Revisiting the Big XII Preseason Polls

How accurate was the Big 12's preseason poll, and how did BYU's season match up with expectations?
Mark Pope calls out to his team against Fresno State
Mark Pope calls out to his team against Fresno State / Chris Gardner/GettyImages

Before the season, if someone were to tell you that BYU would be in 5th place in the Big 12, your response would likely be one of two choices. You would either slap them across the face, or kiss them on the mouth. BYU was not supposed to be any good according to a preseason poll from Big 12 coaches, but no one was really arguing with them.

Following an uninspiring 2022-23 campaign in their final season in the West Coast Conference, and BYU's fairy godmother granted their wish for entry into the best basketball conference in the country, the Cougars looked at themselves in the mirror and declared, much like Cinderella, that they did not belong at the royal ball of the Big 12. But what do you know? With a bibbity-bobbity-boo, Mark Pope's team traded their WCC garb for an elegant Big 12 jersey patch and arrived on the scene as if they had always belonged.

BYU was not supposed to be good, yet here we are. Let's take a look back at the Big 12's preseason poll and revisit the biggest movers to observe how preseason rankings don't mean a thing.

Biggest Risers

. Preseason: 13th | Regular Season: 5th (Up 8 spots). . 1. . . 540. BYU Cougars. .

BYU emerged this season as one of the best teams in the conference, not just among the newcomers. After being picked to finish second to last, BYU opened the year with a one-loss non-conference schedule and finished Big 12 play with a 10-8 record. With their high-volume 3-point barrage, when BYU heats up, they look unbeatable. After going 7-9 in their last year in the WCC, a 10-win year in the Big 12 seemed impossible, but to say that 20th-ranked BYU's success has been fluky would be ignorant and just flat-out wrong.

Texas Tech Red Raiders. . . . . . Preseason: 8th | Regular Season: 4th (Up 4 spots). . 2. 468

Texas Tech has been underrated for the duration of the season--it's no surprise that they were picked to finish where they did in this poll. After nearly winning the National Championship in 2019, it's been unfortunate watching their program's decline. This year, the Red Raiders made a statement, though, proving to their conference and to the nation that they are back among the nation's best. Tech boasts an 11-7 conference record, and made statement wins all along the way. They trounced Kansas, overcame a massive deficit against BYU, and finished off Baylor in their final regular season game. While they likely aren't title contenders, Texas Tech's success should be celebrated.

Biggest Fallers

Preseason: 3rd | Regular season: 8th (Down 5 spots). 1. 467. Texas Longhorns. . . . . .

In their final Big 12 season, the Longhorns entered the year with conference championship aspirations. And while it's never okay to laugh at someone's downfall, most of the Longhorns' soon-to-be-former conference was not sad to send Texas to their new Southeastern home on a sour note. Texas finished the year with a 9-9 conference record, which isn't bad in any way, but felt worse than it looked. "Horns Down" and other controversies followed the Longhorns throughout the year, and an underperforming team brought Texan spirits down. They'll still have a chance to make an impact in the postseason, but if the regular season is any indication of what's to come, I wouldn't count on it.

2. Kansas Jayhawks. . . Preseason: 1st | Regular Season: 6th (Down 5 spots). . . . . 462

Kansas had every reason to believe they should be Big 12 favorites. After all, despite the consistent strength of the Big 12, they have dominated this conference for years. Coach Bill Self is still one of college hoops' biggest names, and his Jayhawks had a very talented team this season with senior guard Kevin McCullar and top transfer Hunter Dickinson on the roster. While they started out the season strong, they met BYU like Papier-mâché meets water--they completely fell apart. They had already lost to West Virginia and UCF, but after losing to the Cougars, they dropped 2 of their next 3 games including a 30-point blowout against Houston, who is making their case as the new kings of the Big 12.

On top of these surprises, West Virginia and Oklahoma State plummeted to separate themselves as the worst in the league. Oklahoma looked like they may be a surprise team, but quickly fell back to earth after winning 13 of their first 14 games with only a loss to North Carolina. Newcomers UCF and Cincinnati also exceeded expectations and were much more than scheduled wins for Big 12 veterans. If you get any takeaway from this season, it should be this: preseason polls don't mean a thing. Good teams show you who they are by what they do on the court, and every season is a new season.

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