2009-10 Conference Primers: #4 – Big 12Posted by rtmsf on November 4th, 2009
Predicted Order of Finish:
- Kansas (15-1)
- Texas (14-2)
- Oklahoma (11-5)
- Kansas State (10-6)
- Missouri (9-7)
- Texas A&M (8-8)
- Oklahoma State (8-8)
- Iowa State (7-9)
- Baylor (5-11)
- Texas Tech (4-12)
- Nebraska (3-13)
- Colorado (2-14)
All Conference Team:
- Sherron Collins (G), Kansas
- Willie Warren (G) Oklahoma
- Craig Brackins (F) Iowa State
- Damion James (F), Texas
- Cole Aldrich (C), Kansas
6th Man. James Anderson (G) Oklahoma State
Impact Newcomer. Xavier Henry (G), Kansas
- KU Dominance. Of the 13 years that the Big 12 has held a conference tournament, Kansas has won the crown six times, which is the most of any Big 12 school. Kansas has been deemed the regular season conference champion nine times in those 13 years, sharing the title in three of those times. Every time Kansas has shared the title the Jayhawks were the two-seed in the conference tournament.
- Two At the Top. It’s very possible that Texas and Kansas could share the Big 12 title this season. Texas’ toughest conference games are Kansas (in Austin), then Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, and Kansas State on the road. The Longhorns seem to have the advantage over the Jayhawks when it comes to an easier conference schedule, but with KU bringing back all of its talent and adding one of the top freshman in the nation, I still believe that Kansas will stay atop the conference alone.
- Where are the Tigers. Where do you rank the Missouri Tigers in the Big 12 this season? After being picked seventh by the coaches in last year’s preseason poll, the Tigers finished third and won the Big 12 Tournament en route to an Elite Eight appearance. Mike Anderson will continue to play his “Fastest Forty Minutes” style, and behind leadership from senior guard JT Tiller (Co-Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year in 2009), and sophomore guard Kim English, it’s hard to determine where Mizzou will be at the end of the season. Anderson has put together a very athletic lineup, which should be able to play to his coaching style, but their lack of experience and a consistent scorer could hurt them.
- X-Factor. Freshman phenom Xavier Henry could be the key to Kansas’ hopes of a second national title in just three seasons. A late decider, Henry could very well be one of the most productive freshmen in the NCAA this season. He is surrounded by unbelievable talent that will hog most of the attention from opposing defenses, which should open up many scoring opportunities for Henry.
Predicted Champion. Kansas (NCAA Seed: #1). No one is going to argue with this pick. The Jayhawks are overwhelmingly the nation’s favorite as the 2010 national champions. Bringing back stars Sherron Collins and Cole Aldrich, with the combination of key role players like guard Tyshawn Taylor, forward Marcus Morris, and guard Brady Morningstar, and then also adding the six best freshman class in the nation (according to Rivals) should be creating a lot of buzz in Lawrence. There is no doubt why Kansas is (right now) the best team in college basketball.
Other NCAA Teams.
- Texas (NCAA Seed: #1). Texas has a real shot at becoming a number one seed, depending on what they do with their non-conference schedule. With Damion James, Dexter Pittman and Gary Johnson the Longhorns may have the best frontcourt in the nation. Justin Mason is a great defender that will be matched up with every team’s best guard; pair all of that with two great freshman in guard Avery Bradley and small forward Justin Hamilton and you may have the formula for a number one seed in March, and a very deep NCAA Tournament run.
- Oklahoma (NCAA Seed: #4)- After Texas and Kansas there is a large question mark as to who is the next best team in the Big 12. Led by 2009 Freshman of the Year in the conference, Willie Warren, the Sooners seem as if they have the talent to be able to continue on last year’s success despite the losses of Blake and Taylor Griffin. Coach Jeff Capel got a lot of help in the frontcourt from their strong recruiting class. Highlighting this class is center Keith Gallon, but behind Gallon are two quality recruits that will be able to contribute right away, center Andrew Fitzgerald and point guard Tommy Mason-Griffin. Senior guard Tony Crocker was good in short spurts last season so it will be interesting to see how he does without Blake Griffin getting most of the touches on offense, and junior Cade Davis showed he has the ability to shoot the three, but he will need to step up consistently if the Sooners hope to come close to their Elite Eight appearance last season.
- Kansas State (NCAA Seed: #5)- Head Coach Frank Martin has done a good job continuing this program’s success since he brought the Wildcats to the tournament in 2008 after a twelve-year absence. This season, Kansas State’s success rides on the shoulders of senior point guard Denis Clemente (we all remember his 44-point game in Austin last season when the Wildcats shocked Texas) who will try to lead KSU back to the NCAA tournament and a possible Sweet 16 birth. His supporting cast consists of UConn transfer Curtis Kelly, highly touted freshman forward Wally Judge, and second leading scorer from last season guard Jacob Pullen. KSU could be the diamond in the rough that will make a huge impact in how good the Big 12 is viewed from top to bottom.
- Missouri (NCAA Seed: #9)- Maybe Mizzou fans should see it as more of a blessing that Mike Anderson’s Tigers are again picked seventh in the Big 12 rather than a slap in the face. I for one am not ready to count out a team that made the Elite Eight because I don’t think that it was solely because of their star talent in DeMarre Carroll and Leo Lyons. Anderson made his name last year by running teams off the court, and I think he has the athletic personnel that he needs to cause major frustration in coaches all over the conference. Seniors JT Tiller and Zaire Taylor are terrific defenders that will cause opposing guards trouble, and sophomore Kim English is looking to step into a bigger role on offense. One of the other things I love about Mizzou is their depth in the frontcourt. They have the ability to rotate big men in and out frequently and not lose a lot of talent when substituting. Nonetheless, the team’s unsung hero this season may come from the backcourt in freshman guard Mike Dixon, who has the ability to be a deadly jump shooter off the bench.
- Texas A&M (NCAA Seed: #9)- This team has two main contributors that will have to increase their production this season to make up for the losses of Josh Carter and Chinemelu Elonu. Those two players are guard Donald Sloan and forward Bryan Davis, both seniors. The Aggies are really going to need big production from their best recruit, 6’6 guard Naji Hibbert. Other players on this roster that you could see major improvement from are guards BJ Holmes and Derrick Roland. These two guys will need to step into their roles in order to get A&M to their school-record fifth straight NCAA tournament appearance.
- Oklahoma State (NCAA Seed: #10)- A lot of people may say that I’m severely underrating the Cowboys, and that may be. However, this team has a lot to prove after finishing less than .500 in the conference with Byron Eaton running the show. Now it’s up to scoring sensation James Anderson to take over if this team wants to return to the top of the Big 12. He’ll get a lot of help from the incoming class, which includes forwards Roger Franklin and Karron Johnson, and also point guard Raymond Penn. Besides Anderson, the two most important players on this team will be senior guard Obi Muonelo and sophomore Keiton Page. Both need to build on what they did last season and try to make up for some of the scoring gap left by Eaton and Terrel Harris.
- Iowa State (NIT). For the first time in what seems like awhile Iowa State is a legitimate bubble team. Led by junior Craig Brackins, the Cyclones are looking to get back to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2005. Diante Garrett and Luca Staiger will need to build on what they accomplished last season in order for that to occur, but I just don’t see it in the cards for the Cyclones this season. Hopefully they will get a good contribution from Marquette transfer Scott Christopherson and freshman point guard Chris Colvin to show Brackins that he should stick around for his senior season.
- Baylor (NIT). Junior forward LaceDarius Dunn and senior guard Tweety Carter will be the leaders for the Bears this season, and with a tremendous freshman class Baylor could make it back to the NCAA tournament, but it has to start with defense and they lost a great defender last season in Curtis Jerrells. The Bears will also need to take care of business in the regular season, which they didn’t do last year.
- Texas Tech: How long will it be before Pat Knight makes the NCAA tournament? Well Tech fans will most likely be left out on Selection Sunday again this season, even though they got a large freshman class and return junior guards Mike Singletary and John Roberson (leading scorer in 2008-09). There just isn’t enough firepower for TTU to make a statement in this loaded conference.
- Nebraska: Last season the Cornhuskers had the smallest team in all of college basketball, and it probably cost them an NCAA appearance. Coach Doc Sadler has done a great job rebuilding this program, but after losing four of its top five scorers from last year’s team it may be a long year in Lincoln.
- Colorado: While the team brings back its three leading scorers in Cory Higgins, Dwight Thorne and Austin Dufault. The Buffaloes are going to need to do a lot this season to finally get out of the cellar.
Top 10 RPI Boosters.
- Nov. 22, 2009 – Kansas State vs. Dayton/Villanova. KSU is the best team on their side of the bracket of the Puerto Rico Tip-Off by far, and if they take care of business they will have a huge matchup in the final that could possibly push them up a whole seed in the NCAA tourney with a victory.
- Nov. 26, 2009 – Texas A&M vs. Clemson. This is an intriguing matchup for the Aggies, who could need a win like this to get into the NCAA tournament. A major factor in this game is that the winner has the opportunity to play West Virginia in the second round of the 76 Classic, and you never know what can happen in preseason Tournaments.
- Nov. 28, 2009 – Missouri vs. Mississippi State. This game is not for sure going to happen, as the Tigers need to take care of Old Dominion and Mississippi State will have to beat Richmond. But the tournament (South Padre Invitational) is set up for these two teams to meet in the final, and if the stars align it’s a huge opportunity for Mizzou to beat the possible SEC West champs early in the season.
- Dec. 6, 2009 - Kansas at UCLA. The Jayhawks will definitely be the favorite in this game, but its still Pauley Pavilion, not an easy place to play by any means. Blowing out the Bruins on the road could be huge for Kansas’ resume come March.
- Dec. 8, 2009 - Kansas State vs. Xavier. Here’s an opportunity for the Wildcats to pick up a great RPI-boosting win over a Xavier team that isn’t great, but will likely have a high RPI all year. This game will truly show how good Kansas State will really be this season.
- Dec. 19, 2009 - Michigan vs. Kansas. Manny Harris and the Wolverines will come into Lawrence salivating with the chance to knock off Kansas, who should be undefeated at that time. Kansas can get another huge non-conference win in this game.
- Dec. 19, 2009 - Texas vs. North Carolina. What a day in college basketball this will be. Big 12 fans will have a lot to cheer about if both Kansas and Texas can come out on top. The matchup I love in this game is Ed Davis vs. Damion James, two of the top forwards in the country. A number one seed could be won or lost in this game.
- Dec. 22, 2009 - Texas vs. Michigan State. Rick Barnes isn’t going to let a weak schedule get in the way of a possible top seed come March. He wants his Longhorns playing the best teams in the country to not only get ready for Big 12 play, but also a potential deep run in the Tournament. This game may be the game of the year as the Spartans travel to Austin for a holiday thriller.
- Dec. 22, 2009 – Texas A&M at Washington. Again the Aggies have a great opportunity to pick up a win over a potential NCAA tournament team. If A&M can steal this one on the road and have a decent Big 12 finish, there shouldn’t be any reason why they’d be left out on Selection Sunday.
- Dec. 31, 2009 - Oklahoma at Gonzaga. Gonzaga always has a good RPI because of the schedule that they play, and here’s a chance for the Sooners to get a huge statement win by going into Spokane (a ridiculously hard place to play) and knocking off the Zags.
Key Conference Games.
- Jan. 9, 2010 – Kansas State at Missouri. Great matchup here between Denis Clemente’s offense and J.T. Tiller’s defense. This should be a great game, and one both teams will need to win.
- Jan. 11, 2010 – Oklahoma State at Oklahoma. This Big Monday matchup will feature one of the best intrastate rivalries in college basketball. If the Cowboys can pull of the upset they may not be holding their breath on Selection Sunday.
- Jan. 18, 2010 – Texas at Kansas State. Last time these two teams played a regular season Big 12 game, Clemente went off for 44 points and had a lot of Longhorns fans scratching their heads. This time Texas can get revenge in Manhattan.
- Jan. 30, 2010 – Kansas at Kansas State. Tremendously intriguing matchup, especially if KSU somehow knocks off Texas earlier in the month. You can bet that stadium will be packed and ready to be loud for a conference showdown with their rivals.
- Feb. 6, 2010 – Texas at Oklahoma. Willie Warren and the Sooners will try to take down the Longhorns in Norman. After the way things panned out for the Sooners in football, OU fans may already be looking forward to this game for a chance to get back at their rivals.
- Feb. 8, 2010 - Kansas at Texas. The game that both teams have circled on their schedule. This could very well determine the winner of the Big 12 regular season title. It also matches up two of the best coaches in the country.
- Feb. 20, 2010 - Kansas State at Oklahoma. This game may determine who gets third place in the league, and the difference between a four or five seed in the NCAA tournament.
- Mar. 6, 2010 - Kansas at Missouri. No one hates Kansas more than Mizzou, and no one hates Mizzou more than Kansas. Last season MU won on a last second floater that barely rolled in, but that was a different Kansas team and you have to think KU will be out for blood in this one. Mizzou will also most likely be trying to play spoiler and deny KU their shot at a Big 12 title in their last regular season game.
Fun With KenPom. The Pomeroy stats illustrate a key point about how fans and media talk about offense and defense. Typically, when someone talks about a team being offensive-minded, they mean “high-scoring.” But the problem is that high-scoring doesn’t mean efficient, and the Big 12 in 2009 had a host of highly efficient offensive teams despite many of them playing slower-paced basketball. Oklahoma, Texas, Texas A&M and Baylor were all top forty teams in offensive efficiency even though they ranked between #111-#231 in terms of tempo. Conversely, defensive-minded doesn’t mean slow, as the running/pressing Missouri Tigers showed when they played last year at the 21st fastest pace in America while achieving the 13th-best defensive efficiency.
NCAA Tournament History. The Big 12 is 238-175 (.575) all-time in the NCAA Tournament, which includes the original Big 8 teams who joined the conference in the mid-90s. Six and four are the numbers recently, as the league got either six teams (seven times) or four teams (three times) into the NCAA Tournament over the past decade. With the ascent of Texas joining Kansas as a twin power of middle-America basketball in the league, the conference has consistently won double-digit games in the NCAAs during that time (five of the last eight yrs). Every team but Nebraska also reached the Tourney in the 2000s, and the Huskers remain one of the few long-time members of BCS conferences to have never won a game in the Big Dance (0-6).
Final Thoughts. The Big 12 may be the best conference in college basketball this season. It has two legitimate national title contenders in Kansas and Texas, followed by a bunch of teams that can do damage in the tournament: K-State, Oklahoma, Texas A&M, Mizzou and Oklahoma State. As for how far these teams will go in the postseason, I think that Kansas and Texas will make the Final Four, with Kansas winning the national championship. Oklahoma and Kansas State are legitimate Sweet Sixteen possibilities, and Mizzou, Oklahoma State, and Texas A&M all have the personnel to win a first round game.