All-Big 12 Team
G: Devonte’ Graham, Kansas
G: Trae Young, Oklahoma
F: Jeffrey Carroll, Oklahoma State
F: Mo Bamba, Texas
C: Vlad Brodziansky, TCU
Bill Self and the Kansas Jayhawks will come into the season ranked in the top ten, deservedly so. Kansas has won thirteen straight Big 12 titles under Self, and I don’t see that streak stopping in 2017. Devonte’ Graham (13.4 ppg, 4.1 apg) could contend for all-american honors, and Kansas has recruited as well as any team in the Big 12. Billy Preston fills the role as the probable one-and-done that decided to play his college year in Lawrence, and Malik Newman, a fellow former McDonald’s All-American, transferred to the program after a year in the SEC. This team is probably outside of my preseason Final Four, but no doubt, they are contenders.
2. West Virginia
West Virginia has flirted with national title contention on and off for years under Bob Huggins. Huggins has gone 229-119 in his ten years as the coach of the Mountaineers, and while WVU has always flirted with success, the Mountaineers have never made it past the Sweet Sixteen or won a Big 12 Title, although I have a feeling they could have if not for Bill Self’s Jayhawks sitting at the top of the conference for each of the past ten years (and more). Last year’s Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year returns for his senior season, Jevon Carter (13.5 ppg, 5.0 rpg), as does fellow senior Daxter Miles Jr. (8.8 ppg, 2.5 rpg).
TCU came on late into the 2017 season, and while they place in the bottom half of the bottom half of the Big 12, they knocked off Kansas in the conference tournament, last year, and went on to win the NIT Championship, beating Georgia Tech by over 30 in the final of the tournament. The Horned Frogs return all of their starters from that team, including Vladimir Brodziansky (14.1 ppg, 5.7 rpg) who made my preseason All-Big 12 team this year after he made the All-Defensive team last season. While still young, Jaylen Fisher (9.9 ppg, 1.9 rpg) had a big year as a freshman, and Brodziansky and Fisher could lead the Frogs to a NCAA Tournament appearance.
Oklahoma went 11-20 last year and finished second to last in the conference, falling wins short of even qualifying for NIT consideration, but I’m going out on a limb and saying they’ll make the Big Dance. Trae Young is the highest rated recruit that has came to Norman since Lon Kruger took over half-a-decade ago, and sophomore Kameron McGusty (10.9 ppg, 2.2 rpg) was a standout among a crowded group of freshman in the Big 12, and he decided to come back for a second season. The Sooners aren’t without any veteran experience however, that will be provided by Khadeem Lattin (8.4 ppg, 6.3 rpg), the 6-9 senior is always a threat to hit double digits in two categories.
Baylor had one of their best years under Scott Drew during the 2016-17 season, and while they lose double-double machine Jonathan Motley, who averaged 17 points and ten boards per game last season, this still is a tournament team. Manu Lecomte (12.2 ppg, 3.8 apg) will step into the role of the leading scorer for the Bears. Lecomte is a three point specialist, and as a senior, should provide some leadership to the team. Jo Lual-Acull Jr. (9.2 ppg, 6.7 rpg), who led the conference in blocks last season, is the other senior voice on the team and the seven footer could contend for all-conference honors after being an honorable mention last season.
Texas finished last in the conference last year, but if Shaka Smart is going to turn things around, he has to do it soon, because we saw how Texas administrators reacted to Charlie Strong at the football program. Texas has gone 31-35 in the two years under Smart, and while the Longhorn’s best player is moving on to the NBA, what Smart brought in during the recruiting cycle might outweigh the departure of Jarrett Allen. The Longhorns bring in the #3 overall recruit in this recruiting cycle, and while he is the only top-50 player to go to Austin, Smart brought in #51 and #52. This team is going to have some freshman playing key roles, but I see this as the year Texas makes it back to the big dance.