CANMORE, Alta. –The 2017-18 season tips off on November 10th, which means the final month without college basketball is finally upon us.
Fans all across the country are gearing up for another exciting college basketball season, and with the recent scandal involving the FBI and several power conference programs across the NCAA, the level of anticipation is through the roof.
Conference preview pieces are starting to circulate from various media outlets, and conferences are hosting their annual media days and announcing their preseason polls and award winners. It’s always interesting to see how coaches and media rank teams in their respective conferences.
With the season right around the corner, we are starting to release our Preseason Player of the Year awards for each conference, along with three All-Conference teams. Picked at random, we will release two sets of awards each day.
Once again in the Big 12, the Kansas Jayhawks look to be the clear favourite in the title picture. However, several other teams return talented roster that will push Bill Self’s crew to the limit come conference play.
Scroll down to see who we have selected as our Big 12 Player of the Year, and who cracks our Preseason All-Big 12 teams!
2017-18 Player of the Year: Devonte’ Graham, Kansas Jayhawks
Across the board, Kansas senior guard Devonte’ Graham looks like the consensus Big 12 Player of the Year heading into the 2017-18 season. The games will be played, and things could very well change, but the award is undoubtedly Graham’s to lose.
With both Frank Mason III and Josh Jackson gone from last year’s team, Graham is the Jayhawks’ top returning scorer. He averaged 13.4 points per game, to go along with 3.1 rebounds and 4.1 assists, which is also the highest mark of any returning player in 2017-18. While he shot a career-worst 38.8% from beyond the arc, that’s still a strong number considering he attempted 242 shots from three point range.
Graham was a consistent force on the offensive end for the Jayhawks last season, recording double-digit points on 29 occasions. He saved his best scoring performance of the season for one of the team’s biggest games. Against the Purdue Boilermakers in the Sweet 16, Graham scored 26 points in the Jayhawks’ 98-66 win.
At the point, Graham is also a reliable leader of the offense who takes good care of the ball. He record an assist-to-turnover ratio of 2.33 last season (149:64). The Jayhawks are expected to win the Big 12 crown again this season, and the play of Graham will be a big factor in their success.
2017-18 All-Big 12 Teams
With the departure of both Mason III and Jackson, senior guard Devonte’ Graham is now ‘the guy’ at Kansas. While they have some young talent at their disposal in the front court, the offense runs through the 6’2” guard.
Across the country, senior guard Jevon Carter is known as one of the top defenders, regardless of conference. Last season, Carter averaged career-highs in points (13.5), rebounds (5.0), assists (3.7), and steals (2.5) per game, while leading the West Virginia Mountaineers to the Sweet 16 in the 2017 NCAA Tournament. Carter’s ability to affect the game on both ends of the floor received national attention last season, as he was named the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year, the NABC Defensive Player of the Year, and he was named to the All-Big 12 First Team.
As a junior in 2016-17, Jeffrey Carroll emerged as one of the top scoring guards in the Big 12 for the Oklahoma State Cowboys. He finished second on the team in scoring with an average of 17.5 points per contest, trailing only Jawun Evans. With Evans out of the picture, Carroll is the go-to guy on offense for the Cowboys, and could very well average 20 points per game as a senior. The 6’6” guard is also a double-double threat with his work on the glass, as he recorded four last season, and had 20 games with seven or more rebounds.
Vladimir Brodziansky is the first of three players from the TCU Horned Frogs to appear on our All-Big 12 teams, and while he’s played limited minutes in each of his two seasons in the NCAA, the 6’1” big man appears to be in position for a big year. He appeared in all 39 games last season, and despite averaging under 24 minutes per contest, Brodziansky averaged a team-high 14.1 points and 2.1 blocks per contest. He was effective from the floor, shooting above 56% from the field, and showed the ability to hit three pointers (11-of-30).
The Texas Longhorns landed a commitment from one of the best players in the recruiting class of 2017, and while Mohamed Bamba may only play one season in Austin, he adds a ton of buzz to Shaka Smart’s program. Bamba was the fourth-ranked recruit by ESPN in the Class of 2017, and gives the front court at Texas a whole new identity alongside transfer Dylan Osetkowski. He is extremely athletic and fluid for a big man, and his length (7’9” wingspan) make him an absolute menace on both ends of the floor.
When Manu Lecomte transferred from the Miami (FL) Hurricanes to the Baylor Bears, some didn’t know what type of player they were getting in the 5’11” guard from Belgium. Lecomte was one of the more efficient guards in the country last season, his first with the Bears. He averaged 12.2 points and 3.8 assists per game, while shooting 42.6% from the field, 40.8% from three point range, and 83.0% from the free throw line. Lecomte is as steady as they come at the point guard spot in the Big 12, and could be in for a big senior season.
After an up-and-down freshman season with the Mississippi State Bulldogs two seasons ago, guard Malik Newman is eligible this year for the Jayhawks after sitting out last season due to the NCAA’s transfer regulations. Newman was ranked at the top shooting guard in the recruiting class of 2015 by ESPN, but never panned out with the Bulldogs. However, Newman is a strong shooter from long distance, and is another weapon at Bill Self’s disposal. He averaged 11.3 points per game and shot 37.9% from three point range at Mississippi State.
With forward Kristian Doolittle being suspended for the fall semester, and the Oklahoma Sooners losing Jordan Woodard from last year’s roster, freshman guard Trae Young enters the fray at just the right time. The 23rd-ranked player in the Class of 2017 will give the Sooners an immediate boost on the offensive end of the floor with his scoring touch and length. He can knock down shots out to the three point line, and has a high basketball IQ that will undoubtedly set him up for success as his career progresses.
Kenrich Williams missed the entire 2015-16 season due to injury, but that didn’t slow him down last season in his return for the Horned Frogs. The 6’7” wing pulled down a team-high 9.7 rebounds per game, while finishing second in scoring (11.4 ppg). He had 24 games with double-digit rebounds, and put together a triple-double in the post-season. Against the Richmond Spiders in the NIT Quarter-Finals, Williams recorded 11 points, 14 rebounds, and 10 assists in the Horned Frogs’ 86-68 win.
Baylor’s ability to develop impact big men over the last few years cannot be understated. The next in line will be the seven-footer Jo Lual-Acuil, Jr. In just over 26 minutes per game as a junior, Lual-Acuil, Jr. averaged 9.1 points, 6.7 rebounds, and 2.5 blocks per game. It was also his first season in the NCAA, and he performed rather well. In just his second game of the season, he recorded nine points, 14 rebounds, and seven blocks in the Bears’ 66-49 win over the Oregon Ducks. He recorded three or more blocked shots on 14 occasions last season.
The Horned Frogs have themselves a star forward patrolling the paint, and a talented wing who adds flexibility to the lineup. They also have one of the Big 12’s top point guards in Alex Robinson, who makes things tick for the TCU offense. He dished out 5.8 assists per game last season, while also chipping in with 11.2 points for his hometown school.
As a freshman, Andrew Jones showed that he has the tools and capabilities to become a star in the Big 12. He averaged 11.4 points, 3.9 rebounds, and 3.5 assists last season for the Longhorns. If he is able to cut down on the turnovers in year two, his game will go to another level. But, the Longhorns have themselves a star-caliber scoring guard for the foreseeable future in Jones.
Kamau Stokes and the Kansas State Wildcats advanced to the program’s 29th NCAA Tournament last season, and they have their sights set on #30 this year. Stokes is the team’s top returning scorer from last season (11.7 ppg), and also recorded a team-best 4.1 assists per game in 2016-17. In Stokes, head coach Bruce Weber has a strong point guard to run his offense for another two seasons.
Over his first two seasons with the Texas Tech Red Raiders, guard Keenan Evans was solid on the back end. Last year, as a junior, he emerged as a star in the Big 12. The 6’3” guard averaged a team-best 15.7 points and 3.0 assists per contest. This season, as the Red Raiders add more weapons, Evans will look to lead the Red Raiders on a push up the Big 12 standings.
With the Jayhawks losing both Josh Jackson and Dwight Coleby in the front court from last year’s team, five-star freshman Billy Preston enters the mix at the right time for Kansas. The McDonald’s All-American will add size, athleticism, and a nice scoring to the front court rotation for the Jayhawks.
– T. Bennett