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What If Wednesday: 2017-2018 Big 12 Basketball Champions?

NCAA Basketball: Texas A&M CC at Baylor Ray Carlin-USA TODAY Sports

Kansas is once again the favorite to win the Big 12 regular season basketball title, and for good reason—they’re on a 13 title streak dating back to 2005. But this year seems uniquely opportune for the Bears to make a legitimate run at the title. The main reason is that much of the Big 12 is down and rebuilding. This should help stop Baylor from taking unnecessary losses from other teams also competing for the title—which always seems to happen when everyone clobbers each other trying to get on a level playing field with Kansas.

Here’s how the conference briefly looks:

Iowa State=hot garbage. They are currently 0-2 with blowout losses to Missouri and Milwaukee at home. Iowa State is in the situation Oklahoma was last year but far worse. They’ll likely bottom out the Big 12. Baylor will sweep them.

Kansas is obviously, once again, the team to beat in the Big 12. With a win last night over Kentucky their season is off to another strong start. Kansas has to replace POTY Frank Mason and lottery pick Josh Jackson. But there is still a lot of talent there. That being said, as is the theme of this article, Kansas will be down compared to last year. Baylor HAS to take care of business against Kansas at least at home for this “What If” to be a possibility.

Kansas State likely won’t be a major contender this year. To the surprise of many, Kansas State elected to keep coach Bruce Weber who many thought would be fired. The talent level just isn’t there to legitimately compete. Making the tournament would be the absolute best case scenario for the Wildcats. Baylor matches up well with their newfound offensive strengths and consistent defense and should be able to sweep KState.

Oklahoma will be interesting. They regressed significantly last year after their Final Four run two years ago, led by standout Buddy Hield. The Sooners look to build on their experience and make strides forward under the direction of outstanding coach Lon Kruger. The Sooners will likely be better than last year and land at a solid 4th or 5th best in the conference. This could be tricky for Baylor but the Bears will likely be the better team this year.

Oklahoma State was picked by many to be the bottom of the Big 12. With Iowa State’s meltdown this wont be the case, but they still won’t be world beaters. They’re going to have to lean heavily on grad-transfer Kendall Smith who looked shaky in his first game. The distraction of the ongoing FBI probe, with Jeffrey Carroll sitting out because of it, doesn’t help either. Baylor should be able to sweep the Cowboys this year without a slipup.

TCU is poised to be a legitimate contender this year. Riding the momentum of an NIT championship last year, coach Jamie Dixon has a team loaded with experience. Desmond Bane has looked outstanding in this early season and Vladimir Brodziansky is always a difficult matchup. But, Baylor had TCU’s number last year with a similar cast of players and I think the Bears will match up favorably once again this year, at least splitting games.

Texas has a lot of young talent this year, with the Longhorns looking to lean on Freshmen Matt Coleman and Mohamed Bamba (who is currently out due to a concussion). The loss of first round draft pick, Jarret Allen, will certainly hurt the Longhorns and this inexperienced team that struggled last year will likely struggle some again this year. Baylor, who always plays with fire against the Longhorns, should be up to face this unproven team with the Bears’ veteran talent.

Texas Tech is interesting. I think they’ll likely be a pretty good middle of the pack team. They return their top two scorers from last year’s tournament team. Chris Beard is looking to keep things moving in the right direction. This could be a team to watch out for if Baylor is going get tripped up, but I think the Bears will certainly be the overall better team.

West Virginia was riding a lot of preseason hype behind veteran point guard Jevon Carter and Bob Huggins’ always difficult full court press. But, an early season blowout loss to Texas A&M seems to have put some of this hype in check. Point guard play is critical in breaking the press, and luckily for Baylor, Manu Lecompte and Jake Lindsey have looked phenomenal thus far. I think Baylor can handle West Virginia this year.

All that to say, I think Baylor matches up well against a largely down Big 12 conference. This “What If” will rely heavily on taking care of business against a strong KU team. But, unlike years past, I think the Bears have less of a threat of getting tripped up in random/unexpected games. If there was ever a year for the Bears to break KU’s regular season conference title streak, this could very well be the year. But for now, the team’s eyes are focused firmly on an extremely difficult nonconference schedule. Sic ‘em!