Editor’s note: We’re adding the dateline — “KANSAS CITY, Mo.” — as we reported this from Kansas City, Missouri.
As the 2023 WNIT Champions, the Jayhawks have momentum for possibly an even better season. After winning nine of its last 10 games, Kansas is ranked third in the preseason Big 12 poll, which guard Holly Kersgieter said is no added pressure to the team. Led by the super senior trio of Kersgieter, guard Zakiyah Franklin and center Taiyanna Jackson, Kansas can be expected to finish near the top of the conference.
The Red Raiders’ two WNIT wins with a young roster provide potential to improve in the 2023-24 season. Head coach Krista Gerlich said the team will gain an impact from transfers, including forward Jordyn Merritt from Florida. Outside of transfers, Gerlich is looking for a bigger impact from guards Bailey Maupin, who made the 2023 Big 12 All-Freshman team, and Rhyle McKinney.
After winning only 30% of their games last year, the Bearcats enter a new conference with a new coach. Alumna and head coach Katrina Merriweather comes into her first season back with some returning players. Merriweather said she has seven players from last year’s roster who make a solid core including forward Jillian Hayes, center Mya Jackson and guard Braylyn Milton. The trio looks to grow as leaders to uplift the team in its new conference.
The Golden Knights finished last season just under .500. As a new Big 12 team, head coach Sytia Messer, who previously served as an assistant for Baylor, said defense is a priority to focus on in the offseason. Outside of defense, Messer is looking ahead to different Big 12 play styles, mentioning Texas’ man-defense and K-State’s zone. The new conference competitor will bring in new pieces to help, including Indiana transfer guard Kaitlin Peterson and freshman Bronze U19 winner Achol Akot.
TCU is another Big 12 team coming in with a new head coach. Mark Campbell was able to begin implementing his system earlier than most with a foreign trip to Costa Rica in the offseason. Winning only one Big 12 game last year in a 13-point upset against K-State, Campbell brought in a group of transfers, led by the guard trio of Madison Conner, Jaden Owens and forward Sedona Prince. All three will be crucial for a bounce-back season from the Horned Frogs.
The Mountaineers come into their third season in a row with a new coach, even after making the NCAA tournament. Mark Kellogg comes to West Virginia with a new defensive plan. Guard JJ Quinerly, who made 2023 Big 12 All Defense, said she is excited for the press defense Kellogg plans to implement. With six key returning, Kellogg can bring the team back to the NCAA tournament while making his mark.
The defending co-champions in the Big 12 regular season, the Sooners have lost some talent. With multiple super seniors departing, head coach Jennie Baranczyk said Oklahoma will rely on some of its younger talent to step up. That included the three players on stage with her: forwards Liz Scott and Skylar Vann as well as guard Nevaeh Tot. Not receiving a single vote in the AP Top 25 poll, the Sooners have a chance to prove voters wrong and show that its young pieces can keep up last year’s success.
The BYU Cougars enter the Big 12 with a chance to improve upon last season. Head coach Amber Whiting comes into her second season looking for the defense to lead the way with her “blue collar kids.” The leader of that defense is 6-foot-1 forward Nani Falatea, who led the nation with 16.7 rebounds per game last season, earning West Coast Conference Co-Defensive Player of the Year. Joining Falatea are guards Nani Falatea and Kaylee Smiler to try to bring BYU back above a .500 record.
Head coach Jacie Hoyt said the Cowgirls exceeded expectations last year with their NCAA tournament appearance. The roster lost many players and now has to find a new group of key contributors. One is forward Lior Garzon, who started eight games last year and is looking to add defensive strength to her ability to shoot. Oklahoma State will also rely on transfers such as guards Quincy Noble and Chandler Prater in hopes to return to postseason play in March.
Head coach Ronald Hughey and the Houston Cougars look to come into the Big 12 to cause havoc. Hughey said he hopes his team will be the best conditioned in the country. Houston’s focus rests on its defense as they attempt to play all 94 feet at all times. With a mix of veterans and newcomers, the Cougars could create issues for Big 12 teams not up to the task.
Ranking as the No. 2 team in the Big 12 preseason poll and the No. 19 team in the AP Top 25, the Bears are viewed near the top of the Big 12. After a season of injuries and players not playing, Baylor is bringing a talented group together. First team Big 12 guard Sarah Andrews returns with forward Aijha Blackwell, who missed all but eight games last year. Joining them is Kentucky transfer Dre’Una Edwards, who missed last year and was compared to Draymond Green by head coach Nicki Collen. The sky’s the limit for the Bears in the growing Big 12.
The 2023 Big 12 tournament-winning Iowa State is transforming into a whole new team. With the loss of 2022-23 Big 12 Player of the Year Ashley Joens, the Cyclones are going to be looking to key contributors. Head coach Bill Fennelly said the team will probably be the least experienced team in the Big 12, with forward Nyamer Diew and guard Emily Ryan as the only two players with much playing experience. The Cyclones leave many questions in the new season.
The Longhorns enter their final season of Big 12 play at the top of people’s minds. Texas is ranked No. 1 in the preseason Big 12 poll and No. 12 in the AP Top 25. The Longhorns lost only one senior from last year’s roster. Point guard Rori Harmon stands at the helm this year as the 2022-23 Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year and 2023-24 Preseason Player of the Year. Head coach Vic Schaefer expects to get everyone’s best as they are predicted to finish at the top.