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5 (way too) early Big 12 hoops predictions for 2010-11
I wanted to see more from Big 12 hoops squads this March.
The Big 12 was the No. 1-ranked RPI conference in the country entering the 2010 NCAA Tournament.
The Final Four will begin this weekend in Indianapolis, however, with each Big 12 team watching from home. Or simply not watching.
Can the Big 12 be considered the best conference without a Final Four representative? If West Virginia wins the title, it would be hard to argue with Big East superiority this season.
I'm guessing most Big 12 hoops fans have shifted the majority of their attention from the tournament to the future after their teams were bounced. The questions creating a buzz:
• What recruits are we getting next year and who will make immediate impact?
• Which current players, if any, will leave early for the NBA?
With the future in mind, here are my way too early predictions on the five best Big 12 teams when the 2010-2011 season rolls around. I’ll include possible starting lineups for each five (not including recruits who haven’t signed).
1. Kansas (33-3 overall, 15-1 Big 12 in 2009-2010)
Yes, Sherron Collins and Cole Aldrich will be gone. Yes, Xavier Henry will most likely be gone in a matter of days. Still, predicting anyone else to win the conference the Jayhawks have owned would be just as nonsensical as expanding the NCAA Tournament to 96 teams.
Nick Krug/Journal-World Photo
Kansas has won or shared the Big 12 regular season title six straight years. Until someone dethrones the Jayhawks, this pick won’t change.
That said, it will be a difficult task for KU to repeat in the conference in 2010-11. The loss of Aldrich, the main reason KU ranked No. 1 in the country in two-point field goal percentage defense (40.1 percent), will hurt the most.
Kansas still has enough talent and experience to win the conference next season.
Tyshawn Taylor, jr.
Tyrel Reed, sr.
Marcus Morris, jr.
Markieff Morris, jr.
Jeff Withey, soph.
Of course, adding recruits Josh Selby and/or Doron Lamb would make the Jayhawks extremely deep again. It's possible both would start for coach Bill Self if they signed. (To see highlights from Selby winning the McDonald's All-American dunk contest, check this out. The guy's 6-foot-2, but seems to throw it down with ease.)
I haven’t even mentioned Brady Morningstar, Thomas Robinson, Mario Little, Elijah Johnson and Travis Releford. KU will be darn good again.
2. Kansas State (29-8, 11-5)
K-State's Elite Eight run was fun to watch. The back-and-forth thriller against Xavier was the best game I've seen in the tournament this season.
The Wildcats will lose starters Denis Clemente and Luis Colon (the starting center wasn’t much of a factor anyway) next year. Their lineup could be the most experienced in the conference.
Jacob Pullen, sr.
Rodney McGruder, soph.
Dominique Sutton, sr.
Jamar Samuels, jr.
Curtis Kelly, sr.
Nick Krug/Journal-World Photo
Sophomore Wally Judge (above) could step into Samuels’ 2010 role as a valuable and vital sixth man. The Wildcats would also have guard Martavious Irving and seven-footer Jordan Henriquez-Roberts off the bench. Also keep an eye on incoming freshman Shane Southwell, a 6-6 wing from the Bronx, N.Y.
3. Baylor (28-8, 11-5)
Like K-State, the Bears also had a nice run to the Elite Eight. Starting point guard Tweety Carter and starting center Josh Lomers graduate, but Baylor has enough returning and incoming talent to contend for the Big 12 title next season.
LaceDarius Dunn, the Big 12's second-leading scorer (19.6 points per game), has already said he'll return for his senior season.
The Bears will also welcome incoming freshman Perry Jones, the No. 6-rated player in the class of 2010 on Rivals.com. From looking at some of his highlights, the 6-foot-11, 220-pound Jones appears to have a ridiculous amount of athleticism for a guy his size. He takes guards off the dribble, he swats shots, he jams with authority. This is most likely Scott Drew's most talented signee ever.
A.J. Walton, soph.
LaceDarius Dunn, sr.
Anthony Jones, jr.
Quincy Acy, jr.
Perry Jones, fr.
You probably noticed the absence of Ekpe Udoh, the Big 12's leading shot blocker this past season, from the Baylor lineup. Udoh could return as a senior, but he's a projected lottery pick on draftexpress.com and not too far behind on nbadraft.net. Here's guessing he'll take the money and go to the NBA.
I'll say this much: If Udoh returns, the Bears — who would have the best frontcourt in the country and one of the best three-point shooters in the country — would be a top 10 team and a possible favorite to win the Big 12.
4. Missouri (23-11, 10-6)
Sure, Missouri loses J.T. Tiller, Zaire Taylor and Keith Ramsey, but Mike Anderson's Tigers won't change their identity a bit. They're still going to press the heck of of teams and force turnovers.
The team that advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament before losing to West Virgnia has enough holdovers and incoming talent to be a factor in the Big 12 race next season.
Michael Dixon, soph.
Kim English, jr.
Tony Mitchell, fr.
Laurence Bowers, jr.
Justin Safford, sr.
I'm extremely high on Dixon (above) and think he could be one of the conference's best guards next season. English needs to improve his shot selection, but is a proven scorer. Bowers and Safford make up an experienced and solid front line.
The guy to keep an eye on is Mitchell, a five-star Rivals recruit (No. 15 nationally) from Dallas and Anderson's most prominent signing since arriving in Columbia, Mo., in 2006. The 6-foot-8, 220-pounder looks like the real deal and could impact Anderson's lineup from day one.
5. Texas (24-10, 9-7)
The big hoops question in Austin right now is whether Avery Bradley and Jordan Hamilton will return for their sophomore seasons or bolt to the NBA. Bradley isn't a projected lottery pick, but is included toward the end of the first round on draftexpress and nbadraft.net.
We do know that Damion James, Dexter Pittman and Justin Mason will graduate.
J'Covan Brown, soph.
Varez Ward, jr.
Jordan Hamilton, soph.
Gary Johnson, sr.
Tristan Thompson, fr.
If Bradley returns, the Longhorns could finish a lot higher than fifth in the conference next season. UT appears to lack a true '5' man next year, but Thompson (6-9, 240 pounds), a five-star Rivals recruit (No. 17 nationally), might fill that spot in a smaller Longhorns lineup.
The Big 12 should be a solid conference again next season.
If Selby and/or Lamb sign with KU, and Udoh returns to Baylor, the conference would have serious star power with three teams capable of making Final Four runs.
That should be all for now, friends. As always, discuss.