Brian Goodman is an RTC correspondent for the Big 12. You can follow him on Twitter @BSGoodman.
The sweet smell of college basketball strengthened Thursday afternoon as the Big 12 coaches released their preseason all-conference team, Player of the Year, Newcomer of the Year and Freshman of the Year selections. Let’s break down the conference’s picks:
Preseason Player of the Year: Marcus Smart, Oklahoma State: Smart, who surprisingly returned to the Cowboys after averaging 15.4 points and 5.8 rebounds in his freshman campaign, is the incumbent Big 12 Player of the Year, so it’s hard to be too surprised at his unanimous selection from the Big 12 coaches. Others may argue that blue-chip Jayhawk freshman Andrew Wiggins would be a more worthy pick given his higher ceiling, but we have to look at recent history for context, and that history shows that Big 12 coaches just haven’t been crazy about adding pressure to hyped incoming freshmen. For instance, neither Kevin Durant nor Michael Beasley, both of whom faced their own lofty expectations coming into the conference, were named as the Preseason POY in 2006 and 2007, respectively. On the other hand, the fact that both Durant and Beasley ended up fitting the bill as not only Big 12 but National POY candidates suggests that perhaps the voting body should be more open to the idea. In the end, it’s hard to fault the coaches for going with a guy who’s done it all before in Marcus Smart, but we’re excited to see how the season plays out.
Preseason Newcomer Of The Year: Tarik Black, Kansas: As a transfer, Black makes a ton of sense here when you consider Bill Self’s successful history with big men. Granted, Black is already in exceptional shape and will only have one year to work with Self and famed strength and conditioning coach Andrea Hudy, but he figures to provide plenty of muscle (at 6’9″/260 lbs.) and experience (he started 60 of 102 games at Memphis) on an otherwise young Kansas lineup.
Preseason Freshman Of The Year: Andrew Wiggins, Kansas: By now, you’ve probably heard all the talking points: Wiggins is perhaps a generational superstar who is as physically talented as he is level-headed and modest, and we as college basketball fans should be thankful for the one-and-done rule enabling him to pass through this season. We don’t disagree, and this accolade is just the latest for the 6’8″ Canadian small forward. We may not necessarily see eye-popping stats, given some questions that scouts have raised about his still-developing aggressiveness and Bill Self’s preference for balance on the offensive end. However, we do expect to see some memorable plays on both ends and are looking forward to what should be a big-time year. How will he adjust to playing in the national spotlight?
Preseason All-Big 12 Team