2018 Big 12 Preview: Preseason Picks for Player of the Year, 1st Team, 2nd Team, and All-Freshman Team

Here are my picks for all of the important Big 12 awards. This includes Player of the Year, Freshman of the Year, Newcomer of the Year, Coach of the Year, 1st and 2nd Team All-Conference, and All-Freshman Team. I didn’t do any super long in-depth write-ups here. If you want to see my thoughts on any of these players, check out my preview article on their team. (These can be found here.) I guarantee you I wrote about every player listed here in those previews. I also posted my projected order of finish at the bottom of this post in case anyone didn’t read through the various Power Rankings.

Preseason Player of the Year:

Devonte’ Graham, SR Guard, Kansas

  I think Graham is a legitimate candidate for National Player of the Year and 1st Team All-American. So many of the possessions that went to Frank Mason last year will now be going to Devonte’ Graham this season. He will be the team’s highest scorer, and probably their most efficient scorer, and his team will be the best team in the Big 12. He will be much more of a primary ball-handler this season, which will help him to generate even better stats. Enjoy The Apostrophe in his senior season in Lawrence.


Preseason Freshman of the Year:

Mohamed Bamba, FR Center, Texas

  Mohamed Bamba should be quite the revolutionary figure in Austin this season. The 7-foot freshman will be a laughingly overwhelming presence on defense in college basketball. The 7’9″ wingspan and 9’7″ standing reach will be suffocating for college opponents. In Shaka Smart’s third season, he will be looking for incoming freshmen Bamba and Matt Coleman to turn the program around after last season’s disappointing outcome. I think Bamba will do it. There’s a reason he was evaluated as a 5-star Top 3 recruit nationally.


Preseason Newcomer of the Year:

Malik Newman, SO Guard, Kansas

  The Big 12 has an award for both Freshman of the Year and Newcomer of the Year. The Newcomer award always goes to a transfer who is making his first appearance in the league. This season, Mississippi State transfer Malik Newman is the obvious choice. The former 5-star recruit sat out last season after transferring to Kansas instead of entering the NBA Draft. The year off should do wonders for his game, as I expect him to improve from his freshman season from both traditional statistical measures and efficiency measures. Newman will start in the backcourt alongside Devonte’ Graham and will have loads of opportunities to impress; I expect him to do exactly that.


Preseason Coach of the Year:

Jamie Dixon, TCU

  In only his 2nd season in Fort Worth, Jamie Dixon is going to make Pittsburgh regret forcing him out of their university more and more. Dixon should get TCU to their first NCAA Tournament since 1997, which could be considered enough for this award on its own. But, I think he is going to do far more than just that. I predict TCU to finish the regular season just two games back from Kansas, but I think TCU will be in the race for the regular season conference championship into late February. It will be a major accomplishment, and Jamie Dixon and TCU will be the talk of the league. (And yes, voter fatigue is definitely a thing, and it definitely unfairly affects Bill Self.)


All-Big 12 First Team:

Player Position School
Devonte’ Graham Guard Kansas
Jevon Carter Guard West Virginia
Manu Lecomte Guard Baylor
Jeffrey Carroll Wing Oklahoma State
Kenrich Williams Forward TCU

Assessment:
•  
As you can see, I don’t believe in traditional position assignments when it comes to assigning all-conference teams. Just put the best five guys on the first team. That’s what I’m doing here. I think Graham and Carter are about as lock-ish as you can get; those dudes are making it. Jeffrey Carroll will put up some serious numbers this season in Stillwater and will likely lead the league in scoring. It’s possible he might miss out on first team honors, though, if the Cowboys don’t win enough games. For the final two spots, I absolutely love Kenrich Williams’ game and think he’ll be the guy who gets the nod for TCU. I wrote about him plenty in the TCU preview, but let me gush some more. He will lead the league in double-doubles and rebounds and could very well average a double-double. I gave the final spot to Manu Lecomte. I debated Vladimir Brodziansky and Mohamed Bamba here as well, but TCU probably won’t get two guys on the first team. Bamba should be great, but Lecomte will likely be more reliable. He’ll lead the Bears in both scoring and assists on a team that finishes in the top half of the league. That’ll be enough.


All-Big 12 Second Team:

Player Position School
Keenan Evans Guard Texas Tech
 Malik Newman Guard Kansas
 Trae Young Guard Oklahoma
Vladimir Brodziansky Center TCU
Mohamed Bamba Center Texas

Assessment:
•  
Picking the Second Team was so much more difficult than picking the top five guys. To show that, here is everyone I considered.
•  Keenan Evans, Malik Newman, Trae Young, Vladimir Brodziansky, Mohamed Bamba, Zach Smith, Jo Lual-Acuil, Donovan Jackson, Dean Wade, Svi Mykhailiuk, Andrew Jones, Kameron McGusty, and Esa Ahmad. If you count the five guys on the first team, that’s 18 guys that I considered. That’s a lot! This is a very talented league, and it can’t be stated enough.
•  Regarding this 2nd Team, Malik Newman was the most obvious one to include in my opinion. I think Kansas is going to win the league for the 14th straight season, and Malik Newman will be the 2nd best player on that team. The former 5-star recruit should produce quite a bit this season. Keenan Evans received 3rd Team honors after last season, and I think he will be the leading scorer on an NCAA Tournament team. Vladimir Brodziansky was selected to the preseason All-Big 12 First Team by the coaches; he’s clearly valued in the league. The senior led the Horned Frogs in scoring last season, and there’s a good chance he’ll do the same this season. Mohamed Bamba could already be the best frontcourt defender in the league as a freshman. He will make Texas’s defense, which was already solid, even better. And finally, I gave the final spot to freshman PG, Trae Young. I mulled over this way too long. I’m a bit worried that Oklahoma will be a “spread-the-wealth” team, which could lead to no one player standing out significantly. I’m putting faith into what I’ve already seen from Young in early exhibitions and what recruiting sites have said about him. He gets my final spot.
•  I already regret not including Zach Smith on one of these teams. He was the one guy that I left out that I’m still questioning even as I type this currently. I would not be surprised at all if he makes either one of these teams.


All-Big 12 Freshman Team:

Player Position School
Trae Young Guard Oklahoma
 Lindell Wigginton Guard  Iowa State
 Matt Coleman Guard  Texas
Billy Preston Forward Kansas
Mohamed Bamba Center Texas

Assessment:
•  
Four of these guys stood out immediately. Obviously, Young and Bamba are two of them, as they both made by All-Big 12 Second Team. The other two are Lindell Wigginton at Iowa State and Matt Coleman at Texas. Wigginton will start immediately at Iowa State and was a top-40 recruit nationally. He will step right in and be granted a ton of opportunities; he should score quite a bit for a freshman. Coleman will start at PG and is being counted on to give some stability on offense to that team. The pass-first PG should contribute quite nicely for the Longhorns.
•  I went with Billy Preston for the final spot. I don’t feel great about this, as he won’t be starting for the Jayhawks. There’s a chance his minutes could be more spotty than everyone else on this list, and Bill Self has been known to bury his star freshman big men on the bench lately (hello Cliff Alexander and Cheick Diallo!). However, he’s clearly got the talent as a 5-star top-20 recruit, and there’s not a ton of other options. The other highly recruited freshmen at Texas aren’t guaranteed significant playing time. West Virginia, TCU, and Baylor don’t have any standout freshmen. The other best option might be Brady Manek. Manek is a 4-star forward who will start early in the season due to the suspension of Kristian Doolittle. If he plays well and keeps a starting spot once Doolittle returns, he could steal that final spot.


Projected Order of Finish:

Finishing Spot Team Projected Conference Record Postseason Play?
1st Kansas 13-5 NCAA Tournament
2nd West Virginia 12-6 NCAA Tournament
3rd TCU 11-7 NCAA Tournament
4th Baylor 9-9 NCAA Tournament
5th Oklahoma 9-9 NCAA Tournament
6th Texas 9-9 NCAA Tournament
7th Texas Tech 8-10 NCAA Tournament
8th Iowa State 7-11 NIT Tournament
9th Oklahoma State 6-12 No Postseason Play
10th Kansas State 6-12 No Postseason Play

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