BIG 12 CONFERENCE RESET: Is this the year that Kansas gets picked off?

(AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

College basketball’s non-conference season is coming to a close, and to help you shake off post-holiday haze and the hangover of losing in your fantasy football playoffs, we’ll be providing you with some midseason primers to get you caught up on all the nation’s most important conferences.

Today, we’re taking a look at the Big 12.

BIG 12 PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Buddy Hield, Oklahoma

A serious threat for National Player of the Year, Hield is playing magnificent basketball in his senior season as he’s become more of a well-rounded threat while maintaining great percentages from the floor. The 6-foot-4 guard is averaging 24.9 points, 5.3 rebounds and 1.5 steals per game while shooting ridiculous splits (51.5% FG/52.9% 3PT/90.0% FT). Not only is he a two-way threat, but he’s also become a more versatile scorer who is more comfortable off the dribble. On a loaded Oklahoma offense, Hield is getting a lot of room to operate.


  • Georges Niang, Iowa State
  • Wayne Selden, Kansas
  • Monte Morris, Iowa State
  • Rico Gathers, Baylor
  • Buddy Hield, Oklahoma

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  1. Once again, the Big 12 top-to-bottom looks deep and tough: The Big 12 looks like a conference with not a lot of easy outs in 2015-16 as most teams look tough. Depending on how the rest of the country shakes out, the league will get anywhere from 5-7 bids and even some future NIT teams are off to positive starts.
  2. Kansas and Oklahoma are major title contenders: As of this writing, KenPom’s top two teams are Kansas and Oklahoma, who will likely battle for the Big 12 regular season crown. The Jayhawks are at full strength now that Cheick Diallo has been cleared and Wayne Selden is playing very good ball. Hield leads an Oklahoma team that can space the floor from four positions and that experienced quartet is making half of their 3-pointers. Oh, and they just might square off on Monday as the No. 1 and 2 teams in the country.
  3. Iowa State has adjusted just fine under Steve Prohm: Even though Steve Prohm is in his first season in Ames, the Cyclones have won some tough games and generally adjusted well to their new coach. Georges Niang and Monte Morris are off to fast starts and the emergence of Jameel McKay has been a ton of fun to watch. The question with the Cyclones becomes depth. Do they have enough contributors after the loss of Naz Long?

[CONFERENCE RESETS: ACC | Big Ten | American | Big East]


  1. How does Texas play with Shaka Smart?: The Big 12 gets its first taste of Shaka Smart and his Austin version of Havoc and the loss of Cameron Ridley to a broken foot means the Longhorns could be smaller and more athletic. This team can knock down three pointers, but some talented young guards like Tevin Mack, Eric Davis and Kerwin Roach have been inconsistent.
  2. Where does West Virginia fit into things?: West Virginia currently sits in the national polls, but they’ve only beaten San Diego State and Richmond this season while pressing their way to a 10-1 start. Bob Huggins has most of his 2015 NCAA tournament core back outside of Juwan Staten. This team can defend but nobody knows how good they are.
  3. Is this finally the year someone dethrones Kansas?: It’s well documented that Kansas has won 11 consecutive Big 12 regular season titles as the Jayhawks have long been the class of the Big 12. But this season, Oklahoma and Iowa State are again legitimate top 15 teams. The Sooners in particular look like a major threat. Will Kansas falter just enough for one of them to win the title?


Oklahoma guard Buddy Hield (AP Photo/Eugene Tanner)
Oklahoma guard Buddy Hield (AP Photo/Eugene Tanner)

BETTER THAN THEIR RECORD: Texas picked off North Carolina with Marcus Paige at home so it showed that they can earn big wins in their arena. They’ll need a few more of those against the Big 12’s elite, but they’ll have plenty of chances with three top-10 caliber Big 12 teams. Ridley’s health — he broke his foot earlier this week — and how well they can replace his presence — he averaged a double-double — is going to be key.

BEAT SOMEONE AND WE’LL TALK: Texas Tech is off to a promising 10-1 start to the season, but they have a cupcake non-conference schedule that is ranked 215th in the nation by KenPom. Some look like okay wins — Arkansas-Little Rock, for example — but there is no at-large NCAA tournament win for the Red Raiders at the moment.

COACH UNDER PRESSURE: Oklahoma State head coach Travis Ford has needed to receive public support from his bosses and the Cowboys’ biggest donor before and he needs to play well in the Big 12 in order to have that support continue. With some key pieces who have never played in the conference, they’ll be interesting to track.


Tourney teams

  • 1. Kansas (11-1): Deep and talented, senior Perry Ellis is having another strong season and the backcourt of Frank Mason and Devonte’ Graham remains very good. The Jayhawks have front court depth that can’t be matched in the Big 12, although it will be interesting to see if Cheick Diallo and Carlton Bragg can be more than just role players.
  • 2. Oklahoma (12-0): Ryan Spangler is averaging a double-double while shooting 47 percent from three while Isaiah Cousins and Jordan Woodard remain one of the country’s most underrated backcourts. Oh, and they got that Buddy Hield guy, too. He’s been OK.
  • 3. Iowa State (11-1): Transfer wing Deonte Burton has given Iowa State a nice boost the last two games, but is that enough to give the Cyclones a shot at the league title? Their lack of depth in the paint is a major concern given how good Oklahoma and Kansas are.
  • 4. Baylor (10-2): Rico Gathers is a consistent double-double machine and Taurean Prince is a talented all-around forward. How their back court handle the Big 12’s best guards is the key to Baylor’s conference success.
  • 5. West Virginia(10-1): Once again flying around the floor and forcing turnovers, West Virginia needs to beat somebody better than San Diego State and Richmond. They will once Big 12 play gets rolling. Devin Williams has been a stud.

NIT teams

  • 6. Texas (8-4): With Cameron Ridley going down with injury, it leaves a huge hole inside. The only strong victory Texas has is over North Carolina. Texas needs more quality wins to make the tournament, and that will be tough without Ridley, who was having an all-league kind of season.
  • 7. Texas Tech (10-1): The Red Raiders are playing good defense but their perimeter shooting leaves a lot to be desired. It remains to be seen if Texas Tech can win conference games after winning three last season.
  • 8. Kansas State (10-2): Another Big 12 team with a cupcake schedule, the Wildcats struggle to shoot (29% 3PT) and don’t have any meaningful wins.

Autobid or bust

  • 9. Oklahoma State (8-4)
  • 10. TCU (8-4)

Purdue’s Edey returning to school at NBA draft deadline; Kentucky’s Tshiebwe stays in

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Purdue’s Zach Edey decided it was the right call to go back to school instead of staying in the NBA draft. His predecessor as national player of the year, Kentucky’s Oscar Tshiebwe, is sticking with his pro pursuit.

And Connecticut’s reign as NCAA champion will begin with multiple starters having left for the NBA draft and one returning after flirting with doing the same.

The 7-foot-4 Edey and UConn guard Tristen Newton were among the notable names to announce that they were withdrawing from the draft, the NCAA’s deadline for players who declared as early entrants to pull out and retain their college eligibility.

Edey’s decision came in social media posts from both the center and the Boilermakers program that earned a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament behind Edey, The Associated Press men’s national player of the year.

But Tshiebwe announced late in the afternoon that he would remain in the draft after a college career that included being named the AP national player of the year in 2022.

For the current champions, Newton (10.1 points, 4.7 assists, 4.5 rebounds) is returning after being one of four Huskies to declare for the draft after a run to UConn’s fifth national championship in early April. He scored a game-high 19 points to go with 10 rebounds in the victory over San Diego State in the title game.

The others were Final Four Most Outstanding Player Adama Sanogo, wing Jordan Hawkins and versatile guard Andre Jackson Jr. Sanogo (17.8 points) and Hawkins (16.3) have made it clear they have closed the door on their college careers, while team spokesman Phil Chardis said that Jackson (6.1 points, 5.8 rebounds, 4.6 assists) would remain in the draft.

The Huskies have 247sports’ No. 3-ranked recruiting class for next year to restock the roster, led by McDonald’s All-American point guard Stephon Castle.

The NBA’s withdrawal deadline is June 12, but is moot when it comes to college players returning to school due to the NCAA’s earlier timeline to retain playing eligibility.


TREY ALEXANDER: Creighton gets back a 6-4 guard who averaged 13.6 points and shot 41% from 3-point range in his first full season as a starter.

ADEM BONA: The 6-foot-10 forward and Pac-12 freshman of the year is returning to UCLA after starting 32 games as a rookie and averaging 7.7 points, 5.3 rebounds and 1.7 blocks – with coach Mick Cronin praising his toughness for “competing through multiple injuries for as long as he could” in a statement Wednesday.

EDEY: He averaged 22.3 points, 12.9 rebounds, 2.1 blocks and 1.5 assists while shooting 60.7% from the field. His presence alone helps Purdue be a factor in the Big Ten race.

JOSIAH-JORDAN JAMES: The 6-6 guard went through the NBA G League Combine and had workouts with multiple teams before opting to return to Tennessee for a fifth season alongside teammate Santiago Vescovi.

JUDAH MINTZ: The 6-3 freshman averaged 16.3 points and 4.6 assists for Syracuse, ranking third among Division I freshmen in scoring behind only Alabama’s Brandon Miller and Lamar’s Nate Calmese.

OWLS’ RETURNEES: Florida Atlantic got good news after its surprise Final Four run with the return leading scorers Johnell Davis (13.8) and Alijah Martin (13.4). ESPN first reported their decisions, while Martin later posted a social media statement.

TERRENCE SHANNON JR.: Illinois got a big boost with Shannon announcing his night in a social media post. The 6-6 guard is returning for a fifth college season after averaging 17.2 points.

SPARTANS’ RETURNEES: Michigan State announced that guards Jaden Akins and A.J. Hoggard have withdrawn from the NBA draft. Standout guard Tyson Walker had previously withdrawn in April, setting up Tom Izzo to have five of his top scorers back.


KOBE BROWN: Missouri’s 6-8 swingman opted against returning for a fifth college season after being an AP first-team all-Southeastern Conference pick averaging 15.8 points last season.

JAYLEN CLARK: The third-year UCLA guard averaged 13.0 points and 6.0 rebounds while leading the Pac-12 with 2.6 steals en route to being named Naismith national defensive player of the year. Cronin called him a winner with strong intangibles who made UCLA “a better program because he chose to be a Bruin.”

BRICE SENSABAUGH: The Ohio State freshman averaged 16.3 points and 5.4 rebounds in 31 games before missing his final two in the Big Ten Tournament due to a knee injury. He’s a potential first-round prospect.

TSHIEBWE: The 6-9, 260-pound forward is a tough interior presence who led the country in rebounds for two straight seasons (15.1 in 2022, 13.7 in 2023) while racking up 48 double-doubles. But he faces an uncertain next stop and is projected at best as a second-round prospect.

North Carolina transfer Caleb Love commits to Arizona

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Caleb Love is now headed to Arizona.

The North Carolina transfer tweeted, less than a month after decommitting from Michigan, that he will play next season with the Wildcats.

“Caleb is a tremendously talented guard who has significant experience playing college basketball at a high level,” Arizona coach Tommy Lloyd said in a statement. “We look forward to helping Caleb grow his game at Arizona. And as we near the completion of the roster for the upcoming season, we feel great about how everything has come together. Now it’s time for the real work to start.”

A 6-foot-4 guard, Love averaged 14.6 points and 3.3 assists in three seasons at North Carolina. He averaged 17.6 points in seven NCAA Tournament games, helping lead the Tar Heels to the 2022 national championship game.

Love entered the transfer portal after leading North Carolina with 73 3-pointers as a junior and initially committed to Michigan. He decommitted from the Wolverines earlier this month, reportedly due to an admissions issue involving academic credits.

Love narrowed his transfer targets to three schools before choosing to play at Arizona over Gonzaga and Texas.

Love will likely start on a team that will have dynamic perimeter players, including Pelle Larsson, Kylan Boswell and Alabama transfer Jaden Bradley.

Biden celebrates LSU women’s and UConn men’s basketball teams at separate White House events


WASHINGTON – All of the past drama and sore feelings associated with Louisiana State’s invitation to the White House were seemingly forgotten or set aside Friday as President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden welcomed the championship women’s basketball team to the mansion with smiles, hugs and lavish praise all around.

The visit had once appeared in jeopardy after Jill Biden suggested that the losing Iowa team be invited, too. But none of that was mentioned as both Bidens heralded the players for their performance and the way they have helped advance women’s sports.

“Folks, we witnessed history,” the president said. “In this team, we saw hope, we saw pride and we saw purpose. It matters.”

The ceremony was halted for about 10 minutes after forward Sa’Myah Smith appeared to collapse as she and her teammates stood behind Biden. A wheelchair was brought in and coach Kim Mulkey assured the audience that Smith was fine.

LSU said in a statement that Smith felt overheated, nauseous and thought she might faint. She was evaluated by LSU and White House medical staff and was later able to rejoin the team. “She is feeling well, in good spirits, and will undergo further evaluation once back in Baton Rouge,” the LSU statement said.

Since the passage of Title IX in 1972, Biden said, more than half of all college students are women, and there are now 10 times more female athletes in college and high school. He said most sports stories are still about men, and that that needs to change.

Title IX prohibits discrimination based on sex in federally funded education programs and activities.

“Folks, we need to support women sports, not just during the championship run but during the entire year,” President Biden said.

After the Tigers beat Iowa for the NCAA title in April in a game the first lady attended, she caused an uproar by suggesting that the Hawkeyes also come to the White House.

LSU star Angel Reese called the idea “A JOKE” and said she would prefer to visit with former President Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle, instead. The LSU team largely is Black, while Iowa’s top player, Caitlin Clark, is white, as are most of her teammates.

Nothing came of Jill Biden’s idea and the White House only invited the Tigers. Reese ultimately said she would not skip the White House visit. She and co-captain Emily Ward presented team jerseys bearing the number “46” to Biden and the first lady. Hugs were exchanged.

Jill Biden also lavished praise on the team, saying the players showed “what it means to be a champion.”

“In this room, I see the absolute best of the best,” she said, adding that watching them play was “pure magic.”

“Every basket was pure joy and I kept thinking about how far women’s sports have come,” the first lady added, noting that she grew up before Title IX was passed. “We’ve made so much progress and we still have so much more work to do.”

The president added that “the way in which women’s sports has come along is just incredible. It’s really neat to see, since I’ve got four granddaughters.”

After Smith was helped to a wheelchair, Mulkey told the audience the player was OK.

“As you can see, we leave our mark where we go,” Mulkey joked. “Sa’Myah is fine. She’s kind of, right now, embarrassed.”

A few members of Congress and Biden aides past and present with Louisiana roots dropped what they were doing to attend the East Room event, including White House budget director Shalanda Young. Young is in the thick of negotiations with House Republicans to reach a deal by the middle of next week to stave off what would be a globally calamitous U.S. financial default if the U.S. can no longer borrow the money it needs to pay its bills.

The president, who wore a necktie in the shade of LSU’s purple, said Young, who grew up in Baton Rouge, told him, “I’m leaving the talks to be here.” Rep. Garret Graves, one of the House GOP negotiators, also attended.

Biden closed sports Friday by changing to a blue tie and welcoming the UConn’s men’s championship team for its own celebration. The Huskies won their fifth national title by defeating San Diego State, 76-59, in April.

“Congratulations to the whole UConn nation,” he said.

Marquette’s Prosper says he will stay in draft rather than returning to school

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MILWAUKEE — Olivier-Maxence Prosper announced he is keeping his name under NBA draft consideration rather than returning to Marquette.

The 6-foot-8 forward announced his decision.

“Thank you Marquette nation, my coaches, my teammates and support staff for embracing me from day one,” Prosper said in an Instagram post. “My time at Marquette has been incredible. With that being said, I will remain in the 2023 NBA Draft. I’m excited for what comes next. On to the next chapter…”

Prosper had announced last month he was entering the draft. He still could have returned to school and maintained his college eligibility by withdrawing from the draft by May 31. Prosper’s announcement indicates he instead is going ahead with his plans to turn pro.

Prosper averaged 12.5 points and 4.7 rebounds last season while helping Marquette go 29-7 and win the Big East’s regular-season and tournament titles. Marquette’s season ended with a 69-60 loss to Michigan State in the NCAA Tournament’s round of 32.

He played two seasons at Marquette after transferring from Clemson, where he spent one season.

Kansas’ Kevin McCullar Jr. returning for last season of eligibility

kansas mccullar
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Kevin McCullar Jr. said that he will return to Kansas for his final year of eligibility, likely rounding out a roster that could make the Jayhawks the preseason No. 1 next season.

McCullar transferred from Texas Tech to Kansas for last season, when he started 33 of 34 games and averaged 10.7 points and 7.0 rebounds. He was also among the nation’s leaders in steals, and along with being selected to the Big 12’s all-defensive team, the 6-foot-6 forward was a semifinalist for the Naismith Defensive Player of the Year award.

“To be able to play in front of the best fans in the country; to play for the best coach in the nation, I truly believe we have the pieces to hang another banner in the Phog,” McCullar said in announcing his return.

Along with McCullar, the Jayhawks return starters Dajuan Harris Jr. and K.J. Adams from a team that went 28–8, won the Big 12 regular-season title and was a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, where it lost to Arkansas in the second round.

Perhaps more importantly, the Jayhawks landed Michigan transfer Hunter Dickinson, widely considered the best player in the portal, to anchor a lineup that was missing a true big man. They also grabbed former five-star prospect Arterio Morris, who left Texas, and Towson’s Nick Timberlake, who emerged last season as one of the best 3-point shooters in the country.

The Jayhawks also have an elite recruiting class arriving that is headlined by five-star recruit Elmarko Jackson.

McCullar declared for the draft but, after getting feedback from scouts, decided to return. He was a redshirt senior last season, but he has another year of eligibility because part of his career was played during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This is a big day for Kansas basketball,” Jayhawks coach Bill Self said. “Kevin is not only a terrific player but a terrific teammate. He fit in so well in year one and we’re excited about what he’ll do with our program from a leadership standpoint.”