College Basketball Betting: Big 12 Conference Preview

Baylor Bears guard Kendall Brown (2) shoots against the Northwestern State Demons
Image Credit: Chris Jones-USA TODAY Sports

The Big 12 Conference currently boasts the defending national champion (Baylor); the top-ranked team in this week’s Associated Press poll (also Baylor); the No. 2 school in all-time victories (Kansas); the nation’s most improbable turnaround story (Iowa State); and six plausible candidates for the NCAA Tournament’s Sweet 16.

And yet when talking heads debate which league is the most competitive from top to bottom, the Big 12 usually is an afterthought behind the Big Ten, ACC, and even Pac-12, .

Is this the season when that narrative finally changes and the Big 12 asserts itself as the best league in the land?

Props.com breaks down the regular-season-title odds of each Big 12 squad in our latest college basketball conference betting preview.

Big 12 odds via DraftKings and updated as of 4 p.m. ET Jan. 4. All SU and ATS records current as of date of publication.

Previous Conference Previews

Big Ten
ACC
SEC
Big East

Big 12 Basketball Odds

The Favorites

Kansas Jayhawks guard Ochai Agbaji (right) drives against Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks guard Latrell Jossell (left)
Image Credit: Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

Baylor +180 (13-0 SU/8-4-1 ATS)
Kansas +180 (11-1 SU/6-6 ATS)

Kansas and Baylor have accounted for 16 partial or outright Big 12 regular-season championships since 2005. The lone exception was 2018-19, when Texas Tech and Kansas State were co-champs.

So even though both are virtual locks to qualify for the Big Dance come March, don’t expect the Jayhawks or Bears to coast on cruise control through the regular season. With both among the favorites to win it all, Baylor and Kansas need to keep their foot on the proverbial gas for NCAA Tournament seeding purposes.

The fact Baylor is even in this position is somewhat surprising. After claiming the school’s first-ever men’s basketball championship, the Bears lost a ton of talent (and leadership) to both graduation and the NBA (namely Jared Butler, Davion Mitchell, and MaCio Teague). Yet Baylor is still undefeated and has spent four consecutive weeks at No. 1, largely on the strength of a slew of impressive early-season victories.

During a six-week span from Nov. 20 through New Year’s Day, the Bears took down No. 6 Villanova (57-36), now-No. 10 Michigan State (75-58), Stanford (86-48), Arizona State (75-63), Oregon (78-70), and No. 8 Iowa State (77-72). Along the way, they went 4-1-1 ATS while prevailing by an average of 16.8 points.

Per one metric, Baylor has played the 16th-toughest schedule, and the school ranks in the top 15 in scoring offense (14th overall, 83.2 ppg) and scoring defense (10th, 58.0 ppg).

By comparison, Kansas (85.2 ppg) rates ninth in scoring offense but 139th in scoring defense (66.9 ppg). Also, the Jayhawks lag behind Baylor in strength of schedule (No. 30) and the KenPom rankings. And unlike Baylor, KU has a blemish on its record — and a bad one at that: On Nov. 26, the Jayhawks  shockingly fell to Dayton 74-73 as a 16-point home favorite.

Despite all this, the oddsmakers list No. 8 Kansas and Baylor as co-favorites to win the Big 12 (and at one sportsbook, they also share the exact same odds to reach the Final Four and win the national title).

So which team is superior? We’ll find out starting in about a month, as Kansas hosts the Bears on Feb. 5, then travels to Baylor 21 days later.

The Challenger

Texas Longhorns guard Jase Febres (left) brings the ball down court against Gonzaga Bulldogs guard Rasir Bolton (right)
Image Credit: James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

Texas +350 (11-2 SU/6-7 ATS)

It’s difficult to project if Texas (1-0 Big 12) has a realistic shot of leap-frogging Baylor and Kansas for the conference crown. The Longhorns do own the nation’s top scoring defense. But they’re only 15th in the KenPom ratings, which factors in overall record, adjusted efficiency margin, adjusted offensive/defensive efficiency, and points per 40 possessions. Additionally, Texas slots behind Kansas in strength of schedule (33rd).

Speaking of which, Texas might have drawn the league’s most forgiving slate, at least early on. The Longhorns opened Big 12 play by beating West Virginia (74-59 win), then face Kansas State (road), Oklahoma State (road), and Oklahoma (home). And much to the delight of network-TV officials, Texas won’t encounter Kansas or Baylor until the second week of February.

The Dark Horses

Iowa State's Tyrese Hunter shoots the ball during a Big 12 basketball game against Baylor
Image Credit: Kelsey Kremer-The Des Moines Register/USA TODAY Network

Texas Tech +1,100 (10-2 SU/6-6 ATS)
Iowa State +1,200 (12-1 SU/9-4 ATS)

Texas Tech averaged 88.3 points in its first six games (all victories over lesser-light opponents). But the Red Raiders have been even more impressive on defense, allowing just 58.2 points per game (which is 14th nationally).

Even though defensive-minded head coach Chris Beard bolted Texas Tech for Texas, it’s clear the Raiders still are placing a premium on defense under new head coach Mark Adams. And they’ll need to continue playing stifling defense in the coming days, as Texas Tech is scheduled to play consecutive games against No. 11 Iowa State (road), No. 6 Kansas (home), and No. 1 Baylor (road) from Wednesday through Jan. 11.

Iowa State saw its impressive 13-game season-opening winning streak halted in Saturday’s 77-72 loss to Baylor. But the Cyclones, who fell three spots to No. 11 in this week’s AP poll, more than held their own against the defending champs (and easily cashed as 8.5-point favorites).

Prior to Saturday, ISU enjoyed power-conference victories over Xavier (82-70), Creighton (64-58), and Iowa (73-53), along with a neutral-site thumping of No. 9 Memphis on Nov. 26 (78-59). It’s been quite a turnaround for a program that went 0-18 in conference play last season.

The Long Shots

West Virginia Mountaineers head coach Bob Huggins yells out to players during the first half against the Texas Longhorn
Image Credit: Scott Wachter-USA TODAY Sports

West Virginia +2,200 (11-2 SU/7-6 ATS)
Oklahoma +3,000 (11-2 SU/6-7 ATS)
Oklahoma State +3,500 (7-4 SU/4-7 ATS)
TCU +12,000 (10-1 SU/5-4-2 ATS)
Kansas State +18,000 (8-4 SU/6-5-1 ATS)

If West Virginia is to make a run at the conference title, its defense will have to lead the charge. Among Big 12 schools, the Mountaineers rank last in scoring offense (69.5 points per game) and free-throw proficiency (63.2 percent). WVU is also eighth in field-goal shooting (44.8 percent) and three-point proficiency (32.5 percent). Now, if Bob Huggins’ troops can regularly hold opposing teams to 14.3 percent shooting from beyond the arc — as the Mountaineers did in their 56-53 upset of No. 15 Connecticut in December — they might have a shot at the NCAA Tournament.

OU posted a pair of résumé-building  non-conference wins over No. 14 Florida (74-67) and No. 12 Arkansas (88-66); but it also suffered baffling defeats to Utah State (73-70) and Butler (66-62). So don’t be shocked if the inconsistent Sooners upend one of the league’s top four teams — then turnaround and lose to one of the bottom four squads.

The post-Cade Cunningham period  isn’t off to a great start at Oklahoma State. The Cowboys incurred non-conference home losses to Oakland (56-55), Wichita State (60-51), and Xavier (77-71), along with a neutral-site defeat to No. 14 Houston (72-61). Throw in narrow overtime victories over Oral Roberts (78-77) and Cleveland State (98-93), and it’s fair to wonder if OSU will be among the cellar-dwellers during league play?

From Dec. 8-18, TCU strung together three solid wins over Utah (76-62), Texas A&M (68-64), and Georgetown (80-73). Was that enough to erase the memory of an 85-66 blowout loss to Santa Clara? We’ll soon find out just how dangerous the Horned Frogs are, as they’ve drawn the monumental task of hosting Baylor (Saturday) and Kansas (Monday) over a 50-hour period.

Kansas State (0-1 in Big 12) might have an arduous climb to a league title, but eclipsing last year’s tally of four league wins seems reasonable. Of their five power-conference opponents to date, the Wildcats only defeated Nebraska (67-58). However, their losses to Arkansas (72-64), Illinois (72-64), Marquette (64-63), and Oklahoma (71-69) were by a total of 19 points.