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Big 12 Basketball: Who Returns for 2016-2017?

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We take an early look at how the conference is shaping up for basketball next year.

Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

It's been a long month without the thrill of Iowa State basketball. As fans, we were lucky to have point guard Monte Morris decide early on returning for his senior season. Over the next several weeks we will be given a more complete picture on the state of the team for next year, particularly regarding Emmanual Malou and the potential addition of another graduate transfer. Until then, let's turn our attention to the other nine teams in the conference, and see how their teams are shaping up for the 2016-2017 season.

Some basic rules before starting off: My focus is only going to be on returning players, not incoming freshmen. We're looking at proven commodities, not the raw materials, because no matter how highly rated a recruit might be it doesn't necessarily translate directly to court time. Right, Cheick Diallo?

Also, I'll do my best to report on how things stand at this moment in time. If the prevailing feeling right now is that a player will be back, then that's the assumption I'll use. Things may change, and that's fine. This is an early exercise to look ahead at next year.

Baylor

Graduating: Rico Gathers, Lester Medford, John Heard, Taurean Prince, Austin Mills

Returning: Jo Acuil, Wendell Mitchell, Jake Lindsey, Johnathan Motley, Manu Lecomte, King McClure, Ishmail Wainright, Al Freeman, Terry Matson

Not a lot of notable news from Waco, unless you're interested in if Rico Gathers can make the transition to the NFL. Despite losing him and Taurean Prince, Johnathan Motley looks ready to step into a starring role, especially given his endeavors against Iowa State. Between him finding consistency and Scott Drew learning to manage his timeouts, Baylor returns a solid, if unspectacular, lineup for next season.

Kansas State

Graduating: Justin Edwards, Brian Rohleder, Stephen Hurt

Transferring: Ron Freeman (Northwest Florida State College)

Returning: Carlbe Ervin II, Kamau Stokes, D.J. Johnson, Barry Brown, Isaiah Maurice, Mason Schoen, Zach Winter, Dante Williams, Pierson McAtee, Wesley Iwundu, Dean Wade Austin Budke

The more interesting story line here might be the loss of assistant coach Alvin Brooks, who's trading Manhattan for Waco and joining the Baylor staff in a similar position. Although common for assistant coaches to switch programs, it's rare to see movement within the conference. Maybe he can finally break through to Scott Drew on making better use of his timeouts?

Texas Tech

Graduating: Devaugntah Williams, Toddrick Gotcher

Returning: Devon Thomas, C.J. Williamson, Donovan Ham, Justin Gray, Zach Smith, Keenan Evans, Aaron Ross, Rokas Ulvydas, Jordan Jackson, Andrew Sorrells, Norense Odiase, Matthew Temple

Texas Tech is another team where the most interesting part of its offseason thus far has been coaching changes. Tubby Smith departed to take the head coaching vacancy at Memphis, and the Red Raiders poached Chris Beard from UNLV two weeks after the ink had dried on his contract there. Because of the coaching change, many of the returning players still have yet to make decisions regarding their future, but right now, no significant contributors have made known their desire to transfer.

Oklahoma State

Graduating: Ford Stuen, Phil Forte, Codey McElroy, Jeff Newberry, Chris Olivier, Anthony Allen Jr.

Returning: Jawun Evans, Tyree Griffin, Joe Burton, Tavarius Shine, Igor Ibaka, Leyton Hammonds, Davon Dillard, Jeffrey Carroll, Will Lienhard, Mitchell Solomon

Oh, look! Another school with a coaching change! Brad Underwood took over for Travis Ford after the completion of the season, and all signs point to him immediately hitting the recruiting trail hard. Linked with the Iowa State coaching job last summer, it will be interesting to see how much of a stylistic change the Cowboys go through with Underwood at the helm. As with Texas Tech, many of the returning players have a choice to make, but it appears most have committed to sticking with the program.

Texas

Graduating: Demarcus Holland, Javan Felix, Connor Lammert, Prince Ibeh, Cameron Ridley

NBA: Isaiah Taylor

Returning: Tevin Mack, Danny Newsome, Kendal Yancy, Eric Davis Jr., Kerwin Roach Jr., Joe Schwartz, Ryan McClurg, Shaquille Cleare

Finally! A team with player intrigue that isn't caused by a coaching change! It can't be stressed enough how big a loss Taylor is for this Texas program. It was always expected that he'd test the NBA waters, having been linked with a move to the next level since his freshman year, but signing with an agent confirmed that the heartbreaking loss to Northern Iowa was his last game as a Longhorn. Shaka Smart has his work cut out in finding a replacement, especially considering the rest of his starting lineup has been lost to graduation. Who will shoulder the offensive burden for Texas next year?

Oklahoma

Graduating: Ryan Spangler, Dinjiyl Walker, Isaiah Cousins, Buddy Hield, Austin Mankin

Returning: Rashard Odomes, Christian James, Jamuni McNeace, Matt Freeman, Jordan Woodard, Khadeem Lattin, Bola Alade, Dante Buford, Daniel Harper, C.J. Cole, Akolda Manyang, Austin Grandstaff

The biggest news for Oklahoma isn't who's returning, it's who's graduated. How do you replace the nation's top player in Buddy Hield? Between Hield, Spangler, and Isaiah Cousins, the Sooners lose over half their scoring, as well as their main source of floor slaps. Jordan Woodard was the team's second leading scorer and will for sure be returning to Norman for his senior year, but the question remains on whether or not he's a gifted scorer, or simply a great second option. Khadeem Lattin should help, but Lon Kruger has his work cut out if he wants to keep Oklahoma at a Final Four-level.

Kansas

Graduating: Evan Manning, Jamari Traylor, Perry Ellis, Hunter Mickelson

NBA: Wayne Selden Jr., Brannen Greene, Cheick Diallo (?)

Returning: Frank Mason III, Legerald Vick, Deonte' Graham, Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk, Tyler Self, Carlton Bragg Jr., Clay Young, Dwight Coleby, Landen Lucas

Despite the wealth of talent that's exiting KU, there's still quite a few good players leftover for Bill Self to make a run at a 13th title in as many years. Diallo remains a wildcard- he hasn't hired an agent, and it remains to be seen whether he's just using the NBA workouts as an opportunity to grow, or if he'll make the move this year. For what it's worth, my money would be on him staying and seeing an expanded role in the frontcourt. Losing Selden and Greene is a blow, but the Jayhawks will, unfortunately, still boast one of the better backcourt pairs in Mason and Graham, and Landen Lucas really seemed to come into his own during the latter half of the season. The road to a regular season championship still runs through Lawrence.

West Virginia

Graduating: Jonathan Holton, Jaysean Paige, Richard Romeo III

NBA: Devin Williams

Returning: Teyvon Myers, Jevon Carter, James Bolden, Daxter Miles Jr., Nathan Adrian, Tarik Phillip, James Long, Lamont West, Brandon Watkins, Logan Routt, Esa Ahmad, Elijah Macon

Despite speculation on whether or not he'd even be drafted, Devin Williams officially signed with an agent, making a return to Morgantown impossible for his senior season. Williams was the team's leading rebounder, and a real nuisance on the offensive glass. As big an individual loss as that might be for Bob Huggins' team, the full-court press machine won't stop for anyone, and he retains most of his rotation. If they add another ball-handler in the mold of Jaysean Paige, the Mountaineers could very well be in the mix for a Big 12 title for the second straight year.

TCU

Graduating: Devonta Abron

Returning: Lyrik Shreiner, Chauncey Collins, Michael Williams, Malique Trent, Vladimir Brodziansky, Brandon Parrish, JD Miller, Dalton Dry, Karviar Shepherd, Chris Washburn, Kenrich Williams

We finish with yet another coaching change, but one that was wholly expected given the year the Horned Frogs endured on the hardcourt. Trent Johnson was ousted after four disappointing years, with alumnus Jamie Dixon taking his place from Pittsburgh. The good news for Dixon is that the vast majority of his players are returning, each of whom contributed to what was an evenly balanced TCU attack. The bad news is that attack only amounted to 67 points per game under Johnson. The major question this season is if a new approach can turn things around in Fort Worth and lift this team from the Big 12's basement.

Conclusion

Based purely upon returning players, Kansas looks to be the strongest in terms of returning talent. That status could be further solidified if Diallo returns for his sophomore season. TCU and Texas Tech also have to be mentioned for retaining most of their contributors from last season. Texas is by far the most unfortunate of Big 12 teams with the loss of Taylor, while Oklahoma looks to replace one of the best shooters/scorers in conference history in Buddy Hield.

The NBA draft is still two months away, and the official deadline for returning players to withdraw from NBA consideration is May 25, 10 days after the conclusion of the combine. Numerous things will change between now and then, and we'll be sure to look at rosters once again after the withdrawal period and signing comes to a close later this year.