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NCAA Basketball: Baylor Big XII Champions

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Big XII (MBB) Mega Preview: Part 1

A look at the bottom tier teams

Raymond Carlin III-USA TODAY Sports

Intro

Before I dive into any hoops talk, give me a second to introduce myself. My name is Jed and as one of ODB’s newer contributors, I am immensely looking forward to writing about the Baylor Bears this upcoming season. Now, you may or may not have seen my disgustingly long FanPost previewing the upcoming Big XII MBB season. It has been suggested, and I must agree, that there’s too much to say about each and every team in this conference to fit into one, semi-readable post. As such, we’re going to break it into 3 segments, divided into the tiers of teams as I view them on paper.

This first post, my first as an official contributor for this site, will discuss the three teams that constitute what I consider to be bottom tier of the conference. Make no mistake though, just because I have these three teams at the bottom of my preseason power rankings, does not mean that they should be callously dismissed. As we know, the Big XII is crazy. There are no easy nights in conference play. Every team is dangerous and, as we saw last year in the case of the Cyclones, turnarounds can happen seemingly in an instant.

The three teams discussed herein all enter this season after missing the NCAA Tournament a year ago. All of them will surely try to avoid that result this season. Still, to make the Big Dance as an at-large team, you’d probably need to finish in the top 7 of the conference. Last year, 7 Big XII teams made March Madness. Over the last eight NCAA Tournaments, the Big XII has gotten in an average of 6.63 teams per season and never more than 7 or less than 6. This trio of teams should be considered fringe tourney teams. A lot would probably need to go right for them to hear their names on Selection Sunday and they probably won’t have as much margin for error as teams ahead of them in these power rankings. Without further ado, let’s begin.

Power Rankings

10. West Virginia Mountaineers

2021-22 Record: 16-17 (Finished Last in the Big XII Regular Season Standings)

Coach: Bob Huggins (entering 16th season with program; 916 career wins [4th most in DI basketball history]; 2 Final Fours [last in 2010])

NCAA Basketball: Big 12 Conference Tournament-Kansas vs West Virginia Amy Kontras-USA TODAY Sports

Overview

The Mountaineers are coming off their second losing season of the last 4 and only have a single NCAA Tournament win since 2018. After starting last season 13-2, in mid-January, they started a brutal stretch where they lost 14 of 15. Coach Huggins has been highly critical of last year’s team not just for their disappointing record and troubling statistics but more so because of a perceived lack of effort and toughness. This led to them finishing dead last in the league in defensive points allowed per game and average rebounding margin per game. To make matters worse, their offense finished last in the conference in 2P% and was tied for last in Assist-to-Turnover Ratio. It’s fair to say that this season will likely be a completely different looking team as the roster has been almost completely reset and the common theme among the newcomers: toughness and competitiveness. WVU will be looking to right the ship by going back to their gritty roots.

Roster Losses

Stat Lost Production Big XII Rank
Stat Lost Production Big XII Rank
Scoring 88.5% 10th
Rebounding 81.4% 10th
Assists 78.6% 9th
Steals 73.5% 9th
Blocks 94.0% 10th
Minutes 82.9% 10th

The Mountaineers lost 10 players this offseason, including, most notably:

  • 4 starters (Taz Sherman, Sean McNeil, Jalen Bridges, Gabe Osabuohien)
  • Top 4 scorers (Sherman, McNeil, Bridges, Malik Curry)
  • Top 8 rebounders (Osabuohien, Bridges, Sherman, McNeil, Curry, Pauly Paulicap, Isaiah Cottrell, Dimon Carrigan)

Roster Additions

Tre Mitchel: Former 4-star high school prospect. Transfer from the Texas Longhorns. Projected to be a starter.

Joe Toussaint: Former 3-star high school prospect. Transfer from the Iowa Hawkeyes. Projected to be a starter.

Emmitt Matthews Jr.: Former 3-star high school prospect. Transfer from the Washington Huskies. Projected to be a starter.

Erik Stevenson: Former 3-star high school prospect. Transfer from the South Carolina Gamecocks. Projected to be a starter.

Josiah Harris: 3-star high school recruit out of Cleveland, Ohio. Projected to be a rotation player.

Pat Suemnick: 3-star JUCO transfer from Triton College in Illinois. Projected to be a rotation player.

Mohamed Wague: Unranked JUCO transfer from Harcum College in Pennsylvania. Projected to be a rotation player.

Jimmy Bell: Unranked JUCO transfer from Moberly Area CC in Missouri. Projected to be a rotation player.

Josiah Davis: 3-star high school recruit out of Scott Depot, West Virginia. Projected to be a deep bench player.

Projected Starting Lineup

Metric Projected Lineup Big XII Rank
Metric Projected Lineup Big XII Rank
Career Games Played 472 3rd
Career Games Started 315 4th
Career Minutes Played 10,234 3rd
NOTE: Only Division I stats are included

Joe Toussaint (@TouTou_5)

Measurables: Guard, #5, 6’0” 190 lbs., Senior

Stats: Last 3 Seasons (with Iowa): 4.8 PPG, 1.6 RPG, 2.8 APG, and 1.1 SPG in 98 games played (41 starts; 15.6 MPG) on 40.4% FG, 27.7% 3P, and 76.6% FT. Bonus Stat: His Assist-to-Turnover Ratio of 2.29 would have been by far the best on WVU last season.

Analysis: Despite not being a particularly productive scorer, he will be a valuable part of the offense, facilitating and creating opportunities for his teammates. He is particularly effective in transition. Toussaint is also an elite defender who applies a lot of pressure when guarding the ball handler. His toughness and strong ball handling skills will surely endear him to his teammates and coaches as well as Mountaineers fans.

Kedrian Johnson (@Thekeddy0)

Measurables: Guard, #0, 6’3” 185 lbs., Super Senior

Stats: Last Season: 5.3 PPG, 2.2 RPG, 1.7 APG, and 1.6 APG in 32 games played (30 starts; 20.5 MPG) on 42.2% FG, 24.3% 3P, and 75.0% FT. Bonus Stat: He finished 5th in the Big XII in steals last season.

Analysis: His strength is as a defender. His lateral quickness allows him to play a variety of roles defensively, whether he’s denying the ball or facing up on the ball handler. Kedrian is the team’s only returning starter and could be the team’s best defender. If Coach Huggins decides to implement some full-court press this season, Kedrian would figure to be the source of a lot of turnovers. Offensively, he is widely inconsistent as a scorer and his Turnover Rate was the worst on the team a year ago.

Erik Stevenson (@ej_stevenson5)

Measurables: Guard, #10, 6’4” 205 lbs., Super Senior

Stats: Last 3 Seasons (1 each with Wichita State, Washington, and South Carolina): 10.8 PPG, 4.4 RPG, 2.4 APG, and 1.2 SPG in 88 games played (75 starts; 26.1 MPG) on 36.9% FG, 31.4% 3P, and 85.2% FT. Bonus Stat: His Assist Rate would have been the highest on WVU last season.

Analysis: In my August FanPost, I had Erik as the first guy coming off the bench. Since then, every quote I’ve seen from Coach Huggins about this guy praises his intangibles as a competitor and potential leader. He’s a high-volume 3P shooter (over 56% of his career field goal attempts are three-pointers). As a 3P shooter, last season, he boasted a career-high 3P% of 33.3%. He projects to be the team’s best and perhaps only semi-reliable 3P shooter. He is a versatile, tough defender who should fit right in for Huggins’s team.

Emmitt Matthews Jr. (@THEDOOSKIE)

Measurables: Forward, #1, 6’7” 215 lbs., Super Senior

Stats: Last 3 Seasons (2 with WVU and 1 with Washington): 8.6 PPG, 4.1 RPG, 0.7 APG, 0.5 SPG, and 0.4 BPG in 91 games played (86 starts; 26.4 MPG) on 41.4% FG, 31.8% 3P, and 72.9% FT. Bonus Stat: His Offensive Rating would have been 3rd best on WVU last season (behind only Jalen Bridges and Sean McNeil).

Analysis: Matthews really started to put the pieces together offensively last season, averaging career highs in scoring, FG%, and 3P%. If he can maintain that kind of offensive efficiency this season, he could be one of the team’s most productive players. While he is better offensively than he is on the other end, he is a versatile, athletic wing who can guard multiple positions. He’s also a high flyer who looks for any opportunity to posterize his opponent.

Tre Mitchell (@tre_mitch33)

Measurables: Center, #3, 6’9” 225 lbs., Senior

Stats: Last 3 Seasons (2 with UMass and 1 with Texas): 14.7 PPG, 6.0 RPG, 1.8 APG, 0.9 SPG, and 1.0 BPG in 68 games played (60 starts; 26.8 MPG) on 48.9% FG, 33.8% 3P, and 75.4% FT. Bonus Stat: His Defensive Rating would have been the best on WVU last season.

Analysis: I expect Tre to be the team’s best player and he can and will get it done on both ends. Defensively, he has the strength and athleticism to defend the rim and alter shots in the paint. Offensively, he is skilled enough to play on the perimeter and isn’t afraid of shooting three-pointers. His balanced skillset gives him the potential to impact the game in a huge way on both ends of the floor.

Projected Rotation Players

Pat Suemnick (@SuemnickPatrick)

Measurables: Forward, #24, 6’8” 230 lbs., Sophomore

Stats: Last Season (JUCO): 12.0 PPG, 6.1 RPG, 1.6 APG, 0.7 SPG, and 1.0 BPG in 34 games played (27 starts; 9.8 MPG) on 55.0% FG, 41.5% 3P, and 73.2% FT. NOTE: It is a little hard to fathom that this minutes per game stat is correct. It would mean he was attempting a field goal every 55 seconds he was on the floor. For context, only 17 Big XII players attempted more field goals than Suemnick did last season. Of these, the lowest minutes played total was 868 (Andrew Jones, Texas) while Suemnick allegedly only needed 332 minutes of playing time to amass 309 shot attempts. Weird. IF the stats are accurate, that would translate to him averaging per 40 minutes: 48.9 points, 24.9 rebounds, 6.5 assists, and 4.1 blocks. With those types of alleged efficiencies, he’d be among the greatest JUCO players of all time. This means that either his coaches were literally insane to not play him more minutes or that the minutes stat is incorrectly stated.

Analysis: He is a high-IQ defender who does a lot of things at a slightly above average level. His versatility and ability to play a variety of roles off the bench should earn him a prominent place in West Virginia’s rotation this season.

Mohamed Wague (@mohamed_wague12)

Measurables: Center, #11, 6’10” 225 lbs., Sophomore

Stats: Last Season (JUCO): 14.8 PPG, 11.9 RPG, 1.7 APG, 1.3 SPG, and 2.9 BPG in 35 games played (34 starts; 24.8 MPG) on 65.1% FG and 61.4% FT. Bonus Stat: His 170 offensive rebounds were tops in the NJCAA last season.

Analysis: He runs and moves well for a player his size. His strengths are as a rim protector and offensive rebounder. While he is a defensive specialist by nature, he was a productive scorer in the JUCO ranks. He projects as likely the strongest candidate for the backup center position.

Kobe Johnson (@KobeJohnson930)

NCAA Basketball: Big 12 Conference Tournament-West Virginia vs Kansas State Amy Kontras-USA TODAY Sports

Measurables: Guard, #2, 6’3” 210 lbs., Sophomore

Stats: Last Season per 100 possessions: 9.3 points, 8.2 rebounds, 6.1 assists, 4.7 steals, and 1.5 blocks on 32.4% FG, 28.6% 3P, and 75.0% FT. He appeared in 27 games last season (7.5 MPG).

Analysis: He struggled on both ends of the floor last season as a freshman. The coaching staff is hoping that he is a little more patient on the offensive end and a little less likely to force up bad three-point attempts. He’s looking at a much larger role this season as potentially being the first guard off the bench.

Seth Wilson (@s_dub_45)

Measurables: Guard, #14, 6’1” 215 lbs., Sophomore

Stats: Last season per 100 possessions: 14.4 points, 5.8 rebounds, 2.7 assists, and 2.7 steals on 29.8% FG, 22.7% 3P, and 66.7% FT. He appeared in 20 games last season (7.5 MPG).

Analysis: He was a wildly inconsistent scorer last season and will look to establish rhythm on the offensive end heading into his second collegiate season. Coach Huggins has been complimentary of his ball pressure ability on the defensive end. General lack of guard depth could enable him to see some serious minutes this season.

Josiah Harris (@Jojo_bean0730)

Measurables: Forward, #22, 6’7” 210 lbs., Freshman

Stats: High School (Junior Season): 17.9 PPG, 11.1 RPG, 2.9 APG, and 1.6 BPG.

Analysis: Although I originally had Harris as a starter in my August FanPost, I have since learned that he suffered a tibia fracture that could limit his ability to contribute early on. Still, once he’s healthy and ready to go, he could be a productive member of the frontcourt rotation.

Jimmy Bell (@JimmyBellJr15)

Measurables: Center, #15, 6’10” 285 lbs., Senior

Stats: DI Career (2 seasons at Saint Louis) per 100 possessions: 14.6 points and 12.3 rebounds. He appeared in 50 games (35 starts; 12.3 MPG) at Saint Louis before playing at the JUCO level last year.

Analysis: He is an excellent offensive rebounder who utilizes great footwork for a player with his thick frame. He is tough to move down low. He should get at least some regular minutes even if he’s not the first center off the bench.

Projected Deep Bench Players

Josiah Davis (@_josiahdavis)

Measurables: Guard, #12, 6’3” 190 lbs., Freshman

Stats: High School (Senior Season): 19.7 PPG, 10.1 RPG, 7.4 APG, and 2.1 SPG in 27 games played (27.2 MPG) on 51% FG, 22% 3P, and 58% FT. Bonus Stat: Only 10.2% of his field goal attempts (last 2 seasons in high school) were three-pointers.

Analysis: All indicators suggest that Davis may be behind the 3 starters and Kobe Johnson and Seth Wilson in the guard depth chart. If this is the case, Davis may struggle to get on the floor this season. He’s probably a year away from being ready to join the rotation.

James Okonkwo (no known social media handle)

Measurables: Forward, #32, 6’8” 230 lbs., Sophomore

Stats: Last Season: 2 points, 2 rebounds, and 1 block total. Played a grand total 11 minutes last season.

Analysis: He has very little experience. Still, Coach Huggins has lauded Okonkwo as one of the toughest players on the team. Even so, I kind of doubt that he gets a ton of minutes this season if everyone else is healthy.

Jamel King (@jking_3510)

Measurables: Forward, #4, 6’7” 190 lbs., Sophomore

Stats: Last Season: 3 points and 2 rebounds total. Played a grand total of 29 minutes last season.

Analysis: He was something of a 3P specialist in high school but doesn’t figure to get much playing time this season.

Outlook

I’m hesitant to pick a team that finished last a year ago to do the same this season, especially when that team has a hall of fame head coach. Last season, the reigning last-place team (ISU) added 20 (!) wins to their total year-to-year. Additionally, the same team hasn’t finished in last place in back-to-back seasons since TCU did it in both the 2012-13 and the 2013-14 seasons. Still, everything here points to another rough campaign for the Mountaineers. They were the worst team in the league last season both in terms of their record and in several key statistical indicators such as team eFG%, adjusted defensive efficiency (per KenPom), and team rebounding. To make matters worse, they lost more than anyone else in the conference and their newbies comprise a mostly underwhelming class consisting primarily of 3-star recruits/transfers and unranked JUCO guys. Add to these factors that the rest of the conference appears to be as strong or stronger than ever and it gets harder and harder to imagine WVU performing significantly better than they did a year ago. Further, once you take a closer look under the hood, you begin to realize that while this year’s team should be better defensively and in the rebounding department, they have very little in the way of reliable shooting. Floor spacing for a team with a starting backcourt trio with career 3P% of 28.8% on just 6.6 attempts per game, could be horrifically bad. I expect that this offense will struggle mightily in conference play against the stout defenses of the Big XII and as good as the Mountaineer defense may be this year, it won’t be enough to have them finishing much, if any, higher than the bottom tier of the conference. They’ll grind out a couple of wins in Big XII play and their experience may pay dividends when they find themselves in tightly contested games, but I’m not nearly as bullish on this squad as a lot of national basketball writers.

9. Oklahoma State Cowboys

2021-22 Record: 15-15 (finished tied for 5th in the Big XII regular season standings; served their NCAA-imposed postseason ban)

Coaching: Mike Boynton (entering 6th season with program; career record of 87-37; just 1 NCAA Tournament appearance)

NCAA Basketball: Oklahoma State at Oklahoma Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports

Overview

The Cowboys are coming off a season where despite knowing from the jump that they had no offseason future, they claimed victories over every team in the conference except for Kansas. They had one of the best defenses in the nation last year. Still, 5 years into Coach Boynton’s tenure, the program has witnessed only one NCAA Tournament appearance and only 1 NCAA Tournament victory. Of course, one of those seasons, there was no tourney due to COVID and another was wiped out by an NCAA punishment. Even so, OSU fans are hungry to not just get back to the Big Dance but to make it to the 2nd weekend of March Madness for the first time since 2005. To get there, they’ll need to show massive improvement on the offensive end. They haven’t finished in the top 100 nationally in Offensive Rating as a team since Brad Underwood was running things.

Roster Losses

Stat Lost Production Big XII Rank
Stat Lost Production Big XII Rank
Scoring 42.5% 2nd
Rebounding 46.3% 4th
Assists 64.0% 7th
Steals 58.2% 4th
Blocks 25.8% 2nd
Minutes 51.3% 4th

The Cowboys lost 6 players this offseason including, notably:

  • 2 starters (Isaac Likekele, Bryce Williams)
  • 4 of the top 7 rebounders (Likekele, Matthew-Alexander Moncrieffe, Keyland Boone, Rondel Walker)
  • 3 of the top 4 assist leaders (Likekele, Williams, Walker)

Roster Additions

John-Michael Wright: Former unranked high school prospect. Transfer from the High Point Panthers. Projected to be a starter.

Caleb Asberry: Former unranked high school prospect. Transfer from Texas State Bobcats. Projected to be a rotation player.

Quion Williams: 4-star high school recruit out of Jonesboro, Arkansas. Projected to be a rotation player.

Russell Harrison: Former unranked high school prospect. Transfer from Louisiana Monroe Warhawks. Projected to be rotation player.

Projected Starting Lineup

Metric Projected Lineup Big XII Rank
Metric Projected Lineup Big XII Rank
Career Games Played 366 5th
Career Games Started 259 5th
Career Minutes Played 8,494 5th
NOTE: Only Division I stats are included

Avery Anderson III (@averyanderson3_)

Measurables: Guard, #0, 6’3” 160 lbs., Senior

Stats: Last 2 Seasons: 12.1 PPG, 3.6 RPG, 2.1 APG, and 1.6 SPG in 57 games played (53 starts; 29.4 MPG) on 43.3% FG, 32.5% 3P, and 79.6% FT. Bonus Stat: He finished 4th in the Big XII in steals per game last year.

Analysis: Following the departure of longtime leader, Isaac Likekele, Avery enters his 4th season in Stillwater as the team’s apparent go-to guy. Virtually everything, on both ends of the floor, will flow through him. He is a balanced offensive player who is lightning quick in transition and aggressive attacking downhill. Defensively, he puts a lot of pressure on the ball and plays with great intensity and passion. He’ll need to cut down on his Turnover Rate this season as he’ll likely be asked to shoulder more of the burden of creating shots for his teammates.

John-Michael Wright (@johnwright_11)

Measurables: Guard, #51, 6’1” 190 lbs., Senior

Stats: Last 3 Seasons (at High Point): 17.4 PPG, 4.9 RPG, 2.9 APG, and 1.2 SPG in 86 games played (85 starts; 33.6 MPG) on 40.6% FG, 34.6% 3P, and 77.3% FT. Bonus Stat: His Offensive Win Shares last season would have been, by far, the best on OSU last season.

Analysis: A proven and consistent, high-volume, high-efficiency scorer, Wright will look to help the Pokes achieve their much-needed offensive improvement this season. He is fairly dangerous from deep although the majority of his shots historically come from underneath the arc. He isn’t terrible defensively although it certainly isn’t the strength of his game. He rebounds very well for his size and is more than capable of handling secondary playmaking/ball handling duties. I wouldn’t be surprised if Wright ends up leading the team in scoring.

Bryce Thompson (@B3thompson__)

Measurables: Guard, #1, 6’5” 190 lbs., Junior

Stats: Last Season: 10.6 PPG, 2.3 RPG, 1.1 APG, and 0.6 SPG in 29 games played (25 starts; 26.1 MPG) on 41.3% FG, 29.0% 3P, and 66.7% FT. Bonus Stat: His points per 100 possessions jumped more than 54% year-to-year last season.

Analysis: Coach Boynton expects big things from Thompson this year, looking at him to be a leader and steady contributor. What we’ve seen from him so far though, is that he is a relatively low-efficiency scorer. There’s no denying the talent of the former McDonald’s All-American but his decision making has been suspect at best thus far in his collegiate career. He forces too many contested shots. The Pokes will need him to play smarter if they want to achieve their goals this season.

Kalib Boone (@kalibboone32)

Measurables: Forward, #22, 6’9” 200 lbs., Senior

Stats: Last 2 Seasons: 7.7 PPG, 4.0 RPG, 0.6 APG, 0.5 SPG, and 1.5 BPG in 56 games played (28 starts; 16.1 MPG) on 61.4% FG and 66.7% FT. Bonus Stat: His 82 blocks over the last 2 seasons are far and away the most by any Big XII player in that span.

Analysis: Kalib saw a sharp decline in playing time last season for reasons that remain a mystery. Despite primarily coming off the bench, he led the team a year ago in points per 100 possessions, Player Efficiency Rating, Box Score Plus/Minus, and Win Shares per 40 Minutes. This season, he should be back in the normal starting lineup at power forward. He doesn’t have much range offensively but can post up effectively as well as hit midrange shots. More than a third of his field goal attempts last season were of the midrange variety. He protects the rim well and together with Cisse, he can allow the Cowboys to effectively own the paint on the defensive end.

Moussa Cisse (@moussacisse224)

Measurables: Center, #33, 7’1” 220 lbs., Junior

Stats: Last 2 Seasons (1 with Memphis and 1 with OSU): 6.9 PPG, 6.4 RPG, 0.4 APG, 0.4 SPG, and 1.8 BPG in 57 games played (54 starts; 19.3 MPG) on 55.6% FG and 45.4% FT. Bonus Stat: He led the Big XII last year in both Block Rate and Total Rebound Rate.

Analysis: A reigning Big XII Co-Defensive Player of the Year, Cisse is undeniably impactful on the defensive end. He’s probably the closest thing the conference has had to a Rudy Gobert-type guy in quite some time. Offensively, he showed great improvement toward the end of the year, leading the coaching staff to expect big things from the big man this season. In his first 20 games last season he averaged 5.9 PPG on 50.6% FG. In his final 9 games he averaged 10.2 PPG on 63.8% FG. Given another offseason of development, the former McDonald’s All-American could have a breakout year for the Cowboys this season.

Projected Rotation Players

Caleb Asberry (@calebasberry2)

Measurables: Guard, #5, 6’3” 170 lbs., Redshirt Senior

Stats: Last 2 Seasons (with Texas State): 13.5 PPG, 4.4 RPG, 2.0 APG, and 1.2 SPG in 54 games played (48 starts; 29.0 MPG) on 45.7% FG, 39.8% 3P, and 81.8% FT. Bonus Stat: His Defensive Win Shares last season would have been good for 3rd on OSU and better than Cisse’s.

Analysis: Asberry has a tremendous amount of confidence to go with his talents as an offensive threat. He comes from a successful mid-major program where he’s been exposed to great coaching already. He gets it done on both ends of the floor but especially as a scorer. He may be coming off the bench to start the season, but he could wind up being on of the teams most productive players and one of the best 6th men in the league this season.

Tyreek Smith (@cutup_reek)

NCAA Basketball: Oklahoma State at Iowa State Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports

Measurables: Forward, #23, 6’8” 215 lbs., Redshirt Junior

Stats: Last 2 Seasons (1 with Texas Tech and 1 with OSU) per 100 possessions: 17.4 points, 14.8 rebounds, and 3.9 blocks on 63.1% FG and 59.4% FT. He has appeared in 59 games over his 2 seasons but has only mustered 10.3 MPG.

Analysis: Smith a very gifted defender which is why he started the final 7 games of the year for the Cowboys last season. He has also shown some potential as an efficient rebounder and his offensive efficiency looks to be solid. The problem for him is that he had the lowest Usage Rate on the team last season. He could be looking at a larger role this season, but at this point, it’s a total question mark as to whether or not he’ll be able to maintain his efficiency with a larger role in the rotation.

Quion Williams (@williams_quion)

Measurables: Guard, #13, 6’4” 210 lbs., Freshman

Stats: Averaged 8.4 RPG for Southern Assault 3SSB in the 2021 Circuit.

Analysis: Coach Boynton has praised Quion’s intangibles. He plays extremely hard and could carve out a role as a glue guy coming off the bench. His offensive fundamentals may need some work, but he should be a part of the rotation this season.

Bernard Kouma (@KoumaBernard1)

Measurables: Center, #25, 6’10” 240 lbs., Senior

Stats: Last 2 Seasons per 100 possessions: 13.1 points and 11.1 rebounds on 63.3% FG and 77.8% FT. In his 2 seasons in Stillwater, he has appeared in 32 games and played a total of 189 minutes (5.9 MPG).

Analysis: Despite not playing much to this point, Kouma is considered by his coaches to be a great example of selflessness. He has often been lauded for being a great teammate with a championship-caliber work ethic. This season could be his opportunity to finally crack the regular rotation and see his hard work begin to pay off.

Projected Deep Bench Players

Chris Harris, Jr. (@chrisharris_2)

Measurables: Guard, #2, 6’2” 225 lbs., Senior

Stats: Career per 100 possessions: 13.5 points, 4.2 rebounds, 2.1 assists, and 2.4 steals on 29.5% FG, 19.7% 3P, and 36.4% FT. He has appeared in 23 games in his collegiate career but only has 6 total minutes in the last 2 seasons.

Analysis: Chris saw his freshman season cut short by injury and has missed virtually all of the last 2 seasons with additional injuries. He has been cleared to play this offseason but it doesn’t sound like there’s much expectation that he’ll be a significant part of this season’s rotation.

Woody Newton (@Woody4x_)

Measurables: Forward, #4, 6’8” 200 lbs., Junior

Stats: Career per 100 possessions: 19.6 points, 9.4 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 2.1 steals, and 1.6 blocks on 39.7% FG, 32.6% 3P, and 53.3% FT. He has appeared in 28 games in his 2 collegiate seasons (1 with Syracuse and 1 with OSU) but has only averaged 7.7 MPG.

Analysis: He is primarily a stretch four (over 80% of his field goal attempts last season were from deep). He struggled last year and didn’t get much playing time as a result. Barring injury, he likely won’t get on the floor much this season beyond garbage time.

Carson Sager (@carsonsager15)

Measurables: Guard, #15, 6’4” 210 lbs., Junior

Stats: 2 points and 1 rebound in 5 total minutes last season.

Analysis: The walk-on mechanical engineering major won’t play beyond garbage time this season.

Weston Church (@weston_church)

Measurables: Guard, #35, 6’3” 180 lbs., Junior

Stats: 2 points, 1 rebound, and 1 steal in 5 total minutes last season.

Analysis: The walk-on will likely not get on the floor other than in garbage time.

Brooks Manzer (@BrooksManzer)

Measurables: Guard, #21, 6’3” 190 lbs., Sophomore

Stats: Has never played in a collegiate game.

Analysis: The walk-on will not see game action unless it’s in garbage time.

Naz Brown (@NazirBrownX)

Measurables: Guard, #12, 6’0” 180 lbs., Freshman

Stats: Has never played in a collegiate game.

Analysis: The walk-on probably won’t play beyond garbage time.

Outlook

In my view, the margin between Oklahoma State and Kansas State who I have ahead of them in these power rankings is razor thin. Unlike the Mountaineers behind them, the Cowboys could finish in the middle tier of the conference, and it would not surprise me a bit. This team was the 2nd most efficient defense in the Big XII last season (per KenPom). The defense this year will be as good or better and will help them knock off some of the top teams in the league. I am less convinced that this offense will be competitive in conference play, but they have some guys with high offensive upside. I also have my doubts about the lack of depth the Pokes will have to overcome this season. Things could work out and they end up making the NCAA Tournament. Things could also go sideways, and they end up near the very bottom of the league standings by the season’s end.

8. Kansas State Wildcats

2021-22 Record: 14-17 (finished 9th in the Big XII regular season standings)

Coaching: Jerome Tang (1st year with the program; 1st year as a head coach; Baylor legend; good guy)

Syndication: The Topeka Capital-Journal Evert Nelson/The Capital-Journal / USA TODAY NETWORK

Overview

For the first time in a decade, someone other than Bruce Weber will be carrying the clipboard for the Wildcats this season. They are coming off their 3rd consecutive losing season and will be looking for their first NCAA Tournament win since 2018. It’s a bittersweet thing that the new head man in Manhattan will be the beloved, long-time Baylor assistant, Jerome Tang. Sure, Baylor fans should be glad that he’s getting his much overdue chance to lead a high major program, but now the Bears will square off against Tang at least twice a year, every year. Time will tell how effective Tang will be as a head coach and what styles and schemes he’ll look to deploy. Personally, I will be rooting for him anytime his team’s success won’t hurt Baylor’s. As is almost always the case when there is new coaching staff, the roster is virtually completely different than it was a year ago following the vast majority of team’s players departing through the transfer portal.

Roster Losses

Stat Lost Production Big XII Rank
Stat Lost Production Big XII Rank
Scoring 74.5% 8th
Rebounding 73.6% 9th
Assists 62.2% 6th
Steals 63.9% 7th
Blocks 76.5% 9th
Minutes 74.7% 8th

The Wildcats lost 9 players this offseason including, notably:

  • 3 starters (Nijel Pack, Mark Smith, Mike McGuirl)
  • 3 of the top 4 scorers (Pack, Smith, McGuirl)
  • 5 of the top 6 assist leaders (Pack, McGuirl, Smith, Selton Miguel, Luke Kasubke)

Roster Additions

Tykei Greene: Former unranked high school prospect. Transfer from the Manhattan Jaspers. Projected to be a starter.

Desi Sills: Former 3-star high school prospect. Transfer from the Arkansas State Red Wolves. Projected to be a starter.

Abayomi Iyiola: Former 3-star high school prospect. Transfer from the Hofstra Pride. Projected to be a starter.

Keyontae Johnson: Former 4-star high school prospect. Transfer from the Florida Gators. Projected to be a rotation player.

Camryn Carter: Former 4-star high school prospect. Transfer from the Mississippi State Bulldogs. Projected to be a rotation player.

Taj Manning: 3-star high school prospect out of La Porte, Indiana. Projected to be a rotation player.

Nae’Qwan Tomlin: Unranked JUCO transfer from Chipola College (Florida). Projected to be a rotation player.

Jerrell Colbert: Former 3-star high school prospect. Transfer from the LSU Tigers. Projected to be a rotation player.

David N’Guessan: Former 3-star high school prospect. Transfer from the Virginia Tech Hokies. Projected to be a rotation player.

Dorian Finister: 3-star high school prospect out of New Orleans, Louisiana. Projected to be a deep bench redshirt candidate.

Anthony Thomas: Former 3-star high school prospect. JUCO transfer from Tallahassee Community College (Florida). Projected to be a deep bench player.

Nate Awbrey: Walk-on from Manhattan Christian College (Kansas). Projected to be a deep bench player.

Peyton Ackerman: Walk-on from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Projected to be a deep bench player.

Projected Starting Lineup

Metric Projected Lineup Big XII Rank
Metric Projected Lineup Big XII Rank
Career Games Played 511 2nd
Career Games Started 325 3rd
Career Minutes Played 12,633 2nd
NOTE: Only Division I stats are included

Markquis Nowell (@MrNewYorkCityy)

Measurables: Guard, #1, 5’8” 160 lbs., Super Senior

Stats: Last 4 Seasons (3 with Little Rock and 1 with KSU): 13.8 PPG, 3.3 RPG, 4.9 APG, and 2.0 SPG in 95 games played (73 starts; 31.4 MPG) on 39.1% FG, 35.2% 3P, and 85.0% FT. Bonus Stat: He led the Big XII in Assist Rate and was 2nd in the league in Steal Rate last season.

Analysis: One of just 2 returning players from last year’s team, the undersized guard will be asked to not just contribute statistically to the team’s efforts this year. He is viewed by his new coaching staff as a budding leader. He is an elite passer, a pesky defender, a solid 3P shooter, and pound for pound probably one of the most underrated players in the Big XII. His experience and his desire to win should pay big dividends for the Wildcats this season.

Desi Sills (@desisills3)

Measurables: Guard, #13, 6’2” 200 lbs., Super Senior

Stats: Last 3 Seasons (2 with Arkansas and 1 with Arkansas State): 10.1 PPG, 3.1 RPG, 1.8 APG, and 1.2 SPG in 92 games played (66 starts; 27.1 MPG) on 43.4% FG, 30.3% 3P, and 68.6% FT. Bonus Stat: His Defensive Win Shares from a year ago would’ve been good for 2nd on KSU last season.

Analysis: Tang recruited Sills after having seen him up close in personal when Sills was part of the Arkansas team that Tang’s Baylor Bears defeated en route to their national title in 2021. Sills was unable to participate in summer workouts while he completed his degree at Arkansas State. He’s been a part of winning cultures going all the way back to his high school days. As a scorer, he’s the ideal guard in the era of analytics. Less than 7% of his field goal attempts last year were midrange shots. He’s a versatile scorer who has favored the attacking the rim more in his last couple of seasons than he did as an underclassman. He is stout defensively and has a fiery disposition on the court.

Tykei Greene (@TheGreene40)

Measurables: Guard, #4, 6’4” 200 lbs., Super Senior

Stats: Last 3 Seasons (1 with Manhattan and 2 with Stony Brook): 11.3 PPG, 6.6 RPG, 1.0 APG, and 1.0 SPG in 82 games played (75 starts; 30.0 MPG) on 44.9% FG, 33.8% 3P, and 61.4% FT. Bonus Stat: His Player Efficiency Rating would’ve easily been the best on the Wildcats last season.

Analysis: Greene comes in with a ton of experience to compliment his skill and athleticism. Coach Tang has said of Greene that he is an excellent communicator and teammate. He is a balanced scorer, coming off the best season of his career. One of the keys to his success is relying less on the long ball. His 3P Attempt Rate has declined each year he has been in college to the point where barely 30% of his field goal attempts last season came from beyond the arc. He uses his strength and good body control to get tough buckets in the paint. Defensively, he has the ability to guard multiple positions and good instincts of when to be aggressive and when to back off. I wouldn’t be surprised if he ends up being one of the team’s most productive players.

Ismael Massoud (@IsmaelMassoud)

Measurables: Forward, #25, 6’9” 230 lbs., Senior

Stats: Last 2 Seasons (1 with Wake Forest and 1 with KSU): 7.4 PPG, 3.1 RPG, 0.4 APG, and 0.6 SPG in 53 games played (26 starts; 23.2 MPG) on 35.3% FG, 33.5% 3P, and 80.2% FT. Bonus Stat: He had the 9th best Turnover Rate in the Big XII last year.

Analysis: The only other returning player along with Nowell, Massoud has a reputation as a great 3P threat who can really help with floor spacing. Coach Tang has indicated that much of the staff’s work with Massoud this offseason has been geared around building his confidence as a shooter. His primary role will be that of a stretch four but with the other weapons on this team, if he can fill the role without being a total defensive liability, he should help his team win games this season.

Abayomi Iyiola (@abosticall)

Measurables: Center, #23, 6’10” 220 lbs., Redshirt Senior

Stats: Career Averages (2 seasons with Stetson and 1 with Hofstra): 9.3 PPG, 6.9 RPG, 0.4 APG, 0.7 SPG, and 0.8 BPG in 92 games played (64 starts; 20.5 MPG) on 52.6% FG and 72.0% FT. Bonus Stat: His Offensive Rebound Rate would have been easily the best on KSU last season.

Analysis: Another member of that 2021 Arkansas team, Baylor and Tang faced in the NCAA Tournament, Iyiola has tremendous experience and according to Tang, exhibits great maturity. He is an elite rebounder, a versatile and switchable defender, and a solid low post scorer. Perhaps in a similar mold to Tang’s former player, Flo Thamba, Iyiola may not stuff the stat sheet this season but he should be a critical piece to the team’s success.

Projected Rotation Players

Keyontae Johnson (@Keyontae)

NCAA Basketball: Kentucky at Florida Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Measurables: Forward, #11, 6’6” 230 lbs., Redshirt Senior

Stats: First 2 Seasons (with Florida): 10.8 PPG, 6.7 RPG, 1.4 APG, and 1.1 SPG in 67 games played (51 starts; 27.2 MPG) on 51.2% FG, 37.3% 3P, 71.5% FT. Bonus Stat: His last full healthy season, his Win Shares would have been the best by a Wildcat since Dean Wade in 2017-18.

Analysis: Johnson was the 2020 SEC Preseason Player of the Year. Four games into that season he collapsed with what would be discovered to be a serious heart condition. It has been a struggle since then to get medical clearance to play. He is now cleared to play but it remains to be seen how effective he’ll be. When he was healthy, he was an elite two-way wing who was good or better at just about everything. He could be a huge X-factor that lifts Kansas State out of this tier of teams if he plays the way he did his first couple of seasons at Florida. He may eventually join the starting lineup, but I’d expect that Tang will try to bring him along relatively slowly.

Camryn Carter (@camryncarter23)

Measurables: Guard, #5, 6’3” 185 lbs., Sophomore

Stats: Last Season (with Mississippi State) per 100 possessions: 15.5 points, 5.5 rebounds, 6.6 assists, and 2.9 steals on 39.6% FG, 30.0% 3P, and 68.8% FT. He appeared in 27 games for the Bulldogs last season (including 4 starts) but only averaged 8.5 MPG.

Analysis: Despite not playing much as a freshman in the SEC, Coach Tang is adamant that Carter is the exact type of player he wants to build this team around. According to his new coach he works hard and is a pure winner. The talent and intangibles are there. The Wildcats just hope that the production will soon follow. Carter projects as a gifted passer and ball handler while his scoring and defensive prowess remains something of a mystery. He should be the first guard off the bench and if he’s half as good as this staff makes him out to be, he’ll be one of the team’s best players off the bench.

Taj Manning (@TajManning)

Measurables: Forward, #15, 6’7” 210 lbs., Freshman

Stats: High School (Senior Season): 8.9 PPG and 5.3 RPG.

Analysis: His skillset may not be as polished as he’ll want it to be in a couple of years, but Coach Tang has raved about what a pleasant surprise Manning has been this summer. By all accounts, Manning works extremely hard and is rather coachable. He projects as a strong wing who should rebound and defend at a high level. The scoring may take time to develop.

Nae’Qwan Tomlin (@Nae_Ratty)

Measurables: Forward, #35, 6’9” 210 lbs., Junior

Stats: Last Season (JUCO): 11.0 PPG and 4.6 RPG in 24 games played (16 starts; 23.6 MPG) on 54.1% FG, 37.5% 3P, and 64.8% FT. Bonus Stat: He had 8 double-doubles in his redshirt freshman season.

Analysis: If Coach Tang is to be believed, Tomlin is “as talented as anyone [Tang] has coached.” That would be very high compliment for a guy who has coached a plethora of Baylor greats over the last 2 decades. Tomlin is freakish in terms of his athleticism and 7+ foot wingspan. He projects as a better offensive player than defensive, although his exposure to quality coaching should help him improve on the defensive end of the floor.

Jerrell Colbert (@jrealthegoat)

Measurables: Center, #20, 6’10” 230 lbs., Sophomore

Stats: He only saw 27 total minutes of playing time as a freshman at LSU.

Analysis: Colbert was Coach Tang’s first commitment after taking the HC job. He is severely lacking in experience and there is some indication that he may be a bit behind the 8-ball in terms of his fundamentals after effectively missing his senior year of high school (due to COVID) and not playing much due to the depth in front of him last season. Still, Tang believes in the talent of Colbert, and he should get an opportunity to be the backup big for this team.

David N’Guessan (@DavidNGuessan1)

Measurables: Forward, #3, 6’8” 210 lbs., Junior

Stats: Last 2 Seasons (with Virginia Tech) per 100 possessions: 16.9 points, 13.2 rebounds, 2.9 assists, 1.4 steals, and 2.2 blocks on 51.0% FG, 23.5% 3P, and 48.7% FT. He appeared in 57 games in his 2 years in the ACC, although he only averaged 12.1 MPG.

Analysis: David is hyper athletic for a player his size. His versatility could help him see a lot of playing time. He rebounds and defends at relatively high level. Like many of his new teammates, he is a bit of an unproven commodity, but the coaching staff believes in his ability and is eager to see him play a bigger role here than what he’s had previously.

Projected Deep Bench Players

Dorian Finister (@doo4three)

Measurables: Guard, #24, 6’5” 190 lbs., Freshman

Stats: No collegiate experience

Analysis: Coach Tang has indicated that he envisions Finister redshirting while he fills out his frame with hard work in the weight room.

Anthony Thomas (@_Antdinero)

Measurables: Forward, #12, 6’7” 190 lbs., Sophomore

Stats: 2 Seasons Ago (with UT Martin): 9.0 PPG, 2.8 RPG, 0.7 APG, and 0.7 SPG in 22 games played (4 starts; 24.1 MPG) on 37.7% FG, 30.7% 3P, and 75.8% FT.

Analysis: Thomas has the skillset of a guard with the body of a forward. He is a solid offensive player who can score from all three levels and has a quick release on his jump shot. I wouldn’t expect him to play much this season.

Nate Awbrey (@Nawbrey33)

Measurables: Guard, #21, 6’3” 190 lbs., Senior

Stats: No DI experience.

Analysis: The hometown kid is a walk-on who won’t play beyond garbage time opportunities.

Peyton Ackerman (@_peytonackerman)

Measurables: Guard, #43, 5’10” 150 lbs., Freshman

Stats: No collegiate experience.

Analysis: The walk-on will rarely, if ever, see the floor this season.

Outlook

With so many fresh faces and a new coaching staff led by a man who’s never been a full-time head coach, there’s no way to say with any degree of certainty what the Wildcats will look like this season. I’ll say this though, on paper, they appear to be far more balanced and offensively talented than either of the other teams in this bottom tier. They also have the 2nd most experienced starting lineup in the league. Their defense may not be as good as OSU or WVU but I think the upside for this team is real. They likely won’t finish in the top 3 or 4 in the conference this season, but I could easily see them finishing higher than 8th and making March Madness. The thing that concerns me most with this squad is rebounding. There appears to be a real possibility that they struggle on the boards. Of course, they really only have 4 playable, true guards which means they may run some really long lineups out there this season.

Conclusion

NCAA Basketball: Big 12 Conference Tournament-Kansas vs Texas Tech William Purnell-USA TODAY Sports

Thank you for hanging with me through this thing. The next piece in this three-part preview series will be focused on the middle-tier teams. As we go along, assuming that I’ve done a halfway decent job of evaluating everything, the teams and players will get better and better. For the Baylor fans in the audience, this means that each team as we climb the power rankings will pose a greater and greater threat to the Bears’ ambitions of winning a third straight Big XII title.

Of course, as may be obvious from this post, my views depart pretty significantly from a lot of basketball media folks. I’m much more bullish on Kansas State this season than the average bear, while I refuse to give West Virginia the benefit of the doubt that many seem willing to extend the Mountaineers due to their HOF head coach.

Naturally, these preseason power rankings are just a jumping off point and it would be crazy if one or more of these teams don’t finish in a completely different tier than where I have them at this point. Still, this trio of teams at the bottom will have to earn their way up. If you disagree with my analysis, please feel free to (try to) rip me to shreds in the comments or on social media. I’ve been wrong before and am darn sure I’ll be wrong again before it’s all said and done. However, these power rankings are perfect and if your opinion about them is different than mine, you’re wrong and should be ashamed of yourself. Sic Em!

Stats courtesy of sports-reference.com; njcaa.org; wvusports.com; kstatesports.com; okstate.com; kenpom.com; 247sports.com; espn.com; maxreps.com; cbbanalytics.com; and/or shotquality.com.

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