Last week, Iowa State fans and those who follow Big 12 men’s basketball were puzzled at how the Cyclones were revealed as the fifth-best team in the conference. Let’s fix it.
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With all the preseason hype surrounding the Cyclones, it’s projected that they will be even better than last year despite losing two huge players — DeAndre Kane and Melvin Ejim. That’s been the trend under Fred Hoiberg. With all the great players that come in for one or two years and leave, his teams have been getting even stronger as they bring in even better transfers and has highly rated prospects years down the road looking at the school.
For those that expect Iowa State to stop winning as much as they have, or they expect them to be just a flash in the pan these last couple of years, that’s simply not going to happen. With all due respect to the Big 12 coaches, here’s where I believe the conference teams stand as we head into the 2014-15 season.
1. Kansas Jayhawks
Until they’re dethroned in the regular season, they’ll always be the favorite. Bill Self is the king of getting the most out of his talent, and they never have long rough patches that keep them from winning a Big 12 title.
2. Iowa State Cyclones
Georges Niang is all anybody wants to talk about, but the nation is going to learn about Bryce Dejean-Jones, Jameel McKay, Monte Morris, and Dustin Hogue. This is probably the deepest team Hoiberg has had during his tenure.
3. Texas Longhorns
Mar 22, 2014; Milwaukee, WI, USA; Texas Longhorns forward Jonathan Holmes (10) grabs a rebound in the first half of a men
The Longhorns are back as being Big 12 contenders. Why have they been out of the picture in these last couple of years? Because the team was really young. What’s scary is they are still all really young and the experience is there. They had a solid finish to last year and tied with Iowa State in conference play. Don’t forget the big addition of Myles Turner, a local 5-star stud that will get a ton of attention this year.
4. Oklahoma Sooners
Losing Cameron Clark and Tyler Neal hurt, but they still have their sharpshooting guard, Buddy Hield, and the Big 12’s favorite forward and the Sooners’ double-0 agent, Ryan Spangler. Iowa State had a rough time with OU last season and expect the same tough matchups this year.
5. West Virginia Mountaineers
Bob Huggins will soon have the Mountaineers back to form and being a legit Big 12 contender. He’s got some great recruits coming in, most notably 4-star power forwards from Ohio, Devin Williams and Elijah Macon, who both check in at 6-foot-8 and over 220 lbs. Juwan Staten, the Big 12’s best guard and arguably best player, enters his final season.
6. Kansas State Wildcats
A promising season is in store for KSU, but I think there’s too many question marks with all the seniors leaving from a year ago to push them above Iowa State. Their transfer, Stephen Hurt, could live up to his last name coming in as a huge 7-foot, 275-pound junior center.
7. Oklahoma State Cowboys
Life without Marcus Smart will immediately be rough, but they won’t be bad. Le’Bryan Nash and Phil Forte are still there. It’ll just be a struggle to get an at-large bid with how deep the conference is.
8. Baylor Bears
Mar 23, 2014; San Antonio, TX, USA; Baylor Bears guard Kenny Chery (1) dribbles during the game against the Creighton Bluejays in the third round of the 2014 NCAA Tournament at AT&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
Similar to some other teams in this category, there’s just too much leaving. Isaiah Austin, Cory Jefferson, Brady Heslip, and Gary Franklin are all gone, leaving Royce O’Neale, Kenny Chery, and Rico Gathers as the most notable players. The Bears won’t be down for long — hell, they could have a surprise season if their players gel immediately. But me not being able to put Baylor above eighth doesn’t show how bad they are, but again with how deep the Big 12 is.
9. TCU Horned Frogs
TCU won’t go winless in Big 12 play this year. They’ll be much more of a threat assuming they can avoid the injury bug like last preseason. Seniors Kyan Anderson and Amric Fields won’t be carrying the team themselves — younger players like Michael Williams, Josh Brown, and Karviar Shephard are ready to break out.
10. Texas Tech Red Raiders
Tubby Smith is still in the process of rebuilding this team. They’ll upset a couple teams, but the conference is just too tough for them to compete this season.