What Does Big 12 Basketball Look Like This Season?

We take a look at how the teams around the Big 12 look and where they rank. Plus what I think of the Red Raiders thus far.

The season has been going on for about a month now. We had a Big 12 pre-season poll (that I personally thought was mostly fair) that if you look at it again, you might laugh your butt off. It was hard to determine who was good in the Big 12 this season, and it still is, but now we have a better understanding of who teams are.

One of my favorite things to do on Saturday’s is sit down and watch college football and basketball during their respective seasons. I don’t watch a whole lot of Big 12 football because I don’t think it’s that great, but Big 12 basketball in my opinion is one of the, if not the, best conference in the NCAA.

So I have seen all of these teams play at least once and have seen some highlights, scores and stats from them. I’m going to attempt to break them down by tiers, where they rank within the Big 12 and what I like and dislike about them. I’ll also give my thoughts on the Red Raiders so far this season.

The KenPom, NET Ratings and individual stats are from Tuesday, December 4th due to the fact that ratings and stats aren’t always updated the night of the game.

Tier 4: Nope

I watched these teams and didn’t really enjoy watching them. I don’t envision them being in the NCAA Tournament race.

10. Baylor Bears

Record Best Appearance Worst Appearance AP Rank KenPom NET Rating
5-3 W. 63-57 vs South Dakota L, 69-72 vs Texas Southern NR 65 154

Pros: This was hard to do. I struggled to find something I like about this team. Looking at their stats, Tristan Clark is having a pretty good year. He’s averaging 13.6 ppg, 5.6 rpg and 3 bpg while shooting 76% from the floor. I’d say that’s a pretty good season thus far.

They have four players averaging more than 12 ppg, so any one of those guys can have a good night. Seven guys on the team average more than 20 minutes a game.

Cons: I was excited about the start of the season, and I did check into Baylor’s opener, and they just were not good against Texas Southern. Baylor wasn’t that great last year, but made the NIT and did their program tradition of losing a round or two earlier than expected.

Usually when you think of Baylor you think of dominant big men like Rico Gathers, Taurean Price, Isaiah Austin, Terrence Jones, etc. I could go on forever naming their big guys. This year you have 6-9 Tristan Clark and really that’s it. Mark Vital is averaging about 5.8 ppg and 6.8 rpg, but I can’t name any other big men.

If Baylor does bad like they did at the end of last year, could this be the last year for Scott Drew? I think it’s at least okay to ask the question.

Verdict: I don’t envision them making the NCAA tournament. Maybe the NIT if they do alright in Big 12 play.

9. Oklahoma State Cowboys

Record Best Appearance Worst Appearance AP Rank KenPom NET Rating
4-4 W, 90-77 vs (then) No. 19 LSU L, 64-66 at Charlotte NR 53 58

Pros: This team is young, so although I don’t think they’re going to do much this year, I don’t expect them to be here too long. When watching their game against Minnesota, the two guys I was impressed with the most was Cameron McGriff and Isaac Likekele.

McGriff is a match-up nightmare who haunted Tech at times last year if I remember correctly. He’s their leading scorer and rebounder, and is one of the most overlooked players in the Big 12. Likekele, who chose OKST over TTU, only is averaging 8.3 ppg, but he also has 4.6 rpg and 4.3 apg and looks like a potential dynamic playmaker in the future.

Lindy Waters III doesn’t look too shabby either. This team is young and , much like last year, looks like they can upset a team on any given night.

Cons: From what I saw, I wasn’t terribly impressed by their defense, who has allowed 69.3 ppg thus far. And they are shooting just 65% from the free throw line. They also average 15.4 turnovers a game. Not fantastic numbers for the Cowboys.

I was just watching them play and they seemed a little clumsy. There wasn’t a lot of players I was partially scared of. Perhaps I’m being too harsh. They have played a lot of decent teams so far. At the same time, they lost to 2-4 Charlotte, whose two wins this season are against the Cowboys and a 42-39 win over Longwood. Yuck.

Verdict: They won’t do much this season and likely will miss the NCAA tournament, but they’ll have some good wins when it’s all said and done

Tier 3: Bubble Teams

These teams have had some problems, but I think they all have a shot at making the tournament.

8. TCU Horn Frogs

Record Best Appearance Worst Appearance AP Rank KenPom NET Rating
6-1 W, 89-62 vs Central Michigan L, 64-73 vs Lipscomb 39th (9 points) 44 87

Pros: The Horn Frogs have experience and a lot of names that you’ll recognize if you watch Big 12 basketball. The preseason rank No. 20 team have some talented players like Desmond Bane, who is now their best player, Kouat Noi, who has stepped up this season scoring wise, and Alex Robinson, who seems to have been around forever.

You also may recognize names like JD Miller and Jaylen Fisher, who played great his freshman year and is now back from injury. Their offensive numbers really stick out to me, as they are shooting 51.6% from the floor, average 38.7 rebounds a game, and 22.2 assists.

Cons: Despite all the nice things I said above, every time I watched them they’ve looked bad. I almost put them in Tier 4, but I gave them some credit for their good coach and their preseason believers.

They were losing against CSU Bakersfield for much of the game and had to pull it out at the end. It seems like there’s not a whole lot of guys to trust right now for the Horn Frogs, but that also might’ve been because it was the first game and they had something like eight newcomers.

Not to mention the almost double digit lost to Lipscumb. At least they are 6-1 on the season. If a team doesn’t look good every time I watch them, I’m probably not going to rank them very high.

Verdict: I’ll say they’ll barely miss out on the NCAA Tournament. At the very least we’ll see an NIT berth.

7. West Virginia Mountaineers

Record Best Appearance Worst Appearance AP Rank KenPom NET Rating
5-3 W, 106-72 vs Youngstown State L, 56-66 vs (Now) No. 45 Florida NR 27 120

Pros: Honestly I was a little shocked to see they had zero AP votes. I know they lost a couple games, but it’s still Bob Huggins, and it’s still West Virginia. I have a hard time believing they won’t be a problem again in the Big 12. Although not a big of one as years past.

The positives? They have put up A LOT of points. They are averaging 82.8 points a game and 43 rebounds. Esa Ahmad has finally taken over as a scorer with 15.4 ppg, and Sagaba Konate is a factor while also averaging 13.3 ppg. Lamont West and James Bolden are also average double digit points per game.

Cons: This isn’t your daddy’s West Virginia team thus far. West Virginia tougher than a weekend at your in-laws? More like a weekend at a private beach house.

It’s unheard of to see a West Virginia team allow 74.6 ppg and force just 13.5 turnovers a game. In fact, their opponents are averaging more steals per game then the Mountaineers and less turnovers. That explains all the high scoring games in Morgantown.

I originally had them 6th, but I sat down and watched Oklahoma-Notre Dame and West Virginia-Florida on Tuesday and the Sooners looked better despite their big man not playing. Besides, Oklahoma defeated Florida and West Virginia didn’t. The Mountaineers just have a lot of questions that need to be answered.

Verdict: It’s still West Virginia. They’ll win enough games in the Big 12 to make the NCAA Tournament. Although I don’t know if they’ll win a game there this season.

6. Texas Longhorns

Record Best Appearance Worst Appearance AP Rank KenPom NET Rating
5-3 W, 92-89 vs (Then) No. 7 North Carolina L, 63-64 to VCU 30th (44 points) 33 53

Pros: With my brother attending UT, I’ve seen a lot of Texas games since he was home for Thanksgiving. And at times, they’ve looked like the second best team in the Big 12. Like a lot of Longhorn teams, they have a ton of talent.

Kerwin Roach has the ability to take over a game, like he did North Carolina with 32 points. Freshman Jaxson Hayes looks like a real threat around the rim with his amazing ability to alter shots and his 10.1 ppg. Dylan Osetkowski is also back and averaging almost a double double.

They force a ton of turnovers with 8.1 spg and also have 4.9 blocks per game. They have maybe the second highest potential in the conference. But will they reach it? My guess is no.

Cons: The most annoying thing a team can do is under perform (duh) and play down to your competition, and the Longhorns fall under the latter. They’ve beaten teams like UNC, but had close games against teams like Arkansas, Radford and VCU.

Somehow, they are 5-3 while only shooting 40% on the year and 29% from three point range. And unlike most teams, their scoring is less in the second half, which you usually see rise. Outside of Roach, I don’t know who can create their own shot on this team.

Finally, they’ve struggled closing out games the past three games, blowing double digit leads in both and eventually losing. I don’t think Shaka Smart will be fired, but it’s a possibly if Texas isn’t satisfied finishing in the middle of the pack or worse.

Verdict: I had them at Tier 2 before the week, but after losing another bad game to VCU, I’m not 100% sure they’re a tournament team. That being said, I think can pull off some upsets and make the big dance. They may lose early, but also have potential to make it to the second weekend with their talent.

Tier 2: Tournament Contenders

These teams are going to make it to the NCAA tournament and have a shot at the Big 12 title if something drastic happens in Lawrence. Possible deep runs here.

5. Oklahoma Sooners

Record Best Appearance Worst Appearance AP Rank KenPom NET Rating
7-1 W, 65-60 vs (now) No. 45 Florida L, 78-58 vs (now) No. 12 Wisconsin 47th (1 point) 38 21

Pros: They seem more like a team this year. No offense to Trae Young, but last year he took over so early in the season that it seemed like the team depended on him a little bit too much. The Sooners have a lot of nice pieces actually when you look at them as a whole.

Christian James is a freakin’ baller, and it will be a shame if he’s not on an All-Big 12 team this season. He can score from anywhere on the floor. Jamuni McNeace looks better than ever and will be one of the best rim protectors in the Big 12. However, their leading rebounder is Brady Manek, who also has pretty decent scoring and looks like Larry Bird now with his style of play and looks.

They also have a good coach in Lon Kruger and probably will make another NCAA tournament berth this year if I had to guess.

Cons: Their defense hasn’t looked fantastic at times it seems, and they don’t force many turnovers with their opponents averaging 11.6 turnovers a game, compared to 12.6 for the Sooners. And their shooting percentage numbers aren’t the best, as they are shooting 46% from the floor and 66% at the line.

Maybe the most concerning is their 12.4 assists per game, but after they did a great job of passing last game and have moved it up to 13.3 assists per game. I am a little concerned about what happens if James has a bad night, as he’s the only scorer with double digits, which is rare to see among Big 12 teams.

I will give them credit though. They have played a lot of their easier games on the road and have a tough out of conference schedule against a lot of potential NCAA tournament teams.

Verdict: Much like Texas, I had them at Tier 3 because of the pre-season poll and no signature victories, but they beat two Power 5 teams already and have just one loss, which was to a team in the Top 15. I bet Oklahoma finishes in the middle the back and make the NCAA tournament. Probably no second weekend, but they’ll at least win a game.

4. Iowa State Cyclones

Record Best Appearance Worst Appearance AP Rank KenPom NET Rating
7-1 W, 87-57 vs San Diego State L, 66-71 vs Arizona 29th (46 points) 15 18

Pros: An NBA League Pass team is defined as a team that’s not your own, not the best team out there, but is really fun to watch. The Cyclones are my NBA League Pass team. And apparently the NET rating and KenPom rankings think they’re pretty good too, so I’m not alone!

What’s even crazier? They’re doing this without their best player Lindell Wigginton and Cameron Lard so far. I honestly considered them at No. 2 in these ranking. As far players we’ve seen, Marial Shayok is averaging 19.4 ppg and 6 rpg, taking over the role as an ultimate playmaker. Michael Jacobson is doing well too at 16.8 ppg and 8 rpg.

The team is forcing a lot of steals per game at 8.5, have a good free threw percentage at 74%, and don’t turn the ball over much like 11.6 turnovers a game. This team is good.

Cons: There are not many cons from the couple games I’ve watched them play. I guess this is a good problem, but kind of like when the Celtics returned Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward, how will this team look when Wigginton and Lard come back? I think they’d be fine, but you never know.

Their three point shooting isn’t the best at 33%, and although they have to ability to make threes, they haven’t done so thus far. They have a lot of size and I wonder if they would struggle against a team with smaller, quicker guards. I can’t find too much wrong with them so I feel I’m nitpicking at this point.

Verdict: This is an NCAA tournament team and will have a shot at winning the Big 12. I could easily see this team brewing an upset if they aren’t a Top 16 seed and making it to the second weekend of the tournament. Watch out for the Cyclones.

3. Kansas State Wildcats

Record Best Appearance Worst Appearance AP Rank KenPom NET Rating
6-1 W, 82-67 vs Missouri L, 71-83 vs (now) No. 28 Marquette 16th (629 points) 20 37

Pros: This team brings back almost everyone that played significant minutes during their Elite Eight run from a season ago, which includes a first team All-Big 12 player in Dean Wade and a second team All-Big 12 player in Barry Brown Jr. They are averaging 15.4 and 14.4 ppg respectively with good defense.

Xavier Sneed played well in the tournament last year and is the only other Wildcat averaging double digits with 11.8 ppg. Like a lot of good teams, they have done better in the second half than the first half, and have forced 8.3 spg thus far.

Much like last year, they also have stellar defense, allowing 60.1 ppg with 40% shooting, 29% from three point range and forcing 17.7 turnovers a game.

Cons: I promise I don’t hate Kansas State, but as I said about two months ago, I think they are a little overrated. I wasn’t scared of facing the Wildcats at all a season ago and thought they got fortunate in the tournament playing a No. 9, No. 16 and No. 5 seed before losing big time to a No. 11 seed.

Their offense does seem to struggle a little bit. They average 45% from the floor, but 28% from the three point line and 65% from the free throw line. There also doesn’t seem to be a lot of rim protectors with just 2.6 bpg.

Kansas State will be one of the better teams in the Big 12 this year, I just don’t think they’re quite as good as some people think.

Verdict: They’ll finish in the top half of the Big 12 and win a game, possibly two in the NCAA tournament. Could see them as a second weekend team as well.

2. Texas Tech Red Raiders

Record Best Appearance Worst Appearance AP Rank KenPom NET Rating
8-0 W, 70-52 vs (Now) No. 24 Nebraska W, 78-67 vs Memphis 13th (783 points) 10 5

Pros: A stats guy like myself look at the team stats and are just giddy. They shoot 50% from the field, 40% from three and 71% at the line. They have a high assist rate at 16.3 per game and don’t turn the ball over much at 11.4 TO a game.

Defense? They’re even better! They have a third best 53.3 ppg allowed, and are holding opponents to an unheard of 34% from the field and 25% from three. That’s insane. Not to mention they average 7.3 spg, 6 bpg and force 17.3 turnovers a game.

Jarrett Culver has stepped up as the best player and the guy every college basketball expert loves to say is “the best player no one is talking about”. He’s averaging 19 ppg, 5.3 rpg and 4.6 apg with great defense. He does literally everything.

Matt Mooney and Davide Moretti go on scoring streaks of their own sometimes and are both in double digits. That being said, the most impactful player outside of Culver is Tariq Owens, whom is averaging 7.9 ppg, 5.1 rpg and is the anchor of the defense with a monstrous 3.3 bpg. Not to mention they have depth and anyone can get hot on any night.

They possibly the best coach in the Big 12, will have great home field advantage next year and are one of the few teams who score points after halftime and allowed less points as well (DanSwany did nicely talking about this and the slow starts). They’re not as good as last year’s squad, but man these guys are pretty good.

Cons: They get off to some sluggish first halves. Against all three teams in major conferences (and all three games away from home), they fell behind by double digits or close to it in the first half. Consistency is an issue so far and it has to be fixed if Tech wants to do anything this year.

Despite their high shooting percentage, Tech’s offense can get extremely cold sometimes, which can be problematic if a team is catching fire. They’re going to have to find a way to score easy baskets during that time.

I do have a concern of what happens if Culver gets cold. He averages 8.4 points more than the next guy and he’s the only guy who can consistently get his own shot. Plus with a lot of grad transfers and newcomers, I’m afraid a couple of these guys might fade when the lights come on. Hopefully I’m wrong.

Verdict: I think Texas Tech will be able to compete for a Big 12 title. Kansas is a little too good to dethrone, but they’ll be there as long as they can win on their court like they did last year and steal a couple road games in a tough Big 12 schedule.

Jarrett Culver is the only guy I see from this team making the All-Big 12 first team, with possibly Owens squeezing in on a defensive team. This shouldn’t be a big surprise, as Tech finished second in the Big 12 last year with one member on the first team and someone in honorable mention.

As far as the NCAA tournament, I don’t think they’ll be a three seed like last year, but I could see Tech as a four or five seed at the moment, with a trip to the second weekend. This team might have some trouble when they run into Duke or Michigan or Virginia in the tournament, but a Sweet Sixteen berth is possible with this squad.

Tier 1: Elite

Rock. Chalk. Jayhawk.

1. Kansas Jayhawks

Record Best Appearance Worst Appearance AP Rank KenPom NET Rating
7-0 W, 87-81 (OT) vs (Then) No. 5 Tennessee W, 90-84 vs Stanford 2nd (1,539 points, 19 first place votes) 2 9

Pros: Kansas is once again in a league of their own. Last year was the year to dethrone them, but unfortunately a Keenan Evans injury didn’t allow that to happen (I had Kansas fans admit this to me, so we’re not crazy and acting like homers).

They have more weapons than the United State Military, with their new toys in Dedric Lawson, who is averaging 19.0 ppg and 10.7 rpg, and Devon Dotson, who has 11.4 ppg as a freshman. However, one of their former players is maybe their best player.

Lagerald Vick once again made a huge stride entering his senior year, averaging 17.9 ppg while shooting 55% from the field and 57% from three. This team scores a bunch, passes the ball well, gets rounds and doesn’t turn the ball over much. They’re elite.

Cons: Not a lot of cons for a team as good as Kansas. I thought they were going to be the best team in basketball entering the season, and they’re still a Top 5 team, but they aren’t quite the best.

The opposition is averaging 73 ppg against them (was 77.3 before Tuesday night). That seems a little unfair given the competition they’ve played. And their opponents are shooting 40% from the field, which is good for Kansas.

The weaknesses I saw show up against Stanford. Lawson couldn’t get his shots going, the Jayhawks didn’t have the best defense outside, and they keep on allowing Stanford to go on runs. They weren’t the better team that game and would’ve lost if it weren’t for Vick going off.

Verdict: Unless there’s a major injury or upset, this is a Final Four team. They are more loaded than last year, Vick has replaced Graham’s role nicely, and should win the Big 12 *sign* again.



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