Strength of Big 12 Driven by Impressive Individual Seasons

Posted by Chris Stone on February 18th, 2015

College basketball fans across the country debate which conference is the best every season. That conversation has mostly centered on two leagues this year. If you’re more interested in teams that are likely to make deep runs in March, then your choice will probably be the ACC with the likes of Virginia, Duke, Louisville and Notre Dame at the top of the standings. From a viewpoint of quality of depth of a league, however, nearly every available metric shows that the Big 12 is tops. Ken Pomeroy’s system focused on efficiency ranks this year’s Big 12 as the best conference since the Big Ten of four years ago (when 7 of 11 teams received NCAA Tournament bids). The league has already posted the highest non-conference winning percentage of any conference in a decade and currently has only one team (Texas Tech) with an under .500 overall record.

Georges Niang highlights the Big 12's selections on the Wooden Award Late Season Top 20 list. (Nirmalendu Majumdar)

Georges Niang highlights the Big 12’s selections on the Wooden Award Late Season Top 20 list. (Nirmalendu Majumdar)

The Big 12’s incredible season has correspondingly been driven by a number of individuals who are receiving national recognition on the various late season award lists. While the front-runners for the Wooden Award — given annually to the country’s best player — are Wisconsin’s Frank Kaminsky, Duke’s Jahlil Okafor, and Notre Dame’s Jerian Grant, the Big 12 put three players of its own on the Late Season Top 20 list. Oklahoma’s Buddy Hield has proven to be one of the conference’s best scorers, averaging 17.2 points per game while shooting 43.5 percent from the field. West Virginia’s Juwan Staten recently found his way back into the national conversation with a dazzling spin move to upset Kansas on Big Monday. Iowa State’s Georges Niang leads the Cyclones in scoring while also averaging 5.4 rebounds and 3.4 assists per game.

In addition to the Wooden Award candidates, five positional award winners will be announced on April 10. Niang is one of four Big 12 players in consideration for the Karl Malone Power Forward of the Year Award along with Baylor’s Rico Gathers, Kansas’ Perry Ellis and Texas’ Myles Turner. Turner’s teammate Jonathan Holmes and Oklahoma State’s Le’Bryan Nash also represent the Big 12 as two of the 15 national finalists for the Julius Erving Small Forward of the Year Award. Although the conference didn’t have a finalist for the Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Center of the Year award, the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame will announce the finalists for the other two positions later this month. You can bet that players like Hield and Staten will show up on those lists as well.

Although a Big 12 Wooden Award winner is probably out of reach this season, the conference stands a reasonable chance to pick up one of the positional awards where the competition won’t be quite as stiff. The league is stacked at the power forward position and will likely have a number of other players, including Staten, on the Cousy Award watch list, given to the nation’s top point guard. Even if the league fails to come away with any individual honors at the end of this season, the Big 12 as a whole should take pride in having one of the best collective seasons of any major conference in the efficiency era.

Chris Stone (136 Posts)

Chris Stone is a contributor to the Big 12 microsite. You can find him on Twitter @cstonehoops.

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