By Anthony Slater – Aslater@opubco.com - @anthonyVslater
When Marcus Smart announced his surprising return on Wednesday afternoon, the universal crowning of Oklahoma State as prohibitive Big 12 favorites came with one obvious caveat — never bet against Bill Self.
Well, at least publicly, it seems Bill Self is ready to bet against Bill Self.
“I don’t know who everybody returns, but based on their roster, no question Oklahoma State would have the best roster returning,” KU’s coach told the Lawrence Journal-World at an event on Thursday.
“They may have had the best roster anyway (without Smart),” Self added. “That was a big decision that I’m sure keyed other players making sure they stayed as well.”
Of course, Self is known for this kind of tactical statement, whether he believes it to be true or not (in this case, he likely does).
Just last year, under less obvious circumstances, Self made a similar statement to ESPN’s Andy Katz in the preseason, labeling OSU as the most talented team in the league.
But this year he took it a step further, calling the Cowboys national contenders.
“They’ll be preseason top-5, (top)-10 team for sure,” Self said to the LJW . “It’ll be good for our league, not a bad thing at all for our league. No question going into the summer they have the best roster. There’s also some schools not finished recruiting yet. We’ll see how it plays out.”
For Kansas, the main (and maybe only) team many believe can challenge the Cowboys, it’s a complete roster overhaul.
The Jayhawks lose all five starters, taking with them an overwhelming majority of the production. But in their place, Self has already inked five standout prospects for the 2013 class (seen here), complete with three four-stars and two five-stars, and may be looking for more.
“I’d like to sign one, two, maybe three more depending how things play out,” Self told the LJW “There are still guys out there I think can make us better next year.”
But potential playmakers aren’t nearly as valuable as known commodities. And the Cowboys have plenty of those, led by a talented trio that has the Big 12 on watch.