The Big XII released its 2022-23 Men’s Basketball Preseason Poll yesterday. The Baylor Bears (who have won a whopping 84% of their conference games over the past 3 seasons) are on top of those rankings and the apparent favorite to win the league heading into the new season.
I will, as many others have already done, point out that the last time Baylor was picked by the league’s coaches to win the conference in the preseason, they actually took it a step or two further and won the national title.
It’s nice to know that the coaches of the conference have so much respect for Coach Drew and this program. It’s hard to blame them for putting the Bears on top. Baylor boasts one of the best backcourts in the nation in addition to having a frontcourt headlined by experienced big man, Flo Thamba, and talented transfers, Jalen Bridges and Caleb Lohner.
Going down the rest of the list, Kansas (4) and Texas (1) were the only other schools to receive first place votes. The Jayhawks will be stout, as they seemingly always are, despite the loss of Ochai Agbaji, Christian Braun, and David McCormack. They bring in former Red Raider, Kevin McCullar and several highly regarded high school prospects. Texas looks great on paper bringing in former Cyclone, Tyrese Hunter, and a pair of 5-star high school prospects. We’ll see if the Longhorns finally are able to live up to their preseason hype.
Oklahoma State and Texas Tech were tied for 5th in the poll. I have serious reservations about the Cowboys this season, as discussed in Part 1 of my conference Mega Preview, but it’s hard not to like Coach Boynton and they do bring back a number of good players including Avery Anderson III. Texas Tech could end up finishing much higher than this if their transfer center, Fardaws Aimaq, is able to return from injury and play to his typical standard of performance.
Oklahoma and Iowa State were picked to finish 7th and 8th respectively. I like the Sooners. They bring back Jalen Hill and Tanner Groves while bringing in a good mix of transfers and high school recruits who should be able to contribute right away. Iowa State, meanwhile, will once again be tasked with integrating a multitude of new transfers.
West Virginia and Kansas State round out the poll in the bottom two slots. The Mountaineers struggled mightily in conference play a year ago and lost a fantastic trio of guards, Taz Sherman, Sean McNeil, and Malik Curry. Bob Huggins is now officially a hall-of-famer, but I tend to agree with the coaches of the Big XII that West Virginia could be in store for another difficult campaign. Kansas State, on the other hand, I must admit I am more bullish on. Yes, they have a new head coach who’s never been in that position before. Still, I can’t help but love Jerome Tang and believe that he’ll do well in his new job. Yes, they lost all but 2 players to the transfer portal. Still, they have a tremendous amount of experience and I think they’ll surprise a lot of people this season.
It cannot be said enough, that the Big XII is the best and the deepest men’s basketball conference in the nation. There are countless opinions out there about what order these teams will finish this season. All of them are talented enough to make the NCAA Tournament in my opinion. It is a meatgrinder of a conference. Let’s hope that the Bears are every bit as good as this poll suggests they are.