1) Kansas – Three starters from last year’s National Runner-up return for their senior seasons in Jeff Withey, Elijah Johnson, and Travis Releford. These seniors, combined with redshirt freshman Ben McLemore and a strong recruiting class headlined by Perry Ellis should make Kansas the favorite to win this division.
2) Baylor – They lost three starters to the NBA draft and have serious ground to make up in the front court, but return their starting backcourt of Pierre Jackson and sharpshooting Brady Heslip. Add a top 25 recruiting class including Isaiah Austin and Rico Gathers (both of whom should be getting major minutes) and they should be able to fill the holes by the departure of Quincy Acy and Perry Jones.
3) Texas – Losing J’Covan Brown and Alexis Wangmene is huge for a Texas team loaded with freshmen and sophomores. Look for Sheldon McLellon to become a leader of a group that returns three of their top 5 scorers from a year ago. They still lack a consistent outside shooter and a 2nd and 3rd offensive option, but perhaps newcomers Cameron Ridley and Prince Ibeh can step in and be frontcourt anchors.
4) Kansas State – A new coach and new system means there will be an adjustment period for the Cats. Luckily, Bruce Weber can turn to Rodney McGruder and Jordan Henriquez as leaders. They have a top 10 strength of schedule, but they return their starting backcourt from a year ago and add experienced players like Thomas Gipson into the mix in the frontcourt.
5) Oklahoma State – Losing their leader and top scorer, Keiton Page, will be something they must overcome, especially early on with a manageable non-conference schedule. The starting five is comprised of four underclassmen and they aren’t as deep as they have been in the past. Look for Le’Bryan Nash and junior college transfer Kirby Gardner to pick up the scoring slack.
6) West Virginia – These newcomers won’t have trouble adjusting to the level of competition, but will have to make up for the loss of Darryl Bryant and Kevin Jones. Jabarie Hinds and Deniz Kilicli should be able to make an impact right away, especially if their play over the summer is any indication. Bob Huggins will keep his team as a scrappy bunch and they could finish above here if their newcomers are able to provide valuable minutes.
7) Oklahoma – Lon Kruger inherits a program with all five starters from last season returning. The bad news is that they still don’t have an interior presence. Steven Pledger and Andrew Fitzgerald will make them competitive, but their lack of size will hurt them against the upper echelon teams in the conference.
8) Iowa State – Losing Royce White early to the draft is a huge blow to Fred Hoiberg and his staff. They also lost their next two best players in Scott Christopherson and Chris Allen, which puts the onus on Chris Babb and prized recruit Georges Niang. The addition of Korie Lucious and Will Clyburn should provide some stability in the backcourt, but they could struggle early on without White’s playmaking ability.
9) Texas Tech – Another team with a new coach. They return only two starters from a year ago, and have many new faces on the team this year. Luckily for Coach Walker, his leading scorer, Jordan Tolbert, returns with an even bigger role this season. The Red Raiders also suffer from a lack of an interior presence and depth, which will make it tough to contend for the conference title.
10) TCU – The Frogs are the other newcomer in the conference this year, and are stepping up to a brand new level of competition. To go along with this, they are also undergoing a coaching change as well. How well they adjust to the competition will be determined by the leadership of Amric Fields, who was their leading scorer as a sixth man last year.
All Conference 1st Team
G – Elijah Johnson (Kansas)
G – Travis Releford (Kansas)
F – Rodney McGruder (Kansas State)
F – Deniz Kilicli (West Virginia)
C – Jeff Withey (Kansas)
All Conference 2nd Team
G – Pierre Jackson (Baylor)
G – Steven Pledger (Oklahoma)
F – Le’Bryan Nash (Oklahoma State)
F – Andrew Fitzgerald (Oklahoma)
C – Jordan Henriquez (Kansas State)
Newcomer of the Year: Isaiah Austin (F, Baylor)
Top 5 Conference Recruits
1) Isaiah Austin (Baylor)
2) Ricardo Gathers (Baylor)
3) Perry Ellis (Kansas)
4) Cameron Ridley (Texas)
5) Georges Niang (Iowa State)
Amit Tailor is a Scout and Correspondent for NetScouts Basketball.