It’s hard to pick the field with KU’s legacy of dominance, but the Big 12 is deep with formidable challengers for the conference title.
Trae Young is the toast of college basketball and one of the greatest threats to end the conference title streak. When Young isn’t breaking NCAA assist records, he’s impressing Russell Westbrook and drawing comparisons to Steph Curry. Ranked 23rd in the 2018 ESPN 100, Oklahoma has seen immense value early. KU’s upperclassman guards will hopefully leverage their experience to best the Sooners. However, Young’s brilliance will make for intriguing, tight contests harkening back to the duels with Buddy Hield.
West Virginia was embarrassed by Texas A&M in their season opener but rebounded quickly to their normal caliber of play. KU is all too familiar with the prowess of the Mountaineers leading scorer, senior guard Jevon Carter. And while it’s admirable that Bob Huggins has donated the $100,00 in bonuses he earned from defeating the Jayhawks in four consecutive years, Kansas fans are eager to see better conference road performances. KU’s seniors will be looking for redemption in Morgantown come January 15th.
With Shaka Smart now in his third season as the Longhorns head coach, Texas is becoming a contender in the Big 12. Fourth-ranked freshman Mohamed Bamba is a nightmare in the paint, almost averaging a double-double. Texas has played a stout non-conference schedule and posted strong performances in losses to Duke, Gonzaga and Michigan. Texas may still be too underdeveloped to break the streak, but Texas will cause problems in the league.
Are the Horned Frogs for real? Although TCU eliminated the Josh Jackson-less Jayhawks in the 2017 Big 12 tournament, they finished the season as NIT Champions instead of receiving a March Madness bid. With TCU investing $70 million into basketball facilities, Jamie Dixon has successfully changed TCU’s basketball culture since taking the head coaching position after leaving Pitt. The Horned Frogs will surely improve from a 15-loss 2016-2017 campaign but likely lack the pedigree to usurp Kansas.