Six weeks ago, the Big 12 appeared in jeopardy of a down 2013-14 season with Kansas losing all five starters, Baylor and Oklahoma State expected to lose key underclassmen to the NBA draft and Oklahoma, Iowa State and Kansas State also saying goodbye to stars. Since then, a late influx of talent has improved the outlook for the league and silenced talk it will be the worst power conference next year.
Kansas rose from a fringe top 20 team to a likely national title contender by landing the nation's top recruit in Andrew Wiggins and an experienced, talented big man in Memphis transfer Tarik Black.
Oklahoma State could also crack the preseason top 10 thanks to the stunning return of likely top five pick Marcus Smart, along with complementary stars Markel Brown and LeBryan Nash.
Baylor too has the talent to be formidable with Isaiah Austin and Cory Jefferson both bypassing the NBA draft to return to school, though the Bears will have to find a way to replace do-everything point guard Pierre Jackson.
And now even Iowa State may yet emerge as an NCAA tournament team for the third straight season if the key transfer it landed Thursday night pans out.
DeAndre Kane, who averaged 15.1 points and seven assists for Marshall last season, chose the Cyclones over Pittsburgh and Memphis, among others. The 6-foot-4 senior will be eligible immediately and will help fill the void at point guard left by the graduation of Michigan State transfer Korie Lucious.
Though Kane is more of a scoring guard than a true pass-first point guard and he shot a mediocre 40 percent from the field last season, landing a player of his caliber in late May is certainly a coup for Iowa State. He'll add perimeter scoring punch to a team that graduated leading scorers Will Clyburn and Tyrus McGee but does return Melvin Ejim and promising sophomore Georges Niang up front.
Even with all the good news May has brought, the Big 12 almost certainly won't be one of the nation's top three leagues next season. Texas has been decimated by transfers, West Virginia and Oklahoma are rebuilding and Kansas State may not be able to overcome the unexpected departure of point guard Angel Rodriguez.
But with Kansas, Oklahoma State, Baylor and Iowa State all improving themselves this spring, at least the Big 12 isn't headed for a potentially historically bad season as initially feared.
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