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Stacked Big 12 appears set to rule college hoops once again

By John Fanta
FOX Sports College Basketball Writer

The Big 12 Conference has accounted for the final two nationwide championship groups — Kansas and Baylor — and has had a group qualify in every Final Four since 2018. It’s protected to say the league is on the game’s mountaintop, and there are zero indicators that the case shall be any completely different within the 2022-23 season. 

In truth, there is a case to be made that the convention has 4 groups that would make a run to the Final Four, with the Bears, Jayhawks, Texas and veteran-laden TCU all consensus preseason top-15 groups. Beyond that group, Texas Tech, Oklahoma State and Oklahoma ought to all be NCAA Tournament contenders, so there’s potential for 70% of the league to go dancing in 2023. 

With that in thoughts, listed below are six ideas on the Big 12 heading into the upcoming season.

Scott Drew and Baylor have reloaded and might contend for a title.

The Bears have main scorer Adam Flagler again. After an injury-ridden season, LJ Cryer will be part of him within the backcourt. Combine the expertise of these two with a five-star, 6-foot-4 freshman in Keyontae George, and the Bears ought to have a pleasant mix between their guards. 

Baylor additionally acquired some size within the switch portal with West Virginia’s Jalen Bridges (8.4 PPG, 4.8 RPG) and BYU’s Caleb Lohner (7.0 PPG, 6.4 RPG). Bridges might find yourself beginning on the energy ahead place, whereas Flo Thamba returns on the middle slot after beginning all 34 video games final season. 

One massive query for the Bears is the standing of Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua, who suffered a knee harm final February that ended his season after he averaged 8.4 factors and 6.8 boards on 68% from the ground. It’s unclear when the 6-foot-8 ahead shall be out there to return, but when he can serve a task, that might solely add to a group that is already going to be within the preseason top-10 when the polls come out.

Kansas has versatility, wants freshmen and supporting solid to step up.

The reigning nationwide champions ought to again be a preseason top-10 group with a few key returnees, the most effective recruiting courses within the nation and an impression switch addition. 

Of the returning gamers to this system, level guard Dajuan Harris is again for coach Bill Self, in addition to 6-foot-8 ahead Jalen Wilson, who’s returning for a fourth season after withdrawing from the NBA Draft. Wilson put his skillset on full show in New Orleans this previous April, combining for 26 factors, 16 boards and 7 assists within the nationwide semifinal and title sport victories, and he’ll solely enhance his position within the coming marketing campaign. 

As for the addition from the switch portal, the Jayhawks didn’t want to do any additional analysis on Kevin McCullar. The former Texas Tech standout has gone the intraconference route and can go well with up for the Jayhawks after he performed a key position on a Sweet 16 Red Raiders squad this previous season. The 6-foot-6 wing is a high-level defender who averaged 10.1 factors, 3.1 assists and 4.6 rebounds this previous season. McCullar actually sums up the energy of KU heading into 2022-23 as a result of he can match up with nearly anyone on the defensive finish and might make performs for others. 

So, Kansas has some recognized commodities, however the important thing questions for this group to reply shall be what they do on the middle place and the way the supporting solid shakes out. A ton of buzz surrounds five-star prospect Gradey Dick, a 6-foot-7 wing who might very properly begin from the get-go. Four-star freshman wing MJ Adams is a top-30 recruit and figures to play a task as properly.

As for another returning gamers who shall be relied upon to enhance their position, Bobby Pettiford enters his second season for this system after exhibiting some flashes early final yr earlier than being sidelined with an belly harm. Drake switch Joseph Yesufu, who averaged simply 2 factors per sport final season, is somebody who KU shall be searching for to step up as properly. 

Now, again to the query on the middle place. Self can have some choices to make with David McCormack gone, as there’s not likely a clear-cut reply. Sophomore Zach Clemence is the frontrunner for the job after studying for a lot of final season, however four-star 6-foot-10 recruit Ernest Udeh could possibly be somebody who takes on the position. It’s all the time tough to gauge what freshmen will do, particularly those that play within the paint. Another four-star freshman, Zuby Eljofor, in addition to Division II switch Cam Martin spherical out the choices on the middle slot. 

While Kansas has actually misplaced loads, with Ochai Agbaji, Christian Braun, Remy Martin and McCormack headlining the departures, there is no scarcity of choices for Self. This Jayhawks group has the potential to trigger some matchup issues for opponents on the wing.

TCU might have one among their greatest seasons in program historical past.

Texas Christian University as a top-10 group in college basketball?!

Believe it. 

Jamie Dixon welcomes again his prime six scorers from final season, together with his complete beginning 5. In an period wherein roster turnover is commonplace, the Horned Frogs outline continuity. 

Junior guard Mike Miles shall be the most effective guards not simply within the Big 12, however in college basketball. He averaged 15.4 factors, 3.8 assists and three.5 rebounds this previous season, combining for 41 factors in two NCAA Tournament video games. Senior Damion Baugh, a 6-foot-4 guard who confirmed his playmaking skill with 10.6 factors and 4.5 assists per sport final season, will be part of Miles within the backcourt. 

With seniors Emanuel Miller (10.3 PPG) and Chuck O’Bannon (9.5 PPG) filling out the versatile ahead roles for TCU, the Horned Frogs have the power to be switchable and lengthy defensively. Eddie Lampkin, who performed his first full season final yr whereas posting 6.8 factors and 6.2 boards per sport, will maintain down the middle place and could possibly be a breakout candidate. 

Dixon has one other key weapon returning in 6-foot-7 sixth man Micah Peavy, whereas Oklahoma State switch Rondel Walker must be a reinforcement within the backcourt.

The Horned Frogs’ largest energy? Defense. They ranked fifteenth within the nation in KenPom adjusted defensive efficiency final season. The query shall be how they deal with the preseason hype, in addition to if they will enhance on the perimeter. TCU was ninth within the Big 12 final season at simply over 30% from 3-point territory. 

Texas’ Chris Beard has the most effective backcourt of his teaching profession. 

College basketball is a guard’s sport, and the Longhorns are full of choices of their backcourt. Marcus Carr returns for a fifth season, his second in Austin. 

Beard and his employees additionally landed their best choice out of the switch portal, with Iowa State’s Tyrese Hunter staying within the league and heading to Texas for his sophomore season. As a freshman, the 6-foot guard tallied 11.0 factors and 4.9 assists per sport, making a huge effect for a Cyclones group that shocked many throughout the game. 

Related: Texas coach Chris Beard has big dreams for the Longhorns

The Longhorns aren’t achieved there, with the nation’s sixth-best recruiting class, according to 247 Sports

Five-star prospects Dillon Mitchell and Arterio Morris determine to make an instantaneous impression for Texas, with Mitchell on observe to seemingly begin. A participant who shouldn’t be forgotten for the Longhorns is New Mexico State switch Sir’Jabari Rice, who performed a significant position on an Aggies group that upset UConn within the NCAA Tournament. Beard believes Rice’s impression might shock.

Despite new faces, Texas Tech generally is a top-25 group.

Year 1 of the Mark Adams period was spectacular, with the Red Raiders advancing to the Sweet 16 of behind the most effective protection in America. But it was an offseason of change for Texas Tech.

Terrence Shannon Jr. (Illinois) and Kevin McCullar (Kansas) each transferred out of this system. Davion Warren, Bryson Williams, Marcus Santos-Silva, Adonis Arms, Chibuzo Agbo and Mylik Wilson are additionally gone. That opened up a bevy of roster slots. 

Texas Tech did reel in some high quality provides within the portal and can have one of the harmful frontcourts within the convention with Utah Valley switch Fardaws Aimaq becoming a member of 6-foot-8 fifth-year senior Kevin Obanor

Standing at 6-foot-11, Aimaq was the most effective out there massive males within the portal. He tied National Player of the Year Oscar Tshiebwe with 27 double-doubles this previous season and was second within the nation with 13.6 rebounds per sport, to associate with his 18.9 factors. 

The largest key for the Red Raiders is what they find yourself getting from a new-look backcourt. De’Vion Harmon shall be in his third college (Oklahoma, Oregon) in 4 years. Former North Carolina guard Kerwin Walton comes to Lubbock searching for a task and manufacturing enhance, whereas D’Maurian Williams transfers into this system after averaging 14.5 factors and a pair of.5 assists for (*12*).

One of the items most tough to gauge is freshman guard Elijah Fisher. The 6-foot-6 prospect from Toronto was the No. 15 prospect within the nation within the 2023 recruiting class earlier than he elected to reclassify to this yr. He picked the Red Raiders over Kansas, Kentucky, Baylor and Memphis, amongst others. This previous yr in highschool, Fisher averaged 28 factors, 13 rebounds, seven assists and three steals per sport. He has additionally hung out with the Canadian nationwide group program.

Another attention-grabbing X-factor candidate is 6-foot-6 Texas switch Jaylon Tyson, who initially dedicated to the Red Raiders earlier than following Beard to Texas. He transferred mid-season final yr after showing in solely eight video games for the Longhorns. Tyson was a top-40 recruit out of John Paul II High School, which he led to its first state title as a junior. Could he be somebody who emerges after going by means of a summer season of improvement underneath Adams? We shall see.

Texas Tech is actually the wild card of the convention. Given how properly the Raiders have defended, not to point out the successful pedigree they’ve developed, it will not be stunning to see them rise into the top-15. But there are additionally some unknowns that would lead them extra into being a prime 30-35 squad.

A Battle of Oklahoma might play out to fill out the highest six.

Mike Boynton did an admirable job final season with an Oklahoma State group that had nothing to play for besides satisfaction, and with a match bid again within the image, the Cowboys might very properly be a group that goes dancing subsequent March. 

Boynton welcomes again his prime two scorers from final season in Avery Anderson and Bryce Thompson. With reigning Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year Moussa Cisse again for his third season of college basketball, the Cowboys have the league’s chief in blocked pictures (54) and a powerful 7-foot-1 rim protector.

It shall be attention-grabbing to see if Tyreek Smith could make a leap with some extra expertise and a possible position enhance. In phrases of the portal, Boynton reeled in High Point switch John Michael-Wright, a 6-foot guard who’s coming off a junior season wherein he averaged 18.4 factors, 4.4 rebounds and three.4 assists per sport. He will get a chance to play a key position, and it is going to be attention-grabbing to see simply how a lot of his success at a mid-major stage interprets to the Cowboys and the Big 12. 

Meanwhile, Porter Moser enters his second season wanting to construct off a 19-16 marketing campaign wherein the Sooners reached the second spherical of the NIT. Like most instances for a group attempting to take a leap, switch portal additions — and to a lesser extent freshmen — will play a key position in simply how a lot progress the Sooners will make within the 2022-23 marketing campaign. 

The participant to watch is Nevada switch and 6-foot-2 senior guard Grant Sherfield, who averaged 19.1 factors, 6.4 assists and 4.2 rebounds for the Wolfpack this previous season. The All-Mountain West choice shall be counted on to step in and be Oklahoma’s major ball handler. 

Just this week, the Sooners obtained the good information that George Washington switch Joe Bamisile obtained an NCAA waiver and won’t have to sit out this yr. The 6-foot-4 guard is on his third college in as a few years after beginning his profession at Virginia Tech, however he did stand out as an All-Atlantic 10 choice this previous season (16.3 PPG, 5.0 RPG). 

While the third beginning guard spot is a bit up within the air, Oklahoma has a pair of four-star recruits coming into this system to headline the nation’s No. 37-ranked class, in accordance to 247 Sports. Out of Blair Academy in New Jersey, 6-foot-6 taking pictures guard Otega Oweh is somebody who might step in and make an impression. The different prime prospect getting into Norman is four-star level guard Milos Uzan, who could possibly be a reserve behind Sherfield.

The frontcourt must be regular with fifth-year senior and All-Big 12 Honorable Mention choice Tanner Groves again within the fold. Another key returnee is 6-foot-6 senior Jalen Hill, who began each sport final season and will emerge as a double-figure scorer in his fourth yr with this system.

John Fanta is a nationwide college basketball broadcaster and author for FOX Sports. He covers the game in a wide range of capacities, from calling video games on FS1 to serving as lead host on the BIG EAST Digital Network to offering commentary on The Field of 68 Media Network. Follow him on Twitter @John_Fanta.

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