The idiom coined by Benjamin Franklin on the few certainties in life is admittedly an old one but it nonetheless bears repeating because it has stood the test of time: Nothing can be said to be certain except death, taxes, and Kansas demanding the respect and adoration of all us spreadsheet super-nerds who pontificate and project college basketball. Lather, rinse, repeat, baby. [taps index finger to ear] OH I'm actually getting word from my producer that is not the old Franklin quote.
OK, so perhaps Mr. Franklin was in this particular instance referring to only death and taxes as constants in the late 1700s, but you know what? It's 2023. It's time for an amendment. We may as well adapt the above into our updated vernacular, because the Bill Self-led Kansas Jayhawks -- once again -- project as the clear No. 1 team in our preseason Big 12 poll taken by our group of experts within the CBS Sports family. And for good measure, too: KU's No. 1 spot was unanimous among our panel this year, led by Michigan import Hunter Dickinson, who takes the crown as our Preseason Big 12 Player of the Year.
After winning at least a share of the Big 12 regular season in 17 seasons since taking over in 2003 (!), Self has a Kansas team favored not just to win the league's championship, but to win the NCAA championship, according to updated betting odds. That test within the conference won't come easy or without its traps, though, thanks to the new additions of Houston, Cincinnati, BYU and UCF, and the always-tough challengers of Baylor, Texas, Kansas State and others lying in wait.
So how do we see the league shaking out this year? Enough with the teasing -- let's hop to it.
CBS Sports Big 12 Preseason Player of the Year
Hunter Dickinson | C | Kansas
Best player on the best team. That's the clear and concise argument for why we have Dickinson as our Preseason Player of the Year pick in the Big 12. The three-time All-Big Ten performer averaged 17.2 points and 8.4 rebounds in three seasons at Michigan and now heads to play at KU in a system that should feature him even more. He's been a consistent rebounder and efficient scorer throughout his college career, and his prolific stat-stuffing will do wonders for a Jayhawks team in need of stability down low.
Four more players to watch in the Big 12
Tylor Perry | PG | Kansas State: The 2022-23 Conference USA Player of the Year should fit like a glove in Jerome Tang's guard-friendly system, replacing tiny-but-mighty superstar Markquis Nowell in Manhattan, Kansas. Perry averaged 17.3 points and 2.1 assists per game last season for a North Texas team that won 31 games.
Dylan Disu | PF | Texas: Few players were as impactful in the postseason last year than Disu. He averaged 22.5 points and 10 rebounds per game in two NCAA Tournament appearances before an injury sidelined him. He should be able to pick up where he left off as one of the breakout stars of the conference.
Jamal Shead | PG | Houston: Houston, in its first season in the Big 12, will go as Shead goes. Shead is the leading returning scorer and assist man for a Cougars team that has won 65 games the last two seasons and is primed and ready to contend right away in a new league.
Javon Small | PG | Oklahoma State: A knee injury last season cut short what was on track to be a sensational sophomore season for Small at East Carolina, where he averaged 15.8 points and 5.6 assists per game. A fresh start at Oklahoma State quarterbacking the offense and facilitating for an exciting cast of characters could thrust him into the All-Big 12 discussion.
CBS Sports Big 12 Preseason Freshman of the Year
Ja'Kobe Walter | SG | Baylor
Scott Drew's made a habit out of landing blue-chip recruits and immediately converting them into useful pieces. Walter should be next in that long Bears lineage. The 6-foot-5 shooting guard, who ranked No. 8 in the 247Sports rankings for the 2023 cycle, is the highest-rated incoming Big 12 recruit with a huge opportunity ahead. With the team's top three scorers no longer on the roster, he could waltz his way into becoming a day-one double-digit scorer on a top-three team in the conference.
CBS Sports Big 12 predicted order of finish
|Three starters return from KU's 28-win team a season ago -- Dajuan Harris, K.J. Adams and Kevin McCullar -- and big man Dickinson arrives to fortify the frontcourt in Lawrence. On paper that's clearly enough to give KU the edge on the rest of the field in the Big 12. With added size to buttress versatility at the guard and forward spots, Self will have plenty of weapons at his disposal
|No Marcus Sasser, no Jarace Walker, and ... no problem? Tap the brakes. Might not be that easy for Houston. But with a Hall of Fame coach in Kelvin Sampson and a stalwart at guard in Shead, the Cougars return a lot of known commodities -- among them Terrance Arcenaux, Ja'Vier Francis, J'Wan Roberts and Emanuel Sharp -- to make contending in Year 1 of the Big 12 a viable projection. After winning the AAC regular-season championship in four of its last five seasons, it's hard to see a path to similar dominance for Houston in its new digs, but a conference title in 2023-24 is very possible.
|Despite an 0-3 start out of the gate in Big 12 play last season, Baylor still finished T3 in the league's regular-season race, powered by the most efficient offensive unit in the conference. And while the team's top three scorers are gone -- no Adam Flagler, no Keyonte George, no LJ Cryer -- the return of Jalen Bridges and the additions of freshman Ja'Kobe Walters and transfers RayJ Dennis and Jayden Nunn should give this team another high-scoring unit capable of running up the score again.
|If there's any team in the top five that has a legitimate case for being seen as overlooked and underrated, it's Texas. The team brings back two studs in Dylan Disu and Tyrese Hunter, and it added a potential difference-maker in Max Abmas -- AKA Midcourt Max, a sharpshooter from Oral Roberts -- to help add scoring punch to its backcourt. Coach Rodney Terry lost just twice in nine games in March -- which included a run to a Big 12 Tournament title -- and momentum is at his back now as he takes the Longhorns into 2023-24 with the full-time gig officially his.
|Tang had a massive 2022-23 debut season led by two transfers in Markquis Nowell and Keyontae Johnson, and whether or not he can replicate that success this season may hinge on the success of his new transfers. Creighton transfer Arthur Kaluma and North Texas transfer Perry are both poised to be integral pieces from day one, and they should pair nicely with a host of promising young pieces like Nae-Qwan Tomlin and Cam Carter.
|Delaware transfer Jameer Nelson Jr. -- yes, the son of Jameer Nelson, and yes, you are old -- figures to be an instant-impact addition for the Horned Frogs as they try to build on their best regular-season finish in conference play since Jamie Dixon took over. Nelson Jr., who averaged 20.6 points and 3.6 assists per game for Delaware last season, pairs with another transfer in Oklahoma State's Avery Anderson, both of whom should fit nicely next to Emanuel Miller and Chuck O'Bannon in a revamped roster.
|Third-year coach T.J. Otzelberger landed the highest-ranked basketball recruit in program history in Omaha Biliew, who will add both excitement and also exacerbate a potential problem for the Cyclones this season: Inexperience. They could trot out four first-time starters at the power-conference level, anchored by returning starter Tamin Lipsey, an Ames product who is just entering his second season. We know with Otzelberger that ISU's defense should be stout, but we also know based on his tenure thus far that the offensive production -- especially with so many new pieces -- could be a question mark that is hit or miss.
|Like the aforementioned Perry, coach Grant McCasland rode another strong season at North Texas into a nice gig in the Big 12, landing at Texas Tech to replace Mark Adams. Under Adams and previously under Chris Beard, Tech prided itself on defense, and that should again be the case this season under McCasland, whose team's identity at UNT was slow pace and in-your-face defense. The development of second-year guard Pop Isaacs and the hit rate of the six incoming transfers will make or break how well McCasland can start in his new set-up in Lubbock.
|Cincinnati's top two scorers from a season ago are gone, leaving a lot on the plate of coach Wes Miller to replace the outgoing production of Landers Nolley and David DeJulius. Viktor Lahkin should be in for an expanded role, though, and a quartet of transfers -- led by Utah Valley's Aziz Bandaogo and Butler's Simas Lukosius -- should help offset the losses a bit. The arrow is pointing up in Cincinnati, though transitioning to the Big 12 this year of all years presents a real challenge with tons of obstacles.
|Mike Boynton enters a pivotal seventh season at Oklahoma State leading a basketball-hungry fanbase starved for success. No one has a real clue on how good this team can be, but the Cowboys should be fun, led by ECU transfer Javon Small and Bryce Thompson in the backcourt and a pair of big man transfers in Isaiah Miranda and Mike Marsh. This team has been last in the Big 12 in 3-point shooting percentage each of the last two seasons but has made a concerted effort to hopefully -- hopefully -- improve closer to league average this season.
|Armed with two of the top three leading scorers from last season's team, BYU has a good bit of talent both old and new that could be fiesty and keep the Cougars in the role of spoiler this year. Leading scorer Fousseyni Traore will again be a key piece of their success but the ceiling of this team may be dependent upon how well the four transfers -- including heralded KU transfer Marcus Adams Jr. -- acclimate themselves. If second-year guard Dallin Hall can build off of last season the Cougars could have something fun brewing. I'll wait to see if it amounts to good, but could definitely be fun.
|Like a ton of college coaches across the country, coach Porter Moser has staked his season to the transfer portal, bringing in five newcomers via that route who all figure to play key roles. Pitt transfer John Hugley IV and Siena transfer Javian McCollum may help offset the gigantic loss of Grant Sherfield in the backcourt, with second-year guard Milos Uzan in line to shoulder a bigger opportunity as well.
|One of the true wild card teams of the Big 12 this upcoming season. The program moved on from Bob Huggins this summer after a radio appearance in which he uttered a slur followed by a DUI arrest, leading it to elevate assistant Josh Eilert to the interim gig. And Eilert has his work cut out for him. The team is bringing in nine newbies to reload the roster, including Kerr Kriisa, Jesse Edwards and Raequan Battle. The talent is there to be a top-half-of-the-league team. The uncertainty -- between a coaching change and an entirely new roster -- has us playing this projection a tad more conservatively than that, though.
|One of four new additions to the Big 12 this season, UCF is last to get a mention and, fittingly, last in our preseason Big 12 picks. Coach Johnny Dawkins has strung together consecutive winning seasons coming in to 2023-24, but the Knights have a fairly empty cupboard to replace with Taylor Hendricks, C.J. Kelly and Ithiel Horton all gone. It could be a rough debut in the new league, especially with coveted transfer Jaykwon Walton bailing for Memphis late in the process.
Most overrated team in Big 12
Texas Tech: I thought having Texas Tech 11th in my Big 12 ballot was high. Imagine my surprise when I saw we as a group had them at No. 8!
There's a lot to like about the direction of this program anchored by the optimism that comes with hiring a rising young star in coach McCasland -- which I think is valid and warranted -- but the meat and potatoes he inherited isn't too appetizing. Aside from Isaacs, this team is basically hitting the reset button around a group of transfers and unknowns. That recipe has worked before, of course, including recently at Texas Tech, but I'm skeptical in this year's Big 12 the talent McCasland has on the way will be enough. A double-digit finish in league play seems not only possible, but likely.
Most underrated team in Big 12
TCU: Here I am talking about fading uncertainty with transfers in one breath and talking about buying into transfers in another in a team located in the same state. Hypocrite, I tell ya!
I'm buying Dixon's talent pool he's assembled, though, and I think TCU is flying under the radar. Anderson was really good in his role at Oklahoma State. Nelson Jr. is a walking bucket, a skill set that's good at every level and should translate. Then Miller and Chuck O'Bannon Jr. are established vets who should help set a baseline for building things. There's some risk here that the new pieces don't fit into place or that it continues to be a terrible 3-point shooting team, but I'm buying into the Horned Frogs. They're third on my preseason Big 12 ballot behind KU and Houston, and it wouldn't surprise if we're talking about them as the second-best Big 12 team in the state of Texas this season.