The Big 12 Conference announced its plans for a new college football playoff. The league cited the need to prevent other conferences from poaching top programs as a reason it decided to make changes, but what does this mean for college basketball?
The “big 12 football 2021” is the next season for the Big 12 Conference. The conference will be playing a full round-robin schedule with no divisions and will have 14 teams.
As the countdown to the commencement of the 2021-22 college basketball season on November 9 begins, an ESPN panel of experts has made predictions for all of the country’s biggest leagues. So far, we’ve looked at Gonzaga and the top teams from the Atlantic 10, C-USA, Ivy, MAC, Missouri Valley, Mountain West, SoCon, Sun Belt, and WCC, as well as Memphis, Houston, and the AAC, the Villanova-dominated Big East, and UCLA and the rising Pac-12 Conference. We begin our series with the Big 12, a conference that will experience substantial changes in the near future but will remain one of college basketball’s toughest challenges until further notice.
The Baylor Bears will be the reigning national champions in collegiate basketball in 2021-22, but huge stories exist beyond Scott Drew’s squad. Chris Beard is transferring from the Texas Tech Red Raiders to the Texas Longhorns, where he has assembled a national championship-contending group that includes a slew of outstanding transfers. Texas Tech, Beard’s last home, will usher in a new era with former Beard assistant Mark Adams at the helm, while the Oklahoma Sooners (Porter Moser) and Iowa State Cyclones (T.J. Otzelberger) all have high expectations for their first-year head coaches. With another elite transfer (ex-Arizona State guard Remy Martin) on board, the Kansas Jayhawks figure to be Final Four contenders.
ESPN’s writing team of Myron Medcalf, Jeff Borzello, John Gasaway, and Joe Lunardi measured up the big stories, made their predictions, and weighed in on all of the Big 12’s top challenges during a season in which the league boasts probably the greatest top-to-bottom talent in the nation.
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Superlatives for the Big 12 in 2021-22
Athlete of the Year
Marcus Carr, Marcus Carr, Marcus Carr, Marcus Carr, Marcus Carr, Marcus Carr, Marcus Carr, Marcus Carr David McCormack, Kansas, Borzello: Remy Martin, Kansas, Gasaway Remy Martin, Remy Martin, Remy Martin, Remy Martin, Remy Martin, Remy Martin, Remy Martin
Newcomer of the Year is a prestigious award given to a newcomer
Marcus Carr, Marcus Carr, Marcus Carr, Marcus Carr, Marcus Carr, Marcus Carr, Marcus Carr, Marcus Carr Marcus Carr, Marcus Carr, Marcus Carr, Marcus Carr, Marcus Carr, Marcus Carr, Marcus Carr, Marcus Carr Lunardi: Marcus Carr, Texas Gasaway: Kendall Brown, Baylor
Writers’ roundtable for the Big 12 in 2021-22
After winning the national championship, Baylor is usually anticipated to take a step back. What do you believe that backward step will entail? Is it impossible that this may be the first time since Florida in 2006-07 that a team has won back-to-back national championships in college basketball?
With a Baylor squad that has lost some experienced leadership, Matthew Mayer is due for a bigger role. Darron Cummings/AP Photo
Medcalf: In this scenario, I believe it is critical to reference college basketball history. Two teams have won back-to-back national championships since UCLA won seven in a row from 1967 to 1973: Duke (1991, 1992) and Florida (1993, 1994). (2006, 2007). Consider the teams who attempted to replenish after a championship run but failed. Consider the case of Georgetown, who won the national championship in 1984 but lost in the championship game the following year. The UNLV teams of the early 1990s were unable to achieve their goals. That’s why it’s impossible to see a Baylor team that has suffered so much loss winning back-to-back national championships. In the post-John Wooden era, our sport isn’t really structured for that.
However, I believe that even if this team takes a “step back,” it will still be a Big 12 championship candidate. Kansas, in my opinion, is a step ahead of the rest of the conference, but Baylor might be just behind Texas. Matthew Mayer will need to make significant progress in order to play a larger part in this group. After transferring from Arizona, James Akinjo could have a solid season, while Kendall Brown has a lot of hype. This squad has a lot of promise for the second weekend.
Borzello: I believe it is a leap to believe this squad can win a second consecutive national title; it has already suffered too many losses. On the attacking end, Davion Mitchell, Jared Butler, and MaCio Teague played in unison, while defensively, Mark Vital was one of the greatest and most versatile players in the nation during his career. I simply believe Scott Drew will have too much to replace in order to go back to back.
But I don’t believe they’ll plummet very much. Baylor is still in my preseason top 10, and I believe it is closer to Kansas and Texas at the top of the Big 12 than the Bears are to the center of the pack. After coming off the bench last season, Adam Flagler may be the team’s greatest scorer, while Mayer has attracted NBA draft interest. Drew also brings in a trio of impact freshmen, including Akinjo, who was a first-team All-Pac-12 guard at Arizona last season. The greatest issue is defense; Baylor had some extremely excellent individual defenders last season, and they’re essentially gone this year.
Gasaway: There’s no shame in stepping back from one of the best teams we’ve seen in the last decade. Drew’s team finished 29-2, and that number in the loss column would have been considerably fewer in a “typical” year sans COVID-19. Villanova had a fantastic first half against the Bears in the Sweet 16, but no opponent, including No. 1-ranked Gonzaga, posed a genuine danger to this club during the NCAA tournament. So, absolutely, there will be a step backwards.
Nonetheless, we’re looking at a team that has a chance to win the conference in 2022. Mayer was on the verge of being named Big 12 preseason Player of the Year. Last season, Flagler made 43% of his 3-point attempts, and this year, Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua will get increased playing time to confound opposing attacks. Baylor led the Big 12 last season, followed by everyone else. In 2022, the top of the league should be a legitimate competition, and the Bears will be right there.
Lunardi: We’re not going to bury the lead. Baylor will not defend their national title. Despite expecting the Bears to win it all a year ago in this space — and being a huge Drew supporter — repeat championships are highly uncommon even in the best of conditions. The Bears have lost their best edge from last season: continuity, with Mitchell, Butler, and others pursuing other opportunities.
All of this isn’t to claim the Bears are on the verge of disappearing. For a rebuilding — or at the very least reloading — school, a Sweet 16 or even second-round NCAA departure is no big deal. Baylor has a lot to be proud of. Raise your hand if you ever imagined an NCAA championship flag being raised in Waco, Texas. Raise your other hand if you believe it will happen again in the future.
The latter post is more likely to be filled than the former. Baylor has a legitimate chance to win another national championship. This year, though, will be different.
Texas is back, led by Chris Beard, one of the top coaches in the country, and a talented squad. What influence will the Longhorns’ championship have on college basketball? What will it tell you if they fall short of expectations?
Chris Beard’s Texas blueprint’s performance will be one of the most closely watched aspects of NCAA basketball this season. Eric Gay/AP Photo
Borzello: It’s an interesting tale to follow. This season, no one has attempted what Beard is doing. There have been teams with a lot of transfers in the past, but nothing like this. Six of the top 30 transfers in the nation have been added to a roster that includes four players who were part of the Big 12 championship squad that earned a 3-seed in the NCAA tournament. There’s a degree of demonstrated college skill that’s uncommon in today’s world. It’s similar to John Calipari’s first few teams, which were entirely made up of outstanding freshmen, but modified to the transfer portal era.
If Texas wins a championship, developing nearly entirely via the portal may become increasingly popular, particularly among first-year coaches. It’s already occurring in a number of places — Kentucky, the sport’s recruiting powerhouse, snagged four transfers last spring — but might Duke, Villanova, or another prominent club start to use the portal more? If the Longhorns underachieve, I believe a lot of people will be “proved wrong,” that it’s difficult to hoard unlimited talent and hope it all works out in this day and age. However, I believe it will take more than one disastrous season at Texas to dismiss Beard as a coach.
Iowa State era Gasaway Isn’t it true that Fred Hoiberg shown that you can succeed by stacking your program with transfers? Since then, I’ve been looking forward to the next Hoiberg. Why take a risk on a shaky recruit when you can get a player who has previously proven himself against Division I competition?
If Beard wants to go that path, I have no doubt he can pull off a Hoiberg, but a national championship in 2022 could be a tough ask. We tend to be a little more positive on a move than we would be on the same player if he remained with the same club for whatever reason. When it comes to returning players, I’m not convinced Courtney Ramey will be the most significant Longhorn. Last year, he made 41 percent of his three-point attempts, and despite the addition of skill, perimeter shooting remains a question mark for this squad.
Lunardi: If there’s one thing we’ve learned about Beard, it’s that he always pulls the best out of the people in front of him. This year in Austin, I’m expecting nothing less. Beard had an immediate impact at Texas and is unlikely to be a complete failure. A trip to the Final Four is more plausible than any sense of disappointment.
Here’s a challenge: Compare and contrast Texas Tech’s 2018-19 NCAA runner-up team with Beard’s current Texas squad. On paper, at least, the Longhorns have a compelling case to make. Is it possible to put everything together in the first year? The chances are stacked against you. But, three years ago, what were Texas Tech’s chances?
Beard and the Longhorns aren’t going anywhere anytime soon, in my opinion.
Before John Calipari and his team won the national championship in 2012, a many of college basketball coaches believed the one-and-done era would damage the sport. After Kentucky’s victory, they recognized they’d have to compete with Calipari and his counterparts for those players. Coaches aren’t as vocal about the “one-and-done attitude” as they were a decade ago.
A national championship run for Texas with this transfer-backed team would have a similar effect. The Longhorns would be the second team in a row to win a national championship thanks to major transfers. It would emphasize the importance of the transfer portal for both coaches and players, as they would see a bunch of their peers coming together to build a championship squad. That reminds me of the NBA. That might happen in college basketball, and it would be a game changer.
Beard’s underachievement would have to be a complete disaster with this squad. If anything unexpected occurs, such as Texas losing in the first round of the NCAA tournament or finishing fourth or fifth in the Big 12, I believe many of the skeptics would say, “I told you so.” But I don’t think that will happen.
Kansas is usually a topic of conversation in the Big 12 and around the country. Give the world one reason why the No. 3 Jayhawks will live up to their Final Four billing, and one reason why Bill Self’s squad bothers you.
Remy Martin was a great scorer at Arizona State, but in Lawrence, he could be more of a facilitator. AP John Locher/Flickr
Medcalf: At Big 12 media day last week, I sat across from Self and asked him those questions. Remy Martin is still adapting to live as a celebrity in the midst of so much talent. His teammates say his quickness is astounding and has changed the way they play, but Self noted the Arizona State transfer is still cautious to attack at this point. With a guy like Martin in this bunch, the Jayhawks have a skill pool that only Gonzaga may be able to match. And I believe the Jayhawks will only improve as Martin becomes more comfortable. This group has everything.
What’s the issue? I’m starting to think these Jayhawks are a little too friendly. When I asked David McCormack and Ochai Agbaji who the squad would turn to in the event of hardship this season, Agbaji indicated the veterans would lead by committee. McCormack was in agreement. That’s all right. Self, on the other hand, confessed that he isn’t sure whether he has enough “dogs” on this squad. I’m the same way. I’m not sure whether there’s an Elijah Johnson, Devonte’ Graham, or Frank Mason in this bunch. In addition to injuries, the Andrew Wiggins-Joel Embiid team in 2013-14 lacked consistent intensity. I’m concerned about this group as well.
Borzello: On paper, Kansas seems to have it all. The Jayhawks returned four starters from last season, including Christian Braun, Agbaji, and McCormack, three players who have been with the team for what seems like an eternity. Jalen Wilson had moments when he looked like an NBA prospect. The greatest question mark heading into the summer was point guard, so Bill Self went out and got Martin, one of the top transfers in the nation last spring. He also re-signed DaJuan Harris, who has been praised, and signed ESPN 100 prospect Bobby Pettiford. I’m bullish about the Jayhawks because Self does his finest work with seasoned teams like these.
If there’s one thing to be concerned about, it’s Martin’s ability to modify his game at Kansas. He was a great ball handler at Arizona State, averaging 19.1 points per game in each of the last two seasons while leading one of the nation’s quickest teams. That won’t be the case in Lawrence. He won’t have to score as much, won’t have to play as quickly, and he’ll have to rely on his teammates a lot more. Shooting is a worry, but Martin and fellow transfer Joseph Yesufu are both strong 3-point shooters, so that’s not an issue for me.
Gasaway: When Self has an experienced rotation, you have to like his chances. Actually, you have to favor Self’s prospects at any time, but when players like Agbaji, McCormack, Wilson, and Braun are all a year older and better, he will be heard loud and clear. Then there’s the reality that Martin was my preseason Big 12 Player of the Year selection. The Jayhawks will have plenty of skill on their team.
Now it’s time for the dread and gloom! Last season, KU’s offense was just average in Big 12 play. Is it true that this changes so drastically as a result of maturation and the coming of Martin? Not to add that losing the team’s sole Big 12 All-Defensive Team performer and key ball distributor (Marcus Garrett) might be a bigger blow than anticipated. Whatever the case may be, I’m picking Kansas to win the league.
Lunardi: Is there a reason? Probability. The Jayhawks are the only team in the country that has regularly qualified for the Final Four or won a national title.
What’s the downside of being a No. 1 seed nine times in 18 seasons? Self only has one national title to his name. What’s the good news? Earning a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament is the greatest way to become a national champion.
On Selection Sunday in 2022, Kansas will almost certainly be a No. 1 seed, if not the top overall seed. This year, the Jayhawks should be on the short list of championship contenders.
They’re towards the top of my list. Self’s next title is, statistically speaking, long overdue.
Aside from Beard, the Big 12 has new coaches at Oklahoma, Texas Tech, and Iowa State (T.J. Otzelberger). Which of the three members of this trio do you think will have the most immediate impact?
Texas Tech’s roster structure demonstrates that Mark Adams has no intention of leaving the Big 12. Charlie Riedel/AP Photo
Lunardi: I’m going with Moser, even if he doesn’t have the largest effect immediately soon. If Oklahoma athletic director Joe Castiglione is correct — and there are many reasons to believe he is — the Sooners are about to enter a new era.
All the Sooners do is win in almost every sport. Big. Oklahoma has reached the Final Four four times under four different coaches. Moser will be the fifth one someday.
Borzello: It’s difficult to say who will have the most influence in Year 1 since I believe Mark Adams took over the greatest situation of the three, but I’ll go with Adams because I have Texas Tech finishing first out of the three. Adams’ familiarity with the Red Raiders, the school, the players, and the scheme helps, as does the fact that he has four years of experience leading a top-20 defense in Lubbock, Texas.
Following Beard’s departure for Texas, many players entered the portal, but Adams was able to maintain Terrence Shannon Jr., Kevin McCullar, and Marcus Santos-Silva, among others, before landing seven transfers, at least five of whom are capable of having an instant impact. Kevin Obanor (Oral Roberts) and Bryson Williams (Oral Roberts) are the most promising members of the group (UTEP). Texas Tech, in my opinion, is an NCAA tournament team that should finish in the top half of the Big 12 standings.
Gasaway: As Borzello said, Adams has the greatest scenario of the three coaches, hence he will receive the Immediate Impact award. Last season, Oklahoma was almost as good as the Red Raiders in terms of possessions per possession in conference play, but Moser doesn’t have as much in Norman as Adams has in Lubbock. Keep in mind that Moser didn’t arrive on the North Side for a couple seasons until Loyola Chicago became the amazing Sister Jean-meme-spawning powerhouse we all know and adore. And for Otzelberger, his job in Ames, Iowa, will begin with the construction of a cabinet.
Borzello and Gasaway are both correct, according to Medcalf. It’s unmistakably Mark Adams. I’m curious as to why, if they can, more teams don’t adopt this route and employ a trusted assistant in certain cases. A huge name isn’t always required. Since the early 1980s, Adams has been a coach in Texas. He’s known Chris Beard for a long time. After Beard went for Texas, the remaining players met Texas Tech sports director Kirby Hocutt and advocated for Adams. That tells a lot about this group’s confidence heading into the season.
Another item to consider: Adams was the defensive coordinator for the great Texas Tech teams. I believe these teams will resemble the Beard-coached groups in appearance. And that’s great news for Lubbock’s supporters. I believe Moser and Otzelberger will get there eventually, but Adams is in a good position.
Order of finish for the Big 12 in 2021-22
1. The state of Kansas 2. The state of Texas 3. Baylor University 4. Oklahoma State University Texas Tech is ranked #5 while West Virginia is ranked #6. Oklahoma is number seven. TCU is ranked number eight. 9. Kansas State University 10. Iowa State University
The “big 12 expansion” is a topic that has been in discussion for the past few years. There are many rumors about possible teams that could be added to the conference, but no official plans have been announced yet.
Frequently Asked Questions
What teams are in the Big 12 in 2021?
A: The teams that will be in the Big 12 Conference at the start of 2021 include Baylor, Iowa State, Kansas State, Oklahoma State and Texas.
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