In mid-April, when Marcus Smart decided to come back to Oklahoma State — along with Markel Brown and LeBryan Nash — for another year, it looked like the Big 12 had a clear-cut favorite going into the 2013-14 basketball season.
The Cowboys seemed poised to end Kansas' streak of nine consecutive regular-season conference titles.
While no one is counting out OSU, things have gotten considerably tougher at the top of the conference, thanks to the Jayhawks.
After losing its entire frontcourt from last season's team, Kansas picked up the top player in the 2013 class — and probably the most heralded recruit Bill Self has brought in since moving to Lawrence — in power forward Andrew Wiggins.
Wiggins already was considered the top player in this year's incoming class before video of him dunking over former Jayhawks star and Thunder reserve Cole Aldrich hit YouTube.
“His ceiling's high,” Self said. “I would hope that he's as talented as any player in the country. From a raw athletic ability standpoint, he can do some things that I've never had a player been able to do physically.
“The bottom line is, he's still just 18 years old; he's still just a freshman. He's going to go through some ups and downs like anybody else, but hopefully by midseason or whatever, he's totally comfortable and is able to really just play and not think.”
Kansas also added 6-foot-9 Tarik Black, who graduated from Memphis and took advantage of the NCAA's rule allowing graduated players immediate eligibility. Black averaged 8.1 points and 4.8 rebounds in 20.8 minutes per game last season for the Tigers.
While OSU associate head coach Butch Pierre downplays the label of favorite for the Cowboys, he likes what he's seen so far this summer in limited time.
“Last year was a long season,” Pierre said. “We kind of thought it was an NBA season for us, going to Spain, then having such a great start in Puerto Rico. We kind of wore down. But these guys are experienced now and they know how to manage themselves and they know how to manage their bodies.”
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