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Friday, October 23, 2009

Big 12 men’s capsules

Texas' Dexter Pittman (34) takes a shot in the second half as Colorado's Jermyl Jackson-Wilson (31) defends at the Big 12 Conference men's tournament in Oklahoma City, Wednesday, March 11, 2009. Pittman scored 26 points in Texas' 67-56 win.

Texas' Dexter Pittman (34) takes a shot in the second half as Colorado's Jermyl Jackson-Wilson (31) defends at the Big 12 Conference men's tournament in Oklahoma City, Wednesday, March 11, 2009. Pittman scored 26 points in Texas' 67-56 win.

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— The following capsules break down the Big 12 teams outside of Lawrence for the upcoming hoops season.

Teams are organized in the order they appeared in the Big 12 coaches poll released earlier this month. Kansas University was the unanimous No. 1 selection.

Texas (23-12 overall last season, 9-7 Big 12)

Returning standout: Senior center Dexter Pittman. The 6-foot-10, 290-pounder was a force at the end of the season, averaging 17 points and 11 rebounds in three Big 12 tournament games.

Fresh face: Avery Bradley. The freshman was the No. 4 overall Rivals.com recruit last year and should make immediate impact in the Longhorns’ backcourt in replacing A.J. Abrams, the Big 12’s all-time leader in three-pointers made with 389.

Quotable from Thursday’s media day at Sprint Center: “He got sick a couple weeks ago and got down to under 290 (pounds) for the first time. I said, ‘Maybe you should stay sick all the time.’” — Texas coach Rick Barnes, joking about Pittman.

Sorrentino says: UT is the only team that will challenge Kansas for the Big 12 title. The Horns have one of the deepest frontcourts in the country (Pittman, Damion James, Gary Johnson, Jordan Hamilton). Texas loses to Kansas in another epic Big 12 title game, but the Horns knock on the door of the Final Four.

Oklahoma (30-6, 13-3)

Returning standout: Sophomore guard Willie Warren. No longer is OU Blake Griffin’s team. Warren (14.6 points, 3.1 assists per game) will be the face of the Sooners.

Fresh face: Tommy Mason-Griffin. At 5-11, 203 pounds, the freshman has nearly the exact frame of KU’s Sherron Collins. Griffin put up monster numbers as a high school senior last year (22.8 points, 5.3 assists, 4.4 rebounds, 3.7 steals per game) and should play from Day 1.

Quotable: “Myself,” Warren said, smiling, when asked who the best player was in the Big 12. “That’s just my confidence. I hope Sherron Collins has the same confidence. That’s what you need to have a great team. You need your best player to feel like he’s the best in the conference.”

Sorrentino says: OU’s identity will be reversed from last year, when the Sooners punished teams down low with Griffin. Coach Jeff Capel’s best players now play along the perimeter. OU will make the NCAA Tournament, but won’t challenge Kansas or Texas for the Big 12 crown.

Kansas State (22-12, 9-7)

Returning standout: Senior guard Denis Clemente. The Wildcats are a guard-oriented team with Clemente (15 points per game) and junior Jacob Pullen.

Fresh face: Wally Judge. The Wildcats keep recruiting in Washington, D.C., and it seems to be working. Judge, a five-star recruit, played for the same AAU factory (DC Assault) as former KSU star Michael Beasley.

Quotable: “The first time he threw it off the JumboTron and it went in, no one saw it,” Pullen said of Clemente’s famous H-O-R-S-E shot off the scoreboard made popular on YouTube. “No one believed it. I was like, ‘I haven’t seen that. I don’t believe it.’ He kept trying to do it and finally he had someone record it.”

Sorrentino says: K-State will make the NCAA Tournament after missing it last year. The Wildcats must improve upon their Big 12-worst 65 percent free-throw percentage. No one on the team shot 80 percent from the stripe.

Texas A&M; (24-10, 9-7)

Returning standout: Senior guard Donald Sloan. With Josh Carter gone, Sloan is the Aggies’ returning scorer (11.8 points per game) and floor general.

Fresh face: Naji Hibbert. He’s a 6-6 shooting guard who, according to Rivals.com, could put on some body mass to become a more effective player.

Quotable: “Oh, Allen Fieldhouse, by far,” senior guard Derrick Roland said of the toughest atmosphere in which he’s ever played. “My freshman year (2007), we went there and won, and then last year we went in there and didn’t do well at all. The crowd totally revs them up. All the props and things. It’s pretty amazing to see, when the fans get into it like they do.”

Sorrentino says: A&M;, with a top-30 recruiting class, has an interesting mix of youth and experience (Sloan, Roland, Bryan Davis). The Aggies will go dancing in March.

Oklahoma State (23-12, 9-7)

Returning standout: Junior guard James Anderson. He is the best scorer in the country that no one knows about. The true test to see if Anderson can be a leader will be toward the end of games. No longer will the Cowboys have Byron Eaton knocking down clutch shots and demanding the ball with the game on the line like he did to knock Tennessee out of last year’s NCAA Tournament. Can Anderson be that guy?

Fresh face: Ray Penn. Coach Travis Ford said Penn had a more complete game than any other freshman on the team. The Cowboys lack a point guard after Eaton’s departure and could look to Penn to fill that spot.

Quotable: “In practice, he once made 92 or 93 threes in five minutes. He’s an incredible shooter.” — Senior guard Obi Muonelo, on sophomore guard Keiton Page.

Sorrentino says: The Cowboys like to launch it from deep (four players averaged close to 40 percent from the arc last year). They may sit on the bubble in March, but here’s guessing they make it.

Missouri (31-7, 12-4)

Returning standout: Senior guard J.T. Tiller. Simply put, there’s not a better defender in the country. He exemplifies coach Mike Anderson’s relentless style of pressure defense.

Fresh face: Michael Dixon, Jr. Anderson said he viewed Dixon as one of the best guards in the country in the recruiting process.

Quotable: “There’s a reason why we won 31 games ... We led the nation in assists. We led the nation in assist-to-turnover ratio. This is a team that was No. 5 in the country in scoring, playing up-tempo. I think people fail to recognize that.” — Anderson.

Sorrentino says: The task of trying to replace DeMarre Carroll and Leo Lyons makes Missouri the most unknown team in the Big 12. They’ll be on the bubble for tournament time and barely miss out.

Iowa State (15-17, 4-12)

Returning standout: Junior forward Craig Brackins. He’s a dominant scorer, but he needs help. Brackins averaged 20.2 points per game last year. He was the only Cyclone to average in double figures.

Fresh face: Chris Colvin. The four-star recruit should challenge for minutes right away at point guard.

Quotable: “If you’re going to win in the Big 12, you have to have versatility on the wing with some size. We were desperately missing that a year ago. We really haven’t had that since we had (6-6, 200) Rahshon Clark (2004-2008)." — ISU coach Greg McDermott.

Sorrentino says: In talking to Brackins about passing on declaring for the NBA, he said he talked to former Cyclone and current Memphis Grizzlies guard Mike Taylor and came to the conclusion he wasn’t ready for the business aspect of the NBA and felt that he needed more seasoning. Brackins is a star talent, but he doesn’t have enough around him for ISU to make a tournament run.

Texas Tech (14-19, 3-13)

Returning standout: Junior forward Mike Singletary. He was the most exciting player in the Big 12 tournament last year after scorching Texas A&M; for a tournament-record 43 points.

Quote of the day: “Oh no, I just tried not to screw it up. I swear, I told the guys to run a ball screen for (Alan) Voskuil or (John) Roberson and they called me off. They said nope, we’re just going to give it to Mike.” — Coach Pat Knight, on Singletary’s Big 12 tournament performance.

Sorrentino says: Singletary and point guard Roberson are underrated, and the Red Raiders will be one of the surprise teams in the Big 12. They’re a year away from making the NCAA Tournament, though.

Baylor (24-15, 5-11)

Returning standout: Junior guard LaceDarius Dunn. He’s streaky, but when he’s on, he’s the most lethal three-point shooter in the conference.

Fresh face: Junior Ekpe Udoh. The University of Michigan transfer could impact the paint for Baylor immediately. He led the Big Ten with 2.91 blocks per game two years ago.

Quotable: “He’s been our best defensive guard the last couple of years. We’ve put him on the best offensive player. And now I think he'll get a chance to show more of his offensive ability.” — coach Scott Drew, on senior guard Tweety Carter.

Sorrentino says: Baylor had a nice run last year with an appearance in the NIT finals, but the departure of Curtis Jerrells won’t make it any easier in getting back to the tournament that really matters.

Nebraska (18-13, 8-8)

Returning standout: Senior guard Sek Henry, 8 points per game. The Huskers need to find a scorer after Ade Dagunduro’s departure.

Fresh face: Brandon Ubel. The 6-9 Overland Park product comes from the same high school (Blue Valley West) as Texas Tech sophomore Robert Lewandowski and could make an immediate impact.

Quotable: “Coach and I have known each other for about 20 years. He was an assistant at Oklahoma State. I worked for coach (Eddie) Sutton also. We became friends. He is just very, very good at what he does. He feels sorry for me and gives me strokes in golf. But it probably won’t happen as much now. He’s got a daughter in college. I’m sure he’s budgeting a little bit tighter. But no, he’s just a great guy. He’s a guy that no matter if we were fixin’ to play them tomorrow, he’d spend the time to visit with me.” — Nebraska coach Doc Sadler, on KU coach Bill Self.

Sorrentino says: Somewhere toward the bottom of the Big 12.

Colorado (9-22, 1-15)

Returning standout: Junior guard Cory Higgins, 17.4 points per game.

Quotable: “Our weakness is going to be our rebounding. It was last year. If that doesn't change, you know, to be quite frank, we’re not going to change much from a win and loss standpoint. And players know that.” — coach Jeff Bzdelik.

Sorrentino says: Somewhere toward the bottom of the Big 12.

Comments

suttonku 10 years, 9 months ago

Well I just want to say that Willie Warren continues to pour fuel on the fire that is Sherron Collins...I just dont see the depth that UT has in their frontcourt at all. Gary Johnson is 6'6 and he is there backup 4? Can you imagine him trying to stop TRob? I cant. And Clint Chapman? as a backup center spells problems. I will say that Hamilton and James are nice 3 guards but Johnson wont be that effective against good teams and Dexter Pittman basically has no backup. To beat UT you must get Pittman in foul trouble and then continue to pound the ball inside and I believe KU will do that. Im not sure why people are so scared of UT this year I just dont see them doing much besides finishing 2nd or 3rd in the big 12.

Robert Brock 10 years, 9 months ago

I see Texas as a potential national champion. The key is their point guard play - Balbay must play as a true point guard and leave the shooting to Bradley, Hamilton, James, etc. This will be the toughest Texas team in memory when it comes to defense.

FairgroveJayhawk 10 years, 9 months ago

I'm surpirsed Clemente wasn't found guilty of a felony in the off season. The new face of the Wildcats in a bright orange jump suit.

yates33333 10 years, 9 months ago

I agree with Brock. Yet, Suttonku is correct regarding Pittman. If he is in foul trouble, UT is in trouble. KU will be tested by UT, which is good in the long run. KU will be ready for the NCAA finals in a way a large number of KU teams weren't before lately because of the weak competition.

Joe Baker 10 years, 9 months ago

Balbay is not a pt guard. I'm a better point guard than Balbay! I would at least put a shot up. You could double team James and leave Balbay alone and he'll either pass or drive for layup.

James is the only true force they have. They are good, but Pittman is nothing but a thug and he uses his weight to bully and travels all over the lane. He's a clumsy ox! Avery is untested and don't think he'll be much of a force this year. I think Texas will struggle early and barely make it in the end. They don't have a true go to guy.

Brock- You really think they are a "national championship" team? Abrams is all they've had for the last few years. You take away Abrams, and he is gone, they have nothing. If you expect a Freshman like Avery will be Abrams-like, you're a fool! He'll be much better his Soph or possibly his Junior and Senior year if at all.

Texas is too hyped this year in the B12. I'm glad they are for the sake of the B12, but don't think they'll be the threat the media keeps pushing: "right behind KU", "Texas will give KU a run", "The only contender in the B12 next to KU." I appreciate the competition, but they are going to be much like we were last year, w/o the run. They are at the top of B12 b-ball by default. I can't wait to see them play UNC in Arlington Dec 19th.

suttonku 10 years, 9 months ago

I dont know enough about Bradley to know but isnt this team going to struggle without AJ Abrams taking all their shots?

Seriously though, can Bradley shoot really well? I know James is ok but other than that and potentially Bradley, who else can shoot the ball?

Joel Hood 10 years, 9 months ago

Open appeal to Willie Warren -

Please, please, please keep opening your mouth.

suttonku 10 years, 9 months ago

Dont worry, Willie will continue to talk trash. He is one of the most arrogant players I have ever been around.

okjhok 10 years, 9 months ago

Yes, Willie likes to talk. Usually, he backs it up. Were none of you watching last year while he was torching our guards? Yeah, we won the game, but he went off. Not saying he's better than Sherronatron, but he's right there with him.

Regarding UT, I think they are without question a FF contender and will be right behind KU in the league. That is going to be a battle in Austin. Damion James is a beast and will be more of a stud this year than Pittman, by far. They've got all the pieces, but they're not as deep or quite as talented as KU. They'll be right there, though.

Joe Baker 10 years, 9 months ago

suttonku (anonymous) says... I dont know enough about Bradley to know but isnt this team going to struggle without AJ Abrams taking all their shots?

Exactly suttonku! All Rick Barnes would do is run a screen away from Abrams and their O plays revolved around him getting that off balance fade away shot from the arc he took most of the time. And, to his credit, he would hit most of them or when it mattered. But, his legs ran out real fast! Or, they would dump it inside to the clumsy oxen and he would walk his way to the rim.

At any rate, Avery is and never will be Abrams!! Sorry...

Joe Baker 10 years, 9 months ago

I'm not worried about lil' Willie and OU! We have them in the Phog. He will have to take his medicine. He needs to worry about going to class or he'll find himself ineligible.

You Horn sympathizers need to understand they are good, but FF good? (okjhok?) Really? I guess I'm a lone hawk fan that thinks the horns are a little overrated!! They have to get through some other stiff competition in the B12 and especially the nation. Frankly, I see A&M giving some people problems. They had some great runs and are returning some people. Another dangerous team is OSU!! It's those quiet teams that quietly sneak up and beat you. My case in point is TT. We really made them look great, especially when their Senior guard torched us for 40+ points in Lubbock?

okjhok 10 years, 9 months ago

I wouldn't classify myself as a "Horn sympathizer." I just recognize the kind of team they have. When you look at what lost from last year and what they bring in this year and then consider the maturity of the returners, I think they'll be solid. I can't find four teams around the country that I would put ahead of them. I could be wrong...that's why they play the games.

Robert Brock 10 years, 9 months ago

Abrams was not a particularly good basketball player. For instance, he couldn't defend anybody. On the other hand, Bradley is one of the best prospects that I have seen in years defending on the perimeter. Net gain for Barnes. Is defense important? Ask Bill Self!

emillasap 10 years, 9 months ago

In case anyone was still on this thread, Avery Bradley is an upgrade day one from Abrams. One could disagree; however, my canned response would be: Talk to me in January.

Dirk Medema 10 years, 9 months ago

UT has Lucas (transfer) at the point.

I don't know a lot about Avery either, but he was sik @ McD's. I seem to recall a pretty decent McD having an impact at UT a year or so ago. I'd expect Avery to make an impact.

Johnson may only be 6-6, but there are plenty of effective PF's (especially in college) that have been 6-6 or less (see Sir Charles). I recall him being effective last year, and would expect him to do the same again this year.

Robert Brock 10 years, 9 months ago

I watched Avery Bradley play for his Findlay team last year against some of the best opposition. He was flat-out remarkable, especially on defense. And Jordan Hamilton? KU would have loved to have signed this kid. Barnes is recruiting well; now he has to show that he can put it together. I love the Hawks but it is important to stay real. Texas is going to be trouble!

jaybate 10 years, 9 months ago

Brock,

Agreed Tayhoss is strong for first five, maybe seven, and will give us all we can take in the way of bruising and bashing, but...

First Five

1 KU 2 even. 3 even (by February). 4 KU barely 5.KU barely

Second Five

1 KU 2 KU 3 KU 4 KU 5 KU

Remainders: KU

I may be biased however. I detest Butcher Barnes.

Rock Chalk.

Dirk Medema 10 years, 9 months ago

Jaybate - Totally agree on the relative strength of KU at the front end of the bench. Unfortunatly, KU's 2nd 5 strength becomes increasingly irrelevant since the rotation gets progressively tightened to 9, 8, 7 ...

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