While I love hockey (Frozen Four week baby!), soccer, the NBA, baseball, etc., nothing captures my mind like the NCAA tournament and college basketball as a whole. It is interesting that a sport that picks its champion this way is my favorite, given how ridiculous the format is, but that is a giant can of worms.
So with nothing to so completely capture my attention until next basketball season, let's take a look at how the Big 12 shapes up way way way way way too early.
note: this is assuming most people who are projected to leave will leave (when in doubt, ask me in the comments) and does not project Myles Turner going to either Kansas or Texas, who are considered 2 of the 3 favorites at this point:
Despite losing Wiggins and probably Embiid, Kansas has the best prospect in the class coming in, and while Kelly Oubre won't be Wiggins, he should be able to replicate his rebounding and some of his better traits on offense. The big issue will be defense. Can Selden take a step forward? Will Oubre be 75% of Wiggins? 80%? Will Hunter Mickelson be the type of rim protector we've come to expect in Lawrence? Will Naadir Tharpe be able to guard a chair? Regardless, I think Kansas will get huge improvements from the Freshmen who remain, and I think Perry Ellis is as good a choice as any for preseason Big 12 POY.
Texas struggled big time on offense last year, but, returning everyone, they'll have some built in lineup cohesion. They were 4th in the league in defense, but second in 2 point defense (behind Kansas) and I like their potential to lead the conference in that category next year with the group of interior defenders they have coming in. Isaiah Taylor will need to - and should - take a big step forward next year, and the Horns add 4 star recruit Jordan Barnett, as well as the possibility of Myles Turner.
Losing Cam Clark is a big blow, but the Sooners return basically everyone else from the second best offense in the Big 12. I don't know if Buddy Hield can be a 39% shooter from three again next season, and I have to think the Sooners in general will regress a bit from beyond the arc. With their semi struggles at scoring from two, and their major struggles at getting to the line, Oklahoma could fall off a bit more than people think next year.
4. Iowa State
This assumes Fred Hoiberg doesn't take an NBA job of course, but if he does stay in Ames I like the Cyclones' chances of staying in the top 4 of the league. Georges Niang is a matchup nightmare (seriously we have to deal with him for two more years?) which will lessen the blow of no more Ejim or Kane. Monte Morris actually led the Big 12 in assist to turnover ratio (flawed stat as it is) meaning he doesn't have to shoot much higher than he already is to be a star player. I am a bit worried about their defense, but the good news for Cyclones fans is I have to imagine they'll shoot better from beyond the arc in Big 12 play next year.
5. Kansas State
One of the tougher teams for me to rank year in and year out because of how well Kansas plays against them. I had them anywhere from 4th to 7th in my initial ratings, but settled on 5th. I haven't completely jumped on the Marcus Foster bandwagon yet (though he did get a lot better as the season went on) and Shane Southwell was actually their leading assist man in terms of actual rotation players, so his minutes will be tougher to replace than I originally thought. They were really able to limit threes, and teams shot a poor percentage from three last year, which should continue (the first part anyways) despite how integral Southwell was to that. K State doesn't have a great recruiting class coming in, so they'll have to depend on finding some more gems.
Another one I had trouble with, I settled on Baylor over West Virginia because I think Isaiah Austin is coming back. They'll also return Kenny Chery, who was a really good point guard despite struggling to score at times. Inside, no Cory Jefferson will hurt, but Rico Gathers, Royce O'Neale, Taurean Prince, and Austin will be a formidable front line.
7. West Virginia
Juwan Staten is back, but the Mountaineers lose Eron Harris to transfer. No one else on the team does much of note offensively, but I like Terry Henderson and Remi Debo as spot up shooter types. This team was horrendous defensively last year however, and I don't forsee it getting any better.
8. Oklahoma State
It's entirely possible OSU finishes higher than this. I like Phil Forte as a deep threat, and they have trio of four star recruits coming in. Kamari Murphy and Michael Cobbins could provide an interesting rim protection duo down low as well. On the other hand, they lose their three best players, I don't really see how they score, and they have a coach who has certainly lost the plot entirely.
9. Texas Tech
The Red Raiders took strides in Tubby Smith's first year, but with Jordan Tolbert transferring, they lose their only real Big 12 caliber player. They have some three star recruits who have committed, but none has signed (to the best of my knowledge)
I still think TCU is going to get there once their building gets renovated. They're in a huge market, they should be able to attract a good young coach once they wise up about Trent Johnson and hey, they swept an NCAA tournament team (Tulsa) last year. Still, however, the gap between them and the rest of the league is just gigantic right now.