8% 3’s)
  • Key Newcomers: Charles Buggs, Wally Ellenson
  • Outlook: Looking at the Gopher’s rotation, there is a lot to like. For starters, double-double machine Mbakwe is back for a sixth-year. Will Williams alongside him up front and a trio of talented perimeter players in Welch and the two Hollinses, Tubby Smith has an NCAA tournament-caliber team. The point guard spot will once again be a year-long question mark, however.

Murray State:

  • Last Season: 31-2, 15-1 OVC (1st); Lost to Marquette in the Round of 32
  • Key Losses: Donte Poole, Ivan Aska, Jewuan Long
  • Key Returnees: Isaiah Canaan (19.0 ppg, 3.6 apg, 45.6% 3’s), Ed Daniel (6.8 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 1.5 bpg), Zay Jackson? (4.9 ppg, 2.3 apg)
  • Key Newcomers: Erick McCree, Jeffery Moss, CJ Ford
  • Outlook: Murray State lost quite a few important players from last season’s team, but the good news is that they do get back an all-american in Canaan and the athletic and energetic Daniel. Those two will put up numbers and Murray State will wins a lot of games, but a stronger OVC combined with Jackson’s off-season arrest makes a return trip to the dance anything but a guarantee.

North Texas:

  • Last Season: 18-14, 9-7 Sun Belt (5th)
  • Key Losses: Johnny Jones (coach)
  • Key Returnees: Tony Mitchell (14.7 ppg, 10.3 rpg, 3.0 bpg), Chris Jones (14.1 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 4.3 apg, 2.4 spg), Jordan Williams (10.9 ppg), Alzee Williams (10.5 ppg)
  • Key Newcomers: Tony Benford (coach), TJ Taylor, Keith Coleman, Clarke Overlander, PJ Hardwick
  • Outlook: Normally, teams that finish fifth in the Sun Belt aren’t destined to be top 25 programs, but this Mean Green team is anything but normal. Mitchell is a lottery pick that never was eligible at Missouri. Jones and Jordan Williams were academically ineligible for the second semester last season. Taylor signed with Oklahoma out of high school and Marquette out of Junior College. Roger Franklin transferred in from Oklahoma State. Benford has a very, very good team on his hands.

Oklahoma State:

  • Last Season: 15-18, 7-11 Big 12 (9th)
  • Key Losses: Keiton Page, Cezar Guerrero
  • Key Returnees: Le’Bryan Nash (13.3 ppg, 5.0 rpg), Markel Brown (10.5 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 2.4 apg), Brian Williams (9.6 ppg, 3.3 rpg), JP Olukemi* (9.4 ppg, 4.8 rpg)
  • Key Newcomers: Marcus Smart, Phil Forte, Kamari Murphy, Kirby Gardner
  • Outlook: There’s a lot to like with this Oklahoma State team, especially if Olukemi gets his waiver to be eligible all season. Nash and Smart give the Cowboys more consensus top ten recruits than the entire ACC. Markel Brown is a Sportscenter Top Ten play waiting to happen. But they have no size and question marks at the point. Smart has drawn rave reviews at that spot, but can he run the show at the Big 12 level?

Saint Mary’s:

  • Last Season: 27-6, 14-2 WCC (1st); Lost to Purdue in the Opening Round
  • Key Losses: Rob Jones, Clint Steindl
  • Key Returnees: Matthew Dellavedova (15.5 ppg, 6.4 apg), Stephen Holt (10.1 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 3.2 apg, 1.8 spg), Brad Waldow (8.1 ppg, 4.4 rpg)
  • Key Newcomers: Chris Reyes
  • Outlook: Losing Jones will hurt, but with a very talented back court — headlined by Dellavedova and the underrated Holt — returning, Randy Bennett’s club should be able to compete with Gonzaga for the WCC title once again. Two things to keep an eye on: the development of the sophomore Waldow up front, and what, if any, sanctions will come out of the investigation into the Gaels’ recruiting.

South Dakota State:

  • Last Season: 27-8, 15-3 Summit (2nd); Lost to Baylor in the Opening Round
  • Key Losses: Griffin Callahan
  • Key Returnees: Nate Wolters (21.2 ppg, 5.1 rpg, 5.9 apg), Jordan Dykstra (11.3 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 47.3% 3’s), Chad White (9.3 ppg, 47.2% 3’s), Brayden Carlsen (7.3 ppg, 46.1% 3’s)
  • Key Newcomers: Connor Divine, Jacob Bittle, Matt Donlan
  • Outlook: The Jackrabbits bring back Wolters, who is undoubtedly one of the most valuable players in the country. Their game plan is simple: give Wolters the ball, let him try to penetrate, and put shooters in four spots on the floor around him. Those shooters are back, too, although losing Callahan will hurt. When the threes are dropping, this team is fun to watch and tough to beat. Keep an eye on them.

Stanford:

  • Last Season: 26-11, 10-8 Pac-12 (7th); Won the NIT
  • Key Losses: Josh Owens, Andrew Zimmerman
  • Key Returnees: Chasson Randle (13.8 ppg, 43.8% 3’s), Aaron Bright (11.7 ppg, 3.7 apg, 43.6% 3’s), Dwight Powell (5.8 ppg, 4.6 rpg), Anthony Brown (8.1 ppg, 4.0 rpg)
  • Key Newcomers: Rosco Allen, Grant Verhoeven, Christian Sanders
  • Outlook: The Cardinal have plenty of talent on their roster. Randle is one of the country’s best kept secrets, while Brown and Bright provide some balance on the perimeter. Stanford’s front line is the difference maker for this team. Allen, Verhoeven and Powell have plenty of potential, but this team is probably still a year away from peaking.

Tennessee:

  • Last Season: 19-15, 10-6 SEC (t-2nd); Lost in the Second Round of the NIT
  • Key Losses: Cameron Tatum, Renaldo Woolridge
  • Key Returnees: Trae Golden, Jarnell Stokes, Jeronne Maymon
  • Key Newcomers: Derek Reese, Armani Moore, D’Montre Edwards
  • Outlook: Did you know that Tennessee finished second in the SEC last season? And they bring back essentially their entire roster? That includes Stokes, who had a very successful season despite enrolling in January, when he was supposed to be a high school senior. The Vols are going to be a tough, physical team that is no fun to play. On the nights they get scoring from their wings, they’ll be very difficult to get a win against.

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @robdauster.

Jessie Govan returning to Georgetown for senior season

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Jessie Govan is returning to Georgetown.

The 6-foot-10 center who averaged a double-double last season will withdraw from the NBA draft to play his senior season with the Hoyas, according to multiple reports.

Govan’s return to D.C. is a huge development for the Hoyas. As a junior, Govan averaged 17.9 points and 10 rebounds per game. He shot 50.8 percent from the floor and 34.8 percent from distance. He went from a nice contributor as a sophomore to a breakout star last season for first-year coach Patrick Ewing.

Without Govan, the Georgetown frontcourt would have been very young and unproven. Now Ewing gets back a major impact player who will not only help the Hoyas compete in 2018-19, but bridge the gap to NC State transfer Omer Yurtseven’s eligibility in 2019.

The Hoyas were surprisingly competitive in Ewing’s first year back at his alma mater, and now has a chance to see an even bigger uptick this season with its anchor in the middle back in the fold.

Mizzou settles lawsuit brought by South Carolina women’s coach Dawn Staley

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An ugly episode has reached its conclusion with the University of Missouri paying $50,000 and its athletic director apologizing to South Carolina women’s basketball coach Dawn Staley.

Mizzou will donate $25,000 to Staley’s charity foundation and the other $25,000 going to her attorneys after she filed a defamation lawsuit stemming from an incident last winter when Tigers athletic director Jim Sterk claimed she “promoted that kind of atmosphere” after he alleged that Missouri players were called racial epithets and spit on after a game at South Carolina in January.

“Following a very spirited and intense game I attended in late January between the nationally ranked Missouri and South Carolina women’s basketball teams, I made comments in a local radio interview that were construed to suggest that Coach Staley promoted the negative experiences of racial epithets and spitting,” Sterk said in a statement Missouri released Thursday.

“I do not believe Coach Staley would promote such conduct, and I sincerely apologize to her for those comments.”

The lawsuit, which was filed in February, stemmed from an incident after a Missouri player claimed she had been spit after a loss in Columbia in January.

“We had players spit on and called the ‘N’ word and things like that,” Sterk said on Jan. 30, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “I mean it was not a good environment and unfortunately and I think Coach (Dawn) Staley promoted that kind of atmosphere. And it’s unfortunate that she felt she had to do that.”

With Thursday’s announced settlement, both parties are looking to put the incident in the past.

“I accept his apology and I appreciate the contribution of $25,000 to INNERSOLE, a not for profit organization I co-founded that provides new sneakers to children who are homeless or in need,” Staley said in a statement. “I’m glad we can share in support of this worthy cause and I look forward to moving past this with a continued spirited but positive competition amongst our programs.”  

 

SEC/Big 12 Challenge matchups unveiled

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A meeting between two of the sport’s most successful programs highlights this year’s slate of games in the SEC/Big 12 Challenge, which was unveiled Thursday.

Kansas will visit Rupp Arena to play Kentucky on Jan. 26 as part of the annual event’s sixth year of competition.

The Jayhawks have won three-straight against the Wildcats with two being part of the Big 12/SEC Challenge and last year’s meeting part of the Champion’s Classic. Both teams ranked in the top five of our preseason Top 25.

Another marquee matchup will be defending SEC champ and likely top-10 preseason ranked Tennessee hosting Bob Huggins and West Virginia. Oklahoma State coach Mike Boynton will welcome his alma mater to Stillwater with South Carolina the Cowboys’ matchup.

All games will be played on Saturday, Jan. 26. The challenge was split 5-5 last season. The Big 12 holds a 3-1-1 advantage in the event with its teams holding an overall record of 29-21.

2019 SEC/Big 12 Challenge

Alabama at Baylor

Iowa State At Ole Miss

Kansas at Kentucky

Kansas State at Texas A&M

Vanderbilt at Oklahoma

South Carolina at Oklahoma State

Florida at TCU

Texas at Georgia

Arkansas at Texas Tech

West Virginia at Tennessee

Texas guard Kerwin Roach to return for senior season

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Texas announced on Thursday that Kerwin Roach II will be returning to school for his senior season.

The 6-foot-4 Roach declared for the draft following the season, but did not get invited to the NBA Draft Combine.

Roach averaged 12.3 points, 3.7 assists and 3.6 boards for the Longhorns a season ago. He is one of the most athletic players in the country, and spent the second half of last season as one of the most productive guards in the Big 12.

Big 12 conference reset: Kansas even stronger after Final Four?

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The NBA Draft’s Early Entry Deadline has come and gone, and there are a dozen or so truly impactful decisions that are left to be made.

Just about every elite recruit has decided where they will be playing their college ball next season.

The coaching carousel has come to a close.

The transfer market is slowly winding down.

In other words, by now, we have a pretty good feel for what college basketball is going to look like during the 2018-19 season.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at what has happened — and what will happen — in the Big 12 over the next six months.

KEY OFFSEASON STORYLINES

THE KANSAS MACHINE: Bill Self had what many considered his worst Kansas team and what the Kansas coach himself admitted was his unlikeliest Big 12 champions – the Jayhawks won not only their 14th-consecutive conference title but advanced all the way to the Final Four. There’s simply little else in this world you can count on more consistently than KU being the best the Big 12 has to offer.

And the Jayhawks may be even better this year. Sure, they lose a sizable chunk of the core that propelled them to San Antonio last season, but one of the reasons the Jayhawks were so vulnerable last year – depth and versatility – is what will make them formidable this year with the best transfer class in the country becoming eligible. Which isn’t even to mention another top recruiting haul. Kansas is a machine – something of a mix between a watch and a wrecking ball.

(David Purdy/Getty Images)

LOOMING DECISIONS: There may be little drama surrounding who is the team to beat heading into the upcoming season, there remains some intrigue as spring turns to summer. Most NBA decisions have been made, but there are some that could swing the balance of power at different spots across the league hierarchy.

The most impactful is probably Udoka Azubuike, the Kansas center who became an integral part of the Jayhawks’ four-out offense last year as the man in the middle keeping defenses honest. The Jayhawks will be able to play different ways this season with an expanded roster, but Azubuike is simply a player most teams don’t have a counter for – he’s a 75.4 percent career shooter from the floor.

Lindell Wigginton’s stay-or-go decision could hold the biggest sway over the future for any team in the league. The 6-foot-2 guard exhibited his athleticism and scoring prowess during his freshman season and is now weighing whether to try to be the first Nova Scotia native to make it in the NBA now or wait a year. If he returns, the Cyclones have four starters back and one of the most dynamic scorers in the conference. If he doesn’t, Iowa State is going to be relying heavily on newcomers to put points on the board.

West Virginia’s success is likely tied to its system, but having Sagaba Konate on the back line swatting away shots sure makes that system a lot better. He’ll be back to school next season. Kansas State should return its whole starting, and though Barry Brown hasn’t made his return official, it’s widely expected.

BRUCE WEBER’S RESURGENCE: On Feb. 25, 2017, Kansas State lost by 30 to an Oklahoma team that would finish ninth in the Big 12. It was the Wildcats’ fifth loss in six games and dropped them to 6-10 in the Big 12. Kansas State faithful, already frustrated by back-to-back missed NCAA tournaments and mass player defections, seemed to have had enough. The drumbeat to part with Weber amplified out of Manhattan.

Now just 15 months later, Weber has been to back-to-back NCAA tournaments and should have his entire roster from an Elite Eight team intact in 2018-19. That is one heckuva turnaround. Weber may not ever get the level of admiration that his predecessor, Frank Martin, got in the Octagon of Doom, but the results – I haven’t even mentioned that split 2013 regular season Big 12 title – speak for themselves and 2019 could scream the loudest.

WHERE DOES OKLAHOMA GO?: There was probably nothing as fun in the first few weeks and months of the 2017-18 season than Trae Young and Oklahoma. The kid who graduated from Norman North High School was doing the best Steph Curry impersonation the sport has seen since, well, Steph Curry became Steph Curry. Young was, inarguably, a sensation as he bombed away from 30 feet, dished out assists by the bundle and had the Sooners cruising.

Then the bottom fell out. Young still ultimately led the country in scoring and assists while the Sooners made the NCAA tournament, but the freshman phenom languished down the stretch while Oklahoma lost nine of their last 11 games. Now, Young is a likely lottery pick and the Sooners got hit with a one-two punch of transfers by Jordan Shepherd and Kameron McGusty. Lon Kruger is one of the country’s best coaches, but things look a little sideways for the Sooners at the moment without a ton of talent on the roster and the stink of last year’s finish still in the air.

(Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

WHO’S GONE?

  • DEVONTE’ GRAHAM, SVI MYKHAILIUK, LAGERALD VICK and MALIK NEWMAN: These are heavy losses for the Jayhawks to sustain – and they’re still waiting out Azubuike – but they’re uniquely positioned to sustain them like few other teams in the country. It’ll be Graham’s steadiness and leadership that could be missed most.
  • KEENAN EVANS and ZHAIRE SMITH, Texas Tech: Evans was maybe one of the more underrated and overlooked players nationally last season as he averaged 17.6 points and carried the offensive load for the defensive-minded Red Raiders – and he did it down the stretch with a broken toe. He could be one of the hardest players in the conference to replace. Smith was the most electric dunker in the Big 12 – and maybe the country. His upside was just too high to keep him in college for another year. He’s likely headed for the lottery.
  • JEVON CARTER and TEDDY ALLEN, West Virginia: Carter’s production, specifically on the defensive end, is going to be so hard for the Mountaineers to replicate, but it’ll be his presence, his attitude, his aura – he was Press Virginia personified – that make him irreplaceable even for a program that’s entered plug-and-play territory. Allen really became WVU’s go-get-a-bucket guy down the stretch, and given how much they’ve struggled to score in the halfcourt in recent years, his decision to transfer stings.
  • VLADIMIR BRODZIANSKY and KENRICH WILLIAMS, TCU: Brodziansky blossomed into arguably the Big 12’s best big man while Williams was a huge part of the Horned Frogs’ identity offensively. TCU has a lot coming back, but filling these two roster holes will be difficult.
  • JO LUAL-ACUIL and MANU LECOMTE, Baylor: Baylor was resurgent in the second half of the season in no small part thanks to this duo.
  • MO BAMBA and ERIC DAVIS, JR, Texas: Bamba was always destined to be a one-and-done player so Texas was always prepared to bid him farewell this spring and the emergence of Jericho Sims during Bamba’s absence due to a toe injury mitigates the damage. The Longhorns are losing a lottery pick, yes, but they’ve planned for it and have an excellent replacement option. Davis decided to pursue a pro career just a few weeks after he was connected to Christian Dawkins in a Yahoo report.
  • TRAE YOUNG, KAMERON MCGUSTY AND JORDAN SHEPHERD, Oklahoma: Young was the Sooners last year as the country’s leading scorer and assist man – which, depending on your perspective – was either the impetus of the Sooners’ late-season swoon or an indictment of his less-than-capable teammates. That supporting cast will get its chance to prove itself – minus McGusty and Shepherd, who elected to transfer out of the program.
  • JEFFREY CARROLL, Oklahoma State: Carroll was a huge part of Oklahoma State’s surprising competitiveness last season, and his consistency will be missed in Mike Boynton’s second season.
(Elsa/Getty Images)

WHO’S BACK?

  • ESA AHMAD, West Virginia: Ahmad had an uneven season after being ineligible for more than the first half of the year, but his talent and toughness is critical for the Mountaineers.
  • JARRETT CULVER, Texas Tech: Zhaire Smith’s talent and aerial acrobatics made him the Red Raiders’ most dynamic and promising freshman, but Culver showed a ton of promise averaging 11.2 points, 4.8 rebounds and 1.8 assists in his rookie campaign.
  • KANSAS STATE: You could single out Barry Brown or Dean Wade here, but the Wildcats are literally bringing back their whole rotation. A forgiving draw may have helped them to the Elite Eight, but Kansas State has talent, experience and cohesion – quite the triple threat.
  • ALEX ROBINSON, JAYLEN FISHER, DESMOND BANE and KOUAT NOI, TCU: Jamie Dixon may be losing Brodziansky and Williams, but he returns a solid core and gets Fisher back from injury. The Horned Frogs are going to be a competitive threat to the rest of the league now with Dixon getting things rolling at his alma mater
  • DYLAN OSETKOWSKI, JERICHO SIMS, KERWIN ROACH, MATT COLEMAN AND ANDREW JONES, Texas: The Longhorns don’t exactly have star power on this team – at least apparent star power at the moment – but they’ve got guys that have got it done at this level. Andrew Jones missed most of last season after being diagnosed with leukemia, but coach Shaka Smart has spoken this offseason about the hope that Jones will be able to suit up in Austin once again this season – which is great news for reasons well beyond basketball.
  • BRADY MANEK, Oklahoma: Manek certainly wasn’t at the talent level of his classmate Trae Young, but the young big man did show flashes that he at least could one day be counted on to contribute in the Big 12. The Sooners will need more than just glimpses this year.
  • CAMERON LARD and NICK WEILER-BABB, Iowa State: There were times when the 6-foot-9 Lard looked like he was making an assault on the crown of best big man in the Big 12, putting up double-double after double-double while blocking heaps of shots defensively, but his production waned down the stretch as his consistency wilted. Weiler-Babb was a threat to put a triple-double up seemingly every night as a 6-foot-6 point guard until knee tendinitis sidelined him down the stretch.
(Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

WHO’S COMING?

  • DEDRIC LAWSON, K.J. LAWSON, CHARLIE MOORE, QUINTIN GRIMES, DEVON DOTSON AND DAVID MCCORMACK, Kansas: So the Jayhawks have three high-level transfers – including one potential conference player of the year – and a top-five recruiting class featuring two five-star and two four-star prospects. That’s not reloading – that’s switching to a bazooka. Dedric is the headliner, but K.J put up numbers at Memphis and Moore fills a need a point guard. Then there’s Grimes and Dotson, two top-20 guards. It’s good to be Bill Self.
  • COURTNEY RAMEY, GERALD LIDDELL, KAMAKA HEPA and ELIJAH MITROU-LONG, Texas: Shaka Smart didn’t land any Mo Bamba-level recruits, but he’s got a top-10 class with as many as four players capable of being instant-impact contributors. Mitrou-Long, the brother of former Iowa State standout Naz Mitrou-Long, comes to Austin after being a double-digit scorer at Mount St. Mary’s.
  • MICHAEL WEATHERS, Oklahoma State: The 6-foot-2 guard was the MAC freshman of the year after averaging 16.7 points per game at Miami (Ohio).
  • MARIAL SHAYOK, MICHAEL JACOBSON AND TALEN HORTON-TUCKER, Iowa State: Shayok gives the Cyclones versatility and pedigree (having played in the Elite 8 at Virginia) at the wing while Jacobson could be the floor-spacer in the frontcourt Iowa State lacked last year. The ultra-versatile Horton-Tucker is a top-50 prospect who headlines one of the most promising recruiting classes ever assembled in Ames.
  • MATT MOONEY, TARIQ OWENS AND KHAVON MOORE, Texas Tech: Mooney averaged 18.7 points per game last season at South Dakota before becoming one of the most coveted graduate transfers on the market. The 6-foot-8 Moore is a borderline top-50 recruit that Chris Beard will be looking to get production from.
  • MARIO KEGLER AND MAKAI MASON, Baylor: If Baylor is going to get back to the NCAA tournament for the fifth time in six years, these two transfers will have to play major parts.

COACHING CHANGES

  • NONE: With seven teams in the NCAA tournament and two top-two NIT seeds in 2017-18, the Big 12 had one of its most successful seasons. That made for a quiet silly season, with all 10 coaches staying put and there really being minimal pressure on nearly all 10 of them this year.

WAY-TOO-EARLY ALL-BIG 12 TEAM

Dedric LAWSON, Kansas (POY)
BARRY BROWN, Kansas State
NICK WEILER-BABB, Iowa State
DEAN WADE, Kansas State
UDOKA AZUBUIKE*, Kansas

WAY-TOO-EARLY POWER RANKINGS

1. KANSAS: The Jayhawks are looking for 15 years of supremacy in the Big 12. It’s one of the most amazing accomplishments in the modern era of college hoops.

2. KANSAS STATE: With essentially the whole rotation returning from last year’s Elite Eight team, the Wildcats look to be the strongest contender to their in-state rivals.

3. TCU: The Horned Frogs used to be the laughing stock of the Big 12. Under Jamie Dixon, they have the look of perennial contender.

4. WEST VIRGINIA: The Mountaineers are still going to embrace Bob Huggins’ gruff and tough personality with their Press Virginia style, but losing Jevon Carter is a huge blow to that identity.

5. TEXAS: If Shaka Smart can’t keep the Longhorns in the upper half of the Big 12, there may be some questions in Austin about his long-term viability there. With this roster, though, Texas should be able to accomplish that feat.

6. TEXAS TECH: Keenan Evans is irreplaceable and Zhaire Smith is unmatchable, but the Red Raiders look to have a persona about them under Chris Beard. There’s also certainly no dearth of talent.

7. IOWA STATE: Lindell Wigginton’s decision to return to Ames or stay in the draft is a huge fork in the road for the Cyclones. If he stays, he’s the high-volume scorer everything revolves around. Should he leave, the Cyclones have a lot of interesting pieces but no proven star power and a lot of new faces.

8. BAYLOR: Scott Drew is seemingly at his best when the least is expected of his Bears, so this could be a significant under-slotting, but Baylor will be quite reliant on players that are at some level unknown at this level.

9. OKLAHOMA STATE: Mike Boynton’s team exceedingly overachieved in Year 1 of his tenure, but some early departures and an uninspiring recruiting class means they probably slip in Year 2.

10. OKLAHOMA: Trae Young was the Sooners last year, and his teammates often looked unable to keep up. With no Young and no big-time replacements, it could be a long season for the Sooners.