The Big 12, for the fourth straight season, is the best conference in the country. The ACC’s top two teams might be better than anyone in the Big 12, but every team but Iowa State is ranked in the top 50 on KenPom. Even Iowa State is ranked in the top 75.
With conference play starting on Friday, here’s my guess for how the league goes. These predictions are difficult because Kansas could add Billy Preston, a 5-star forward, who has been sitting out while the school deals with compliance issues. I’m also assuming Terry Maston returns by the fifth Big 12 game.
1) Kansas- The Jayhawks have shared or won outright the last 13 Big 12 titles. They have an immense home-court advantage, and despite fears about their depth, they still have the league’s best roster. Mitch Lightfoot still plays too much, and when they miss 3-point shots, they’re extremely vulnerable. But this team could get hot from deep and win the national title too.
2) West Virginia- Bob Huggins’ team has been awesome since their early season loss to Texas A&M. Jevon Carter might be the league’s second best player, and they still turn folks over. This team isn’t perfect, but they’re very good.
3) Oklahoma- This is the biggest surprise and jump from what I thought before the season. I knew Oklahoma would be a lot better this season, but Trae Young has been incredible. He might be the best college basketball player since Michael Beasley. The Sooners have some stretches where they’re not great. Still, they have the best player in the country.
4) Baylor- I predicted Baylor would go 12-6 before the season. Two things have me adjusting this downward. First, Maston’s injury means the Bears have less depth and will need to shoot a lot better to survive against great teams. Second, Oklahoma is a good clip better than I expected. The difference between 1-8 is not huge in this league, so it’s possible Baylor could finish anywhere (though it would take something catastrophic to finish 9th or 10th).
5) Texas Tech- I previewed Baylor-Texas Tech here. They’re No. 11 on KenPom and with apologies to Bob Knight, likely the best team in school history. Chris Beard has it going in year two.
6) TCU- Jamie Dixon was the perfect hire for the Horned Frogs. They have all five starters back from the NIT title team. Their schedule hasn’t been excellent, and KenPom is a little down on them, but they’re still a contender for the league title.
7) Texas- I think there’s a decent drop from the top six to the seventh best team. The Longhorns have one of the nation’s best defenses. I’m still very down on their offense. They don’t have to be that good to win a lot of games with their defense.
8) Kansas State- The Wildcats loss to Tulsa is going to require them to win a game or two more than they’d like to make the dance. Dean Wade and Barry Brown are awesome, so they might do it.
9) Oklahoma State- They looked quite good against Wichita State and knocked off Florida State. Despite having them ninth, they’re much better than I thought.
10) Iowa State- Yes, the Cyclones have run off nine straight wins. But on paper this is the worst team in the conference. Steve Prohm, like just about every Big 12 coach, is superb. He might get them near the bubble.