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It's never too early for some preseason college hoops predictions

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So here we sit, a little more than three weeks away from the start of football season and that means it’s time to start looking at preseason basketball predictions.... Wait, what?

As much as that might not be a reality anywhere else in the country, it certainly is the case here in Lawrence, where college basketball is a year-round passion and rankings, whether they’re posted in mid-April, the heart of the summer or the start of October, are taken seriously the minute they’re posted.

That’s why CBS Sports’ Jon Rothstein caught the eye of Kansas fans on Monday when he dropped his early look at the Big 12 for the upcoming season, which actually will be here before we know it.

Technically dubbed Power Rankings, Rothstein’s picks did not cause any heart attacks — in other words, he properly picked Kansas to win the Big 12 again — but did create a little buzz at spots 2-10.

I’m actually good with a big chunk of his picks. I like Kansas to win its 13th straight Big 12 regular season title, I like West Virginia to be the Jayhawks’ biggest challenger and I think K-State and TCU will finish closer to the bottom than the top.

It’s the middle of the pack that I’d change up, at least as of Aug. 16, 2016.

So my late-summer Big 12 predictions would look something like this:

  1. Kansas, 2. West Virginia, 3. Iowa State, 4. Baylor, 5. Oklahoma, 6. Texas, 7. Texas Tech, 8. Oklahoma State, 9. Kansas State, 10. TCU.

Here's a look at Rothstein's order:

Next up, Rothstein Tweeted out some individual awards, including player of the year, which he gave to KU freshman Josh Jackson.

It’s a bold pick given Jackson’s age, but might wind up being one we look back on and say, “Of course.”

Joining Jackson on Rothstein’s first team were:

Given the departure of so many of last year’s stars, either to graduation or early entry in the NBA Draft (I’m still bumming over Isaiah Taylor’s decision to leave Texas), first-team all-Big 12 honors are a bit wide open going into the 2016-17 season.

I’m in agreement with Jackson, Morris and Evans but think I’d give the slight edge to Devonte’ Graham over Frank Mason, I think Graham will score more and shoot a higher percentage. Plus, Graham’s on-court demeanor tends to stand out a lot more than the stone-faced senior.

After that, I’d give the final spot to either Motley or OU’s Khadeem Lattin, who will have to have a much bigger impact for the Sooners on both ends of the floor than he did with Buddy Hield, Ryan Spangler and Isaiah Cousins in the lineup.

Rothstein lists Oklahoma State as his sleeper team and it’s tough to argue with that given the presence of all-world point guard Jawun Evans and the return of senior guard Phil Forte along with the dawn of the Brad Underwood era.

If there were a team other than OSU that I’d consider for this honor, it’s Shaka Smart’s Texas Longhorns, which I’ve got sixth and Rothstein had seventh. They’re missing some key pieces, particularly at the point, but UT has some terrific athletes and should be much more comfortable playing Smart’s style, which can be a nightmare for opponents. Predicting Texas to crack the Top 3 would be a reach, but it’s definitely easy to make a case for a fourth- or fifth-place finish.

Rothstein’s next few categories featured a few Jayhawks in some less-heralded categories.

Both Udoka Azubuike and Mitch Lightfoot landed on his list of 10 impact freshmen and big man Dwight Coleby landed on his list of five his under-the-radar transfers.

I was surprised to see Lightfoot included on the impact freshmen list — though I wouldn’t be surprised if that prediction came true. It’ll all come down to opportunity, if you ask me — and even though Coleby definitely has some potential to impact this team, I’m not sure this will be the year he does that.

His final category was 5 breakout Big 12 players and I’m a big fan of all of them, but was shocked to see KU sophomore Carlton Bragg left off the list.

Bragg also has yet to appear on DraftExpress.com’s 2017 Mock Draft and, when I inquired about his absence there, I was told that they’d probably add him if he got off to a hot start, otherwise he’ll be on the 2018 Mock Draft as soon as they post it.

While the idea of Bragg sticking around for his junior season might be music to KU fans’ ears, I’m not sure he’s getting the hype he deserves heading into his sophomore season — at least not nationally.

Just by being out there the amount of time he figures to be on the floor, Bragg stands to be an automatic threat for a double-double on any given night. He easily has the prowess to pour in double figures in scoring and if his added bulk is paired with another level of intensity, he should be able to hit the glass and do some damage on both ends of the floor.

While predicting a double-double average for Bragg is also a bit bold, the numbers say that if his 2015-16 averages of 3.8 points and 2.5 rebounds in 9 minutes a game are projected over his more likely playing time of around 30 minutes a game in 2016-17, Bragg easily could wind up in the 12-point, 8-rebound range.

After all, with names like Mason, Graham, Jackson and Lucas out there on the floor with him, there will be very little pressure on the talented sophomore who, at least according to those you ask around here, sure seems to be headed toward a big time season.

Comments

Jeff Coffman 5 years, 3 months ago

It seems like the Big XII in general is down this year. I think with West Virginia, Texas, and OSU all playing the full pressure defense, the teams in the conference will adjust and the overall effectiveness will decrease.

Matt Tait 5 years, 3 months ago

Definitely an interesting take. A big part of what has made WVU so effective is that teams haven't seen it much and then when they play them it's a shock to the system. But if that type of D is a little more common the adjustment won't be as drastic.

Suzi Marshall 5 years, 3 months ago

If the Big 12 ends up with three full pressure defenses like you say, that should play into KU's strengths with all the good ball handlers expected to play. Our 'small' lineup of Mason/Graham/Jackson/Mykailiuk should absolutely destroy this tactics, especially if they see variations of it 6-8, counting the post season conference tournament, times in the season.

The well balanced competitive league of the past has helped KU, since the other schools routinely beat each other. A less than top-half combative league may not be in our best interest.

Fred Whitehead Jr. 5 years, 3 months ago

"So here we sit, a little more than three weeks away from the start of football season and that means it’s time to start looking at preseason basketball predictions.... Wait, what?"

I will tell you what. Since the football team is already given up as dead, this is the usual attitude from the University. There is no "Late Night on the Gridiron" for the football team such as the "Late Night" orgy (in the middle of the football season) for the basketball team.

Let's concentrate on the yearly crop of NBA candidates, the one-year wonders who use the University and it's funds as a stepping stone to imagined future glory.

With the expectations of a few cast off players from Alabama (next year, of course) the usual yearly slump with the football team is expected and pretty much ignored.

That's what.

Jay Scott 5 years, 3 months ago

Fred, other than KU sports, what else do you use to fuel your endless anger?

Fred Whitehead Jr. 5 years, 3 months ago

Jay. well,lessee...........Donald Trump, roundabouts, Donald Trump, drivers eating breakfast and driving, Donald Trump, "street diets", Donald Trump, "junk" art, and oh, yes......Donald Trump. Need some more?? Forget it.

Jay Scott 5 years, 3 months ago

If the Jayhawks lose on inauguration day your head might explode...

Greg Ledom 5 years, 3 months ago

Your not bitter are you? Take a laxative and release some of that pressure. You'll feel better. Here's one KU fan totally focused on football, but doesn't mind updates on other sports, and certainly not on our bread and butter. Rock Chalk!!

Andy Tweedy 5 years, 3 months ago

It can't possibly be too early, the local Target already has Christmas decorations popping up!

Bryce Landon 5 years, 3 months ago

Do they have any Santa Clauses trying to follow Mrs. Claus into the ladies' room too?

Pius Waldman 5 years, 3 months ago

Matt I still get a big enjoyment viewing your smile BUT Bulldog Mason will rule the roost this year.

Mike Greer 5 years, 3 months ago

I suppose you can't have an All Big 12 team made up of players from only one team, but with the talent KU has this year, it's difficult to figure out who to leave off. Mason, Graham, Jackson, Graham, Mason, Mason, Graham?

I've always enjoyed watching the players progress over the season or into the next season. I'm anxious to see Bragg and how much he has matured over the summer and as the season progresses.

John Randall 5 years, 3 months ago

" I'm anxious to see Bragg and how much ..."

I share your eagerness, but see no reason for anxiety.

Len Shaffer 5 years, 3 months ago

I'm in total agreement with you, Matt, on your Bragg call. I was very impressed with him in his limited time last year, and I think he's due for a monster season. I'll go beyond your 12-and-8 prediction and predict 15 and 10.

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