Before the Big 12 begins conference play, we'll break down the best of each class Monday through Thursday then reveal our All Preconference First and Second teams on Friday. Come back each day to see who the best going into Big 12 play are.
SENIOR OF THE PRECONFERENCE: Marcus Denmon, guard, Mizzou.
When the 6'3'' Kansas City native was a freshman, he averaged just 16.7 minutes and six points per game. Now, four years later, Denmon is playing more than 30 minutes per game and averaging 18.7 points, 4.9 rebounds, and two assists. He's my pick for senior of the preconference not just because of the impressive numbers he's put up this season so far — including a career high of 35 points (with seven three-pointers) against Northwestern State in early December — but because he's stepped up when it counts. He's had impressive performances against teams like Cal and Villanova, plus he's proved himself a leader in what easily could have been a rocky start to the season for Mizzou with Laurence Bowers' injury, a coaching change, and the allegations against Haith that surfaced over the summer.
Quincy Acy, forward, Baylor
Acy is doing his part as a third of one of the nation's best frontcourts. The 6'7'' forward is ranked third in the conference in blocking (2.5 per game), fourth in rebounding (7.5 rebounds per game), and fourth in field goal percentage (.587%). He averages 12.5 points per game — more than double his freshman year stats. The talented, deep Bears may live or die by guardplay this year, but the combination of Acy, Quincy Miller, and Perry Jones III is what has opponents sweating. And Acy's five dunks against West Virginia weren't too shabby, either.
Ricardo Ratliffe, forward, Mizzou
A lot of attention has been given to Mizzou's guards, but big man Ricardo Ratliffe is more than pulling his 240 pounds for the Tigers. Ratliffe leads the nation in field goal percentage with a jaw-dropping .762%. The 6'8'' juco transfer made waves when he joined the Tigers last year and continues to make an impact for Mizzou. He's averaging 14.3 points and 6.9 rebounds per game this season. Ratliffe, whose style is more smart finesse than brute force, is flourishing under Frank Haith. Without fellow big man Bowers, there is a lot riding on Ratliffe's shoulders this season and he hasn't let Mizzou down.
Kim English, guard, Mizzou
You might notice that this list is beginning to look a lot like Mizzou's starting lineup. And with good reason: not only has Mizzou looked excellent so far, they're a great example of how recruiting good-not-great players who will stick around for four years pays off. Kim English was one of those good-not-great freshman who is looking just plain great as a senior. He's averaging 15.3 points, 1.3 steals, and 4.3 rebounds per game with a .532% field goal percentage (up from a .382% average of his previous seasons). But the biggest change in English isn't evident in the boxscore. He is a more confident, commanding player than before. It's clear that, like the rest of the team, English is thriving under Haith.
Tyshawn Taylor, guard, Kansas
Taylor hasn't let a torn meniscus slow him down. He played in a knee brace in Kansas' wins over Long Beach State State (12 points, 4 assists) and Ohio State (9 points, 13 assists). His ability to tough it out is invaluable for a team with very little depth. Taylor is averaging 15.3 points and 5.3 assists, the third-highest in the conference, per game. Turnovers are an Achilles' heel for Taylor, though. He had 11 against Duke, but seems to be working to get that under control. Now that the Jayhawks have had a little chat about attitude, I'm expecting good things from him in conference play.