Kansas has typically been the team to beat in the Big 12 over the last decade and a half, but they won’t enter the 2020-21 season as the favorite.
That distinction belongs to a Baylor team bringing mostly everyone back from a group that went 26-4 a year ago. The Bears were dealing with some uncertainty but, with Jared Butler and MaCio Teague both opting to withdrawal from the NBA Draft, Scott Drew’s squad was solidified as the clear favorite in the conference. They might be the preseason #1 team nationally, too.
Those two programs had some classic battles a year ago and will headline the Big 12 race again, but the conference is expected to be the country’s most competitive. Five teams, or half the conference, made an appearance in my post-draft deadline top 25 rankings. All of them have legitimate hopes of winning a Big 12 title, though that goal is certainly more realistic for some.
That group doesn’t even include Oklahoma State, which will be led the nation’s top incoming recruit in Cade Cunningham, or an Oklahoma team that returns many key pieces from last season’s third place team.
In short, the Big 12 is loaded again. Here’s everything you need to know about what might be the best conference in the country.
10. KANSAS STATE WILDCATS
Last season: 11-21 (3-15 Conf); No. 105 in DPI
Head coach: Bruce Weber (9th year with school)
Key returners: Mike McGuirl, DaJuan Gordon
Notable newcomers: Nijel Pack, Rudi Williams
K-State was dreadful in 2019-20 and has to replace its three best players. Head coach Bruce Weber has brought in a good amount of talent over the last two years, but those underclassmen will be thrown into the fire in 2020-21 before they’re ready. The Wildcats may see that pay off in 2021-22, but this coming season will be all about growing pains.
9. IOWA STATE CYCLONES
Last season: 12-20 (5-13 Conf); No. 117 in DPI
Head coach: Steve Prohm (6th year with school)
Key returners: Rasir Bolton, Solomon Young
Notable newcomers: Jalen Coleman-Lands, Xavier Foster
Tyrese Haliburton led Iowa State in points, rebounds, assists, and steals before suffering a season-ending wrist injury, and that production is why he’s expected to be a top 10 pick in the NBA Draft. That’s not good for the Cyclones, as they really struggled, as expected, without their star.
Rasir Bolton and Solomon Young are solid pieces, Tre Jackson showed flashes of promise as a freshman, and incoming top 70 recruit Xavier Foster should be an impact player. But the roster depth still isn’t there for this group, and I don’t know how much they’ll be able to improve defensively (147th in KenPom AdjD last year).
8. TCU HORNED FROGS
Last season: 16-16 (7-11 Conf); No. 103 in DPI
Head coach: Jamie Dixon (5th year with school)
Key returners: RJ Nembhard, Kevin Samuel
Notable newcomers: Kevin Easley, Charles O’Bannon
Jamie Dixon has done a good job of establishing a culture at his alma mater and there are some good, young pieces in place. RJ Nembhard, PJ Fuller, and Kevin Samuel have all shown flashes of excellence, but they’re probably a year away from consistently competing given the overall strength at the top of the conference.