Sunday, April 12, 2009

2009-10 Preview: Big 12

Big 12 Conference

I've got to start the discussion of the Big 12 with Kansas, a team that was supposed to be rebuilding this season after the National Title in 2008. Despite being so young they captured the Big 12 regular season title, earned a 3 seed in the Tournament, and gave Michigan State the toughest fight they received until the National Title game. And what really has Kansas fans excited is the fact that they might have the entire team back. Nobody from the regular rotation was a Senior, and the only question is whether Cole Aldrich and Sherron Collins are coming back. Expect Collins to come back because he really doesn't seem like a pro prospect due to the fact that he's just too small. Aldrich is an interesting case in that he'd probably be a first round draft pick, but his family seems to really want to be sure that he doesn't enter the draft too early to blow his chances of future success. The reports are that they're not listening to outside sources, and they're only taking their own advice, which means that Aldrich is probably returning as well. They'd be the Big 12 favorites even if Aldrich leaves, but with him they are definitely a legitimate National Title contender for 2010. They even have the perfect recruiting class for a team like this, which is two blue chip kids and nothing else. Bill Self doesn't waste scholarships on mediocre players.

Oklahoma was actually a lot more than just the Blake Griffin show this past year. Willie Warren looked really good in Griffin's absence, and unfortunately seemed to play too passive when Griffin was on the court. Despite the fact that he'd be almost a definite first round draft pick, Warren is saying that he'd like to stay for one more year for that very reason: he wants to show people that he can lead this team. Still, Griffin will go to the NBA, and all in all three of Oklahoma's starters will be gone even if Warren stays. They also lose one of their key bench players. With a Top Ten recruiting class coming in, though, don't expect Oklahoma to fall too far.

I considered Mike Anderson a great up-and-coming coach even before Missouri hired him, and considered him a great pick up. And they are certainly very happy to have him sticking around after being tempted by other offers this off season. He does lose three starters from this year's team, but his squad was very deep and interchangeable. They went 11 players deep, and will still be a very deep team next season. I wouldn't expect them to be quite as good next season, but they should still be a Tournament team. Another team that loses quite a bit but should still be good is Texas, which loses A.J. Abrams and Connor Atchley to graduation. Damion James might go pro, although at this point I think it's more likely that he stays. They'll also still have Justin Mason, Dogus Balbay, Gary Johnson and Justin Pittman. And they have a recruiting class rated 3rd by and 2nd by Texas isn't going anywhere.

Oklahoma State loses two starters and a rotation player to graduation, including star Byron Eaton. James Anderson might go pro, but the indications now seem to be that he is going to stick around until he'll be a lottery pick. But even with the losses, Travis Ford's first full recruiting class is a stellar one: rated 13th overall by Assuming Anderson comes back, Oklahoma State should be right back in the Tournament again next season. Another team that should be back in the Tournament is Texas A&M, which loses leading scorer Josh Carter (13.8 per game) but nothing else. They've got a nice base of Freshmen and Sophomores to build off of, with another nice recruiting class coming in next season. They seem to be moving on just fine without Billy Gillispie.

Two other teams to talk about are Kansas State and Baylor. Kansas State loses only one starter and seems to be moving in the right direction as a program. They don't have the superstars that Kansas and Texas get, but they've got a lot of depth and they'll have a lot of experience. Another team is Baylor, which underperformed this past regular season, as they proved during their nice runs in the Big 12 tournament and the NIT. Curtis Jerrells will be impossible to replace, and Henry Dugat and Kevin Rogers will be tough losses as well, but there's no question that the Baylor program is moving in the right direction under Scott Drew. Their recruiting class isn't Top 25, but it's got some good players. They might not make the Tournament in 2009-10, but they'll be at least a Bubble team.

Overall, here's how I see the conference playing out:

1. Kansas - This should be unanimous. They might be the preseason #1 team in the nation.
2. Texas - They do lose two very important players, but they've got a ton of talent coming in. They're going to lack experience, but they might have the most pure talent in the entire conference.
3. Texas A&M - Who would have thought that Texas A&M was going to get the best out of the Billy Gillispie divorce?
4. Oklahoma - Willie Warren was overshadowed by Blake Griffin this past season, but he'll be an All-American quality player next season.
5. Missouri - I can't drop this team too far even with the losses to graduation. This team succeeded because of the system more than the players, and the system will be back.
6. Oklahoma State - Possibly a little bit of a rebuilding year, but with so much talent it's hard to see this team not getting back to the Tournament.
7. Kansas State - Should be better than last season.
8. Baylor - Could potentially make a Tournament run if they can find somebody who is half of the ball handler and creator that Curtis Jerrells was.
9. Nebraska - Slowly improving under Doc Sadler. Could 2010 be their first Tournament appearance since 1998? It's unlikely, but possible.
10. Colorado - A young team that is starting to show some promise. They won't be a Tournament contender in 2010, but they're moving in the right direction.
11. Texas Tech - The Red Raiders really need to start focusing on recruiting. They just cannot compete in the Big 12 without quality players, and they don't seem to even have any in the pipeline at all. The heat will start to turn up on Pat Knight if he doesn't turn this situation around soon.
12. Iowa State - Last season got off to a bad start when Wesley Johnson transferred out to Syracuse, and I just don't see any bright spots for this team right now. There is going to be a huge gap between the top and bottom of the Big 12 next season, so while Iowa State could potentially finish 11th or 10th, they're not even in the same league as the teams at the top of the conference, or even in the middle.


Anonymous said...

Wow - not that your overall analysis is bad, but you have a serious blind spot with regard to the Cyclones of Iowa State.

Take a closer look at Iowa State in the Big XII this year. They return a legitimate lottery pick, one of the top 5 players in the country in Craig Brackins. They pick up Marquis Gilstrap, a probable future NBA player. They return Lucca Staiger, who this summer improved enough to make the A1 German National.

ISU also returns their point guard, who had one of the best A/TO ratios in the league. They have a player coming, who you mentioned, in Chris Colvin who will bolster a now experienced back court and two legitmate centers, one of which, Hamilton, made vast improvement as a freshman and added size and muscle ending up with an NBA size body at 6'11" and 260+. There is also LaRon Dendy - the 63rd best player in the class of 2007 who most recently was recruited by Kentucky and South Carolina out of community college - hmmmm... he might be as good as advertised, arrived on campus early in the summer and has been playing with the team for several months now.

Can a team loaded with at least 3, possibly 4 likely future NBA players (Hamilton on size alone, Brackins on skill, Gilstrap on skill, and choose from Staiger, Dendy (6'9" 230lbs) and Colvin) be the worst team in the Big XII? Not saying the Cyclones will win the conference, but there is no way, excluding injuries, they will finish last. They have added too much athleticism and size to be a patsy.

Game to watch - vs. Duke January 6 in Chicago. May tell us if they are going to do well in conference play.

My prediction is no worse than 6th in the league, dancing in March and a solid win over a Big 10 team in the regular season. And watch out in 2010-2011 if Barnes decides to stay home...

Jeff said...

I know that this is the time of year that everybody is overly optimistic, but this is even a stretch for that. Craig Brackins is indeed a potential lottery pick, but nobody else on Iowa State is even being watched by NBA scouts right now. Nobody makes the NBA just because they're 6'11", 260+. Do you know how many teams in the NCAA have players that size? If you've seen anybody who ranks a non-Brackins Iowa State player as one of the Top 50 players in their class, send it to me, because I haven't seen it.

Colvin is the highest rated new player that Iowa State has - by far - and he's rated the 99th best recruit in the '09 class by That's a quality recruit for sure, but let's not cash his first NBA check, okay?

Lucca Staiger did play with the German national team this summer, but he also played with their U-20 and U-18 clubs in previous summers, so from my perspective he's just made a natural progression.

Look, Brackins is a star - he's the one proven elite talent that Iowa State has. But he was a star last year, and the team still stunk. Staiger and Hamilton were also on that team. So were a bunch of quality seniors who were key players and all graduated (Sean Haluska and Bryan Peterson being the two most prominent).

Colvin is a quality recruit, but he would be redshirting or else earning 5-8 minutes per game for a team like Kansas or Texas - you can't compare him to the type of talent you see at the top of the conference. And Dendy and Gilstrap are both JC players who got some interest from other BCS conference schools, but I've seen no evidence that either are truly elite. You make a deceptive argument by saying that Dendy was recruited by Kentucky - he wouldn't even get a returned phone call from the current Kentucky regime, and you know that.

I'm glad that you're hopeful about the future of Iowa State basketball. I liked those teams in the 90s and into the first year or two of this century - there's no reason that Iowa State can't get to that level again. But they're going to need to recruit more elite talent. Right now there's no evidence that they will be any better than they were last year. And assuming that Brackins goes pro, I don't see why Iowa State is any better in 2010-11 either, unless a blue chip 2010 recruiting class falls out of the sky.

Anonymous said...

I may be a little biased because I'm from Kansas, but I find my opinion realistic when I look at my teams. I'm never afraid to admit when my team is overrated or bad. I honestly believe it could be KU #1 and my team K State #2 or #3. The talent at K state is extremely under-rated and coaching is over-rated. The only thing that could keep state out of the top 5 is the coaching.

Anonymous said...

"Colvin is the highest rated new player that Iowa State has - by far "

No offense, but that alone just proves how stupid you are with this analysis.

Marquis Gilstrap was named the 26th best player between JUCO players AND High School players for 2009. Um, what? Yes, look it up. His score from ESPN is a 96 out of a possible 100. He averaged a double double in an actual tough JC conference.

Not to mention the Big 12 already named him the Preseason newcomer of the year the other day and Doug Gottlieb named him one of the 10 "freshman" he's excited about.

Do your f*cking homework next time.


Anonymous said...

Mr Iowa State what i think he is politely trying to say is that you still suck. And watch your language junior.
Go Hawks

Anonymous said...

Great. Good thing the coaches, who know much more about basketball than anyone on this site, predicted the Cyclones will do much better than this blog predicted.

Maybe I should only let coaches/media polls affect me in the future. If you were actually good at prediction, you wouldn't be blogging about it on this site, right? Maybe you'd be predicting for a real media agency.

And junior? Good thing you can tell my age from an anonymous internet post.

Jeff said...

I have a fairly lax posting policy, but there is a line that your childish insults are beginning to cross. If your next post does not improve from the last couple, I'm going to start deleting.

Anonymous said...

iowa state has athletes at the wing position now...which it hasn't had in a long time. antwon oliver is a guy to watch. hes gonna do some great things. i see us cyclones finishing in the 4-7 spot in the big 12...and a legit shot at making the NIT and a possible NCAA berth depending on how our conference tournament goes.

JonEveland said...

Im pretty sure that the above mentioned seniors(Peterson, Haluska) didn'treally contribute much at all to the team(9.1 PPG). Even though they were good ROLE players, Colvin and Gilstrap will combine for @ least 20 PPG. WOW- I can't believe you have them last, man! Brackins will avg 20+ PPG and 10+ rebounds a games and be unstoppable in and outside the paint. Not to mention swingman Staiger knocking 3's at a 40+% clip...OH and don't forget Garret to avg a solid 10-15 PPG and 6+ APG season. You cant disregard someone that is 6ft 11in and 260+ lbs with Hamilton in the paint. I guarentee that Gilstrap will avg @ least 15 PPG. This is the deepest team coach Mac has had @ ISU so far. This years ISU team is gonna be this season surprise team in the BIG 12. I predict them to be no worse than #6 in the conference. They will make the tourney this year...21-10 record (9-7) in BIG 12

Anonymous said...

Very underrated...k-state...Please do not sleep on these guys out of Manhattan, Kansas...They have the potential to make a serious run this year...The guard play has been very solid in the past with Pullen and Clemente...Add a few big men in the mix to open the floor up and there may be trouble for the competition...Not making any predictions, just do not sleep on those guys...

Anonymous said...

jeff you sir are an idoit you should really try to do a better job on making predictions than going off of last years records alone, and to the hawk fan i would try to get a refund on those season tickets.

Jeff said...

A lot of hostility from Iowa State fans who clearly are not regular readers. Is there some post on an Iowa State message board that I don't know about or something?

As a rule of thumb, guys, anytime somebody starts a sentence with "you sir are an idoit" you can be pretty certain that you can ignore the latter half of that sentence.

Anonymous said...

who said that i was a clone fan i was talking about the longhorns, and it does seem that these "predictions" were based solely off of last years records. also im with the cyclone fan you really shoud do your research before posting something like this. you say that this is "The most honest and in-depth NCAA prediction source on the web" that i call bullcrap.

Jeff said...

I'm going to go out on a limb and guess that you saw last year's standings, which I put on top of this post, and thought that those were my projections for this season. And if you really thought that I was projecting all of the teams this coming season to have the EXACT SAME record and RPI as last season, well, you would think that would raise questions with regards to a blog that is well-respected and linked all over the college basketball blogosphere, and where clearly a ton of research and time is put in.

I am very lax as far as leaving comments up, and so I'll leave up your insults, but in general I use the comments as a way to learn. And in a general sense, over the several years I've had this blog, I've learned entirely from people who bring knowledge that they have to their comments. I have never learned a single thing from someone whose posting style was to fire away with insults and foul language.

If there is some thing which you think I've got wrong then tell me what it is, and give me a logical/factual argument. If you can't make that then don't waste time with your insults. I've gotten way worse in my time on this blog, and in general the people who are the loudest and most obnoxious are also the ones who are most likely to be wrong. The people who call me stupid and call this blog a joke are never the ones who come back and say "Gee, I guess you were right" after they've been proven wrong.

So please, if you have knowledge to add then add it. But if your next post is more insults and foul language then do not expect another response from me.

Anonymous said...

I'm going to comment on this again at the end of the NCAA season and then you can tell me where Iowa State is in the Big 12 standings :)

Josh said...

I agree with a few of the other commenter's when they say Iowa State should finish no less than 6th in the Big 12.

Gilstrap has looked real legit so far. Him and Brackins clogging the paint have allowed Staigger and Marquette transfer, Christopher to get plenty of wide-open looks from trey land.

Anonymous said...

Being a Cyclone fan, I am used to this. All you mentioned was that there was no more Wesley Johnson. That shows that you haven't researched the team at all and you base your info on history. We live in the present and you might want to open your eyes. By the way, look at Oklahoma's record. You are currently way off with them. You will see that the Cyclones are definitely in the "same league" as the rest of the Big 12.

Anonymous said...

It has been fun reading these posts from last fall. Nice call Jeff on ISU, but not so hot on KSU, still down on them? I know a lot of us doubted that Martin's coaching style would be successful, but he looks good so far. As for all of you ISU fans, well reality bites, eh?