The Kansas Jayhawks have dominated the Big 12 longer than the Roman Empire dominated large parts of Earth back before we had smartphones — or at least it feels that way.
However, there was a very recent time when some folks — myself included — felt their run was coming to an end. Then, sadly, Fred Hoiberg left for the NBA.
As a new season beckons, everyone continues to expect Bill Self and Kansas to take yet another Big 12 crown and store it in their overflowing chest of awards. Insert that cliched “death, taxes, and whatever” line here.
Here’s where the plot thickens, however: For all the talk of Kansas’s continued dominance, the Big 12 should be a far different type of league going forward.
Yes, Iowa State may have lost Fred Hoiberg, but the Cyclones have replaced him with a very good coach in Steve Prohm. Couple that with Texas moving on from Rick Barnes to everyone’s favorite new power-conference coach, Shaka Smart, and there are reasons to think Kansas’ reign atop the mountain may be winding down.
The issue with Texas will be the adjustment time needed for the program after dismissing Barnes. No matter how strongly you feel about Smart, some time must be given to him; he needs room to develop a brand new system, which will also include a recruiting period or two before the Longhorns end up looking like a Smart team and not bunch of Barnes-burners. In time, Smart will either prove himself or fall short. For the record, some of us aren’t as sold on Smart as others.
Iowa State is a bit closer to being a threat to Kansas than anyone else. We should probably make that clear now. Then again, the Oklahoma Sooners are a threat because they return Buddy Hield, who just so happens to be the returning Big 12 Player of the Year and the type of guy who can carry a team on his back… because his basketball-shoulders are so broad that Goliath is jealous. At the same time, though, it is hard to buy into the idea that the Sooners are a true threat to Kansas because it always seems as though the Jayhawks have multiple Hield-type players roaming the hardwood.
We haven’t even mentioned Baylor and West Virginia. Both teams can make some noise come the start of conference play. That said, especially with the Mountaineers, I will feel more comfortable evaluating them after looking at their style of play with the shorter shot clock in place. There is reason to think it will make them more dangerous, but seeing is believing.
As for Baylor, while the Bears should have another solid season, there are no sane reasons to think they can topple the almighty Jayhawks from their current Big 12 throne. Losing Kenny Chery at point guard will lower their ceiling.
The rest of the conference plays out rather predictably. Texas Tech, Oklahoma State, TCU and Kansas State should all round out the bottom of the league. None of them should present any true threat to Kansas — not for the conference crown. Heck, probably not even for a single game.
Simply put: It looks as though this is going to be another year of Kasnas dominance in the Big 12, but Iowa State — even minus Hoiberg — can present a true threat in taking that crown away. With Georges Niang and Monte Morris returning for the Cyclones, if anyone is rooting for the Jayhawks to, you know, not win yet ANOTHER Big 12 title, your hopes should be pinned squarely on the shoulders of those two men, and to a degree the new coach who will lead them.
I know. This doesn’t make for the most exciting column. People outside the Kansas faithful are probably sick and tired of being sick of tired of watching the Jayhawks dominate the Big 12. However, until another program gives us another reason to believe it can be true — which only seems possible by actually doing it — the Big 12 is Kansas’ world, and every other program is simply paying rent to be in it (and make the NCAA Tournament).
I’m truly starting to believe that more anti-Kansas people need to start more Bill Self to the NBA rumors. Regardless, the end of this run doesn’t seem like it will emerge anytime soon.