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2010-2011 BTD College Basketball Preview-Big 12, MAC, Mountain West

We continue our preview with a look at the Big 12, MAC, and Mountain West. Below you will find previews from our Coorespondents in those conferences. Enjoy!

First off is Joseph Loyd of Big 12 Hoops with our Big 12 Preview. Make sure to check out Big 12 Hoops during the Pac-10-Big 12 Challenge for recaps from the other side.

The Big 12 will be hard pressed in 2010-2011 to equal some of the success attained last season. Two programs spent a good portion of the season as the #1 ranked team in the polls, 2 other teams made the Elite Eight, a conference record 7 teams made the Big Dance and the #1 overall seeded team in the whole NCAA Tourney came from the Big 12. The only big blemish on the resume is no team from the Big 12 made the Final Four. While the upcoming season may not equal the same results there is still plenty of optimism heading into the season.


The favorites in the conference this season are the same as they finished last season with KU & K-State both being a fixture in pundits and publications Top 10 lists while Baylor and Missouri are solidly in most everyone’s Top 25 lists.  The Big 12 figures to be somewhat top heavy with the national contenders mentioned above at the top and some teams who have the distinct possibility of being very very bad at the bottom of the conference. 


In a fairly big landslide vote the Kansas State Wildcats are the Big 12 coaches preseason favorite to win the conference this year and dethrone the Kansas Jayhawks 6 year stranglehold on the regular season crown. With Jacob Pullen back after his outstanding NCAA Tournament run the Wildcats find themselves in the unusual position of being the favorites with the targets on their backs. It will be interesting to see if Frank Martin can find a way to get his team to continue to play as hard as anyone in the country now that they have tasted a fair amount of success. The Wildcats welcome back a strong frontline of Curtis Kelly, Jamar Samuels and Wally Judge while also bringing in FIU transfer Freddy Asprilla who was the Sun Belt Conference Freshman of the Year in 2008. The key losses that will have to be replaced are starting PG Denis Clemente and starting SF Dominique Sutton who chose to transfer to be closer to family in North Carolina.


While Kansas lost a ton of talent in Sherron Collins, Xavier Henry & Cole Aldrich, the cliché about reloading not rebuilding almost always applies in Lawrence. Don’t be surprised if you look at the rankings mid-way through the season and see the Jayhawks once again in their usual positions high in the polls. One major question hovering over KU is if and when hyped freshman PG Josh Selby will be eligible. If he isn’t allowed to play for Bill Self this could possibly drop the Jayhawks out of the national title hunt. Besides the Selby situation a key thing to watch evolve to determine how good KU can be this year will be the continued development of Marcus Morris who will have to raise his game to yet another level but Bill Self has confidence he can do this. The Jayhawks have a good core group of upperclassman back in players like Brady Morningstar, Tyshawn Taylor, Tyrel Reed & Mario Little.


Another large looming question is will LaceDarius Dunn be eligible at all this year for the Baylor Bears after his recent arrest and investigation into possible aggravated arrest on his girlfriend. While he has been allowed to practice and be in classes this is a situation to continue and monitor. If he misses a large portion of the season this may knock Baylor back into the pack in the Big 12 race. One thing Baylor fans definitely do have to look forward to this year is incoming freshman Perry Jones who should only be in Waco one season before bolting for the riches of the NBA. 

A couple of teams that their fanbases have high expectations for in the coming season are the Missouri Tigers and the Texas Longhorns. Missouri welcomes in a strong recruiting class featuring the #1 rated JUCO player in the country in Ricardo Ratliffe along with a solid group of returnees who can run Mike Anderson’s intense defensive system. In Austin, fans are hoping to see a more consistent team this year than the one they witnessed last season that rose as high as #1 in the nation before fizzling down the stretch.  Rick Barnes has to hope that last years all everything recruit Jordan Hamilton can have a breakout season and incoming PG Cory Joseph can help stabilize the guard position for the Longhorns.


Two teams in the conference welcome in new coaches this year with Colorado hiring Tad Boyle from Northern Colorado and Iowa State bringing back "The Mayor" Fred Hoiberg. While not much is expected from the Cyclones this season Hoiberg has been busy gathering up solid transfers like Chris Allen from Michigan State and Chris Babb from Penn State along with Royce White from Minnesota. The Clones may be a year away from contending in the Big 12 but they have hope for the future.


The Buffs on the other hand don’t have a year to continue to wait to compete in the Big 12 as this season represents their last before bolting for supposed greener pastures in the Pac 10. If there is ever going to be a season for CU to make some noise though this could be the year. In a good position for a new coach, the Buffs are one of only six teams in the country who have 2 preseason Wooden Award candidates on their roster in Cory Higgins and Alec Burks. While it will be hard for CU to get too high in the conference rankings since they have to face KU, KSU & Missouri both twice in conference play expect the Buffs to make a push for the NCAA Tournament this year.


In Texas A&M and Oklahoma State you find two programs who might have to do some rebuilding work after losing key contributors from last years teams in Donald Sloan and James Anderson respectively. While both teams welcome back some starters from last season these individuals will have to up their games if they hope to rise above middle of the pack in the Big 12.


Another team leaving after the current season will be the Nebraska Cornhuskers under the direction of Doc Sadler. Needless to say coming off of a 2-14 Big 12 record last year expectations are low and frankly basketball is mostly an afterthought in Lincoln but don’t be surprised if this team steps up and wins some games this year. Sadler will have some impressive size with 4 players listed at 6’10" or taller and he welcomes in Oregon transfer Kamyron Brown who led the Ducks in assists as a freshman and sophomore.


After an impressive late season NIT run, Texas Tech is looking to build off that success and contend for a NCAA Tourney bid. This could be a possibility with a good group of seniors in place who have played a lot of Big 12 games in Mike Singletary, D’walyn Roberts and John Roberson. This could turn out to be an important year for Pat Knight since if he disappoints this season with an experienced group of players he may not have enough goodwill build up to start a new rebuild in Lubbock.


Finally and on purpose placed last is the Oklahoma Sooners who along with Texas were one of the Big 12’s most disappointing programs last season. While having a large amount of talent last year in guys like Willie Warren, Tiny Gallon and Tommy-Mason Griffin things just never were good in Norman and it culminated in a 4-12 Big 12 conference record and a fanbase who was happy to see the season end. Welcoming in nine new players this season, a great amount of pressure will be on Jeff Capel to prove he can have success without someone named Blake Griffin on his roster.


Joe’s Big 12 Predictions

  1. Kansas Jayhawks
  2. Kansas State Wildcats
  3. Baylor Bears
  4. Missouri Tigers
  5. Texas Longhorns
  6. Colorado Buffaloes
  7. Texas Tech Red Raiders
  8. Texas A&M Aggies
  9. Oklahoma State Cowboys
  10. Nebraska Cornhuskers
  11. Iowa State Cyclones
  12. Oklahoma Sooners

MAC and Mountain West previews after the break

Next up is Matt Sussman of Hustle Belt with our MAC preview. Matt would also like me to tell everyone the ridiculous claim that the MAC is stronger than their strength of schedule indicates.

Last year's MAC season was insane. While there was no clear favorite, there was a distinct group of five teams that shone above the rest … and none of them won the MAC tournament. Instead, the Ohio University Bobcats, who went 7-9 in the regular season, became tournament champions, nabbed 13-seed in the NCAA tournament, and absolutely destroyed the fourth-seeded Georgetown in the first round. Made. No. Sense.
Hopefully sanity returns this year, Ohio can only hope: most of the previews haven't come out yet, but you're going to see the Bobcats tabbed as the predominant favorite, followed by Akron and Central Michigan.
The MAC hasn't received an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament since 1999, and it's a longshot for that to happen again. Same goes with the longest March Madness droughts in the MAC: Bowling Green hasn't made it since 1968, Toledo's since 1980, and Northern Illinois since 1982. Buffalo's last time was also 1982, but that was the Division III tournament.
So it comes down to the tournament. First, let's go by division:
1. Ohio — Out goes Armon Bassett, and in remains sophomore point guard D.J. Cooper and seniors DeVaughn Washington and Tommy Freeman from the team that dismantled Georgetown.
2. Akron — Brett McKnight could be brilliant for the Zips, or he could fall flat. He was suspended for most of October for violating team rules, but the season comes down to him and fellow senior Steve McNees.
3. Miami — Practically-tenured coach Charlie Coles has a bunch of mid-sized role players, none of which are shutdown players —(such as the tough-to-budge Julian Mavunga), but they might be the deepest team in the division.
4. Kent State — This could be a down year for a perennially strong team. Rodriquez Sherman can't get a buzzer-beating">game-winning dunk every game, but he'll try.
5. Bowling Green — It's a small team. Joe Jakubowski and Scott Thomas will play soundly enough at guard … but they lost a lot of size near the basket.
6. Buffalo — Five of their top scorers have left, leaving it up to juniors Titus Robinson and Mitchell Watt to make some noise.
1. Central Michigan — How 28th-best recruit (according to come to CMU? It's not because they won the division last year. Perhaps it's because Trey Zeigler's dad, Ernie Zeigler, is the coach. Your Freshman of the Year could also be an outside contender for Player of the Year.
2. Ball State — Truth and youth. All five starters return, including budding beast Jarrod Jones, along with three other key juniors.
3. Eastern Michigan — If you were looking for the only guy who averaged a double-double last year, you found him in Brandon Bowdry, who plays much more ruthless than you'd expect a 6-6 forward to.
4. Northern Illinois — Former Colorado guard Xavier Silas declared for the draft this summer, but rightly wasn't taken and can lead this conference in scoring. Now only if they had an experienced frontcourt.
5. Western Michigan — David Kool carried WMU when they needed him, but he graduated and nobody's sure who'll replace his 21 points per game. The experienced position shifts to forward with junior Flenard Whitfield.
6. Toledo — Rarely does a team with no seniors nor NCAA infractions lose two-thirds of their production from the previous year. New head coach Tod Kowalczyk will endure a brutal year, although lone senior Justin Anyijong's versatility will help.
Most Likely MAC Champion: Ohio
Could Make A MAC Tournament Run: Eastern Michigan, Miami
Most Improved: Ball State
Most Likely To Regress: Buffalo, Western Michigan
If I Had To Pick A Starting Five:
G D.J. Cooper, Ohio
G Xavier Silas, Northern Illinois
F Brandon Bowdry, Eastern Michigan
F Jarrod Jones, Ball State
F Julian Mavunga, Miami
Tall Guy:
Zeke Marshall, Akron (7-0, 218, sophomore)
Short Guy:
Jordon Crawford, Bowling Green (5-6, 143, sophomore)
Lightweight Guy:
Wiley Roberts, Bowling Green (5-7, 140, senior)
Heavyweight Guy:
Matt Stainbrook, Western Michigan (6-9, 290, freshman)
Guy Most Likely To Grow Up To Be An English Noble, Based On His Name
Finnis Craddock, Central Michigan
Guy Who Shares A Name With A Former Player (Unrelated)
Dee Brown, Bowling Green
Guy Who Shares A Name With A Former Player (Related, And This Makes You Feel Older Than Fossils)
Juwan Howard, Jr, Western Michigan
To close out the day, we welcome in Jeremy Mauss from Mountain West Connection with our MWC preview. And even though Jeremy thinks that our season is over because of James' injury, you should still check out his site.

Last year, the Mountain West had their best season in league history by sending four teams to the NCAA tournament. That number doubled the previous high and did not include -- former league power -- Utah. The league this year looks to get four teams in again with BYU, New Mexico, San Diego State, and UNLV. However, there is some preseason hype which would include Colorado State in that group to make the NCAA tournament, but I am not buying that. The last three years they have had wins of seven, nine and sixteen; last year they made the CBI tournament, so a jump to the NCAA tournament will be tough even with the three extra bids available.
The Mountain West has always been a place for transfers to come to when things don't work out at their prior schools, and this years top transfers are heading to New Mexico. They include UCLA transfer Drew Gordon -- who will be eligible in December -- and Tennessee transfer Emmanuel Negedu. Both were four star recruits who hopefully can fill the void that NBA bound Darrington Hobson and Roman Martinez.
New Mexico hopes these new additions will make the Lobos tougher against the bigs they will be facing this year. Last season, they had trouble against Oral Roberts Michael Craion who was only 6-foot-five-inch and had 13 rebounds in that Lobo loss.
San Diego State may have the best player no one knows about, yet. That player is sophomore Kawhi Leonard was only recruited on the West coast, but was a key to the Aztecs successful season last year. In addition to Leonard, the Aztecs are senior laden Billy White, D.J. Gay and 6-foot-10 center Brian Carlwell. The Aztecs are the heavy favorite to repeat.
While San Diego State is the favorite, BYU has the leagues best player in Jimmer Fredette. The BYU back court is very good in addition to Fredette the Cougars have Jackson Emery who unwisely said that BYU could go unbeaten this year.  So, besides leaving the league to join the WCC next season BYU will have even a bigger target on their back. The front court could be an issue for BYU when they encounter San Diego State in conference play, but the key for BYU being good is squarely placed on Jimmer Fredette.
UNLV is always in contention for the title, and specifically the tournament title since it is played on their home court. Leading scorer Tre'Von Willis will only miss one game stemming from his assault charges that were brought on by an off-and-on girlfriend. The Rebels had a bunch of other troubles this off season when Senior Matt Shaw forfeited his final year of eligibility when he tested positive for an NCAA banned substance. Then Kendall Wallace, who is a three-point specialist, tore his right ACL and will miss the entire season. Like I said UNLV is always a dangerous team and should be in the mix for the regular season title and a NCAA tournament berth.
Top 10 non-conference games
UNLV @ Kansas State
San Diego State @ Gonzaga
Utah State @ BYU
BYU vs. Arizona (@ Salt Lake City, Utah)
Wisconsin @ UNLV
Saint Mary's @ San Diego State
Arizona State @ New Mexico
Wichita State @ San Diego State
New Mexico @ Dayton
Jeremy’s MWC preseason rankings
1. San Diego State
2. BYU
3. New Mexico
5. Colorado State
6. Utah
7. Wyoming
8. TCU
9. Air Force

So there you have it. Make sure to check back tomorrow when our Conference Coorespondents break down the Big West, C-USA, and SEC. 

Go Beavers!