Breaking down KU’s Big 12 basketball competition

After failing to win the regular season conference championship last season, Kansas is starting its revenge tour this weekend.

Conference play gets going for all 10 teams on Saturday, which includes a top 20 matchup as KU hosts West Virginia. This year’s group of teams look to be tougher than was projected preseason, as no team has a losing record through the non-conference slate and four teams are currently ranked in the top 25.

KU goes into conference play as the favorite with hopes of starting a new streak, but there are several teams that should push them. Let’s look at who could be KU’s biggest competitors for the conference crown.

Oklahoma State

The Cowboys are ranked in the top 40 in ESPN’s Basketball Power Index and feature a platoon of seniors who’ve been in a lot of big games. Their best player is one of the most underrated in the conference in guard Isaac Likekele. Likekele is averaging 13 points, five rebounds, and five assists per game, to go along with stellar on ball defense. If it can get contributions from other underclassmen, Oklahoma State could sneak into the top three of the conference.

Texas Tech

The Red Raiders are back on track after a three-game slide that started in late November. Tech put together one of the best wins of the season when it beat Louisville by 13 points, but this team has also looked a bit shaky against some of its easier opponents. Chris Beard is still a really good coach and Jahmi’us Ramsey may be the best freshman in the conference. Tech has all the pieces, it’s more about if they can all be put together in conference play.

West Virginia

After a down year in 2018-2019, West Virginia looks to be back. The Mountaineers enter conference play coming off a win against second ranked Ohio State and only having suffered one loss through 12 games. Oscar Tshiebwe leads a balanced roster that features five players averaging over eight points per game. The Mountaineers will be tested early, as they start with a three-game stretch against Kansas, Oklahoma State, and Texas Tech. How West Virginia handles those matchups will be a good indicator as to whether the Mountaineers are back to being contenders for the conference.

Baylor

Scott Drew enters conference play with one of the best teams he’s had in Waco. The Bears have impressive wins over Villanova, Arizona, and Butler, with their only loss coming against Washington by three points. Jared Butler is a dynamic scoring guard who is currently second in the league in points per game and teammate Macio Teague isn’t far behind. The Bears are second to Kansas in Offensive Rating, three-point percentage, and Net Rating. It seems like Baylor and Kansas are in a tier of their own at the top of the conference and the Bears are undoubtedly KU’s biggest competitor to claim the title.

Jackson Hodges

I’ve been a KU fan as long as I can remember, which I chalk up to my love of basketball and the influence of my brothers. I am a graduate of Oklahoma State, but I routinely wore my blue in Gallagher-Iba (yes, I was that guy). I grew up idolizing Wayne Simien and Christian Moody, and I think the post-entry pass is a lost art. I hope you enjoy my work.