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Previewing the loaded Big 12 conference on opening night

The Viva the Matadors staff puts together its own preseason poll, plus a team-by-team breakdown of the conference.

Big 12 Basketball Tournament - Quarterfinals Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Can we put football season behind us now?

Well, we’re going to - at least for the time being. Why? It’s opening night in college basketball. Nothing else matters.

Naturally, we felt it was time to put together a preseason poll, with our writers each submitting individual ballots ranking Big 12 teams from 1-10.

You can find the results in the poll below, then keep scrolling to read the fundamentals of what you need to know about each team heading into the season.

Viva the Matadors Big 12 Preseason Poll

RK School Points
RK School Points
1 Kansas 94
2 Baylor 89
3 Texas 87
4 Texas Tech 78
5 West Virginia 76
6 Oklahoma 68
7 Oklahoma State 64
8 TCU 61
9 Kansas State 55
10 Iowa State 53

No. 1 Kansas

Jayhawks senior guard Remy Martin, a transfer from Arizona State, was named Preseason Conference Player of the Year. I thought the award could’ve just as easily gone to his teammate, David McCormack. That just goes to show how talented this group is, and that doesn’t even mention the gifted Jalen Wilson, sharpshooting Christian Braun, or high-scoring Ochai Agbaji. The road to a Big 12 title once more runs through Lawrence.

No. 2 Baylor

Everyone’s talking about Baylor’s star-studded recruiting class, but there is no replacing the Bears’ outstanding backcourt from last year. Jared Butler was the best overall point guard in the country. Davion Mitchell was the best defender in the country and he’s already on his way to becoming the best defender in the NBA. And MaCio Teague was an All-American who would’ve been the best player on 99 percent of NCAA teams. It’s one thing to have young, raw talent, and another to have proven veteran leadership and tremendous talent. Baylor’s freshman class may have all the ability in the world, but experience doesn’t come overnight. That’s why this team will be good, but not great - at least in the early going.

No. 3 Texas

The parallels between Texas football and Texas basketball are extensive. Tons of talent, more preseason hype than you could ever ask for, and almost always the hottest coach on the market. And, on the national stage, things just seem to fall apart. Chris Beard did a great job of recruiting a bit of young talent (Jaylon Tyson) and plethora of established veterans (Dylan Disu, Marcus Carr, Timmy Allen, Devin Askew, Tre Mitchell) to go along with Longhorn mainstays Andrew Jones, Courtney Ramey and Jase Febres. But Shaka Smart and Rick Barnes recruited at equally high levels, and never had much to show for it. Beard won with a bunch of gritty role players sprinkled with one or two stars in Lubbock. Can he win with almost exclusively star players? There’s a reason the vast majority of national champions are upper-classmen-heavy with a couple of go-to guys leading quality role players. If Beard can get these kids to play as a team rather than a bunch of super-skilled individuals, he’ll have a chance to bring the Horns back to the Final Four for the first time since the T.J. Ford days.

No. 4 Texas Tech

Objectively, this is a really good basketball team. Kevin McCullar is the definition of a Big 12 guard, which is to say he’s tough, defensive minded and disciplined. He’s the team leader (yes I just plugged my own article for another outlet), and what a lineup to lead: Marcus Santos-Silva and Kevin Obanor in the frontcourt, Terrence Shannon Jr., Bryson Williams, and Davion Warren holding down the guard and wing spots. And who knows what to expect from 7’0 Arizona transfer Daniel Batcho? Ultimately, Tech’s defense-first mentality should keep the Red Raiders in every game of the gritty Big 12 season, regardless of opponent. The true potential of this team lies in whether it has the shot-makers necessary to make it out of the first couple of rounds of the NCAA Tournament.

No. 5 West Virginia

Miles McBride and Derek Culver are gone, which are catastrophic losses for the Mountaineers. Still, West Virginia will probably start four seniors and will field one of the deeper teams in the conference, as usual. Legendary coach Bob Huggins said he’s rolling with a four-out, one-in offense this season - probably because the Mountaineers don’t have a lot of size to begin with - but he hopes to return to the “Press Virginia” days with a speedier, more athletic lineup. These variables make it difficult to predict where West Virginia will finish in the standings, but it’s hard to count out any of Huggins’s teams and Morgantown is never a friendly place to play.

No. 6 Oklahoma

The Sooners (like pretty much everyone in college basketball these days) hit the transfer portal hard, and a lot of their success will depend on how the newcomers fit in and potentially carry the offensive workload. Duke transfer guard Jordan Goldwire may lead that charge, but I’m particularly curious to see how first-year coach Porter Moser uses 6’10 senior Tanner Groves, who led Eastern Washington in scoring and rebounding last year at 17 ppg and 8 rpg. We all know how effective Moser was with developing bigs at Loyola Chicago, most notably turning Cameron Krutwig into one of the most dominant centers in college basketball.

No. 7 Oklahoma State

Not a ton of star power for the Pokes with the departure of Cade Cunningham, but Avery Anderson and Moussa Cisse will keep this team relevant in the Big 12 conversation. Unfortunately for the Cowboys, their season can only go so far thanks to the NCAA’s recent (ridiculous) decision to uphold its postseason ban.

No. 8 TCU

This was the team our staff was most mixed on, with one person voting the Frogs to finish last in the conference and another placing them at fifth. Another team that dipped deep into the transfer portal, TCU should get good contributions from former Memphis point guard Damion Baugh and Texas A&M forward Emanuel Miller - not to mention Tech’s very own Micah Peavy. Mike Miles has a chance to be a very, very good point guard in this league and TCU as a whole could be one of the sneaky-good teams to watch out for.

No. 9 Kansas State

Not a lot of star power on this Wildcats roster. They return a lot of size, as well as leading scorer from a year ago Nijel Pack. But a relatively weak recruiting class following a poor season makes it hard to be optimistic in the Little Apple.

No. 10 Iowa State

The Cyclones will look like a completely different team this year because, well, they are one. Iowa State welcomes six transfers, including former Kansas forward Tristan Enaruna. T.J. Otzelberger is hoping four-star Tyrese Hunter will turn into Iowa State’s next great point guard, but how well this mix of talent will come together in 2021 remains to be seen.

Like our rankings? Disagree? Leave your own poll in the comments below!