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New Look Big 12: Still the Best in the Country? Maybe, but Not This Year.

Updated: Aug 31

College basketball has been sorely missed in my household this summer. I like the warmer weather and long days, but my favorite time the year runs from the end of October to the first couple weeks in April. Yes, football’s starting, and I love football, but there’s just a special place for college basketball in our household. Like the content? Follow me: @BracketNky on Twitter and @bracketnky on Instagram/Threads.

I’m starting to dive into how these teams are going to stack up this year, starting with the 6 power conferences, and moving on down after that. I’m planning a breakdown a week leading into my pre-season bracket release on halloween. Each of the conference articles are starting out as smaller previews and will get more detailed as we go, and I’ll be continually updating as information is available. My final rankings and prediction for the conference will come out closer to the start of the season, this is more of a first take overview as I get more familiar with each team going into the preseason. Please don’t hesitate to give me feedback on why a team deserves something different than I have them at. Unfortunately, this isn’t my full-time job and I don’t have enough time to deeply analyze each roster.

The data I’m using to help guide me comes from Bart Torvik’s predictions for the year, along with looking at stats from last year. Of course, these aren’t exact numbers and likely won’t be perfectly accurate in predicting the year, but it does give a baseline for each team’s outlook.

Big 12 First Look:

I took the Big East as the best conference when I started my previews. I stand by that, however, it’s not going to be a runaway and it could honestly be a battle between the Big East and Big 12 for the #1 conference this year. My big question is how well will the incoming four schools do? Houston’s clearly the class of the new teams, but who’s second? My pick is BYU, but Cincinnati will have something to say about that.

1. Kansas: Landing Hunter Dickinson and returning Dajuan Harris Jr. is enough for me to pick the Jayhawks to win the league this year. The bring back 43.2% of their possession minutes from last year, and on top of Dickinson, they brought Nicholas Timberlake in from Towson, and he’s one of the transfers I’m high on, and I think that Kansas’s portal haul this year is likely to be the best in the country. Bill Self & Co. should be in the mix for a 1 seed come March.

2. Texas: The Longhorns are looking to go out of the Big 12 with a BANG in both football and basketball this year. Returners Tyrese Hunter, Dillon Mitchell, Brock Cunningham and Dylan Disu figure to be key players this year, but the Longhorns restocked this year in the portal, adding Max Abams, Kaydin Shedrick and Ithiel Horton. Year 1 under Rodney Terry should be a solid start and help them capitalize off of their elite 8 run last year, and head to the SEC with a ton of momentum. I look for them to be a protected seed this year and challenge toward the top of the Big 12.

3. Houston: The Cougars are going to come in and make an immediate impact. Kelvin Sampson and co. should fit right in in the Big 12. Bringing in LJ Cryer and returning Jamal Shead would set any team up for instant success. Add in J’Wan Roberts, Damian Dunn, and the rest of this roster, and this is a team I could see really challenging Kansas for the Big 12 title. Houston will likely play at a size disadvantage a good portion of this year, and when they need to go bigger, the only players listed on the roster at 6’8” and above are both freshmen. I like Houston to get a protected seed and compete at the top of the conference this year and for years to come.

4. Baylor: Scott Drew Stan here; he’s a great coach, and we’re about to see that this year. Adding RayJ Dennis, Jayden Nunn, a loaded freshman class, and wildcard JUCO transfer Yanis Ndjonga should give the Bears all the tools they need to compete nationally this year. I expect it to take a bit for Baylor to get going, but come Big 12 play, they’ll be daunting each night. A top 6 seed this year should be within grasp.

Starting here, I’m not confident in this order, and they could end up in a variety of results come the end of the year.

5. TCU: I’m high on the Horned Frogs this year. Per BT, there are 8 seniors on this roster. This team is the most experienced in the Big 12, and Jamie Dixon’s a heck of a coach that I expect to be able to mold these guys into a solid team. Avery Anderson, Jameer Nelson Jr. and Ernest Udeh Jr. should be immediate impact transfers who will mesh right into the Horned Frogs roster. I could see them competing with the top four on this list this year, but I’m leaving them here because I want to see how the team meshes together. TCU should be in the bracket come March, and I expect them to be at the top of the Big 12.

6. Kansas State: I loved K-State last year, watching Nowell was awesome. This year, however, they won’t be as surprising for people when they’re good. That being said, Bringing in Tylor Perry, and Arthur Kaluma should bring a solid offensive lightning bolt this year. Kaluma was great at Creighton, and I see no reason that won’t transfer to the Big 12 this year. Tylor Perry is a baller & while I won’t predict him to follow what Nowell did last year, he fits that mold of player, and I expect him to be a volume scorer for the Wildcats. I expect some regression from last year, but I expect this team to be dancing come March.

7. Texas Tech: Last season just wasn’t it; they were the casualty of how hyper competitive the Big 12 was last year. Now, they’re back with a new coach and a new look roster. Bringing in Joe Toussaint, Darrion Williams, Devan Cambridge and Warrant Washington should make the Red Raiders ready to compete this year. The problem is that this team is so new, and Grant McCasland while proven in the lower ranks, needs to prove it on this level, and this year is going to be a great chance for them to do that. This roster has the talent, but can they mesh and make it work? If they do, The Red Raiders should be dancing this March.

8. West Virginia: Transfer. Kings. The work done this year in the portal is crazy good. New (interim) coach for this year, and basically a new roster, returning just 9.5% of their possession minutes. Eilert’s got his work cut out for him this year with basically a new team; if, somehow, this team can mesh together, Eilert should find home in Morgantown. The talent’s in the building, it’s now up to the coaching to prove they belong. Kriisa, Edwards and Battle are going to be a three headed monster that should intimidate opponents, and WVU is going to have the option to play crazy big at times by throwing Edwards and Akok Akok on the court together. I like WVU this year, and they’ve got potential to be squarely in the bracket come March.

9. Iowa State: Every year, the Cyclones are underrated, and typically, they play above expectations. Can they keep it up this year? If they don’t, things could be rough in the new Big 12. They don’t return a ton of minutes from last years team, and they didn’t do much in the portal compared to their conference peers. They’re likely going to need to rely on some freshmen to give them some big minutes, and they’re going to be reliant on Lipsey to make that freshman → sophomore jump. As is normal in the transfer portal era, they’re going to have to mesh quickly in the non-conference season to have a chance at making the bracket. This is likely a bubble team this year, unless they overachieve… again.

10. BYU: I’m taking BYU to surprise some this year and maybe even make the tournament. They bring back 69% of their possession minutes from last year, and they added shooting in Dawson Baker and Aly Khalifa to the roster this year, my biggest question is that I don’t know if they will be able to adapt to the Big 12 quick enough, but if they’re able to, they could be dangerous. I look for them to be at minimum competitive in the Big 12 this year, and likely hanging around the bubble → 10 seed range with some upside if they mesh well.

The bottom Tier of the conference: Teams with an outside chance to make the bracket, but teams I’m low on.

11. Oklahoma State: Returning Bryce Thompson and John-Michael Wright the lead this team could set the Cowboys up for success, but they’re going to need Javon Small, Russell Harrison, Jarius Hicklen and their freshmen to come in and provide some support in this rotation. I don’t love what the Cowboys have, and it could be yet another difficult year for them in the Big 12.

12. Cincinnati: Wes Miller needs to prove what he’s got as a big time coach before the loyal Bearcat fanbase turn on him. This is a program that’s used to being good, and its been a while since they’ve been good. Combine that with getting beat by their crosstown rival Xavier 4 years in a row, and Bearcat basketball’s no longer the #1 program on campus (mainly due to the football programs ascension). They brought Simas Lukosius in from Butler to lead this team into the Big 12. They also brought in Aziz Bandaogo, and Jamie Reynolds to create a big time presence inside. With the incoming transfers, combined with Viktor Lahkin and Ody Oguama, they accomplish this. Jizzle James and Rayon Griffith are solid recruits who need to come in and provide a spark as freshmen. Finally, CJ Fredrick of Covington, KY, by way of Iowa and Kentucky arrived this off-season and the Bearcat faithful are hoping he can stay healthy. If he does, he should pair well with Simas and provide some outside shooting they really need. An NCAA tournament birth isn’t out of the question, but I don’t have faith in Miller to get it done. More to come on my local preview in the coming months!

13. Oklahoma: The Sooner’s final trip through the Big 12 is likely going to be rough. They only return around 1/4th of their minutes from last year, but they did pretty well in the portal, a lot of this year is just trying to get this team to mesh and be cohesive. Returning Milos Uzan who shot 41% from 3 last year is a great place to start with this team; while he only took 71 attempts, if he could keep it at >37% this year, that would be great for the Sooners. In the portal, they brought in some shooting in Dathard, and McCollum, a presence down low in Hugley IV, and a solid guard/wing in Soares. They should have one solid experience this year, but this team lacks size outside of Hugley, and I expect them to struggle this year.

14. UCF: Demarr Langford from BC is a DUDE, and combined with Jaylin Sellers, Shemarri Allen and Ibrahima Diallo, there’s some hope for this team to open up this year and be better than their current projection of >100 per BT. I don’t think they’re dancing come March, and I expect the Knights to struggle greatly this year.

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