For college hoops fans, it’s been the longest offseason in history with no NCAA Tournament back in March and even as we moved through the summer, we still never was for sure if we’d even see college basketball in the fall.
Yet, here we are.
The 2020-21 NCAA College Basketball season is officially underway and yes, there will be many schedule changes and postponements like we’ve seen in college football, it’s still nice to just get to this point.
There may not be a conference as strong in 2020 than the Big 12. The normal powerhouses sit at the top, but up to seven teams could get into the NCAA Tournament come March.
Let’s dive right into the preview of the Big 12!
Valedictorians: Baylor, Texas Tech, Kansas
Top of the Class: West Virginia, Texas, Oklahoma State, Oklahoma
Needs Tutoring: Iowa State, TCU
Failing: Kansas State
Players to Watch
* Jared Butler, Baylor (6-3 JR Guard): Withdrew his name from the NBA Draft and instantly became the front-runner to win Big 12 Player of the Year. Averaged over 16 PPG last season.
* Cade Cunningham, Oklahoma State (6-8 FR Guard): Star freshman may be the first pick in the 2021 NBA Draft. Triple-double threat who can finish at the rim.
* Marcus Garrett, Kansas (6-5 SR Guard): Versatile guard who will likely contribute more offensively this season. Best defensive guard in the country as the defending National Defensive Player of the Year last season.
* Greg Brown, Texas (6-9 FR Forward): Another super frosh for the Longhorns, Brown flirted with the G-League before signing with the Longhorns. Will be a huge factor in getting Texas over the hump and back into Big 12 title contention.
* Oscar Tshiebwe, West Virginia (6-9 SO Forward): Considered jumping to the NBA, but made the right decision to return to school. Tshiebwe is a strong rebounder and finisher inside who will have more opportunities to impress in his sophomore season.
The Big 12 from top to bottom is solid and have two true title contenders with a handful of teams likely to head to the dance.
Baylor is my favorite to win the title this season led by Butler and MaCio Teague, who both had options to head to the NBA. They’ll have some options at forward including Tristan Clark, transfer Jonathan Pchamwa Tchatchoua, and frehman Zach Loveday and Dain Dainja.
Overall, they are deeper and better than last season’s squad that won 26 games and was likely on their way to being a No. 1 seed. I truly love this Baylor team to make a deep run, but they’ll have Kansas right on their heels.
Kansas is just as deep as Baylor with a great mix of veterans such as Marcus Garrett, Ochai Agbaji, and David McCormack plus the addition of newcomers including outstanding freshman Bryce Thompson make Kansas again a Final Four threat.
Kansas looked to be a front-runner for the National title in 2020 before the cancallation and losing players like Devon Dotson and Udoka Azubuike will hurt, but I think both Kansas and Baylor could be Final Four teams this season.
Texas Tech will take some time to mesh as their roster was overhauled after last season, but come February, Chris Beard will likely have another powerhouse squad ready to make a postseason run. Don’t sleep on West Virginia either this season as Bob Huggins returns four starters from last year’s 21-win team.
The Texas Longhorns are the darkhorse of the Big 12. They feature a great set of guards led by Matt Coleman, Courtney Ramey, and Andrew Jones. Returning from injury will also be sharpshooter Jase Ferbes to add even more depth to the Texas backcourt.
Then, you jump to the frontcourt where Texas features a standout freshman in Greg Brown, who many thought was heading to the G-League to prep for the NBA. Signing Brown to pair with Jericho Sims and Gerald Liddell was huge for Texas to jump into the Big 12 conversation.
Not to mention, Shaka Smart may be in his make-or-break season with the Longhorns as he’s 90-78 in his five seasons with Texas with nothing to truly show for his tenure yet. This is the squad he’s been waiting on. Texas will be a fun team to watch for many reasons this season.
Cade Cunningham will draw a ton of attention on the Oklahoma State program this season, but as of now, the Cowboys still aren’t eligible to participate in the 2021 NCAA Tournament, so we’ll see how that plays out.
Oklahoma returns both Austin Reaves (14.7 PPG) and Brady Manek (14.4 PPG) which means they could be playing for a spot in the middle of the NCAA Tournament. TCU (Desmond Baine) and Iowa State (Tyrese Haliburton) lost their superstars to the NBA, so they’ll both struggle to stay out of last this season in the Big 12.
Kansas State also loss many players and they’ll spend 2020-21 rebuilding that program with some transfers and younger players.
At the end of the day, the Big 12 may be the best conference in all of college basketball and could possibly see four teams make the Sweet 16 and advance two to the Final Four. Maybe even a Baylor-Kansas National Championship?
I can see it!