Tuesday, 30 October 2007

2007 Big 12 Basketball Predictions

After looking at the ACC a couple days ago, it's time to weigh in on the Big 12. This is a conference that has a couple teams that appear to be above the rest (Kansas and Texas), and a whole lot of teams that are bunched together in the 3-10 area. Going to be a very interesting season in the Big 12.

Baylor - Everything is dependent on the guard play. They're led by Curtis Jerrells and Aaron Bruce, two experienced players that will carry a big load. Also look for for freshman guard LaceDarius Dunn, a top 30 prospect. The guards are good, and they'll have to be, because Baylor is extremely thin up front.

Colorado - Leading scorer Richard Roby is back, but it could be a long year for Colorado. Certainly things are on the upswing with the excellent hiring of Jeff Bzdelik, but it will take time. They are simply not talented enough at this point to be able to realistically compete every night in the Big 12.

Iowa St. - I really like Greg McDermott as a coach, especially as he did a lot with a little last year in his first season with the Cyclones. There might not be much more progress record-wise because of an inexperienced backcourt, but there is a lot of talent in the frontcourt. They're led by talented sophomore Wesley Johnson and senior Jiri Hubalek, who were both very good last year. But things should be even better this year, with the addition of top 20 recruit Criag Backins.

Kansas - They might be the most talented team in the country, and they certainly appear to be head and shoulders above the rest of the conference. Assuming Brandon Rush comes back 100%, they're certainly one of the first names mentioned in the national title contenders discussion. The trio of Mario Chalmers/Brandon Rush/Darrell Arthur might be the best trio in the country. Also, it speaks to their depth that the guy that might be their most explosive scorer, Sherron Collins, will probably be coming off the bench once Rush is back.

Kansas St. - Bob Huggins is gone, but they still have the two things that they need most to be successful this season... Michael Beasley and Bill Walker. Beasley comes into his freshman campaign already as one of the most talented players in the country, and should be a large contributor in what will likely be his only season in Manhattan. Bill Walker actually played 6 games last year, but is still technically a freshman after receiving a medical redshirt. He's extremely athletic, and provided he is 100% after his knee injury (and reports say that he is), he should compete for All-Big 12 honors.

Missouri - Mike Anderson had an excellent first season and will look to continue on with that, and I think he will. He's got one of the toughest styles in the NCAA to play against with his "40 Minutes of Hell," and it should be even tougher with a full year to put it in and have the players learn it. One player to watch is Keon Lawrence, who might lead Mizzou in scoring and could be one of the most improved players in the conference.

Nebraska - Doc Sadler is doing a solid job, but it's going to take time as this looks to be another tough year for the Cornhuskers. However, not all is bad, as star C Aleks Maric should have a little more help. Maric quietly averaged 18.5 PPG and 8.7 RPG last year. But Nebraska will go as far as their freshmen PGs will take them... and that's usually not really a great thing.

Oklahoma - Jeff Capel is going to build something solid here, but it will take time. They struggled to find offense last year, and they still might be a year away. But things are looking up, especially with the addition of freshman Blake Griffin. He joins Longar Longar in the post in what should be a formidable duo. If the backcourt is better and Griffin is as good as advertised, it's certainly not out of the realm of possibility that the Sooners could challenge for an NCAA berth. However, an NIT trip appears more likely.

Oklahoma St. - They'll be a pretty inexperienced bunch, especially after losing Mario Boggan and JamesOn Curry. The centerpiece is Obi Manuelo, who was having an excellent freshman campaign befor breaking his leg. Another key returner is wing man Marcus Dove, who is one of the best defensive players in the country. Other than that, a lot of it will depend on how quickly the other guys develop... I think they could be a year away.

Texas - Kevin Durant is gone, but basically everyone else returns to what should be a talented Longhorns team. The first guys everyone thinks about are DJ Augustin and AJ Abrams, two talented guards that can put up a lot of points in a hurry. But the guy I really like is Damion James... he was excellent last year playing out of position in the post, and he should have a little more time this year playing the wing, which is more natural for him. Either way, the Longhorns will again challenge for 2nd in the Big 12.

Texas A&M - They lost Acie Law and Billy Gillespie, but that doesn't necessarily mean they're going to take a step back. The frontcourt looks very good, with Big 12 POY candidate Joseph Jones joined by top 10 recruit DeAndre Jordan. That will be an extremely formidable frontline, maybe the best in the Big 12. The backcourt is not hurting for experience either, as key contributors Donald Sloan, Dominique Kirk, and Josh Carter all return. They really shouldn't have too much trouble adjusting for new coach Mark Turgeon, and they'll be right back in the Big Dance for the 3rd straight year.

Texas Tech - Tech is an interesting team that their might be some mixed opinions about. On the one hand, start guard Jarrius Jackson and his 20 PPG are gone. But they should have a lot more depth this year, and they'll be led by do-it-all Martin Zeno. Plus, they still have Bobby Knight, and he's pretty good. The key could be freshman PG John Roberson, who looks like he might get a chance to start. If he can perform well, Tech will be right on the Tourney bubble.

All-Conference Team
Michael Beasley, Kansas St.
Darrell Arthur, Kansas
Martin Zeno, Texas Tech
Mario Chalmers, Kansas
DJ Augustin, Texas

Player of the Year: Mario Chalmers, Kansas

Freshman of the Year: Michael Beasley, Kansas St.

Predicted Order of Finish:
1. Kansas
2. Texas
3. Texas A&M
4. Kansas St.
5. Texas Tech
6. Missouri
7. Baylor
8. Oklahoma
9. Oklahoma St.
10. Iowa St.
11. Nebraska
12. Colorado