Big 12 Offseason Burning Questions, Part I

Posted by Brian Goodman on April 11th, 2016

In sending three teams to the Sweet Sixteen, two to the Elite Eight and one to the Final Four, the Big 12 put together a solid NCAA Tournament, but it wasn’t enough to put to rest its reputation as a group of postseason underperformers. The 2015-16 campaign wasn’t without its highlights, though. The story of the season nationally was the prevalence of experienced veterans over one-and-done interlopers, and the Big 12 played a key role in that narrative with seniors Buddy Hield, Perry Ellis and Georges Niang leading their teams deep into March. With those three studs (among others) moving on, though, it’s time to examine the burning question that each Big 12 team faces this offseason. Today we review Oklahoma, Kansas, Kansas State, Baylor and TCU.

Oklahoma (29-8, 12-6)

Oklahoma faces a tough rebuild as it loses Big 12 all-time leading scorer and National Player Of The Year Buddy Hield. (David K Purdy/Getty Images)

Oklahoma faces a rebuild as it loses Big 12 scoring king and National Player of the Year Buddy Hield. (David K Purdy/Getty Images)

What will the identity of post-Hield Oklahoma become? Between Hield, Isaiah Cousins, Ryan Spangler and Dinjyl Walker, Oklahoma is losing 64 percent of the scoring from last season’s lethal offensive unit. That’s a lot. Though we trust that head coach Lon Kruger will find a way eventually, in the meantime, the Sooners will face a tough road in the wake of heavy roster turnover. Jordan Woodard and Khadeem Lattin are expected back and there are some intriguing newcomers arriving in Kameron McGusty, Christian Doolittle and former Ohio State commitment Austin Grandstaff. But it’s tough to suffer the level of production Oklahoma is losing and still be expected to perform at a level comparable to last season’s Final Four squad. Very few programs in college basketball can reload that quickly.

Kansas (33-5, 15-3)

Will the Jayhawks land top prospect Josh Jackson? We discussed the wide hole left by the departures of Wayne Selden and Brannen Greene earlier this month, but with blue-chip forward Josh Jackson set to announce his college decision this evening, it’s worth revisiting. Plenty of minutes are available on the wing next season, which would make Kansas’ situation with Jackson significantly different than in the cases of previously-hyped prospects like Cliff Alexander and Cheick Diallo, who Bill Self could sub out in favor of any of a number of alternatives at the first sign of trouble. The athletic slasher would almost certainly slide in alongside Frank Mason and Devonte’ Graham right away as Kansas lines up the pieces for a run at a 13th straight Big 12 title.

Kansas State (17-16, 5-13)

Will Bruce Weber’s teardown from last offseason finally pay off? The stakes couldn’t be higher for Kansas State’s oft-criticized head coach, who frequently explained away his team’s struggles with references to youth and bad luck. While Weber’s reasoning wasn’t completely without merit, those crutches wore out quickly, and fan frustrations were exacerbated last month when Oklahoma State snatched up rising coaching star and Kansas State alum Brad Underwood. Put simply, better results are expected from Weber in 2017, as a third consecutive season without an NCAA Tournament bid isn’t likely to be tolerated.

Baylor (22-10, 10-8)

Baylor Will Have to Replace (Cooper Neill – Getty Images Sport)

Baylor Will Have to Replace Rico Gathers’ Work on the Glass(Cooper Neill – Getty Images Sport)

Who steps up in the rebounding department? Rebounding isn’t the only question facing the Bears heading into next season, but it may be the biggest one. Rico Gathers and Taurean Prince were Baylor’s leading men on the glass last season, representing 39 percent of the team’s output, but both have exhausted their eligibility. Long and bouncy forward Johnathan Motley will be the team’s only returning rotation player taller than 6’7″ and is a solid bet as the Bears’ top rebounder next year, but someone like Ish Wainright or Terry Maston will need to help him out.

TCU (12-21, 2-16)

Can Jamie Dixon make Fort Worth a destination for elite recruits? The Horned Frogs are expected to return nearly everyone and have just one scholarship to work with this summer, so this question is more about the long game. Though Dixon’s best Pittsburgh teams weren’t always composed of elite recruits (paradoxically, his worst seasons came on the heels of recruiting classes ranked among the top 25 nationally), his new post provides excellent access to one of the nation’s top prep talent hotbeds. TCU isn’t what you’d call a sleeping giant, but with its recent facilities and coaching upgrades, it can become a significantly more relevant and appealing program than it has been in the past. If Dixon installs assistants capable of delivering talent from gyms throughout the Lone Star State, he’ll be well on his way to breathing life into a program that has stumbled to an all-time Big 12 record of 8-64.

Brian Goodman (987 Posts)

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

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