Big 12 2014-15 Basketball Preview

Juwan Staten (Photo Credit: WVU Sports)

Juwan Staten (Photo Credit: WVU Sports)

The Big 12 emerged as the best conference in basketball last season, and all eyes are on the powerhouse conference for a repeat performance.

Baylor Bears (26-12, 9-9)

The Bears lost three of its top four scorers including Isaiah Austin, whose NBA dreams were shattered after being diagnosed with Marfan Syndrome, a genetic disorder. Kenny Cherry and Royce O’Neale are returning for their senior season at point guard and forward.  Cherry averaged 11.5 points per game and O’Neale averaged 7.1 points last season for the Bears. Redshirt freshmen shooting guard Allerik Freeman and forward Johnathan Motley will play significant roles as Baylor hopes to return to the NCAA tournament.  All four of the Bear’s newcomers from the 2014 recruiting class Lester Medford, Deng Deng, T.J. Maston and Damiyne Durham are expected to contribute. Baylor’s frontcourt is deep behind Rico Gathers and junior college transfer Deng Deng.

Iowa State Cyclones (28-8, 11-7)

The loss of Big 12 player of the year Melvin Ejim and guard DeAndre Kane would likely affect most teams, but the Cyclones are still conference favorites to give the Kansas Jayhawks a run. UNLV star Bryce Dejean-Jones joins Iowa State for his final year of eligibility. He averaged 13.6 points for the Rebels as a junior and is expected to do big things for the Cyclones. Monte Morris set an NCAA record with 4.79 assist-to-turnover ratio will share the backcourt with Dejean-Jones. Georges Niang returns to the Cyclones after averaging 16.7 points last season. Niang missed the final two games of the NCAA tournament with a broken foot.  The Massachusetts The 6-foot-8 junior is the centerpiece of the Cyclones. He is talented and clutch. Last season he came up big against Iowa, scoring 24 points, including the game winning reverse layup.

Kansas Jayhawks (25-10, 14-4)

The Kansas Jayhawks are once again the favorites to win the Big 12. They are loaded as usual even with the loss of Andrew Wiggins, Joel Embiid and six others. Cliff Alexander is the player to watch of this year’s recruiting class. He is an athletic, 6-foot-8 forward that has a lot of potential. He attacks the glass and the rim and will remind some people of Louisville’s Montrezl Harrell. Wayne Selden Jr. and five star recruit Kelly Oubre will be a tandem on wing. Perry Ellis returns and could be the Jayhawks leading scorer this year. Bill Self has to decide between Frank Mason and highly touted freshman Devonte’ Graham at point guard, but that is a good problem to have. Kansas is considered one of the most dangerous teams in the country.

Kansas State Wildcats (20-13, 10-8)

The Wildcats were second in field goals and three-point defense in the Big 12 last season, and this year they have more talent, making them a bigger threat. They return their top two leading scorers sophomore guard Marcus Foster and senior forward Thomas Gibson. Foster averaged 15.5 points per game last season and was second-team all-Big 12. Incoming transfers, junior Justin Edwards (Maine) and sophomore Brandon Bolden (Georgetown) should make an immediate impact for K-State. Edwards has a 42-inch vertical leap and totaled 887 points, 312 rebounds, 196 assists and 96 steals in two seasons in Maine. The Wildcats are more talented this year and have more depth off the bench.

Oklahoma Sooners (23-10, 12-6)

The Sooners return four starters from last season’s team, including leading scorer Buddy Hield. Oklahoma finished second in the Big 12 and is hoping for a repeat performance this season. Ryan Spangler averaged averaged 9.6 points and a team-high 9.3 rebounds, shooting 58.4 percent from the floor. The 6-foot-8 Spangler needs some help and TaShawn Thomas, Houston transfer, could be the answer. As a junior, he averaged 15.4 points, 8.1 rebounds and 2.7 blocks. Hield was a second-team all-Big 12 selection who averaged 16.5 points. Isaiah Cousins (11 points) and Jordan Woodard (10.3 points) join forces with Hield to make one of the best backcourts in the conference. After two years of one and done, the Sooners want more this year.

Oklahoma State (21-13, 8-10)

The Cowboys lost five of their seven leading scorers, including Marcus Smart, but several newcomers should pick up the slack. Freshmen Joe Burton and Mitch Solomon should have an immediate impact for the Sooners. LSU transfer Anthony Hickey was a three year starter for the Tigers, averaging 8.4 points and leading LSU with 62 steals. The Cowboys’ backcourt should be strength. Junior guard Phil Forte III shot 44.1% from beyond-the-arc. Le’Bryan Nash averaged 13.9 points and 5.5 rebounds last season. Michael Cobbins ruptured his Achilles in late December but is expected to go. The bench is the biggest question mark for the Cowboys.

Texas Longhorns (24-11, 11-7)

The Longhorns have 94 percent of its scoring and nine of 10 rotation players back. Myles Turner is 6-foot-11 and is a blocking sensation. The top 10 recruit will start at power forward next to rebound machine Cameron Ridley. The weakness of this season Longhorns is they lack a three-point threat. This means they will have to rely on sophomore Isaiah Taylor’s ability to penetrate. The Longhorns will be a real threat to the Jayhawks. Last season they won 11 games with the toughest defense in the Big 12. This season could easily be a repeat if not more.

TCU Horned Frogs (9-22, 0-18)

TCU has not had much success on the court since joining the Big 12 in 2013, but the Horned Frogs are poised for its best season yet. Last season TCU played better than their conference record but they were unable to record a win.  This season should be different as they return a core group of players. Leading scorers Kyan Anderson and Amric Fields and sophomore Karviar Shepherd is expected to have a breakout season.  The 6-foot-10 forward averaged 9.1 points and 6.8 rebounds and lead the team in rebounding in his freshman campaign. Junior Devonta Abron missed all of last season with an injury but is expected to be a key player this year. Trey Zweigler transferred to TCU from Pittsburgh and Chris Washburn from Texas-El Paso). Both additions should help.

Texas Tech Red Raiders (14-18, 6-12)

The Red Raiders picked up some promising freshman talent in point guard Keenan Evans, shooting guard Justin Gray and forwards Zach Smith and Norense Odiase. Evans has a 6-7 wingspan. The Red Raiders lost seven of eight of their final games last season and they lost four of their top scorers, including Jaye Crockett. Tranfer Devaugntah Williams averaged 17.8 points for Missouri State- West Plains. Senior guard Robert Turner averaged 9.3 points per game and will be the leader of this team. The Red Raiders will likely finish at or near the bottom of the Big 12 in what appears to be a fully loaded conference.

West Virginia Mountaineers (17-16, 9-9)

 The Mountaineers lost three of its top five scorers, but with Juwan Staten returning for his senior season, that shouldn’t be a problem. First-team all-Big 12 selection Staten will keep the Mountaineers in games. He averaged 18.1 points last season and is the true leader of Bob Huggins’ squad. Junior college transfer Jaysean Paige scored 21.4 points with 44.6% shooting from beyond-the-arc. Jonathan Holton and Elijah Macon were both ineligible last season and will make their debuts for the Mountaineers. Both can score in double figures. Nathan Adrian is a three-point ace and Devin Williams is improved and in better shape than last season. This Mountaineers squad may be Huggins best one since the 2010 Final Four Mountaineers. They are predicted to finish sixth in the conference but could really surprise some people. 

picture045Shanna Rose is a current West Virginia University student majoring in Journalism and minoring in Sport Communication.  Writing for Global Basketball is her first writing assignment . Shanna has a passion for college basketball, along with hockey, baseball, and football.  Follow me on Twitter @SRoseWVUNews.

One Comment

  1. carol shoaff

    November 5, 2014 at 10:32 am

    Good preview

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