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The Big 12 has been the class of college basketball for most of the last decade having finished No. 1 in the conference rankings seven times while seeing multiple member schools -- first with Baylor in 2021 then with Kansas in 2022 -- go on to win the NCAA Tournament. Its impressive tier of top contenders have been rivaled only by its exceptional depth, with at least six programs advancing to the Big Dance in each of the last eight years and five times in the last six tournaments having a member make the Final Four.

But the winds of change are blowing in the Big 12 and beyond thanks to conference realignment that could at least temporarily throw off course its strong track record as the most challenging conference in college hoops. OU and Texas are set to depart for the SEC by 2025, possibly sooner, throwing off long-standing regional rivalries and ridding the league of two perennial relevant programs. Meanwhile, in a retooling effort, Cincinnati, Houston, BYU and UCF are set to join the league next year. As such, the 2022-23 season will go down as the last in its current form.

We enter the season with a lot of unknowns about the future but a lot of knowns about the present. Kansas, coming off its NCAA championship, looks fit to wear the crown and defend both its Big 12 regular season co-championship and its NCAA Tourney title. A retooled Baylor will be a dangerous Baylor, led by a stud freshmen, a cast of reliable vets and some former star recruits coming into form. Then there's the rest of the Texas contenders -- TCU, Texas Tech, Texas -- all lurking as programs who could challenge for the top spot.

Big 12 Preseason Player/Freshman of the Year

Keyonte George | SG | Baylor

TCU guard Mike Miles, Kansas forward Jalen Wilson and Texas' Timmy Allen all got strong consideration here, but Baylor freshman Keyonte George gets the nod here. George, the fifth McDonald's All-American in the history of the Bears program, is set up as a top-three recruit to be a star right away in Waco. This summer with the team he averaged 22.8 points per game and led Baylor to the GLOBL Jam Championship Game, highlighted by a remarkable 37-point explosion in the semis over Canada. He has a nasty streak as a scorer who can catch fire and completely take over games. The Bears have a stellar backcourt and good depth top to bottom, so he may not be asked to shoulder the biggest load in the Big 12, but his knack for scoring coupled with his versatility to play both on and off the ball make him a perfect fit for Baylor's guard-friendly system. Day one star who will be appointment viewing night in and night out in the Big 12.

Four more players to watch

Mike Miles | PG | TCU: The leading returning scorer in the Big 12, Miles now steps into the spotlight at TCU as the do-it-all lead guard for a Horned Frogs team that could be the best since Jamie Dixon took over.

Jalen Wilson | SF | Kansas: Kansas lost two players to the first round of the NBA Draft and four of its five leading scorers overall from its title-winning 2021-22 roster, leaving Wilson in a spot to flourish in a bigger role. The addition of three top-40 recruits and a star transfer in former Texas Tech guard Kevin McCullar could take some shine from him, but Wilson figures to be the focal point of a remade KU roster that should still be among the best in the Big 12.

Adam Flagler | PG | Baylor: With James Akinjo gone, Flagler, a steady contributor each of the last two seasons, is set to take the reins at point guard for Baylor's high-octane attack. He improved dramatically as a set-up guy last season, nearly doubling his assist rate from the previous season. He will have myriad weapons to distribute to with LJ Cryer, Keyonte George and Jalen Bridges all flanking him. 

Timmy Allen | SF | Texas: Allen led Texas in scoring, rebounds and steals last season, yet still underperformed relative to past production he posted at Utah. In Year Two of the Chris Beard era the Longhorns may feature him more heavily in 2022-23 with a more balanced roster better-suited to support him. With Marcus Carr returning and the addition of Iowa State transfer guard Tyrese Hunter, the improved playmaking should make for a better Texas team and a more steady Timmy Allen.

CBS Sports Big 12 predicted order of finish

Baylor has won at least a share of each of the last two regular-season Big 12 titles after a total of zero regular-season  conference championships from 1949-50 until 2020-21. Several major pieces of the last one -- Jeremy Sochan, James Akinjo, Matthew Mayer, Kendall Brown -- will not be back. But it matters not when Scott Drew is your coach. He's assembled yet another contender this time around Keyonte George, the program's third-highest rated signee of all time, as well as LJ Cryer, who was the team's highest scorer before a foot injury cut short his 2021-22 season.
Even with Remy Martin, Christian Braun, David McCormack and Ochai Agbaji gone from last season's NCAA title-winning team, Bill Self has pieced together enough to warrant consideration as a clear contender. Maybe the best transfer add of the offseason was grabbing Kevin McCullar, a two-way guard who'll fit KU's system perfectly, away from Texas Tech. His presence alongside a young-but-talented nucleus that includes long-time vets DaJuan Harris and Jalen Wilson could be one of the most formidable in the league when it clicks.
Texas had some growing pains in Year One of the Chris Beard era as its transfer-heavy roster struggled to find cohesiveness. But Chris Beard is Chris Beard. I'm buying the dip here. Texas has a really nice returning roster led by Marcus Carr and Timmy Allen and buttressed by a really nice incoming class balanced between recruits (five-stars Dillon Mitchell and Arterio Morris) and transfers (Tyrese Hunter from Iowa State and Sir'Jabari Rice from New Mexico State).
TCU largely had a forgettable season last year -- it went 8-10 in league play and had only one road win all season against teams that made the NCAA Tournament field -- but its March Madness run left lots of optimism emanating out of Fort Worth, Texas. It steamrolled Seton Hall in stunning fashion then took No. 1 seed Arizona to overtime before eventually succumbing to the Wildcats. With that as momentum, coach Jamie Dixon brings back star point guard Mike Miles and his top six scorers to make up one of the most experienced and able rosters in the Big 12.
Texas Tech had the No. 1 defense in adjusted efficiency (according to data) in Year One of the Mark Adams era last year. And while the Red Raiders lost their top three scorers from that unit, Adams' system set in place is one of the most effective in the Big 12. With five really talented incoming transfers, Tech should be in the mix to finish in a similar spot defensively, though it'll have a hard time maintaining its top-three standing in the Big 12 given how crowded and deep the league is this year.
On the heels of a season in which it was banned from postseason play, Oklahoma State managed to bring back three of its top five scorers -- including 7-footer Moussa Cisse and starting guards Avery Anderson and Bryce Thompson. The Cowboys have been one of the most tenacious defensive teams the last few years under coach Mike Boynton, but improving overall shooting numbers will be key to making the leap. This program craves and expects NCAA Tournament appearances, which has happened just once since Brad Underwood left for Illinois. Anything but making the Big Dance would be a disappointment given the experience this team brings back.
The only Big 12 team worse at protecting the ball last season than OU was its cross-state counterpart Oklahoma State. The Sooners averaged just shy of 15 turnovers per game, got very little bench production and did all of that despite having a very experienced roster by college hoops standards. OU will rely heavily on Nevada transfer Grant Sherfield to help turn those tides around after a career year in which he averaged 19.1 points and 6.4 assists per game for the Wolf Pack. This team doesn't lack for talent but it needs structural competence within the system, which Moser and Sherfield should help provide.
TJ Otzelberger might've masterminded one of the more impressive turnarounds in recent memory within college hoops last season after taking over a program that went 2-22 the year prior and turning Iowa State into a 22-win team that made the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament. But as is the case with college hoops in this era, key pieces of Otzelberger's roster fell apart this offseason. Tyrese Hunter transferred. Izaiah Brockington's eligibility expired. And Temple transfer Jeremiah Williams recently tore his Achilles tendon, a huge loss for a team that needed depth in the backcourt. Otzelberger will have his work cut out for him this season to try and get back to the NCAA Tournament.
It feels criminal to put a Bob Huggins-coached team anywhere near the bottom of this list, but it's just hard to justify putting the Mountaineers higher. They started last season 13-2 then cratered with a 2-15 record the rest of the way. Most of the team either graduated or transferred, which might wind up being a net positive given how non-competitive they were down the stretch. But many questions abound about how Huggins will rebuild in 2022-23.
Bruce Weber's time at K-State ended unceremoniously last season when the Wildcats finished second-to-last in the Big 12 standings with six consecutive losses to end the year. The program made a huge hire to get Jerome Tang, a long-time Scott Drew disciple, out from beneath him at Baylor, a hire that should pay off in time -- but probably not this season. There's an interesting mix of recruits and transfers that may be able to help establish the culture Tang wants to instill, but the league is a gauntlet that won't be kind to a rebuilding team in the way K-State is having to rebuild.

Most overrated team


The term "overrated" is relative here -- our entire panel has them top-three, with two of us having them No. 1 and two of us having them at No. 2. But in a competitive top tier, I've got Baylor and Texas ahead of Kansas. Both teams have more talent on paper and more experience together. Meanwhile, Kansas is replacing four starters from its championship roster a season ago and lacks the size and skill most Self-coached teams possess. Kansas still could wind up winning the league under Self because Kansas under Self almost always wins the league. It's like clockwork. But even for a blueblood like Kansas the roster churn can be tough to overcome, to say nothing of the ongoing NCAA cloud that looms over the program. There's a lot of circumstances to suggest that KU may take a marginal step back this season, as should be expected given all it lost.

Most underrated team


OU's splashy hire of Porter Moser to replace the legendary Lon Kruger didn't amount to much in his first season. Moser and the Sooners fell victim to the brutal schedule of the Big 12, losing 11 of their first 15 games in league play and never really recovering. That was compounded by poor guard play on one of the most turnover-heavy teams in the entire country. So what'd OU do this offseason? They swung big in the portal and landed a star in Nevada transfer Grant Sherfield, who put up big numbers as a scorer and facilitator each of the last two seasons at Nevada. Alongside second-year guard C.J. Noland the Sooners backcourt should be back up to Big 12 standards. We know Moser-coached teams will defend at a high level, so if they can get quality play out of Sherfield and their rebuilt backcourt they could jump back into the mix as a top-five team in the league.

CBS Sports Big 12 expert picks