2014-15 NCAA Basketball Big 12 Preview

inside-las-vegas-racebook-2340892Big-12 Conference Preview

Betting odds courtesy of Bovada

Kansas (25-10; 14-4)
Odds to win NCAA Title: 16/1

The Kansas Jayhawks fell in the third round of the NCAA tournament 60-57 to the Stanford Cardinal. The Jayhawks strutted out one-and-done Andrew Wiggins last season with somewhat disappointing results.

While Wiggins himself still went No. 1 overall in the NBA Draft, the Jayhawks not only suffered the loss of Wiggins, but also the surprisingly awesome Joel Embiid. It was the first time since 2010 that Kansas didn’t reach the Sweet 16 and the focus on improving from last year will lie on improving the backcourt play.

The Jayhawks sorely needed a true point guard last year as became apparent throughout the year and the team returns three starters (it would have been four if not for Naadir Tharpe transferring). Forward Perry Ellis and guard Wayne Selden, Jr. will both have increased roles and Ellis will be breaking statistical records as a result of staying all four years. He makes 54.9 percent from the floor and boards well (6.7) per game, not to mention he can stretch the floor pretty well with his three-point shot.

Selden played hurt last year and is hoping to be more aggressive when he goes to the basket. This could be his breakout year as a former 5-star prospect, and if he takes the steps he simply couldn’t last year, hurt and with Wiggins in the fold, he’ll keep Kansas atop the Big 12.

Texas (24-11; 11-7)
Odds to win NCAA Title: 25/1

The Texas Longhorns improved vastly on a tough 2012-13 season to win 24 games last year and return to the NCAA tournament. With one of the nation’s top prospects Myles Turner coming in to the fold, the Longhorns may be better still this year. He has been the highest rated prospect at Texas since Avery Bradley and Jordan Hamilton in 2009 and 2007..and Kevin Durant, in 07. Turner is a legit 7-footer and was a shot swatter supreme in the FIBA Under-18 championships.

The Longhorns also return all five starters from a group that head coach Rick Barnes said was “disappointed (because) they cared enough to be disappointed.” Turner is skilled around the basket and really does it all. The Longhorns already led the Big 12 in offensive rebounding and Cameron Ridley averaged 11 points and eight rebounds per game last year. He also had a game winning put-back against Arizona State in the second round of the NCAA tournament, proving in a flash moment the importance of offensive rebounding.

Jonathan Holmes and Connor Lammert will be big time shooters to open things up for Turner around the basket. This is a very dangerous team and at 25/1 makes an interesting value bet for college basketball futures bettors.

Iowa State (28-8; 11-7)
Odds to win NCAA Title: 33/1

Last season was punctuated by the disappointing injury to Georges Niang which ultimately led to the Cyclones falling in the regional semifinal to eventual-champ UConn. Though Niang was out in that game, Dustin Hogue proceeded to go bonkers, scoring 34 points on a red hot 15-of-19 shooting performance. Both he and Niang are back in the fold this season.

Iowa State hadn’t won 28-games in almost a decade and the win over Kansas en route to the Big 12 tournament title was as big as any for Fred Hoiberg and his team.

Niang and Hogue combined to average 28.3 points per game last season and Niang is a complete nightmare of a matchup for defenses. He can take it out and shoot on the perimeter and at 6’7” he’s quick enough around the basket to pose problems for both wingmen and bigger forwards. Jameel McKay will be invaluable inside as the Cyclones only rim protector. He comes from Marquette, where he never played a game, but for Indian Hills CC he averaged 16 points and nine boards per game. He’ll be eligible for NCAA games on Dec. 20.

Oklahoma (23-10; 12-6)
Odds to win NCAA Title: 66/1

Oklahoma was decimated by the losses of key players last year, but managed to keep it together well enough to win two-thirds of its conference games. The team had lost 68 percent of its scoring from 12-13, including the loss of its top three scorers. The team lost a typical 5-12 matchup, as the No. 5, to 12th seeded North Dakota State in the NCAA tournament. Coach Lon Kruger believes the team will continue to grow from that though, and says the team “(has) a little more understanding about what it takes to win games in the tournament.” The Sooners were a fast-paced team, averaging 81.9 points per game which was 2nd in the conference to Iowa State.

The depth of the team enabled the break-neck pace, and Buddy Hield was the only player to play more than 30 minutes per game. Hield, a Bahamas native, doubled his scoring average from 12-13 and he should contend for first-team all-conference this season. Jordan Woodward is a great floor general and nearly set the school record for assists by a freshman.

Isaiah Cousins won the Most Improved player award with an 11 point scoring average, but suffered a scare when he was shot over the offseason. Cousins is fully recovered and helps Woodward form an effective backcourt. The Sooners will need to improve the rebounding and Ryan Spangler can’t do it all on the glass (9.3 rebounds per game with 10 double-doubles).

Kansas State (20-13; 8-8)
Odds to win NCAA Title: 100/1

K-State has seemed to assert itself as a team that will be reckoned with one way or another. The Wildcats have made back-to-back NCAA tournament appearances, and four in the last five years. The expectations have been notably higher for the team, and head coach Bruce Weber was given a contract extension.

The featured player is Marcus Foster who made second-team All Conference as a freshman averaging 15.5 points, 3.2 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game. Foster will be even more heavily relied on upon this season, and his all around play makes him difficult to cover in the backcourt.

Thomas Gipson averaged 11.7 points and 6.5 rebounds per game last year in 26.5 minutes a game, while also playing with an injured shoulder down the stretch. Gipson and Foster will be the key cogs for K-State and after a disappointing second round loss to Kentucky last year, the Wildcats will be looking to advance this March. It will be tough having to earn another at large bid, but the team is too talented to simply fade after having become such a formidable program in the last half-decade.

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