We continue our look at the Big 12 with Part II, featuring a look at Nebraska, the Oklahoma schools, Texas, Texas A&M and Texas Tech. As a whole, this group is not as strong as what we looked at in Part I (which you can find here), but there is still a lot of talent to be found.
The Good: Coach Doc Sadler continues trying to make the Huskers relevant as a basketball program and this year should be a small, but significant, step up for the program as they prepare to depart for the Big 10. This group is led by the backcourt of Brandon Richardson and Lance Jeter.
The Not-So-Good: Scoring is a major problem for Sadler’s squad, and unless someone steps up their game this season, their games can be very painful to watch. Standhardinger is the best candidate to raise his game this season, as he proved in
The Question Mark: Is this the year the Huskers get Christopher Niemann on the court? Niemann is a potential difference maker in the middle, but has lost 2 seasons to separate ACL tears and has yet to appear on the court for
What Will March Bring?: It should be an interesting season for Huskers fans. They should be at least 15 or 16 win team again, though I have this feeling that Coach Sadler will shock a few people and get them to 20. That may not be enough for NCAA Tournament bid.
The Good: It may be hard to quantify, but losing Willie Warren, Tommy Mason-Griffin and Tiny Gallon is going to make
The Not-So-Good: Size and interior play can be an issue for OU this year with Fitzgerald, who is undersized, being the most experienced post player they have. There will be some newcomers who will look to help, but they are largely unproven. Freshman Abdul Ahmed, JC transfer Nick Thompson and Southern transfer Barry Honoré will all look to contribute in the post for the Sooners, though Thompson is the most polished post player of the three. Perimeter defense is also an issue with Taylor and Clark needing to prove that they can guard at a high level.
The Question Mark: After two freshmen almost single-handedly destroyed last season for the Sooners, how hesitant will Caple be to allow Clark and
What Will March Bring?: There is certainly enough talent to improve on last season’s 13 wins, but probably not enough yet to move back into the upper half of the Big 12. Most likely 16 or so wins and probably one major upset in
The Not-So-Good: Losing half their scoring in Anderson and Muonelo is tough, but it’s the clutch play of
The Question Mark: As I stated above, who is going to replace
What Will March Bring?: They are a solid middle of the road Big 12 team, and most likely will pick up a decent seed in the NCAA Tournament. 20+ win season and some solid resume building wins are likely.
The Good: With their main offensive and defensive threats gone,
The Not-So-Good: Size is an issue with this team, with the only legit big men on the roster being seldom-used seniors Clint Chapman and Matt Hill. The loss of Pittman and James as rebounders will be felt very strongly by the Longhorns. Point guard play has been an issue of late with Rick Barnes’ teams, especially sloppy play down the stretch of games. Dogus Balbay and Jai Lucas both had some very poor moments last season, and the loss of Varez Ward will be a major problem. Brown and Joseph will both need to raise their game a level to avoid these same issues.
The Question Mark: What will the Longhorns do for rebounding and pose defense? It is doubtful at this point that Chapman or Hill will bring much to the table, so the Longhorns will most likely go with smaller lineups featuring Johnson and Alexis Wangmene being tasked with defending the post and the lane. Barnes’ team will need to play at a very fast pace to try and disguise this lack of size.
What Will March Bring?: Texas will still find itself hanging around the top of the Big 12, but with the lack of size and experience, they will certainly hit some rough patches. Most likely 10 wins in the Big 12 and a decent, but not great, seed in the NCAA Tournament.
The Good: The Aggies has a successful season last year, but will need to replace the scoring and leadership of Donald Sloan and Bryan Davis in 2010. Point guard Dash Harris will lead the team this season, though he will primarily be a distributor and defensive stopper. Harris does have the ability to hit from the perimeter, and may be called on to increase his scoring this season. BJ Holmes is another small, quick guard, but he does a much better job penetrating the defense and getting to the rim. Sophomore Kris Middleton will need to contribute more scoring from the wing this season. Hopefully his shot selection has improved over the summer. Look for the smaller guards to open up the floor to give Middleton more room to operate. A pair of big Freshmen, Daniel Alexander and Kourtney Roberson should be able to contribute immediately with the dearth of players in the middle. Alexander projects more to a small forward, though he needs to add a lot of strength. He has great range on his jumper and does an excellent job seeing the floor when he has the ball. Roberson is solidly-built and is excellent at battling around the basket, something this team will need a lot of this season.
The Not-So-Good: Inexperience in the post can be an issue, though David Loubeau has the potential to be an excellent, though undersized, post option. Perimeter shooting will need to be improved this season, especially with no real post option to help spread the court. It will be on Harris to be very creative in getting his teammates open looks. Harris is a strong defender, but the rest of the perimeter defense will need to step up to try and prevent opponents from getting easy access to the lane.
The Question Mark: Who will take over Sloan’s role as the Aggies’ go-to guy this season? The consensus seems to be Holmes, but I like Harris’ combination of speed, handle and creativity to have him be the man with the ball in his hands at crunchtime.
What Will March Bring?: There is some talent here, but I am not sure if it is enough to get back to the NCAAs again this year. It will be close though, and 20 wins is certainly not out of reach for this team. But if I had to decide today, I say they are out unless they have 2 or so major upsets on the resume.
The Good: Coach Pat Knight returns two big time scoring options in Mike Singletary and John Roberson. Singletary is extremely strong, is fearless going to the rim and showed an improved mid-range jumper last season. He is also very reminiscent of players such as Quincy Pondexter and Damion James with his ability to be a strong rebounder at his size. Roberson, one of the better combo guards in the Big 12, has great speed, the ability to get into the lane or to step back and hit a long-range jumper. D’Waylyn Roberts does a very good job around the rim and is also a strong rebounder. Junior College transfer Paul Cooper should bring some needed toughness to the post this season.
The Not-So-Good: Outside of Singletary and Roberson, the talent level is inconsistent, and the need for someone to step up as a third option on offense will be vital. Also, the bench production needs to step up this season. Players such as Brad Reese and Robert Lewandowski will become very important to the Red Raiders’ season, and they will need to produce, both on the scoreboard and on defense. Freshamn Javarez Willis should get some excellent on-the-job tutoring from Roberson and could provide some valuable minutes in his place.
The Question Mark: Who will step up and be the third option on offense behind Singletary and Roberson? I am sure Coach Knight has an idea of who he wants, and it would be best if it was a shooter who could stretch the floor for Singletary and Roberson to operate. Reese is a capable 3 point shooter, who is also a good enough athlete to defend multiple positions and help on the boards.
What Will March Bring?: I think a NCAA bid is out of reach this season, and a .500 record sounds about right. But Singletary and Roberson do give them a duo that on any night could pull an upset. Singletary and Roberson will both get looks from NBA teams and have a chance to be second round picks.
That wraps up Part II the Big 12, and make sure to check back tomorrow for the Part I of my look at Conference