Big 12 Basketball: 2017-18 Conference Preseason Preview

The Big 12 Conference is one of the toughest conference in college basketball year in and year out. The past 13 years have seen the same team come out on top after the regular season; Kansas has had a strong hold on the conference for over a decade. This year however, the Big 12 has it all. Lottery bound freshman, deep rosters, and some of the best coaches in the sport. Let’s look at how the Big 12 shapes up this year.

Projected Finishes (Voted by Big 12 Coaches)

  1. Kansas – No surprise here. Kansas has sat atop the conference with at least a share of the regular season championship for 13 seasons. Expect Devonte’ Graham to be the next Perry Ellis/Frank Mason and Udoka Azuibuke to make a strong (literally) impact after missing most of last year with a wrist injury.
  2. West Virginia – The Mountaineers will spend the first half of the season without Esa Ahmad, but he will be back in the rotation during the thick of Big 12 play. With returning Defensive Player of the Year, Jevon Carter, West Virginia will still be a tough out in the conference.
  3. TCU – Jamie Dixon had his team firing on all cylinders at the end of last season. TCU upset the top seeded Jayhawks in the Big 12 Tournament and played their way to a NIT Championship. The Horned Frogs return a large majority of last year’s team, including Vladimir Brodziansky, who averaged 14 points a game last season. TCU could be eyeing a tournament bid this year.
  4. Texas – This could be one of the better teams in Austin in recent years. With future pro Mo Bamba manning the paint and Andrew Jones returning for another year, Shaka Smart has weapons. The X-factor for this team will be Matt Coleman running the point; Coleman could be the best PG the Longhorns have had since since DJ Augustin.
  5. Baylor – The Bears struggled at the end of last season, in part due to injury. They lose Jonathan Motley to the NBA, but still return solid producers in Manu Lecomte and Jo Lui-Acuil. The issue for the Bears may be their depth this season. This could keep them in the middle of the pack.
  6. Oklahoma – Lon Kruger brings back a team that was very green last year. He replaces Jordan Woodard with Trae Young, who could be the best freshman in the confernce this year. No disrespect to Bamba, who affects the game on both ends, but Young has the ability to put 40 up on a given night. The Sooners should improve on their 5-13 conference record last year and be fun to watch.
  7. Texas Tech – Texas Tech returns a good nucleus of last year’s team that played better than their 6-12 record indicated. The challenge for the Red Raiders this season will be how they fair on the road. Zach Smith, Keenan Evans and company will need to find ways to win away from home if they want to take a step forward.
  8. Kansas State – Bruce Weber is going to have to earn the contract extension he received this year with the Kansas State team. Weber has a nice trio of juniors in Dean Wade, Barry Brown and Kamau Stokes. Overall, the Wildcats do not have the fire power to compete with the top of the conference.
  9. Iowa State – Iowa State put all their chips in last year’s basket, and it paid off when they won the Big 12 Tournament. Now the Cyclones will have a bit of a rebuild this year. Donovan Jackson will have a strong senior year, and Lindell Wigginton will get Ames excited for the future.
  10. Oklahoma State – It will be a new look back-court for the Cowboys with no Jawun Evans or Phil Forte. A lot of attention will focus around Jeffrey Carroll, who averaged 17 and 6 last season.

Preseason Awards (Voted by Big 12 Coaches)

Player of the Year – Devonte’ Graham (Kansas)

I said above expect Graham to have a senior year similar to Frank Mason or Perry Ellis. Graham has been one of KU’s biggest keys the last two seasons. When he goes, Kansas tends to roll. You can look back to his match ups versus Buddy Hield two years ago, their incredible comeback against West Virginia last year, or their Elite Eight loss to Oregon. Graham’s production directly correlates to the Jayhawk’s success in those games.

Freshman of the Year – Mo Bamba (Texas)

Mo Bamba will be a lottery pick in the 2018 NBA Draft. He’s 7’0 and has arms that just go on forever. I expect him to edge Luil-Acuil for most blocked shots in the Big 12 this season. Bamba also has the ability to step out and hit from mid range. I mentioned Trae Young possibly being the best freshman, but Bamba’s ability to impact the game on both ends gives him the nod.

Newcomer of the Year – Malik Newman (Kansas) 

Newman sat out the 16-17 season after transferring from Mississippi State. Having spent a year practicing against Frank Mason and Josh Jackson, and alongside Graham, Newman should be able to jump into the line up and look comfortable right away. He is a former McDonald’s All-American and ESPN Top 10 recruit. Newman will look to regain his high draft status after a somewhat poor freshman year at Mississippi State.

After a year of practice with KU, Malik Newman should fit in well in the Jayhawk back court

All Big 12 Teams

First Team (Voted On)

Devonte’ Graham – Kansas

Jevon Carter – West Virginia

Jeffrey Carroll – Oklahoma State

Zach Smith – Texas Tech

Vladimir Brodziansky – TCU

Second Team (Prediction)

Trae Young – Oklahoma

Svi Mykhailiuk – Kansas

Manu Lecomte – Baylor

Mo Bamba – Texas

Esa Ahmad – West Virginia

So that’s it. A complete breakdown of the Big 12 before any action takes place. Preseason is always fun to look at. You have expectations and predictions, but you never truly know what will happen until conference play starts and you see teams play one another. It’ll be interesting to look back and see who was left off, who was over-hyped and who played as anticipated. 3 more weeks.

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