Big 12 Basketball Season Preview
As college basketball season nears, it's time to take a look at a conference that is deeper and more balanced than previous years: the Big 12. Out of the 10 teams in the conference, you can expect to see seven to eight of them playing in the big dance next March. Let’s take a deeper dive into each team’s storylines this season.
Bill Self’s squad comes in as the heavy favorite and should win the conference outright in the regular season and the Big 12 Tournament. The talent is just so overpowering compared to the other teams. Sophomore guard Devon Dotson looks to be in the running for Player of the Year, and senior center Udoka Azubuike is a dominant force on both ends of the floor. Self and company are looking to be in contention for their first national title since 2008.
Baylor was able to limp their way into the NCAA Tournament last year, and with a fully healthy roster, they could very well be a second-weekend team. Tristian Clark will be the leading force for the Bears, coming in as a preseason All-Big 12 member. Some new faces in Waco will make an immediate impact, as transfers MaCio Teague from UNC-Ashville and Davion Mitchell from Auburn give the Bears the depth they lacked last year. If all goes their way, expect the Bears to give Kansas a run for their money for the Big 12 title.
Texas Tech Red Raiders
There is a very strong chance that Texas Tech finishes ahead of Baylor when the regular season ends, but with an inexperienced roster that is yet to find their identity, the Red Raiders come in third in this year’s preseason rankings. After losing their top-four scorers from a team that went to the national championship game last year, Chris Beard’s team looks like they won’t miss a beat in terms of scoring. Look for five-star freshman recruit Jahmi’us Ramsey to put up lots of shots this season, as he comes in as the biggest recruit the Red Raiders have ever had.
Somehow, even after losing their top-three scorers from last season, the expectations have only gone up for the Longhorns. Part of this is from the NIT championship they won last year. Now, it’s time for Shaka Smart to either put up or shut up. If all goes well, he can expect to stay in Austin for the time being. If not, he could be looking for a new job this spring. A trip to the NCAA Tournament should keep his job safe, but it is hard to tell at this point. Look for freshman big man Jericho Sims to help try and give Texas their first NCAA Tournament win in the Smart era.
Iowa State Cyclones
In what could end up being either a down and rebuilding year or another NCAA Tournament bid for the Cyclones, it’s reasonable to put them in the middle of the pack at the start of the year. Their squad will be led by Tyrese Hamilton, who performed well with the USA team this summer. He looks to only improve on an impressive freshman season that saw him shoot 43 percent from 3-point range. With new transfer Prentiss Nixon from Colorado State, the Cyclones could be a tough team to play down the stretch, if they can stay healthy.
Oklahoma State Cowboys
After being so depleted last season, Oklahoma State had to hold an open tryout in the middle of the season. This will not be the case this year. The Cowboys bring back their top-three scorers in Cameron McGriff, Lindy Water III, and Thomas Dziagwa. They look poised to be an upset team this year. With UMass graduate transfer Johnathan Laurent providing help with the deep ball, the Cowboys will be a headache for many.
West Virginia Mountaineers
Like many other teams in the Big 12, Bob Huggins’ team lost their top-three scorers. There is some light at the end of the tunnel with the rebuilding process for the Mountaineers.
Rising sophomore Derek Culver and freshman Oscar Tshiebwe give the Mountaineers a chance to compete in many games this year. If they get some of those games going their way, you could be looking at a team that is playing in March. With the addition of JUCO All-American Sean McNeil, which could very well become one of the best stories in college hoops this season, there’s no reason to believe this team can’t end up finishing in the top five of the Big 12.
Kansas St. Wildcats
Winning a share of the Big 12 regular-season title was a huge accomplishment for this program. This result is not the likely scenario this year, however. Bruce Weber will look to capitalize on senior forward Xavier Sneed’s final year, and if they can stay healthy, who knows how this season can go. This team can find themselves in the middle of the pack in the conference or stuck at the bottom all year long.
Our last two teams feature some of the biggest roster turnovers in all of college basketball. Oklahoma will be looking at eight new faces this season, but point guard De’Vion Harmon is still there to lead the charge. It will be hard for the Sooners to repeat a 20-win season like they had last year, as this year the team will look to create as much chemistry as possible for the future.
TCU Horned Frogs
Nine players gone from last year’s team. Nine. That means nine new faces that have never played together before stepping into one of the toughest conferences in the nation. That is most likely going to lead to a lot of growing pains. Desmond Bane is your player to watch for the Horned Frogs, as he will look to show leadership skills and take over the majority of the games this year.
Danny Murray is a freshman majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.