The Big 12 had one of its best seasons at the top since Nebraska and company left the conference as both Texas and Kansas earned top-5 rankings in the 2016 NCAA Tournament. This year should be even better for the conference though, as the top two look just as good, if not better, while some bottom-dwellers look much improved. If that is the case, then those teams should join the middle of the conference that always seems to produce solid NCAA Tournament bids.
Defending Big 12 champion Kansas became the only team to take the conference crown away from Texas since the departure of Nebraska. Once again, the two teams should jockey for the Big 12 championship in 2017 as both return a plethora of firepower and made some additions to bolster their rosters. In fact, we have both ranked in the top 10 of our preseason poll, which should make for great drama not just for the conference, but potentially for a top-four NCAA Tournament seed similar to last season.
Baylor has one of the most dynamic attackers in the conference with Katie Staiger back. She was enough to carry the Bears offense in 2016 to the second round of the NCAA Tournament. This year, the Bears welcome back several players from injury who had previous success in addition to returning plenty from last year. It may be difficult to make the jump from 9-7 last year to conference champion, but they could definitely steal a match from Texas or Kansas which would have huge implications on the race for number one.
Iowa State could also factor in as a dark horse after another top-three finish in the conference last season. They always stick around the top and even defeated Texas last season in addition to almost winning on Kansas’ home floor.
The rest of the pack:
TCU almost made the dark horse list after finishing at just 7-9 last season in conference, but they lead the rest of the pack instead. Not only do they return a majority of their 2016 contributors – a team who made the NCAA Tournament for the second straight season and even won a match – but they also reeled in a top-25 recruiting class per PrepVolleyball. Last year they had one of the toughest strengths of schedule, which should add experience to this year’s team. They should be in store for a bump in wins and will be competing for the top half of the standings.
Beyond the Horned Frogs, Kansas State should remain an NCAA Tournament team and will be a top culprit to upset teams on their difficult home court. West Virginia showed a ton of improvement last season and bring back a solid bunch in addition to a USC transfer at setter. They should continue to improve and may even push for a top-six finish.
Oklahoma lost several players to either graduation or transfer after a second straight season in the bottom four of the conference. They still have the players to pull an upset here or there while Texas Tech will be searching for a win and improvement after an 0-16 conference mark last season.
VolleyMob’s Big 12 Preseason Pick:
Top Five Conference matches to watch:
- November 15, Kansas at Texas – Two teams have emerged as clear-cut favorites in the Big 12 and they also represent the last two conference winners. This is a late meeting between the two, so it could very well decide the fate of the conference.
- October 11, Texas at Kansas – It’s the first time the two teams rematch similarly to the first meeting. This one is in Lawrence, which in the previous two seasons ended up being the match that decided who won the Big 12.
- November 25, Texas at Baylor – We’ve exhausted our matches between the top two in the conference, so number three is next. This one has added importance as Baylor will be on senior day while it’s the final regular season match. Kansas had to win at Baylor to end the year last year to win the Big 12 outright. This one might be similar.
- November 11, Baylor at Kansas – If Baylor can’t throw a wrench in Texas’ plans, can they in Kansas’ shot at another Big 12 title? You’ve got two of the best attackers in the country in this one as Kansas will have to avoid looking ahead to their next match at Texas.
- November 18, Iowa State at TCU – Could TCU put everything together and be a top three team? If that’s the case, they will need to knock off perennial top-three Big 12 opponent Iowa State as the season winds down
Predicting the 2017 Big 12 Standings:
- Iowa State
- Kansas State
- West Virginia
- Texas Tech