Conference Preview: Big 12

Conference Preview: Big 12

This article is part of our Conference Preview series.

For the first time since 2004, the Kansas Jayhawks did not hold at least a share of the regular season conference title. What made it even more shocking was that many were talking before the season that last season's squad might be even better than the 2018 team that reached the Final Four. Things did not play out that way, as Kansas struggled to find consistency after losing Udoka Azubuike early in the season. Instead it was the two most experienced teams that shared the Big 12 title, Kansas State and Texas Tech -- who came so close to cutting down the nets in Minneapolis.

Kansas still has to be the favorites again this season with stars Devon Dotson and Azubuike returning, while also adding in consistent producers Marcus Garrett and Ochai Agbaji, marksman Iowa transfer Isaiah Moss, and Silvio De Sousa who was reinstated by the NCAA after missing all of last season. The other contenders have to include the usual suspects of Iowa State and Texas Tech, both of which lost significant contributors, but are buoyed by strong guards and impact transfers.

Oklahoma State hasn't been above .500 in conference play since 2013, but that might change this season, as they are the only team to bring back all five starters. The Cowboys will be led by Cameron McGriff and Lindy Waters, but sophomore's Isaac Likekele and Yor Anei will be just as important. They also feature likely the top deep-range threat in the conference in

For the first time since 2004, the Kansas Jayhawks did not hold at least a share of the regular season conference title. What made it even more shocking was that many were talking before the season that last season's squad might be even better than the 2018 team that reached the Final Four. Things did not play out that way, as Kansas struggled to find consistency after losing Udoka Azubuike early in the season. Instead it was the two most experienced teams that shared the Big 12 title, Kansas State and Texas Tech -- who came so close to cutting down the nets in Minneapolis.

Kansas still has to be the favorites again this season with stars Devon Dotson and Azubuike returning, while also adding in consistent producers Marcus Garrett and Ochai Agbaji, marksman Iowa transfer Isaiah Moss, and Silvio De Sousa who was reinstated by the NCAA after missing all of last season. The other contenders have to include the usual suspects of Iowa State and Texas Tech, both of which lost significant contributors, but are buoyed by strong guards and impact transfers.

Oklahoma State hasn't been above .500 in conference play since 2013, but that might change this season, as they are the only team to bring back all five starters. The Cowboys will be led by Cameron McGriff and Lindy Waters, but sophomore's Isaac Likekele and Yor Anei will be just as important. They also feature likely the top deep-range threat in the conference in Thomas Dziagwa. Texas might also be poised to get back on track this season with a solid perimeter trio of Matt Coleman, Courtney Ramey, and Jase Febres, along with some huge frontcourt depth in the likes of Jericho Sims, Will Baker, and Kai Jones.

Look for TCU and West Virginia to finish near the bottom of the conference. The Horned Frogs lost quite a bit from last year's squad, leaving Desmond Bane and Kevin Samuel the opportunity to put up some big time numbers. West Virginia on the other hand, lost very little outside of Sagoba Konate, who didn't play much anyways as he battled a knee injury. Derek Culver is a monster, but the rest of their pieces haven't played well together. Also with head coach Bob Huggins, it's almost impossible to tell how much run each player is going to get on a night-to-night basis.

Top Players

Center: Udoka Azubuike, Kansas Jayhawks

Finding quality center eligible players can be a difficult task if not addressed early in the draft, but the Big 12 is actually fairly deep in that department. The player with the highest upside, however, resides in Lawrence, Kansas. Udoka Azubuike is coming off a season that was cut short by a hand injury. In just nine games he averaged 13.4 points, 6.8 rebounds, and 1.6 blocks per contest. There is injury risk here, as Azubuike missed the majority of his freshman season with a wrist injury as well, but he was a dominant inside presence during his sophomore campaign in which the Jayhawks reached the Final Four. With no Dedric Lawson to share the frontcourt with, Azubuike should have plenty of space and opportunities to be a double-double threat on a nightly basis and average 2+ blocks per game.

Also considered: Derek Culver, West Virginia; Brady Manek, Oklahoma; Kevin Samuel, TCU; Tristan Clark, Baylor

Freshman: Jahmius Ramsey, Texas Tech Red Raiders

The freshman with the most opportunity right out the gate is Jahmius Ramsey, the highest ranked recruit in Texas Tech history. The 6-4 combo guard is a strong ball handler with the ability to get to the rim and score. Developing his outside shot will be the final piece to the puzzle, but he has the length and athleticism to be a great defender, which is what Head coach Chris Beard values over anything else. The Red Raiders have a lot of production to replace on the perimeter with Matt Mooney, Jarret Culver, and Brandon Francis now gone. Davide Moretti is likely to handle the ball more this season, but Ramsey has a chance to be a big contributor as a freshman for a coach that knows how to maximize talent.

Also considered: Will Baker, Texas; P.J. Fuller, TCU; De'Vion Harmon, Oklahoma; Montavious Murphy, Kansas State

Scoring: Desmond Bane, TCU Horned Frogs

TCU is as thin and inexperienced as it has been in recent years. The one sure thing that Head coach Jamie Dixon can trust every night is senior Desmond Bane. Last season, Bane was fourth in the Big 12 at 15.2 points per game. He is also the only returning player that was ranked inside the top-11 in PPG in the conference. What is great about Bane's scoring is that he is also extremely efficient. The last two seasons he has shot over 50 percent from the field and 42 percent from behind the arc. Bane should be pushing 20+ points on most nights with a healthy amount of three-pointers.

Also considered: Brady Manek, Oklahoma; Davide Moretti, Texas Tech; Xavier Sneed, Kansas State; Udoka Azubuike, Kansas

Rebounding: Derek Culver, West Virginia Mountaineers

Derek Culver came into West Virginia as a freshman last season with quite a bit of hype, but did not get off to a smooth start whatsoever. The 6-10 center was suspended the first 10 games of the season for a violation of team rules. He was somewhat fortunate, however, that Sagoba Konate battled a knee injury all season, which gave the freshman the opportunity to show what he could do. Culver would prove to be quite a force, averaging 12.2 rebounds per game in his 14 starts last year. His post moves still need a little work, but he will have very little competition for rebounds in a relatively guard-based lineup without Konate.

Also considered: Jericho Sims, Texas; Udoka Azubuike, Kansas; Kristian Doolittle, Oklahoma; Kevin Samuel, TCU

Assists: Matt Coleman, Texas Longhorns

Coleman actually saw his numbers dip slightly as a sophomore, but still put up 9.8 points and 3.4 assists per game. The Longhorn backcourt is wide open now that Kerwin Roach and Elijah Mitrou-Long are gone. Courtney Ramey could share some of the ball handling duties as well, but Ramey is the better shooter and Coleman has a pass-first mindset. With shooters like Ramey and Jase Febres on the wings, and the talented trio of Jericho Sims, Will Baker, and Kai Jones down low, Coleman has a strong chance to lead the conference in assists this season.

Also considered: Tyrese Haliburton, Iowa State; Jamal Bieniemy, Oklahoma; Isaac Likekele, Oklahoma State; Devon Dotson, Kansas

Sleepers

Jamal Bieniemy, guard, Oklahoma Sooners

The departures of seniors Christian James and Rashard Odomes leave plenty of production to be replaced in the Sooner lineup. Veterans Brady Manek and Kristian Doolittle should absorb some of the load, but expect point guard Jamal Bieniemy to break out this season. Aaron Calixte started the season at point last year for Oklahoma, but Bieniemy outplayed him as a freshman and would start each of the final 17 contests. During those games he averaged 6.4 points, 4.2 assists, and 1.5 steals while shooting 41 percent from behind the arc. Bienemy should see his point averages much closer to double digits this season, while also being among the Big 12 leaders in both assists and steals.

Yor Anei, center, Oklahoma State Cowboys

Anei was relatively unknown coming into his freshman campaign last season, but he got the chance to make an impact right away. He ended up starting 29 of 32 games for the Cowboys and averaged 7.7 points, 4.8 rebounds, and 2.7 blocks in just 23.5 minutes per contest. Anei's confidence grew as the season went on and head coach Mike Boynton gave him even more minutes. Over the final seven games of the season, the 6-10 center put up 10.0 points, 6.0 rebounds, and 4.7 blocks per game. That type of production in the blocks category will be unmatched in the Big 12, and he should bring a more refined post game while playing nearly 30 minutes per night if he can stay out of foul trouble. There's a lot to like here with a young player like Anei.

Also considered: TJ Holyfield, Texas Tech; Cartier Diarra, Kansas State; Jared Butler, Baylor; R.J. Nembhard, TCU
 

Top-10*

1. Desmond Bane, G/F, TCU
2. Udoka Azubuike, C, Kansas
3. Tyrese Haliburton, G, Iowa State
4. Brady Manek, C, Oklahoma
5. Derek Culver, C, West Virginia
6. Davide Moretti, G, Texas Tech
7. Xavier Sneed, G/F, Kansas State
8. Tristan Clark, C, Baylor
9. Devon Dotson, G, Kansas
10. Kristian Doolittle, F, Oklahoma

*Note: These rankings are at the discretion of the article author and may not necessarily correspond with Rotowire's official 2019-20 player rankings.

Want to Read More?
Subscribe to RotoWire to see the full article.

We reserve some of our best content for our paid subscribers. Plus, if you choose to subscribe you can discuss this article with the author and the rest of the RotoWire community.

Get Instant Access To This Article Get Access To This Article
RotoWire Community
Join Our Subscriber-Only College Basketball Chat
Chat with our writers and other RotoWire College Basketball fans for all the pre-game info and in-game banter.
Join The Discussion
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Ryan  Andrade
Ryan has covered golf and college basketball for RotoWire since 2016. He has also written articles for ProGolfNow.com.
College Basketball Best Bets: Picks, Odds & Predictions for Thursday, Dec. 1
College Basketball Best Bets: Picks, Odds & Predictions for Thursday, Dec. 1
DFS College Basketball: Thursday Preview & Picks
DFS College Basketball: Thursday Preview & Picks
College Hoops Barometer: Risers & Fallers
College Hoops Barometer: Risers & Fallers
DFS College Basketball: Wednesday Preview & Picks
DFS College Basketball: Wednesday Preview & Picks