The Big 12's basketball reputation took an early hit, with teams tripping and stumbling through much of November and early December in what was billed as a season of transition across the conference.
In nonconference play heading into Sunday, the Big 12's cumulative record: 84-32, hardly inspiring considering the overload of home games and pairings with overmatched schools from lesser leagues. Against the Top 25, the Big 12 stands just 5-12.
Alas, the Big 12 may be regrouping, with several teams posting statement wins and deflecting premature talk of the conference's demise. Kansas won at No. 10 Ohio State and Kansas State upended No. 14 Florida on the same night just days before Christmas. That followed struggling Texas' upset of North Carolina. And Oklahoma State, already owning a win over North Carolina State, gets another shot Monday night against No. 13 Gonzaga.
Perhaps it's a sign that the youthful rosters that dominate the conference — 10 of the Big 12's leading scorers are freshmen, sophomores or newcomers — are growing up.
And the league's rally comes just in time for the start of Big 12 play, which begins Saturday, setting off another race toward March Madness.
Big 12 storylines
The conference is down and the members have changed, but the reigning champs remain.
And in Big 12 hoops, providing a stark contrast to football season, everything begins (and has ended the past eight seasons) with Kansas.
Here's five Big 12 storylines, starting with the powerful Jayhawks but expanding leaguewide, to get you prepared for the impending conference season:
Can anyone dethrone Kansas from its regular-season pedestal?
Eight titles in eight years. Without much resistance, coach Bill Self's Jayhawks have consistently maintained a stranglehold on the Big 12's regular season crown. Can anyone change that? There's a trio of viable candidates (K-State, Baylor and, most notably, OSU), but Kansas once again enters as the heavy favorite to repeat.
How will the newcomers adjust?
West Virginia enters the league with Big East experience and a big-time coach. TCU, meanwhile, stumbles in as a floundering program two years removed from a 1-15 finish in the Mountain West. Neither should challenge for the title, but the Horned Frogs would be fortunate to avoid the conference cellar.
Can Myck Kabongo rescue Texas from mediocrity?
UT stumbled through an 8-5 nonconference schedule, the most pre-Big 12 losses since year one of Rick Barnes' 14-year tenure, including an embarrassing defeat to Division II Chaminade. But they didn't have Myck Kabongo, and will not get the suspended star guard back until mid-February. Is that enough time for a turnaround?
Will OSU and Baylor play up to their talent?
Coaches Travis Ford and Scott Drew can recruit. That's been evident the past few seasons, with the pair bringing some of the nation's best high schoolers to Stillwater and Waco, respectively. But the two embattled program-leaders have received recent heat for the way they coach up that compiled talent. They're both loaded this season (with four- and five-star guys abound). But can they win with them?