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Recalibrating Before Conference Play

Let’s check in on the rest of the Big 12

NCAA Basketball: Big 12 Basketball Media Day Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

Big 12 conference play starts this week, and with it begins the toughest portion of the season for every team. The Big 12 is still rated as the toughest conference in the country, though the gap to second (Big 10) is smaller than previous years. I still think the conference is likely to get seven teams into the NCAA Tournament this year, but the last spot or two may be on the bubble most of the season. We’ve talked about Texas, but I felt like now is a good time to catch you up on how the rest of the conference has performed. I’m posting these in the order they were predicted to finish in the preseason coaches poll.

Kansas Jayhawks

Coaches Poll: 1st

BWG’s preseason pick: 1st

Best Win: Michigan State (#5 KenPom) on a neutral site 92-87

Worst Loss: @ Arizona State (#49 KenPom) 80-76

Kansas is Kansas-ing, water is wet, etc. Their only loss came while Udoka Azubuike - he’s been around long enough I can type that from memory - was out for a few games, but he’s back and healthy. They may not win 16 games in conference play, but it seems unlikely anyone will end their reign.

Where I’d Pick Them Now: 1st

Kansas State Wildcats

Coaches Poll: 2nd

BWG’s preseason pick: 4th

Best Win: Vanderbilt (#63 KenPom) 69-58

Worst Loss: @ Tulsa (#125 KenPom) 47-46

I was somewhat skeptical of everyone being so high on the Wildcats, and it seems like that skepticism was well-founded. Their offense was already the worst in the Big 12 and now they’re dealing with Dean Wade being out for an extended period of time. They nearly blew a 20-point lead at home against George Mason (#156) this week before scraping past with a 59-58 win. They play great defense so they’ll try to drag everyone down with a rock fight, but this could be a patented “Bruce Weber isn’t comfortable unless his seat is warm” season.

Where I’d Pick Them Now: 7th

West Virginia Mountaineers

Coaches Poll: 3rd

BWG’s preseason pick: 5th

Best Win: Pittsburgh (#83 KenPom) 69-59

Worst Loss: Western Kentucky (#108 KenPom) on a neutral site 63-57

Bob Huggins is dealing with two major problems: Jevon Carter is in the NBA and Sagaba Konate is spending his days playing like he’s in the NBA. There’s a minor war going on between Huggins and Konate which is complicated by a nagging knee injury; if Huggins and Konate can get on the same page then the Mountaineers might be able to salvage this season, but they will need to be 10-8 or better if they want to go dancing.

Where I’d Pick Them Now: 8th

TCU Horned Frogs

Coaches Poll: T-4th

BWG’s preseason pick: 3rd

Best Win: Fresno State (#66 KenPom) 77-69

Worst Loss: Lipscomb (#60 KenPom) 73-64

Jaylen Fisher is more healthy than not this year and that means TCU is great offensively more often than not. It’s a very balanced squad, and they could finish as high as second in the conference. I’m just a bit skittish about picking them that high right now.

Where I’d Pick Them Now: 4th

Texas Longhorns

Coaches Poll: T-4th

BWG’s preseason pick: 2nd

Best Win: North Carolina (#7 KenPom) on a neutral site 92-89

Worst Loss: Radford (#128 KenPom) 62-59

We’re all on this roller coaster together, and we all know Texas is going to live and die by the three this year. This feels like a year where the difference between 3rd & 7th place is 10-8 versus 8-10, and with the varying ability to hit threes it’s hard to say with any certainty where Texas falls in this range. It would be nice to have a fully weaponized Andrew Jones skulking around the perimeter, but that doesn’t appear to be in the cards this year.

Where I’d Pick Them Now: 6th

Iowa State Cyclones

Coaches Poll: 6th

BWG’s preseason pick: 6th

Best Win: Missouri (#72 KenPom) 76-59

Worst Loss: Arizona (#54 KenPom) on a neutral site 71-66

Iowa State is 10-2 and Lindell Wigginton has played in exactly two of those games. If he hadn’t been out for over a month, there’s a solid chance they’re 12-0 and putting the rest of the conference on notice. I don’t think they’ll be the team to take down Kansas, but they could be the best chance among the aspirants.

Where I’d Pick Them Now: 2nd

Texas Tech Red Raiders

Coaches Poll: 7th

BWG’s preseason pick: 7th

Best Win: Nebraska (#15 KenPom) on a neutral site 70-52

Worst Loss: Duke (#1 KenPom) on a neutral site 69-58

Most everyone thought Tech would take a step back with the loss of Keenan Evans, but Jarrett Culver is doing his best to fill that hole. Tech is one of the best defenses in the country this year, though their offense isn’t quite up to last year’s effectiveness. I also think some of their defensive numbers will slide a bit when they play the Big 12; Chris Beard had a couple really good opponents but over twice as many teams that rank in the bottom 50 of D-I. They’re a good team and should be in the top half of the standings in March, but we’ll see if they’re as good as they’ve played to date.

Where I’d Pick Them Now: 3rd

Oklahoma Sooners

Coaches Poll: 8th

BWG’s preseason pick: 8th

Best Win: Florida (#17 KenPom) on a neutral site 65-60

Worst Loss: Wisconsin (#14 KenPom) on a neutral site 78-58

Unlike Beard, Lon Kruger loaded the Sooners up with quality non-conference opponents and they’ve beaten most of them. Aaron Calixte has integrated into the Oklahoma offense swimmingly, but the real surprise is Christian James finally fulfilling his potential. He’s really showing out this year.

Where I’d Pick Them Now: 5th

Baylor Bears

Coaches Poll: 9th

BWG’s preseason pick: 10th

Best Win: @ Arizona (#54 KenPom) 58-49

Worst Loss: Texas Southern (#201 KenPom) 72-69

A Scott Drew team who can’t shoot is a Scott Drew team who can’t win. They’re currently making 29% of their threes and they turn the ball over more than 21% of the time, which is bad. This might be the worst team Drew has had in a decade, and if Oklahoma State wasn’t so down they would be in the cellar.

Where I’d Pick Them Now: 9th

Oklahoma State Cowboys

Coaches Poll: 10th

BWG’s preseason pick: 9th

Best Win: LSU (#40 KenPom) on a neutral site 90-77

Worst Loss: @ Charlotte (#306 KenPom) 66-64

Mike Boynton has his work cut out for him. The one thing this team does well is shoot threes, so it wouldn’t surprise me if they have a year like last year where they surprise a couple teams that are much better than them, but this looks like a rebuilding year for the Cowboys.

Where I’d Pick Them Now: 10th