|A&M's Khris Middleton is not a household name but folks in the Big 12 notice his game. (Getty Images)|
I have no idea how the Big 12 will look next season.
It might include West Virginia.
And, either way, it probably won't have Missouri.
But that's another conversation for another day ... and it has nothing to do with how this season of Big 12 basketball will play out. There are 10 schools -- including soon-to-be-goners Texas A&M and Missouri -- competing, nine of which will try to prevent Kansas from taking a share of the league title for the eighth straight season. The prediction here is that they'll succeed unless Bill Self figures out a way to win 12 or 13 league games with a roster that is neither built to do so nor is as good as the roster Scott Drew has assembled at Baylor. But, as always, we'll see.
(Schools listed in predicted order of finish.)
| 2012 Tournament: |
March 7-10 -- Kansas City
| Defending regular-season champion: |
| Defending tournament champion: |
| Top returning scorer: |
Marcus Denmon (Missouri), 17.1 ppg
| Top returning rebounder: |
Quincy Acy (Baylor), 7.6 rpg
|G - Myck Kabongo, Texas|
|G - Marcus Denmon, Missouri|
|F - LeBryan Nash, Oklahoma State|
|F - Thomas Robinson, Kansas|
|F - Perry Jones, Baylor|
|G - Tyshawn Taylor, Kansas|
|G - Rodney McGruder, Kansas State|
|G - J'Covan Brown, Texas|
|F - Khris Middleton, Texas A&M|
|F - Quincy Miller, Baylor|
|Player of the year|
|Perry Jones, Baylor|
|Newcomer of the year|
|LeBryan Nash, Oklahoma State|
|Thomas Robinson, Kansas|
|Coach on the hot seat|
|Frank Haith, Missouri|
1. Baylor: Scott Drew brought back an established star in Perry Jones and added a future star in Quincy Miller. Throw the league's leading returning rebounder (Quincy Acy), an impact transfer (Brady Heslip) and another talented prospect (Deuce Bello) into the equation, and it should surprise nobody when Baylor wins the Big 12. A trip to the Final Four is possible. This team is really, really talented.
2. Kansas: This is a very un-Kansas-like roster, and I'm not even sure it's the second-best roster in the league. Still, Bill Self deserves the benefit of the doubt because he never has bad teams. Thomas Robinson becoming a player worthy of the First All-American label CBSSports.com placed upon him is crucial to the Jayhawks finishing this high in the standings. Tyshawn Taylor has to be solid and consistent, too.
3. Texas A&M: Khris Middleton doesn't get a lot of national attention even though he nearly averaged 15 points as a sophomore. He should be even better this season. If so, the accolades will follow. But when will Billy Kennedy get better? The first-year coach is currently on a leave of absence for medical reasons. Until he returns, associate head coach Glynn Cyprien is in charge.
4. Missouri: Frank Haith is off to a rough start at Missouri. First came allegations of rules violations on his watch at Miami. Then came the preseason injury to Laurence Bowers that cost the Tigers a frontcourt player who averaged 11.6 points last season. Again, rough start. But this roster Mike Anderson left behind is still talented. The Tigers have three experienced double-digit scorers in Marcus Denmon, Michael Dixon and Kim English. That -- plus point guard Phil Pressey -- should be enough to get Missouri to the NCAA tournament.
5. Oklahoma State: Travis Ford missed the NCAA tournament for the first time at Oklahoma State last season, but that shouldn't happen again. Keiton Paige and Jean-Paul Olukemi give Ford two experienced double-digit scorers. Le'Bryan Nash should dominate from the wing from the start and lead the Cowboys to the NCAA tournament for the third time in four years.
6. Texas: Remember how I wrote Kansas has an un-Kansas-like roster? Same goes for Texas. Losing Jordan Hamilton, Tristan Thompson and Cory Joseph early to the NBA Draft in the same year will prove tough to overcome. Only one returning player (J'Covan Brown) averaged more than three points last season. Freshman Myck Kabongo has the tools to be great. He'll have to be for the Longhorns to be good.
7. Iowa State: Fred Hoiberg has taken an unusual approach to building these Cyclones, but the approach has led to a talented roster that could easily crack the top half of this league. Chris Allen (formerly of Michigan State), Chris Babb (formerly of Penn State), Anthony Booker (formerly of Southern Illinois) and Royce White (formerly of Minnesota) are all in Ames after starting college elsewhere. The most talented of the bunch is White -- a 6-foot-7 forward who should post big numbers right from the start.
8. Kansas State: Frank Martin has had an All-American-caliber talent (Michael Beasley or Jacob Pullen) on his roster in each of his first four seasons, and that's partly why he's made the NCAA tournament in three of those years. But this year his best player is probably Rodney McGruder -- point being this is a rebuilding season for the Wildcats barring a surprise.
9. Oklahoma: Lon Kruger left UNLV for Oklahoma and there's little doubt he'll turn this program around in time because that's just what he does. The guy's a winner. But he won't win with this roster. At least not much.
10. Texas Tech: Billy Gillispie is a good coach who was just out of his element at Kentucky. Simple as that. He got overwhelmed. But now he's back in his comfort zone, i.e., the state of Texas, and in time he'll prove to be a winner. But one year won't be enough time to prove much because the Red Raiders don't return any double-digit scorers.
|2011-12 Season Preview|
|Oct. 13||Preseason Top 25 (and one)||Nov. 1||Top freshmen|
|Projected NCAA tournament field||Nov. 2||Top transfers|
|Goodman and Parrish bracket picks||Nov. 3||Under the radar players|
|Oct. 14||Team profiles: 'Cuse | UConn | UK | UNC||Nov. 4||Breakout players|
|Oct. 17||Preseason All-Americans||Nov. 5||Best shooters|
|Oct. 18||Top 100 players||Nov. 6||Best defensive players|
|Oct. 19||Positional rankings: Point guards||Nov. 7||68 things ...|
|Oct. 20||Positional rankings: Wing men||Nov. 8||Ranking the preseason tourneys|
|Oct. 21||Positional rankings: Big men||Nov. 9||50 can't miss games|
|Nov. 10||Coaches on the Hot Seat|