Around The Big 12:
- One Foot Out The Door: The big news in the Big 12 is that it’s no longer the Big 12. This season will be the final season with the Big 12 as we know it. Nebraska departs for the Big Ten and Colorado will eventually make the jump to the Pac-10, either in 2011 or 2012. Either way, the transformation in the conference has major implications as far as basketball is concerned, as the unbalanced schedule that has existed since the league’s inception goes away, and a new 18-game conference slate could become the norm. In an ideal world, no more excuses – everybody plays everybody at home and on the road from here on out.
- New Coaches: Two teams in the conference will have new head coaches in 2010. Colorado lost Jeff Bzdelik to Wake Forest and his self-described dream job. The timing couldn’t have been worse for Colorado, as the program seemed to be gaining some traction, and any time there is a lack of stability, it can hurt a program. In terms of the hire itself, Tad Boyle from Northern Colorado doesn’t necessarily have the name recognition, but he was able to keep all the current pieces in place for Colorado and in the short term, that’s very important. Things at Iowa State didn’t necessarily shake out quite as well. The Cyclones are bringing back “The Mayor,” Fred Hoiberg, who has an extremely limited coaching resume, but tremendous amount of clout with the Iowa State faithful. The program lost the top two players from a year ago and then some. With the new start and a fresh face on the bench, it’s a full-blown rebuilding job awaiting an Ames legend.
- Diaper Dandies: The Big 12 has made a name for itself as a league that can reload. This year is no exception; around the league, a host of high-profile recruits join various programs, ensuring the viability of the league as a basketball power for the future. Perry Jones at Baylor, Josh Selby at Kansas, Tony Mitchell at Missouri and both Tristan Thompson and Cory Joseph at Texas join each respective program as big-time national recruits. The only problem right now is that both Tiger and Jayhawk fans are awaiting eligibility news related to their blue chip talents.
- An I-70 Battle: Three teams situated on or very close to Interstate 70 look poised to battle for the conference title. In years past, the gripe from the Big 12 South has always been the competitively unbalanced schedule and the built-in advantage that it provided Kansas in winning the conference. In 2010, three North teams in Kansas, Kansas State and Missouri all appear to be legitimate contenders for the conference crown. Mike Anderson and Frank Martin have done a tremendous job in recruiting players to their respective programs, developing talent and getting the buy-in that it takes to step onto the national stage. Both appear to be inching ever closer to Bill Self and the Jayhawks and the three-way “rivalry” will no doubt play a major role in who wins the Big 12.
- Kansas: When you lose three starters, the common belief is that you will take a step back. With Kansas however, the cupboard is far from bare. The Jayhawks were easily one of the deepest teams in the country a year ago and while losing Sherron Collins, Xavier Henry and Cole Aldrich certainly isn’t an easy pill to swallow, Kansas returns a Big 12 POY candidate in Marcus Morris, depth and talent at every position, and they add one of the top recruits in the country in McDonald’s All-American Josh Selby, who as of this writing, has yet to be cleared to play. Two players who could prove critical to success in 2010 are Markieff Morris and Tyshawn Taylor. Both have enjoyed success off and on in their careers thus far, but neither has found the consistency or leadership on the court that’s necessary to be viewed as a leader. With the turnover in the program, the opportunity is there for one or both to make that leap.
- Kansas State: The Wildcats return a good amount of talent from their Elite Eight team of a year ago. Jacob Pullen and Curtis Kelly could easily represent the best inside-outside combination in the league. But the biggest reason to not doubt Kansas State is their coach, Frank Martin. A hire that was highly criticized when it was made, Martin’s move to the head job in Manhattan has proven to be a great one. His teams play an extremely hard, tough, physical brand of basketball, and as a coach, he’s found a way to put together a team that buys into that style. The biggest question mark will be finding a way to replace Denis Clemente, arguably the most athletic player in the Big 12 a year ago. Martin will look to sophomores Rodney McGruder and Wally Judge to step up and provide support for the Wildcats as they battle for the conference title
- Missouri: Mike Anderson has stocked up on quality depth and added the top recruiting class in the conference to boot. While the eligibility of blue-chip talent Tony Mitchell remains a question mark, the Tigers have made another major addition on the interior in the top ranked junior college forward, Ricardo Ratliffe. The biggest thing the Tigers will have to replace is leadership. The departures of seniors J.T. Tiller, Keith Ramsey and Zaire Taylor aren’t major blows in terms of production, but they are in terms of leadership. All three were part of the initial transition from the Quin Snyder era to Anderson and all three were in the top four in minutes played a year ago. The talent in Columbia is there for a Big 12 run, the question is who will lead them? Read the rest of this entry »