There's opportunity for one of the Big 12's middle class to step up into a nicer neighborhood, but none of them look ready to make the jump. Baylor had an outstanding year last season, capped off with a run to a regional final and a tough loss to Duke, but they lose their inside people and now premier guard LaceDarius Dunn has some eligibility issues. Kansas State also pushed to a regional final before falling to a Butler and has a talented backcourt in Jacob Pullen and Curtis Kelly. But they too lose their inside help. Oklahoma State loses Big 12 Player of the Year James Anderson and has to be rebuilt. Oklahoma never could recover from the loss of Blake Griffin last year and now the backcourt that did all the scoring has to be replaced. Texas A&M won 24 games and has become a perennial NCAA team, but they have to put new pieces in place.
If one is looking for surprise teams in this league, we have to look down the ladder at programs who aren't going to win a conference title, but may be able to seize the opportunity to move up the ladder and into NCAA Tournament contention. Let's start with Texas Tech where Pat Knight has his best chance to win since taking over from his father in February '08. The Red Raiders return a quality backcourt of John Roberson, who can score and dish, along with Mike Singletary, the son of the 49ers head coach. Tech made the NIT last year and won two games there and look ready to step it up another notch. And the two outgoing programs could make a splash. Colorado, on its way to the Pac-10 has prolific backcourt combo of Nate Tomlinson and Cory Higgins. Nebraska, headed for the Big Ten, returns four starters. None of them are noteworthy, but experience could win them some games while other teams sort out combinations.
All in all, the Big 12 has a chaotic look to it right now as every coach races to be the first one to get his new lineup and rotation settled and in place.
Image from kusports.com
Dan Flaherty is the editor of the Sports Notebook Family, published through the Real Clear Sports Blog Network, offering daily commentary in college football ,game analysis in the NFL. and coverage of college basketball. He is the author of The Last New Year's, a book that revisits the historic high points of college football's New Year's Day bowl games.