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One Writer's Thoughts On Big 12 Hoops
November 12, 2012
Wendell Barnhouse is a nationally-known and respected columnist who has spent over 20 years covering collegiate athletics. He has reported from 25 Final Fours and more than three dozen bowl games and has written about the Big 12 and its schools since the conference's beginning. Barnhouse will be updating the Big 12 Insider on happenings and behind-the-scenes information about the conference.

Here's what Seth Davis of had to say about three Big 12 teams' openers.

Baylor 99, Lehigh 77. Though this was the first game of the weekend (and thus the season), when it ended I sensed that I might not see a better team performance. Yes, Baylor was at home, but Lehigh is a very good team with a potential lottery pick in C.J. McCollum. Yet, it was never a game. That led me to conclude that this could very well be the best team Scott Drew has coached in Waco.

The main reason I say this is because of 7-foot freshman forward Isaiah Austin, who needed just 17 minutes to score 22 points. Read that sentence again. Austin converted 10 of his 12 shots, including 2-for-4 from three-point range, before leaving the game in the first half with a twisted ankle. (Austin did not play Sunday against Jackson State, but Drew told me he expects him to be back for the Charleston Classic next weekend.) Austin was scoring with such ease, he could have gone for 40 without breaking a sweat.

And what happened after Austin went out? Cory Jefferson, a 6-9 junior forward, took over the post and went for 26 points and 13 rebounds, both career highs. When you consider that the Bears scored 99 points despite shooting 6-for-20 from three-point range, you get a sense of their offensive potential.

Oklahoma State 73, UC Davis 65. There is no more appropriately named player in all of college basketball than Cowboys point guard Marcus Smart. The 6-4, 225-pound freshman lived up to the hype, not just because of his imposing physique and explosiveness, but also (and especially) his vision and court savvy. Smart only shot 1-of-6 from the field, but he was 6-for-7 from the foul line, and he had seven assists to just one turnover. On one exchange, Smart jumped up to catch a long offensive rebound with one hand, and before he hit the ground he fired a dart to Kamari Murphy for a layup. It was the best pass I saw all weekend.

Oklahoma State is not a particularly big team, but it is very athletic and fun to watch. Junior guard Markel Brown is an exciting finisher around the rim, and 6-7 sophomore forward Le'Bryan Nash looks like he's settling in for a nice season. UC Davis hung around for most of the game and Travis Ford only played seven guys, so the Cowboys are not operating on much margin for error. Still, I have to say this was a promising beginning.

Kansas 74, Southeast Missouri State 55. This game was much closer than the final score indicated. The Redhawks stayed close until midway through the second half, largely because Kansas was atrocious from three-point range (2-for-21). Perhaps that's to be expected in the season's first game, but it's of particular concern that Jayhawks guard Travis Releford was 0-for-5 from behind the arc and 3-for-11 overall. Many of those long-range misses were way, way off. Releford is a senior now. If he wants to graduate from Glue Guy school, he's gonna have to develop his J.

Elsewhere, senior center Jeff Withey scored a game-high 17 points, but he still looks awkward trying to make moves in the post. If he's in position and catches the ball in close, he will finish, but he's not going to create a lot of buckets by his onesies.

That's why 6-8 freshman forward Perry Ellis will be such a key for this team. He is a far more natural interior scorer than Withey. And while jumping jack freshman guard Ben McLemore had a few highlight-reel offensive rebound slams, it's safe to say the teams in the Big 12 will do a better job blocking out the defensive boards than Southeast Missouri did.

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