Originally Published: August 5, 2013

Five Biggest Offseason Storylines

By Jason King | ESPN.com

Andrew WigginsAP Photo/The Herald-Dispatch/Sholten SingerAndrew Wiggins waited until mid-May to decide on a school, but it was well worth the wait for Kansas.

1. Kansas lands Wiggins: The Jayhawks were being projected as a fringe top-25 team before beating out Kentucky, Florida State and North Carolina for Andrew Wiggins, arguably the nation's top high school prospect since LeBron James. Wiggins' signing in May propelled Kansas into almost everyone's top five while making Bill Self's squad the favorite to win a 10th straight Big 12 title. The Toronto native initially planned to spend a large chunk of his summer practicing and competing with the Canadian national team. But he backed out on that commitment and enrolled at KU in June. Autograph seekers greeted him at the airport, and more than 2,000 fans were on hand for his first intrasquad game. It will be interesting to see if the 6-foot-7 shooting guard can live up to the almost-unprecedented hype.

Marcus Smart
AP Photo/Sue OgrockiMarcus Smart surprised many by returning to Stillwater for his sophomore season.

2. Smart pulls a shocker, stays in school: Rare is the player who will risk millions of dollars and the chance to be a top-five pick in the NBA draft to return to school. But that's exactly what Oklahoma State's Marcus Smart did last spring. Smart's decision -- coupled with the return of NBA prospects Le'Bryan Nash and Markel Brown -- should make the Cowboys a top 10-15 team heading into the season. Smart is one of the most versatile players in the country. He led OSU in points, steals and assists and ranked second in rebounds last season, when his competitiveness and fire changed the vibe surrounding the Cowboys' program. Smart, who has already pledged to enter the 2014 draft, will likely open his sophomore campaign as a preseason first-team All-American.

3. Mass exodus at Texas: The Longhorns spent most of this century as one of the top programs in the Big 12 along with Kansas. But Rick Barnes' squad went just 16-18 in 2013-14 and missed the NCAA tournament for the first time in Barnes' 14 seasons. The situation got even more bleak in April. Point guard Myck Kabongo made an ill-advised decision to enter the NBA draft, and second- and third-leading scorers Sheldon McClellan and Julien Lewis decided to transfer. Barnes has been one of the country's top recruiters for the past decade, but his 2013 class was lackluster. With a mediocre cast returning and not much immediate help on the way, Texas is staring at the possibility of a second straight losing season. If that happens, Barnes will be squarely on the hot seat.

4. Texas Tech hires Tubby: After conducting the sloppiest coaching search of the offseason -- seriously, who wasn't interviewed for this job? -- TTU finally saved face and hired an established coach with an NCAA title on his résumé. Tubby Smith may not have the Red Raiders competing for the Big 12 title anytime soon, but he'll certainly bring order to what has been a tumultuous situation the past two seasons. Tech athletic director Kirby Hocutt wanted to hire Chris Walker, who went just 11-20 as the program's interim coach last season. Sources, though, said that school administrators stepped in and prevented Hocutt from selecting someone who had no prior head-coaching experience. It was a smart move, especially considering Texas Tech ended up with Smith, who boasts 511 career wins and an NCAA title with Kentucky in 1998.

5. Austin injures shoulder, returns to Baylor: Seven-foot-1 center Isaiah Austin had all but moved out of his Waco apartment and was prepared to enter the NBA draft before suffering a torn labrum in his shoulder the week before he was set to declare. The injury, which required surgery, would've prevented Austin from working out for NBA teams, which would've hurt his status and possibly caused him to slip into the second round. Thus, Austin made the logical decision to return to Baylor, where he'll team with NBA prospect Cory Jefferson, Rico Gathers and others to form the top frontcourt in the Big 12. The 220-pounder, who averaged 13 points and 8.3 rebounds as a freshman, needs to bulk up and become a better defender in the paint, where he was often pushed around and bullied last season. Still, his presence should make a deep Baylor squad a contender in the Big 12 and a threat to make a significant run in the NCAA tournament.

Best-case/worst-case scenarios

By Eamonn Brennan | ESPN.com


Best case: Quite possibly the most talented group Scott Drew has assembled at Baylor coalesces -- and plays elite offense -- en route to a Big 12 title push and a deep NCAA tournament run.

Worst case: It's hard to imagine a group with this much talent falling short of the NCAA tournament, but that's exactly what happened in 2012-13, when the Bears were just as talented, albeit less experienced, and merely mediocre until their NIT title run.

Georges Niang
Shane Keyser/Kansas City Star/Getty ImagesGeorges Niang will be key in ISU's attempt to make a third straight NCAA tournament.

Iowa State

Best case: Iowa State lost a score of key seniors from last year's team, but arguably their best -- or at least their most unique -- player, sophomore Georges Niang, is back. In the best-case version of this world, Niang develops into a dominant inside-out point/forward threat, and the Cyclones keep putting points on the board as fast as any team in the country.

Worst case: All that turnover from 2012-13's run-and-gun Cyclones proves too much for the promising Niang to overcome, and the Cyclones take a half-step back in Fred Hoiberg's nonetheless promising revitalization project.


Best case: Two words: Andrew Wiggins. If Wiggins is as good as pretty much everyone in the world thinks, then he's good enough to keep the Jayhawks playing all the way through the first week of April.

Worst case: Kansas is crazy talented, of course, but it's also young -- younger than most Kansas teams under Bill Self, who has thrived on squeezing stars out of patient four-year development curves. How will Self's formula work with such an unusually young team?

Kansas State

Best case: This group of players, slightly tweaked from recent seasons, still plays great defense, rebounds and shoots for a top-half Big 12 finish.

Worst case: The Wildcats didn't just lose Rodney McGruder to graduation, they also lost point guard Angel Rodriguez to transfer, while starter Martavious Irving and 6-foot-11 forward Jordan Henriquez are also gone, and Bruce Weber will have to piece together a backcourt and some depth out of what's left.


Best case: The Sooners will have to fight to continue the momentum they built last season, a process Lon Kruger is attempting to achieve with the help of Dominique Elliott, Keshaun Hamilton and Edson Avila, all junior college pickups. Even if those three pan out, Oklahoma will still be rebuilding, but Kruger's teams are always more competitive than you'd predict.

Worst case: It's hard to replace a workhorse like Romero Osby, who was OU's most-used player on offense and also the Sooners' most efficient, posting a 121.6 offensive rating. Chances are, losing him and Steven Pledger proves too much for the Sooners to overcome.

Oklahoma State

Best case: With Marcus Smart back, the Cowboys have their sights set on everything in 2012-13 -- not just a Big 12 title but a legitimate national-title push.

Worst case: With all of the love directed Smart's way, it is easy to forget that he wasn't quite there on offense last season. If his perimeter scoring game improves, then look out; if it doesn't, the Cowboys aren't guaranteed to meet their own lofty expectations.


Best case: Trent Johnson's fledgling program is headed in the right direction in the macro, but for now the best case is still likely well under .500.

Rick Barnes
Scott Sewell/USA TODAY SportsRick Barnes had guided the Longhorns to an NCAA tournament berth each year he had been in Austin until last season.

Worst case: Significantly under .500? You get the idea.


Best case: Last season was a tough one for coach Rick Barnes, in large part thanks to the NCAA suspension that cost point guard Myck Kabongo the lion's share of his season. But the young Longhorns are, as always, talented, and 2012's stacked class could round into a productive place just in time to keep Barnes in his employer's good graces.

Worst case: Kabongo is gone this season too, and it's not known whether freshman Kendal Yancy-Harris is ready to keep the Horns from reverting to their brutally turnover-prone ways in the new season.

Texas Tech

Best case: Considering the Billy Gillispie mess, the fact that Tech managed to win 11 games last season should probably be considered an accomplishment. It's a long road back in Lubbock.

Worst case: Assuming Gillispie doesn't storm into his old office demanding his job back, things in Tubby Smith's debut season probably can't get much worse than the last couple of years.

West Virginia

Best case: Typically, Bob Huggins' teams are so solidly constructed on rebounding and defense they are immune to volatility. The 2012-13 season was not that season. A Huggins-esque bounce-back year could be in order.

Worst case: Aaric Murray might have been the Mountaineers' most talented player. He may also have been their most disruptive. Huggins essentially dismissed him this summer, and while that might do wonders for this fragmented group's chemistry, it will make it hard for WVU to bang the backboards in their usual style.

Five Freshmen To Watch

By Jason King | ESPN.com

Joel Embiid
Joel Embiid, Kansas: Louisville coach Rick Pitino predicts that Embiid will be the No. 2 pick in the 2014 NBA draft -- right behind Andrew Wiggins. Embiid's length, bounce, athleticism and his ability to score with both hands make the praise understandable. The Cameroon native is still learning the game, but he'll be a force by January.

Wayne Selden, Kansas: A 6-foot-5 "power guard," Selden is expected to start at the No. 2 position for the Jayhawks. He's a fierce competitor with a high basketball IQ who can score both from the perimeter and in the paint. He and Wiggins will combine to form one of the nastiest one-two punches in Big 12.

Ishmail Wainright
Ishmail Wainwright, Baylor: Whether he's in the starting lineup or coming off the bench, Wainwright will be an impact player from the get-go. The 6-foot-6 small forward can play any position except center, and his competitive fire and tenaciousness on defense will set the tone for a squad that has been lacking in both areas.

Andrew Wiggins, Kansas: Forget the Big 12. Wiggins will likely be the best freshman -- and maybe the best overall player -- in the entire nation. Some recruiting analysts have dubbed him the next LeBron James, while others predict the 6-foot-7 wing will be the best player the college game has seen since Kevin Durant.

Devin Williams
Devin Williams, West Virginia: The Mountaineers beat out schools like Ohio State and Memphis for Williams, a 6-foot-8 power forward who has a nice midrange game to complement his ability to score in the paint. Williams, who can also put the ball on the floor and slash, will be counted on heavily for a team with a depleted roster.


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