Tuesday, November 6, 2007

2007 College Basketball Conference Previews: Big XII

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By Stefan Ming

Predicted Order of Finish:Brandon Rush

1. Kansas
KU is loaded with veteran players and are looking to get over the hump and reach the Final Four for the first time since 2003. Gone is versatile forward Julian Wright, who will be missed greatly, but the experience and ever-talented Jayhawks are still one of the top teams in the country. KU returns 4 starters in Brandon Rush, Mario Chalmers, Russell Robinson, and Sasha Kaun. Sixth man Darrell Arthur will start for Wright and will be one of the top sophomores in the nation. Also, a rather deep bench should keep them atop the Big XII.

2. Kansas St.
KSU did lose 3 starters, but their in-coming recruiting class is their best ever. Clent Stewart and David Hoskins are the two returning starters, but Michael Beasley and Bill Walker will help fill in for the other losses. Beasley is a great talent and will most likely be one and done. Dominique Sutton is another recruit who will make some noise and can shoot the long ball as well.

3. Texas
It will be interesting to see how Texas does with Kevin Durant gone. They still have some good talent remaining and the other 4 starters are back. D.J. Augustin was very impressive as a freshman PG last season and should be one of the best in the Big XII. A.J. Abrams is also another guard who will be counted to lead the Longhorns. Justin Mason and Damion Jones are two young forwards with a lot of promise. They will hurt a bit downlow and it doesn't help that their top recruit, Gary Johnson (who is a PF), is out for the sCurtis Jerrellseason with a heart condition.

4. Texas A&M
Texas A&M lost one of the premier guards in the nation in Acie Law, but return 3 starters with plenty of talent and ability. Dominique Kirk is back at SG after averaging 7.2 PPG and will be heavily counted on to lead the backcourt. Forwards Josh Carter and Joseph Jones are back as well and will be a big part of the offense with Law gone. 7-0 recruit DeAndre Carter is supposedly the top recruit ever to sign with the Aggies. It will be interesting to see how the new PG, whoever it is, performs.

5. Missouri
Mizzou returns 4 starters from a team that barely missed the NIT. They would have 5 back but center Kalen Grimes was dismissed from the the team for assault charges. They have some issues down low with not much size, and it won't help either with Grimes gone. Stefhon Hannah was the Tigers' main guy last season averaging 15.4 PPG, but will need the other players to help him with more consistent play. Vanderbilt transfer DeMarre Carroll should provide immediate help inside.

6. Oklahoma
OU has 4 starters back and is a pretty balanced team. Their defense was pretty good last season and should only get better. 7-0 center Longar Longar impressed many last season and is one of the best big men in the conference. They should also have a very good backcourt with 3 solid guards/forwards in Tony Crocker, Austin Johnson, and Taylor Griffin.

7. Texas Tech
The Red Raiders lost some key players that included one of the best guards in the nation in Jerrius Jackson. One starter is back which could be a cause for a concern. Martin Zeno is the lone starter returning but he was one of their main threats averaging about 16 PPG. He will be their main guy and Tech will need to find some depth if they want to finish higher in the standings. But you can never count out a Bobby Knight coached team.

8. Baylor
Baylor is the most experienced team in the Big XII this season with their top 8 players back. The Bears looked better and better as the season went on last year, they should have some great guard play in Curtis Jerrells and Aaron Bruce.

9. Oklahoma St.
The Cowboys looked good at the beginning of the season but lost their way as the season went on. Gone is Mario Boggan, one of the top scorers in the conference and JamesOn Curry. But back is PG Byron Eaton, SG Terrel Harris and F Marcus Dove. Obi Muonelo is back from a broken leg after missing 18 games last season and should make an immediate impact.

10. Iowa St.
ISU will be loaded in the frontcourt with Rahshon Clark, Jiri Hubalek back, plus they added some good recruits in Craig Backins and Iowa transfer Alex Thompson. But a lot will depend on the backcourt with no clear-cut PG and an offense that ranked last in scoring and FG% in the Big XII last season.

11. Nebraska
The Huskers improved as the season went along last year and the 2nd year coach has the program looking pretty promising. 3 starters are back but they need to improve on defense more and find a little more depth.

12. Colorado
CU does have 4 starters back but they never won back to back conference games last season. The new coach from Air Force, Jeff Bzdelik is in for a long run and it should take a few years before he gets the program back on its feet.

Player of the Year: Brandon Rush, G- Kansas

Freshman of the Year: Michael Beasley, F- Kansas St.

Three Big Games: Kansas at USC- Dec. 2, Kansas at Kansas St.- Jan. 30, Texas at Texas A&M- Jan, 30

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