The upcoming basketball season in the Big 12 will again be one loaded with talent. But unlike last season, it won’t be a complete circus of uncertainty concerning who the top teams are. In 2013-14, Kansas, Baylor and Oklahoma State entered the season as the favorites while Texas, Oklahoma, Iowa State and Kansas State emerged as teams that can beat anyone on any given night. But the Big 12 will show far less depth next season, as only Texas, Kansas and Oklahoma will battle it out for conference supremacy.
So let’s start with the least likely of the three to dominate — Oklahoma. The Sooners return a slew of backcourt talent including their leading scorer, Buddy Hield. Oklahoma will have one of the top backcourts in the conference and should have no issues finding ways to score from the outside. But where problems will occur is their interior presence, which took a huge hit with the senior leader Cameron Clark graduating.
The good news is that a four star recruit named Dante Buford coming into Norman should be able to step in and help fill the void left in the post by Clark. Additionally, solid big man recruit Khadeem Latin chose the Sooners over the Longhorns. Finally, with Oklahoma’s starting center Ryan Sprangler being only 6-foot-8, the Sooners should have some depth to help compete with the elite frontcourt talent of Texas and Kansas.
But at the end of the day, Oklahoma just doesn’t have the depth, size or sheer talent to match that. They should finish third in the 10-team conference.
Next up is the team people have grown accustomed to seeing dominate the conference, but their powerhouse name won’t help Kansas win the Big 12 for the 11th straight year in the upcoming season.
Yes, Kansas has become a revolving door for All-American talent, but the newcomers Cliff Alexander and Kelly Oubre simply are not Andrew Wiggins and Joel Embiid. Alexander will be a huge addition to the frontcourt, but he won’t be as impactful as Embiid, who quickly climbed up the ranks and emerged as the favorite for the the No. 1 pick in the upcoming NBA Draft. As for Oubre looking to fill Wiggins’ massive shoes, anybody with any knowledge of the two knows that is simply an impossible feat.
Yes, Kansas returns some key contributors including Wayne Selden, Jr. and Perry Ellis, but so do the Longhorns who, outside of shooting guard, look to overmatch the Jayhawks at every position in addition to being far more loaded, in the frontcourt and backcourt alike.
Finally comes the team I believe will control the Big 12 Conference and ultimately find themselves in their first Final Four since the T.J. Ford era — the Texas Longhorns. In addition to the countless contributors head coach Rick Barnes could call upon on any given night, Texas has now become one of the most experienced squads in the country with a towering frontcourt that will have its way with the Big 12.
The Longhorns also return one of the top point guards in college basketball with Isaiah Taylor running the show. Cameron Ridley will still be in the paint anchoring the Horns on both sides of the ball and senior Jonathan Holmes will be able to slide over to the wing and become more of an offensive threat during his final year on campus.
But that’s not what has given the Longhorns the long-awaited edge over Kansas and the rest of the conference. Texas’ missing piece was a star-caliber talent and on April 30, they got that with the commitment of the No. 2 recruit in the country, Myles Turner, who brings guard-like skills along with his 7-foot frame.
After Kansas and Oklahoma finished first and second respectively in the Big 12 standings last season, both will take a step back and the Longhorns will be crowned the new kings of the conference in 2014-15.