From the look of things. it looks like it will be a two team race between the Kansas Jayhawks and the Oklahoma State Cowboys.
This is a conference in which not many players left for the NBA and we should see a high level of play with a lot of returning talent.
Kansas is the team to beat as they’re the 2nd ranked team in the nation at +525 NCAA Basketball odds to win the NCAA Championship. Oklahoma State is not far behind at +3000 and Baylor is a distant +8000. Do the Jayhawks have what it takes to win the title without Ben McLemore and a bunch of youngsters?
Kansas Jayhawks +525
Kansas had somewhat of a disappointing season last year as they were a number 1 seed in the Big Dance and were upset by the 4th ranked Michigan Wolverines, 87-85 in overtime in the Sweet 16. Kansas will be relying on possibly the number 1 pick in the 2014 in freshman, Andrew Wiggins, along with all of the young talent that they possess.
Unless it’s a university like Duke, teams like Kansas and Kentucky (the odds on favorite to win it all) are on a “1 and out system”, recruiting big-time talented players that play one year in college and move onto the NBA. This is the case for Andrew Wiggins.
Wiggins beat out Jabari Parker of Duke for the top spot in ESPN’s top 100 recruits. This native Canadian has unlimited potential at 6 foot 7, 205 pounds. He plays longer than his height and can play more than one position if needed. Wiggins will have all the touches that he can handle as Kansas is short on experience.
Are we looking at a player in the same category as Lebron James, Kevin Durant, or Russell Westbrook? Only time will tell, but on the college level, his pure athleticism and ability to play on the perimeter will separate him from the rest of the pack and make Kansas and instant contender.
Head coach, Bill Self, claims that this the most athletic team that he’s had. Sophomore power forward Perry Ellis will attempt to make his imprint on this team as he’s the player with the most experience returning. That said, the go to guys will be the3 - 5 star recruits in Wiggins, center Joel Embiid (the 6th ranked player on ESPN’s list) and power forward, Wayne Selden (14th ranked on ESPN’s recruiting list). The sky is the limit for this very inexperienced team.
Oklahoma State Cowboys +3000
This is a team in a much different situation than Kansas. The Cowboys have 3 key players returning in sophomore and leading scorer Marcus Smart (15.4 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 4.2 apg, 3spg), Le’Bryan Nash (14 ppg and 4.1 rpg), and sophomore Phil Forte (10.2 ppg, 91.3% ft%). They also had a disappointing outcome at the Big Dance, but expect this team to go much further this season and be a thorn in Kansas’ side. Nothing replaces talent, but experience is an asset that they have and that Kansas doesn’t. Not to mention, Smart will be joining Wiggins in the NBA IN 2014.
While Kansas dominated the recruiting scene, Oklahoma State did manage to snatch the 5 foot 10 Clark and this is a player that can shoot the lights out. Expect big-time scoring from this little man. Oklahoma State could surprise a lot of teams as they provide a lot of offense.
Baylor Bears +8000
The NIT Champions look to make a splash this season at the Big Dance and they’ll have to do it without point guard Pierre Jackson. Senior Corey Jefferson (13.3 ppg, 8 rpg, 61% FG shooting ) and sophomore Isiah Austin (13 ppg, 8.3 rpg) will be the key returning figures in improving upon the 23-14 season that the Bears had last season.
Expect freshman Ishmail Wainwright (ESPN’s top 60th recruit) and Allerik Freeman (72nd ranked recruit) to make an immediate impact. Freeman possesses all of the same traits as Russell Westbrook, minus the speed, while Wainwright has great athleticism and possesses great court vision. The Bears won’t be top contenders, but they’ll definitely find their way onto the NCAA Bracket.
Quite often overlooked is that this is a conference laced with talented head coaches. We’ll see if that has an impact on the higher ranked teams in the conference, but for now, this conference is all Kansas and Oklahoma State for our NCAA Basketball Picks.