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2007-2008 Big 12 Conference Preview

For the fourth conference in this series we move on to the under estimated Big 12 Conference. The Big 12 never gets the hype afforded to the ACC or SEC but has proven in years past that they can run with big dogs in the country on any given night. When it comes to certain preseason polls Big 12 is getting the respect they deserve listing as many as four teams in the top 25. Now we will break it down team by team with expectations on the upcoming season.

Kansas
When it comes to the cream of the crop in the Big 12, Kansas is the team to beat and many experts predict them making a run at the title. In the preseason polls they are ranked three or higher and should secure a #1 seed in the tournament. When it comes to guard play there is not another team in the country that is deeper or more talented than Kansas. Brandon Rush had an off-season injury that kept him from the NBA but not from Kansas, he looks to return in early December and that will be plenty of time to make a run for the title. Kansas will be your Big 12 champions.

Texas
Texas is getting some looks in preseason polls and grabbed a second place nod for the Big 12 preseason polls. D.J. Augustin and A.J. Abrams are back to make up a solid guard unit for the Horns. The front line however could be a problem for Rick Barnes. Kevin Durant is gone and although you cannot expect to replace him easily the frontcourt he has left is full of question marks. This team has a chip on their shoulder and is looking to prove they are good without Durant. If freshman Gary Johnson is healthy this team is deep enough to make a long run in the NCAA tournament.

Kansas St.
Kansas St is off a very successful year where they won 23 games and a trip to the NIT before losing to DePaul. If Kansas has the talent at the guard spot then look at Kansas St. for forwards where they are very talented led by David Hoskins. The problem is for Kansas St. is that they are in transition mode. They have a brand new coach with Frank Martin getting the head job, and the guard play looks weak at best. The youth movement they have though will enable them to make a run at the big dogs led by Michael Beasley and a team that can dominate the glass. They will fall short with touchy guard play but this year they go to the big dance instead of the NIT.

Texas A&M
The Aggies are back in full force and looking to improve on the sweet 16 run they had last year but will have to do it without superstar Acie law who left for the NBA. They are going to try and replace him with the play of two guards with Dominique Kirk and Donald Sloan. The problem is that behind those two players the Aggies are hurting for depth. Acie law was not the only loss for this team as head coach Billy Gillispie left town and Mark Turgeon has taken control. This team is talented but will take a step back from last year with a tougher schedule. They should make the NCAA tournament but don’t look for them to go as deep as they did last year.

Nebraska
Head Coach Doc Sadler knows that he has a good team in the latest edition of the cornhusker’s hoops team, but they are young. Three freshmen will share point guard duties and be in charge of running the team. At 6-11 they do have a nice big man to help take the pressure off the young kids with Aleks Maric wreaking havoc down low. He does not have much help down low but this Nebraska team looks to run an up tempo style of game giving teams little chance to double him on the blocks. With an easy schedule if Nebraska can have a guard emerge they could be one of the most improved teams in the nation.

Oklahoma St.
The Cowboys lost a true talent to the NBA when Jameson Curry was drafted in the second round after scoring 17 points per game last season. They do have some talent that is ready to step up and take over at that spot, but the front court is not so lucky. Marcus Dove was suspended after an arrest for DUI in the summer and Kenny Cooper is looking into a transfer. This only leaves a junior college transfer to get the start and little to no depth at that position. The season depends on whether or not Dove and Cooper play, if they do they will be fine, if not they will be in the cellar of the Big 12 and could even miss the NIT.

Missouri
The good news for the Missouri Tigers is that they only had one graduating senior and will return the bulk of the team that they put on the court last year. The bad news is that team went 7-9 in the Big 12 and had some very disturbing losses. Leo Lyons will anchor the team as the most experienced big game on the court and drive this team to a post season berth. Being big won’t matter with this team though as they will look to run and gun and teams with a big front court that slows it down could give them fits. Head Coach Mike Anderson will get his team ready for a middle seed in the NCAA tournament.

Oklahoma
The sooner nation can be thankful because the future looks bright as the talent starts to seep into the program. The problem is the future is still a couple of years away. The team showed its experience by throwing away a great season by dropping six straight to end the season. Austin Johnson will keep this team in the hunt with his athletic play but the reality of it all is that the Sooners are better suited to make an impact in the NIT than the NCAA tournament. The team will be ready to make an difference in about two years from now.

Texas Tech
With over 20 wins last year and the recruiting of Bob Knight you can expect the Red Raiders to reload this year and make another run at the big dance. Martin Zeno and Charlie Burgess return to solidify a backcourt that can play along side the better tandems in the deep big 12. They are still a very young team that will need plenty of “what if’s” to come true if they are going to make the NCAA tournament. A trip to the NIT is the likely destination, but they may be a bubble team if they can get some big wins against Big 12 opposition.

Baylor
Let’s face it Baylor has had so many problems in recent years it is no surprise that they have had problems putting together a good team, but look for that to change this year. Baylor returns all five starters and finally they have continuity on a team that has not had some in quite some time. Mamadou Diene and Kevin Rogers will bring some scoring inside to this team and I would not at all be surprised if they made a bubble run at the NIT!

Iowa St.
Iowa St is a decent team and although they are not ready to play with the elite in the Big 12 yet they are headed in the right direction. They lost three key players in Dodie Dunson, Corey McIntosh, and Ross Mardsen and they will have to get youth to replace them. The frontcourt is deep and should not have any problems but in a conference filled with deep backcourts this could cause a problem for this club. Unless they can find a surprise freshman that is ready to grow up now this team is in for a long season and will miss the post season.

Colorado
Jeff Bzdelik is looking to improve on the team’s performance from a year ago. The problem is it does not look like its going to be easy. In fact some players are even jumping ship as Kalvin Bay who played in all 27 games last year said he would not be coming back this year.The preseason polls put Colorado dead last in the conference and a more modest goal for this team may be just to beat out Iowa St for the cellar in the Big 12.

2007 Predictions:
Big 12 Champ: Kansas
Dark Horse: Kansas St.
Cellar Dweller: Iowa St