Your Way-Too-Early 2014-15 Big 12 Power RankingsPosted by Brian Goodman on April 9th, 2014
While the Big 12 catapulted a league-record seven teams into the Big Dance this season, the absence of a Final Four team among the ranks marked the latest in a series of missed opportunities for the conference to assert itself in the national conversation. The NCAA Tournament is chaotic by nature, but failing to send a single team to the final weekend eight times in the last 10 years is not the kind of distinction that the league’s administrators and coaches pride themselves on. Still, the Big 12 remains a very good league, and even though the statuses of a few NBA Draft hopefuls remain up in the air, there’s enough continuity remaining for us to ballpark the conference’s pecking order heading into next season. This is far from a predicted order of finish, but in the second week of April, here is how we think things stand.
- Departures of Note: Andrew Wiggins, Tarik Black, Joel Embiid (probable)
- Notable Returnees: Perry Ellis, Wayne Selden, Conner Frankamp, Naadir Tharpe, Brannen Greene, Jamari Traylor, Frank Mason
- New Additions: Kelly Oubre, Cliff Alexander, Hunter Mickelson (Arkansas transfer)
- Outlook: The back line should be very solid once again, especially if the Jayhawks can land Myles Turner. That possibility only figured to be an option if Joel Embiid left, and all indications are that the Cameroonian center will announce his departure later today. Perhaps of greater note is that there’s no imminent cure for the Jayhawks’ backcourt problems, though they do have options in Mason and Frankamp.
- Departures of Note: None
- Notable Returnees: Cameron Ridley, Jonathan Holmes, Isaiah Taylor, Javan Felix, Conner Lammert, Prince Ibeh
- New Additions: Jordan Barnett, Obinna Oleka (JuCo transfer)
- Outlook: The Longhorns figure to return everyone from the cohesive group that got Rick Barnes comfortably off the hot seat and in the direction of conference Coach Of The Year accolades. Texas will be good again next year, but swaying the commitment of in-state standout big man Myles Turner could provide the program the opening it needs to dethrone Kansas.
3. Iowa State
- Departures of Note: Melvin Ejim, DeAndre Kane
- Notable Returnees: Georges Niang, Naz Long, Dustin Hogue, Monte Morris, Matt Thomas
- New Additions: Clayton Custer, Jameel McKay (JuCo transfer via Marquette), Abdel Nader (Northern Illinois transfer)
- Outlook: The Cyclones only lose two players of consequence, but they’re big ones – Ejim and Kane combined to use over 50 percent of Iowa State’s possessions last season. After relying heavily on transfers in Fred Hoiberg’s first few seasons in Ames, “homegrown” players should carry a little more of the load next year. However, The Mayor will have two more transfers ready to go, and he’s been connected to former IUPUI guard Ian Chiles, who would be able to play right away as a fifth-year transfer, as well as former UNLV guard Bryce Dejean-Jones.
- Departures of Note: Cameron Clark, Tyler Neal
- Notable Returnees: Jordan Woodard, Buddy Hield, Isaiah Cousins, Je’lon Hornbeak, Frank Booker
- New Additions: Khadeem Lattin, Dante Buford, Jamuni McNeace
- Outlook: While North Dakota State’s outside shooting did the Sooners in last month, it was a lack of size behind Ryan Spangler that kept Oklahoma from winning more games and subsequently getting a higher seed. That should change next year, as all three newcomers make their living down low. The offense will need to fill Clark’s shoes, but look for the Sooners to be an improved team on the glass in 2014-15.
5. Kansas State
- Departures of Note: Shane Southwell, Will Spradling, Omari Lawrence
- Notable Returnees: Marcus Foster, Thomas Gipson, Nino Williams, Wesley Iwundu, Jevon Thomas, Nigel Johnson, D.J. Johnson
- New Additions: Tre Harris, Stephen Hurt, Brandon Bolden (Georgetown transfer)
- Outlook: Southwell didn’t make the leap as a senior that many expected, but the Wildcats did incredibly well to make the NCAA Tournament after Angel Rodriguez transferred to Miami last offseason. It will be very interesting to see where Marcus Foster takes Kansas State from here, but he’ll need some help in the backcourt: Non-Foster projected returnees shot just 26 percent from three-point range in 2013-14.
- Departures of Note: Cory Jefferson, Brady Heslip, Gary Franklin
- Notable Returnees: Kenny Chery, Rico Gathers, Royce O’Neale, Taurean Prince, Ish Wainright, Allerik Freeman
- New Additions: Kobie Eubanks, Lester Medford, Terry Maston, Damiyne Durham
- Outlook: The Bears could take a step or two forward from this spot if Isaiah Austin returns. If he doesn’t, Scott Drew will need to work more magic with his returnees and a modest recruiting class to get back to the NCAA Tournament.
7. West Virginia
- Departures of Note: Eron Harris (transfer)
- Notable Returnees: Juwan Staten, Devin Williams, Terry Henderson, Gary Browne, Remi Dibo, Nathan Adrian, Kevin Noreen, Brandon Watkins
- New Additions: Elijah Macon and Jonathan Holton (ineligible to play last season), Jevon Carter, Daxter Miles
- Outlook: The #5-#7 spots could really go in any direction. The Mountaineers’ resume wasn’t a great indicator of its statistical profile this past season, with close losses in the non-conference slate playing a big role in West Virginia ultimately settling for an NIT bid. But factor in Juwan Staten’s return and throw in the possible additions of Macon and Holton, neither of whom could play last season, and it’s reasonable to think West Virginia can be one of the most improved teams in the conference. Of course, the defense needs to find a way back to the classic Bob Huggins style and they’ll need to overcome the loss of Harris, who was the team’s best three-point shooter last season. But I think it can be done.
8. Oklahoma State
- Departures of Note: Marcus Smart, Markel Brown, Brian Williams (transfer)
- Notable Returnees: Le’Bryan Nash, Phil Forte, Michael Cobbins, Kamari Murphy, Leyton Hammonds, Gary Gaskins, Marek Soucek
- New Additions: Mitch Solomon, Joe Burton, Jared Terrell, Jeff Newberry (JuCo), Tyree Griffin
- Outlook: After a nightmarish season resulted in the Cowboys scurrying to salvage an NCAA Tournament bid, the Cowboys will have to deal with significant personnel losses, especially on the perimeter. The Pokes should be fine in the frontcourt, but Newberry will need to pick up an offense in desperate need of a reliable point guard.
9. Texas Tech
- Departures of Note: Jordan Tolbert and Dusty Hannahs (transfer), Jaye Crockett, Dejan Kravic, Kader Tapsoba, Jamal Williams (graduation)
- Notable Returnees: Robert Turner, Toddrick Gotcher, Randy Onwuasor, Aaron Ross
- New Additions: Keenan Evans, Justin Jamison, Devaugntah Williams, Norense Odiase, Zach Smith, Justin Gray
- Outlook: Tubby Smith got the Red Raiders going last season with limited personnel, beating Oklahoma State, Oklahoma, Texas and Baylor. However, the transfers of Tolbert and Hannahs, which came very early in Texas Tech’s offseason, could really set back the rebuilding campaign.
- Departures of Note: Jarvis Gray
- Notable Returnees: Karviar Shepherd, Kyan Anderson, Amric Fields, Brandon Parrish
- New Additions: Trey Zeigler (Pittsburgh transfer)
- Outlook: As was the case in 2012-13, TCU struggled to get all of its key players healthy at the same time last season. Texas Tech’s depleted personnel, along with the fact that Zeigler will be eligible after sitting out the requisite year, could provide the window TCU needs to finally break out of the Big 12 basement, but it isn’t something to bet on quite yet.