Junior previews upcoming Big 12 basketball season

Tonight, hundreds of college basketball teams from different regions and conferences will tip off their 2022-23 season. And what better way to celebrate it than to preview the greatest college basketball conference of them all—the Big 12.

The conference has provided the last two national champions, and the national runner up in 2019. Five out of the conference’s ten teams are ranked in the AP Pre-season top 25, with four of those teams in the top 15.

Even with this dominance happening, there’s a cloud of uncertainty over the conference. This is the final year before Houston, UCF, BYU and Cincinnati join for the 2023-24 season. On top of this, Texas and Oklahoma will depart for the SEC at some point in the near future.

But this final season of normalcy looks to be absolutely epic.

Kansas, the reigning conference and national champs, look to reclaim their throne in 2023. They’re in for a tall task, considering no team has repeated as national champions since Florida did it in 2006 and 2007. The Jayhawks return preseason all-Big 12 Junior forward Jalen Wilson, who averaged 11.1 points and 7.4 rebounds, playing a critical role in their NCAA tournament run. Unfortunately for Kansas, they have quite a few holes to fill, with senior guards Ochai Agbaji and Remy Martin graduating, as well as senior center David McCormick. Junior guard Christian Braun left early for the 2022 draft. In fact, Kansas returns only two players who averaged more than 12 minutes per game last season. However, they bring in plenty of newcomers. Gradey Dick, MJ Rice, Ernest Udeh Jr and Zuby Ejiofor are all top 60 recruits, and look to play a valuable role in Kansas’ quest for a repeat. They brought in Kevin McCullar, a transfer from conference rival Texas Tech who will provide an immediate impact on both ends of the floor.

Baylor looks to reclaim the conference after winning it (and the national championship) in 2020-21. After an upset loss to North Carolina in the NCAA tournament last year, the Bears will be hungry for dominance. The team is led by guards LJ Cryer and Adam Flagler, and features a pair of freakishly athletic centers in Flo Thamba and Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua. They lost Matthew Mayer to the transfer portal and Jeremy Sochan to the NBA draft, but brought in highly touted five star recruit Keyonte George, as well as West Virginia transfer Jalen Bridges. The Bears are long and athletic, and will drown teams out with their defense. They come into the season ranked #5, tied with Kansas.

Texas Tech looks to forge ahead in their second year under head coach Mark Adams. Coming off of a Sweet 16 run, they lose Terrance Shannon and Kevin McCullar to the transfer portal, as well as Adonis Arms and Davion Warren to graduation. They filled these gaps with the #16 ranked recruiting class in 2022, as well as highly touted transfers in Oregon guard De’Vion Harmon and Utah Valley Center Fardaws Aimaq. Texas Tech will be a team with a lot of experience, but also has a lot of players that have never played with each other. Expect a team that gets better throughout the season, ending with a deep run in March. They squeaked into the preseason AP top 25, sitting at the 25 spot.

Texas looks well positioned to advance further than the second round this year, when they got their first NCAA tournament win in eight years before being escorted out of the tournament by Purdue. Second-year coach Chris Beard brings in a strong roster for 2022, returning lanky senior forwards Timmy Allen and Christian Bishop, as well as preseason all-Big 12 guard senior Marcus Carr. They lose long-time guards Courtney Ramey and Andrew Jones, with the former committing to Arizona via the transfer portal. The Longhorns restocked well, adding New Mexico State transfer Sir’Jabari Rice, and Iowa State transfer Tyrese Hunter, who averaged 11 PPG last season for the Cyclones and received the 2021-22 Big 12 freshman of the year award. Texas also brings in talented recruits, with the #3 recruiting class incoming with the likes of five star forward Dillon Mitchell, and five star guard Arterio Morris. There’s a whole lot of talent in Austin, with quite a few early non-conference tests for the team including a Nov 16 battle against Gonzaga, and a Dec 1 game versus Creighton.

TCU looks largely unchanged from 2021-22, where they nearly pulled off a monumental upset over one seed Arizona in the second round of the NCAA tournament, but ultimately fell just short. Junior guard Mike Miles Jr will lead the Horned Frogs, coming off of a season where he dropped 15 PPG. TCU returns most of the other talent as well, with forward Emanuel Miller, as well as Damion Baugh and guard Chuck O’Bannon returning. However, they lack key additions, and had only the #97 ranked recruiting class, a testament to the experience of a team who is ranked #14 in the preseason poll.

Despite NCAA tournament success last year, making it to the Sweet 16, Iowa State will struggle without the likes of Isaiah Brockington and Tyrese Hunter. Major questions as to who will man the offense at point guard do not bode well with a conference that has so many teams highly ranked on the defensive side of the ball.

After a disappointing, sub .500 campaign where they finished last in the Big 12, experienced coach Bob Huggins looks to lead the West Virginia Mountaineers back to the tournament. They bring in a plentiful cast of transfers, but they will struggle to replace three-headed monster of guards Taz Sherman, Sean McNeil, and Malik Curry who all graduated.

Kansas State tries to find new direction under new head coach Jerome Tang, but will have a Nijel Pack-sized hole in their offense. Pack averaged 17.4 PPG this past season, but departed for Miami. The Wildcats bring in Keyonte Johnson from Florida, who looks to return to play after collapsing during a game in Dec. 2020 and hasn’t played since.

Oklahoma State looks to turn things around with second year head coach Mike Boynton Jr, returning most of the players who led them to a .500 season last year, including seven-foot center Moussa Cisse.

Oklahoma just missed the NCAA tournament last year, and looks like a promising candidate for a spot this year. They lose star guard Umoja Gibson, but bring in a promising recruiting class and added three players through the transfer portal. Expect the Sooners to claw their way into the tournament, likely as a lower seed.

All in all, the conference looks very promising this year. It has talent from top to bottom as always, which makes it extremely hard to predict, and there will likely be a team from the projected bottom half that soars into national relevance. With that, I’d like to bring my 2022-23 Big 12 predictions to the table.

  1. Kansas
  2. Baylor
  3. Texas
  4. Texas Tech
  5. TCU
  6. Oklahoma
  7. Oklahoma State
  8. West Virginia
  9. Kansas State
  10.  Iowa State