Women's basketball preview: Will Baylor or Texas prove to be the best team in the Big 12?
The Big 12 sent six teams to the NCAA tournament in 2017, including two that made the Sweet 16, and No. 1-seeded Baylor advanced to the Elite Eight. Can the conference improve upon its performance last season and send a team to the Final Four in Columbus, Ohio, next March?
Here is our women's basketball preview for the Big 12.
Best player: Kalani Brown, Baylor
The 6-7 junior center was named the conference's Preseason Player of the Year by Big 12 coaches after averaging a team-high 15.4 points, 8.2 rebounds and 2.0 blocks per game as a sophomore. Brown played just 21.4 minutes per game during the 2016-17 season so if she can avoid foul trouble and stay on the floor for a larger portion of the game, her already impressive statistics will only improve.
Oh, did we mention she shot 67.9 percent from the field last season? Oklahoma State's Kaylee Jensen and Texas' Brooke McCarty both have a case for the distinction, but we'll go with Brown, the reigning All-American.
Best team: Texas
After finishing second in the conference last season, Texas enters the 2017-18 campaign with two players selected for the Preseason All-Big 12 Team (Ariel Atkins and Brooke McCarty), in addition to enrolling both the conference's Preseason Freshman of the Year (Chasity Patterson) and Preseason Newcomer of the Year (Jatarie White).
Atkins and McCarty, a pair of senior guards, were both selected to the All-Big 12 First Team last spring, with McCarty being named the conference's P.O.Y. McCarty averaged a team-high 14.1 points while leading the Big 12 in 3-point percentage at 43 percent on 179 attempts. Atkins finished 16th in the conference in scoring at 12.8 points per game, while finishing sixth in free throw percentage (81.8%) and first in steals (2.0 spg).
Patterson, a 5-5 point guard, is one of the top freshmen in the country who participated in both the McDonald's All-American Game and Jordan Brand Classic. She won the 3-point contest at the McDonald's All-American Game.
White is a 6-4 junior forward/center who sat out last season after transferring from South Carolina. She's an immediate-impact player in the Longhorns' frontcourt.
Sleeper team: Oklahoma State
The Cowgirls finished seventh in a strong Big 12 conference that sent 60 percent of its teams to the NCAA tournament last season. However, they could take a significant step forward this season. Oklahoma State returns Preseason All-Big 12 honoree Kaylee Jensen, a 6-4 senior center who led the conference in scoring (18.7 ppg) and rebounding (10.5 rpg) as a junior, as well as the team's second- and third-leading scorers – Mandy Coleman (11.9 ppg) and Karli Wheeler (11.5 ppg) – from last year.
With five seniors and five juniors on its roster, Oklahoma State will be as experienced as any team in the country.
Best freshman: Chasity Patterson, Texas
There may not be a better freshman point guard in the country than Patterson. She's a great athlete who can hurt opposing defenses from behind the 3-point line but she's also quick and shifty enough to be able to drive to the rim.
Patterson is a two-way difference-maker who should benefit from playing alongside veterans in Atkins and McCarty.
Andy Wittry has written for SI.com, Sporting News, the Indianapolis Star, Louisville Courier-Journal and Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
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