Jevon Carter

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Jevon Carter, Lamont West lead No. 18 West Virginia past No. 15 Virginia

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For the second consecutive season No. 18 West Virginia managed to beat No. 15 Virginia despite having to play at a tempo slower than what they prefer, this time beating the Cavaliers 68-61 in Morgantown. West Virginia (8-1) was led offensively by guards Jevon Carter and Lamont West, who combined to score 45 points with Daxter Miles Jr. adding 12.

Devon Hall scored 19 and Kyle Guy 18 for Virginia (8-1), which suffered its first loss of the season. Here are four takeaways from West Virginia’s eighth win of the season, a result that will look quite good on the Mountaineers’ résumé moving forward.

1. While we know plenty about Jevon Carter, Lamont West’s progression will be critical for the Mountaineers moving forward.

After averaging 5.6 points and 1.8 rebounds per game off the bench as a redshirt freshman, West is of far greater importance to the Mountaineer attack this season. The 6-foot-8 wing entered Tuesday’s game averaging 10.5 points and 5.1 rebounds in 23.5 minutes per game, shooting just 37.7 percent from the field and 27.5 percent from three. West outperformed those numbers in a big way against Virginia, as his 22 points were scored on 7-for-13 shooting from the field (4-for-9 3PT) and a 4-for-4 night from the foul line.

Add in his four rebounds, and West put forth what was arguably the best performance of his WVU career at just the right time. He did tally 22 points and eight boards in a blowout win over Long Beach State last month, but putting up good numbers against a team the caliber of Virginia is an entirely different deal. The key for West now: consistency. That will especially be important on nights in which the Mountaineer defense isn’t forcing a high number of live-ball turnovers.

2. Kyle Guy essentially experienced two different games, and Virginia can’t afford that.

The 6-foot-3 junior finished the game with 18 points, but things did not come easy for Guy with Daxter Miles Jr. pestering him for much of the night. Guy missed all five of his shot attempts in the the first half, and Guy was scoreless until the 13:53 mark of the second half when he made his first three-pointer. That shot was all Guy needed to get going, as he would make his next four three-point attempts and finish the half 6-for-9 from deep.

Virginia had enough offense to hang around throughout, with West Virginia’s combination of shot-making and stout half-court defense making the difference down the stretch. But where would that game have been for Virginia with a more effective Guy in the first half? A three-point halftime deficit could have been flipped, giving the Cavaliers the buffer needed to pick up the win.

Guy’s been excellent throughout this season; many scorers will have a hard time scoring points against West Virginia. Virginia can’t afford for him to be a “streak” scorer, in large part to the lack of consistent offensive options if Guy isn’t knocking down shots.

3. There aren’t many point guards in America I’d take before Jevon Carter.

There may be guards of higher acclaim when it comes to the NBA Draft boards, but there aren’t many who rate higher than Jevon Carter when it comes to the combination of skill, leadership and toughness. Carter’s fingerprints were all over this one, as in addition to scoring a game-high 23 points he also tallied ten rebounds, seven assists and two steals.

Carter played all 40 minutes for the Mountaineers and the effort never waned, and in him Bob Huggins has a senior floor general of high value. While others have stepped forward at various points to help out as West Virginia counts down the days until Esa Ahmad is eligible to return, Carter has been the constant. He’ll be in the conversation for Big 12 Player of the Year honors, and an All-American team nod will be worth discussing as well at this rate.

4. Virginia needs more consistent production from its front court moving forward.

The Cavaliers received good first-half minutes from Mamadi Diakite, who accounted for seven points and three rebounds off the bench. But outside of his 13 first-half minutes Virginia did not receive much in the way of production from its front court. Isaiah Wilkins finished the game with two points, five rebounds and two blocked shots, Jack Salt had more turnovers (three) than rebounds (two) or points (none), and Diakite would finish the game with nine points and five rebounds.

Kyle Guy and Devon Hall are going to lead the way offensively for Virginia, but the Cavaliers do not have much margin for error on that end of the court. Wilkins entered Tuesday averaging 8.6 points and 6.6 rebounds per contest, and his struggles Tuesday can also be attributed to the play of West Virginia’s Sagaba Konate. But if Virginia is to contend with the expected contenders in the ACC, they’re going to need more consistent production from the bigs.

The Cavaliers won’t need the second coming of Ralph Sampson (that would be nice, though), but they’ll need more than what they received from the front court in Morgantown.

SATURDAY’S SNACKS: No. 5 UNC makes statement, No. 14 Kentucky falls

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GAME OF THE NIGHT: Texas A&M 79, No. 14 Kentucky 77 (OT)

Tyler Davis’ put-back of a Danuel House miss as time expired gave the Aggies the win in College Station. Jalen Jones scored 24 points for the Aggies, who benefitted from a technical foul called on Kentucky’s Isaac Humphries with 9.4 seconds remaining in overtime. While Kentucky may have a beef with that call, there’s another area that proved costly for them Saturday night. Tyler Ulis led the Wildcats with 22 points and 11 assists, and Jamal Murray added 21 points in a losing effort.

IMPORTANT OUTCOMES

No. 5 North Carolina 96, No. 11 Miami 71: After losing to Duke earlier this week, the Tar Heels took care of business with a convincing home win as six players finished in double-figures. Brice Johnson led North Carolina with 16 points and 15 rebounds as the Tar Heels scored 54 points in the second half.

No. 18 Louisville 71, No. 20 Duke 64: The Blue Devils, playing without the injured Matt Jones, ran out of gas down the stretch as they lost at Louisville. Grayson Allen fouled out after scoring 29 points, but no other Duke player reached double figures with freshman Brandon Ingram (ten turnovers) going through his own struggles. Damion Lee scored 24 points and Deng Adel 12 for the victorious Cardinals.

BUBBLE BANTER: What do Saturday’s results mean for Selection Sunday?

No. 3 Oklahoma 76, No. 10 West Virginia 62: Buddy Hield scored 29 points for the Sooners, who completed a season sweep of the Mountaineers with a win in Morgantown. Oklahoma outscored West Virginia 24-10 over the final 7:49, and just as important as the offense was their play on the boards and on the defensive end of the floor.

No. 22 Indiana 77, No. 17 Purdue 73: Troy Williams scored 19 points and Yogi Ferrell 18 as the Hoosiers moved into first place in the Big Ten. A big key in this game was turnovers, as Purdue committed 13 with Indiana converting those mistakes into 20 points. The Boilermakers were good offensively when they didn’t turn the ball over, shooting nearly 59 percent from the field. However their comeback attempt fell short in Bloomington.

STARRED

Deonte Burton, Iowa State: With Jameel McKay not playing for an unspecified reason, Burton accounted for 23 points and 14 rebounds in the Cyclones’ win over TCU.

Josh Adams, Wyoming: Adams accounted for 37 points, eight rebounds and seven assists in the Cowboys’ 84-66 win at Colorado State.

Michael Carrera, South Carolina: Carrera accounted for 20 points, 15 rebounds and three assists in the Gamecocks’ 73-69 overtime win over Florida.

Kevin Ferguson, Army West Point: Ferguson, who scored the game-winning basket, finished with 22 points and 19 rebounds in the Black Knights’ 80-78 win at Navy.

Patrick McCaw, UNLV: 25 points, 18 rebounds and five assists in the Runnin’ Rebels’ 102-91 overtime win over Nevada.

STRUGGLED

San Diego: The Toreros scored 11 points in the first half of what would become a 91-33 loss at BYU. USD shot 0-for-20 from three. This happened just two days after the Toreros lost to BYU by two points at home.

Brandon Ingram, Duke: Eight points on 3-for-10 shooting and ten turnovers in the Blue Devils’ loss at No. 18 Louisville.

Jevon Carter, West Virginia: Scored four points, shooting 1-for-10 from the field, in the Mountaineers’ 76-62 loss to No. 3 Oklahoma.

OTHER TOP 25 RESULTS

  • No. 1 Villanova maintained its two-game lead in the Big East with a 77-67 win over Butler. Juniors Josh Hart (22 points, 12 rebounds) and Kris Jenkins (20 points) led the way for the Wildcats, who visit No. 8 Xavier Wednesday night.
  • No. 2 Kansas won at Kansas State, beating the Wildcats 72-63. Frank Mason led three Jayhawks in double figures with 16 points.
  • No. 8 Xavier ran past Georgetown for a Big East road win as Edmond Sumner had 22 points.
  • No. 13 Iowa State held off TCU 92-83, with four players scoring 90 of their points. Georges Niang finished with 27 points, with Abdel Nader adding 24, Deonte Burton 23 and Matt Thomas 16.
  • With the Bonnies fighting for a potential at-large bid, St. Bonaventure picked up a huge 79-72 win at No. 15 Dayton. Jaylen Adams had 31 points and Dion Wright had 15 points and eight rebounds.
  • Tyler Dorsey scored 25 points as No. 16 Oregon beat Oregon State 91-81. The Ducks led by 23 at the half as they rebounded from getting swept in the Bay Area last weekend.
  • Marcus Georges-Hunt’s shot with one second remaining gave Georgia Tech a 63-62 win over No. 19 Notre Dame in Atlanta. Georges-Hunt finished with 19 points and seven assists.
  • No. 25 Baylor went to Austin and dominated the action in their 78-64 win over No. 24 Texas. Johnathan Motley shot 12-for-13 on the day, scoring a game-high 24 points.

OTHER NOTABLE RESULTS

  • South Carolina outlasted Florida in overtime for an SEC win as Michael Carrera had 20 points and 15 rebounds.
  • Vanderbilt had a solid win over Georgia at home to bounce back from the Mississippi State loss. Damian Jones had 15 points and 16 rebounds.
  • South Florida picked up its first conference home win of the season by beating Memphis. Nehemias Morillo led the way with 19 points for the Bulls.
  • Winthrop broke a tie for first-place in the Big South with an 81-80 win over UNC Asheville as Jimmy Gavin had 26 points.
  • Jack Gibbs scored 35 points as Davidson beat Saint Joseph’s 99-93. Isaiah Miles led the Hawks, who are now a game out of first in the Atlantic 10, with 32 points.
  • Pittsburgh completed a season sweep of Syracuse, beating the Orange 66-52 at the Carrier Dome. Jamie Dixon is now 7-2 in his coaching career at the Carrier Dome.
  • Two SEC teams did themselves no favors with regards to the bubble, as Alabama lost at home to Mississippi State and LSU was whipped by 16 at Tennessee.
  • IPFW (11-3) retained its one-game lead in the Summit League with a 94-90 win over Omaha. South Dakota State kept pace with an 87-67 win at Western Illinois.
  • UNCW moved to 13-3 in the CAA with a 59-55 overtime win at Charleston. The Seahawks lead Hofstra (11-4) by a game in the loss column, with the Pride scheduled to visit UNCW next Thursday.
  • Chattanooga’s at-large hopes took a significant hit, as they lost 79-64 at home to UNC Greensboro. RJ White led the Spartans with a game-high 26 points, and Chattanooga shot just 6-for-29 from three.
  • Belmont (12-3) earned at least a share of the OVC regular season title with a 95-86 win over Tennessee Tech (10-4). Evan Bradds led five Bruins in double figures with 21 points while also grabbing 13 rebounds.
  • With star big man Joel Bolomboy playing just seven minutes, Weber State held off Northern Arizona 77-74 in Flagstaff. Jeremy Senglin scored 22 points and Kyndahl Hill 19 for the Wildcats.
  • Washington snapped its four-game losing streak with a 64-53 win over Stanford. Dejounte Murray led the Huskies with 25 points and nine rebounds.
  • Saint Mary’s moved into a tie for first in the WCC with a 63-58 win at Gonzaga. The Gaels swept the season series, and it could be a case where both teams get to the conference tournament needing the auto bid to go dancing.
  • UNLV pulled away from Nevada in overtime, winning 102-91 after Marqueze Coleman (Nevada) and Patrick McCaw (UNLV) traded three-pointers in the final seconds of regulation. McCaw finished with 25 points, 18 rebounds and five assists, and Nevada’s Cameron Oliver racked up 14 points and 21 rebounds.
  • Hawai’i took a two-game lead in the Big West with a 75-71 comeback win at UC Irvine. Aaron Valdes’ three-pointer with 40.1 seconds remaining gave the Rainbow Warriors their first lead of the game, and they’ve swept the season series with the Anteaters.

No. 19 West Virginia tops Virginia Tech 88-63

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BLACKSBURG, Va. (AP) Jevon Carter scored 18 points to lead No. 19 West Virginia to an 88-63 victory over Virginia Tech on Wednesday.

Carter made his first eight shots from the floor for the Mountaineers (11-1), who never trailed and won their fourth straight since a 70-54 loss to Virginia on Dec. 8.

He made 8-of-10 shots, including a 3-pointer. Jaysean Paige added 17 points for the Mountaineers.

West Virginia used a 20-3 run spanning the two halves to take control. The Mountaineers scored the final five points of the first half and 15 of the first 18 points in the second half. Carter’s basket with 16:24 remaining gave the Mountaineers a 61-39 lead, and they eventually led by as many as 26. Carter scored 10 of the 20 in that run.

The Hokies (8-5) were led by Shane Henry, who scored a career-high 12 points. Zach LeDay added 11 points, and Seth Allen finished with 10. They committed 22 turnovers.

West Virginia, which shot 51 percent, got 12 points each from Tarik Phillip and Jonathan Holton.

Virginia Tech cut the lead to 72-55 on two free throws by Allen with 8:22 remaining. Phillip had a three-point play with 6:55 remaining and two free throws by Paige with 6:18 left pushed the lead to 77-55.

Though both teams shot better than 50 percent in the first half, they combined for 33 fouls, 38 free throws and 25 turnovers in the first 30 minutes.

The Hokies cut a 13-point deficit to 41-36 with a minute remaining in the first half on a free throw by Shane Henry. But Carter’s three-point play with 37.8 seconds left and a basket by Philip gave the Mountaineers a 46-36 halftime lead.

TIP-INS

Virginia Tech: Henry scored in double figures for just the second time in his career. … The Hokies played their first game since Chris Clarke suffered a bone fracture in his right foot. Clarke had surgery and is out indefinitely. …The game was the Hokies’ first sellout of the season. … Justin Bibbs entered the game leading the nation in 3-point field-goal percentage at 61.5 percent (32 of 52), but made just 1 of 3 against West Virginia.

West Virginia: Won for the third time in the past four meetings with the Hokies since the schools resumed the series in 2012 after an eight-year hiatus. … Holton recorded his fourth double-double of the season. …The Mountaineers have won 14 of their past 18 games against teams from the ACC.

UP NEXT

Virginia Tech: Hosts NC State on Saturday.

West Virginia: Travels to Kansas State on Saturday.

No. 20 West Virginia beats Marshall 86-68

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CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) Jevon Carter scored 15 points and No. 20 West Virginia used its depth to wear down Marshall for an 86-68 victory Thursday night.

West Virginia (9-1) took control with a 16-1 run early in the second half to beat its intrastate rival for the fifth straight year and for the ninth time in 10 tries.

Daxter Miles Jr. added 14 points, Elijah Macon had 12, and Tarik Phillip 11.

Ryan Taylor led Marshall (3-7) with 15 points. Jon Elmore added 14, and James Kelly had 11.

Marshall had won three straight.

Kelly, Marshall’s leading scorer, went to the bench with a left knee injury early in the second half. He returned six minutes later still limping.

The Thundering Herd went nearly eight minutes between baskets and the turnovers started to pile up.

West Virginia leads the country in offensive rebounds at 18 per game and got plenty of second chances against Marshall.

The Mountaineers made four baskets off of rebounds during the key run, including Nathan Adrian’s putback for a 53-39 lead with 10:50 left.

West Virginia’s lead grew to as many as 23 points down the stretch.

The Mountaineers’ Devin Williams was held to nine points, the first time this season he failed to reach double digits. He spent most of the game in foul trouble.

Marshall made half of its 12 3-point tries over the first 13 minutes to jump ahead 26-21. But Marshall couldn’t sustain any production from its reserves, especially when Kelly and Taylor were out of the game in foul trouble. West Virginia held a 38-12 advantage in bench points.

West Virginia went on a 7-0 run late in the half and took a 35-32 lead at halftime.

TIP-INS:

West Virginia: West Virginia outrebounded Marshall 48-32, including 22 on the offensive end. … The Mountaineers matched their 9-1 start of last season, when they finished 25-10.

Marshall: Taylor became the 50th Thundering Herd player to surpass 1,000 points.

UP NEXT:

West Virginia: Home against Eastern Kentucky on Monday.

Marshall: Plays Wyoming in Las Vegas on Monday.

LATE NIGHT SNACKS: No. 18 SMU, No. 20 West Virginia win

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GAME OF THE NIGHT: South Dakota 92, Milwaukee 91 (2OT)

Fittingly it was Wisconsin native Tre Burnette (Madison) who made the deciding play, as his floater in the finals seconds of double overtime gave the Coyotes the one-point win over the Panthers in Milwaukee. D.J. Davis and Tyler Hagerdorn scored 17 apiece to lead five USD players in double figures, while Milwaukee’s Matt Tiby led all scorers with 31 points while also grabbing 17 rebounds.

IMPORTANT OUTCOMES

No. 20 West Virginia 86, Marshall 68: The Mountaineers pulled away in the second half of this in-state battle, beating the Thundering Herd by 18 after leading by just three at the half. Bob Huggins’ team scored 50 second-half points, with Jevon Carter and Daxter Miles Jr. leading a balanced offensive effort with 15 and 14 points, respectively. Ryan Taylor led Marshall with 15 points, but the big news for them moving forward is the left knee injury suffered by forward James Kelly. Kelly, who finished with 11 points, left the game in the second half and was not at full strength when he returned some six minutes later.

No. 18 SMU 105, Hampton 72: Like WVU the Mustangs, playing their final game without suspended head coach Larry Brown, pulled away in the second half. SMU scored 62 points in the game’s final 20 minutes, and all six players who attempted a shot scored in double figures. Sterling Brown led all scorers with 23 points (10-for-11 FG) and Jordan Tolbert added 20 along with 19 rebounds. Larry Brown will be back on the sidelines for the 9-0 Mustangs when they host Kent State Tuesday night.

STARRED

Jordan Tolbert, SMU: Tolbert finished with 20 points and 19 rebounds in a win over Hampton.

Henry Caruso, Princeton: Caruso scored 29 points on 10-for-14 shooting from the field and grabbed nine rebounds in the Tigers’ 77-72 win over Liberty.

Matt Tiby, Milwaukee: One of the top players in the Horizon League, Tiby was highly productive in the Panthers’ one-point loss to South Dakota. He finished with 31 points and 17 rebounds.

STRUGGLED

Armel Potter, Charleston Southern: Potter shot 1-for-12 from the field in the Buccaneers’ 71-65 loss at Wright State.

Chace Franklin, Jackson State: Franklin scored eight points but did so on 3-for-15 shooting in the Tigers’ loss at Ohio.

OTHER NOTABLE RESULTS

  • Deckie Johnson racked up 26 points and four assists to lead North Texas to an 87-74 win over Mississippi Valley State. The Delta Devils dropped to 0-13 on the season as a result.
  • Middle Tennessee limited Belmont to 37.7 percent shooting from the field, winning by a final score of 83-62. Perrin Buford led the way offensively with 20 points while also grabbing seven rebounds and dishing out three assists.
  • In a matchup of struggling teams Rodney Pryor scored 20 points to lead Robert Morris to a 69-67 win over Lehigh. The Mountain Hawks played without injured junior forward Tim Kempton (right foot).
  • Ohio moved to 7-3 on the season with a 72-67 win over Jackson State. Jaaron Simmons scored 17 points and grabbed six rebounds for the Bobcats.
  • Jameel Warney scored 22 points, shooting 10-for-12 from the field, to lead Stony Brook to an 86-68 win at American.
  • D.J. Balentine became the fourth player in Evansville program history to surpass the 2,000-point mark, scoring 26 points in the Purple Aces’ 84-70 win over Norfolk State.
  • Katin Reinhardt scored 22 of his 29 points in the first half as USC beat Cal Poly, 101-82. Six Trojans scored in double figures and Julian Jacobs, who sat out their last game with tendonitis in his Achilles, dished out 13 assists.

Big 12 Preview: Death, taxes, Kansas atop the Big 12

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Beginning in October and running up through November 13th, the first day of the regular season, College Basketball Talk will be unveiling the 2015-2016 NBCSports.com college hoops preview package.

Today, we are previewing the Big 12.

The Big 12 has been arguably the best conference in the country the last few seasons but their play in the postseason last year leaves a lot to be desired. While 70 percent of the league’s membership made the NCAA tournament last season, nobody in that group of seven advanced past the Sweet 16.

FIVE THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW:

1. Kansas remains atop the league until proven otherwise, with or without Cheick Diallo: Kansas has won at least a share of 11 consecutive Big 12 regular season conference titles, and they return plenty of talent from last year’s team. While one-and-done freshmen Kelly Oubre and Cliff Alexander are gone, experienced players like Frank Mason, Wayne Selden and Perry Ellis return as the Jayhawks appear to be even deeper this season. One thing to monitor in terms of Kansas potentially being an elite team: the NCAA situation with freshman big man Cheick Diallo. The McDonald’s All-American was one of the best players during the senior all-star games last spring and his high motor and ability to defend the rim could put the Jayhawks over the top. He has yet to be cleared to play this season as the NCAA is looking into his high school, Our Savior New American in New York.

2. Iowa State is transitioning from Fred Hoiberg to Steve Prohm, but they still have title aspirations: Fred Hoiberg and his innovative offensive attack has moved on to the Chicago Bulls, but Iowa State is returning nearly its entire roster from a team that was a No. 3 seed last season. Now enters former Murray State head coach Steve Prohm, who is letting an experienced group do a lot of what they were doing before while also adding some of his own new wrinkles. Senior forward Georges Niang is an All-American candidate and point guard Monte Morris remains as steady as any floor leader in the nation. If the Cyclones have enough depth and their defense improves, they are also potentially an elite team.

3. Texas is moving from Rick Barnes to Shaka Smart. Can they adjust to “Havoc”?: Texas has moved on from the Rick Barnes era as they made the decision to pursue VCU’s Shaka Smart instead of Wichita State’s Gregg Marshall. Now that the popular Smart is in the fold, Texas is hoping to become a perennial power in basketball, and the most intriguing part of Shaka taking the job is how he’ll incorporate his “Havoc” style of play into the equation. Many believe that “Havoc” can’t work at the highest level of college basketball, but at the same time Smart hasn’t had this kind of talent at his disposal. Junior point guard Isaiah Taylor is back and the Longhorns have plenty of size and senior leadership.

Buddy Hield (AP Photo)
Buddy Hield (AP Photo)

4. Oklahoma returns Buddy Hield and plenty of talent: Reigning Big 12 Player of the Year Buddy Hield returned for his senior season and gives the Sooners a chance to be in the Big 12 title picture. While the Sooners will miss the play of TaShawn Thomas inside, they return most of the roster. Dependable big man Ryan Spangler is back along with the backcourt of upperclassmen Isaiah Cousins and Jordan Woodard. Cousins has drawn rave reviews from scouts and coaches this fall and could be poised for a big senior season as Hield’s second banana.

5. Baylor and West Virginia are still lurking: Baylor and West Virginia both took some lumps this offseason with key losses, but they both still have plenty of talent to win a lot of games and potentially make the NCAA tournament. The Bears still have the tremendously talented duo of Taurean Prince and Rico Gathers to work with and a team that has a lot of length on the defensive end. West Virginia has to replace Juwan Staten, but Bob Huggins has a roster that completely bought into the press that he was selling last season as they made the Sweet 16.

MORE: 2015-16 Season Preview Coverage | Conference Previews | Preview Schedule

COACH’S TAKE:

  • Favorite: “You can certainly make a strong case for a few teams, but until proven otherwise, it’s probably Kansas.”
  • Sleeper:
    • “West Virginia lost Juwan Staten but they’ll have just another chip on their shoulder. Their style of play will help them with the shorter shot clock.”
    • “Most of the guys in our office believe that Baylor has the length and talent to be a factor.”
  • Best player: “It’s close between Buddy Hield and Georges Niang but Hield gets it done on both ends of the floor. Plus, Buddy is more of an emotional leader and his big plays seem to lift his teammates.”
  • Most underrated player:
    • “Isaiah Cousins seems to be getting a lot of attention this fall — and deservedly so. He can really play.”
    • “I haven’t seen Johnathan Motley’s name in a lot of preseason stuff, but he could be a problem.”

PRESEASON BIG 12 PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Buddy Hield, Oklahoma

He won this award for real last season, so it’s only right that Hield starts the season atop this list as well. A dynamic scorer, Hield can hit 3-pointers in bunches and also got to the free-throw line 130 times last season. In addition to his scoring, Hield also led Big 12 guards in rebounding last season.

THE REST OF THE BIG 12 FIRST TEAM:

  • Georges Niang, Iowa State: As versatile as any forward in the country, Niang is looking to close out his career by knocking Kansas out of the top spot. Watching Niang play for Prohm should be a fascinating early-season study.
  • Monte Morris, Iowa State: The nation’s leader in assist-to-turnover ratio the last two seasons, now Morris gets to work with a new head coach who put Isaiah Canaan and Cameron Payne in the NBA.
  • Taurean Prince, Baylor: Arguably the nation’s best sixth man a year ago, Prince is incredibly versatile on both ends of the floor. Not many forwards around can knock down nearly 40 percent of 3-pointers and defend multiple positions the way Prince can.
  • Perry Ellis, Kansas: Before getting hurt during the tail end of Big 12 play, Ellis was playing at an incredibly high level. The Jayhawks are hoping that version of their senior forward comes to play every night this season.

FIVE MORE NAMES TO KNOW:

  • Rico Gathers, Baylor
  • Frank Mason, Kansas
  • Isaiah Taylor, Texas
  • Devin Williams, West Virginia
  • Phil Forte, Oklahoma State

BREAKOUT STAR: Jevon Carter, West Virginia

With the departure of Juwan Staten, the sophomore will be tasked with taking over full-time point guard responsibilities. After leading West Virginia in both steals and 3-pointers as a freshman, Carter is ready to be one of the focal points  for the Mountaineers.

COACH UNDER PRESSURE: Travis Ford needs to have a solid year at Oklahoma State in order to keep the heat off of him from fans. You know things are getting a little testy when both the athletic director and the school’s largest donor, T. Boone Pickens, have to publicly show signs of support.

ON SELECTION SUNDAY WE’LL BE SAYING … : The Big 12 regular season was exciting, but did these teams beat each other up too much for big tournament runs?

I’M MOST EXCITED ABOUT: Seeing how “Havoc” is going to work with the Texas players and against Big 12 defenses. This debate has been raging among college basketball types for a long time and now Shaka gets to see if his system can translate to the highest level.

FIVE NON-CONFERENCE GAMES TO CIRCLE ON YOUR CALENDAR:

  • 11/17, Michigan State vs. Kansas
  • 12/2, Oklahoma vs Villanova
  • 12/8, West Virginia vs. Virginia
  • 12/19, Baylor @ Texas A&M
  • 12/22, Kansas @ San Diego State

ONE TWITTER FEED TO FOLLOW: @RustinDodd

PREDICTED FINISH

1. Kansas: This won’t be like the Kansas team we’ve seen the past two seasons with jumbo wings in Andrew Wiggins and Kelly Oubre. The Jayhawks plan to go smaller with Frank Mason and Devonte Graham in the backcourt while Wayne Selden will likely slide over to the three.
2. Iowa State: We already know Iowa State can put points on the board but how will they look defensively during the final year this core group is together?
3. Oklahoma:  Oklahoma seems to be flying a bit under-the-radar nationally this preseason. Remember when TaShawn Thomas became eligible and the Sooners turned into a darkhorse national title contender last preseason? Essentially the same team is back, minus Thomas, and college basketball is weaker this season.
4. Baylor: Baylor’s imposing frontline is well-established but the backcourt is the key question for the Bears this season. With the loss of Kenny Chery, who does Drew pair with Lester Medford?
5. West Virginia: This West Virginia roster perfectly fits what Huggins wants to do — especially with toughness and defense — but without Juwan Staten, scoring is going to be a major concern. The new focus on officiating could also hurt the way the Mountaineers like to defend, but the 30-second shot clock should help them.
6. Texas: The (multi) million dollar question is whether Havoc works against the likes of Monte Morris and Frank Mason? How do big men like Cameron Ridley and Shaquille Cleare fit in Shaka Smart’s system? One thing will be certain: Texas will play hard and bring a lot of energy under its new coach and there’s a lot of upperclass leadership on the roster.
7. Oklahoma State: Oklahoma State’s backcourt will be among the Big 12’s most talented, as Phil Forte returns and McDonald’s All-American point guard Jawun Evans enters Stillwater. Replacing the front court of LeBryan Nash and Michael Cobbins is the bigger issue. The Cowboys have size on the roster, but not many have produced highly at the Big 12 level.
8. Texas Tech: There weren’t a lot of positives from last season’s 3-15 Big 12 showing, but the Red Raiders return 85 percent of its scoring and 86 percent of its rebounding. With some of the other teams in the league adding a lot of new pieces, Texas Tech should be more cohesive out of the gate.
9. Kansas State: Kansas State’s roster was gutted this offseason and it’s hard to say if it will be a good or a bad thing entering this season. While a lot of talent left the Wildcats, a lot of bad apples walked out the door as well. Can improved chemistry lead to a better season for Bruce Weber’s ballclub? Almost the entire roster is unproven.
10. TCU: TCU started 13-0 last season, but played a cupcake schedule, as a 4-14 conference mark brought them back down to Earth. After losing Kyan Anderson, Trey Zeigler and Amric Fields, it’s difficult to say that the Horned Frogs will be much better.