Big 12 Basketball: 8 Way Too Early Predictions for 2012-13
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The 2011-12 season may have ended a little over a month ago, but you can never quite shake your love of college basketball.
The Big 12 last year proved that it was one of the top conferences in the nation, with six teams making the cut for the NCAA tournament and Kansas representing in the national championship game.
While the student athletes head off to their short break before summer practice, fans and analysts alike will begin thinking about next year.
The following is a list of eight way too early predictions for the 2012-13 season.
Brady Heslip Will Lead the Conference in Three-Point Shooting
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By the end of the NCAA tournament, everyone knew the name of Brady Heslip.
The 6’2’’ shooting guard from Ontario shot very well all season, but had his coming out game in the third round versus Colorado. He threw up his “three goggles” nine times, shooting 9-12 from beyond the arc.
He can sink the deep ball coming off of the dribble, with a man in his face, off of screens and, of course, when wide open. Therefore, he should be able to take the three-point crown next season for the Big 12.
He finished third this past year, sitting 0.1 percentage points behind Scott Christopherson (Iowa State) and 0.4 percentage points behind Kim English (Missouri). The good news is that both of those players will be gone next season, leaving the path wide open for Heslip.
Myck Kabongo Will Have His Breakout Season
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Myck Kabongo was the second best point guard in the 2011 class. That said, he was probably the best true point guard in the class.
He has incredible court vision, leadership potential, athleticism and can pass the ball with ease. However, he did not become the star player that Texas might have hoped for.
He averaged only 5.18 assists per game, fourth in the conference, and 9.6 points. The problem might have resulted in teammate J’Covan Brown taking the majority of shots and leading the team in scoring.
Now, with Brown headed to the NBA draft, Kabongo is primed to break out next season. He never sat back this past year, but the team will now look to him to become a bigger leader on the court.
Look for his assist count and his points to grow next season, and possibly be the difference between a win and a loss for Texas.
Both TCU and West Virginia Will Struggle in Their First Year
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As the Big 12 prepares to part ways with Texas A&M and Missouri, TCU and West Virginia are packing their bags to join.
Football for these two schools is already set, but these two basketball teams have a lot of question marks.
How will TCU adjust to such a major shift in intensity from Mountain West basketball to Big 12 basketball?
How will West Virginia make up for losing its two top scorers?
For TCU, the change might be too much, as this program needs to focus on becoming competitive against conference powerhouses Kansas and rival Baylor. The Horned Frogs’ recruiting class is not impressive either, as the highest rated player is a three-star point guard and their junior college transfers do not bring in an impressive amount of length.
West Virginia, on the other hand, may have an easier time in the conference. They have an established roster and are bringing in a high-profile power forward, but the Mountaineers will have to play more consistent than they did this past year in order to compete at a high level.
Texas Tech Will Finish at the Bottom Again
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The Texas Tech Red Raiders finished with a deplorable 8-23 record and one win in conference play.
Next year, the team honestly does not look that much better.
Jordan Tolbert, a freshman forward, led the team in scoring last year with 11.5 points per game, and he looks to be one of the only bright lights for this team. However, he is not the longest forward in the game and this could hurt his chances of success, given that the Big 12 is made up of extremely long and versatile post players.
They will probably be able to win more than one conference game next season and it may be too early to call Texas Tech the bottom of Big 12 basketball, but they are going to have to prove early on that they came to play for real this time.
Texas Will Find Its Way Back Among the Big 12 Elite
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To say that the 2011-12 season for the Texas Longhorns was a roller-coaster ride is an understatement.
The Longhorns had huge potential and had the talent to be among the best teams in the Big 12, but head coach Rick Barnes and company had to settle for a 20-14 overall record (9-9 conference).
After an early exit from the NCAA tournament, the Longhorns will be looking to prove themselves next season.
According to ESPN Basketball Recruiting Nation, Texas is bringing in the fourth-best recruiting class. With two of the best centers in this year’s class coming in (Cameron Ridley and Prince Ibeh) and Myck Kabongo leading the way, Texas should be a force offensively.
The Longhorns will have one of the longest teams in the Big 12 next year, and they should use that height to power through the defenses of their conference foes.
So long as head coach Rick Barnes can develop the talent that he has in front of him, the Texas Longhorns should be right up there with Baylor and Kansas at the top of the Big 12 next year.
Kansas State Will Falter Without Frank Martin
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The Kansas State Wildcats took the Big 12 by surprise when they took a two game road trip to No. 10 ranked Baylor and No. 3 ranked Missouri, and managed to win both.
They earned themselves a tournament bid, but lost to Syracuse in the third round.
However, that is not the only thing that Kansas State lost.
Opinions may be split on whether or not Frank Martin is a fun coach to play for, as he is most often seen shouting at his players, but he does know how to win. Without the animated face of Frank Martin on the sidelines, the Kansas State Wildcats will not be as successful next season.
He will be replaced by former Illinois head coach Bruce Weber, who will likely need more than one offseason to fully get a grip on this team.
Baylor’s Frontcourt Will Not Be an Issue
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The Baylor Bears are losing all three of their frontcourt players. Quincy Miller, Quincy Acy and Perry Jones III are all looking to enter the draft, with Acy being the only senior in the group.
However, Baylor has plenty of options left from both the bench and this year’s recruiting class.
Cory Jefferson has the potential to be next year’s Thomas Robinson, as the sixth man is bumped up to a likely starter spot at power forward. He is already an excellent rebounder and can battle in the paint. He just has to get his shot down, so he can put up huge numbers.
Deuce Bello is also a force on the floor, simply because of his athleticism. At the small forward position, he can jump over anyone and fight his way to the rim. If his defense can improve, he will be one of the best three men in the league.
As for the incoming guys, five-star center Isaiah Austin and four-star power forward Ricardo Gathers will complete the potential starters at the post positions.
Austin is the second-best center in this year’s class and can sink a shot from anywhere on the floor, while blocking shots on the defensive end.
Gathers is a beast in terms of brute strength and physicality and will certainly fill the “beast” void that Quincy Acy is leaving behind.
They may have lost a lot, but the Baylor Bears will be fine in terms of the frontcourt.
Kansas Will Remain at the Top
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Even though Tyshawn Taylor and Thomas Robinson may be leaving, it is hard to remove the Kansas Jayhawks from the top spot in preseason rankings for three reasons.
First, Jeff Withey will be a dominant force in the paint. The 7’0’’ center proved last year that he can play among the best of them. However, the most exciting aspect of his game is his ability to block shots. He put on block parties that rivaled Anthony Davis, recording 31 in the NCAA tournament alone.
Second, you should never doubt head coach Bill Self. He has proven that he is a winner and knows how to develop talent if given the time. Simply look at what he did with Thomas Robinson and this year’s team, a team that everyone had already counted out in the preseason.
Third, Ben McLemore is finally eligible.
McLemore, a small forward, was one of the most exciting pickups by the Jayhawks before the 2011 season, but was ruled ineligible before the start of the year.
Now, he is ready to go and should have developed even further in his off year.
For more information on McLemore, including his scouting report, check out this article.