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The Big 12 Conference Kellis Robinett looks at the Big 12

  • Published Tuesday, Oct. 29, 2013, at 12:13 p.m.
  • Updated Saturday, Nov. 2, 2013, at 1:18 a.m.

Kellis Robinett’s Big 12 picks

Marcus Smart, Oklahoma State

Andrew Wiggins, Kansas

Markel Brown, Oklahoma State

Cory Jefferson, Baylor

Perry Ellis, Kansas

Player of the Year — Wiggins

NCAA Tournament teams — Kansas, Oklahoma State, Baylor, Iowa State

NIT teams — Kansas State, Oklahoma, West Virginia

Coaches on the hot seat: Here’s a sentence few ever expected to read. The only Big 12 coach fighting for his job is Rick Barnes. Though the Texas coach led the Longhorns to 14 straight NCAA Tournaments and one Final Four, the program has been in decline recently. With a new athletic director, he may need to post a winning record to come back for another season.

1. Kansas

Coach: Bill Self

2012-13: 31-6, 14-4 Big 12

Remember this name: Andrew Wiggins. Some say he is the next LeBron James.

On the bright side: Perry Ellis came on strong at the end of his freshman season. The Jayhawks brought in such a strong freshman class that it’s easy to forget about the Wichita native, but he could be one of the conference’s best big men this season.

Compelled to mention: Joel Embiid and Naadir Tharpe could be difference-makers this year. Embiid has potential inside, while Tharpe will be asked to run the offense.

Come mid-March: Kansas will be in the mix for another Big 12 championship and a trip to the Final Four.

2. Oklahoma State

Coach: Travis Ford

2012-13: 24-9, 13-5

Remember this name: Marcus Smart. He isn’t afraid of Wiggins or Kansas. He can prove he is the best player in the Big 12 with a big season.

On the bright side: Smart gets all the attention, but Le’Bryan Nash and Markel Brown are no slouches. Together, they form the top returning scoring trio in the league.

Compelled to mention: Phil Forte and Jeffrey Carroll may sneak up on some teams this season. Both players are sharpshooters from three-point range.

Come mid-March: The Cowboys hope to challenge the Jayhawks for a conference title and make a deep run in the NCAA Tournament.

3. Baylor

Coach: Scott Drew

2012-13: 23-14, 9-9

Remember this name: Isaiah Austin. Injuries forced the talented big man to come back for his sophomore season. He was one of the hardest players to guard last year. He should be better this year.

On the bright side: Put Cory Jefferson, Rico Gathers and Austin together and you have the makings of a strong frontcourt. Few teams can top Baylor inside.

Compelled to mention: Brady Heslip is one of the best pure shooters in the Big 12. He could be an X-factor as a senior.

Come mid-March: The Bears have a habit of following NIT seasons with a trip to the Elite Eight. Baylor has the talent to make another run.

4. Iowa State

Coach: Fred Hoiberg

2012-13: 23-12, 11-7

Remember this name: Melvin Ejim. The senior swingman is one of the league’s most versatile players.

On the bright side: Georges Niang was an impact player as a freshman. He should be even better as a sophomore.

Compelled to mention: DeAndre Kane could be the latest transfer to help the Cyclones.

Come mid-March: Iowa State will be a fringe NCAA Tournament team, but Hoiberg knows how to get his team over the top and into the Big Dance.

5. Kansas State

Coach: Bruce Weber

2012-13: 27-8, 14-4

Remember this name: Shane Southwell. He became a dependable scorer after switching to power forward last season. The senior hopes to become a go-to scorer this year.

On the bright side: Will Spradling and Thomas Gipson both return a year after starting on a team that shared the conference championship. K-State won’t lack veteran leadership.

Compelled to mention: Marcus Foster, a freshman guard, will be asked to score immediately. He has the talent to do so.

Come mid-March: K-State will contend for the NCAA Tournament, but the Wildcats have too many unknowns to expect anything more than the NIT.

6. Oklahoma

Coach: Lon Kruger

2012-13: 20-12, 11-7

Remember this name: Cameron Clark. The senior guard averaged more than nine points last season.

On the bright side: Buddy Hield could surprise opposing defenders this season. He has big upside.

Compelled to mention: James Fraschilla, son of ESPN commentator Fran Fraschilla, is an OU walk-on.

Come mid-March: The Sooners lost the bulk of a roster that reached the NCAA Tournament last season, but Kruger returns enough pieces to keep Oklahoma competitive.

7. West Virginia

Coach: Bob Huggins

2012-13: 13-19, 6-12

Remember this name: Eron Harris. The sophomore was one of West Virginia’s top scorers last season.

On the bright side: West Virginia experienced significant roster turnover, but the Huggins is on his newcomers, particularly Elijah Macon.

Compelled to mention: The Mountaineers don’t have a single senior on the roster. This team will need to find leadership in unorthodox places.

Come mid-March: It was strange to see a Huggins-coached team struggle the way West Virginia did last season. The Mountaineers will be better this year, but don’t expect a huge rebound.

8. Texas

Coach: Rick Barnes

2012-13: 16-18, 7-11

Remember this name: Cameron Ridley. He played so poorly as a freshman that it’s hard to remember he came to Texas as a McDonald’s All-American. He needs to live up to his potential for the Longhorns to succeed.

On the bright side: Javan Felix showed flashes of brilliance last season. He will get the chance to build off that with extra playing time.

Compelled to mention: Jonathan Holmes could become a dependable scorer as a junior.

Come mid-March: This may be the worst team Barnes has coached at Texas. A .500 record seems unlikely.

9. TCU

Coach: Trent Johnson

2012-13: 11-21, 2-16

Remember this name: Karviar Shepherd. The freshman center turned heads when he spurned more successful basketball programs and chose TCU. He will be one of the league’s top rookies.

On the bright side: As bad at the Horned Frogs were last year, Trey Zeigler averaged 16.3 points and they beat Kansas. This isn’t a team devoid of talent.

Compelled to mention: TCU’s most talented players, outside of Zeigler, are all underclassmen

Come mid-March: The Horned Frogs won’t be the doormat they were a year ago. Don’t be surprised if they avoid the conference cellar.

10. Texas Tech

Coach: Tubby Smith

2012-13: 11-20, 3-15

Remember this name: Jordan Tolbert. The Texas Tech big man has always played well despite his team’s lack of success.

On the bright side: Along with Tolbert, Jaye Crockett gives the Red Raiders a dynamic scoring duo.

Compelled to mention: Without point guard Josh Gray, who transferred in the offseason, Texas Tech’s backcourt will struggle.

Come mid-March: Smith is a quality coach, and Texas Tech will improve under his guidance. But the Red Raiders have virtually no fan support and a flawed roster. His first year will be tough.

Kellis Robinett

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