Big 12 basketball preview: Can Baylor get past Kansas after national title run?

The 2022-23 college basketball season is just seven days away. Come back each day this week as we break down the biggest conferences, teams and more leading up to the season.

The Big 12, and the state of Texas in general, is stronger than ever.

The top of the Big 12 conference is loaded to start off the season, thanks largely to the Lone Star state. Five teams based in Texas were ranked inside the Associated Press’ preseason top-25 — four of which are in the Big 12 and a fifth who will join the conference next year. It might be as good as the state’s ever been.

Oh, and defending national champion Kansas is a top-5 program once again, too.

Baylor could easily give Bill Self and the Jayhawks a run. Texas looks like it’s back, and TCU coach Jamie Dixon is poised to lead the Horned Frogs to the NCAA tournament for a second straight season. That hasn’t happened in Fort Worth since the 1950s.

Here’s everything you need to know about the Big 12:

Ranked Big 12 Teams

For the full Associated Press preseason Top 25 poll, click here.

T5 Kansas

T5 Baylor

No. 12 Texas

No. 14 TCU

No. 25 Texas Tech

Preseason Coaches Poll

This poll was conducted by the Big 12 Conference. Coaches could not vote for their own team.

1. Baylor

2. Kansas

3. Texas

4. TCU

T5. Oklahoma State

T5. Texas Tech

7. Oklahoma

8. Iowa State

9. West Virginia

10. Kansas State

BetMGM Odds

Kansas is listed at +1400 on BetMGM to repeat as national champions this season, not far behind betting favorite Gonzaga at +900. Baylor is close behind at +1600, and Texas comes in at +2500.

Can new Kansas team defend national title?

Bill Self is in a fantastic position to run it back with the Jayhawks this season.

No. 5 Kansas, fresh off their win over North Carolina to win the national championship last season, is back with more talent and ready to defend their title.

Now, the lineup isn’t exactly the same. Both forward Jalen Wilson and guard Dajuan Harris Jr. are back, but that’s about it. Wilson averaged 11.1 points and 7.4 rebounds, and Harris put up 5.4 points and 4.2 assists. But Ochai Agabji, Christian Braun, David McCormack, Remy Martin and Jalen Coleman-lands are all gone — which leaves Self with some spots to fill.

One player that will help significantly is Texas Tech transfer Kevin McCullar, a defensive specialist who averaged 10.1 points and 4.6 rebounds last season with the Red Raiders.

Self brought in four freshmen this season, including five-star recruits Gradey Dick and MJ Rice, all of whom will have to make an impact.

Self won’t have an easy path forward with his group. The Jayhawks will take on No. 7 Duke in just their third game before hosting No. 13 Indiana about a month later. And with a tough group of Big 12 schools in Texas waiting in the second half of the year, Kansas doesn’t have much time to waste getting its new group clicking.

The goal, however, is still extremely clear.

"All I want to do is reach that moment again," Wilson said, via The Associated Press. "Coach talked about how fun it will be, you know, but you don't really understand until you get there. But once you get there, it's like, man, it's the greatest moment of your life. And so I have an opportunity to do it again. Motivates me every single day."

Baylor a preseason favorite yet again

It’s hard to picture a better way to enter your 20th year.

Scott Drew’s Baylor team is once again a favorite to not only win the Big 12 this season, but to cut down the nets in April for the second time in three years.

The Bears, who are tied at No. 5 with Kansas in the Associated Press’ preseason poll, were picked as favorites to win the conference — which would mark their third-straight conference title.

The Bears will return leading scorer Adam Flagler, who put up 13.8 points per game last season and is set to take over at point guard, and forward Flo Thamba. Those two, along with transfers Jalen Bridges, from West Virginia, and Caleb Lohner, from BYU, give the Bears plenty of experience. And, Drew landed five-star recruit Keyonte George — who is their highest-ranked recruit ever and a popular pick to win Big 12 Freshman of the Year.

To add to that group, LJ Cryer is coming back from a right foot injury and Langston Love from an ACL injury. Both were cleared to return already, and the team will get forward Jonathan Tchatchoua back from a knee injury at some point, too.

The Bears will be in for a quick start, with a matchup against No. 18 Virginia and then either No. 8 UCLA or No. 23 Illinois before squaring off against No. 2 Gonzaga — all of which are on neutral floors. But Drew is, once again, in a great position.

"Really like the returning upperclassmen," Drew said, via The Associated Pres. "The new guys are really bought in, and really great additions. The chemistry has been tremendous, and our staff really enjoys going to practice every day, working with our guys because they want to get better. Couldn't ask for more."

Texas is back

Chris Beard snapped Texas’ long winless drought in the NCAA tournament last season, his first with the program in Austin.

Now, his team is undoubtedly good enough to make a deep run — something the Longhorns haven’t had in about a decade.

Fifth-year guard Timmy Allen is back after averaging 12.1 points and 6.4 rebounds last season. Beard gets former Minnesota star Marcus Carr, forward Christian Bishup and seniors Dylan Disu and Brock Cunningham back, all of whom should put up great minutes for Texas. Add in Iowa State transfer Tyrese Hunter, the former Big 12 Freshman of the Year, to the mix, too.

"Each of them chose to come back to Texas for the right reasons," Beard said at media day earlier this month. "I think each of them saw value in coming back. And we feel like we have a lot of unfinished business together.

"But those five guys that returned, three all-conference players. A healthy Dylan Disu, in my mind can be an all-conference player, and certainly Brock Cunningham, again one of the all-time Big 12 greats. Those five guys give us a chance to be more than relative as returners."

But perhaps most impressive with Beard’s squad is his recruiting class. Beard signed a pair of five-star recruits and had the sixth-best recruiting class in the country thanks to 6-foot-8 forward Dillon Mitchell — who was the No. 4 ranked recruit in his class — and point guard Arterio Morris — who was the second-best point guard in his class.

Texas will play host to No. 2 Gonzaga early, which should be a great test of how good this team really is right off the bat.

Is it finally TCU’s time?

Jamie Dixon has really built the Horned Frogs into a true contender, both in the Big 12 and nationally — which is something that the program hasn’t had, well, ever.

And with his entire starting roster back and available to him, it may finally be time for TCU’s big run.

Guard Mike Miles is coming off a career-best season where he averaged 15.4 points and 3.8 assist while earning All-Big 12 honors. The preseason Big 12 Player of the Year selection was huge in getting the Horned Frogs into the NCAA tournament, where they picked up their first win in more than three decades. He’ll be critical to their success this year once again, as will big men Eddie Lampkin and Emanuel Miller.

Lampkin, a 6-foot-11, 300-pound center, averaged just 6.8 points per game last year but an impressive 6.2 rebounds — which were split evenly on both the offensive and defensive ends. Miller averaged 10.3 points and 6.2 rebounds last season, too.

Add in shooter Chick O’Bannon, guard Damion Baugh and sixth-man Michah Peavy, along with Oklahoma State transfer Rondel Walker, TCU has one of the most experienced rosters in the country.

While they had their issues last season — TCU had a league-worst turnover margin and second-worst 3-point shooting percentage — the Horned Frogs could easily find themselves in the running for the Big 12 title.

That is, if they can keep up with Kansas, Baylor and Texas.

Notable Early Games

No. 7 Duke at No. 5 Kansas* | Tuesday, Nov. 15

No. 2 Gonzaga at No. 12 Texas | Wednesday, Nov. 16

No. 18 Virginia at No. 5 Baylor* | Friday, Nov. 18

No. 8 UCLA/No. 23 Illinois at No. 5 Baylor | Sunday, Nov. 20

No. 25 Texas Tech at No. 9 Creighton* | Monday, Nov. 21

*Neutral Court