Tonight’s games wrap up the first month of the college basketball season, so it’s a good time to check the temperature of the Big 12, which appears weaker than in most seasons.
First, consider the all-conference team for the opening month: Pierre Jackson (Baylor), Ben McLemore (Kansas), Le’Bryan Nash (Oklahoma State), Will Clyburn (Iowa State), Jeff Withey (Kansas).
Now a look at the teams, listed in order of predicted finish. The best-game/worst-game selections adhere to the tenet that a horrible performance in victory ranks ahead of a terrific one in defeat. As Kansas football coach Charlie Weis reminds us on an every-other-week-basis, there is no such thing as a moral victory.
Top newcomer: McLemore. Team’s quickest and most explosive player also happens to have the best three-point touch, despite recent 0-for-7 effort. He’s good for at least one loud dunk a game, is an unstoppable offensive rebounder and even blocks shots. Will make better decisions as he gains experience. Best game: Defeated St. Louis, 73-59. Worst game: Lost to Michigan State, 67-64.
Oklahoma State (5-0)
Top newcomer: Marcus Smart. The tougher the competition, the better the 6-4 freshman from Flower Mound, Texas plays. His 17 points and nine rebounds helped the Cowboys to defeat Tennessee, 62-45, and his 20 points, seven rebounds, seven assists, four blocked shots and four steals led OSU to a 20-point victory against North Carolina State. Smart already has established himself as a candidate for first-team Big 12 honors. Best game: Defeated North Carolina State, 76-56. Worst game: Defeated Akron, 69-65, in overtime.
Top newcomer: Isiah Austin. The 7-1, 220-pound freshman from Arlington, Texas averages 14.2 points and 8.2 rebounds and has shot .364 from three-point range. He doesn’t block shots and has a long way to go. Austin was ranked No. 4 in the Class of 2012 by Rivals.com. Best game: Defeated St. John’s, 97-78. Worst game: Lost to College of Charleston, 63-59.
Iowa State (4-2)
Top newcomer: Clyburn. Versatile 6-7 senior Utah transfer from Detroit leads team in scoring (14.8) and rebounding (9.2) and is shooting .813 from the line. Best game: Defeated Campbell, 88-68. Worst game: Lost to UNLV, 82-70.
Top newcomer: Amath M’Baye, a 6-9 Wyoming transfer, averages 10.5 points and seven rebounds. He’s no Tony Parker, but he is a native of France, hometown Bordeaux, a town you might not want to mention in the presence of wine snobs for fear they might bore you to death with their grape knowledge. Best game: Defeated West Virginia, 77-70. Worst game: Lost to Gonzaga, 72-47.
Top newcomer: Javan Felix, a 5-10 point guard from New Orleans, has played like a freshman, rushing his shots, missing far more than he makes and turning it over at too high a rate. But he wasn’t supposed to be playing this many minutes and has been forced to do so because Myck Kabongo has not played while the NCAA investigates his relationship with an agent. Best game: Defeated Fresno State, 55-53. Worst game: Lost to Chaminade, 86-73.
Kansas State (5-1)
Top newcomer: D.J. Johnson. A 6-8, 250-pound freshman from St. Louis, Johnson is an absolute monster on the offensive boards. He averages 17 minutes and shares team lead six rebounds per game. Is particularly hungry on the offensive boards with 23 in 102 minutes, compared to 13 defensive boards.. Best game: Defeated Delaware, 66-63. Worst game: Lost to Michigan, 71-57.
West Virginia (2-3)
Top newcomer: Aaric Murray. The 6-10, 250-pound transfer from La Salle averages 10.2 points, seven rebounds and 1.6 blocks for the struggling Mountaineers. Best game: Defeated Marist, 87-44. Worst game: Lost to Gonzaga, 84-50.
Texas Tech (4-0)
Top newcomer: Dejan Kravic. A 6-11 center who spent his first two years of college playing for York University in Toronto, Kravic sat out last season as a red-shirt transfer. He’s averaging 13.5 points, six rebounds and 2.5 blocks. Freshman guard Josh Gray, averaging 12 points and four steals, has a higher ceiling that Kravic. Best game: Defeated Grambling State, 91-56. Worst game: Defeated Jackson State, 84-75.
Top newcomer: Devonta Abron, a 6-8, 255-pound Arkansas transfer averaging 8.5 points and 6.3 rebounds. Opponents will foul him late in close games. The native of Seagoville, Texas, is shooting .452 from the line. Best game: Defeated Cal Poly, 53-46. Worst game: Lost to Northwestern, 55-31.