Def Pen Sports continues its 2019-20 NCAA preview series this week with a focus on the Big 12. Over the past several years this conference has had an argument that they’re the top conference top to bottom. It’s never as strong at the top as the ACC but once again the strength in the numbers is something to behold. The conference lost a lot of talent from last year. Now it’s time for some former role players to step into larger roles making for a fun year in the conference.
With nine of the ten schools represented on this list, it should once again make for a competitive year in the Big 12. Let’s take a look at our 2019 Top 10 Big 12 players.
10) Matt Coleman, Texas
The Longhorns had a disappointing year and Coleman did not have the jump many hoped or expected from the guard. The junior has a chance to return to his freshman stats and improve on them in his third year with the Longhorns. A good sign was his three-point percentage did rise last year, but the rest of his statistics regressed between his freshman and sophomore years. The leadership of Coleman will need to be on par with an increased level of play.
9) Davide Moretti, Texas Tech
The Italian junior has championship game experience and that could prove vital in a year where Texas Tech is expected to regress on most fronts. More minutes in his sophomore year proved the guard as ready for the increased role. Moretti is the leader of the team now and needs a “junior leap” that many players experience in college basketball. Having one of the better coaches in college basketball should help his progression.
8) Xavier Sneed, Kansas State
The Kansas State senior is attempting to get the Wildcats over the Big 12 hump one more time. The forward saw his points per game slump half a point last year, but there is no reason to think there is a regressive trend there. Sneed will continue to play great defense, rebound well for a forward, and score around 10.5 points per game. His field goal percentage has continued to drop each year, but seniors typically learn to make better decisions and his senior leadership will be vital this year.
7) Tyrese Haliburton, Iowa State
Tyrese Haliburton made a believer out of me with his play in Crete at the U19 Worlds. 48 AST to just 8 TOVs in 175 MIN while shooting 12-of-14 from 2 and 10-of-18 from 3. Was all over the place defensively. Unorthodox game but positional size, shooting touch and tremendous feel. pic.twitter.com/8FzqE4EEbB
— Mike Schmitz (@Mike_Schmitz) July 8, 2019
The sophomore is poised to have a breakout year for the Cyclones after starting all but one game his freshman year. He averaged 6.8 points, 3.6 assists and 3.4 rebounds last year. The guard is set to take on more of the load offensively for the team and the previous experience starting will prove vital for his success. Hailburton is a great shooter and being given more touches should result in more success for Iowa State.
6) Brady Manek, Oklahoma
Manek came in with Trae Young and was his sidekick as a freshman carving out a role as a spot-up shooter. He has begun to develop his game which has come with him filling out his body. His scoring total rose last year as did his rebound total while more than doubling his free throw attempts. Oklahoma again is destined for a middle of the road Big 12 season and Manek will finally be a go-to guy for them. As a junior bigger things are expected of him and with him finally being a top player for the school, it’s easy to see why his numbers should once again rise.
5) Derek Culver, West Virginia
Culver came into the league last year already built like a grown man as a true freshman. His play on the court showed it too. He was able to move and bully opponents down low with his body at times. This year, where many players usually have a sophomore jump will be key. He needs to develop more skill and finesse in his game. The physical aspect is there but rounding out his ability to score and stay out of foul trouble will be key. He averaged .1 rebounds shy of a double-double last year. Expect him to be way clear of a double-double and bring West Virginia back to the NCAA Tournament after a year hiatus.
2020 NBA Draft Prospect:
Pos: Center | Ht: 6-10 | Wt: 255
School: West Virginia
?: West Virginia @ Oklahoma State (03/09/19) pic.twitter.com/zO41NLXhZb
— Matt Babcock (@MattBabcock11) July 25, 2019
4) Tristan Clark, Baylor
Clark suffered a knee injury that ended his season in early January last year. At the time he was leading the country in field goal percentage at 73.7 percent whole scoring 14.6 points per game. The Baylor forward is returning to a team that now has more experience and should easily finish in the top three in the Big 12. Clark blossomed into a really solid player for Scott Drew last year and he should expound on that this season.
3) Desmond Bane, TCU
Desmond Bane has gotten better and better every year. It was a no brainer to include him as one of the 2019 Top-10 Big 12 Players. He was mostly a shooter in his first couple of years but last year showed an improved ability to put the ball on the floor. Physically his body is pro-ready which helps him as a defender, of which he is one of the better defenders in the league. He declared for the draft last year before pulling out at the last minute and returning to school. TCU isn’t expected to be as good as Jamie Dixon has had the last few years but Bane should no doubt still put up great numbers.
2) Devon Dotson, Kansas
Dotson had one of, if not the best season a freshman point guard has ever had under Bill Self. He was given the keys from day one and didn’t disappoint. For most of the year, his three-point shooting albeit on limited attempts was surprisingly good. For a guard that came with a reputation of needing to improve that aspect of his game, it was good but tailed off near the end of the year. It’s the thing he self-admittedly is working on the most coming into this season. Overall Dotson showed outstanding prowess last year and some feel he may push for All-American honors. He and the number one player on the 2019 Top-10 Big 12 Players list have a chance to be a top duo around the country this season.
1) Udoka Azubuike, Kansas
I was there yesterday. Thought the two best incoming freshmen in attendance during yesterday’s scrimmage portion were Cole Anthony and Kahlil Whitney. The two best upperclassmen were Obi Toppin and probably Udoka Azubuike. Doke is trimmed down, looks great as a PnR rim runner.
— Sam Vecenie (@Sam_Vecenie) August 9, 2019
The number one player of the 2019 Top-10 Big 12 Players list is Udoka Azubuike. With him, the key here is staying healthy, plain and simple. Azubuike heading into his senior season has yet to play a full slate of games. When he has played he is dominant as it’s tough for anyone one person to stop him one-on-one. He has actually slimmed down by 32 pounds since he last played in hopes it will improve his conditioning. It’s also in hopes to improve as a rebounder and shot-blocker. Although he stands at 7’0″ he’s never been great at either of those skills. He hasn’t played a game since last December so seeing his development should be interesting.