Big 12 Hoops Conference Call

Big 12 basketball has questions. We have answers. (Photo by Brandon Wade/Getty Images)

Welcome to our first "Conference Call" of the 2011-12 season. Every team in the Big 12 has played at least once so far, and although it is the smallest of sample sizes, there are major questions to be answered. This week, we look at the emergence of Texas' J'Covan Brown, the prospects for the Iowa State season and Kansas' difficult out-of-conference schedule among others. 

Let's get it rolling after the jump.

1. In the first game for the Texas Longhorns on Sunday, J'Covan Brown scored 28 points and handed out eight dimes in the win over Boston University. Yesterday against Rhode Island, he poured in 35 more. What is the junior Brown's ceiling on this young Texas team?

2. Iowa State may be the most interesting team in the conference. Their influx of talented transfers didn't seem to have any chemistry problems in their season opener. Could any of you see the Cyclones in the NCAA Tournament?

3. Khris Middleton will be out over the next few weeks for the Aggies. Which player or group of players will have step up in his absence?

4. As you know, Kansas played Kentucky last night and lost. Was it the right decision to schedule such a tough non-conference slate for a team in somewhat of a transitional season?

5. Billy Clyde Gillispie is back coaching in the state of Texas again. How long will it take him to revive the Texas Tech program or won't he resurrect it at all? 

1. In the first game for UT on Sunday, J'Covan Brown scored 28 points and handed out eight dimes in the win over Boston University. Yesterday against Rhode Island, he poured in 35 more. What is the junior Brown's ceiling on this young Texas team?

Evan Pfaff: Are you trying to get me in trouble again? This was a hot topic on our Preseason Predictions post as I was one who left Brown off either the preseason First or Second teams. My thought was that UT lost a lot of talent that would have otherwise deferred some of the defensive pressure off Brown. As it was, last season when they had a ton of talent Brown shot 40.6% from the floor, which was third worst on the team amongst regulars. Texas has a slew of freshman talent coming in, as Rick Barnes always does, but if Brown is supposed to be "the man" then he'll need to shed the opponent's top perimeter defender and shoot better from the field. I'm just not 100% convinced he will do that. So to answer, his ceiling is what the coaches poll, other writers on this site and every UT fan out there thinks, first team all-conference. His floor is what will happen if he can't shake that top defender, and that's a repeat of a good season last year, scoring around 10 ppg. 

E. Carnes: A very, very high one. Brown has the ability to go absolutely lights out and run a game (think of his performance during Texas' upset of Kansas in Lawrence last season). Now that he's working with another guard as talented as Myck Kabongo, I think Texas fans should be very excited about how far he can take the Horns.

Joe Loyd: I would say his ceiling would be 1st Team All Big 12 and competing for Player of Year honors especially after seeing the box score of the Rhode Island game, wow. That being said he had alot of games last year where he wasn't a major factor in the game and for him to get recognized at levels some UT fans want him to be he has to be more consistent and find ways to score when his shot isn't going down from the outside. 

Nathan Kotisso: Evan Pfaff, man of the people. Brown waited long enough and this is his team now. Watching Texas play URI Tuesday, the Brown-Kabongo tag team was unstoppable. And it works because Kabongo is more of a prototypical point guard and Brown the one who scores in bunches. That's why he is on my first team. 

2. Iowa State may be the most interesting team in the conference. Their influx of talented transfers didn't seem to have any chemistry problems in their season opener. Could any of you see the Cyclones in the NCAA Tournament?

EP: Here's another one that will ruffle some feathers. Yes, I can see them making the tournament. BUT they are by no means a lock. The Big 12 will get either 5 or 6 teams in, and for ISU to make the NCAAs they will need to finish in the top half of the conference. The Lehigh victory saw five players score in double figures, led by Royce White's 25, and that didn't include double-digits from Melvin Ejim, so the team has a wide range of talent. But as I've always said there are lots of reasons why transfers transfer and if Fred Hoiberg can rally this group then they have the talent to win some games, bring Hilton magic back and make the tournament. 

EC: I don't think it's out of the question. It looks like the team is off to a good start, gelling nicely. I'm hoping for exciting things from Royce White. I will say that it'll be harder for them than other bubble teams because they won't be given the benefit of the doubt like Texas or a team with similar name recognition would receive.

JL: Yeah they definitely could make the NCAA Tournament especially if things work out for them. Road games are important for every team but for Iowa State this season getting road wins at places like Texas Tech & Oklahoma will be critical. Those are games that the Cyclones can't afford to lose. 

NK: What Hoiberg has done to take in these transfers is a risk in and of itself. But when those players include the former Mr. Basketball in the state of Minnesota and a key role player who has played in two Final Fours, the reward is so much higher. There will be bumps in the road, like last night's loss to Drake, but if they find a way to win their game against a Michigan team in Ann Arbor, other people will start taking notice. 

3. Khris Middleton will be out over the next few weeks for the Aggies. Which player or group of players will have step up in his absence? 

EP: I like the Turners. Ray Turner has stepped up thus far, with two 20-point games, though I like Washington transfer Elston Turner a touch more. Both bookend Middleton's 6-7 frame (6-5 Elston and 6-9 Ray) and will help cover Middleton's scoring and rebounding. If both the Turners come into their own and David Loubeau continues to be a force down low, then A&M will have a ton of height and talent when Middleton returns. 

EC: It looks like David Loubeau, Ray Turner, and Kourtney Roberson will take care of business inside for the Aggies. All looked strong in Sunday's contest against Southern, but they'll face tougher opponents when A&M heads to New York later this week. It's a good sign that the Aggies aren't faltering without their star player and head coach. 

JL: If I had to name one player I would say Elston Turner needs to help in the scoring department but the Aggies have alot of veteran players so they should be good especially early in the season when they play a good amount of games against lower tier schools.

NK: Mark this down: the first time all of us agree on something. Ray Turner looks mighty impressive early on and Loubeau is as steady of a player as they come. Texas A&M should have no trouble at all without Middleton. 

4. As you know, Kansas played Kentucky last night and lost. Was it the right decision to schedule such a tough non-conference slate for a team in somewhat of a transitional season?

EP: Sure. This isn't college football so it doesn't ruin your season. What a tough early game with a relatively new team will do is figure out where you are and what you need to improve on. It will also give your younger players glimpse into a tough college basketball game, against good competition, instead of cruising through an easy non-conference and potentially inflate expectations or egos. 

EC: I think so. I'm not a big fan of the cupcake non-con schedule. Why not have your guys be tested and ready to face tough conference opponents come January? I'm not saying that every match-up has to be ESPN-worthy, but a solid slate of Southwestern Institute of Nowhere or Miss Dee's Academy of Manners or whatever isn't doing your team any favors. Kansas may be a rebuilding year team, but they'll be a rebuilding year team that's battle-tested against the likes of Kentucky and Ohio State. Plus, if the Jayhawks manage a few wins, that's half the seeding fight already won.

JL: Transition Season?? Does KU have those? What is that for them: another Big 12 title and only a Sweet Sixteen? Sorry only semi-joking around there with that, in seriousness I don't think it hurts KU in any way to schedule tough games. They get major exposure which in turn helps them continue to be a top team year after year after year etc....

NK: No matter what Bill Self has had on his roster, he's always man enough to schedule tough games for his team. And we know what that does for KU during conference play. Though I think this may not be one of his more talented teams, it does keep his team grounded and Self knows how to win. A lot. 

5. Billy Clyde Gillispie is back coaching in the state of Texas again. How long will it take him to revive the Texas Tech program or won't he resurrect it at all?

EP: If anyone can resurrect a program, it is BCG, especially in Texas. The Red Raiders are a depleted program though, so it will take a lot of effort to make this team competitive again. My guess is that BCG will guide through this season - probably finishing last - and completely rebuild next season. It will not be easy to bring top recruits to Lubbock, but if anyone can, BCG can. 

EC: Well, the upside is they're freed from the pressure of high expectations. At first I thought Tech and Gillispie were a good match - both down and out, both have a certain West Texas sensibility - but the preseason chatter makes it seem like things are off to a rocky start. He worked his magic on A&M and Texas-El Paso in just two years. I think he can turn Tech into a team that wins more than it loses, but I'm more skeptical about his ability to schmooze boosters and alumni.

JL: I will say looking into my crystal ball it will take him three seasons to get the program really respectable and competing in the Big 12. I just think its gonna be a little ugly for awhile here to begin with.

NK: It will not be a simple task, that's for sure, but Gillispie can do it. Tech hasn't been respectable since the Andre Emmett, Ronald Ross and Jarrius Jackson days and I remember those were fun games to watch. BCG may have to follow the Iowa State blueprint and score some talented transfers. 

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