Chuck McGill: Wiggins reshapes Big 12, WVU hoops schedule update
CHARLESTON, W.Va. - One of the best prep basketball prospects to come out of high school since LeBron James will bring his NBA-ready game to the WVU Coliseum next season.
Of course, Andrew Wiggins isn't going to be a Mountaineer. The 6-foot-8 No. 1 overall recruit did, however, choose the Kansas Jayhawks at a small ceremony in Huntington on Tuesday afternoon, which means he'll make one return trip to his temporary Mountain State home to take on WVU in 2013-14.
Wiggins reportedly chose Bill Self and the Jayhawks over Florida State, North Carolina and Kentucky. Donning a cap of the latter three schools wouldn't have moved the needle much north of Interstate 64, but Wiggins' late addition to the Big 12 is a game-changer for the conference.
Kansas lost four senior starters plus leading scorer Ben McLemore to the NBA. If you're one to peruse the way-too-early preseason top 25 polls on the Internet, the Jayhawks were widely considered a late teens/early 20s top 25 team.
Now, with the addition of Wiggins, college hoops pundits are mentioning them as a national title contender. That means the Jayhawks might've just usurped Oklahoma State as next season's Big 12 favorite.
The landscape of the league has changed dramatically this offseason without its geographic footprint being altered.
Oklahoma State received a boon when reigning Big 12 Player of the Year Marcus Smart snubbed the NBA last month and returned for his sophomore season. Smart and teammates Markel Brown and Le'Bryan Nash are the top three returning scorers in the league after they finished fifth, sixth and eighth in the Big 12 in points per game last season.
If Wiggins lives up to his billing and takes a stranglehold on college basketball for 30-plus games this winter, he could be the fourth Big 12 freshman to win Player of the Year honors. The others: Smart (last season), Kansas State's Michael Beasley and Texas' Kevin Durant.
Wiggins, who was born in 1995, was 9 years old the last time Kansas didn't win at least a share of the Big 12 regular season title. The Jayhawks had already added a pair of blue-chip recruits and a trio of four-star prospects before Wiggins hopped on board Tuesday.
A collection of stars becoming a cohesive group inside of a year is sometimes tricky, as evidenced by Kentucky's precipitous fall from national champion to Robert Morris' NIT conquest in one season.
Wiggins' decision, though, makes it more likely Kansas can avoid that same fate.
It also gives the Big 12 - the fifth-best league by RPI last season - some of the best individual talent in the country. An ESPN preseason all-American team had Smart and Wiggins on its five-player first team, making the Big 12 the only league with multiple representatives on the team. And don't forget about Nash and Brown, or Baylor's dynamic duo of Cory Jefferson and Isaiah Austin.
By the way, the last Big 12 team not named Kansas to win the regular season title outright: Oklahoma State.
Wiggins' addition guarantees two things: Oklahoma State is no longer the hands-down favorite ... and there won't be an empty seat when Kansas visits Morgantown sometime after the New Year.
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A LESS BALLYHOOED basketball announcement that came Tuesday afternoon: WVU will play at Missouri on Dec. 5 as part of the Big 12/SEC Challenge.
The Mountaineers have three remaining openings on its 2013-14 men's hoops schedule.
WVU will participate in the Cancun Classic with Wisconsin, Saint Louis and Old Dominion, which will give the program games against two of those three schools, plus two additional home games against lower-tier competition. That four-game exemption is one of 27 spots on WVU's 31-game schedule.
The Big 12 has an 18-game schedule (nine home, nine away), and WVU will play Gonzaga, Purdue and Duquesne at home, Virginia Tech on the road and Marshall in Charleston. The Cancun Classic and Big 12/SEC Challenge gives the Mountaineers 28 games: 14 at home and 14 away from the Coliseum, which includes the exempt event and the annual meeting with the Thundering Herd.
WVU has three non-conference openings left. As it tries to mitigate the brutal travel schedule of the Big 12, expect the remaining voids to be filled by home games or, perhaps, a nearby road game.
Contact sports editor Chuck McGill at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-7949. Follow him on Twitter @chuckmcgill.