Big 12 Opening Weekend in Review

Posted by Drew Andrews on November 15th, 2016

Opening night of the college basketball season gave nine of the 10 Big 12 programs a chance to begin their seasons with easy wins. Those match-ups went according to plan, as only Kansas played a team inside KenPom’s top 250 and, as a result, took the only loss. However, there was another surprise that could ultimately spell trouble for one of the contenders to the conference title. Let’s take a look at one key takeaway from each team coming out of the opening weekend.

  • Kansas – The Jayhawks came into the season with questions about leadership, scoring in the post, and whether Josh Jackson could make the leap to superstardom. The loss to Indiana in the Armed Forces Classic on Friday night only provided a first piece of an answer to one of those questions. Frank Mason III exploded for 30 points and nine assists in the defeat, making it seem that he might be Bill Self‘s Option A for leadership and scoring this season. In the absence of the graduated Perry Ellis, Landon Lucas and Carlton Bragg will be asked to replace some of his frontcourt scoring load. Lucas proved that he could play the necessary minutes last year, but Bragg rarely saw the floor. After a meager 18-minute outing on opening night, it seems as if Self still has questions about the sophomore forward. Meanwhile, Jackson struggled to find a rhythm on both ends of the floor. Early foul trouble and questionable shot selection meant he saw more of the bench than expected, but it will be interesting to see how Self utilizes him in tonight’s clash with top-ranked Duke.
Josh Jackson struggled against Indiana. Can he break out against Duke in the Champions Classic? (Photo: Kansas City Star)

Josh Jackson struggled against Indiana. Can he break out against Duke in the Champions Classic? (Photo: Kansas City Star)

  • Iowa State  Monte’ Morris began his quest for conference and national honors with a bang against Savannah State (21 points and 11 assists), followed by a quieter but efficient outing (18 points and three assists) last night against Mount St. Mary’s. Steve Prohm started five seniors in both games, and if Iowa State hopes to again challenge Kansas for the Big 12 title, it will need every bit of experience and leadership from that group to get there.
  • TexasJarrett Allen certainly looked the part of star in the making in his debut for the Longhorns, but despite his 16 points and 12 boards, Texas was outrebounded on the offensive glass in its first two outings against Incarnate Word and Louisiana-Monroe. Shaka Smart‘s HAVOC defense certainly creates great energy and scoring opportunities via turnovers, but he has to be concerned that his players are giving up so many second chances to teams that were clearly overmatched in talent and size.

  • West Virginia – The Mountaineers have already scored 60 points off 50 turnovers through two games of the new season, causing a miscue on nearly 30 percent of their opponents’ possessions. West Virginia’s full court pressure defense is clearly too much for low-major opponents to handle, but the underlying question is whether Nathan Adrian can replace the missing scoring of Devin Williams in the half-court? Until the Mountaineers face an opponent that does not immediately succumb to the pressure, Huggins won’t know if his team can find enough offense to grind out each possession.
  • TCUJamie Dixon appears to have brought his aggressive defensive style to his alma mater from Pittsburgh, as the Horned Frogs gave up just 15 first half points on Monday night to Alabama State. Defense was this team’s calling card last season as well, but can Dixon fix what was a 228th rated offense? A total of 180 points in its first two games doesn’t hurt.
  • Oklahoma State – A season ago, Oklahoma State played at one of the slowest paces in the country, ranking 333rd nationally. A greater focus by new head coach Brad Underwood on the perimeter talents of Jawun Evans, Phil Forte and Jeffrey Carroll should offer the Cowboys an ability to push tempo. A total of 204 points in Oklahoma State’s first two games supports the notion that this returning trio will do just that (28th nationally thus far).
  • Oklahoma – Oklahoma has to replace the most prolific single season Big 12 scorer since Michael Beasley played at Kansas State in 2007-08. Buddy Hield was a massive part of the heart and soul of this team, but the cupboard is not bare in Norman either. Lon Kruger expects Jordan Woodard’s three-point shooting ability and Khadeem Lattin‘s continued development to facilitate an offense that still looked potent after one game (four of five Sooner starters logged Offensive Ratings of 140+ against Northwestern State).
  • Texas Tech – Even with Tubby Smith no longer in Lubbock, Texas Tech appears like it will continue to play at a very slow pace this season. Junior guard Keenan Evans scored 28 points and made all five of his efforts from beyond the arc in the season opener against Houston Baptist — could this be an early sign that a Red Raider is prepared to break the mold and become the team’s primary scorer?
  • Kansas State – Senior Wesley Iwundu does a little bit of everything for the Wildcats, but top 150 recruit Xavier Sneed will be expected to provide scoring from beyond the arc. With Iwundu’s leadership (17 points), the return of a young core and some sharpshooting from Sneed (4-of-5 from beyond the arc), the Wildcats made easy work of Western Illinois in what could be a good sign for games to come.
  • Baylor – Rico Gathers and Taurean Prince were Baylor’s leading rebounders a year ago, but this year’s team should operate more by rebounding by committee. The Bears only outboarded Oral Roberts by three on Friday night, but five different players logged five or more rebounds in the game. If they can continue to clean up the glass, it will give Manu Lecomte and Al Freeman a chance to use their scoring ability to win games.
Drew Andrews (3 Posts)

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