2020 Big 12 Basketball Predictions
With just 10 teams in the league, the Big 12 is, pound for pound the best college basketball conference in the country yet again.
However, there is a new favorite entering the season. Baylor, not Kansas, is expected to dominate Midwest hoops this season, and they enter the year as the preseason No. 1 team in the country, according to the coaches’ poll.
After having its astounding streak of Big 12 regular season championships snapped at 14 in 2018-19, Kanas was able to start a new streak last year with an overwhelming 17-1 record in league play en route to the title. They did lose their two best players, Devon Dotson and Udoka Azubuike, but that has never stopped Bill Self from fielding a championship-caliber team in the past. And the Jayhawks may actually relish entering the season in the “underdog” role.
Baylor was ranked No. 1 in the country for the first time every in 2017. They were able to match that feat last January. Now they are in the rarified air of entering the season as one of the favorites to cut down the nets in Indianapolis next April. With six of their top eight players back from the team that finished last year ranked in the Top 5, the Bears talent and continuity give them a big advantage as the Big 12 championship race takes flight.
Here are Doc's Sports 2020-21 Big 12 Conference college basketball predictions:
The Favorite: Baylor
The Bears will start the 2020-21 season with unprecedented expectations for the program. They went 26-4 last season while posting a 15-3 Big 12 mark, good for second place. Four of their five starters are back, with big man Freddie Gillespie being replaced by transfer Jon Tchamwa Tchatchoua and sixth man Devonte Bandoo replaced by transfer Adam Flagler. The core of the team is three-year starters Mark Vital and Jared Butler, along with leading minutes man MaCio Teague. Teague and Butler are the big shot makers and at the crux of the offense. Baylor’s vaunted 2-3 defense gave way to more man-to-man last year, and the Bears versatility and athleticism allows them to match up with opponents however they see fit. Baylor closed last season on a 1-4 ATS slide, and I don’t think they have the overwhelming talent to cover what will certainly be some inflated spreads.
The Challenger: Kansas
The Jayhawks are a basketball factory. They are a Rube Goldberg machine of basketball success. And even though they lost their two best players, I am certain they will have no problem plugging in two new guys and enjoying fantastic results. That’s exactly what they’ve been doing for the past 17 years under Bill Self and even before that under Roy Williams. Why should we expect anything different? Marcus Garrett and Ochal Agbaji provide stability in the backcourt. And a lot rests on development in the post from David McCormack and Mitch Lightfoot. Kansas only roped in one Top 100 recruit, Bryce Thompson, and they are also hanging their hat on getting production from JUCO scorer Tyson Grant Foster. There’s no reason to doubt that both will make an instant impact. And there is simply no reason to doubt Self. That said, without home fans in The Phog, trips to Lawrence may not be quite as imposing as in years past.
The Dark Horse: Texas Tech
Chris Beard is enduring another complete roster rebuild for the fourth time in four years. Teams like Duke and Kentucky are able to undergo constant revisions because they have a pipeline feeding them Top 20 recruits each year. Beard has done his renovations with a mix of transfers and mid-tier recruits, and that’s exactly the formula that he’s using this season. The key is electrifying point guard Mac McClung, who was granted immediate eligibility. He will join with returning guards Terrence Shannon, Kyler Edwards and Kevin McCullar to give the Red Raiders a potent backcourt. They will be buttressed by freshmen Nimari Burnett, Chibuzo Agbo and Micah Peavy and transfer forwards Marcus Santos-Silva and Joel Ntambwe. There are three issues for this team. First, they have just one guy on the roster taller than 6-8. Second, they are going to miss departed senior Davide Moretti. Third, chemistry is going to be tough to come by with so many new faces. This is still a very talented team. And if things click, they will be dangerous.
The X-Factor: West Virginia
Bob Huggins rebounded from a disastrous 2018-19 campaign, which was just his second losing season in 13 years in Morgantown, with a 21-10 campaign and a slot in the final Top 25 ranking. Huggins has four starters and six of his top seven scorers back on a team that accepts bully ball as its operating philosophy. WVU is severely lacking offensively. They shot just 28.6 percent from 3-point range, No. 338 in the country, and I don’t see where any answers are going to come from. If WVU can’t impose their will, physically, on an opponent, then they can’t win. Fortunately for them, they are able to overpower teams more often than not and they should be a major player in the quest for the Big 12 title.
The Disappointment: Oklahoma State
Somehow Mike Boynton was able to lure the nation’s No. 1 recruit, Cade Cunningham, to Oklahoma State. Cunningham is a one-and-done player that should be a star from his first college game. However, the rest of the Cowboys roster is barren. Cunningham was able to convince two other Top 100 freshmen, Rondel Walker and Matt Moncrieffe, and former AAU teammate Montreal Pena, to join him in Stillwater. But the only player on the roster that’s experienced any success in college is junior Isaac Likekele. And as we saw last year with Anthony Edwards and Georgia, one transcendent talent – if that is what Cunningham turns out to be – is not enough to carry a team.
Texas – Shockingly, all 12 scholarship players from last season are back this season. No one graduated. No one transferred. This is exactly the same up-and-down team that clawed its way to 19-12 and a third place finish (9-9) in the Big 12 last year. They also added Top 10 recruit Greg Brown, a 6-9 tree trunk in the post. That cohesion and familiarity should be a major advantage for the Longhorns in this unique season. Shaka Smart is not a good coach, though, so I have my doubts as to whether or not Smart can coax even more out of a group of players that have been erratic for most of the past two seasons. Texas will once again be a tantalizing and dangerous team for bettors. Caveat emptor.
Kansas State – The wheels absolutely came off for Bruce Weber last season with the Wildcats flopping their way to an 11-21 record and a 3-15 mark in Big 12 play. The problem for Weber is that this year’s squad actually looks worse on paper than the rabble that he had to work with last season. They lost their top three scorers, and none of the returnees averaged more than seven points per game. K-State also loses its outsized home court advantage since fans will likely not be allowed at games. If Weber isn’t on the hot seat already, he will be by the end of this campaign.
Oklahoma – Don’t sleep on Lon Kruger. One of the most underrated coaches in the sport, Kruger managed to coax a 19-12 season out of an undersized squad last year. Unfortunately, this year’s team isn’t any bigger. Although they do have one of the best one-two punches in the Big 12 with senior wins Brady Manek and Austin Reaves. Transfer Umoja Gibson should give them a big boost in the backcourt, where sophomore De’Vion Harmon is back as the starting point. However, it really comes down to the post for Oklahoma. They simply don’t have any size or quality down low, and that’s a massive weakness against the power frontcourts throughout the Big 12. Expect Manek and Reaves to shoot OU into contention, but there is a clear ceiling with what this team can achieve.
Iowa State – Steve Prohm was able to win with Fred Hoiberg’s players in his first several seasons. He hasn’t been able to replicate that success while recruiting his own guys, however. Last season was an unmitigated disaster in Ames with the Cyclones falling to just 12-20. They will be improved this year, although chemistry is going to be a major issue. Transfers Tyler Harris and Jalen Coleman-Lands will be upgrades in the backcourt, although Blake Hinson, whose eligibility waiver was denied, would’ve been a massive addition. Harris and Lands will work with lead dog Rasi Bolton. They key may be post play. Four-year starter Solomon Young is back, and George Conditt proved to be a valuable reserve. Highly touted recruit Xavier Foster is a seven-footer, and his development may be the key to this team’s season.
TCU – Jamie Dixon always fields a competitive team, so I have no doubt that the Horned Frogs will be game in a stacked Big 12. However, this program looks like it is moving backwards after finally playing its way into the NCAA Tournament in 2018 and the NIT Final Four in 2019. This team is inept offensively, and I just don’t see where the answers are going to come from. Expect the Horned Frogs to fight and scratch and claw with their outstanding defense. But finishing .500 again this year would have to be considered a major achievement.
Projected Big 12 Standings
3. Texas Tech
4. West Virginia
7. Iowa State
8. Oklahoma State
10. Kansas State
Robert Ferringo is a member of the Basketball Writer's Association of America and a professional sports handicapper for Doc's Sports. He is considered one of the best college basketball handicappers in the country and has an unrivaled run of 13 of 14 winning nonconference seasons. Robert’s $100-per-Unit clients have banked a remarkable $68,470 in the last 13 years with his nonconference picks (November and December) alone. There is no better moneymaker in the nation and Robert is looking forward to another amazing season. You can sign up for his college basketball picks and get more information here.
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