For the first time in 14 years, we are entering a season of Big 12 basketball, where Kansas is not the defending Big 12 regular season champs. With that being said, this season looks to be just as exciting as the last. The Big 12 is a very deep conference with plenty of talent top to bottom.
Big-12 Preseason Poll:
- Kansas (80 pts)
- Baylor (71 pts)
- Texas Tech (62 pts)
- Texas (57 pts)
- West Virginia (45 pts)
- Oklahoma State (42 pts)
- Iowa State (30 pts)
- Oklahoma (29 pts)
- Kansas State (23 pts)
- TCU (11 pts)
Preseason Player of the Year:
- Udoka Azubuike, C, Kansas, senior
Preseason Newcomer of the Year:
- Chris Clarke, F, Texas Tech, senior
Preseason Freshman of the Year:
- Oscar Tshiebwe, F, West Virginia
Preseason All-Big 12 Team:
- Tristan Clark, F, Baylor, junior
- Tyrese Haliburton, G, Iowa State, sophomore
- Udoka Azubuike, C, Kansas, senior
- Devon Dotson, G, Kansas, sophomore
- Desmond Bane, G, TCU, senior
What You Need to Know:
The Jayhawks will be led by preseason Big 12 player of the year, Udoka Azubuike. The 7-foot senior has been one of the best big men in the country during his career in Lawrence, averaging 13.4 points and 6.8 rebounds. Head coach Bill Self recently said, “He’s lost (about) 40 pounds since the beginning of the summer,” during an appearance on 610 Sports Radio. So we could see an even better version of Azubuike.
KU will also finally have talented 2018 five-star, 6’9” forward Silvio De Sousa, after he sat out all of last season, due to an NCAA recruiting violation. Kansas has enough talent to begin a new streak of regular season Big 12 titles. Their biggest obstacle may be themselves, as they are currently facing what could be a massive recruiting scandal.
Head coach Scott Drew brings in a very experienced and talented Baylor team, who might have the best chance to knock Kansas off of the top spot this season. The Bears are led by 6’10” junior Tristan Clark who quietly was one of the most productive players in the Big 12 prior to suffering a season ending knee injury last season. He averaged 14.6 points, 6.3 rebounds, and 2.4 blocks while shooting a remarkable 73.7% from the field. The Bears will be a team that relies on their length and perimeter shooting once again.
Texas Tech coming off of their best season in program history– where they made a National Championship game appearance. They graduated four of their top five scorers from last season so, head coach Chris Beard has a lot of work to do. They fortunately do return junior guard Davide Moretti who averaged 11.5 points as one of the better three-point shooters in the country last season.
The Red Raiders fortunately have help coming in. 6’6” senior, Chris Clarke is now eligible to play after sitting out last season, after transferring from Virginia Tech. Clarke is an explosive athlete that averaged 11.4 points and 7.3 rebounds in his most productive season in Blacksburg. Expect Clarke to have a huge role in Texas Tech continuing their surprising run.
Texas will look for junior guard Matt Coleman to step up in a big way this season. After only averaging 9.8 points per game last season, as the Longhorns fourth leading scorer, Coleman is the highest scorer returning to Austin this season. Head coach Shaka Smart’s lack of experience on his roster could lead to a very disappointing season for TU.
After a rather disappointing 2018-19 season, WVU head coach Bob Huggins has room for more optimism this season. The Mountaineers bring in McDonald’s All-American Oscar Tshiebwe. The 6’8” forward should give West Virginia some much needed energy right away in 2019.
Most of their offense will rely upon sophomore forward Derek Culver who should be a walking double-double this season. After he averaged 11.5 points and 9.9 rebounds as a freshman last season.
Lastly, I expect sophomore guard Jordan McCabe to have a much improved second season for the Mountaineers. He came in last year as a top-100 recruit, and he as been in the spotlight his life, ever since his viral workout routine as a 12-year old. I think McCabe and the rest of West Virginia’s talent will show this season.
I think Bob Huggins vintage “Press-Virginia” defense will return this season.
Oklahoma State has relatively struggled since head coach Brad Underwood left for Illinois. This year they will rely on a pair of seniors, Cameron McGriff and Lindy Waters III combined for 24.5 points per game last season. This will be a big season for third-year head coach Mike Boynton as he returns his three top scorers from last season. I expect the Cowboys to be a team that flirts with the NCAA tournament bubble all season.
Levi Stevenson had a great full season preview on Iowa State... where you can read here. But to simplify the Cyclones season outlook on this year. It is pretty simple, if sophomore guard Tyrese Haliburton takes the next step as a scorer, Iowa State might have the opportunity to be quite competitive in the Big 12. I do believe that Tyrese’s experience with the team USA U19 team last summer helped his development tremendously and, we will hopefully see that this season.
The Sooners will look for “Larry Bird look-alike” Brady Manek to take on a bigger role this season. Last year the 6’9” junior averaged 12.2 points and 5.9 rebounds.
This year Manek will have to take the next step as a scorer, in hopes of carrying the Oklahoma squad to a few victories.
After Kansas State put together one of their best three-year-runs in program history, they graduated their three leading scorers. This year the Wildcats will look to senior forward Xavier Sneed for some much needed offensive help. Last season, Snead averaged a respectable 10.6 points, and 5.5 rebounds, but they will need much more from him this season if they want to make some noise in the Big 12.
After head coach Jamie Dixon nearly left for UCLA in the offseason, TCU lost four of their five top leading scorers. Fortunately to one that happened to stay was senior, guard Desmond Bane, who was their leading scorer last season. The 6’6” guard averaged 15.2 points and 5.7 rebounds last season. Bane will likely have a monster senior campaign, but I don’t think the Horned Frogs have enough help around him to reel off many wins in the conference play this season.
Overall the Big 12 should be incredibly exciting this season, and there is a chance to see as many as seven teams in the NCAA tournament from the best conference top-to-bottom in the country.