For too long the Big 12 has belonged to the Kansas Jayhawks, but the Baylor Bears will win the conference in the 2012-13 college basketball season. Despite being ranked No. 4 in the country according to ESPN, Kansas will not win the Big 12, as No. 11 Baylor will take the crown.
The Jayhawks' run of eight straight regular-season conference championships is going to end this season as Baylor will capture its first regular season title since 1950 and the first conference tournament championship in school history.
There is much adversity for Baylor to overcome this season. The entire starting frontcourt has departed for the NBA, and NCAA penalties for impermissible text messages and calls include having coach Scott Drew miss two Big 12 games.
However, despite all of the challenges the team will face, the Bears will come out on top of the conference and land the first No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament in school history as well.
All in all, it will be arguably the greatest season in school history for the Baylor Bears this year, and here's why.
Last year the Missouri Tigers emerged as one of the best teams in the Big 12 during new coach Frank Haith's first season with the school. However, the Tigers are no longer in the equation.
Conference realignment struck the Big 12, and Missouri went to play in the SEC instead of the Big 12 next season.
Having one of the three schools who challenged for the Big 12 title last season out of the way certainly helps Baylor, as the Bears lost twice to Missouri last season.
This year the Big 12 will be a two-horse race, with just Kansas and Baylor competing for a title.
Brady Heslip is a shooting guard for Baylor, and his emergence in the NCAA tournament was incredible.
The sharpshooting guard simply couldn't miss from behind the arc, knocking down 18 threes during the Big Dance, including going 9-for-13 against No. 11 Colorado in the second round.
For the tournament he shot well over 50 percent from three, and his emergence as another asset in Baylor's offense bodes well for the Bears.
This team relied heavily on its frontcourt and the play of point guard Pierre Jackson, but having a three-point threat completed the team.
Heslip's role is going to be much bigger next season, and you can expect him to step up and average double-digit points per game for sure.
Pierre Jackson's first full season came last year as a junior, but he emerged as the team's best guard.
When A.J. Walton was disappointing early in the season, Jackson stepped in and immediately became a vital asset.
Jackson finished the season averaging roughly 14 points, six assists and two steals per game. His disruptive defense, excellent point guard skills and ability to score almost at will made him one of the most important players on a team that sent three players to the NBA this year.
Last season Jackson became a leader, and he is sure to impress during his senior season.
Kansas might be ranked No. 4 in the nation, but they lack a true star that can lead them night after night.
Last season the team had National Player of the Year finalist Thomas Robinson and senior point guard Tyshawn Taylor. The year before the Jayhawks had the Morris twins.
Bill Self's success has come from his stars, but who can be called a star on this year's team? Elijah Johnson? Jeff Withey?
Kansas has five good players, but none are great. Without a true star on the team, the Jayhawks are sure to falter.
The biggest reason Baylor will win the Big 12 next season is because of the recruits the team is bringing in. Isaiah Austin and Ricardo Gathers are both stars, and Chad Rykhoek is not much worse.
Austin is a seven-footer with the skills of a guard. Watching him is incredible, and sometimes it looks like he thinks he's a point guard (and the scary thing is that he's more skilled than some). He is not going to be bringing the ball up, but his skills will come into play in transition.
He is also a great defender, and his size gives him the ability to rebounds and block shots extremely well.
Gathers has the body of an NFL defensive lineman, and the strength of one too. He is very well-conditioned and can run the floor, but he excels most on the offense in the half-court set. Once he turns his back. he can push his way into the paint and finish with an array of moves.
These two guys are going to help replenish an all-NBA frontcourt, and they will both certainly be pros one day.
Bringing in two elite big men and three good ones is a great way to solidify a frontcourt, and Baylor's big men won't see much of a drop off from last season.