From Inside the Red Raiders
Texas Tech’s Chris Beard has stated that this season will be “like no other.” He refers, of course, to the contortions and turbulence the Covid panic has introduced into the structure of college basketball. Indeed, because of the fear and uncertainty, we cannot say for sure that a full season, including the NCAA tournament, will unfold. From the standpoint of Big 12 basketball fans, however, it would be a crying shame if it doesn’t because the conference has rarely been stacked with so many potentially great teams. Let us hope that we really do witness a season “like no other.”
Player of the year: Jared Butler, Baylor–The best player on the best team is always a good bet for this award, and that certainly applies to Baylor’s Jared Butler. He’s a calm but deadly efficient player on a team that is loaded.
Coach of the year: Chris Beard, Texas Tech—Oddly enough, Big 12 coaches projected the Red Raiders to finish fifth in the conference standings. That lowball prediction only sets up Chris Beard as an almost surefire winner of the conference’s Coach of the Year award.
Newcomer of the year: Mac McClung, Texas Tech—The Georgetown transfer will add tremendous juice to a Texas Tech offense that, while always good, is never great. McClung will also shore up his defense and be a solid contributor on that end as well.
Freshman of the year: Cade Cunningham, Oklahoma State—Cunningham is a legitimate candidate to be the top overall selection in the next NBA draft. When you say that, along with Budweiser, you’ve said it all.
1.Baylor: The more I think about it, the more I believe the Bears will win the Big 12 title with a bit of breathing space between them and the No. 2 team. This squad has so much depth, talent and experience that it could almost run on autopilot.
2.Texas Tech: The Red Raiders have the talent to match Baylor and everybody else in the Big 12. However, this will be a team that relies very heavily on newcomers, and it will take time for roles to form and the club to coalesce. In March, however, it will be lethal.
3.Kansas: This will be the least talented Kansas team to come down the pike for quite a long time. However, Bill Self is a masterful coach and the Jayhawk brand wins by virtue of mystique and aura. KU will also win, however, on the strength of some mighty stifling defense.
4.West Virginia: If Bob Huggins can find some help for Miles McBride at the guard position, the Mountaineers will challenge for all the marbles. The front line of Oscar Tshiebwe, Derek Culver, Emmitt Matthews and Gabe Osabuohien will be extraordinarily formidable.
5.Texas: This roster is as good as any in the Big 12, but who can trust Shaka Smart’s Longhorns to live up to their potential? UT will be the only team in the conference capable of matching up with West Virginia’s frontcourt. But unless this program learns how to play with fire and toughness, it really won’t matter all that much.
6.Oklahoma: In Austin Reaves and Brady Manek, Oklahoma has two of the better players in the Big 12. And if De’Vion Harmon makes a big leap as a sophomore, the Sooners could surprise. You can be certain Lon Kruger will have his team well prepared and playing on an even keel.
7.Oklahoma State: The Cowboys will resemble Texas Tech in that they will rely heavily on newcomers. Only Isaac Likekele and Kalib Boone are significant returnees. This team will revolve around Likekele and Cade Cunningham. Can Mike Boynton parlay that binary system into a big season? Not in the Big 12. And particularly not in this Big 12.
8.Iowa State: The Cyclones under Steve Prohm have been like a less talented version of the Texas Longhorns. They have the players to complete, and yet they rarely do. This unit will boast a nice blend of experience and promising newcomers, but without the needed on-court tenacity, there’s only so far they can go.19COMMENTS
9.TCU: Kevin Samuel is one of the most underrated players in the Big 12. R.J. Nembhard is one of the most overrated. And P.J. Fuller and Jaedon Ledee are serious underachievers. For the Frogs to make any noise, Fuller and Ledee will have to play up to their potential.
10.Kansas State: Outside of perhaps DaJuan Gordon, there simply are no major talents on this roster. The Wildcats will scrap and claw because that’s what Bruce Weber teams do, but in the Big 12 you’ve got to have multiple guys who can put the ball in the hole, and K-State does not have them.