- The Kansas Jayhawks and Baylor Bears are co-favorites to win the 2020-21 Big 12 championship in men’s basketball
- Kansas ended the COVID-shortened 2019-20 season ranked No. 1 in the final AP poll, while Baylor was No. 5
- See below for odds, analysis and which team has the best chance to win the Big 12 title
When we last saw the Kansas Jayhawks in action, Bill Self’s team beat Texas Tech 66-62 in Lubbock to close out the regular season with a 28-3 record overall and 17-1 mark in conference play. That was good enough to earn them the No. 1 spot in the final regular-season AP poll and their 15th league title in 16 seasons.
The Baylor Bears finished up last season’s slate with a 76-64 loss to West Virginia in Morgantown. Scott Drew’s program wrapped up the season with a 26-4 record overall and 15-3 mark in conference play to go along with a No. 5 ranking in the final AP poll.
Now, the two powerhouses are the co-favorites to captures the 2020-21 regular season Big 12 title.
2020-21 Big 12 Championship Odds
Odds taken Oct. 14 at DraftKings
Practice opened Wednesday for programs around the country, with the season opening in six weeks on Nov. 25.
Kansas loses Udoka Azubuike and Devon Dotson, but returns one of the nation’s premier defensive playmakers in Marcus Garrett. The Jayhawks also bring back Mitch Lightfoot and Ochai Agbaji. Agbaji is expected to run the show in place of Dotson.
Baylor returns a stacked roster as well. Junior guard Jared Butler is back, along with his team-high 16 points per game from last season. Joining Butler is a potentially special group, including returning big men Matthew Mayer and Flo Thamba and freshman Dain Dainja and Zach Loveday. That’s a lot of depth and a lot of height.
But will it be enough for the Jayhawks and Bears stay on top of the Big 12 Championship odds throughout the season? Can they repeat as the top two contenders in a league that has historically gone through Lawrence to crown a champ?
Title Town (NCAA-Style)
Green Bay, Wisconsin may own that moniker thanks to the Packers’ success in the NFL over the league’s 100-year history. But Lawrence, Kansas is certainly Title Town from an NCAA-perspective.
The Kansas men’s basketball team simply wins Big 12 titles. Going back to the 2001-02 season, the program has only missed out on a regular season twice (2004 and 2019). That’s 17 championships over a 19-year span.
While Agbaji may not be Dotson, he has shown flashes during his KU tenure. Along with the players noted above, another one to keep an eye on is incoming freshman Bryce Thompson.
The combo guard is similar to other players like Frank Mason and Wayne Selden who have flourished under Self in the past.
Bottom line: this group may not begin the season like the one that ended last season — but they should absolutely contend for another title.
Over the Hump?
Baylor enjoyed a breakout season in many ways last year, which included the program and Drew’s first win at Allen Fieldhouse.
The Bears ended the season on a bit of a downturn, losing three of their last five (including a loss to the Jayhawks in Waco). But this is a still a team to be reckoned with.
All that talent in the paint makes it seem like Drew will go from a guard-heavy rotation to a forward-focused rotation. An intriguing newcomer is UNLV transfer Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua.
“JTT” may not have the departed Freddie Gillespie’s height (6-foot-10) or wingspan (7-foot-6), but Drew considers him to be the superior athlete, evidenced by a 40-inch vertical leap. Of that deep stable of forwards, JTT is the one who most closely mirrors Gillespie’s game.
If the Bears can jell, they appear to be every bit as formidable as the Jayhawks.
The last time we saw a Big 12 team in the Final Four, it was neither the Jayhawks nor the Bears.
Chris Beard’s program lost a thriller to Virginia in the 2019 National Championship game – and the Red Raiders should be in the conference conversation again this season.
Tech is rated No. 17 in longtime NCAA hoops writer Andy Katz’s preseason Power 36 for many reasons.
The team features VCU transfer Marcus Santos-Silva, who should make an instant impact. Meanwhile, Kyler Edwards and Avery Benson are incredibly talented players who could deliver a third-straight Elite Eight (and maybe more) appearance for the program.
I’m still going with the (Rock) Chalk here and investing in Kansas.