2018 Big 12 Basketball Predictions and Expert Betting Picks
Kansas is going to win the Big 12 for the 15th straight year.
That really should be all the previewing that this conference needs. The Jayhawks have put together one of the most impressive and incredible streaks in sports, winning at least a share of the Big 12 championship for 14 straight years. And despite losing its entire starting backcourt, which combined for nearly 50 points and 12 assists per game, the Jayhawks enter this season as the No. 1 team in the recently released AP Top 25 Poll.
This season there are even less challengers to Kansas' reign than usual. Not only do they have one of the best coaches and rosters in the nation, but this looks like a down year for the Big 12 as a whole, just one season after sending seven of its 10 teams to the NCAA Tournament and seeing nine of its 10 members play in the postseason.
Here are Doc's Sports 2018-19 Big 12 Conference college basketball predictions:
The Favorite: Kansas
Kansas has once again reloaded despite losing Devonte Graham, Svi Mykhailiuk and Malik Newman. Unlike Kentucky and Duke, who restock their rosters with one-and-done prospects each season, Kansas continues to bolster its ranks with proven college talent by way of transfers. Brothers Dedric and K.J. Lawson, erstwhile of Memphis, headline this year's newcomers. The burly forwards should have little trouble adjusting to the Big 12 next to center Udoka Azubuike. T he key to this year's team may be sophomore point guard Charlie Moore, who began his season at Cal. Moore looked outstanding in his first season and will try to hold off star recruit Devon Dotson, who is one of three McDonald's All-Americans in the incoming freshman class. Again, Kansas is loaded. They go 10-deep and have talent everywhere. The key for this team will be cohesion and chemistry. But Bill Self has proven himself as a Hall of Fame coach and he will get this team on the same page.
The Challenger: Kansas State
In theory, Kansas State is this year's top challenger to the Jayhawk dynasty. The Wildcats have everyone back from last year's Elite Eight team and they are one of the more experienced groups in the nation. Last year's Elite Eight run actually came without their best player, center Dean Wade, who is back and healthy this year after leading the team in points, rebounds and 3-point shooting. Senior backcourt duo Barry Brown and Kamau Stokes is excellent. And Bruce Weber has a resume filled with postseason experience. However, K-State is only theoretically a challenger because they have averaged 10 Big 12 losses per season the last five years (compared to just four per year for Kansas). The Wildcats won't be able to hold it together enough to unseat Kansas in the regular season. But they are capable of beating the Jayhawks and another Sweet 16 run isn't out of the question.
The Dark Horse: West Virginia
You just can't ever write a Bob Huggins-coached team off. Huggy Bear's charges will always play harder than their opponent, will always play smothering full court defense, and will always scrap and claw and fight for 40 minutes. WVU has to replace program heart-and-soul Jevon Carter, the best defensive player in the country and the team's leading scorer. But they have six guys that back that averaged at least 10 minutes per game and started at least two games last year. WVU also has a five-man freshman class that Huggins will blend in. WVU's ceiling may just be making the NCAA Tournament.
The X-Factor: Iowa State
The Cyclones were going to struggle last season no matter what. They simply lost too much talent from the 2016-17 team to stay in the top tier in the Big 12 last winter. But then the injuries began. The end result was one of the worst Iowa State seasons in the past 30 years and the snapping of their streak of six straight NCAA Tournaments. However, I think that Iowa State could be set for a major rebound this season. Sophomore Lindell Wigginton (16.7 PPG) is a keeper and Nick Weiler-Babb provides steady senior leadership at the point. The frontcourt is also as deep and talented as we've seen in Ames with Cam Lard, Solomon Young, Zoran Talley and George Conditt all bringing something a little different to the table. Toss in some other intriguing freshmen and Virginia transfer Marial Shayok and the Cyclones should have enough firepower to shoot their way back into the Big 12's top half and back to the NCAA Tournament.
The Disappointment: Baylor
It is incredible how much Scott Drew has raised the standards at this once-moribund Baylor program. The Bears have fielded a team that was ranked in the Top 20 in 10 straight years and they have made the NCAA Tournament seven times in 11 seasons. But they had a streak of four straight tournament appearances snapped last year. And this year's roster is even worse. The size, length and interior talent that has been a hallmark of this program doesn't exist this year. Baylor only has one guy taller than 6-9 on the roster and only three players taller than 6-8. The returning starters they have are mediocre role players. And their two most talented players are unproven transfers from Mississippi State and Yale. Drew has been outstanding in Waco. But don't be surprised if this team ends up near the bottom of the of the conference again this year.
Texas - Shaka Smart has turned out to be a dud, as his 50-50 record in three years at Texas can attest to. But he has a team that may be able to do some damage in the Big 12 this season. A key will be the status of Andrew Jones. The junior guard was the team's leading scorer last season before being diagnosed with leukemia. He has completed chemo and is attempting a comeback. And if he can be in form by league play then he'll team with Kerwin Roach and Matt Coleman to give the Longhorns a potent backcourt. Dylan Osetkowski is the team's best player. And the senior forward will be tasked with holding down the frontcourt until sophomore Jericho Sims or some of the freshmen are ready to step up.
Oklahoma State - Mike Boynton was a stunning hire in Stillwater after Brad Underwood bailed on the Cowboys after just one season. Even more stunning than Boynton's hire, though, were his first-year results, winning 21 games and nearly making the NCAA Tournament. But this season will be the first of the rebuild that's coming for the Cowboys. They have just two guys returning that averaged more than five points or 11 minutes per game last year. And neither player scored more than nine points per game last season. I expect this group to bottom out and be one of the Big 12's worst.
Oklahoma - Last year was an odd season for Lon Kruger and the Sooners, making it into the Top 10 before a horrific 4-12 close to the season. It was pretty clear that Trae Young's teammates never liked playing with him. So his departure could end up being some addition by subtraction, despite Young's gaudy stats. Brady Manek and Christian James are solid options on an upperclassmen-laden team. Kruger isn't a good coach, he's a great one. So don't be surprised if this team surpasses its expectations behind more of a team concept this year.
Texas Tech - The Red Raiders went from missing the NCAA Tournament in 2017 to making the Elite Eight in 2018. They could see another wild swing this year after losing six of their top eight players from last year's squad. Transfer Matt Mooney, who is a player, and sophomore holdover Jarrett Culver will try to keep this team from falling off a cliff. Unskilled post players Norense Odiase and Tariq Owens will provide a solid post presence. But beyond that this roster is nothing but freshmen and questions. It's going to be a hard knock year in Lubbock.
TCU - Jamie Dixon guided the Horned Frogs to their first NCAA Tournament in 20 years last season. It was just TCU's fourth appearance in The Big Dance since 1972! TCU lost its two most important players, especially tough-shot maker Kenrich Williams. But four double-digit scorers are back to help bridge the gap between the veterans and Dixon's seven-man freshman class. A key component will be the healthy return of junior point guard Jaylen Fisher, who is battling back from injuries. This team will not be nearly as good as last year's group. But Dixon is a fantastic coach that continues to raise expectations in Dallas.
Projected Big 12 Standings
2. Kansas State
3. West Virginia
4. Iowa State
9. Texas Tech
10. Oklahoma 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 11 of 12 winning nonconference seasons and 10 of 12 winning regular seasons. Robert's $100-per-Unit clients have banked a remarkable $61,300 in the last 12 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.
Read more articles by Robert Ferringo
Get all of this Weeks College Basketball Picks
Get all of this Weeks guaranteed Expert College Basketball Picks