For a while, it was Kansas’s world and the rest of the Big 12 was living in it. The Jayhawks won at least a share of the conference regular season title every season from 2005 to 2018. That streak ended last season when Kansas State and Texas Tech shared the honors. Iowa State then went on to win the conference tournament for the fourth time in six years.
Kansas has 11 conference tournament titles and is favored per the odds at DraftKings Sportsbook to win another one. Kansas has the shortest price in the league at +125 in what is predominantly a three-horse race with Baylor and Texas Tech. The Big 12, however, is one of the most balanced conferences year in and year out and all 10 teams have a shot to do some damage this season.
We’ll get a good look at these teams in the non-conference, as many of them will play games against premier opponents from other power conferences, surrounded by some paycheck games or some games against lesser foes.
A lot of things went wrong for Kansas last season. One of the biggest was that Udoka Azubuike was limited to nine games. Another was that there was a cloud hanging over the program with the hearing about Silvio De Sousa. With Azubuike and De Sousa back, and sophomore guard Devon Dotson, some believe Kansas is the best team in the country. Bart Torvik of BartTorvik.com has Kansas third and Ken Pomeroy, better known as KenPom, has the Jayhawks 10th.
For a while, we didn’t know what to expect from Scott Drew. His teams either had great regular seasons and fizzled in March or struggled through the first 30 games of the year before flipping a switch and playing very well in the postseason. Baylor has tremendous depth with transfers MaCio Teague and Davion Mitchell and holdover Tristan Clark. Baylor is actually a top-15 team entering the season. Of course, at +250, it may be a risk, because we’ve seen Baylor fall short of expectations many times over.
If somebody said to you that Chris Beard was the best coach in the Big 12, how much of a fight would you put up? Let’s take it one step forward. If somebody said that Beard was the best coach in college basketball, would you have a strong argument against that? Beard’s Texas Tech Red Raiders are expected to make more national noise this season. This is a much younger team for Beard, as a lot of offensive talent is gone in Lubbock. Jarrett Culver went to the NBA and guys like Matt Mooney and Tariq Owens exhausted their eligibility. Betting against Beard is not an advisable strategy, but the +400 price may not have enough meat for a futures ticket.
If we have worries about Baylor and Texas Tech, who else can we bet to take down Kansas? It’s a fair question. West Virginia is +1200 off of a down year, but Bob Huggins has better defensive personnel this season that he hopes will convert some easy buckets for a team that was offensively challenged last season.
Oklahoma and Oklahoma State are both +1400. The three-point line moving back could hurt both of these teams, as Lon Kruger’s Sooners have been a jump shooting team and second-year head coach Mike Boynton saw his team finish 319th in two-point percentage last season, while being 46th from deep. Even Kansas State, who was a different team with Dean Wade and a dramatically different team without him, has questions now that he is in the NBA. The +2400 price tag implies a major drop-off, though we have to seriously respect that Bruce Weber defense, no matter who is in the lineup.
Can we really focus on a long shot like Iowa State at +2900 or TCU at +3400? Jamie Dixon started to do some good things at TCU and the Horned Frogs had some nice regular season wins, but the loss of point guard Alex Robinson could prove fatal. Iowa State would have higher hopes under Steve Prohm, who got his team back into the NCAA Tournament last season after a one-year hiatus. This is a young, but talented team. Depth is a concern.
With all that being said, it sure seems like Kansas is the most polished team with the fewest questions. The low price is hard for holding a long investment, but the Jayhawks are the best of the bunch here.
2019-2020 Big 12 Basketball Conference Winner Odds: