For the first time in 15 years, the Kansas Jayhawks didn’t win at least a share of the Big 12 regular season title. Kansas State and Texas Tech shared the title after going 14-4 in conference play, while Kansas finished 12-6. The Jayhawks couldn’t even save face by winning the Big 12 Conference Tournament as Iowa State claimed that crown by beating Kansas 78-66 in the final. Kansas is the favorite to win the Big 12 once again per the preseason betting odds, but everyone now knows that the juggernauts can be defeated.
Odds to Win Big 12 +212
Odds to Win National Championship +1402
The Jayhawks might have the best frontcourt in the country even though star power forward Dedric Lawson has left Lawrence. Udoka Azubuike was leading the country in shooting percentage (70.5%) before a wrist injury ended his season early in 2018-19, and Silvio De Sousa is finally eligible after being forced to sit out for all last year because of alleged rules violations.
Azubuike is a force on both ends of the floor in the paint. He averaged a little over three blocks per 40 minutes last season, and his presence will ensure that Kansas wins the rebounding battle more often than not. De Sousa was one of the top big men in the country in the last class, so Bill Self will love to go big with these two, and David McCormack provides a great presence off the bench.
Devon Dotson’s return makes Kansas a real contender too. Dotson was considered likely to leave early for the NBA, but he decided to come back to the Jayhawks after testing the waters for an extended period. The young guard was a solid shooter last season, and his ability to hit jumpers will help keep opponents from collapsing on the big men.
Odds to Win Big 12 +328
Odds to Win National Championship +3160
Tristan Clark is back, and that makes Baylor a threat to win the Big 12. Clark missed most of last season with a knee injury, but he has spent all summer rehabbing and will be good to go at the start of the year. When he was healthy, Clark was hitting a whopping 72.1 percent of his field goals, and Big 12 opponents had a very difficult time slowing him down.
Mark Vital, Jared Butler, Mario Kegler, and Devonte Bandoo are also back, making Baylor the team most likely to make a run at Kansas. Scott Drew is one of the best coaches in the country, and this team has the depth to win the Big 12 even if one or two players go down with injuries. Fellow contenders Kansas and Texas Tech can’t make the same claim.
Texas Tech Red Raiders
Odds to Win Big 12 +379
Odds to Win National Championship +3614
Chris Beard nearly achieved the impossible in Lubbock. Beard nearly led the Red Raiders to a national title last season, and they beat plenty of blue bloods along the way. Texas Tech knocked off Michigan, Gonzaga, and Michigan State to set up a date with Virginia in the National Championship, only to fall short in overtime after a spirited comeback from the Cavaliers.
This year’s Red Raiders are almost certain to take a step backwards. Four of five starters from last year’s team are gone, with Davide Moretti the only returning starter. Worse yet, there are only three players on the team that played a single minute for Texas Tech during last year’s run, so these Red Raiders are incredibly raw.
Moretti and Kyler Edwards should ensure the backcourt is still solid, but there are some major potential problems in the frontcourt. Texas Tech does not have much size, and other teams in the Big 12 could dominate them in the low post.
Odds to Win Big 12 +763
Odds to Win National Championship +15000
There’s a precipitous drop from the top three teams in the Big 12 to everyone else. While Oklahoma has the fourth-lowest odds to win the conference per the oddsmakers, the Sooners were picked to finish ninth in the Big 12 by Blue Ribbon.
Oklahoma returns three starters from last year’s team, but there is no one else on the roster that played significant minutes in 2018-19. That lack of depth can hurt given the tempo Lon Kruger likes to play at, so some new faces will have to step up.
Brady Manek will be leaned on extensively this season. Manek is the Sooners’ leading returner from last season, and he is an above average three-point shooter. His size and ability to kick out to hit open threes will help Oklahoma put up points, but it will be tough for this team to get back to the NCAA Tournament.
Odds to Win Big 12 +1022
Odds to Win National Championship +11500
Shaka Smart must show considerable improvement in his fifth year to justify remaining the head coach at Texas. Smart has been underwhelming in his first four seasons in Austin, compiling a 71-66 record, and if the Longhorns can’t be competitive against the elite Big 12 teams, the administration seems ready to move on and hire someone like Chris Beard that has deep ties to the area.
The Longhorns will be led by their backcourt once again this year. Texas lost Jaxson Hayes to the NBA Draft after just one season in Austin, but guards Matt Coleman and Courtney Ramey are the best two players on the roster. Coleman is one of the best distributors in the conference, while Ramey can hit the triple with regularity. For the Longhorns’ backcourt to challenge the best in the Big 12, they need to show improvement in specific areas though. Ramey hit less than 60 percent of his free throws as a guard, while Coleman is hitting less than 31 percent of his three-point attempts.
West Virginia Mountaineers
Odds to Win Big 12 +1605
Odds to Win National Championship +16000
After four straight seasons with at least 25 wins, West Virginia bottomed out last year. Injuries derailed what was expected to be a promising season for the Mountaineers, and the expectations this season are far more demure.
Derek Culver is the key to everything in Morgantown. Culver is expected to be one of the top big men in the Big 12, and he nearly averaged a double-double in hist first season with WVU. His play against conference foes was very encouraging, and this frontcourt could be very good if freshman Oscar Tshiebwe plays to his potential.
Oklahoma State Cowboys
Odds to Win Big 12 +1707
Odds to Win National Championship +25000
An off-court incident effectively ended Oklahoma State’s season early in 2018-19. Mike Boynton kicked three of his best players off the team, but while that ruined the Cowboys’ chances last season, it has made this team stronger heading into this season due to the experience some of those young players received as a result of the move.
All five players that started over the second half of the season have returned to Stillwater. Boynton signed a nice recruiting class, and the Cowboys brought in a nice graduate transfer in Jonathan Laurent. Laurent sank 46.7 percent of his triples with UMass last season, while Thomas Dziagwa hit 42.5 percent of his threes for OSU making this one of the best perimeter shooting teams in the conference.
TCU Horned Frogs
Odds to Win Big 12 +2082
Odds to Win National Championship +60000
Jamie Dixon couldn’t get TCU back to the NCAA Tournament, but he clearly has the Horned Frogs on the right track. They have won 21 or more games in each of his previous three seasons in Fort Worth, so it’s hard to count them out even though they have some of the longest odds to win the Big 12 in 2019-20.
This team will play great defense, but scoring has long been an issue. Desmond Bane should be one of TCU’s best players in that department since he has now in his senior year with the Horned Frogs, and Kevin Samuel is a consistent scorer when he gets the ball in the low post. However, there are really no other proven scorers, so expect a lot of low-scoring games from TCU again this season.
Iowa State Cyclones
Odds to Win Big 12 +2627
Odds to Win National Championship +15000
The best pure point guard in the Big 12 might be Tyrese Haliburton. Haliburton had the second-best assist-to-turnover ratio of any freshman in the nation last year, and he is expected to grow even more as a sophomore. He was one of the key contributors on the United States’ U-19 World Cup team this summer, and that extra experience could help him make a big jump.
Michael Jacobson is an underrated forward and will be one of the leaders after starting all 35 games and leading the Cyclones in rebounding last season. Solomon Young is hoping to stay healthy after an injury plagued last few seasons in Ames, and if he can stay on the court, Iowa State could turn some heads this season.
Kansas State Wildcats
Odds to Win Big 12 +2627
Odds to Win National Championship +30000
Given what we have seen from the Wildcats over the last couple years, this team should not have the longest odds to win the Big 12. Barry Bowen Jr. and Dean Wade have both left the Little Apple, but Bruce Weber has a ton of talent coming back to Kansas State.
Xavier Sneed is one of the top players in the Big 12, and Cartier Diarra is very undervalued at the guard spot. Makol Mawien has come along nicely over the last two seasons, and if one of the newcomers develops quickly, Kansas State has a great chance of getting to 20 wins once again.