The second pick in the past two NBA Drafts has come from the Big 12.
First it was Kevin Durant.
| Defending regular-season champion: |
| Defending tournament champion: |
| Top returning scorer: |
A.J. Abrams (Texas), 16.5 ppg
| Top returning rebounder: |
Damion James (Texas), 10.3 rpg
season previews & primers
Then it was Michael Beasley.
So clearly the stars of this league are stars by any measuring stick, and though Blake Griffin probably won't break the conference records Durant and Beasley took turns demolishing, it's possible he'll follow in their footsteps and be the third consecutive No. 2 pick.
Actually, he could best them both and be the first top pick to come from a current Big 12 school since Danny Manning in 1988, but a lot of that will depend on whether the Oklahoma forward stays healthy and helps the Sooners push Texas in what CBSSports.com is calling the fourth-best basketball league this season.
Here's a look at the Big 12:
The good: The entire team is back except D.J. Augustin, meaning though the Longhorns are missing their All-American point guard there are still enough pieces in place to win the Big 12. Leading the way are A.J. Abrams and Damion James. They combined to average 29.4 points last season for a 31-win team that made the Elite Eight.
The bad: Augustin's loss cannot be discounted. With him, Texas might have been the preseason No. 1 team (even ahead of North Carolina). But without him they aren't even the clear choice to win the Big 12, at least according to league officials who tabbed Oklahoma the favorite. Abrams will play some point, but he's not really a point guard. Justin Mason is another option, as is Dogus Balbay. But either way, the position is a huge question mark, and it's likely Rick Barnes won't know exactly what he has until the games get started.
The bottom line: The opinion here is that if UT can overcome the loss of Kevin Durant, it can do the same this time around. Obviously, solid point guard play is necessary to achieve greatness. But it's hard to imagine Barnes not figuring it out and leading the Longhorns into the Sweet Sixteen, at least.
The good: Blake Griffin delayed the opportunity to be a top 10 pick so he could return to school. His reward? The honor of being named the Big 12's preseason Player of the Year, plus the chance to team with dynamic freshman Willie Warren and lead the Sooners to the Sweet Sixteen and beyond.
The bad: Longar Longar wasn't spectacular, but he was worth 11.4 points and 5.6 rebounds per game. That he's gone means Griffin lost a frontcourt mate, but the hope is that Ryan Wright, a 6-foot-9 transfer from UCLA, can help fill some of that void and develop into a steady presence.
|5. Texas A&M||NCAA|
|7. Oklahoma State||NIT/CBI|
|8. Kansas State||NIT/CBI|
|10. Texas Tech||none|
|11. Iowa State||none|
The bottom line: Jeff Capel inherited a mess but has turned it around quickly and admirably. Now the Sooners are in position to win the Big 12, and if Warren and Griffin play well off each other then something as big as a Final Four is certainly possible.
The good: The Bears made the NCAA tournament less than five years after one player murdered another and sent the program into a spiral, and only Aaron Bruce is missing. What that means is that the top five scorers are back, including a trio of guards -- Curtis Jerrells, Henry Dugat and LaceDarius Dunn -- who combined to average 41.1 points in 2007-08.
The bad: Yes, Baylor's season was nice, but it's tough to forget how the Bears were demolished in the tournament by Purdue. Was that any way to act on the big stage against a capable opponent? Of course not. But it must be noted that for all the success, Baylor finished just 3-9 against BCS opponents who were good enough to make the NCAA tournament. The wins were against Texas A&M, Kansas State and Notre Dame. The losses were to Texas A&M, Kansas, Washington State, Arkansas, Oklahoma (twice), Texas (twice) and Purdue.
The bottom line: Barring injuries, Baylor will make the NCAA tournament. But that's not good enough anymore. A team with this talent needs to advance to show progress and make it clear to John Wall that it wouldn't be a waste for him to spend his one year of college in Waco.
The good: Kansas managed to win a national title, keep its coach from jumping to his alma mater and enroll a top three recruiting class. Combine that with the fact that Sherron Collins and Cole Aldrich provide a nice nucleus of veterans, and yeah, things are OK at Allen Fieldhouse, even if this roster doesn't compare to the one Bill Self had last season.
The bad: That roster from last season I mentioned is basically gone, save Collins and Aldrich. There are zero returning starters and zero returning double-digit scorers. So though the incoming talent is nice -- specifically freshman forward Marcus Morris -- the Jayhawks are going to be very much learning as they go, which isn't always as simple as fans like to think.
The bottom line: Because it's Kansas and Self -- i.e., two entities that never suck -- you almost have to give the Jayhawks the benefit of the doubt. But Billy Donovan learned last season how difficult it can be to take a roster filled with gifted newcomers to the NCAA tournament following a national title. The Jayhawks had better be aware of that story because if the adjustment lasts longer than expected the nonleague schedule will yield losses that could be tough to overcome on Selection Sunday.
5. Texas A&M
The good: Mark Turgeon made the NCAA tournament and put a scare into UCLA before ending his first season, meaning though his move had some bumpy parts it was manageable and a success. Josh Carter, Bryan Davis and Donald Sloan return to help Turgeon further establish himself in his second season, and that's a solid nucleus that should blend well with freshmen David Loubeau and Dashan Harris.
The bad: The loss of DeAndre Jordan was neither a surprise nor a disappointment. Addition by subtraction and all that. But it'll be no easy task to replace Joseph Jones and Dominique Kirk. Those two were keys to the Aggies' emergence first under Billy Gillispie and then Turgeon. They averaged 10.3 and 8.4 points last season and were a big part of those 25 victories.
DainTexas: What is there to say about the Big 12, other than it never fails to provide its fans with an exciting season? Last year, the Jayhawks provided the conference with another National Title in an amazing win over the Memphis Tigers. It seems that there is always a team or two making a run at the championship, or at the very least, a Final Four appearance. Whether it's Kansas, Texas or Oklahoma State, the Big 12 always provides contenders and big stars. It has provided back to back "one-and-done" sensations in Kevin Durant and Michael Beasley, and this coming season promises nothing less.
The up-and-coming OU Sooners are the preseason No. 1., and look to prove that they can hold on to it with a young and talented team. Nipping at OU's heals would be the Texas Longhorns, who played in last year's Elite Eight. Kansas is, and always will be, a "big dog" of the Big 12... especially with that title in it's posession. As the Big 12 does in every other sport, it will prove this year why it is the most dominant conference in college basketball. This preview will cover all 12 teams, and show each team's strength, weakness, and potential. Read more
The bottom line: This is clearly a transitional season, but it still appears enough pieces are in place to push the Aggies back to the NCAA tournament. They should get there as long as Loubeau makes an immediate impact in the frontcourt, Davis continues to progress and Carter keeps making shots.
The good: DeMarre Carroll is a potential all-league player after averaging 13.0 points and 6.7 rebounds last season. He'll be joined in the frontcourt by Leo Lyons, a 6-9 forward who averaged 18.6 points and 12.2 rebounds in Missouri's final five games of the 2007-08 season.
The bad: Keon Lawrence wasn't the best teammate or leader, but he was worth 11.0 points from the guard position. His transfer to Seton Hall leaves the Tigers without an established backcourt scorer.
The bottom line: Mike Anderson has been criticized for the off-the-court problems that have plagued Missouri the past two years. Honestly, it's hard to tell whether the messes were merely bad luck or more of a trend, but either way it's important for Anderson to put them in the past, move forward, win and keep his players out of trouble. If that happens, everything will be fine. If not, the heat could intensify regardless of whether it's fair or not.
The good: When there are coaching changes it's not unusual for players to bolt for new campuses, but OSU managed to make it through the offseason with its roster mostly intact. The best of the returning players is James Anderson, a 6-6 wing who averaged 13.3 points as a freshman and could be one of the Big 12's best if he becomes a little more consistent. He's one of four returning players who averaged at least nine points last season.
The bad: What Travis Ford inherited in backcourt talent is at risk of being offset by a questionable frontcourt. Marcus Dove was the only Cowboy who averaged at least five rebounds last season, and he's gone. For a team that was outrebounded in 2007-08, this is a concern.
The bottom line: A roster with Anderson, Byron Eaton, Terrel Harris and Obi Muonelo isn't bad on paper, but it did lose 16 games last season. Put another way, I'm intrigued by the possibilities, but the lack of frontcourt depth combined with the growing pains that come with most coaching changes make it wise to avoid predicting an NCAA tournament berth.
8. Kansas State
The good: Jacob Pullen is back after averaging 9.7 points last season, and he'll be joined by Miami transfer Denis Clemente. The duo gives Frank Martin a nice pair of point guards, and though both are small they are good enough to play together and make the Wildcats a different kind of threat.
The bad: Did you hear about Michael Beasley turning pro? He averaged 26.2 points and 12.4 rebounds last season, and was the most dominant figure in the sport regardless of what you might have read somewhere else. Again, the best player in the country last season was Kansas State's star freshman, and that he won't be a star sophomore will make Martin's job a lot tougher. Also a problem is that Bill Walker turned pro too, and Abdul Herrera -- i.e., somebody who is supposed to help offset the losses -- has been hobbled all preseason with injuries.
The bottom line: The fact that Martin (with the help of assistant Delonte Hill) is recruiting at a high level suggests he's going to survive in this league. This season will be a step back because of the losses of Beasley and Walker. But with top 20 recruit Wally Judge set to enroll next season, it's clear good things are going to continue to happen for Kansas State, even if the Wildcats dip a bit in 2008-09.
The good: Steve Harley, Ade Dagunduro and Ryan Anderson are three key parts from a team that won 20 games last season while notching victories over Kansas State, Oklahoma and Oregon. None of them averaged double-figures, but they all averaged at least eight.
The bad: Aleks Maric wasn't all that glamorous, but he did average 15.7 points and 10.2 rebounds last season. His departure leaves a gaping hole in the frontcourt, one that can't be filled with anyone on the current roster. Also worth noting is the loss of recruit Roburt Sallie. He was ruled ineligible after previously enrolling at Nebraska and is now at Memphis, which is good for Memphis and bad for Nebraska.
The bottom line: Doc Sadler has proved himself as a coach, which is why there's a chance this team could be a surprise. But the loss of Maric (after four years) and Sallie (before one) likely means another NIT/CBI bid is about all that can be reasonably expected.
10. Texas Tech
The good: Four starters are back from a team that finished with a winning record, which should help Pat Knight in his first full season on the job. Alan Voskuil is the team's leading returning scorer. The 6-3 guard averaged 13.1 points last season and made 50 percent of his 3-point attempts.
|G - Sherron Collins, Kansas|
|G - A.J. Abrams, Texas|
|F - Curtis Jerrells, Baylor|
|F - Damion James, Texas|
|F - Blake Griffin, Oklahoma|
|G - Willie Warren, Oklahoma|
|G - Josh Carter, Texas A&M|
|G - James Anderson, Oklahoma State|
|F - Cole Aldrich, Kansas|
|F - DeMarre Carroll, Missouri|
| Player of the year |
Blake Griffin, Oklahoma
| Newcomer of the year |
Willie Warren, Oklahoma
| Breakthrough player |
Cole Aldrich, Kansas
| Coach on the hot seat |
Mike Anderson, Missouri
The bad: Yes, the Red Raiders had a winning record last season, but they were just 4-7 under Pat Knight compared to 12-8 under Bob Knight. In other words, the younger Knight still has to show himself worthy of this job. In a perfect world, he'll be the next Tony Bennett (son of Dick Bennett). But the fear is that things won't go quite that well, and it's a reasonable fear given the circumstances.
The bottom line: It's hard to follow a legend and even harder when that legend is your father. Trying to bust out of that shadow will prove impossible for Pat Knight, but if he can just keep the program respectable this season, then recruit and upgrade talent he'll be on his way to becoming a success story.
11. Iowa State
The good: Craig Brackins is one of the best unknown players in the country, just a skilled big man capable of playing around the rim and away from the basket. He averaged 11.4 points and 5.0 rebounds as a freshmen and will do more now that he must do more with the absence of Wesley Johnson and Jiri Hubalek.
The bad: The loss of Johnson via transfer caught the ISU staff by surprise and really left Greg McDermott in a bad spot. Remember, this could in theory be a team with a trio of Brackins, Johnson and Shawn Taggart. But now Johnson is at Syracuse, Taggart is at Memphis and McDermott is in charge of a roster lacking the type of talent it takes to compete in a league of this caliber.
The bottom line: Simply put, there is no reason to envision the Cyclones being much (if any) better than they were last season when they finished 4-12 in the Big 12. Brackins is gifted, but not to the point where he can beat good teams without a stronger supporting cast.
The good: Colorado has finally started to invest in its program with facility upgrades, which should help secure more talented recruits like Nate Tomlinson. He's a 6-3 point guard from Australia who has received nice reviews this preseason, and it's clear he's one of the building blocks -- along with sophomore Cory Higgins -- who could help Jeff Bzdelik get this program turned around.
The bad: Richard Roby's reputation dipped drastically the past two years, but he still finished as Colorado's all-time leading scorer after averaging 17.0 points last season. Marcus Hall and Xavier Silas are also gone. That's 40.7 points that must be replaced.
The bottom line: Bzdelik was a candidate for the Chicago Bulls' opening this past offseason, and this is the type of season that's going to make him wish he got the gig. Instead of coaching Derrick Rose, he's coaching, well, a bunch of guys who aren't quite Derrick Rose. That's the nicest way to put it and the way it'll remain until the talent at Colorado is upgraded and these young guys get older.
|2008-09 Season Preview/Conference Countdown Schedule|
|Monday, Oct. 20||Preseason Top 25 (and one)||Thursday, Oct. 30||Ranking the best of the non-BCS|
|Tuesday, Oct. 21||Preseason All-America Team||Friday, Oct. 31||No. 6: Big Ten|
|Wednesday, Oct. 22||Player rankings: Points/combos||Monday, Nov. 3||No. 5: Pac-10|
|Thursday, Oct. 23||Player rankings: Wings||Tuesday, Nov. 4||No. 4: Big 12|
|Friday, Oct. 24||Player rankings: Big men||Wednesday, Nov. 5||No. 3: SEC|
|Monday, Oct. 27||Impact Freshmen||Thursday, Nov. 6||No. 2: ACC|
|Tuesday, Oct. 28||Coaches on the hot seat||Friday, Nov. 7||No. 1: Big East|
|Wednesday, Oct. 29||Games to watch||Monday, Nov. 10||Preseason tourney projections|