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Big 12 Men’s Basketball Preseason Rankings: Baylor, Kansas Still on Top

A crop of challengers will look to shake up the status quo in what’s perennially one of the sport’s best leagues.

As part of its 2022–23 men’s basketball preseason coverage, Sports Illustrated is rolling out previews for each of the top 10 conferences. Next up is the Big 12.

The Big 12 has produced men’s college basketball’s last two champions, of course, and has sent a team to four consecutive Final Fours. Those programs, Baylor and Kansas, remain the ones to beat this season, even with Texas and Texas Tech annually loading up and having established themselves as worthy opponents. But it’s the stability that makes the Bears and Jayhawks the cream of the conference—faces cycle in and out, but Scott Drew and Bill Self find ways to keep players around long enough that they learn to play together and like one another. There are always variables in that equation, of course. But the league again goes through Waco and Lawrence, particularly in a year where half the teams seem to be in some form of transition.

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SI’s picks for …

Conference Player of the Year: Jalen Wilson, Kansas
Newcomer of the Year: Keyonte George, Baylor
Dark-Horse Team to Watch: Texas

First team all-conference:

LJ Cryer, Baylor
Adam Flagler, Baylor
Tyrese Hunter, Texas
Jalen Wilson, Kansas
Kevin Obanor, Texas Tech

Baylor’s Adam Flagler dribbles

Flagler is one of a few remaining players from the Bears’ championship team.

SI’s predicted order of finish:

1. Baylor

What’s not to love? Adam Flagler and LJ Cryer form one of the most experienced guard duos in the nation. Freshman Keyonte George, a potential NBA lottery pick, adds scoring flavor, and while I’m not totally sure how efficient he’ll be right away, I do expect George to be the most immediately impactful freshman in the conference. On a Baylor team that shares the ball well, he’ll benefit quite a bit. West Virginia transfer Jalen Bridges could also be in for a breakout after changing scenery. Flo Thamba returns to do the dirty work, and Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua continues to rehab last season’s knee injury. Scott Drew has a recipe that works, and the collective experience this group shares should go a long way toward winning the league.

Postseason Projection: Title Contender

2. Kansas

The defending champs have their work cut out for them, with only Jalen Wilson and Dajuan Harris Jr. returning among last year’s principles. They’ll rely on Texas Tech transfer Kevin McCullar and highly rated freshmen Gradey Dick, MJ Rice and Ernest Udeh Jr. to cover for what they lost, but the Jayhawks figure in as only fringe national contenders on paper. Regardless, it’s hard to get too down on Bill Self–coached teams, and one expects that by the end of the season Kansas will have some things figured out.

Postseason Projection: Title Contender

3. Texas

The Longhorns may be the most talented team in the Big 12, but Chris Beard will again have his hands full sorting players into their various roles. Iowa State transfer Tyrese Hunter and freshmen Dillon Mitchell and Arterio Morris are all NBA prospects, but they’re also still competing for playing time with returners Timmy Allen, Marcus Carr, Christian Bishop and transfer Sir’Jabari Rice. I have no idea how this will shake out, but If the Longhorns can strike a balance, this team could be dangerous. Toppling establishment programs Baylor and Kansas over the course of a full campaign is just not an easy feat.

Postseason Projection: Second Weekend Upside

4. Texas Tech

Transfers Fardaws Aimaq (who will miss time with injury to start the year), Kerwin Walton and De’Vion Harmon will step into big roles alongside Kevin Obanor on what should again be a tough, tournament-caliber team. The Red Raiders are talented enough to win the league if everything pulls together but could wind up a bit too reliant on freshman ballhandlers to make that leap. Still, this program tends to find ways to get it done.

Postseason Projection: Second Weekend Upside

5. TCU

Star guard Mike Miles Jr. is the headliner and will be tasked with distributing the ball on a team full of long, athletic players but lacking in superior shot creators. The Horned Frogs have a chance to again be quite good defensively, but they were among the worst three-point shooting teams in the nation last year, and, barring some unforeseen emergence, may be best served trying to slug out wins on the other end.

Postseason Projection: Second Weekend Upside

6. Oklahoma

Porter Moser always seems to find ways to win, and Year 2 with the Sooners should bring some improvement as transfers Grant Sherfield and Joe Bamisile arrive to lead the backcourt. Star big man Tanner Groves returns for one more year to shoulder the load on offense, which he did quite effectively last season following his transfer from Eastern Washington.

Postseason Projection: Safe to Dance

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7. Oklahoma State

Much is riding on some progression from returning backcourt partners Avery Anderson III and Bryce Thompson, both of whom are capable of more than what they produced in 2020–21. Despite last season’s struggles, the Cowboys were elite defensively, and maintaining that while manufacturing more offense is the key.

Postseason Projection: On the Bubble

8. Iowa State

Losing Tyrese Hunter to the transfer portal was hard enough; then he picked Texas. The Cyclones overachieved in the NCAA tournament due in large part to Hunter’s efforts. St. Bonaventure transfers Osun Osunniyi and Jaren Holmes have a lot of slack to pick up, but this is a senior-heavy team that could punch up a little.

Postseason Projection: On the Bubble

9. West Virginia

The Mountaineers have never had consecutive sub-.500 seasons under Bob Huggins. This season may cut it close, with much of their roster turning over and Texas transfer Tre Mitchell looking like the new offensive focal point. Guard play looks like a potential problem point.

Postseason Projection: On the Bubble

10. Kansas State

Temper your expectations for Year 1 as longtime Baylor assistant Jerome Tang takes over. Florida transfer Keyontae Johnson appears set to return to basketball after collapsing on the court in December 2020, and after sexual assault charges against him were dropped earlier this year. It’s a transition season.

Postseason Projection: NIT Bound

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