The Big 12 had seven teams make the 2010 NCAA Tournament which showed the obvious strength of basketball played in the conference. Some quick math though indicates five teams did not make the cut. Those teams listed in no particular order were: Texas Tech, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Colorado & Iowa State. Needless to say change was a major element at a few of these schools with Oklahoma reworking their roster and Iowa State and Colorado welcoming new coaches into the fold. So the question I asked was which team I felt could surprise some people and contend or even make the NCAA Tournament this upcoming season.
In reviewing the choices I immediately eliminated Iowa State, Oklahoma & Nebraska from my list. Iowa State is simply devoid of talent with Craig Brackins leaving for the NBA and Marquis Gilstrap not being granted another year of eligibility. Oklahoma is in a state of flux with all the issues they had last year and the mass exodus of talent from Norman with players such as Willie Warren, Tiny Gallon & Tommy Mason-Griffin leaving. And I just don't see any remedy for Nebraska under Doc Sadler this coming season not that anyone really cares about basketball in Lincoln though anyways.
So that leaves two possible schools in Colorado & Texas Tech.
My first reaction was to choose Texas Tech since they are coming off a season in which they just missed making the NIT Semi-Finals as they lost to Mississippi in Double OT in the quarter finals. On the positive side the Red Raiders will be a senior laden team led by players such as John Roberson, Mike Singletary & D'walyn Roberts but a closer look presents some question marks. I don't know how Tech will be able to handle teams in the post as a look at their roster shows they only have one player, Robert Lewandowski, taller than 6'8" and he averaged 2.3 PPG and 2.0 RBG last season. Last season in the conference Texas Tech only won 4 games and finished the regular season with a losing streak of seven straight games in conference before getting a victory in the Big 12 Tournament. While I have some faith that Pat Knight can be a good coach I just don't see a major improvement coming with Texas Tech this season with their lack of size really hurting this team.
That leaves my default choice as none other than the Colorado Buffaloes. While CU only went 6-10 in conference last season there were many signs of life in Boulder with Cory Higgins and Alec Burks leading the charge. Burks finished as the Big 12 Freshman of the Year and Higgins was voted as a third team All Big 12 performer for the second straight season. Combined with these two stars is 6'7" senior Marcus Relphorde who gives new coach Tad Boyle another returning starter who averaged in double figures last season. While Colorado doesn't have any returning impact players down in the post they do at least have some size to throw at opponents in 6'11" Shane Harris-Tunks and 6'10" Trey Eckloff. While there is always an adjustment period with a new coach, the change in Boulder I think could positively affect this team, as Jeff Bzdelik and his slow grind it out style is gone and Tad Boyle is in. In his opening press conference, Boyle expressed his desire to have the team run and score points and be more aggressive than what they were under Bzdelik. With scorers at his disposal like Higgins & Burks this could allow for a fun basketball season in Boulder. While playing the north schools hurts CU with Kansas, Kansas State & Missouri being on the schedule twice there is a good possibility they could steal at least one of their home games with those schools quite possibly even two. So while I won't go completely out on a limb and predict Colorado to make the NCAA Tournament, I will at least say it is in the realm of possibility.