It's July, and while most of the sports world has come to a dead stop (unless you love regular season MLB!) - here at AT Online we never stop talking college hoops.
Which is why over the next six weeks, we are about to rip off our "Mid-Summer, Unofficial, Power Rankings" for all six of the major conferences.
Now to be clear, these power rankings are again unofficial, and stuff may change between now and the first games in November. But with the NBA Draft deadline behind us, and most of the major transfer portal activity in the rear-view mirror, it's time to look at all these conferences and where they stand heading into the 2022-2023 season.
Now it's time to look at the Big 12, a conference which is home to the last two Big 12 champions - and has several teams good enough to take a deep run in 2022-2023.
1. Baylor Bears
If injuries didn’t hit Baylor as hard as they did a season ago, the Bears would have had a legitimate chance of becoming the first program to repeat as National Champions since Florida in 2007 and 2008. On January 25th, Baylor was sitting pretty with a 18-2 record and was the No. 4 ranked team in the country following a blowout win over Kansas State. In that game, Guard LJ Cryer suffered a foot injury and only played in one game for the remainder of the season. Combined with a devastating injury to emotional leader Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua, Baylor was never able to get back to looking like a National Championship Contender, despite getting a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, which really shows the job Scott Drew has done with this program. Baylor will return a nice core from last year's squad including Cryer, Adam Flagler, and Flo Thamba. In addition, Baylor brings in one of the premier High School players in the country in Keyontae George and impact transfers in Jalen Bridges from West Virginia and Caleb Lohner from BYU. Flagler was one of the best guards in the Big 12 last season, and entering his third year in the Baylor program, is good enough to be the premier go-to scorer on a great team. With Cryer, and other players getting healthy including Tchatchoua and Langston Love back in the picture, Baylor should be labeled as the team to beat in the Big XII and one of the premier teams in the sport.
George had a heck of a debut for the Bears earlier this week, playing in this summer's Global Jam.
2. Kansas Jayhawks
Throughout the Bill Self era in Lawrence, the best Kansas’ teams have been the ones with a ton of returning experience and guys that have been in the program for a few years. To no one's surprise, that was exactly how Kansas’ 2022 National Championship roster was built, as not many of their talented freshmen were able to produce on a consistent basis. Fast Forward to now, and Kansas has just lost a ton of key contributors from last year's nationally winning team, in Ochai Agbaji, Christian Bruan, David McCormack and Remy Martin. Each of these four players did things that contributed to the title run in a massive way and it won’t be easy for Bill Self to replace all that production.
Thankfully, Kansas brings in one of the best recruiting classes in the country, headlined by Grady Dick and M.J Rice, who are both likely to be future NBA players. Kansas also did good work in the transfer portal by bringing in Kevin McCullar, who has already established himself as one of the premier players in the Big 12 going back to his days at Texas Tech. With guys like Jalen Wilson and DaJuan Harris returning from last year's team with a ton of big game experience, plus the plethora of younger players that didn’t necessarily make an impact last year, Kansas has a great combination of depth and experience. Watch for others like Bobby Pettiford, KJ Adams and Zach Clemence to make a big impact with better opportunities.
3. TCU Horned Frogs
2021 was a magical season in Fort Worth, as the Frogs made their first NCAA Tournament since 2018 and won their first tournament game since 1987. TCU even pushed No. 1 seed Arizona to the brink in their round of 32 matchup and could have easily found themselves in the Sweet 16. TCU will return just about everyone from last year's squad, most notably lead guard Mike Miles who decided to come back to TCU, after briefly entering the NBA Draft. Miles will head into next season as one of the best players in the country and could be a future first round pick in the NBA Draft, with another good season. The 6’2 Guard from Highlands Texas, averaged 15.4 points last season, while shooting 38.2 percent from three. Jamie Dixon did a really good job last offseason of improving the overall level of talent of TCU bringing in notable transfers Damian Baugh from Memphis and Emanuel Miller from Texas A&M. The one guy who emerged for TCU as a major difference maker was big man Eddie Lampkin. Lampkin only played 34 total minutes as a freshman in 2020-2021, yet made a major leap last season, getting better and better as the season went on. Lampkin was TCU’s go-to scoring option in their Round of 32 loss to Arizona, when the big man had 20 points and only missed one of his nine shots. Another leap for Lampkin could mean scary things for the rest of the Big 12, as TCU needs to be taken seriously. The Horned Frogs are a team known for their defensive toughness and tenacious style of play, but also really started to get some fire power as last season went on. This has the potential to be one of the best seasons in program history.
4. Texas Longhorns
The Longhorns should enter 2023 as one of the more intriguing teams in college basketball, considering everything that has happened over the last 12 months. One year ago at this time, Texas was ready to start the Chris Beard era with expectations that were through the roof. That was largely based on the number of high-profile transfers that Beard brought in, headlined by Marcus Carr and Timmy Allen, who were widely considered as two of the best transfers on the board last offseason. The season didn’t necessarily go as planned, but it wasn’t terrible either, as Texas finished fourth in the Big 12, with a 10-8 conference record and won their first NCAA Tournament game since 2014.
Despite the somewhat successful season, it never felt that everyone was on the same page and there were some clear chemistry issues. Texas does add some tremendous talent with a likely future Top 10 NBA Draft Pick in Dillon Mitchell, who should be one of the best freshmen in the Class of 2022 and Iowa State Transfer Tyrese Hunter. Hunter shocked many people, when he decided to leave Iowa State after a tremendous freshman Season, which resulted in Hunter winning Big 12 Freshman of the Year. On paper, Hunter is a tremendous fit for Texas, as he could anchor Chris Beard’s usual phenomenal defense and move Carr off the ball, which in theory should get him going as a scorer. While these things working out is possible, Texas has had so much talent in their program over the past decade, and it hasn’t always worked out for the best. With the first year to build and cement a culture, it is on Chris Beard to really get things going with another loaded roster.
5. Oklahoma Sooners
Despite missing the NCAA Tournament, Sooners head coach Porter Moser had a pretty good first year, finishing 19-16 overall and collecting some big victories. One of these victories was knocking eventual No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament Baylor out of the Big XII Tournament, when Oklahoma was playing with their season on the line. Moser did a solid job last year putting his roster together of guys that may not be the highest ranked recruits or transfers coming from their previous destination, but who worked hard and fit his system well. Going back to his days at Loyola Chicago, Moser’s teams have always been tough with the ability to defend their tails off. That should continue this season, with a little more offensive firepower. The Sooners have one of the more underrated frontcourts in the country headlined by Tanner Groves and Jalen Hill. Both players showed why they belong in Moser’s system, by averaging over 5.5 rebounds per game while playing good defense. Moser also did some good work in the transfer portal, bringing in explosive guards Grant Sherfield from Nevada and Joseph Bamisilie from George Washington. The pair averaged a combined 35.4 points per game a season ago, at the mid-major level. While repeating those numbers are unlikely, both guards have shown the ability to score the basketball which should really raise this Sooner team ceiling. Oklahoma should be in store for a big second season under the direction of a very successful coach in Moser.
6. Texas Tech Red Raiders
The first season of the Mark Adams era in Lubbock couldn’t have gone much better, as the Red Raiders earned a No. 3 seed in the NCAA Tournament and went all the way to the Sweet 16. Looking at where this Texas Tech program was one year ago at this time after the shocking departure of Chris Beard compared to now, all Red Raiders fans should be feeling good about what’s next under the direction of Adams.
With that being said, Texas Tech has a lot of production to replace, as the Red Raiders will lose six of their top eight leading scorers from a year ago. Part of what made Texas tech so good one year ago, was the job that Mark Adams did in the portal bringing in guys like Bryson Williams, Adonis Arms and Kevin Obanor, who were all significant contributors in 2022. The Red Raiders used that same strategy this offseason, going after De’Vion Harmon from Oregon and Fardaws Aimaq from Utah Valley. Harmon should provide valuable experience at point guard, as he is familiar with the Big XII, after spending his freshman season at Oklahoma. Aimaq was one of the top transfers on the board, after averaging 18.9 points per game last season at Utah Valley. There are some remaining pieces from last year's squad including leading rebounder Kevin Obanor, who should be in for a bigger role on the offensive end, alongside Daniel Batcho. Both Batcho and Nadolny could be impact players for the Red Raiders this season after showing flashes in 2022, but never getting that consistent opportunity. With former Texas player Jaylon Tyson and Gardner Webb Transfer D’Maurian Williams also in the mix, Mark Adams continues to do a great job building his teams with depth.
7. Oklahoma State Cowboys
It felt like a lot of the momentum that Mike Boynton Jr. built during the 2021 season was lost after his Cowboys were ruled ineligible from the 2022 NCAA Tournament just days before last season started. Boynton did a great job with Oklahoma State in 2021, landing the future No. 1 overall pick in the 2021 NBA Draft Cade Cunningham, and leading the Cowboys to their first NCAA Tournament victory since 2009. At this time last year, the Cowboys were set to bring everyone back besides Cade from that 2021 team, including a handful of players that were ready for a big jump. The unfortunate truth is that Oklahoma State fell off a lot of people's radar, following the unfair ruling by the NCAA just days before the season started. Despite not playing with a chance to go to the postseason, the Cowboys did finish in sixth place in a very difficult Big XII, and collected marquee victories over NCAA Tournament teams in Texas, Baylor, TCU, Iowa State and Texas Tech. This version of the Cowboys should be solid as they have a handful of clear top options, headlined by Avery Anderson III, Bryce Thompson and Moussa Cisse, who were three of the team's top four leading scores from a year ago. A majority of the rest of the Cowboys players from last year are no longer with the program, which in some instances might not be the worst thing in the world, considering how many options Oklahoma State had a season ago. Mike Boynton Jr. has gotten the most out of all of his Cowboys teams since arriving in Stillwater in 2017 and that should continue this season.
8. Iowa State Cyclones
One storyline that developed during the 2022 college basketball season that should be spoken about more, was Iowa State’s bounce back season during Year 1 of the TJ Otzelberger era. The Cyclones not only secured a berth in the NCAA Tournament, but also made the Sweet 16, just one season after winning only two games in 2021. Iowa State did a great job of racking up quality wins during the non-conference slate, and despite only going 7-11 in Big XII conference play, they were able to secure a postseason berth and advance all the way to the Sweet 16. Iowa State will lose some of their major contributors from what was the smallest roster in the Power 6, with only 11 scholarship players. Most notably the back court of Iziah Brockington and Tyrese Hunter, who were two of the best guards in the conference a season ago. While the loss of Brockington was expected, it was the departure of Hunter that surprised a lot of people after winning Big XII Freshman of the Year.
With that being said, Coach Otz went to work in the transfer portal again, and this Cyclones team should be significantly deeper than last years. Iowa State will bring in marquee transfers such as Osun Osunniyi and Jarron Holmes from St. Bonaventure, Jeremiah Williams from Temple, and Hason Ward from VCU. This is along with returning key contributors from last year, with Gabe Kalscheur, Caleb Grill, and Aljaz Kunc back for another season. It was clear last season that Otzelberger was at the perfect spot for him in Ames, and he should continue to keep building this program with the players he knows will suit the Cyclones best.
9. West Virginia Mountaineers
The Mountaineers missed the big dance last year for only the third time in the last eight NCAA Tournaments. Bob Huggins has done a great job throughout his 15 seasons in Morgantown, leading the West Virginia program. With that being said, this season could be another challenge for Huggins as West Virginia brings in a ton of new faces into the program. This may not even be a bad thing, as it was clear from very early on last season, that the 2022 version of West Virginia wouldn’t fall anywhere near the category of Huggins’ best teams. There were multiple times throughout last season that Huggins called out the overall effort level and willingness to win of his team, which is not something that happens often in 2022 College Basketball. West Virginia will lose a staggering nine of their top ten scorers. The one guy returning is Kedrian Johnson who is a lead guard, entering his third season in the program and should know exactly what Huggins expects. West Virginia brings in many transfers including former Mountaineer Emmitt Matthews Jr., who will return to the program after spending last season at Washington and is one of the better defense players in the country. In addition, West Virginia continued to bring in tough, hard nose guys on the defensive end with Joe Toussaint from Iowa, whose style of play should fit in perfectly. Despite some of these additions, it is unknown whether that will be enough to take a significant leap in such a good and deep Big XII conference. Bob Huggins has done some really good coaching jobs throughout his career, and this will be at the top of the list if West Virginia has a successful season.
10. Kansas State Wildcats
Between not only this offseason, but the handful of off seasons prior, many top assistant coaches have been given the opportunity to step into the head chair. Not many have been more deserving of that promotion than former Baylor assistant Jerome Tang, who is the new Head Coach at Kansas State. Tang came to Baylor in 2003 with Scott Drew and was along for the 19-year ride that included a National Championship in 2020. Many people forget how bad the situation was at Baylor when they first got there and Tang was one of the main contributors of turning the Baylor program around. Now he comes to Kansas State, who did make the Elite 8 in 2018 and won the Big XII Title in 2019. The three years since then however, were not pretty and ultimately the Wildcats decided to move on from the Bruce Weber era. This will be another tough rebuilding job for Tang, considering Kansas State loses what felt like the lone bright spot from last year's team in All Conference Guard Nigel Pack. The Wildcats do return the third leading scorer from 2022 in Markquis Nowell and a productive big man in Ismael Massoud, but it is going to take some time for Tang to bring in the right players and get this thing right. Kansas State did bring in former Arkansas Razorback Desi Sills, who has some big game experience and spent last year at Arkansas State, but there just isn’t enough firepower here to expect much from the Wildcats in 2023.
To read Zac's mid-summer SEC power ranking, click here
To read Zac's mid-summer Big East power ranking, click here
Follow Zac on Twitter @ZacKrull_