Kansas the best in the Big 12
by Scott Gleeson, USA TODAY Sports
Is it March yet? Hardly. With the NCAA tournament far in the rearview mirror and Midnight Madness creeping up, USA TODAY Sports examines several story lines for every major conference heading into the 2013-14 college basketball season.
The Big 12 enjoyed one of the best offseasons of any major conference, returning one of the country’s best players in Oklahoma State’s Marcus Smart and landing the top-ranked recruit in Kansas’ Andrew Wiggins.
While it figures to be a banner year for the Cowboys and Jayhawks, with Baylor chasing behind, the rest of the league’s teams could struggle to put together worthy NCAA tournament résumés. In short, the Big 12 is strikingly top-heavy heading into the 2013-14 season.
Iowa State and Oklahoma, both tourney teams last year, lost chunks of their respective rosters, but bring in talented pieces via transfer to stay in the mix. Meanwhile, Bruce Weber’s strong first season at Kansas State will be tough to replicate with his top two players departing (Rodney McGruder, Angel Rodriguez). And that leaves Texas and West Virginia, former power programs still trying to climb out of the rebuilding stages.
Regardless, nobody’s suggesting the Big 12 will rule college basketball anyway. Whether it’s three or five teams in the NCAAs, winning in the tournament is the ultimate way to represent your league. And last year’s tournament saw three Big 12 teams getting bounced by worse seeds. Does Kansas have what it takes to cut down the nets? The Jayhawks are a preseason favorite to win the Big 12, but what about the whole thing? There’s much to ponder in a highly-anticipated season, and the Big 12′s story lines are at the forefront.
1. How many Big 12 teams make the NCAA tournament? 3-5. Kansas and Oklahoma State, two preseason top 10 teams, are shoe-ins. Baylor, an NCAA tournament bubble team that went on to win the NIT last season, has the pieces — twin towers Isaiah Austin (7-1) and Cory Jefferson (6-9) to contend in the Big 12 and should be a lock as well. Then it’s difficult to decipher how the middle-of-the-pack teams will fare, … [For more on Starting Five: Kansas the best in Big 12, and maybe the country, click here.]