Big 12 Offseason Burning Questions, Part II

Posted by Chris Stone on April 12th, 2016

Yesterday, Brian Goodman opened our examination of the offseason’s burning questions facing Big 12 teams by reviewing challenges facing Baylor, Kansas, Kansas State, Oklahoma and TCU. Our series continues today with consideration of the questions plaguing the remainder of the league: Iowa State, Oklahoma State, Texas, Texas Tech and West Virginia.

Iowa State (23-12, 10-8)

For the first time in a long time, Iowa State will be without Georges Niang. (Credit: Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports)

For the first time in a long time, Iowa State will be without Georges Niang. (Credit: Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports)

Who will step up in the Cyclones’ frontcourt? A lack of depth at Iowa State was a persistent problem last season and it leads to the bigger question about who will fill the gaping frontcourt holes in Ames next year. With both Georges Niang and Jameel McKay no longer around, the Cyclones return no players 6’8″ or taller who played greater than five percent of the available minutes last season. Iowa State will need to rely on a big debut from Emmanuel Malou, one of the best junior college transfers in the country, and dramatic improvement from rising sophomore Simeon Carter, the Cyclones’ best returning big man.

Oklahoma State (12-20, 3-15)

What can new head coach Brad Underwood do with one of the Big 12’s best backcourts? Underwood consistently produced efficient offenses at Stephen F. Austin and he’ll have the chance to do likewise in Stillwater. The first-year head coach will inherit one of the conference’s best backcourts, as both Jawun Evans and Phil Forte appear set to return to school, with Evans showcasing his potential in the Cowboys’ upset of Kansas and Forte likely the best outside shooter in the Big 12. How Evans and Forte develop their chemistry with Underwood this offseason will go a long way toward determining whether Oklahoma State can regain conference relevance next season.

Texas (20-13, 11-7)

What will the Longhorns’ roster look like to start next season? With Josh Jackson committing to Kansas on Monday night, there’s now no team in the Big 12 with more uncertainty about its roster than Texas. Junior point guard Isaiah Taylor is testing the NBA draft waters; if he chooses to stay in the draft, head coach Shaka Smart will lose his best playmaker and facilitator, and there’s no immediate heir apparent. Additionally, three of the Longhorns’ four rotation frontcourt players are graduating. Smart is consequently banking on a spring commitment from five-star recruit Jarrett Allen. Texas is currently the favorite to land Allen, one of the most impressive performers at the recent Nike Hoop Summit.

Texas Tech (19-13, 9-9)

Zach Smith is poised for a breakout junior campaign. (Credit: Brad Tollefson / A-J Media)

Zach Smith is poised for a breakout junior campaign. (Credit: Brad Tollefson/A-J Media)

Can the Red Raiders’ rising junior class keep the good times rolling? Our 2015-16 season preview back in October asked whether Texas Tech’s sophomores could produce a rise out of the Big 12 cellar. The answer to that question was a resounding yes, as the Red Raiders pushed ahead to make the NCAA Tournament in only Tubby Smith’s third season. That same group of players will be tasked with carrying the load for the Red Raiders next season, as leading scorers Toddrick Gotcher and Devaugntah Williams are graduating. Four of Texas Tech’s top five returning scorers are rising juniors, however, including Zach Smith and Norense Odiase  two players who could experience breakout seasons in 2016-17.

West Virginia (26-9, 13-5)

Is Devin Williams really gone? As a junior, the 6’9″ Williams averaged a near double-double (13.3 PPG; 9.5 RPG) in helping the Mountaineers to a second-place finish in the Big 12 and a #3 seed in the NCAA Tournament. Williams appears poised for a breakout senior season as a superstar, but he unexpectedly declared for the 2016 NBA Draft after West Virginia’s season ended. While Williams initial statement seemed like he was intent on signing with an agent, subsequent reports have make it sound like he may just be testing the waters. Given that it’s unlikely Williams will hear his name called in late June, it wouldn’t be surprising to see him return to Morgantown for a final season. With the larger role he will be expected to play next season, his decision will weigh heavily on the Mountaineers this offseason.

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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