The Big 12 was one of the most talented and exciting conferences in 2017-18, and this year will be no different. While household names like Trae Young, Jevon Carter, and Devonte Graham are all gone, there are still plenty of stars that every college hoops fan will know by March. Will the Big 12 be able to match the seven NCAA bids the conference received last year? Read below to find that answer and how I think the conference standings will shake out.
10. Oklahoma St.
The Cowboys are in for a rough year following the loss of their best three players. No returning player averaged double figures last year, though they do get a boost with grad transfer point guard Mike Cunningham (SC Upstate) coming in. While this young roster has potential and will improve throughout the season, they will struggle to get wins in a tough Big 12.
Postseason Projection: none
The Sooners got exposed last January as a one-man team. Trae Young is gone now, and though they do have Maine transfer Aaron Calixte (17 ppg) coming in to run the show, they still lack the all-around talent to be a factor in this league.
Postseason Projection: none
The Bears roster features a lot of new faces, as the top four leading scorers from last year have all departed. They have some capable guys stepping in, including transfers Makai Mason (Yale) and Mario Kegler (Miss. St.) who have impressive track records, as well as four-star freshman Matthew Mayer and Florent Thamba. The Bears will also need big years from returning guys King McClure, Mark Vital, and Tristan Clark to earn a tournament bid, but ultimately, I just don’t think they have enough to make it happen.
Postseason Projection: NIT
7. Texas Tech
Chris Beard’s team was one of the college basketball’s most pleasant surprises last season, as they made it to the Elite 8 and were consistently ranked in the top 10. A ton of production was lost from that team, but they still have plenty of talent and with Beard’s leadership, they look destined for the tournament again. Sophomore guard Jarret Culver is poised for a big year, and he’ll have some help on the wing in senior South Dakota transfer Matt Mooney (19 ppg).
Postseason Projection: 11 seed (last 4 in)
This Longhorns team has the look of a typical Shaka Smart club. There’s no true superstar, but he’s built a deep roster that has speed and athleticism and a bunch of different guys able to carry the load. Expect big years from senior guard Kerwin Roach Jr. and freshman forward Gerald Liddell.
Postseason projection: 9 seed
Jamie Dixon wants to improve on last year’s historic season, and he has the weapons to do so. Point guard Alex Robinson starred last year when he was forced into an increased role after Jaylen Fisher’s injury, and his growth will pay huge dividends this season. Fisher comes back from a torn ACL, and if he can get back to his freshman form, it’ll pair him with Robinson and make them arguably the top back-court in the league. Vlad Brodziansky and Kenrich Williams will be missed, but Desmond Bane and JD Miller are poised for breakout years, and Dixon brought in a great recruiting class that will provide depth. This team has the feel of a squad that will get exponentially better as the season progresses, and that nobody will want to see in March.
Postseason Projection: 6 seed
4. Iowa State
I love this Iowa State roster. They have a very talented back-court in all-american candidate Lindell Wigginton and senior playmaker Nick Babb, a skilled post-player in Cameron Lard, and an impact transfer in forward Maryiol Shayok (Virginia), who brings in great toughness and defense that the Cyclones lacked last season. They also have great depth as Steve Prohm could play 10-11 guys. Expect the Cyclones to have a huge turnaround this season, as finishing in the top half of the conference seems very doable despite 2018’s last place finish.
Postseason projection: 5 seed
3. West Virginia
All-time Mountaineer great Jevon Carter is gone, as is his four-year running mate Daxter Miles. However, Bob Huggins’s team boasts one of the nation’s best front-courts, and he’s reloaded in the back-court, as highly touted freshman Brandon Knapper and Jordan McCabe join last year’s sixth man Beetle Bolden. With the talent and depth not dropping off too much from a year ago and the game’s best rim protector Sagaba Konate back giving opposing coaches nightmares, “Press” Virginia will be alive and well again in 2018-19.
Postseason Projection: 4 seed
2. Kansas St.
The Wildcats return all five starters from last year’s surprise Elite 8 club, and should be riding high from that run entering this season. Dean Wade, Barry Brown, and Xavier Snead all averaged double figures last season in a well-balanced offensive attack. Senior Kamau Stokes is a steady hand at point guard, and you can expect him to play with more confidence and have a breakout season. Talented experience is a rare commodity in college hoops these days, but it’s something the Wildcats possess and will likely equate to a lot of winning.
Postseason Projection: 3 seed
Many experts are picking the Jayhawks to win it all this season, and for good reason; the Jayhawks are absolutely loaded. There are a ton of new faces in the program, a combination of freshman and transfers that are all extremely talented. Memphis transfers (and brothers) Dedric and K.J. Lawson are both stud forwards, and many believe Dedric is the best player in the Big 12. Cal transfer Charlie Moore and five star freshman Devon Dotson will make for a great point guard duo, and they’ll have a stellar back-court mate in freshman Quentin Grimes, a likely lottery pick. Oh, and star center Udoka Azubuike and wing LaGerald Vick are also back. This roster is just ridiculous, and the biggest problem Bill Self will have is figuring out how to get all these guys minutes.
Postseason Projection: 1 seed