College basketball returns starting this Friday, so it’s time to breakdown who holds the power in the nation’s deepest basketball conference. This year is pretty up in the air due to a drain of talent from the Big 12, which saw eleven of the fifteen all-conference team members either graduate or go pro. Check out who teams will be relying on this season in their quest to knock Kansas from their perch.
#1: TCU Horned Frogs (0-0)
Season Opener: 11/11 vs. St. Thomas Celts (NAIA)
As always, the Horned Frogs find themselves atop our preseason Big 12 Basketball Power Rankings due to an unbridled optimism from us here at FOW. There are high hopes for TCU coming into their first season under Jamie Dixon, due to his impressive resume and an experienced lineup mixed with some talented newcomers. The Frogs probably won’t be tested too much until they face Illinois State in their fourth game of the year. TCU fans will get a few games in beforehand to see what the team has in terms of talent and if Dixon has a system in place to capitalize on the strengths of the team. The Frogs open on Friday against NAIA school St. Thomas, a game which should allow Dixon to rotate players and start off the new era with a win. It will be important to keep an eye on Jaylen Fisher, Alex Robinson, and Kenrich Williams this week. All three could end up playing important roles for TCU as the season progresses.
#2: Kansas Jayhawks (0-0)
Season Opener: 11/11 vs. Indiana (in Honolulu, HI)
Kansas is set up for another big season this year as Bill Self may have the most talented roster he has ever had, which is a scary thought for other Big 12 teams. The Jayhawks will be pursuing another Big 12 regular season title, which would be their 13th consecutive. Kansas starts their season with Indiana on Friday as part of the Veterans Day Armed Forces Classic in Honolulu. The Jayhawks return three starters, Frank Mason, Devonte’ Graham, and Landen Lucas, from last season’s team that made it to the Elite Eight, where they lost to eventual champion Villanova. Joining them are sharpshooting junior Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk and the nation’s top recruit Josh Jackson. Jackson will probably start for the Jayhawks and is the clear favorite to win Big 12 Freshman of the Year.
#3: West Virginia Mountaineers (0-0)
Season Opener: 11/11 vs. Mount St. Mary’s
Press Virginia is back and is ready to take on the Jayhawks for the top spot this season. Bob Huggins will have to find ways to replace some key contributors from last season, including Devin Williams, Jaysean Paige, and Jonathan Holton. Those three players were dynamic last season and combined for 35.9 points and 20.6 rebounds per game. The ‘eers will benefit though from returning guards Daxter Miles Jr., Jevon Carter, and Tarik Phillip. Those three will have to lead the charge from the backcourt if the team wants to keep up its reputation as Press Virginia and challenge for a Big 12 title.
#4: Texas Longhorns (0-0)
Season Opener: 11/11 vs. Incarnate Word
Shaka Smart and the Longhorns might be better than the team they had a year ago which made the NCAA Tournament but were upset in the first round by Northern Iowa. That’s saying something considering some of the players they lost: Isaiah Taylor, Cameron Ridley, Javan Felix, Connor Lammert, and Prince Ibeh. Despite all of the losses, I’m a firm believer in the Longhorns this season. A lot of the belief in Texas comes from the Longhorns’ newcomers, namely big men McDonald’s All-American Jarrett Allen and James Banks. Both played for Smart on the USA U18 team so they should be able to come in and understand his system. They also bring in McDonald’s All-American Andrew Jones in the backcourt to play alongside Kendal Yancy and Kerwin Roach. While Texas will have to gain experience quickly, they have the talent to compete for a Big 12 title this season.
#5: Iowa State Cyclones (0-0)
Season Opener: 11/11 vs. Savannah State
Iowa State has been one of the top teams in the Big 12 the past few years, including a Sweet Sixteen run last year and 2014 and 2015 Big 12 tournament titles. Iowa State will also be losing some key contributors from a year ago, including Georges Niang, Jameel McKay, and Abdel Nader. The reason I have them below Texas is the lack of incoming talent that can help replace the players that have moved on. The Cyclones will have to rely heavily on their backcourt this season in order to be successful, especially last season’s Big 12 Newcomer of the Year Deonte Burton and Big 12 Player of the Year candidate Monte Morris.
#6: Oklahoma Sooners (0-0)
Season Opener: 11/13 vs. Northwestern State
No team this year is more likely to be hit by the Big 12 talent drain than Oklahoma. They have to replace Buddy Hield, Isaiah Cousins, and Ryan Spangler, all of whom scored over 1,000 career points and were All-Big 12 honorees. The Sooners should still have the talent to make it to the NCAA Tournament, but they will likely have to take a step back from their Final Four run last season. They return starters Khadeem Lattin and Jordan Woodard who will have to step up this season. The Sooners also brought in two ESPN 100 recruits, Kameron McGusty and Kristian Doolittle, who will be able to help replace the scoring lost from last season’s team.
#7: Oklahoma State Cowboys (0-0)
Season Opener: 11/11 vs. Campbell
The Cowboys welcome a new coach this year in Brad Underwood, the mastermind behind Stephen F. Austin’s recent rise to mid-major power. Underwood is a phenomenal coach and with the talent on this Oklahoma State roster, he could have them in the NCAA Tournament in year one. The Cowboys also return four starters from last season and get back sharpshooter Phil Forte III from a medical redshirt. Forte and sophomore guard Jawun Evans will make the Cowboys a tough team to beat for anyone and will get Underwood a huge boost in laying a winning foundation in Stillwater. Don’t be surprised to see this team shock some Big 12 foes.
#8: Kansas State Wildcats (0-0)
Season Opener: 11/11 vs. Western Illinois
It’s really hard to gauge what Kansas State will be able to do this season. Bruce Weber once again comes in with a talented roster, but has been known to underwhelm. If he does that again this season, Weber could start to feel is seat warming up. The Wildcats return three starters from a year ago, Wes Iwundu, Dean Wade, Kamau Stokes, but will have to replace last season’s leading scorer Justin Edwards. I expect the Wildcats to be competitive in Big 12 games, but ultimately finish toward the bottom of the conference.
#9: Texas Tech Red Raiders (0-0)
Season Opener: 11/11 vs. Houston Baptist
Texas Tech also welcomes in a new head coach this season in Chris Beard. Beard initially accepted the position at UNLV, but when Tubby Smith decided to leave Lubbock, Beard jumped on the opportunity to return to the school where he had been an assistant for ten years. He’s a solid coach that last season led Little Rock to a 30-5 season and NCAA Tournament upset of Purdue in his first year as a head coach. He will definitely have some work cut out for him since Tech lost their two leading scorers, Toddrick Gotcher and Devaugntah Williams. The Raiders will benefit from returning Norense Odiase, but it will be up to Beard to find the talent to put around him in order to be successful.
#10: Baylor Bears (0-0)
Season Opener: 11/11 vs. Oral Roberts
The school from Waco obviously comes in at #10 to start the year because, you know, they’re Baylor and such. Baylor is another team that will have the task of replacing some very talented players from a year ago. The Bears lost Taurean Prince, Rico Gathers, and Lester Medford, who all were major contributors for the team last season, combining for 36 points per game. For Baylor though, they have some experience returning starters Al Freeman and Ish Wainwright, and a potential NBA lottery pick in Johnathan Motley. If Motley plays up to his potential, he could be a serious contender to be Big 12 Player of the Year.