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2022-23 Conference Previews: Big 12
With the start of the college season rapidly approaching, the No Ceilings crew preview some of the key conferences and players to watch for the coming season. Up next: The Big 12.
The college basketball season is rapidly approaching, but we here at No Ceilings have already kicked off our season in style. After releasing our Preseason Guide and new merch in our No Ceilings store, we could have decided to slow down until early November. However, that’s just not how we roll over here. The crew gathered to preview the biggest conferences in college basketball, along with highlighting some potential mid-major stars. Up next: the Big 12.
1. Ignore “consensus” boards and Twitter groupthink. Who is the best NBA prospect in this conference?
Maxwell: It’s Keyonte George for me. He’s a devasting three-point shooter, a dogged on-ball defender, and a growing playmaker.
Paige: Going to go with the consensus here, it’s Baylor’s Keyonte George. George has the combination of size, strength, and quickness that the NBA really values in guards. Not only does he have that dynamic combo that is sought after, but he also is silky smooth as a shot-maker and playmaker. Even though he doesn’t blow by defenders with a quick burst like some guards have, he uses his craftiness to get to the hoop and is a relentless scorer. Keyonte George = Bucket Getter.
Evan: Keyonte George. There are not many prospects in the country who have George’s shotmaking craft and ability; he’s arguably the most polished scorer in this class. I also believe he’s pretty underrated as a defender currently. George is easily a Top 5 prospect on my preseason board.
Nick: Keyonte George. I have him just outside the Top 5 of this draft at the moment, and I fully expect him to cement himself in the top half of the lottery sooner rather than later. He has a versatile offensive game, he’s an exceptional athlete, and his on-ball defense is a marvel to watch.
Albert: Easy answer, Keyonte George. I currently have George in the Top 5 of my personal pre-season big board. I think George is going to terrorize teams with his shot-making and two-way ability. He’s only going to get better as a defender after a year in that Baylor system.
Stephen: I have Keyonte George as a Top 5 level prospect. Not too long ago, I wrote about what player types succeed more frequently in the NBA. Total Package Scorers made that list, and that’s exactly what George is. Even if all you do is watch some film of him running, you can just see there is something special about him. He is not afraid of contact in the slightest, yet he is so shifty and nimble that he can take players off of the bounce. He is a must-watch.
Nathan: It’s going to be an interesting race all year long between two freshmen prospects in Dillon Mitchell and Keyonte George, but I’m going to go with the Bear here. George has an impressive scoring arsenal for a young guard, as his polish from the perimeter should help add to Baylor’s impressive backcourt firepower. While there are a number of guys in front of him with more experience, George’s solid build and one-on-one shot-making should help him play a significant role as a frosh. How he meshes as a quick passer and defender will solidify his role within the team, but man, does he pack a ton of talent.
Rucker: I will continue to be a massive believer in Baylor freshman Keyonte George. Knows how to score at multiple levels and is coming off a strong summer. If George can turn it up and find his groove on the defensive side of the ball, he’s going to have plenty of buzz.
Metcalf: This is really tight, but I have to go with Keyonte George. He’s a dynamic scorer and a top recruit, and he should thrive in that Baylor offense.
Corey: Looks like it’s going to be a clean sweep for Keyonte George. George is one of my dudes heading into the 2023 NBA Draft cycle and currently occupies the fourth spot on my pre-season board. When I watched the future Bear’s film at IMG I became incredibly enamored by his potential as a three level NBA scorer that has the ability to not only get buckets on the ball, but off of it. George is going to be in the running for best shooter in the class due to his aesthetically beautiful form and the ability to knock down tough shots from all over the floor. Clean look or hand in his face, doesn’t matter, George is unfazed. But George refuses to just settle for jumpers, as he’s also a relentless attacker of the hoop, and although he is a smaller guard, can go up and through defenders waiting at the rim and finish through contact. If George shows some playmaking flashes at Baylor, we’re talking a true dynamic offensive threat that would be a fantastic consolation prize for any team that misses out on a top-2 pick.
2. Admittedly, one of the most satisfying parts of analyzing the draft is being able to look back and say “psh, about time you guys took notice of him. I’ve been hyping him up for ages.” Who is the prospect that you are irrationally high on?
Maxwell: Kevin Obanor at Texas Tech. Yes, he’ll be in his fifth year, but his role should grow this season, and he shot uncharacteristically poorly from behind the arc last season. Another year in their scheme should help him defensively, too. A scoring uptick and defensive improvement with his size should secure him an invite to events like Portsmouth and the G-League Elite camp.
Paige: Kansas’s MJ Rice. Rice is an all-around scorer with a smooth jumper, can finish through contact with great body control, and has the potential to be a threat from three. The five-star recruit’s size and strength (6’5” and 215 pounds) already has the typical NBA body written all over it for a power wing type of player.
Evan: Milos Uzan. I haven’t seen a ton of buzz around Uzan coming into this year, but I think the incoming freshman guard could be a sneaky name to watch at Oklahoma. He’s a wiry guard with good playmaking and scoring skills, plus he’s got some nice craft finishing around the rim. I’m not sure what kind of role he’ll play for the Sooners out of the gate, but I’m eager to monitor his development over the course of the season.
Nick: Mike Miles. He runs the point effectively, really competes on defense, and has a solid handle. I think that he is a better shooter than he showed from long range last season; he shot 36.0% from deep on a similar volume of attempts in the 2020-21 season. If he can shoot better than his 29.5% mark from last year and continue to improve his playmaking, he could make a serious case for himself heading into the 2023 NBA Draft.
Albert: My guy is not a sleeper. He was a huge get from the transfer portal for Texas–Tyrese Hunter is my pick. I really enjoyed watching him play last season at Iowa State, and I’m really excited to see how he does at Texas with Dillon Mitchell next to him. He is a little undersized, and his shooting numbers last season weren’t dazzling, but I think he’s going to explode this season and really wow some people. I think he’s going to be a dynamic offensive player that fans will love to watch.
Stephen: I’m not alone in this camp. It’s Langston Love. I get that he is in a crowded backcourt, but he can flat-out hoop. I loved how shifty he was at Montverde, and how easily he could get past defenders. His jumper is a sight to behold. If he took advantage of making some quicker, more advanced reads after suffering his injury, he could quickly rise up some boards.
Nathan: Bryce Thompson at Oklahoma State has the chance this year to be a pure BUCKET. A true sleeper prospect amongst the other top options in the Big 12, I expect him to take another leap and stand out amongst his peers in the conference. He has good size at 6’6”, has legitimate corner shooting ability, and is a guy who can break a defender down and create separation for a score in a pinch. Thompson is a wing to look out for this year in college basketball.
Rucker: TCU’s own Mike Miles. If you’re looking for a competitive guard that plays with nastiness and 100% has a future at the next level, then Mike Miles should be on your radar. He’s one of my favorite underrated floor generals in college basketball and, I couldn’t be happier that he’s returning for another season. People are going to overthink this one when it comes to his draft stock. Mike Miles is just a flat-out hooper.
Metcalf: I’m tempted to go with Langston Love, but I know others will cover him. Instead, I’ll say KJ Adams. Adams had limited minutes with Kansas last season, but I loved every single one of them. He’s a great rebounder and a versatile defender, and I can’t wait to see how he looks in a more prominent role.
Corey: I will once again be riding for my dude Mike Miles Jr. Although the NBA continues to trend away from small buckety guards, Miles has that “it” factor on the court that leads me to believe that he can overcome any size issues. I had an NBA executive tell me that he’s gotten to watch Miles behind the scenes and he’s capable of some pretty special stuff when he has it going. Some would say that Miles has that dog in him. The TCU guard has struggled with efficiency through his two college seasons and that is going to be the main focus point to monitor this season, but Miles is a young junior that has the potential to take a massive leap if he can bump up those percentages.
3. Unfortunately, there are two sides to that coin, and they do not have equal probabilities. Which prospect do you like but think has the most likely chance of failing to meet expectations?
Maxwell: Texas’s Tyrese Hunter. I’ve seen some first round buzz for him, and I think people are underestimating just how big of a shooting leap he’ll need to be effective in the NBA, given his lack of size. As of now, I think he’ll need another year.
Paige: Kansas’s Gradey Dick. Yes, Gradey Dick can shoot - that’s obvious. But I really want to see Dick improve in his creativity with the ball, his defense, and his playmaking. If the shot’s not falling, what else can the former five-star recruit contribute to on both ends of the court?
Evan: Gradey Dick. I definitely don’t mean to pile on the kid, but I was a bit surprised to see some people rank the Kansas freshman sharpshooter as a first round talent coming into the year. Paige presented all the reasons I’m concerned about his pro outlook and then some.
Nick: I’m glad to see that I’m not alone in doubting Dillon Mitchell. I fully buy into his defense, and he is a top-tier athlete, but I’m worried about his offensive game outside of transition opportunities. To be clear, I think he’ll definitely prove himself as an NBA player this season. My questions are more along the lines of the expectations around him. If he can’t be more than a role player on offense, I doubt that he’ll live up to the lottery (and even Top 10) buzz that he’s had heading into the season.
Albert: I’m not a huge Gradey Dick fan. I just didn’t feel him enough when he was on the court in a lot of his tape that I watched. Obviously, he has a pretty-looking jumper, but I just don’t know if he’s ever going to be a highly influential player on the floor. Maybe college will change him, and he will become the big man on campus at Kansas, but for now, I’m not a big believer.
Stephen: Gradey Dick has garnered some serious first round buzz in the offseason, and I’m just not there yet. Shooting is a premium–I get that–but shooting can come from a lot of places, folks. He seems noticeably smaller on the floor compared to his peers. I don’t know if he’s “sneaky athletic” enough to hang right now. His defense isn’t where it needs to be to get minutes in the NBA–which is something that an NBA coach will have to consider in their risk assessment.
Nathan: I want to be cautiously optimistic about Dillon Mitchell. He’s one of the best athletes in all of college basketball, and boy, does he find a way to weaponize it in game–the transition finishes, baseline lobs, and devastating blocks. I’m writing a lot of positive words about this young man, but outside of those areas I want to see more from him: better shooting consistency, attacking with a plan when he gets a full head of steam in the halfcourt, and continuing to play with a high motor guarding matchups and grabbing rebounds to get out and go. There is more skill to unlock here with Mitchell, and if he doesn’t continue to add to his game, he could slip on boards in favor of more skilled options on the wing.
Rucker: I find myself waking up on a different side of the “Dillion Mitchell experience” each day. One day, I’m in love with the idea and current skills he has in his game. The other day, I find myself wondering if this can continue to work at the next levels without an outside shot. He’s the one I’m the most curious to scout this year.
Metcalf: Tyrese Hunter is a hell of a defender and an encouraging at-rim finisher, but what does the shot look like? He has to shoot it this year. I know that feels like a lazy trope, but it’s the biggest thing holding him back. It doesn’t help that Chris Beard players aren’t known for significant offensive improvements under his watch, either.
Corey: Gradey Dick is a prospect whose game I’m going to have to see translate to the next level before I truly buy in. Dick is a highly touted shooting prospect with good size which are valuable NBA traits, but whenever I watched his NIBC tape I felt like he really had to work for his own offense. He can certainly stroke it and I think that will translate, but I have my reservations about his on ball creation. Kansas has a talented roster that will look to make another run so Dick might play a more complementary role than what he played in high school. If that’s the case there’s a world where I reverse course and buy in.
4. The shiny new thing is always the most enticing to go after, but there is always a ton of value in older prospects. Based on their previous college seasons, which returning player are you most excited to watch and has the best NBA potential?
Maxwell: Jalen Wilson! He killed it at the NBA Combine, and his passing popped more than I expected when I dug back through his film. I think he’s primed for a big year.
Paige: Texas’s Tyrese Hunter. Hunter is so explosive with the ball and so fast that you sometimes forget he’s only 6’1” making the plays and shots that he does. I’m expecting him to take another huge leap in his first year as a Longhorn and will be looking forward to seeing how he and Dillion Mitchell play together.
Evan: I’m also going to go with Jalen Wilson. He was one of my favorite “sleeper” prospects in the 2021 draft class, and I didn’t expect him to return to Kansas for his senior season. I think his stock will only improve as he gets to showcase more of his skillset in a more expanded role for the Jayhawks this year.
Nick: Tyrese Hunter. After a surprising transfer to Texas, Hunter will have the opportunity to show that the first round buzz that he had last season was deserved. His shot from long range is certainly inconsistent, but the jumper isn’t fundamentally broken. He can knock down shots in a hurry when he gets hot–as he showed in tournament play last season.
Albert: I like Jalen Wilson’s game. I think he has NBA-level contributor written all over him. I don’t think he’ll ever be a star, but he seems like a guy that’s going to play tough defense and add just enough offensively to raise the floor of a good team. I also think it’s weird that I have to keep telling myself that I like him…
Stephen: Tyrese Hunter! I got so enamored with him at Iowa State last season that I had him as a first round talent in one of my mocks. He has special speed that can help him succeed at the next level, along with some nasty point-of-attack defense. If improving your jumper is as easy as some suggesting it, then Hunter can be a guy that steals some shine from some more prominent names.
Nathan: Kevin McCullar. The transfer into Kansas showcased some absolutely awesome versatility defensively last year, banging with bigger bodies in the post when he played up in small lineups, as well as sliding his feet and locking down any perimeter matchups who dared challenge him. He’s already one of the better swiss army knife utility defenders, and he just needs a clearer role on offense. If he can improve his outside shot and provide consistency from the corners, as well as efficiency on attacking closeouts, he’ll have enough to get drafted near the first round in 2023.
Rucker: Extremely excited to see what Tyrese Hunter can do at Texas this year. After “introducing” himself to the basketball world during late-season tournament play, Hunter made the decision to transfer to a potentially stacked Longhorns team. If the shot can take another step forward, Hunter should have some NBA teams foaming at the mouth despite his smaller frame.
Metcalf: Kevin McCullar should be a first rounder this season if he stays healthy. He’s one of the few players who I don’t care if the shot takes a huge leap. He’s good enough at everything else.
Corey: The Big 12 is apparently the conference full of tiny guards that I know the NBA has fallen out of love with, but if my dating history of bad decisions is any indication that won’t stop me from falling in love with them anyway. When I watched Tyrese Hunter hoop in person he popped in a big way. He’s an absolute menace as a point of attack defender and he’s a slick playmaker with the ball in his hands that plays with a poise and confidence that I adore. The rub is that the Texas transfer shot it poorly from the floor last season, but I’m a big believe in eye test with jumpers for young players and I don’t believe Hunter’s form is functionally broken or needs to be retooled. What he does need to prove is that he can knock down shots and finish at the rim over length. Although I don’t think Hunter is a guy that has all-star potential at the NBA level, I land on the optimistic side with Hunter and believe that he has some Davion Mitchell type stuff to his game that I’m willing to bet on.
5. Whether it’s Anthony Edwards dropping 37 points against Michigan State or Austin Rivers ripping the heart out of UNC fans, or De’Aaron Fox vs. Lonzo Ball, fans are provided with mesmerizing matchups and performances every season. Which matchup, whether team vs. team, player vs. player, or player vs. team, are you most looking forward to?
Maxwell: The TCU backcourt of Mike Miles and Damion Baugh against the Baylor backcourt of Keyonte George, Adam Flagler, and LJ Cryer. Two different stylistic approaches but five tremendous basketball players.
Paige: Kansas vs. Baylor. This will be one of the best games of the year in college basketball, and it is loaded with talent across the board. I’m really excited to see how each program’s prized freshman play in this game.
Evan: Baylor vs. Arkansas on January 28 is as box office of a matchup as it gets for college hoops this season.
Nick: Baylor vs. Texas. Baylor will head to Texas after two brutally tough matchups against Kansas and Arkansas, but Keyonte George isn’t the type of player to step off the gas in a big matchup, even if it’s the third such matchup in a row. On the flip side, Dillon Mitchell could really establish himself with a big game against Baylor, and Tyrese Hunter will just make the matchup even more exciting.
Albert: Give me Baylor and Texas. I want to see what Gradey Dick can do against Dillon Mitchell. I think Mitchell may chase Dick around a little bit and give him some headaches. Michael Scott is dying somewhere.
Stephen: It’s Kansas and Baylor. They are the deepest teams with the most realistic chance of winning a title this year. Oh, and they both have multiple names that you could hear on Draft Night. Need I say more?
Nathan: Kansas and Baylor. There’s too much talent on both sides up and down the lineup to ignore one of the better rivalries in college basketball over the last few years. Texas was an interesting choice to take against the Bears given their trio of guards in Marcus Carr, Arterio Morris, and Tyrese Hunter, but the Jayhawks have even more talent. Adam Flagler, Langston Love, LJ Cryer, and Keyontae George will have their hands full against Gradey Dick, MJ Ride, KJ Adams, and Bobby Pettiford. Dajuan Harris will continue to control the game for Kansas as well, and he’s a good defensive option to throw at Baylor’s guards. The matchup between “Everyday Jon” and the duo of Ernest Udeh and Zach Clemence could be what turns the tide in either direction.
Rucker: “The Baylor Gauntlet.” The Baylor Bears will face Kansas, Arkansas, and then travel to Texas in three straight games. Yeah…find me on Playback for that week of madness.
Metcalf: Kansas vs. Texas. Size, NBA potential, defense, discipline. Can’t ask for much else.
Corey: I’m really looking forward to watching Baylor and Texas square off in their two matchups. Baylor and Texas both have loaded backcourts which I believe has the potential to give us either an absolute shoot out or dog fight.