The Big 12 is in the familiar spot of coming off a season in which a competitive race for the league’s regular season crown was shared by multiple teams, and where one of the conference’s squads nearly won the national title. The only difference is that in 2018-19, neither one of those roles was played by Kansas.
The Jayhawks appear poised to return to their familiar spots both atop the Big 12 standings and in thick of the national title hunt in 2019-20. They’ll be met with significant resistance, however, most notably from the squad that came up just short of capturing the conference’s first national championship in over a decade.
With just over 100 days to go until college basketball returns, let’s look at the state of the Big 12.
10. TCU HORNED FROGS
2018-19 Record: (23-14, 7-11)
2018-19 Big 12 Finish: T-7th
Jamie Dixon has a star guard in senior Desmond Bane and an exciting big man in redshirt sophomore Kevin Samuel. After that is where things get dicey. After losing Kendric Davis and Jaylen Fisher to transfer and Kouat Noi to a surprise decision to play professionally overseas, Dixon has found himself staring at some unexpected holes this offseason. If they’re going to be filled adequately, freshman P.J. Fuller and UT-Arlington transfer Edric Dennis are going to need to be stellar right from the jump.
9. KANSAS STATE WILDCATS
2018-19 Record: (25-9, 14-4)
2018-19 Big 12 Finish: T-1st
On paper, no team in the Big 12 appears poised to take a larger step down from last season than Kansas State. The Wildcats shared the league’s regular season title with Texas Tech and earned a No. 4 seed in the NCAA tournament (don’t ask how that went), but the heart of that squad — Barry Brown, Kamau Stokes and Dean Wade — is completely gone. Xavier Sneed will need to step up and be the team’s star in his final collegiate season. Proven juniors Cartier Diarra and Mike McGuirl and JuCo point guard transfer David Sloan give Bruce Weber some backcourt options to work with.
8. OKLAHOMA SOONERS
2018-19 Record: (20-14, 7-11)
2018-19 Big 12 Finish: T-7th
It’s tough to find a handle on what exactly to expect from this Oklahoma team in 2019-20. Brady Manek and Kristian Doolittle are both established players who averaged double figures last season, but neither has ever been the focal point of a Sooner offense. The play of talented freshman point guard De’Vion Harmon should go a long way towards determining just how competitive Lon Krueger’s team can be in the Big 12.
7. WEST VIRGINIA MOUNTAINEERS
2018-19 Record: (15-21, 4-14)
2018-19 Big 12 Finish: 10th
In 37 seasons as a head coach, Bob Huggins has never had back-to-back losing seasons. Don’t expect that fact to be altered by the results of season 38.
West Virginia was one of college basketball’s biggest disappointments in 2018-19, struggling through injuries, in-season dismissals, and ultimately a last-place finish in the Big 12. Sagaba Konate declaring for the draft was an expected blow, but his shoes should be adequately filled by the addition of five-star freshman big man Oscar Tshiebwe. The frontcourt also brings back Derek Culver, who nearly averaged a double-double for the Mountaineers in his freshman season. The transfer of James “Beetle” Bolden to Albama should result in sophomore point guard Jordan McCabe stepping into a larger role.
West Virginia will be much younger than Huggins would prefer in 2019-20, but the pieces are there to take a necessary step towards getting the program back to where the head coach expects it to be.
6. TEXAS LONGHORNS
2018-19 Record: (21-16, 8-10)
2018-19 Big 12 Finish: 6th
It certainly feels like now or never for Shaka Smart in Austin. Entering year five on the job, Smart — formerly the hottest young name in all of college coaching — has yet to lead the Longhorns to a single NCAA tournament victory. Matt Coleman and Courtney Ramey should form a solid backcourt, but Smart has to figure out a way to adequately replace the services of big man Jaxson Hayes, the No. 8 overall pick in June’s NBA Draft.
5. OKLAHOMA STATE COWBOYS
2018-19 Record: (12-20, 5-13)
2018-19 Big 12 Finish: 9th
Much of the talk surrounding Oklahoma State basketball right now revolves around the potential commitment of Cade Cunningham, arguably the best player in the class of 2020. While Stillwater and the rest of the world waits to see what Cunningham does, there are still plenty of reasons for Cowboy fans to be enthusiastic about the present. Mike Boynton’s second season produced just 12 wins, but all five starters are back from that squad. A top 25 recruiting class and UMass grad transfer Jonathan Laurent also join the fold.
4. IOWA STATE CYCLONES
2018-19 Record: (23-12, 9-9)
2018-19 Big 12 Finish: 5th
Steve Prohm will be relying on a lot of unproven commodities to have success in 2019-20, but the one battle-tested piece he does at his disposal is a big one. Tyrese Haliburton was a surprise star and fan favorite as a freshman last season, going from a guy many thought might be redshirted to one who out-shined the other, more highly-touted members of his recruiting class. After leading USA Basketball’s U19 team to a gold medal at the FIBA World Cup this summer, Haliburton is back in Ames and ready to be the focal point of an Iowa State squad looking to build on a solid, but not spectacular 2018-19 campaign. The addition of Colorado State transfer Prentiss Nixon, who is eligible after sitting out last season per NCAA transfer rules, should also be a significant boost.
3. BAYLOR BEARS
2018-19 Record: (20-14, 10-8)
2018-19 Big 12 Finish: 4th
After missing the last 20 games of the 2018-19 season, Tristan Clark is back, healthy, and poised to be one of the names at the center of the Big 12 Player of the Year race. Fellow starters and double figure scorers Jared Butler and Mario Kegler also return from last season’s 20-win squad, which saw its campaign come to a close with a loss to top-seeded Gonzaga in the NCAA tournament’s second round. The addition of transfers Davion Mitchell (Auburn) and Macio Teague (UNC Asheville) should bolster the Bears backcourt significantly.
2. TEXAS TECH RED RAIDERS
2018-19 Record: (31-7, 14-4)
2018-19 Big 12 Finish: T-1st
In back-to-back years, Chris Beard had produced the best seasons in the history of Texas Tech basketball. The more recent of those two wrapped up last April with the Red Raiders coming up one made shot short of toppling Virginia and capturing the national title. The question now becomes whether or not Beard’s program is a flash in the pan, or here to stay as a perennial national force. Despite losing starters Jarrett Culver, Matt Mooney and Tarik Owens, there’s reason to believe that the latter option is the more realistic one.
Quietly last season, Davide Moretti became the only player in the history of the Big 12 to shoot at least 50 percent from the floor, 50 percent three, and 90 percent from the free-throw line in a season. There shouldn’t be anything quiet about Moretti’s junior season. He’ll have fresh and significant help in the form of top 50 recruit Jahmius Ramsey and Virginia Tech grad transfer Chris Clarke, an imposing inside presence who was suspended for all of last season.
1. KANSAS JAYHAWKS
2018-19 Record: (26-10, 12-6)
2018-19 Big 12 Finish: 3rd
The Jayhawks’ streak of consecutive Big 12 regular season titles came to an end at 14 in 2018-19, but there’s ample reason to believe KU’s streak of not claiming the league’s crown won’t stretch past one.
Kansas was unquestionably one of college basketball’s biggest offseason winners. First, starters Devon Dotson and Udoka Azubuike each elected to spurn the NBA In favor of returning to Lawrence for one more season. Then, big man Silvio De Sousa was cleared by the NCAA to play in 2019-20. Finally, in mid June, highly sought-after grad transfer Isaiah Moss — a three-year starter at Iowa — announced that he would be playing his final season of college hoops for the Jayhawks.
KU not only looks like the class of the Big 12, but it has a roster fully capable of snagging Bill Self’s second national championship.