There was a time this spring, after Oklahoma State's Marcus Smart elected to return to school, that it looked as if Kansas' Big 12 title streak would be in serious jeopardy. But after the Jayhawks finished up the offseason with another stellar recruiting class, the road to that title will still go through Lawrence.
Bill Self's team is searching for a 10th straight Big 12 Championship. But both the Cowboys and Baylor Bears have the talent to dethrone them this season. Iowa State and Oklahoma's basketball programs are coming off NCAA appearances and their programs have been stabilized by the outstanding coaching of Fred Hoiberg and Lon Kruger. And Bruce Weber is hoping to continue a string of four consecutive appearances by Kansas State in the tournament as well.
At the bottom of the conference, Texas Tech, Texas, TCU and West Virginia are all in various stages of rebuilding. Here's how I see the conference projecting from top to bottom.
1. Kansas Jayhawks
While much of the attention this coming season will fall on shoulders of freshman Andrew Wiggins, the nation's No. 1 recruit in 2013, Self has a cadre of outstanding young talent. Perry Ellis, a 6-foot-8 sophomore forward, should pick up where he left off last season, making the Big 12 all-tournament team. And though freshmen Wayne Selden and Joel Embiid may not be on a one-and-done path, few expect them to be at Kansas all four seasons. They are that talented.
Wiggins, at 6-7, is one of the most explosive athletes to step onto a college campus in recent memory. He plays hard, is an excellent basket attacker and, yet, a team-oriented guy. The key question is: Does he have the personality to be Kansas' alpha dog? If he has that type of season, the Jayhawks are a Final Four team despite the fact that they will have seven freshmen on the roster.