Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports
Better Than Expected: Iowa State
It's probably time to quit underestimating the Cyclones. As long as Fred Hoiberg is the coach, go ahead and include Iowa State in the preseason Top 25 and in the top three or four of the Big 12 no matter who is returning.
The Cyclones are less reliant on transfers than the last two years, but one of them, DeAndre Kane, was the missing piece that Hoiberg added in the offseason.
Kane is averaging 14.9 points, 5.5 assists and 7.5 rebounds for the undefeated Cyclones. Iowa State can score at all five positions and has already had five players win Big 12 Player of the Week, the first school to ever accomplish that.
Big 12 Title Contenders: Iowa State, Baylor, Kansas and Oklahoma State
League Champ Prediction: Kansas
Nine straight. How can you bet against a team that's won nine straight league titles?
Oklahoma State might be the best team in the league Kansas has had to go up against in the last 10 years, but Bill Self's team is starting to figure things out as the conference season begins.
Three weeks ago, the pick might have been Oklahoma State. That was before freshman Joel Embiid had broken out. He keeps getting more confident and the Jayhawks are starting to play inside-out through him and Perry Ellis, just like all of Self's best teams.
"We need to play through our bigs," Self said after a dominant win over Georgetown on Dec. 21. "That's the strength of our team."
It's really, really hard to bet against Marcus Smart and the best backcourt in the country, but...Self. Andrew Wiggins. Embiid. Allen Fieldhouse. Nine straight.