Big 12 Superlatives, Predictions and Storylines

Posted by Big 12 Team on November 11th, 2016

The 2016-17 Big 12 season is going to be an interesting one despite Kansas being the prohibitive favorite to win the conference yet again. The battle for second appears to be a three-horse race between Iowa State, Texas and West Virginia, while the middle and bottom tiers of the league will still feature teams capable of contending for NCAA Tournament bids. We’re beyond excited to see it all unfold, and with that, we unveil our Big 12 preseason predictions and superlatives (written by each voter).

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Player Of The Year

  • Drew Andrews: Monte’ Morris, Iowa State — While you could easily look at freshmen phenoms Josh Jackson and Jarrett Allen as potential Big 12 Player of the Year candidates, Monte’ Morris should win the award next March. With the departures of Cyclone stalwarts like Georges Niang, Abdel Nader and Jameel McKay, Morris will be asked to bring a huge amount of the magic to Hilton Coliseum this season. The senior will need to carry more of the scoring load in addition to his league-leading 6.9 assists per game and second-place 1.8 steals per game if Iowa State wants to make its sixth straight NCAA Tournament appearance.
  • Justin Fedich: Josh Jackson, Kansas — Unlike last season, the pick for this year’s Big 12 Player of the Year isn’t as obvious. I’ll take the most talented player on the best team, Kansas freshman Josh Jackson. The 6’8” wing from Detroit will benefit from playing with the experienced backcourt duo of Frank Mason and Devonté Graham. He might have some early growing pains, but Kansas will need someone to replace the void left by Wayne Selden and Perry Ellis, the top two scorers from last season’s team.

  • Brian GoodmanMonte’ Morris — If Hilton Magic is in store for 2016-17, Monte’ Morris is going to be the guy with the wand. He’s going to be a high-volume player both in terms of minutes and putting up shots as the Cyclones look to him to drive the team forward. I worry about the workload catching up to Morris in March even with a capable backup in Donovan Jackson available off the bench, but in the meantime, he’s going to put some gaudy numbers.
Monte Morris headlines RTC's second team All-American list.

Monte’ Morris is a big favorite to take home the Big 12’s premier individual title. (Getty)

  • Nate Kotisso: Monte’ Morris — The Cyclones are going to ask more of Monte Morris than most teams will request from a superstar (he averaged 38 minutes per game in 2015-16!). But when a team loses the fourth-best scorer in Big 12 history (Georges Niang) and two other major pieces (Jameel McKay and Abdel Nader) to graduation, Steve Prohm doesn’t have much of a choice. Morris is arguably the best point guard in America and has earned the right to be my Big 12 POY pick. Hopefully, fatigue and injuries will evade him.
  • Chris Stone: Monte’ Morris — Iowa State’s 6’3” guard is already one of the best facilitators in college basketball. For two seasons, he led the country in assist-to-turnover ratio before finishing third last year. Now, without Georges Niang to help shoulder the burden, Morris will also be tasked with picking up even more of the Cyclones’ scoring load. Morris averaged 13.8 points on 11.0 shots per game last season and those numbers could easily push to 17 and 14 during his senior campaign. Combine that with more than a handful of assists each night and you’ve got yourself a Big 12 Player of the Year.

Top Breakout Candidate

  • DA: Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk  Considered by many draft experts to be a First Round selection when he decides to declare for the NBA Draft, Mykhailiuk has not seen the floor as much as he might have anticipated in his first two years in Lawrence. And while he is already entering his third year in the program, he just turned 19 years old in June. The 6’8” Ukrainian is therefore still young, has a high ceiling, and has the potential to be a key piece in the Jayhawks’ quest for a 13th consecutive Big 12 title.
  • JF: Jordan Woodard – With Buddy Hield now in the NBA, Woodard is no longer the complementary piece in the Sooners’ backcourt. He is now the focus. Isaiah Cousins, Ryan Spangler and Hield were the only three players who averaged more than 30 minutes per game for the Sooners last season, and none return. Woodard was the second-leading scorer behind Hield on last year’s squad and returns with only one other player who averaged more than 20 minutes per game last season: forward Khadeem Lattin. There’s enough young talent on this team to keep Oklahoma competitive in the Big 12, but to have success in the postseason it always helps to have experience. The burden will fall on the senior guard who has started every game of his Sooners career.
  • BG: Khadeem Lattin — With Ryan Spangler now out of the picture, Lattin will shoulder more of the interior scoring load this season. The big man scored in double figures just six times as a sophomore, but Sooner fans shouldn’t be all that concerned. Lattin’s 114.1 offensive rating from last season, fueled by a reliable 72.1 percent conversion rate on shots at the rim, reveals a two-way threat who is ready to break through in a conference light on quality big men.
Khadeem Lattin will be more than just a rim protector in 2016-17. (USA Today)

Khadeem Lattin will be more than just a rim protector in 2016-17. (USA TODAY Sports)

  • NK: Christian James — It’s expected that the Sooners will come back to Earth after making their first Final Four in 14 years. They’ll be younger, but they’ll once again feature a guard-heavy attack led by the sophomore from Houston. Don’t let James’ 9.5 minutes per game last season fool you. His playing time took a major leap during Oklahoma’s NCAA Tournament run, when he went 5-of-10 from distance. If you care about closed-door scrimmages, James dropped 32 points against an AP top-five Oregon team just two weeks ago. You’ll hear his name a lot more this season and you’ll like his game.
  • CS: Johnathan Motley — It’s odd to pick a player who is on the official Preseason All-Big 12 Team as a breakout candidate, but Motley is on the list because of what people expect him to do. As a sophomore, the 6’9” forward averaged 20.9 minutes per game and posted respectable marks in points (11.1 PPG) and rebounds (5.1 RPG), but those numbers should markedly increase markedly this season without Rico Gathers and Taurean Prince around. The junior Motley will be the focal point of Baylor’s offensive attack — if his per-40 minute numbers (21.2 points and 9.8 rebounds) are any indicator, he should be in for a huge year in a far bigger role.

Brewing Storyline

  • DA: Kansas State Bouncing Back — The Wildcats are going to surprise people this year and finish in the top half of the league. Bruce Weber has seemingly been on the hot seat for his entire tenure in Manhattan, but there is reason for optimism as this team has a core group of experienced players. The Wildcats return seven players who logged more than 400 minutes a season ago, including senior forward Wesley Iwundu (11.9 PPG, 4.5 RPG, 3.7 APG). If Weber has designs on returning next year, he will need Iwundu to help offset the loss of Justin Edwards and lead a talented group of sophomores that have so far exceeded expectations.
Somehow, someway, Bruce Weber is hanging on strong in Manhattan. (AP)

Somehow, someway, Bruce Weber is hanging on strong in Manhattan. (AP)

  • JF: Where’d All the Big People Go? The most talented players in the Big 12 are guards because many of the conference’s top frontcourt players — including Perry Ellis, Georges Niang and Devin Williams — have moved on. Teams such as Kansas, Iowa State and Oklahoma State boast strong backcourt tandems, but all have question marks up front. The team that can produce the league’s next star forward — whether it turns out to be Oklahoma’s Khadeem Lattin, Kansas’ Carlton Bragg or Landen Lucas, or Texas freshman Jarrett Allen — will be a matchup nightmare once conference play rolls around in January.
  • BG: Is Kansas State Selling Itself Short? Bruce Weber’s team regressed for a third straight season last year, but an unlucky mark in close games suggested that Kansas State was slightly better than its 17-16 record. With nearly everyone returning, this team should once again be competitive, which is why it was disappointing to see the Wildcats fill their non-conference slate with a bunch of cream puffs. The toughest opponent Kansas State can face before New Year’s Day is Maryland in the Continental Tire Classic, and that match-up isn’t even guaranteed. Weber is clearly taking the path of least resistance in hopes of capturing an NCAA Tournament bid through the toughness of the Big 12, but if his team wavers in either non-conference or conference play, there won’t be much room for error.
  • NK: Texas Tech — How Chris Beard made his way to Lubbock was odd, but is nonetheless a move that appears will work out well for both sides. Beard didn’t have a lot of time to put a recruiting class together, so he added two Division I transfers and a first-team JuCo All-American to a core that is still largely intact. While the upper echelon of the Big 12 is adjusting to life without some of the conference’s all-time greats, the Red Raiders have continuity on their side. Expect them to finish in the top half of the league.
  • CS: Is Texas Tech Actually Good? The Red Raiders made their first NCAA Tournament since 2007 last season and, despite losing their head coach in April, they seem poised for another run this time. The team doesn’t have a Monte’ Morris, a Jawun Evans or a Jordan Woodard, but it returns a plethora of solid rotation players. Head coach Chris Beard will have plenty of depth at his disposal and should be able to deploy plenty of intriguing lineups throughout the season. It’s won’t be impossible for the Red Raiders to find their way into the top half of the Big 12 standings by March, and that seems like something worth talking about.
Brian Goodman (928 Posts)

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


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