The Big 12 could be a seven-big league in the 2023 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, according to ESPN.com’s way-too-early projection.
The Big 12 is the home of the national champion for the second straight season, with Kansas winning the national title earlier this month and Baylor winning the national title last season.
ESPN’s Joe Lunardi put together the 2023 Bracket projection.
Kansas is a No. 2 seed in the bracket, as Lunardi doesn’t see the Jayhawks taking much of a drop. The Jayhawks have already lost David McCormack to the NBA Draft, and they’re expected to lose several other players to either the NBA or to eligibility. Kansas would play Colgate in the first round.
Baylor is the one Big 12 team that Lunardi sees as a No. 1 seed next season. The Bears fell in the second round of the NCAA Tournament and they’re expected to lose some key players. But, the Bears have taken in two transfers in the past few days — former West Virginia forward Jalen Bridges and former BYU forward Caleb Lohner. Plus, Flo Thamba is set to return, and while guard Adam Flagler and forward Matthew Mayer are testing the NBA waters, both could return.
Baylor would play Longwood in the projected field.
Lunardi is bullish on TCU, as he has the Horned Frogs projected as a No. 5 seed. With Mike Miles turning his back on the NBA, the Horned Frogs will have back nearly their entire roster returning, one that pushed Arizona to overtime in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. Lunardi has the Horned Frogs facing Toledo.
Texas is a No. 6 seed in the field, and the Longhorns have gotten great news for next season with the announced returns of forward Timmy Allen and guard Marcus Carr. Texas would, oddly enough, play their first-round opponent from this past NCAA Tournament, Virginia Tech.
Texas Tech is a No. 7 seed and would play UConn in the first round in the projected field. The Red Raiders have lost three players to the transfer portal, including Terrence Shannon Jr., and are watching forward Kevin McCullar go through the NBA Draft process, but he could return. Meanwhile, Kevin Obanor announced that he will return to Texas Tech for one more season.
Oklahoma State, which was ineligible for the NCAA Tournament because it was on probation, returns to the projected field as a No. 8 seed and would face No. 9 Oregon in the first round. The Cowboys have been relatively quiet this offseason, but have lost three players to the transfer portal, including Keylan Boone.
Oklahoma, which narrowly missed the NCAA Tournament, is projected as a No. 10 seed in this field, as the Sooners would face Ohio State. The Sooners got a boost with the announced return of Tanner Groves. But, Umoja Gibson is going through the NBA Draft process and Elijah Harkless is transferring to UNLV.
Finally, one Big 12 team is on the outside looking in. Iowa State — which reached the Sweet 16 in one of college basketball’s great turnaround stories — is one of the first four out, per Lunardi’s projection. The Cyclones have lost Izaiah Brockington to the NBA Draft and Tyrese Hunter to the transfer portal.
You can find Matthew Postins on Twitter @PostinsPostcard