CBSSports.com College Basketball Insider

Conference Countdown: No. 4 -- Big 12

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A&M's Khris Middleton is not a household name but folks in the Big 12 notice his game. (Getty Images)  
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.

Or Louisville.

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
Quick facts
Defending regular-season champion:
Kansas
Defending tournament champion:
Kansas
Top returning scorer:
Marcus Denmon (Missouri), 17.1 ppg
Top returning rebounder:
Quincy Acy (Baylor), 7.6 rpg
Accolades
First team
G - Myck Kabongo, Texas
G - Marcus Denmon, Missouri
F - LeBryan Nash, Oklahoma State
F - Thomas Robinson, Kansas
F - Perry Jones, Baylor
Second team
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
Breakthrough player
Thomas Robinson, Kansas
Coach on the hot seat
Frank Haith, Missouri
Click here for more
conference previews

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
DateFeatureDateFeature
Oct. 13Preseason Top 25 (and one) Nov. 1Top freshmen
 Projected NCAA tournament field Nov. 2Top transfers
 Goodman and Parrish bracket picks Nov. 3Under the radar players
Oct. 14Team profiles: 'Cuse | UConn | UK | UNC Nov. 4Breakout players
Oct. 17Preseason All-Americans Nov. 5Best shooters
Oct. 18Top 100 players Nov. 6Best defensive players
Oct. 19Positional rankings: Point guards Nov. 768 things ...
Oct. 20Positional rankings: Wing men Nov. 8Ranking the preseason tourneys
Oct. 21Positional rankings: Big men Nov. 950 can't miss games
   Nov. 10Coaches on the Hot Seat

Gary Parrish is a senior college basketball columnist for CBSSports.com and frequent contributor to the CBS Sports Network. The Mississippi native also hosts the highest-rated sports talk radio show -- The Gary Parrish Show -- in the history of Memphis. He lives in that area with his wife, two children and a dog.
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