Women’s Big 12 basketball conference preview

Matt Gubbels

The two teams that tied for first in the conference last season, Texas A&M and Oklahoma, both return key pieces to those title runs. Perennial powers Baylor and Texas both have four starters coming back but lost their number one scoring option from last season. Oklahoma State, Iowa State, Nebraska, and Kansas State are all trying to return to the postseason but have replaced key people in key places. Two of the top 25 recruiting classes in the nation, Texas Tech and Missouri, come from teams near the bottom of the Big 12.Here are capsules on all 12 teams in the order they were picked by the Big 12 preseason coaches’ poll:

(1) Texas A&M [25-7, 13-3 Big 12]

Returning Starters: 5

The Aggies return their top seven players and have added preseason Big 12 Freshman of the Year Tyra White to a team that won the Big 12 regular season championship last season. Sophomore Takia Starks leads an experienced Texas A&M team that ranked seventh in the country in scoring defense last season. The Aggie defense masked an offense that was in the bottom half of the Big 12 in scoring offense.

(2) Oklahoma [28-5, 13-3]

Returning Starters: 2

The Sooners lost three starters but return National Player of the Year Courtney Paris and her twin sister Ashley on the interior. Oklahoma also returns its starting point guard from last season, Jenna Plumley, and brought in recruiting class that includes four top-100 recruits. That class includes Pittsburgh Steelers’ quarterback Ben Roethlisberger’s little sister, Carlee.

(3) Baylor [26-8, 11-5]

Returning Starters: 4

The Bears’ tournament run was derailed by the Cinderella North Carolina State Wolfpack in the second round but they still return just under 75 percent of its scoring from last season. The Bears will have to find a way to replace Bernice Mosby, who was third in the Big 12 in scoring and rebounding last season.

(4) Texas [18-14, 6-10]

Returning Starters: 4

The Longhorns struggled with injuries last season in Hall of Fame coach Jody Conradt’s last season. Texas replaced Conradt with another Hall of Fame coach in Gail Goestenkors, who left Duke after a Final Four appearance last season. The only starter the Longhorns lost, however, was leading scorer Tiffany Jackson.

(5) Oklahoma State [20-11, 8-8]

Returning Starters: 3

The Cowgirls return a solid nucleus from a team that was a NCAA Tournament participant in 2006-2007. That nucleus includes Amanda Riley, who is preseason honorable mention All-Big 12 and led Oklahoma State in scoring last season.

(6) Iowa State [26-9, 10-6]

Returning Starters: 3

The Cyclones reached the second round of the NCAA Tournament, but have to replace two four-year starters in point guard Lyndsey Medders and forward Megan Ronhovde. The Cyclones do return two double figure scorers in post players Nicky Wieben and Toccara Ross, but the main question for the season is how Allison Lacey handles the point guard duties.

(7) Nebraska [22-10, 10-6]

Returning Starters: 1

The Huskers lost nearly their entire team, but do return All-Big 12 forward Kelsey Griffin. Griffin and Danielle Page are the only upperclassman listed on the 13-player Nebraska roster. That turnover may cause a drop-off for Coach Connie Yori’s team, who lost to Temple in the first round of the NCAA tournament last season.

(8) Kansas State [19-15, 4-12]

Returning Starters: 4

The Wildcats started off the season red-hot, going 15-3 in their non-conference schedule. An injury to their second-leading scorer at the time, Marlies Gipson, however, caused their season to go on a tailspin, where they lost 11 of 13 in the Big 12. Kansas State, who returns over 80 percent of their scoring, did bounce back to reach the semifinals of the NIT.

(9) Texas Tech [15-16, 6-10]

Returning Starters: 1

Texas Tech struggled in their first season under new coach Kristy Curry, who had previously reached the Final Four with Purdue. A top-10 recruiting class including Preseason Big 12 Newcomer of the Year Dominic Seals, however, has raised excitement for a Lady Raiders team, whose struggles down the stretch kept them out of the postseason.

(10) Kansas [11-20, 4-12]

Returning Starters: 4

The Jayhawks struggled to scored points, ranking last in the Big 12 in scoring. Scoring more points along with improving their 10th-ranked defense will be vital to the Jayhawks attempt to get out of the Big 12 cellar. Kansas does return nine players who gained valuable experience last season.

(11) Colorado [13-17, 6-10]

Returning Starters: 4

The Buffaloes played well at the Coors Events Center, going 11-5, but they were only 2-12 away from home. Their only wins away at road/neutral sites were against Kansas State and Texas Tech, who both were at the bottom of the Big 12. Colorado returns 10 of 11 players who logged significant minutes last season, including preseason All-Big 12 forward Jackie McFarland.

(12) Missouri [17-14, 5-11]

Returning Starters: 1

The Tigers are hoping that a big recruiting class that is ranked 25th in the country can replace the four starters and six players that they lost from their 2006-2007 team. Guard Alyssa Hollins leads a relatively inexperienced unit that reached the 2nd round of the NIT last year, into a schedule that includes eight NCAA Tournament qualifiers.