Major conference preview: 5 questions for the Big 12
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A college basketball season that promises to be unlike any other is now underway.

Five Big 12 programs enter the campaign in the AP Top 25. While the conference may not have as many teams on the list as the Big Ten, the top-end depth is comparable with No. 2 Baylor and No. 6 Kansas.

Here are five questions for the Big 12 as the season begins:

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Is Baylor the best team in the conference?

The Bears' No. 2 ranking in the preseason top 25 is the highest in program history. The last time they cracked the pre-tip top 15 was 2011-12, when Pierre Jackson, Quincy Acy, and Brady Heslip took them to the Elite Eight.

Baylor now brings back its top three scorers from last season in guards Jared Butler, MaCio Teague, and Davion Mitchell. Defensively, that trio, along with forward Mark Vital, combined to average almost six steals per game in 2019-20.

That returning production is why Baylor leads preseason KenPom rankings.

What about Kansas?

Much like the Big Ten's Michigan State, Kansas watched both its star guard and big man move on to the NBA. Yet just like Tom Izzo's Spartans, Bill Self's Jayhawks are ready to lean on a couple of returning starters.

Senior Marcus Garrett and junior Ochai Agbaji anchor the backcourt, but it could be bolstered further with the arrival of freshman Bryce Thompson. The five-star recruit is a three-level scorer and a tremendous passer.

How good is Cade Cunningham?

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Oklahoma State landed the prize of the 2020 recruiting class in Cade Cunningham after Jalen Green took the G League route. The 6-foot-7 point guard is already in the conversation as next year's No. 1 overall NBA draft pick, and it's easy to see why.

Cunningham's elite court vision and playmaking ability have been compared to that of Ben Simmons, yet he's a more advanced shooter than Simmons was at the same point in his career.

Can Cunningham help the unranked Cowboys win in what will almost certainly be a one-and-done season? Isaac Likekele returns as another scoring threat, but he's shot under 25% from deep in 61 collegiate games. If Cunningham's supporting cast isn't up to par, his stay could be reminiscent of Simmons' disappointing 2015-16 season with LSU.

Then again, it may be a moot point. The NCAA still hasn't delivered its appeal verdict on Oklahoma State's postseason ban related to the 2017 corruption scandal.

Can transfers put Texas Tech back on top?

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Forget recruiting classes, No. 14 Texas Tech has a blue-chip transfer class. High-flier Mac McClung joins the Red Raiders from Georgetown, guard Jamarius Burton arrives from Wichita State, and forward Marcus Santos-Silva joins from VCU.

Only Kyler Edwards and Avery Benson remain from the 2019 Final Four team, but head coach Chris Beard - who also added two top-40 recruits in Nimari Burnett and Micah Peavy - has done a great job of replenishing the roster.

The depth and experience, along with Beard's nurturing style, make Texas Tech a force to be reckoned with.

Where do West Virginia and Texas land?

Neither the Mountaineers nor the Longhorns are in the same class as Baylor, Kansas, or Texas Tech, but both should be NCAA Tournament-bound - assuming, of course, there is one.

No. 15 West Virginia will return with coach Bob Huggins' typically tough defense, led by mammoth big men Oscar Tshiebwe and Derek Culver, both of whom clock in at over 6-foot-9 and 250 pounds.

No. 19 Texas, meanwhile, returns all top five scorers from last year's 19-12 team, plus local five-star recruit Greg Brown. Head coach Shaka Smart avoided dismissal last spring after two seasons on the hot seat, but he's still carrying the weight of a paltry 40-50 record in Big 12 play since taking the reins in Austin in 2015.

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Major conference preview: 5 questions for the Big 12
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