Kansas has won every single Big 12 basketball championship. That’s not actually true, but it sure seems like that is the case. They have won nine of the last 10 regular season Big 12 titles, and have been the only true power in the conference. They boast an overall Big 12 winning percentage of .835, and have lost half as many Big 12 games as the next closest team (Texas).
Year after year we’ve watched Kansas replace their great talent with more great talent. Sasha Kaun was good, Cole Aldrich was better, and the Morris brothers were best. Mario Chalmers was replaced by Sherron Collins. Julian Wright went to the NBA, and Kansas just plugged in Darrell Arthur. No more Brandon Rush? That was okay, because Xavier Henry was coming in.
This year though, things aren’t the same, and there is hope across the Big 12. With the exception of probable top 10 draft pick Thomas Robinson, Bill Self won’t be plugging in a group of future superstars. Tyshawn Taylor is expected to step up, but the reality is he’s been getting big minutes for two seasons, and his numbers aren’t likely to take a big jump. Travis Releford has struggled to get off the bench his whole career, and now he’s going to carry a big scoring load for a Final Four team? Doubtful.
For Oklahoma State, Missouri, Texas A&M, and Baylor this is the year to take down the Jayhawks. By this time next year Bill Self will have loaded himself up with another stellar recruiting class. Texas will have had time to develop into a big time threat. Now is the time for one of those teams to step up, so its a shame they are all full of more question marks than Kansas.
Oklahoma State has the perimeter talent to compete, but they don’t have anyone to play inside. Good enough to pull off some big upsets, but not going to work night in night out for 18 games. Baylor has the inside talent to compete, and then a little extra just to rub it in. Problem is they don’t have any guards, transfer Gary Franklin can’t play until the second semester, and even then, he’s generally unproven. Juco guard Pierre Jackson has to step up and play with some of the best guards in the country, otherwise Baylor isn’t doing anything.
For TAM and Mizzou, it’s all about the new coaches. Both teams have solid rosters, maybe top to bottom the best two rosters in the conference. Problem is both teams have new coaches, new systems, and that means we don’t know what they will really be.
My point in all this? Six teams could win the Big 12 this year. That has never been the case before. The other four teams will all compete as well. For me, that is the theme of this basketball season. It’s all about hope, even though this whole thing probably ends in another 14 win conference season for the mighty Jayhawks.