The fallout from John Calipari's move to Kentucky will impact the Big 12 race next year as Kansas enters the season not only as the favorites to win the conference, but also strong favorites to win it all.
American math whiz Edward Lorenz is credited with coining the term “butterfly effect” in 1969 as part of his groundbreaking work in chaos theory. And chaos is exactly what we have in Big 12 college basketball this year, thanks to a giant butterfly named John Calipari.
The fate of the Big 12 may have been sealed when Calipari made the jump from the Memphis Tigers to the Kentucky Wildcats. That decision prompted a pair of former Calipari recruits to abandon the Tigers and join the Kansas Jayhawks: brothers Xavier and C.J. Henry. Their arrival in Lawrence gives Kansas an incredibly stacked recruiting class and the inside track at being named the preseason No. 1 in the nation.
And yet it almost went haywire last week for Kansas coach Bill Self, thanks to another outside force: the Kansas City Star. They published a story that Carl Henry (who led Kansas in scoring in 1983 and 1984) found less than flattering to his two sons. But Self went to their home in Oklahoma City and cleared the air, ensuring the Henrys would make Lawrence their destination instead of a possible reunion with Calipari in Kentucky.
That’s how quickly things can turn in the offseason. But we’re still jumping in with both feet to give you this early Big 12 preview, even before the first betting odds for conference champs pop up on the futures market.
1. Kansas Jayhawks (+300 to win NCAA): Xavier Henry is the big catch on the wing for Self, and he joins a team that returns nearly everyone from their trip to the Sweet 16, including top scorers Sherron Collins (18.9 points per game) and Cole Aldrich (14.9 points per game).
2. Texas Longhorns (+1500): Rick Barnes and the ‘Horns have a stud recruiting class with top-ranked shooting guard Avery Bradley (according to Scout.com) and No. 2-ranked small forward Jordan Hamilton joining Florida transfer Jai Lucas at point guard.
3. Oklahoma Sooners (+5000): This could be the best ATS team in the conference after the high-profile departure of Wooden Award winner Blake Griffin. This is also the other recruiting class of note from the Big 12, led by No. 3-ranked center Keith Gallon from Oak Hill Academy.
4. Kansas State Wildcats (+10000): K-State brings in No. 4-ranked power forward Wallace “Wally” Judge to a young team that won 22 games last year (albeit at 8-15-3 ATS).
5. Oklahoma State Cowboys (+5000): Losing seniors Byron Eaton (14.3 points per game) and Terrel Harris (13.9 points per game) leaves the ‘Pokes without two of their top three scorers from last year. But hotshot coach Travis Ford has this program pointed in the right direction.
6. Texas A&M Aggies (+5000): The Aggies took one below the belt last month when 6-foot-10 Chinemelu Elonu (9.8 points, 7.3 rebounds per game) decided to stay in the NBA Draft. He’s now property of the Los Angeles Lakers.
7. Missouri Tigers (+3000): Missouri moves from No. 8 in the AP rankings to an early spot on the Tournament bubble after the departures of their top three scorers: seniors DeMarre Carroll, Leo Lyons and Matt Lawrence at a combined 40.4 points per game.
8. Baylor Bears (+8000): Only two returning starters for the Bears, although they did snag a big fish in No. 2-ranked center Perry Jones, am impressive athlete with world-class talent and a strong defensive game.
9. Nebraska Cornhuskers (Field +2500): There’s another drop-off from the Bears to the Cornhuskers, who watched Cookie Miller (Miami-Ohio) and Alonzo Edwards (Lon Morris JUCO) transfer out of Lincoln to be closer to their respective families.
10. Colorado Buffaloes (Field): They finished in the Big 12 basement last year at 9-22 (14-13 ATS), but the Buffs are slowly turning things around as they enter their third season under coach Jeff Bzdelik.
11. Iowa State Cyclones (Field): For a change, the Cyclones aren’t losing their top scorer – Craig Brackins (20.2 points per game) should prevent ISU from falling into last place.
12. Texas Tech Red Raiders (+10000): Pat Knight has his father’s temper, but apparently not his gift for recruiting. Their top commitment so far is No. 39-ranked small forward Jaye Crockett.