COUGAR TRACKS

How Will BYU Basketball Fare In Big 12? Projecting 2024 Order Of Finish

Jan 4, 2024, 11:56 PM

Big 12 Basketball, BYU, Dallin Hall...

BYU guard Dallin Hall and the 12-1 Cougars look to shake up Big 12 basketball in their first season. (Laura Seitz, Deseret News)

(Laura Seitz, Deseret News)

PROVO, Utah – The moment BYU basketball has been waiting for is here—Big 12 play.

Coming into this season, BYU was tabbed to finish 13th in the Big 12 preseason coaches poll. Fast forward through a 12-1 start in nonconference, BYU finds themselves at No. 12 in the AP Top 25 poll and No. 2 in the NET rankings.

Many wonder if BYU’s success will continue into the Big 12, often considered the best league in the country.

“How many games can we go win? Can we go win a game when we put our best game on the floor? And how many times can we do that? That’s super fun, man. We like taking big swings and big shots, and we like being in the ruckus, and we’re here now,” said BYU coach Mark Pope. “In that sense, it’s a little more comfortable. It’s certainly more terrifying, but it’s a little bit more of our comfort space. Hopefully, we’ll embrace it. I think our guys will.”

The Big 12 has the lowest NET average ranking among conferences at 50.5, entering its first year with 14 members.

Throughout nonconference play, Big 12 teams finished with a 147-34 record. That’s good for an 81.2% winning percentage. Seven of the teams, including BYU, had nonconference schedules ranked 300 or below with a large amount of home games.

Projecting the order of finish in Big 12 Basketball

It’s a two-month gauntlet before the Big 12 Tournament in Kansas City this March. Here are my predictions for how the Big 12 regular season standings will finish.

1. Houston (Projected Big 12 record: 14-4)

Record entering Big 12 play: 13-0

The nation’s best defense that will lock you up for 40 minutes in man-to-man. Kelvin Sampson’s squad never lines up in zone and they will be relentless.

Unlike their days in the American, Houston will drop a game occasionally in the Big 12. But the Coogs are built to step into this league to win the conference. And maybe the National Title this season.

Baylor transfer LJ Cryer has been everything the Coogs expected. He’s fifth in scoring in the Big 12 at 16.9 per game.

One area that will be interesting to watch with Houston is their defensive rebounding. It’s a nit-picky deal, but that’s an area where they need to improve. Still, the Big 12 Conference can’t help but be thrilled to add a title contender like Houston to this league.

2. Kansas

Record entering Big 12 play: 12-1

Kansas has won 20 regular season Big 12 titles since the league was established in 1996-97. The title is always going to run through Kansas.

There are real questions about the depth of this Kansas team. If they stay healthy, their starting five, led by Kevin McCullar and Hunter Dickinson, remains one of the best in the country.

Also, good luck to anyone winning a league game at Phog Allen Fieldhouse. The two battles between Kansas and Houston should be epic this season.

3. Baylor

Record entering Big 12 play: 11-2

Perhaps the deepest team in the league with the best NBA talent. Freshmen Ja’Kobe Walter and 7-footer Yves Missi are potential NBA lottery picks next June.

The Bears’ offense is as potent as any team in the country. Baylor boasts the nation’s number one effective field goal percentage at 61%.

Also, the new $212 million Foster Pavilion should only add to this league’s growing list of great venues.

4. Iowa State

Record entering Big 12 play: 11-2

The Cyclones played one of the weakest nonconference schedules in the country, so the jury might still be out on T.J. Otzelberger’s squad. But they buried teams with their suffocating defense. They caused opponents to turn the ball over on 27% of their possessions.

Also, guard Tamin Lipsey is a guy who can fill the stat sheet on any given night.

5. BYU

Record entering Big 12 play: 12-1

Like Iowa State, BYU crushed its weak nonconference schedule. The Cougars lean into their identity as a three-point shooting team, but they’ve also unlocked some high-low action with the emergence of center Aly Khalifa. Khalifa boasts the nation’s number one assist/turnover ratio at 14-to-1.

BYU is in a good spot where they have the advanced metrics in their favor, yet everyone views them as an underdog.

6. Oklahoma

Record entering Big 12 play: 12-1

We will learn a lot about Oklahoma in the first three games of league play. At home against Iowa State, then back-to-back road games at TCU and Kansas. The final run in the Big 12 will be as challenging as ever.

Navigating league play becomes more manageable with a player in Otega Oweh. The sophomore has taken a big leap and is number one in field goal percentage in the league at 64.7%.

7. Texas

Record entering Big 12 play: 11-2

The defending Big 12 Tournament champions have a roster as talented as anyone in this league. They had some up-and-down moments in nonconference but then reeled off a five-game winning streak to close it out.

Oral Roberts transfer guard Max Abmas has been a star for the Longhorns. Last week, Abmas passed J.J. Redick on the NCAA’s all-time leading scorer list. This season, Abmas is averaging 17.1 per game.

8. TCU

Record entering Big 12 play: 11-2

It’s all about tempo for the Horned Frogs. They are No. 1 in the Big 12 in possession length at 14.3 seconds. Jamie Dixon’s squad is going to get out and run. There are still concerns about their outside shooting, as they only hit five threes a game.

9. Cincinnati

Record entering Big 12 play: 11-2

The Bearcats struggled away from their home floor in nonconference. There has been some in-and-out personnel movement for the Bearcats as they waited for waivers. UVU transfer was cleared and instantly contributed. Then, the restraining order of the NCAA’s two-time transfer rule opened the door for Jamille Reynolds to play and earned his first start.

Bearcats will crash the glass as one of the nation’s top rebounding teams.

10. Texas Tech

Record entering Big 12 play: 11-2

Year one under head coach Grant McCasland has gone well in Lubbock. The Red Raiders, as expected, have one of the slower-paced teams in the league. But within that scheme, sophomore point guard Pop Isaacs is emerging as a potential star for Tech. He’s scored over 18 points in the last four games.

11. K-State

Record entering Big 12 play: 10-3

The Wildcats played a more challenging nonconference schedule than most in the Big 12 this year. But the off-the-court stuff has me a bit cold on the prospects of K-State in Big 12 play.

Transfer guard Ques Glover had surgery on his knee. They expected him to be a difference-maker before league play started, but that never materialized.

Then, with the controversial exit of Nae’Qwan Tomlin, there’s been a lot to unpack for Jerome Tang’s team. They’ve also had too many close calls against weaker opponents.

12. West Virginia

Record entering Big 12 play: 5-8

Everything that could go wrong from the summer to the end of the 2023 calendar year did for West Virginia. The turn of the calendar to 2024 should bring new optimism for the Mountaineers because RaeQuan Battle is eligible and he’s thriving, scoring at least 24 points in all three of his appearances.

Then center Jesse Edwards is getting closer to a return from the wrist injury he suffered last month.

The advanced metrics don’t like West Virginia right now, but Morgantown is never easy in this league. West Virginia will knock off someone near the top of this league.

13. UCF

Record entering Big 12 play: 9-3

UCF junior Jaylin Sellers is one of the top scorers in the league entering conference play. He has to be a superstar if the Knights can pull off some upsets.

14. Oklahoma State

Record entering Big 12 play: 8-5

This year was always viewed as a reset for Mike Boynton. It’s a young team that’s experienced a lot of growing pains in nonconference. They can pull off an upset or two if they can continue shooting the ball at a high clip from three (37.5%).

Mitch Harper is a BYU Insider for KSLsports.com and host of the Cougar Tracks Podcast (SUBSCRIBE) and Cougar Sports Saturday (Saturday from 12–3 p.m.) on KSL Newsradio. Follow Mitch’s coverage of BYU in the Big 12 Conference on X and Threads: @Mitch_Harper.

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How Will BYU Basketball Fare In Big 12? Projecting 2024 Order Of Finish