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Big 12 Preview

November 12, 2003 Conference Notes No Comments

Big 12 Conference Preview

by Mitch Schneider

After enduring an off-season full of accusations, complications and migrations, not many may remember the fact that the Big 12 conference had two participants in last year’s Final Four. Clearly, the Big 12 was top dog last season, and even though Syracuse and the Big East claimed the top prize, the Big 12 was clearly a cut above the rest.

While the faces may have changed and the storylines reworked, the Big 12 is still a Doberman among the rest of the mutts. The conference could very well send six teams back to the Dance for a second straight year, and will no doubt have a say in the battle for Number One.

That being said, here’s a team-by-team look at the Big 12 conference, in order of expected finish for the 2003-04 campaign. And please keep in mind, after an off-season from Hell, the Big 12’s bite is far worse than its bark.

Mitch’s Big 12 pre-season awards

All Conference first team
G Keith Langford, Kansas
G Andre Emmett, Texas Tech
F Wayne Simien, Kansas
F Rickey Paulding, Missouri
C Arthur Johnson, Missouri

All Conference second team
G Antoine Wright, Texas A&M
G Michel Morandais, Colorado
F Kevin Bookout, Oklahoma
F Brandon Mouton, Texas
C David Harrison, Colorado

MVP: Rickey Paulding, Missouri

Top Defender: Royal Ivey, Texas

Top Scorer: Andre Emmett, Texas Tech

Newcomer of the year:
J.R. Giddens, G/F Kansas

Coach of the year:
Quin Snyder, Missouri

Coach on the hot seat:
Ricardo Patton, Colorado

1. Missouri Tigers (22-11, 9-7/Tie-fifth)

Projected starters:
G Jimmy McKinney
G Randy Pulley
F Rickey Paulding
F Travon Bryant
C Arthur Johnson

Key players lost:
G Ricky Clemons
G Najeeb Echols

Non-conference schedule includes: Indiana, Gonzaga, Iowa

Despite the Tigers rocky off-season (Quin Snyder was briefly suspended and guard Ricky Clemons dismissed), this year’s Missouri squad seems primed and poised to bring home its first-ever Big 12 Championship. All-America candidates Johnson and Paulding highlight an experienced roster full of size and athleticism, while newcomers Jason Conley and Linas Kleiza provide plenty of punch off the pine. If coach Snyder can keep the troops focused amid all the recent distractions, Missouri is Final Four-caliber.

2. Texas Longhorns (26-7, 13-3/second)

Projected starters:
G Kenton Paulino
G Royal Ivey
F Brandon Mouton
F/C Brad Buckman
F/C James Thomas

Key player lost:
G T.J. Ford

Non-conference schedule includes: Arizona, Duke, Xavier, Wake Forest

Texas returns four starters from last season’s Final Four team. As luck would have it, the fifth was National Player of the Year, T.J. Ford, and his early jump to the NBA leaves a huge void in Austin. Sophomore guard Paulino will get first crack at replacing Ford at the point, and if he falters, JuCo transfer Edgar Moreno will get his chance to shine. Regardless of whoever mans the one-spot, the Longhorns still have an all-league line-up with Thomas, Buckman, Mouton and Ivey. The only question remains, who will get them the ball?

3. Kansas Jayhawks (30-8, 14-2/first)

Projected starters:
G Aaron Miles
G Keith Langford
G/F J.R. Giddens
F Jeff Graves
F Wayne Simien

Key players lost:
G Kirk Hinrich
F Nick Collison

Non-conference schedule includes: Michigan State, Stanford, Oregon

The word “rebuilding” isn’t exactly a common utterance around Allen Fieldhouse. But after losing two of the greatest Jayhawks ever (Kirk Hinrich and Nick Collison), not to mention a coach synonymous with success (Roy Williams), the Lawrence lexicon has significantly changed. The current version of KU may not look a whole lot like last year’s NCAA runner-up, but new coach Bill Self has a gifted nucleus in Simien, Langford and Miles to work with, along with a future lottery pick in J.R. Giddens. Kansas still has a truck-load of talent, but it’s anyone’s guess as to how far this car will go.

4. Oklahoma Sooners (27-7, 12-4/third)

Projected starters:
G Andrew Lavender
G De’Angelo Alexander
F Kevin Bookout
F Jason Detrick
C Jabahri Brown

Key players lost:
G Hollis Price
G Quannas White
F Ebi Ere

Non-conference schedule includes: Tulsa, Michigan State, Purdue, Princeton, Connecticut

The loss of guards Hollis Price and Quannas White will certainly hamstring the Sooners this season. Oklahoma will definitely miss the pair’s defense and perimeter scoring, as well as the invaluable leadership they provided. Coach Sampson is banking on Lavender, a 5-7 rocket, to take over the point duties. However, he isn’t much of a scorer, and OU desperately needs production from this position. The Sooners still have a tough, formidable starting five, especially with Bookout and Brown in the post. But offensively, this team is suspect, which could make for an up-and-down season in Norman.

5. Colorado Buffaloes (20-12, 9-7/Tie-fifth)

Projected starters:
G Antoine McGee
G/F Blair Wilson
G/F Michel Morandais
F Lamar Harris
C David Harrison

Key players lost:
G James Wright
F Stephane Pelle

Non-conference schedule includes: Fresno State, California, Colorado State, Utah

The Buffs are coming off just their second 20-win season and NCAA Tournament appearance in the last 33 years. Colorado may be even better this time around, if it can get some solid minutes from the point guard spot. McGee, the incumbent, is decent in terms of passing and defending, but he has about as much scoring prowess as a Tibetan monk. Despite this limitation, CU has a future NBA-center (Harrison) on its roster, along with an explosive guard (Morandais) and a constant threat from outside (Wilson). If this team can improve on its 1-7 conference road record last year and get some consistent guard play, the Buffs may roam to their second straight dance.

6. Texas Tech Red Raiders (22-13, 6-10/tie-seventh)

Projected starters:
G Andre Emmett
G Ronald Ross
G/F Michael Milton
F Devonne Giles
F/C Robert Tomaszek

Key players lost:
G Will Chavis
F Kasib Powell
F Pawel Storozynski

Non-conference schedule includes: New Mexico, Iowa, Minnesota, Ohio State

Andre Emmett’s decision to return to Lubbock for his senior year automatically puts Tech back into Big 12 contention. Emmett is as good a scorer the conference has seen in quite some time, and his continual production will take some pressure off the Red Raiders’ below-average post game. Unfortunately for Bobby Knight and company, Emmett is just one man, and the General will need another horse to carry the load. Where this colt will come from, however, is anybody’s guess, and this development may decide TTU’s post-season fate.

7. Oklahoma State Cowboys (22-10, 10-6/fourth)

Projected starters:
G Tony Allen
G Stevie Graham
G/F Joey Graham
F Ivan McFarlin
F Jason Miller

Key players lost:
G Cheyne Gadson
G Victor Williams
G Melvin Sanders

Non-conference schedule includes: Pepperdine, Arkansas

The Cowboys lost a lot in Victor Williams and Cheyne Gadson, but Eddie Sutton still has a team that will play hard every night. Allen is a stud, and his play will ultimately determine just how good this team could be. The brothers Graham will also have a big say in how well O-kie State will fare, with Stevie controlling the perimeter and Joey in the lane. As is usually the case, the Cowboys aren’t the biggest team around and this will hurt them on the glass. But Sutton gets more from his players than any other coach in the league and this will lead to some quality wins in Stillwater.

8. Texas A&M Aggies (14-14, 6-10/tie-seventh)

Projected starters:
G Bobby Leach
G/F Antoine Wright
F Jesse King
F Nick Anderson
C Andy Slocum

Key players lost:
G Bernard King
G Bradley Jackson

Non-conference schedule includes: Tennessee

Wright proved his freshman year he is one of the best players in the NCAA, and A&M will need him to be even better this season if the Aggies hope to finally break .500 in Big 12 play. Wright must quickly assert himself as a team leader and incorporate everyone into the offense for this team to be successful. If he can manage to do that and elevate the games of King, Anderson and Slocum, Texas A&M will be dangerous. If Wright, a sophomore, can’t handle the pressure, A&M has no shot at post-season play.

9. Iowa State Cyclones (17-14, 5-11/tie-ninth)

Projected starters:
G Jake Sullivan
G Tim Barnes
G/F Marcus Jefferson
F/C Jackson Vroman
C Jared Homan

Key players lost:
G Adam Haluska
C Chris Alexander

Non-conference schedule includes: Xavier, Virginia, Iowa

To put it mildly, it’s been a tough off-season for Iowa State. From former coach Larry Eustachy’s well-documented troubles to the recent arrests of Vroman and Barnes, the skies have been rather gray for the troubled Cyclones. Fortunately for ISU fans, the program is in stable hands with Wayne Morgan, and the starting five is actually pretty good with Sullivan leading the charge. As a result, Iowa State could turn some heads early on this season, assuming the Cyclones can keep their own heads on straight.

10. Kansas State Wildcats (13-17, 4-12/eleventh)

Projected starters:
G Tim Ellis
G Frank Richards
F Marques Hayden
F Cartier Martin
F Jeremiah Massey

Key players lost:
G Gilson DeJesus
F Pervis Pasco
F Matt Siebrandt

Non-conference schedule includes: Wyoming, Oregon State, Saint Louis

The Wildcats pulled off one of the more impressive coups in recent memory when this lackluster program quietly snatched two of the nation’s top recruits. Texas phenoms Martin and Dez Willingham will greatly improve a Kansas State squad that has never posted a winning record in Big 12 conference play. While K-State may not pull off the feat this time around, Jim Wooldrige’s team is capable of the occasional upset assuming his untested frontcourt can attack the glass and score some points.

11. Nebraska Cornhuskers (11-19, 3-13/twelfth)

Projected starters:
G Jake Muhleisen
G Corey Simms
G Nate Johnson
F Andrew Drevo
F/C John Turek

Key player lost:
G Brennon Clemmons

Non-conference schedule includes: Arizona State, Creighton, Tennessee, Minnesota

As is usually the case in Lincoln, Nebraska has a gritty group of undersized players who will win a few games, but not enough to make a considerable dent in the college basketball landscape. Drevo, Johnson and Muhleisen will be looked upon to provide much of the scoring punch for Nebraska, but coach Barry Collier needs another body or two to emerge for this team to have any shot at contending in the Big 12. If the Huskers hope to beat the odds and earn their first dance card since 1998, they desperately need to improve their atrocious field-goal percentage (.398) and scoring average (63.3) from a year ago.

12. Baylor Bears (14-14, 5-11/tenth)

Projected starters:
G Ellis Kidd, Jr.
G Matt Sayman
F Harvey Thomas
F Terrance Thomas
C R.T. Guinn

Key players lost:
G John Lucas III
G Kenny Taylor
F Lawrence Roberts

Non-conference schedule includes: Purdue

After incurring the worst off-season in college basketball history, any victory Baylor experiences this year – be it moral or otherwise – will be monumental. Since the meat of last year’s team either graduated or transferred, first year coach Scott Drew doesn’t have a whole lot to work with. Still, despite BU’s short bench and noticeable lack of scoring, the new season signals the end of Baylor’s hellish 2003, and that in itself is something to look forward to.


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