Big 12 basketball preview and preseason rankings. Will it be Rock Chalk, Jayhawk hoisting the conference banner again?
The Big 12 will once again be Kansas’ world, and the Jayhawks’ combination of size inside and skill on the perimeter is going to have Bill Self’s team in the thick of the national championship race.
But the Jayhawks’ trip through the Big 12 isn’t going to be easy. Baylor, Iowa State and Oklahoma are going to push them hard, and this is going to be a league that will spend January and February beating up on one another. The addition of Shaka Smart at Texas should add an extra wrinkle and make this an intriguing league.
Big 12 Basketball Preseason Rankings
1. Kansas Jayhawks
A combination of experience and sheer talent is going to once again make this a fun year at KU, but Jayhawk fans are also tired of the story finding a disappointing ending in March. Perry Ellis, Frank Mason and Wayne Selden have played a lot of basketball and will provide plenty of leadership, and the yearly influx of talent comes this year in the form of center Cheick Diallo. Diallo is still waiting to hear on his eligibility—you know, the pesky NCAA and their rules—but if he’s in the lineup, Bill Self is going to have the tools to make a deep run in the NCAA Tourney.
2. Iowa State Cyclones
Fred Hoiberg is gone. That’s bad. But Georges Niang is back. That’s good. Niang will be joined by Jameel McKay and Monte Morris to help keep things rolling in Ames, and the Cyclones will face sky-high expectations under new head coach Steve Prohm. This is a team with the size inside and the talent on the perimeter to challenge for a Big 12 title, and this will be a tough out in the NCAA Tournament. Look for the good times to keep rolling at ISU.
3. Oklahoma Sooners
Do yourself a favor and make it a point to see OU guard Buddy Hield in action this season. The kid can score from anywhere on the floor, and he does a great job of setting up his teammates. The good news is he also has a lot of talent around him. Isaiah Cousins is a great complement on the perimeter, and Khadeem Lattin handles his business on the glass. Throw in Ryan Spangler, and the Sooners will boast one of the better frontcourts in the league.
4. West Virginia Mountaineers
WVU reached the Sweet 16 last season, and that experience should have the Mountaineers hungry this year. Head coach Bob Huggins welcomes back three seniors and four juniors, and forward Devin Williams will be a catalyst on the glass. Freshman Esa Ahmad will inject even more athleticism into the paint, and Huggins’ teams always play with a chip on their shoulders. This will be a competitive team all season and could make some noise in the Big 12.
5. Texas Longhorns
New head coach Shaka Smart has Longhorn fans buzzing. He has some experienced players on his roster, but getting that group to play the style Smart likes to bring to the floor could present some challenges. Look for guard Isaiah Taylor to bring leadership to the lineup, and he should expand his scoring and passing this year. Cameron Ridley will help inside, but this is a team in transition, and there could be some inconsistency this season.
6. Baylor Bears
The Bears are going to fly a little under the radar this year, but Scott Drew has something nice going at Baylor. Rico Gathers is a man among boys in the Big 12 and is a conference POY candidate, and Johnathan Motley and Taurean Prince give the Bears the balance they need to succeed. Yeah, they’ll miss Royce O’Neale and Kenny Chery on the outside, but this is a team that loves to play the underdog and will have a chip on its shoulder all season.
7. TCU Horned Frogs
TCU was solid last season, but losing the top four scorers from last season, including Kenrich Williams, who is out for the year with a knee injury, is going to handcuff the Horned Frogs. Karviar Shepard will look to bounce back from a so-so sophomore season, and TCU needs him to reach his potential and provide a rudder for this program. Head coach Trent Johnson has to find a lot of answers this season, but he has shown patience and will make sure no one panics.
8. Oklahoma State Cowboys
OSU has fielded some talented teams in recent years, but the Cowboys will take a bit of a step back this season. Oh, they won’t fall off a cliff or anything—Phil Forte will make sure that doesn’t happen—and the addition of freshman point guard Juwan Evans will bring some balance and scoring to the floor. Getting Jeff Newberry to produce inside to help fill the void left by Le’Bryan Nash’s departure will be the key to success or failure for Oklahoma State this year.
9. Kansas State Wildcats
Bruce Weber’s time at KSU started off nicely, but after battling with Marcus Foster last season and seeing a chunk of the roster follow Foster out of town, the heat is getting turned up on Weber. He’s also left with a lot of question marks. Justin Edwards is the team’s leading returning scorer at 6.3 points a game, but he can be inconsistent. Stephen Hurt is another piece inside, but he struggles with fouls and is usually out of shape. Weber has his hands full to find some answers before the folks in Manhattan get too riled up.
10. Texas Tech Red Raiders
Head coach Tubby Smith welcomes back plenty of experience from last year’s 13-19 team, and there is some talent to pull off some upsets. That said, Texas Tech is unquestionably a step below their Big 12 brethren in terms of talent from top to bottom, and consistency is going to be an issue. Devaugntah Williams is a perfect example. When he’s hot, he ranks among the best scorers in the conference. When he’s not hot, he’s, uh, yeah… let’s just say he’s not very good. He has to pick his spots to assert himself and show better judgment on the floor.