Team’s preseason ranking means little in wide-open Big 12 conference


It’s hard to replace a superstar. The K-State men’s basketball team will try to replace two: Michael Beasley and Bill Walker.
    The Big 12 Conference coaches apparently believe the Wildcats will be lost without their top players.
    In their preseason poll, they ranked the Wildcats eighth. In 2007, they were picked to finish fourth.
    “I’m sure people from the outside looking in are thinking we’re not going to be as good as we were last year,” forward Darren Kent said. “Obviously losing Mike and Bill is a big loss, but we really don’t worry about the eighth-place [ranking]. We didn’t worry about the fourth-place [ranking] they gave us last year.”
    Beasley and Walker will be missed, but the Wildcats are not the only team replacing highly talented players. Nine Big 12 players were selected in the 2008 NBA Draft.
    Oklahoma ranks No. 1 in the preseason Big 12. They have the conference’s top player in sophomore forward Blake Griffin.
    After Griffin, the Big 12 talent level drops severely. The next best players are Kansas guard Sherron Collins and Texas guard A.J. Abrams.
    Though K-State is ranked low right now, the Big 12 is wide open. There will be several teams trying to replace their stars.
    “The Big 12 lost a lot of good players,” forward Ron Anderson said. “Last year we had the national champs in our conference, and they lost a lot of good players. I think it’s wide open for anybody.”
    The main problem for the Wildcats this season could be replacing the 42 points per game scored by Beasley and Walker in 2007. Finding talented scorers is always difficult, and K-State might need three or four players to fill that huge void.
    Coach Frank Martin seems to be most concerned with defensive rebounding. Last season, Beasley led the nation in rebounding with 12.4 per contest.
    “Last year we could depend on Mike that he was going to grab all those rebounds,” Kent said. “It was nice. Not to say you weren’t working hard, but you kind of new in the back of your head that Mike’s coming, he’s going to grab some of those rebounds. This year, it’s on us.”
    Kent and Anderson will be two of the players who K-State will lean on most to replace Beasley and Walker.
    Redshirt freshman forward Jamar Samuels also will need to step up to fill the void.
    However, those three cannot possibly have the same effect as Beasley and Walker. In 2008, the Wildcats will succeed or fail based on the play of their guards.
    But K-State won’t be the only team changing styles in 2008, which means the Big 12 is up for grabs.

Jon Garten is a senior in print journalism. Please send comments to