Douglas: Predicting the placement of Big 12 basketball for the upcoming season

Head coach Steve Prohm holds his son Cass Prohm as he cuts down the last part of the net to keep as a memento. Iowa State won the Big 12 Championship 78-66 against University of Kansas on March 16 at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, Missouri.

Zane Douglas

Every season the Big 12 conference has some new players and there is a lot of parity toward the middle of the pack, but last season there was a new conference regular-season winner.

This will make ranking the teams tough, but that’s what I tried to do with as much research as possible.

Due to how deep the conference is, these rankings could be destroyed by the time conference play even starts, so take this article with a grain of salt.

1. Kansas

Best quote from media day: “I think we’ve probably given some rabid fan bases some ammunition to help in some area to fire them up.” — Coach Bill Self.

This ranking likely surprises no one, but it’s interesting because just last season the Jayhawks finally lost the regular-season Big 12 title and a different Big 12 team made it to the NCAA finals in April.

Despite this, expect coach Bill Self and Kansas — allegations and all — to be back up atop the Big 12, or if not, then close to it.

The Jayhawks added two four-star recruit wings in Jalen Wilson and Tristan Enaruna, a four-star guard prospect in Dajuan Harris and two three-star recruits in forwards Christian Braun and guard Issac McBride.

They also added Iowa graduate transfer Isaiah Moss, who will be able to immediately contribute and stop the bleeding that comes from the losses of Dedric and K.J. Lawson and LaGerald Vick.

Kansas will be back whether you like it or not.

2. Baylor

Best quote from media day: “For my birthday, there’s no place I’d rather be than here with you guys.” — Coach Scott Drew.

Baylor was a nine seed in the NCAA tournament last season and the Bears lost their most prolific scorer in Makai Mason. They also lost key contributors, King McClure and Mario Kegler.

It seems wrong to put them this high, but there’s a lot to like about Scott Drew’s team this season.

Tristan Clark and Mark Vital are returning big men and rebounding machines. Vital, who is only 6 feet, 6 inches tall, has been a force on the offensive glass.

Jared Butler also returns. Butler filled in nicely as a freshman guard last season and he even started several games.

Guards MaCio Teague and Davion Mitchell transferred to Baylor and had to sit out last season. They’ll figure into things along with freshman three-star wing recruit Jordan Turner.

3. Texas

Best quote from media day: “We got three new players, Will Baker, Kai Jones and Donovan Williams, who we’re very excited about.” — Coach Shaka Smart.

This quote sums up why the Longhorns are this high in the rankings.

Four-star recruits in center Will Baker, center Kai Jones and guard Donovan Williams will all look to make immediate impacts on the team that won the NIT tournament last season. Baker, Jones and Williams rank 35th, 51st and 73rd in the nation as recruits respectfully, according to 247sports.

Last year was a disappointing season for the Longhorns, but despite losing Jaxson Hayes and Kerwin Roach, they have a strong returning class.

The Longhorns will be solid sleeper picks this season.

4. Texas Tech

Best quote from media day: “It’s never been our objective at Texas Tech to have a good team, but it’s always been our objective to build a program that has consistency.” — Coach Chris Beard.

Texas Tech lost star guard Jarrett Culver, guard Matt Mooney and forward Tariq Owens, who were arguably its three most important pieces. The question isn’t whether the Red Raiders can make runs in the postseason, but whether they can get there in the same spot as last year after being stripped of talent.

Luckily for the Red Raiders, they benefitted from an impressive recruiting class led by guard Jahmius Ramsey and wing forward Terrence Shannon, who are No. 32 and No. 90 in the nation respectively.

Along with three more three-star recruits and one two-star recruit, Texas Tech also landed two graduate transfers in guard Chris Clarke from Virginia Tech and forward TJ Holyfield from Stephen F. Austin.

Texas Tech will be looking to prove that they can still be a force without some of its key pieces from last season.

5. Kansas State

Best quote from media day: “Every year there’s somebody that’s picked eighth or ninth, seventh that ends up being in the top of the league, that ends up, like Texas Tech, playing for a national championship.” — Coach Bruce Weber.

Last season’s Big 12 regular-season champion Kansas State was proverbially gutted, leaving them with little to no expectations. The Big 12 preseason poll had them ranked ninth, but I think that’s too hard of a fall.

The Wildcats picked up five three-star recruits over the offseason, and also welcome the return of Xavier Sneed, who tested out the draft process but withdrew to play his final season of eligibility with the Wildcats.

It will be tough for Kansas State without Barry Brown Jr. or Dean Wade, but they haven’t fallen off of a cliff enough for me to agree with them at No. 9 in the conference.

6. Iowa State

Best quote from media day: “Great.” — Forward Solomon Young

Iowa State is suffering from the same thing that Kansas State is this season. The Cyclones lost five starting-caliber players in Marial Shayok, Lindell Wigginton, Talen Horton-Tucker, Cameron Lard and Nick Weiler-Babb.

Iowa State gained two guards who have already shown a better defensive presence than some of the departing members, meaning that the look and feel of the team will be quite different.

Coach Steve Prohm has looked at a more traditional five on the floor with two bigger players at the four and five, but the emergence of Zion Griffin might be the key to the Cyclones’ season.

There is a lot to like about Iowa State, but look for some growing pains early with a change in team identity.

7. West Virginia

Best quote from media day: “We’re ready to get started. That’s about all I have to say about it.” — Coach Bob Huggins.

West Virginia was not a good team last season, but after losing Jevon Carter and then the core of the team getting injured, it wasn’t exactly a surprise.

To replace the defensive presence down low in Sagaba Konate, West Virginia picked up the No. 31 recruit in the nation in center Oscar Tshiebwe, according to 247sports. The Mountaineers also landed four-star and top-100 recruit Jalen Bridges. Another three-star recruit and two junior college transfers make West Virginia a sneaky pick to compete.

The Mountaineers will be better than last season.

8. Oklahoma State

Best quote from media day: “The first-ever back-to-back national championship program is Oklahoma State University. I’m not lost on that. We can achieve at that level again, but we can’t take shortcuts in doing it.” — Coach Mike Boynton Jr.

The Cowboys are coming off of a forgettable season, but they retooled well in the offseason.

Oklahoma State picked up two four-star recruits as well as three three-star recruits. The Cowboys’ three top recruits are all guards.

Oklahoma State may make some runs this season, which is why the Cowboys aren’t ranked dead last, but look for it to take a season before their core comes together and gels.

That said, each team is different and sometimes it all clicks right away. Don’t be surprised if Oklahoma State seemingly comes out of nowhere this season to compete.

9. Oklahoma

Best quote from media day: “Found out early on that the versatility is going to be a strength. I think the depth will be a strength.” — Coach Lon Kruger.

Oklahoma had a better season than its Stillwater relatives, but a second-round exit in the NCAA tournament stopped the Sooners’ tournament run early.

Oklahoma lost five seniors but gained a huge recruiting class, including a four-star recruit in De’Vion Harmon and six three-star recruits.

The team will look way different and coach Lon Kruger has shown an ability to quickly transition the team, but there will be growing pains for such a young team, especially in the preseason.

With how young they are and how deep the Big 12 is, I couldn’t rank them much higher than ninth.

10. TCU

Best quote from media day: “But at the same time the league is wide open. So many teams are bringing in about the same amount of new players.” — Coach Jamie Dixon.

TCU lost its best player in guard Alex Robinson, but they have several recruits ready to pick up the slack.

If my rankings are correct, which they won’t be, then this would be a very good worst team in a conference. It isn’t a great team, but there are some returning players and also some good transfers to help out the large recruiting class led by four-star recruit P.J. Fuller, who is ranked No. 76 in the nation by 247sports.

Despite this, the Horned Frogs finish last in the Big 12 conference this season.