Sound off: Big 12 men’s basketball predictions

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With the first preseason game just under a week away, it is time to make our predictions for the 2012-13 Big 12 Conference college basketball season. Here is a look at what a few of the sports staff members think will happen in the Big 12 season.

Mark Kern, sports editor
Player of the year: Pierre Jackson, Baylor
Jackson emerged as not only one of the best point guards in the Big 12, but also in the country. He only stands at 5-foot-10 but is an incredible athlete and can jump with the best of them. What makes him great is his swagger; no moment is too big for him, and he is the guy that wants the ball at the end of the game. Look for Jackson to have a big season for a very good Baylor team.

Coach of the year: Travis Ford, Oklahoma State
Last year, the Cowboys struggled early, but at the end of the season were able to compete with anybody, including an upset over No. 2 Missouri. With LeBryan Nash, Markel Brown and Marcus Smart, the Cowboys will have the most athletic backcourt in the Big 12, and quite possibly the country. Look for Ford to get back to the NCAA tournament, and if this team gels, no one will want to see them come March.

Freshman of the year: Marcus Smart, Oklahoma State
Smart is a freak of nature as a 6-foot-4, 200-pound combo guard. He will play more time at the 2 but can bring the ball up the floor when they get out on the run. He already has a Big 12 body for a point guard and could be one of the most dominating freshman point guards in Big 12 history.

Newcomer of the year: Korie Lucious, Iowa State
After having great success with transfers like Royce White and Chris Allen last season, coach Fred Hoiberg has another talented one in senior guard Lucious. Lucious played a huge part in Michigan State’s Final Four run, including hitting a game-winning 3-point at the buzzer in the second round of the 2010 NCAA tournament against Maryland.

Defensive player of the year: Jeff Withey, Kansas
Withey’s improvement last season was the key to the Jayhawks run to the title game last season, giving KU a huge presence down low, especially on the defensive end. He does an outstanding job of going straight up while contesting a shot, making it hard for the opposing player. He gives guards Travis Releford and Elijah Johnson opportunities to play the passing lanes to get the steals, because they know he has their back.

Big 12 champion: Kansas Jayhawks

Until the Jayhawks are beaten, you have to pick them. What they have done in the Big 12 the past eight seasons is one of the most remarkable streaks in all of sports. With three seniors back, they have the experience to help the young players grow. Once freshmen like Ben McLemore and Perry Ellis get up to speed, the Jayhawks will emerge as a national title contender.

1. Kansas
2. Oklahoma State
3. Baylor
4. Kansas State
5. Iowa State
6. Texas
7. Oklahoma
8. West Virginia
9. Texas Tech
10. TCU

John Zetmeir, staff writer
Player of the year: Pierre Jackson, Baylor
As the key returner for the Baylor Bears in the 2012-13 season, it will be Jackson who will have to lead the team. Last season, Jackson was second on the team in scoring with 13.3 points a game and led the Bears in assists, with 5.8 a game.

Coach of the year: Bruce Weber, K-State
True, Weber was fired from the University of Illinois last year, but he now has a new start at K-State. With the Wildcats only losing two seniors from last season, Weber will have a lot of talent to work with. Weber has all the tools at K-State necessary to have a good season and make the NCAA tournament.

Freshman of the Year: Ben McLemore, Kansas
Last season, McLemore was at the University of Kansas but was not eligible to play. Coming out of high school, McLemore was ranked on both Rivals.com and ESPN’s top 100 list of high school players and could very well be one of the most athletic players in the country.

Newcomer of the year: Marcus Smart, Oklahoma State
Alongside McLemore from Kansas, I believe that Marcus Smart will be another dominant freshman in the Big 12 Conference this year. The Cowboys’ new shooting guard will be a terrible matchup for most opponents. Smart was named a McDonald’s All-American for the class of 2012 and was ranked as the 10th best high school player in the country by both ESPN and Rivals.com.

Defensive player of the year: Jeff Withey, Kansas
Last season, Kansas’ center Jeff Withey was very crucial to the Jayhawks’ success. As one of the premiere shot blockers in the country, Withey made a name for himself on the defensive side of the ball. 

Big 12 champion: Kansas Jayhawks
The University of Kansas has won the last eight regular season Big 12 titles, and I believe that they will make it nine this season. With the loss of the University of Missouri to the SEC, I believe that the Big 12 has lost some of their depth. Despite losing both Thomas Robinson and Tyshawn Taylor to the NBA draft, I believe that the Jayhawks have replenished themselves with enough talent to make another Big 12 title run.

1. Kansas
2. Baylor
3. Oklahoma State
4. Iowa State
5. West Virginia
6. Kansas State
7. Texas
8. Oklahoma
9. TCU
10. Texas Tech

Adam Suderman, staff writer
Player of the year: Elijah Johnson, Kansas
Rather than going with the smart pick, I’m going with gut instinct here. Pierre Jackson will be great for Baylor, but I believe that Johnson is going to turn into the true leader in Lawrence. Just as Robinson stood behind the Morris twins before last season, I believe that Johnson will take advantage of the departure of Tyshawn Taylor.

Coach of the year: Fred Hoiberg, Iowa State
The days of subpar play in Ames are decreasing rapidly. The choice of Fred Hoiberg met a lot of skepticism when he was first hired, but he has quickly eliminated most if not all of the doubt. Gone is Royce White, but Anthony Booker, Chris Babb and newcomer Korie Lucious will anchor a solid Cyclones team that makes its second consecutive NCAA tournament.

Freshman of the year: Marcus Smart, Oklahoma State
This is a tough call between Smart and Kansas freshman Ben McLemore but I see Smart as a huge assest in Stillwater. Smart will be the main contributor for Oklahoma State this season and will likely improve the Cowboys’ record in big ways this season.

Newcomer of the year: Korie Lucious, Iowa State
Iowa State was going to be in trouble without a replacement for Scott Christopherson, but expect Lucious to step in immediately and leave little room for question. Lucious was a big-time player for Michigan State and was a significant contribution to their postseason success.

Defensive player of the year: Jordan Henriquez, K-State
Henriquez has dealt with some inconsistencies through his first three seasons at K-State, but I see big things ahead for the Wildcat senior. Henriquez really established himself toward the end of last season and I don’t see any drop off heading into his senior campaign. Staying out of foul trouble will be crucial. He’ll be anchoring the paint against a conference full of talented big men and he’ll need to stay on the floor.

Big 12 Champion: Kansas Jayhawks
Until Kansas loses their conference championship streak, it just doesn’t seem right to pick against them. Head coach Bill Self has done little wrong in his time at Kansas and I don’t expect it to go south any time soon. The Jayhawks will face a little more trouble with their freshman filled roster, but the talent is still very rich.

1. Kansas
2. Baylor
3. Kansas State
4. Oklahoma State
5. Iowa State
6. Texas
7. West Virginia
8. Oklahoma
9. Texas Tech
10. TCU

Mark Kern is a senior in print journalism. John Zetmeir is a sophomore in journalism and mass communications. Adam Suderman is a junior in print journalism. Please send comments to sports@kstatecollegian.com.

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