The No. 22 Texas Tech Red Raiders face the stacked Big 12 starting Friday at 7:00 p.m. in Lubbock against the No. 18 Baylor Bears. This marks the beginning of the Big 12 season and the gauntlet that awaits the Red Raiders as all of the Big 12 teams have won at least 9 games in the non-conference season. All 10 teams are rearing to go as they are all eyeing the NCAA tournament in March. Let’s go team by team and get a better look at each of them.
Worst Loss: @ No. 21 Xavier 76-63
Best Win: Vs. Wisconsin 70-65
Manu Lecomte: 18 points, 3 assists per game.
Jo Lual-Acuil Jr.: 15 points, 10 rebounds per game.
Thoughts: The Baylor Bears have a great-looking team but have no wins against any top-25 opponents. Their only games against any good teams have resulted in losses. I do expect them to play very well in the Big 12, even with the loss of 6th-man Terry Maston, who should be back in the fold soon. If the Bears can get Maston back to full strength, look for the Bears to win some big games this Big 12 season.
Worst Loss: Vs. Washington 74-65
Best Win: Vs. No. 7 Kentucky 65-61
Devonte Graham: 17 points, 4 rebounds, 8 assists per game.
Lagerald Vick: 17 points, 6.6 rebounds, 4 assists per game.
Thoughts: The Kansas Jayhawks have more competition than in years past for the Big 12. Now with 6 teams in the top-25, the Jayhawk’s depth becomes a problem for them. How will they hold up if their only post player gets in foul trouble? Nevertheless, the Jayhawks have many talented guards as usual and will give good teams fits defensively. Look for Bill Self’s team to once again contend for a Big 12 Championship this year.
ICYMI: Kansas enjoyed its best shooting night of the season in a 109-64 win over Omaha Monday, hitting over 62% from the field, including 16 threes. #KUbball— Kansas Basketball (@KUHoops) December 19, 2017
RECAP ➡️ https://t.co/LWI9XpVIMS pic.twitter.com/BFW5f9JZbW
Worst Loss: vs. Tulsa 61-54
Best Win: @ Washington State 68-65
Barry Brown Jr.: 14 points, 3 rebounds per game.
Kamau Stokes: 14 points, 5 assists per game.
Thoughts: The Kansas State Wildcats have only played one game against one good team, Arizona State. The Wildcats played surprisingly well in that game, only losing by two points. However, besides that game, the Wildcats haven’t played anyone contending for the NCAA tournament. They only have 2 wins against Power 5 teams in lowly Vanderbilt and Washington State. They will look to get the ball to Barry Brown Jr. and get him going while allowing Stokes to give others opportunities to score. These are their two best options. I expect Kansas State to get shut down in Big 12 and not get many wins with the sheer amounts of talent in the league.
Worst Loss: Vs. Arkansas 92-83
Best Win: @ No. 3 Wichita State 91-83
Trae Young: 28 points, 10 assists per game.
Christian James: 13 points, 4 rebounds per game.
Thoughts: Their entire offense runs through Trae Young. I personally think Young is not enough for the Sooners to win the Big 12. They also don’t have enough depth to sustain consistency. With the great teams and coaches of the Big 12 all keying in on Trae Young, I expect the Sooners to lose games they are supposed to win. When teams take away Trae Young, the Sooners’ entire offense is taken away. Yes, they still have some good shooters and players, but the team without Young will look like last year’s team, a team that only managed to win five Big 12 games last year. While the Sooners will be great this year, look for the Sooners to lose some games when Trae Young gets taken out of the game.
Worst Loss: Vs. No. 25 Texas A&M 88-65
Best Win: Vs. No. 15 Virginia 68-61
Jevon Carter: 18 points, 5 rebounds, 6 assists per game.
Daxter Miles Jr.: 15 points, 3 rebounds, 3 assists per game.
Thoughts: Carter and Miles are by far their best and most experienced players, being the only two seniors on the team. This team plays a triangle offense with a ton of three-pointers and trying to pound the basketball inside. The Mountaineers will trap you and they are good at it. They run a high tempo, averaging almost 90 points per game. This is one of the teams I believe can win the Big 12, they will just have to lean on Carter and Miles. This team will contend for the Big 12, and the just might have the horses to do it.
Worst Loss: Vs. Michigan 59-52
Best Win: Vs. Alabama 66-50
Mohamed Bamba: 11 points, 10 rebounds per game.
Andrew Jones: 15 points, 3 assists per game.
Thoughts: Mohamed Bamba was this years' great get for the Longhorns. And while he’s playing good so far, he is not playing to his full potential. The Longhorns are as talented as the rest of the Big 12 but coach Shaka Smart and his staff have not done a good job at developing talent. The Longhorns will rely on Jones and Bamba to do most of the scoring and Kerwin Roach II to be the point guard most of the time. The Longhorns also don’t have a deep bench. The worst thing about the Longhorns is the fact that they are excruciatingly inconsistent. They play their best game of the year against Duke and push them to the limit, but a few weeks later, they score less than 50 points and almost lost to Tennessee State (yes there is such a school as Tennessee State). I see the Longhorns pulling an upset or two but not winning enough games to make the NCAA tournament.
Worst Loss: Vs. Milwaukee 74-56
Best Win: Vs. Boise State: 75-64
Nick Babb: 12 points, 7 rebounds, 7 assists per game.
Donovan Jackson: 15 points per game.
Thoughts: This Iowa State team is one of the worst we have seen from them in a long time. They have no depth and have a horrible loss to a team that shouldn’t even be on the floor with a Big 12 team. I have been surprised with the way this team has bounced back after getting blown out in their first two games. They have won nine in a row and will look to continue the momentum in Big 12 play. I do not think they will as they only play 7-8 players per game and their three best players are all averaging over 30 minutes per game. I honestly don’t know how many games this Iowa State team will win in Big 12 play. Nick Rabb will be leaned on for every facet of the game and with the depth of the Big 12, I don’t believe Rabb and their best scorer, Donovan Jackson, can win them games against teams with huge benches (like Texas Tech).
Worst Loss: @ No. 16 Texas A&M 72-55
Best Win: Vs. No. 19 Florida State 71-70
Jeffery Carroll: 15 points, 6 rebounds per game.
Kendall Smith: 11 points, 4 assists per game.
Thoughts: The Oklahoma State Cowboys have been much better than I originally predicted this season. I thought with the FBI scandal that seems to define the program at this moment, along with the program’s third new head coach in as many years, the Cowboys would not be able to have success. I was wrong. They have pushed top-25 teams to the brink and even handed a ranked Florida State their first loss of the season. Jeffery Carroll will be the center of the Oklahoma State offense, and stopping him will be the key to success for the Big 12. If Carroll can have as big of a year as he did last year, I can see the Cowboys in the hunt for the NCAA tournament come March.
Worst Loss: No losses.
Best Win: Vs. No. 22 Nevada 84-80
Kenrich Williams: 14 points, 9 rebounds per game.
Jaylen Fisher: 12 points, 6 rebounds per game.
Thoughts: The undefeated TCU Horned Frogs have shown the ability to win close games this season. They have a balanced attack and plenty of shooters from all positions. This team is legitimate and I believe they are one of the contenders in the Big 12 this season. All five of their starters are good players that share the ball and can shoot as well. They play small ball most of the time and this will be key against bigger teams such as West Virginia. Look for TCU to win most of their games in Big 12 play and challenge to take the crown away from Kansas.
Worst Loss: @ Seton Hall: 89-79
Best Win: vs. Nevada 84-76 (OT)
Keenan Evans: 16 points, 4 assists per game
Zhaire Smith: 10 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists per game.
Thoughts: This team has depth. I’ve said it all year, the Red Raider’s depth will help them win games. They have 10 guys all playing 13 or more minutes per game and no one plays over 26 minutes per game. Coach Beard has these guys rested and ready to go. I see a no huge uptake in minutes for any of these guys because they are all so good. This team can shock the Big 12 and get wins that will propel them into contention because of the depth they have. Keenan Evans will be the guy for the Red Raiders. He is playing at an All-Conference level now and I see an elevation in play for him once he gets to Big 12 play. They also have three gifted freshmen coming off the bench who would probably start at other Big 12 schools. The Red Raiders have a unique combination of seniors and freshmen that can challenge any team in the Big 12. Watch out for the Red Raiders folks, they are good.
Prediction: This year will be one of the best in Big 12 history. There are honestly six legitimate contenders this year. I think Kansas, with the addition of another big-man, will be able to once again find a way to win the Big 12. They are adding a new forward in Silvio De Sousa and the Jawhawks have so much talent in the back-court that can come at you in so many ways. If Kansas falls short, look for teams like West Virginia and Texas Tech, who have huge benches full of talent to knock off the 13-year champs.