Everyone always wants to talk about the freshmen in the preseason. They are the hyped players, the unknowns with high potential or the saviors of the program. However, as Kentucky showed last year, freshmen don't necessarily win championships. You need those returning players who have been the before, who know the rigors of conference play and are battle tested.
That is why we are going to look at the top returning duos in the Big 12.
Pullen: 19.3 points, 3.4 rebounds, 26.3% possessions used, 118.7 offensive rating, 59.9% TS%
Kelly: 11.5 points, 6.2 rebounds, 23.5% possessions used, 105.6 offensive rating, 59.8% TS%
This duo gets my vote as the top duo because I think they have the best combination of inside and outside players returning. Pullen is a candidate for Big 12 player of the year and Kelly provides muscle inside to take advantage of the attention given to Pullen.
I think Pullen will incease his stats across the board as he will have his hands on the ball on almost every possession while Kelly will continue to be a rock inside. I like KSU to win the Big 12 regular season this year and this duo is a big reason for that prediction.
Burks: 17.1 points, 5 rebounds, 26.8% possessions used, 116.4 Offensive rating, 61.4% TS%
Higgins: 18.9 points, 3.9 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 26.8% possessions used, 112.5 offensive rating, 62.2% TS%
Burks and Higgins make up the most prolific scoring returning duo in the Big 12. It will be interesting to see what new style Tad Boyle brings to the table, although Northern Colorado did have a similar number of possessions as Colorado last year (around 68 per game) so they will likely not see a fluctuation in their stats due to a change in pace.
What I wonder about is how they will coexist with both of them gunning for draft position. Will they sacrifice their stats for the good of the team, will they be able to get their stats within the flow of the game, will they force shots and disrupt the offense and how will they coexist with the NBA Draft a legitimate possibility for both of them in 2011.
This may become a non-issue but it is something I am curious about for the beginning of the season. Colorado has a chance to be competitive in the Big 12 but it will require Burks and Higgins to play within the offense and be about the team, not themselves.
Dunn: 19.6 points, 4.8 rebounds, 26.6% possessions used, 116.6 offensive rating, 60.4 TS%
Acy: 9.3 points, 5.1 rebounds, 16.7% possessions used, 125 offensive rating, 70.7% TS%
Acy will need to step up his production for the short term at least as he attempts to replace Ekpe Udoh. Help is on the way as Perry Jones becomes acclimated to college basketball but Acy will be key in bringing him along and mentoring him.
My reason for putting the Baylor duo at #3 is the lack of defensive effort from Dunn. Baylor's defense as a whole was strong last season but that success can be credited more to Ekpe Udoh than Dunn. Maybe Dunn knew he had a strong shotblocker anchoring the defense and did not think he had to be strong on defense. He could ratchet up the defense this year and show more effort but until he does, I have concerns about him on defense.
Morris: 12.8 points, 6.1 rebounds, 22.9% possessions used, 120.7 offensive rating, 61.2% TS%
Taylor: 7.2 points, 3.4 assists, 18.9% possessions used, 106.8 Offensive rating, 53.1% TS%
Taylor is the X-factor here. If Josh Selby is eligible, Taylor could become dispensable or relegated to the bench once again. However, if Selby does not play, Taylor will have to play a large role for Kansas. Question is, can he stay on Bill Self's good side?
Singletary: 15.0 points, 6.8 rebounds, 22.8% possessions, 100.5 offensive rating, 58.9% TS%
Roberson: 14.5 points, 5.4 assists, 20.8% possessions, 110.4 offensive rating, 58.9% TS%
This duo might be underrated on this list, as Singletary and Roberson share the scoring load, while Singletary grabs 16.7% of defensive rebounds while Roberson hands out assists at a rate of 28.7%. Texas Tech looks to build on a NIT appearance last season and these two have the ability to lead the team further in 2010-2011.
English: 14 points, 3.4 rebounds, 28.8% possessions, 98.8 offensive rating, 51.7% TS%
Bowers: 10.2 points, 5.7 rebounds, 20.6% possessions, 118.9 offensive rating, 59% TS%
What jumps out at me is English's poor offensive rating. Missouri's offensive efficiencywas 111.3, 12.5 points higher than English's. English played in 59.7% of the total available minutes, could it be that Missouri is better with English off the court?
Bowers looks to improve over a solid sophomore campaign and be a force in the paint. With 1.5 blocks last season, he should help Missouri stay strong on defense despite the loss of JT Tiller and Zaire Taylor (13th in efficiency in the nation last season).