It’s that time of year again. The Big 12 basketball season is upon us, and the Kansas Jayhawks are about to embark on a journey that they hope ends in a record-breaking fifteenth consecutive conference championship. The Jayhawks are once again picked to win the league, but it will be no easy task to pick up another title. We will dive into each of the ten Big 12 teams with our 2018-19 Big 12 Men’s Basketball Preview. Below is a breakdown of the ten teams in the Big 12, listed in order of the preseason conference standings.
- Kansas Jayhawks
- Kansas State Wildcats
- West Virginia Mountaineers
- Texas Christian Horned Frogs/Texas Longhorns (Tied for 4th)
- Iowa State Cyclones
- Texas Tech Red Raiders
- Oklahoma Sooners
- Baylor Bears
- Oklahoma State Cowboys
Before we dive into a breakdown of each team, tickets to the Big 12 Tournament at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo. are on sale, and you can purchase them here (Tickets can be purchased by session, or you can purchase an All Sessions pass: https://www.ticketsforless.com/big12mensbasketballtournamenttickets.html
Kansas Jayhawks (11-1 overall)
Key Players: Dedric Lawson | Udoka Azubuike | Lagerald Vick
Big 12 Outlook: The Jayhawks have all the pieces to win their fifteenth consecutive Big 12 regular season title, but the question will be if they can shoot well enough when/if Dedric Lawson or Udoka Azubuike find themselves in foul trouble, or just simply have an off night. Unlike the 2017-18 Jayhawks that hit 391 threes and shot above 40 percent from beyond the arc, this year’s team has not shown the ability to consistently shoot the ball well from outside the arc. Aside from Lagerald Vick (39-for-79, 49%), the Jayhawks are hitting just 29 percent of their shots from deep, which is a cause for concern heading into conference play.
Kansas State Wildcats (10-2 Overall)
Key Players: Barry Brown Jr. | Dean Wade | Xavier Sneed
Big 12 Outlook: The Wildcats opened the season ranked and got off to a hot 6-0 start, but the month of December was not very merry for the Wildcats. They dropped two straight to open the month, and lost preseason All-Big 12 selection Dean Wade for an undisclosed amount of time due to injury on Dec. 15. If the Wildcats can survive a brutal opening to the Big 12 season that includes Texas at home, at Texas Tech and then home against West Virginia, they could go into their Feb. 5 match-up against the Jayhawks playing for the top spot at the midway point of the conference season. Of course, this all hinders on the health of Dean Wade.
West Virginia Mountaineers (8-4 Overall)
Key Players: Esa Ahmad | Sagaba Konate | Lamont West
Big 12 Outlook: West Virginia’s non-conference schedule was up-and-down early on, and they are entering Big 12 play with four losses already on their resume. That, paired with a tough opening to conference play that includes a home opener with a ranked Texas Tech squad, then three of their next four on the road at Texas, Kansas State and TCU before returning home to face Kansas on Jan. 19 could spell trouble for the Mountaineers. You can never count out Bob Huggins and his “Press Virginia” defense, though.
TCU Horned Frogs (11-1 Overall)
Key Players: Desmond Bane | Alex Robinson | Kouat Noi
Big 12 Outlook: The Horned Frogs are off to another hot start this season under Jamie Dixon, but with a soft non-conference schedule that was to be expected. Time will tell if TCU can live up to a pre-season top four finish in the Big 12 like the coaches predicted, but if Desmond Bane (15 PPG, 6 RPG, 54% FG) and Alex Robinson (14 PPG, 9 APG, 55% FG) can continue to play at an elite level, the Horned Frogs have a chance to crack to top three and live in the Top 25 for much of the season.
Texas Longhorns (8-4 Overall)
Key Players: Kerwin Roach II | Dylan Osetkowski | Matt Coleman III
Big 12 Outlook: The non-conference schedule has been an interesting road for the Longhorns as they opened the season 5-0 capped by a 92-89 win over a top ten North Carolina squad, but then they lost three straight with bad losses to Radford and VCU at home. Texas has had a problem staying consistent during the Shaka Smart era, but they are loaded with talent and experience. If they can find a way to bring it night in and night out, Texas could give the Jayhawks a run for their money for the first time since Kevin Durant donned the burnt orange.
Iowa State Cyclones (10-2 Overall)
Key Players: Marial Shayok | Michael Jacobson | Talen Horton-Tucker
Big 12 Outlook: The Cyclones head into Big 12 play as the surprise of the league thus far this season led by senior transfer Marial Shayok, who has emerged as a star on the offensive end after playing in a stagnant Virginia offensive system for three seasons. Shayok and the Cyclones are averaging north of 82 points per game thus far with four players averaging 13+ points per game while the team is shooting 49 percent from the field. One would have to imagine those numbers will all dip in come capacity in league play, but if Iowa State continues to shoot it like they have, they could pose problems for all nine other teams in the league.
Texas Tech Red Raiders (11-1 Overall)
Key Players: Jarrett Culver | Matt Mooney | Tariq Owens
Big 12 Outlook: Coming off an Elite 8 run, Texas Tech did not garner much respect from the Big 12 coaches as they enter conference play picked to finish seventh. Behind Lubbock native Jarrett Culver, though, the Red Raiders opened the 2018-19 season 10-0 and climbed as high as No. 12 in the rankings, but a loss to Duke before Christmas ended any undefeated hopes. It will be interesting to see if Texas Tech can remain in the Top 25 as they get into the thick of conference play because their non-conference schedule was as fluffy as they come, but expect the Red Raiders to finish in the top half of the league.
Oklahoma Sooners (11-1 Overall)
Key Players: Christian James | Aaron Calixte | Brady Manek
Big 12 Outlook: Oklahoma enters league play as one of the more experienced groups in the conference, with four of their five top scorers thus far being seniors, led by Christian James. James is averaging nearly 19 points per game this season and has helped the Sooners to resume victories over Florida, Notre Dame and Wichita State to name a few. Similar to Texas Tech, the Sooners have a chance to make some noise in the Big 12 and could find themselves in the big dance once again at season’s end despite likely not having the pieces to win the league.
Baylor Bears (8-4 Overall)
Key Players: Makai Mason | Tristan Clark | King McClure
Big 12 Outlook: Baylor is set to enter conference play at nearly full strength as sophomore Mario Kegler is back from injury, but after an 8-4 start to the season they will face a tough trio of opponents to open league play. They open at TCU and then host Iowa State and Kansas in their first three games, and then they have a pair of road match-ups at Oklahoma State and West Virginia sandwiched around a home date with Texas Tech. With their lack of experienced depth this season, it could be a rough year for the Bears in the Big 12 if they have any injury issues.
Oklahoma State Cowboys (6-6 Overall)
Key Players: Cameron McGriff | Lindy Waters III | Thomas Dziagwa
Big 12 Outlook: The Cowboys will enter conference play with the worst overall record of the ten teams, though they do have a solid win under their belt over a ranked LSU squad. Depth will be the issue for Oklahoma State this season and it seems they will only go as far as Cameron McGriff and Lindy Waters III can take them. If either of those two have an off night, it could prove to be a long season for the Cowboys in Big 12 play.