With the Big 12 Conference expanding to 16 teams in 2024, 247Sports’ Isaac Trotter ranked each team by tier and selected four teams with a chance to be “real contenders” in the upcoming seasons.
The four-tier breakdown on Trotter’s list includes alpha, real contenders, middle of the pack with upside, and work to do. To absolutely nobody’s surprise, the Kansas Jayhawks headline the list in the Alpha tier, followed closely behind by Baylor, Arizona, and Houston in the real contender tier.
Trotter started by highlighting the Jayhawks saying, “Kansas stands alone atop the new-look Big 12. Kansas has deep Name, Image, and Likeness resources that have been poured into the basketball program. It has helped Kansas dominate the transfer portal, attract five-star talent, and retain key veterans. Kansas has earned a share of the Big 12 crown in 19 of the past 22 seasons, and despite a recent health scare, Bill Self is hungry for more. Kansas hasn’t missed the NCAA Tournament since 1988-89 and has two National Championships since 2008. Kansas has the best coach, the top basketball facilities and a load of history. The Big 12 might be changing, but Kansas’ reign atop the basketball standings isn’t.”
While Kansas stands firmly atop the Big 12 Conference, Trotter followed the Jayhawks with a breakdown of Scott Drew and the Baylor Bears.
“Baylor isn’t super glitzy or glamorous, but Scott Drew is one of the top coaches in the sport. He has built the program into one of college basketball’s powerhouses. Taking Baylor from a doormat to a National Champion is incredibly impressive. Drew has helped Baylor become a landing spot for five-star talent every single year. It might not have the same NIL resources as other programs, but Baylor is still a real factor in the transfer portal. Baylor has been an NCAA Tournament team all but once in the last decade. Baylor is slated to regularly give Kansas a furious run for the Big 12 title for years to come.”
The next team mentioned happens to be one of the newest additions to the Big 12 Conference, the Arizona Wildcats. Trotter spoke about the historic program saying, “Arizona basketball is coming to the Big 12 with championship aspirations. It’s all completely warranted. Arizona coach Tommy Lloyd is a terrific recruiter with strong overseas ties. Arizona is one of the top international-recruiting programs in the country, but it’s flexed its muscles in the transfer portal routinely. Arizona’s transfer portal haul of Caleb Love, Jaden Bradley and Keshad Johnson is the envy of many rival coaching staffs. Arizona has resources, the X’s and O’s, the staff and the history to become a basketball powerhouse in the Big 12. A Kansas-Arizona hardwood rivalry could end up being vicious.”
With one final team falling into the real contenders tier, Trotter spoke on Houston saying, “Kelvin Sampson only knows winning. It’s not surprising that the veteran coach has turned Houston into one of college basketball’s dominant programs. Houston isn’t just making the Big Dance; it’s zooming through brackets. The Cougars have advanced to the second weekend in four-straight NCAA Tournaments. Houston is armed with a NIL collective that helped the program reel in difference-makers like LJ Cryer and Damian Dunn in the 2023 transfer portal cycle. Sampson and his staff have recruited, developed, and game-planned at an elite level. New conference, same Houston. Kansas’ quest to dominate the Big 12 for the next decade is in serious peril if Sampson has anything to say about it.”
Falling into the next category of middle-of-the-pack teams with upside are the West Virginia Mountaineers, Texas Tech Red Raiders, Kansas State Wildcats, TCU Horned Frogs, Iowa State Cyclones, Oklahoma State Cowboys, Colorado Buffaloes, and the Cincinnati Bearcats. The final tier on Trotter’s list belongs to teams with work to do including the Utah Utes, BYU Cougars, UCF Knights and the Arizona State Sun Devils.