With college basketball season right around the corner, why not kick off the conversation with a good, old-fashioned power rankings list that people are going to blow out of proportion and overanalyze??? I say this in jest (kind of), but let's begin our college basketball talk this season with who I believe will be the best and brightest ball squads in the Big 12.
Considering there are 14 teams here, I really only cover 2 of them (but do know about the rest) and I want to keep this fairly brief, I will give a summary of my rankings rather than going in on every single team. Kansas is the obvious top dog this year. A stacked transfer class, stellar returners, and a freshman class where one or two could be one and done make for a team that will not only compete for a Big 12 title, but also compete for the national title as well. Texas, I think will perform better than Houston seeing that they have a great roster and have experience in the Big 12, Houston having only one of those things. LJ Cryer is good, but I feel like Houston will be in for a culture shock. Kansas State will also be competing for those top spots, the additions of Tylor Perry and Arthur Kaluma help soften the departures of Markquis Nowell and Keyontae Johnson and they'll fit well in Jerome Tang's scheme.
This is where it gets kind of hairy though, as like every year the upper middle of the Big 12 will be an absolute dogfight. Let's be honest here, the ENTIRE conference is, but the middle is where you'll find absolute trench warfare. Baylor and Tech both lost a lot of firepower this past year, but you have to remember that they're both teams brimming with talent. Tech has shooters galore with Pop Isaacs headlining the show and Baylor has Scott Drew at the helm as well as Jaden Nunn bringing the upperclassmen leadership and skill. TCU brings in a stacked transfer class, headlined by Kansas transfer Ernest Udeh, looking to make it three straight tournament appearances for the first time in program history, a feat they can easily accomplish with this crew or fail miserably at. Truly a boom or bust crew. Iowa State will bring defensive firepower once again and look to be the conference's defensive top dog for a second year in a row while adding offensive firepower in UNLV transfer Keshon Gilbert. Finally, Porter Moser's crew in Oklahoma also is filled with standout transfers as well as freshman phenom Milos Uzan, rounding out the middle of the pack of this Big 12. All of these teams have the potential to finish top 5 in the conference if they are at their best, which is perhaps the scariest part of the Big 12 year in and year out. You never know what you're going to get, however the above list is how I believe this is how it will shake out. Baylor is the favorite to break the top 5 out of these teams due to Scott Drew and the returning talent they do have, however don't bank on it being this way.
As for the bottom echelon of the Big 12, to be honest there's still talent here. BYU and Oklahoma State both have dark horse programs that could very much make a run at relevancy and tourney berth. BYU has a roster almost entirely made up of returning players, headlined by Dallin Hall at guard. Oklahoma State, while they do have a young roster, will improve upon 3-point shooting as well as have building blocks from their NIT run to work with. It could certainly pay dividends. Finally, for Cincinnati, West Virginia, and UCF, while the outlook looks bleak, all three of these teams could very much be underestimated here. Cincinnati brings in 7-foot transfer Aziz Bandaogo as well as already having 6'-11" forward Viktor Lakhin, making for a tough time for opposing teams in the paint. While West Virginia did lose Bob Huggins, they do still have talent on their roster. Montana State transfer RaeQuan Battle will help elevate their group as well as Arizona transfer Kerr Kriisa, making for a backcourt that could compete very well with this conference chalked full of stellar backcourts. For UCF, while they may be a football school, let's not forget they've come close to shocking some very big-name programs. They also have veteran presences such as Darius Johnson, so don't expect them to fade away into irrelevancy so easily...
Overall, the Big 12 has a ton of really talented, really dangerous teams, once again proving they're the best conference in basketball (I would love to see the ACC or Big Ten compete with this roster of teams...) Time will only tell how things shake out, but for now, this is my official prediction. Watch it get flipped upside down by December.
Burn Notice: 8/10 Hopefully the new HVAC in Allen is installed soon.