In two of the perennial power conferences, the Big 12 and ACC, will have plenty of new faces from head coaches to star players. The Big 12 will have four new head coaches in 2011-12 (out of the ten teams), and the ACC will have just as many (in their 12 team league). The biggest impact will be made on the court when eight of our top 22 players kept their names in the 2011 Draft, including Big 12 player of the year from Kansas, Marcus Morris, two more Jayhawks (Markieff Morris and Josh Selby) and three Texas Longhorns (Tristan Thompson, Jordan Hamilton and Cory Joseph). Duke will lose its top three players (Kyrie Irving, Nolan Smith and Kyle Singler) and if there was not a possibility of a lockout, things could be even worse for these two conferences as that likely scared away a trio of North Carolina forwards and then some.
Due to the makeover, the Big 12 could be looking at a new conference champion for the first time in seven years as the Jayhawks will reload, but won't be able to compete with the likes of Missouri, Baylor and even Texas A&M. Two of our favorites for this upcoming season- Missouri and Texas A&M, have new head coaches this season, but both coaches will have plenty of talent to work with. Texas, which has earned at least a share of the regular-season title in two of the last five years, will have to replace all five starters from their 28 win team. Kansas only has one returning starter.
The top NBA talent in the Big 12 is the versatile sophomore forward Perry Jones from Baylor. While Jones comes in with as much hype and potential as anyone, he is just one piece in a loaded frontcourt featuring Quincy Acy, Anthony Jones and top-ten recruit Quincy Miller. The Bears' success will hinge upon their point guard play which was notably inconsistent last year when the team averaged four more turnovers than assists per game.
If not Baylor, Missouri could rise up and earn their first regular-season title since 1994. Former-Miami coach Frank Haith inherits a team with its top six scorers returning, but has zero recruits coming in this year as of now.
Whomever takes over for the Aggies has a potential player of the year candidate in wing in Khris Middleton and defensive player of the year in forward David Loubeau. Both are building blocks to continue the program's success this season.
In the ACC, it's not any secret that North Carolina is the favorite. The defending ACC champion returns a potent frontcourt of three potential lottery picks in 2012 in Harrison Barnes, John Henson and Tyler Zeller. Along with point guard Kendall Marshall and freshman forward James McAdoo, the Tar Heels could have five first-rounders on this team jolting for the NBA in a year.
Although Duke lost its top three players, two of the nation's top recruits, Austin Rivers and Quinn Cook, will contribute right away in the starting backcourt, joining returning shooters Seth Curry and Andre Dawkins. In the frontcourt, a trio of Plumlees gives Coach Kryzewski some depth to work with.
Challenging Duke in the second spot in the ACC will be Florida State, a team fresh off the Sweet 16. Although the Seminoles are losing one of the best perimeter defenders in Chris Singleton and point guard Derwin Kitchen, coach Leonard Hamilton has four long, athletes in the frontcourt to make it one of the best in the country, as well as two young, talented guards in Ian Miller and Michael Snaer.
Miami, with new head coach Jim Larranaga, could be a dark horse in this league as well. Girthy center, Reggie Johnson, returns for his junior season after averaging nearly a double-double (12 points, 9.5 rebounds) in 26 minutes per game. The keys will be guards Malcolm Grant and Durant Scott, capable of playing off of Johnson's interior presence and lighting it up from the perimeter (111 made 3s between the two).