College Basketball Preseason: 2012-13 Big 12 Men's College Basketball Preview

Jesse KramerCorrespondent IOctober 18, 2012

College Basketball Preseason: 2012-13 Big 12 Men's College Basketball Preview

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    As usual, the Big 12 is one of the top conferences in college basketball. League play will be exciting, although the odds once again favor Bill Self's Kansas Jayhawks, who have won at least a share of the last eight conference titles.

    However, there are a number of legitimate challengers. Baylor has reloaded after going to the Elite Eight, Kansas State returns four starters, and Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Texas will be improved.

    Here is a 2012-13 season preview, with team-by-team breakdowns, preseason all-conference awards and predictions for how the final standings will shape up.

Baylor Bears

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    Lost: Perry Jones III, Quincy Acy, Quincy Miller, Anthony Jones, Fred Ellis

    Found: Isaiah Austin, Ricardo Gathers, L.J. Rose, Chad Rykhoek, Taurean Waller-Prince, Allex Austin

    Many considered Baylor's 2011-12 regular season a disappointment, but the Bears silenced the doubters by reaching the Elite Eight in the NCAA Tournament for the second time in the last three years.

    Of the five players who were double-digit scorers, two return in Pierre Jackson and Brady Heslip. They will make up the starting backcourt.

    Jackson was one of the most explosive players in the Big 12 last year. He led the Bears in scoring with 13.8 points and in assists with 5.9 per game. In the NCAA Tournament, he averaged 17.5 points and 6.8 assists. 

    Heslip made his name as a shooter, making 45.5 percent of his three-pointers, as he took 80 percent of the shots from beyond the arc. In four NCAA Tournament games, he shot 59.3 percent from deep.

    Also returning are a handful of guards who will see more playing time: A.J. Walton, Deuce Bello and Gary Franklin.

    Bello has the potential to be a breakout player. The athletic guard averaged 3.3 points in 10.3 minutes last year, but he is freakishly athletic.

    In the frontcourt, the Bears return Cory Jefferson, who played only 10.6 minutes per game last year. But he will be joined by top-50 recruits Isaiah Austin and Ricardo Gathers to make up one of the better frontcourts in the conference.

Iowa State Cyclones

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    Lost: Royce White, Scott Christopherson, Chris Allen, Tavon Sledge, Jordan Railey

    Found: Korie Lucious, Will Clyburn, Georges Niang, Kerwin Okoro, Sherron Dorsey-Walker, Naz Long, Cameron Fowler, Aaron Law

    Iowa State lost its three leading scorers, but the Cyclones have reloaded with transfers and a top-100 recruit in Georges Niang.

    Still, don't expect the Cyclones to get back to the NCAA Tournament this year.

    Korie Lucious, who went to a pair of Final Fours with Michigan State, will likely start at point guard. During the 2010-11 season, he averaged 6.5 points and 4.1 assists, but he shot only 31.2 percent from the field.

    Will Clyburn transferred to the Cyclones from Utah. With the Utes, he averaged 17.1 points and 7.8 rebounds in his only season. He also shot 40.3 percent from beyond the arc.

    Either Clyburn or Melvin Ejim figures to lead Iowa State in scoring.

    Ejim, a junior, scored 10.3 points per game as a freshman and 9.3 as a sophomore. Last year, he also averaged 6.6 rebounds.

Kansas Jayhawks

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    Lost: Thomas Robinson, Tyshawn Taylor, Conner Teahan, Merv Lindsay, Jordan Juenemann

    Found: Ben McLemore, Perry Ellis, Andrew White, Landen Lucas, Rio Adams, Zach Peters, Milton Doyle, Evan Manning, Tyler Self

    Kansas lost its two best scorers and its best rebounder, but the Jayhawks have reloaded for the 2012-13 season. They will once again be the favorite in the Big 12 and be in the running for a national title.

    Elijah Johnson and Travis Releford make up an experienced and talented backcourt. Johnson, Kansas' top returning scorer, averaged 10.2 points and 3.5 assists. Releford averaged 8.5 points.

    Added to the mix is freshman Ben McLemore, who was a top-50 recruit in the class of 2011. McLemore, who sat out last year as a partial qualifier, has had a year practicing with the team, which should make him all the more potent from Day 1.

    Jeff Withey, who is coming off a breakout junior season, will be one of the best big men in the conference. Withey averaged nine points, 6.3 rebounds and 3.6 blocks last season. He was the biggest defensive force in the conference and set a NCAA Tournament record with 31 blocks over six games. With a more polished offensive game, he could be an all-conference player.

    Fifth-year senior Kevin Young, who averaged 3.4 points and three rebounds last year, will take on a bigger role in the KU frontcourt.

    Among newcomers, the Jayhawks have a pair of top-100 recruits in forwards Perry Ellis and Andrew White, both of whom could contribute immediately.

Kansas State Wildcats

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    Lost: Jamar Samuels, Victor Ojeleye, James Watson, Jeremy Jones

    Found: Michael Orris, Darrell Johnson, Ryan Schultz

    After going to the third round of the NCAA Tournament last year, Kansas State returns four starters, losing only Jamar Samuels. So while the roster is not too different, the man on the sidelines is.

    When Frank Martin left for South Carolina at the conclusion of the season, the Wildcats hired Bruce Weber, who had been criticized for his recent failures at Illinois. However, there is reason for Kansas State fans to be hopeful.

    When Weber took the job at Illinois, the situation was not too different from what it is here. The Illini were  near the top of the conference, having just gone to the second round of the NCAA Tournament. Two years after taking that job, Weber had the Illini in the national championship game.

    In the backcourt, Kansas State returns its three starting guards: Rodney McGruder, Will Spradling and Angel Rodriguez.

    McGruder led the team in scoring with 15.8 points per game, and Spradling and Rodriguez provided some scoring while also being the team's main distributors with 2.8 and 3.2 assists per game, respectively.

    Up front, the Wildcats have one of the best shot-blockers in the conference in Jordan Henriquez, who averaged 2.4 blocks.

Oklahoma Sooners

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    Lost: Carl Blair, T.J. Franklin, C.J. Washington, Barry Honore

    Found: Amath M'Baye, Buddy Hield, Je'lon Hornbeak, Isaiah Cousins, C.J. Cole, D.J. Bennett, Steve Noworyta

    Oklahoma is primed for a strong season in the Big 12, one much better than the final years of the Jeff Capel era and the first year under Lonnie Kruger.

    The Sooners return their six leading scorers, including Steven Pledger, who was No. 6 in the Big 12 last year with 16.2 points per game. He was also among the conference's best with a 41.6 percent conversion rate on three-pointers.

    Romero Osby, who played a pair of seasons with Mississippi State before coming to Oklahoma, is also back. Osby averaged 12.9 points and 7.3 rebounds in his first year with the Sooners.

    Although he was not as big a scorer as the first two, Sam Grooms will return and start at point guard. Grooms was No. 2 in the conference and No. 1 among returning players with six assists per game.

    Among newcomers, the Sooners can expect immediate contributions from Wyoming transfer Amath M'Baye. He averaged 12 points and five rebounds as a sophomore and can score in a variety of ways.

Oklahoma State Cowboys

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    Lost: Keiton Page, Darrell Williams, Cezar Guerrero, Grayson George

    Found: Marcus Smart, Phil Forte, Kamari Murphy, Kirby Gardner, Ford Stuen

    It's been awhile since Oklahoma State basketball has been relevant, but this is the season the Cowboys should get back to the NCAA Tournament.

    The only huge loss they suffered was Keiton Page. He was the Cowboys' leading scorer at 17.3 points per game and was also accurate from long range, shooting 38.6 percent from beyond the arc.

    Returning are Le'Bryan Nash, Markel Brown and Brian Williams, among others.

    Nash was one of the best freshmen in the country last year, although his 39.4 shooting percentage from the field and 23.5 percent from three-point range were lower than he would liked. Still, he proved how valuable he could be, scoring 20 or more points in six games.

    Brown, a 6'3" guard, averaged 10.5 points and 5.1 rebounds last year and will be one of Oklahoma State's point guards. He led the team with 2.4 assists per game last season.

    The main reason Oklahoma State will contend for an NCAA Tournament bid is the addition of Marcus Smart, the No. 1 shooting guard in the class of 2012, according to ESPN. Smart can play shooting guard and point guard, and he will be the key to this team's success.

Texas Christian Horned Frogs

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    Lost: J.R. Cadot, Hank Thorns, Craig Williams

    Found: Devonta Abron, Aaron Durley, Clyde Smith, Charles Hill

    In its first season in the Big 12, Texas Christian will almost definitely finish in last place. The Horned Frogs, who went 7-7 in the Mountain West last year, lost their top two scorers plus their sixth man.

    That being said, they do return three starters and add Arkansas transfer Devonta Abron.

    Abron, who was ruled eligible immediately by the NCAA, averaged 5.7 points and 4.2 rebounds as a freshman for the Razorbacks last season. Although he struggled in many games, he did have a few bright moments, such as his eight-point, 16-rebound game against Connecticut.

    The three returning starters are Kyan Anderson, Garlon Green and Adrick McKinney. Nate Butler, who started in 10 games last year, and Amric Fields, who started eight, also return.

    Anderson averaged 8.3 points and 2.8 assists last season. With Hank Thorns, who led the team with 4.6 assists per game, gone, Anderson will have to step up as the team's main point guard.

    Green is the Horned Frogs' top returning scorer with 9.9 points per game. In two CBI games, he averaged 16 points and 5.5 rebounds.

Texas Longhorns

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    Lost: J'Covan Brown, Clint Chapman, Alexis Wangmene, Sterling Gibbs

    Found: Javan Felix, Demarcus Holland, Prince Ibeh, Connor Lammert, Danny Newsome, Ioannis Papapetrou, Cameron Ridley

    Texas will rely heavily on underclassmen. But if the freshmen and sophomores deliver, the Longhorns could compete for a conference championship.

    Although leading scorer J'Covan Brown left for a professional career and Clint Chapman and Alexis Wangmene graduated, the Longhorns return three players who started in at least half of last year's games.

    Most notable is sophomore point guard Myck Kabongo. He averaged 9.6 points and a team-best 5.2 assists as a freshman. However, he was also out of control at times, turning the ball over three times per game.

    Also returning in the backcourt are Sheldon McCellan and Julien Lewis. They will be joined by freshman Javan Felix, who is considered one of the more natural point guards in the class of 2012. He will back up Kabongo at point guard.

    In the frontcourt, the Longhorns return Jaylen Bond and Jonathan Holmes and add three top-100 recruits in centers Cameron Ridley and Prince Ibeh and power forward Connor Lammert.

Texas Tech Red Raiders

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    Lost: Javarez Willis, Robert Lewandowski, Terran Petteway, DeShon Minnis

    Found: Josh Gray, Trency Jackson, Dusty Hannahs, Daylen Robinson, Dejan Kravic, Kader Tapsoba, Aaron Ross, Jamal Williams

    The Texas Tech basketball program had a major setback with the resignation of Billy Gillispie late in the offseason. Replacing Gillispie's place as the interim head coach is Chris Walker, who has never been a head coach but has 17 years of experience as a Division I assistant.

    Although they have a new coach, the Red Raiders still have the potential to remain competitive in this tough conference. They return their top three scorers, including sophomore Jordan Tolbert.

    Tolbert flashed loads of potential as a freshman. He led the Red Raiders in scoring, rebounding and field-goal percentage with 11.5 points and 5.7 boards per game and 52.1 percent shooting. He only played 23.9 minutes per game last season but should get much more playing time now that he has a year of experience.

    Joining Tolbert in the frontcourt is junior Jaye Crockett, who averaged 8.8 points last year. In 19 Big 12 games, he had four double-doubles.

    The Red Raiders' backcourt will be made up of senior Ty Nurse and redshirt freshman Toddrick Gotcher. Nurse averaged 8.9 points and Gotcher led the team with 2.6 assists per game before suffering a season-ending injury in December.

West Virginia Mountaineers

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    Lost: Kevin Jones, Darryl Bryant, Pat Forsythe, Keaton Miles

    Found: Aaric Murray, Juwan Staten, Matt Humphrey, Eron Harris, Terry Henderson, Volodymyr Gerun

    West Virginia graduated its two best players in forward Kevin Jones and guard Darryl Bryant, but the Bob Huggins has reloaded with transfers to keep the Mountaineers in contention for an NCAA Tournament bid this season.

    The key additions are La Salle transfer Aaric Murray, Dayton transfer Juwan Statena and Boston College transfer Matt Humphrey.

    Murray was an absolute monster with the Explorers. Two years ago, he averaged 15.2 points, 7.7 rebounds and 2.3 blocks. He also was a threat from three-point range, shooting 35.1 percent from beyond the arc.

    Staten, a point guard who will share the distributing role with Jabarie Hinds and Gary Browne, averaged 8.5 points and 5.4 assists as a freshman for the Flyers.

    Humphrey, who played two years with Oregon and one year with the Eagles, averaged 10.3 points per game for Steve Donahue's Boston College club.

    The Mountaineers also have a number of key returnees in Hinds, Browne, Deniz Kilicli and Aaron Brown.

    Kilicli is the team's top returning scorer and rebounder, and Hinds and Browne are both good enough to start at point guard.

Projected Standings

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    1. Kansas

    2. Baylor

    3. Kansas State

    4. Oklahoma State

    5. Texas

    6. West Virginia

    7. Oklahoma

    8. Iowa State

    9. Texas Tech

    10. TCU

Preseason All-Big 12 Awards

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    All-Conference Team

    Myck Kabongo, Texas

    Pierre Jackson, Baylor

    Rodney McGruder, Kansas State

    Le'Bryan Nash, Oklahoma State

    Jeff Withey, Kansas


    Conference Player of the Year—Pierre Jackson, Baylor

    Defensive Player of the Year—Jeff Withey, Kansas

    Newcomer of the Year—Ben McLemore, Kansas