Preseason Storylines in the Big 12

Posted by Brian Goodman on October 26th, 2015

Brian Goodman is the lead Big 12 correspondent for Rush The Court. You can follow him on Twitter @BSGoodman.

For a few years now, the Big 12 has been big on regular season success but short on NCAA Tournament results. Last season marked the third straight year in which the conference failed to send a single team to the Elite Eight despite propelling at least half its membership to the Big Dance. Those who are skeptical of the Big 12 due to its lackluster March results will probably remain so, but if that’s your outlook, you’re missing out, because the reality is that this league is once again poised to be the toughest conference in the country. With that, here are the top storylines worth monitoring as season tip-off draws near.

After two years of inconsistent play, is Wayne Selden ready to erupt?

After two years of inconsistent play, is Wayne Selden ready to erupt?

Kansas Looks to Maintain its Dominance – As a blueblood program that has carried the Big 12 basketball flag for nearly a dozen years, it would be silly to start with any other team but the Jayhawks. Kansas competed in the World University Games in July, giving us a precursory glimpse of how the team might look this season. Wayne Selden was especially fantastic in the event, with some of his success due to his placement on the wing rather than the two-guard position where he spent most of his first two seasons. Bill Self is currently planning to use his junior in a similar fashion this year, but whether Selden finds the same success in the college environment as he did in international play is something worth monitoring. Additionally Kansas has more depth down low and on the wing than most people realize, but if Cheick Diallo is eventually cleared to play by the NCAA, his presence on the interior would likely put the Jayhawks over the top when it comes to reversing the Big 12’s postseason fortunes.

Spotlight Shines on Veterans – In terms of individual players, most of the attention over the last few years has been dedicated to talents like Myles Turner, Kelly Oubre, Joel Embiid, Andrew Wiggins and Marcus Smart, each of whom went pro within their first two collegiate seasons. This year, though, the Big 12’s identity will manifest itself in the league’s veterans, with seniors Perry Ellis, Georges Niang, Buddy Hield and Phil Forte and juniors Rico Gathers and Monte’ Morris carrying the torch. That’s not to say that there’s a lack of young talent, as seven players from ESPNU’s 2015 Top 50 signed with Big 12 schools, but very few of them are in position to play key roles this season and Diallo is the sole freshman currently projected as a lottery pick, though that could change if Svi Mykhailiuk emerges in Lawrence. Until that point, expect considerable lip service to be paid to the conference’s more seasoned players this year, and deservedly so.

It's not very often that a new coach inherits a roster loaded with as much talent as the one Steve Prohm has at Iowa State.

It’s not very often that a new coach inherits a roster loaded with as much talent as the one Steve Prohm has at Iowa State.

New Coaches Get Full Cupboards – After a long flirtation with the NBA, Fred Hoiberg finally left his post in Ames to take over as head coach of the Chicago Bulls. Still, he left more than enough talent in the cupboard for new Iowa State head coach Steve Prohm to work with. The high-powered core of Georges Niang, Monte’ Morris and Jameel McKay, along with a solid supporting cast, looks ready to make another run at ending Kansas’ impressive streak of conference titles. About 970 miles south, Texas lured Shaka Smart to the Big 12, which was a key development for a couple of reasons. The college basketball world has been waiting in earnest to learn what Smart can do at a big-time school, but the fates did us one better by setting him up with what many (us included) believe to be the best job in the country. On top of that, Smart inherits a highly talented team despite the losses of Myles Turner and Jonathan Holmes. Don’t let the Longhorns’ 8-10 conference showing from last season fool you — Texas is going to be very good, very soon.

Oklahoma and Baylor Return Strong Teams But Questions Remain – Outside of Iowa State, the Sooners are the team with the best chance to stay in the Big 12 race with Kansas until the very end. Reigning conference Player of the Year Buddy Hield is back along with nearly everyone else of importance from last season, but the loss of TaShawn Thomas means that someone will have to help Ryan Spangler inside. The situation in Waco is mirrored, as the Bears are hoping point guard Lester Medford can fill Kenny Chery’s shoes and that wing Taurean Prince can build on his fantastic junior season. Scott Drew’s inside game looks solid with Rico Gathers and Johnathan Motley as the typically athletic men in the middle.

Brian Goodman (987 Posts)

Brian Goodman a Big 12 microsite writer. You can follow him on Twitter @BSGoodman.

Share this story

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *