They say everything is bigger in Texas and that includes the Longhorns' aspirations to dominate the 14-team conference that is the Big 12. Last season, we had two teams with 14-4 conference records in Oklahoma and Texas. While Iowa State surprised and won the Big 12 tournament, none of the six teams representing the conference made it past the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
With Texas still at the top as we embark on a new season, here is how Big 12 coaches see the conference shaking out:
- Kansas State
- Iowa State
- Oklahoma State
- West Virginia
- Texas Tech
And here are our thoughts on the class of the conference—Texas, Baylor and Kansas—and the other tiers of Big 12 teams:
Everything starts and ends with Rori Harmon for Texas. She was named the Big 12 Preseason Player of the Year. After a stellar freshman campaign averaging 11.2 points and 7.4 assists, she's ready to take a sophomore jump and help Texas not only dominate the Big 12, but also dance deep into March.
She won’t be doing it alone, however, with DeYona Gaston dominating the glass and Shaylee Gonzales returning for her fifth and final year. With Texas' defensive prowess and Harmon expected to be the cream of the crop of the conference, it's the Longhorns who sit at the top until someone knocks them down.
Baylor is expected to return to contention after a disappointing 2023 campaign where they finished 10-8 in conference play. They reloaded with new transfers Jada Walker, Denae Fritz, Madison Bartley and Yaya Felder, making them one of the deepest teams in the Big 12 on paper.
Darianna Littlepage-Buggs was flirting with a double-double on a nightly basis last season; she will be expected to be one of the leaders of this roster and help Baylor return to dominance. Our guess is that they will do just that and be a threat to make a deep March Madness run.
Rock Chalk, Jayhawk! Kansas will have something to say about who wins the Big 12 this season. Zakiyah Franklin and Taiyanna Jackson both were selected as part of the All-Big 12 Team. After a mediocre regular season last year ended on a high note with a WNIT title, Kansas is focused on taking that momentum and using it to springboard to the top of the conference.
Tier 2: Iowa State, Oklahoma, K-State
Still in contention but on the outside looking it in terms of conference dominance are Iowa State, Oklahoma and Kansas State. While Big 12 coaches have K-State ranked highest from the trio, we just have a feeling the Cyclones will surprise people. They have an exciting core of freshmen who I believe will outperform current projections. While Emily Ryan being out indefinitely with a health-related issue is concerning, I think, among these teams, Iowa State has the best chance to move up to the top tier and/or have a good run in the tournament.
Tier 3: Oklahoma State, West Virginia, TCU
With the Big 12 being such a large conference, there is still good basketball happening near the bottom half of the league. Oklahoma State, West Virginia and TCU may not win many games, but they'll be competitive and will absolutely pull off some upset wins in conference play.
Oklahoma State was active in the transfer portal and retooled its roster, adding a certified bucket in Chandler Prater, formerly of Kansas, and Quincy Noble of North Texas. Pairing these players with Hannah Gusters should make the Cowgirls a fun team to root for in 2023-24.
Tier 4: Texas Tech, BYU, Houston, Cincinnati, UCF
The Big 12 is a deep and fun conference, but it's hard to see many conference wins coming from the teams at the bottom of the standings. These teams are a work in progress, trying to find their footing in an ever-changing landscape. A handful of victories is all I expect from this group. If any team surprises from this best-of-the-rest tier, I'd expect it to be Texas Tech or Houston.
The competitiveness at the top of the Big 12 is healthier than ever. Gone is Baylor's dominance as Texas is at the peak, with Kansas not far away. Watching these three jockeying for position and seeing what other surprises occur is why the Big 12 is such a fun conference to watch. Will this be the year the league's entertainment value equals deeper runs from teams in the tournament? It just might be.