Top to bottom, the Big 12 is the best basketball conference in the country.
It isn’t particularly close.
Only one conference can say each of its members are arguably Top 50 teams in the nation. That’s the Big 12.
Each team has a very reasonable hope of getting to the NCAA Tournament.
Therefore, power ranking this conference is tough… Especially in Week 0, when not a single in-conference game has been played, and conference records are stuck at 0-0.
But - we’ll try, as unbiasedly as we can, to rank these teams, and give a little preview of each, before the Big 12 begins inter-conference play this weekend.
Right now, the best team in the Big 12.
If anyone had questions as to if the Longhorns could compete for a national title, they should’ve been answered in its 21-point domination of Gonzaga.
Still - some tumultuous times have hit in spurts in Austin. After a good win against Creighton, the Longhorns completely lost it to Illinois.
They then lost their head coach, as Chris Beard was arrested and remains away from the team.
The talent, and experience (10th most experienced team in Division 1), is clearly there with this Longhorns team, but its true test of handling adversity will come when Big 12 play commences.
This may be the best of the Longhorn defenses in years, ranking 16th in eFG% and 10th in turnover rate. Marcus Carr, the team’s clear leader, averages 1.9 steals per game.
He also leads Texas in points (15.6) and assists (4.3), while being a tremendous initiator.
While they’re tremendous on the defensive end, Texas is also scary offensively. The Longhorns are 11th in the country in 2-Point offense (60%), and are a very physical team, attacking the rim constantly.
The efficiencies, and size, of this Longhorn team have them a smidge above Kansas right now, but their biggest hurdle, other than losing Coach Beard, would come from 3-Point range.
The Longhorns shoot just 30.6% from three.
vs. TCU: 1/11; 3/1
Not many teams have a strong a non-conference resume as Kansas. The defending national champs lost FOUR starters from last season, but are still 11-1 with wins over Duke, Wisconsin, and Indiana.
Junior Jalen Wilson looks like one of the best players in the COUNTRY, leading the team in points (21.1), and rebounds (9.3) per game. He’s third on the team in assists (3.0) per game.
But - it doesn’t stop there.
Freshman Gradey Dick is shooting almost 50%!! from three, and is shooting them in bulk, and Kevin McCullar Jr. and Dajuan Harris Jr. are Top 50 in the country in steal rate.
The Jayhawks have talent all over the court.
This Kansas team ranks Top 15 in both adjusted offensive and defensive efficiency. They love to push into transition, and are 19th in assist rate; they move the ball well.
Ultimately, Bill Self has him another efficient offense and disruptive defense. One of the ONLY reasons I have them behind Texas (for now) is a lack of size. Wilson (6’8) starts at the 5, and no one taller than him sees more than double-digit minutes.
vs. TCU: 1/21; 2/20
Despite Baylor’s shaky non-conference performance, the Bears are still one of the top teams of the Big 12.
Bryce Drew’s squad has taken care of lesser competition, and remains undefeated in Waco, but it’s just 2-2 in Quadrant 1 games, which is something to worry about.
The strength of this season’s Baylor team is its offense. The Bears are 14th in the country in eFG%, 17th in offensive rebounding rate, and 10th in 2-Point offense. They shoot often - 19th in 3PA/FGA, and get to the free throw line frequently.
Led by the three-headed monster of Keyonte George, Adam Flagler, and LJ Cryer, they can score the ball from just about anywhere. All three average 15+ points per game.
While Flagler is the facilitator, and leads the team in assists, George is the workhorse, leading the team in shots, and Cryer is seemingly the perfect compliment to them both.
Defensively, though, the Bears’ aggression has led them to make mistakes. Baylor has a Top 25 turnover rate in the country, and commits tons of fouls. On top of this, opponents are assisting on 63% of all field goals, one of the worst rates in the country, and are shooting 37% from threes.
Ultimately, that’s what could be the downfall for Baylor. In its losses to Virginia and Marquette, those two teams lit it up from three. (Virginia shot 9-of-14, Marquette shot 12-of-25)
Baylor’s a physical team, who has the potential to overwhelm opponents with efficient shooting and defensive pressure, but they’ll only win the Big 12 if they can shore up the perimeter, and limit foul trouble.
vs. TCU: 1/4; 2/11
I’m putting the Frogs #4 at the moment. I think there are three “tiers” in the Big 12, with Texas, Kansas, and Baylor being in the 1st Tier, and the Frogs being at the top of the 2nd Tier.
TCU has had a pretty easy path so far, with a win over Iowa being its only Quadrant 1 win, and have often been short-handed this season.
The team’s leading scorers, Mike Miles and Emanuel Miller, have battled plaguing injuries (both look healthy now), and we all know that Damion Baugh served a six-game suspension to start the season.
Clearly, with a full squad, the Frogs can beat any team in that “1st Tier”; the perfect combination of experience and youth, and length and defensive intensity could wreak havoc on the Big 12.
The Frogs are a Top 20 team in opponent eFG% and 3-Point defense, while Top 30 in turnover rate and Top 40 in 2-Point defense. Defensively, the Frogs are STOUT, and are only going to get better as Big 12 play progresses.
Offensively, flashes of brilliance have shown, and the Frogs love to crash the offensive glass (Top 30), but have trouble finishing at the rim, and efficiently shooting the ball in general.
TCU is 177th in eFG%, and 293rd in 3-Point shooting. So far in non-conference play, the Frogs have won games by finishing at the rim, and drawing contact to get to the foul line, but will that succeed in Big 12 play?
The talent is clearly there, and you could argue the Frogs are the best defensive team in the conference; the team is incredibly athletic and strong, but will need to shoot better if they want to make ripples in the Big 12.
Which we all believe they CAN do.
#5 Texas Tech
So many were so, so high on this Texas Tech team. They’ve yet to show why.
I’m sure Mark Adams isn’t too hot on how his Red Raiders have started the season.
They’ve had an EASY non-conference schedule, but should enter Big 12 play 10-2; it’s best win was against Louisiana Tech. That says something.
In its two Quadrant 1 games, Tech lost to Creighton and Ohio State; they ALMOST lost to Nicholls State, and battled WAY too close with Eastern Washington.
Now, they have been without Utah Valley transfer Fardaws Aimaq, who’s been out due to injury, and who should be a key player for the Red Raiders. Aimaq averaged 18.9 points and 13.6 rebounds per game for the Wolverines last season.
When he’s back, he’ll form a scary tandem with 6’11 Daniel Batcho, who has looked tremendous so far in his sophomore season. Batcho is 2nd on the team in points (13.0), 1st in rebounds (8.3), and 1st in blocks (1.8). He’s a key piece for the Red Raiders, and his matchup against Eddie Lampkin in their upcoming game versus TCU should be interesting.
Of course, Kevin Obanor remains the star of the team, and is the leader of an offense which ranks Top 50 in eFG% and Top 40 in 2-Point percentage. (253rd in turnover rate, though).
And, defensively, Mark Adams has continued his run of coaching incredibly solid teams on that end. The Red Raiders are Top 15 in opponent turnover rate, and Top 60 in 2-Point defense and defensive rebounding.
While Tech hasn’t looked too impressive in its wins, opponents have had to shoot, and make, a lot of threes. 42.6% of shots taken from Creighton and Ohio State in those games were from beyond the arc (Red Raiders rank 115th in 3-Point defense).
But - there’s a clear recipe to beat this Red Raider team, and it’s why I’m not too convinced. If they commit 18 turnovers to Nicholls State, how many will they commit to Damion Baugh and TCU?
vs. TCU: 12/31; 2/25
#6 West Virginia
Bob Huggins’ Mountaineers have to be the Big 12’s biggest surprise. They were projected a bottom-tier team, and have been much better than all saw coming.
The Mountaineers have a COMPLETELY, brand new starting lineup, bringing in five senior transfers, and have double-digit wins over UAB, Florida, and Pittsburgh, who are all good-to-decent teams.
Bob Huggins teams are usually built on defensive intensity, and while they’re still 27th in turnover rate, this season’s Mountaineer team finds its success come from offense.
West Virginia is 18th in eFG%, and are Top 50 in both 2-Point and 3-Point offense. They rarely turn the ball over, and attack the glass and draw fouls often.
So far, it seems South Carolina transfer Erik Stevenson is the team’s new star. He’s averaging 14.4 points per game on 46.3% shooting from 3. He’s the Mountaineers’ main shot-taker and maker.
Despite the bevy of new transfers, chemistry doesn’t seem to be an issue in the slightest, which is a tenet to Huggins’ coaching, and are a deep and talented team. West Virginia is Top 50 in the country in bench minutes.
Uncharacteristically, if West Virginia wants to climb up these rankings, the squad will need to address its defensive woes. While forcing a lot of turnovers, the team is pretty much average elsewhere.
The BIGGEST issue is foul trouble. The Mountaineers commit WAY too many fouls; opponents score almost 22% of all points from the foul line. That won’t fly in the Big 12.
But - if the offense can keep clicking, watch out for West Virginia to make some major upsets within the conference.
vs. TCU: 1/18; 1/31
#7 Iowa State
We’re now in “Tier 3” of our Big 12 power rankings, where it gets quite a bit harder to deduce where these teams lie within the rankings.
Before these teams get to play each other, I think Iowa State is the best of the bottom-4.
The Cyclones will likely remain a middle-of-the-pack team, and are about as average as you can get, but they have a sneaky defense, and own the #1 rank in opponent turnover rate.
They’ve beaten Villanova, (then No. 1) North Carolina, and St. John’s, but have suffered blowout losses to Connecticut and Iowa, so they’re somewhat of a hard team to read.
While the Cyclones force turnovers well, the squad’s defense only ranks 257th in defensive rebounding, and allows way too many free throw attempts. Also - almost half the shots they give up are from beyond the arc.
But - with both C Robert Jones and C Osun Osunniyi playing, Iowa State is a much more sound defensive team, and these two are going to be key to the Cyclones’ Big 12 success.
The Cyclones’ roster is 8th in Division 1 experience, but as I’ve said, is quite average.
On top of this, offense is not the squad’s strength. Coach T.J. Otzelberger’s offense is very slow-paced, and they’re ranked outside the Top 200 in 3-Point shooting, and 180th in turnover rate. On top of this, they rarely draw fouls.
St. Bonaventure transfer Jaren Holmes has become the team’s best player, and primary ball handler, leading the team in points (13.8), and 2nd in assists (3.1).
The Cyclones aren’t a great team, but they already have some really good wins, so do they have the potential to make a couple upsets? Absolutely.
vs. TCU: 1/7; 2/15
Weirdest non-conference journey in the country?
The Cowboys lost to Southern Illinois in the team’s 2nd game, and STILL haven’t beaten a team inside the KenPom Top 80. Despite a STRONG defense, they’re barely 8-4 and are sitting at the bottom of the “Big 12 Standings”.
But - this still might be one of the strongest defenses in the country. The Cowboys are 10th in opponent eFG% and are Top 25 in defending the 2-and-3-Pointer. While not forcing many turnovers, and being average in committing fouls, they’re incredibly disruptive near the rim.
7’1 Moussa Cisse is a huge reason for that, and is 5th in the country with a 14.1 block rate. He doesn’t really have an impact offensively, but averages 10.5 rebounds and 3.1! blocks per game.
Cisse’s game, truly, is a microcosm of Oklahoma State in general; fantastic defensively, but shoddy offensively.
The Cowboys are 168th in eFG% and 260th in 3-Point shooting. They may rebound well, but they own a turnover rate ranked 307th.
So, while they may be able to overwhelm mid-major opponents, as they have early this season, the more physical teams in the Big 12 may make easy work of Oklahoma State.
But - I could see the Cowboys handling the speedier, shot-hopeful teams like Kansas State and Oklahoma, which is why I have them barely ranked above those two, for now.
vs. TCU: 2/4; 2/18
Putting Oklahoma before Kansas State was tough for me, just based on record alone, but I truly think eye test proves this.
After an early-season loss to Sam Houston State, the Sooners are seemingly beginning to find out who they are.
Oklahoma is the #3!! team in the country in eFG%, and are Top 15 in 2-Point and 3-Point offense. Like other Porter Moser teams have been, this season’s squad likes to play slow and methodically.
The Sooner’s new best player, Nevada transfer Grant Sherfield, is shooting an insane 55.4%!!!!! from three, and his play has combined tremendously with the play of the Groves’ brothers.
Jacob and Tanner, who are unquestionably the team’s heart and soul, are both Top 75 in the country in eFG%, and both score in double figures. Tanner, the stronger player of the two, is Top 20 in defensive rebounding, and Top 10 in 2-Point percentage.
But - while Oklahoma is incredibly efficient offensively, they rarely crash the glass. They like to get back quickly to set up their defense, which leads to the Sooners not forcing many turnovers.
They do rank Top 30 in 3-Point defense, though.
Ultimately, the Sooners glaring weakness has been their 2-Point defense, as opponents get 60% of their points from inside the perimeter. While they rebound well, their opponents’ shots are generally very good looks that drop with ease.
Teams with poor offenses, who can handle themselves defensively, could make simple work of Oklahoma, which is why I rank Oklahoma State a notch higher than the Sooners.
vs. TCU: 1/24; 3/4
#10 Kansas State
It just doesn’t feel right that an 11-1 team is the “worst” in the Big 12, but I think eye test shows that they’re truly not that impressive.
The Wildcats are, generally, one of the harder teams to read, as they’re often picked at the bottom of the conference, but will have a 4-1 record against KenPom Top 100 teams headed into Big 12 conference play.
Kansas State hired a new head coach over the summer, handing 20-year ex-Baylor assistant Jerome Tang the keys to the Little Apple, and it looks like he’s found early success.
Four starters are COMPLETELY new, and only one bench player (Ismael Massoud) played in Manhattan last season. So, again it’s a hard team to read.
Offensively, the Wildcats are a Top 5 team in the country in assist rate, but in contrast are also 234th in turnover rate. I’d label their offense “above-average”, and they primarily find their success on the inside.
Markquis Nowell, the Wildcats’ leader, has been incredibly effective, averaging 14.0 points and 8.1 assists per game, and the team’s leading scorer, Keyontae Johnson, is averaging 17.8 points per game, and is Top 25 in the country in True Shooting %.
While they’re nothing special offensively, the Wildcats aren’t anything special defensively either. While Kansas State ranks in the Top 15 in turnover rate, they barely squeak into the Top 100 in both 2-Point and 3-Point defense, and they foul a LOT.
On top of this, I could see the grueling Big 12 schedule beat this Wildcat team down.
The squad isn’t very deep, ranking only 264th in bench minutes. The conference schedule is daunting, and Nowell and Johnson could start to feel the team’s lack of depth on their legs.
Also - the Wildcats are only 294th in average height. That’s a recipe for disaster in the Big 12, even against the lowly Oklahoma State and Oklahoma, who have height all over the court.
While they’ve overachieved, I don’t see this one-loss record staying with K-State for long.
vs. TCU: 1/14; 2/7
WEEK 0 POWER RANKINGS:
- Texas Tech
- West Virginia
- Iowa State
- Oklahoma State
- Kansas State