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College Basketball Players to Watch: Big 12 Conference

SALT LAKE CITY - MARCH 27:  Jacob Pullen #0 of the Kansas State Wildcats argues a call against the Butler Bulldogs during the west regional final of the 2010 NCAA men's basketball tournament at the Energy Solutions Arena on March 27, 2010 in Salt Lake City, Utah.  (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)
Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images
Scott McGrathCorrespondent IAugust 16, 2010

Here is the fifth installment of the "Players to Watch" series, featuring the Big 12 Conference.

The players from the Big 12 were fairly hard to choose because there is so much young talent and also so many players who either graduated or chose to go to the NBA.

With that said, this installment is slightly different. The first two players are those who I expect to have a breakout season that may not have been that great last season. The next two players are those who should put on a show every game this season, and finally, there is the "freshman to watch."

With that, here are the players to watch from the Big 12.

 

Tyshawn Taylor, Kansas Jayhawks

Tyshawn Taylor has immense talent but hasn't really needed to show it with all the talent Kansas has. However, with Sherron Collins, Xavier Henry, and Cole Aldrich gone, the Jayhawks need someone to step up.

Look for Taylor to be that player to put up much bigger numbers than he did last season. Taylor showed he has the shooting touch in some games last season, such as a game against Colorado where Taylor scored 17 points in just 24 minutes.

Taylor is a solid passer and a great three-point shooter and should get more opportunities this season to showcase his talents. Taylor and the Morris twins should keep Kansas as strong as ever in the Big 12.

 

Marcus Denmon, Missouri Tigers

Marcus Denmon averaged around 10 points last season as a sophomore. Sure, it's not extremely impressive, but he added staggering 40 percent shooting from three on 167 attempts.

Denmon may not keep that percentage this season, but if he can, look for him to become one of the best scorers and players in the Big 12 this season. He has had great games, such as sinking five of seven from three against Nebraska.

Still a young player, Denmon should improve and really help this Missouri team become one of the best in the country, as they already have a strong core mixed with experience and young players such as Kim English, Laurence Bowers, and an on-the-rise Michael Dixon.

 

LaceDarius Dunn, Baylor Bears

LaceDarius Dunn was fairly unheard of last season unless you followed the Big 12. However, he entered the national spotlight with both his and Baylor's fantastic NCAA Tournament run.  

Dunn was spectacular in every game, including a 22-point performance in Baylor's final game against Duke. With Dunn returning for his senior season, Baylor should once again be a threat in the Big 12, as he is the best returning scorer, along with a top-10 finisher in steals.

Vital to the attitude and swagger of the Baylor team, Dunn will once again give the Bears the confidence and performances necessary to win games in an increasingly difficult Big 12.

 

Jacob Pullen, Kansas State Wildcats

Jacob Pullen and Denis Clemente were the heart and soul of a very successful Kansas State team last season. Unfortunately, only Pullen will be returning to the team next season.

Fortunately, Pullen is a superb player, capable of leading this team to bigger and better things.

For Kansas State, when Clemente wasn't hot, Pullen was, and vice versa. When both were, it was a very scary sight for the opposing team. However, Pullen will be without his "Robin" and will need to become more consistent.

However, Pullen showed last season how dominant he is, returning as the second highest scorer and also finishing top-10 in assists and top-three in steals.

Absolutely fantastic in the NCAA Tournament, Pullen poured in 34 and 28 points against BYU and Xavier respectively. Hopefully he can continue that dominance throughout this upcoming season, simply because it is entertaining.

 

Freshman to Watch: Tristan Thompson, Texas Longhorns

Both Damion James and Dexter Pittman graduated from Texas at the end of this year, so the Longhorns are a little thin at the power forward position.

Luckily, they have Tristan Thompson coming in. Essentially a combination of Pittman and James, Thompson is both strong and athletic and is an absolute beast on offense and on the boards.

Very active on defense, Thompson is noted for his blocking ability and his knack for racking up steals. He could be an immediate boost to a now young Texas team and perhaps give them some consistency, which is something the Longhorns lacked last season.

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