There is a new coach at TCU, because the former Horned Frogs coach is now at Kansas State. But will there be a new team alone at the top of the Big 12 standings? Baylor has won outright or tied for the regular-season title the last four years. The Big 12 women's tournament is back in Dallas this year, and expect at least one Texas team to be in the final.
Big 12 predicted order of finish
1. Texas (22-12 in 2013-14): Is this the year for the Longhorns to return to national prominence? Imani McGee-Stafford (10.8 PPG, 7.3 RPG) and Nneka Enemkpali (12.0 PPG, 8.6 RPG) are back to lead Texas' powerful inside game. Texas gave Maryland a scare on the Terps' home court in the second round of the NCAA tournament last season before falling 69-64. Chassidy Fussell finished her career that night, and Texas will have to replace her consistent scoring production. The Longhorns have depth and experience on the perimeter with Celina Rodrigo, Brady Sanders and Empress Davenport.
2. Baylor (32-5): Forward Nina Davis (15.0 PPG, 8.9 RPG) was one of the best freshmen in the country last season. Now she's one of best players, period. With superstar Odyssey Sims having moved on to the WNBA, the Lady Bears will need to forge a new identity. That's OK, though, because there are players ready to provide that for Baylor. Davis, of course, but also guard Niya Johnson (5.3 PPG, 6.6 APG), center Sune Agbuke (5.9 PPG, 7.6 RPG), forward Khadijiah Cave and G Alexis Prince, who missed last season with injury.
3. West Virginia (30-5): The Mountaineers lost a lot to graduation, including Asya Bussie and Christal Caldwell off the team that tied Baylor for the Big 12 regular-season title last year. Nonetheless, West Virginia still has a strong squad, including guard Bria Holmes (15.2 PPG, 3.5 RPG), who led the Mountaineers in scoring last season. Forward Averee Fields and guard Linda Stepney are the other two returning starters. The Mountaineers had the bad luck of being the better seed but playing on LSU's home court last season in the NCAA tournament, and they fell in the second round. They are definitely looking for a longer NCAA run in 2015.
4. Oklahoma State (25-9): The Cowgirls lost their point guard, Tiffany Bias, who won a WNBA title this fall as a reserve for the Phoenix Mercury. And that's a big absence to fill. But look to forward Liz Donohoe (11.0 PPG, 6.0 RPG), guard Brittany Martin (11.8 PPG, 8.7 RPG) and guard Brittany Atkins (7.3 PPG, 2.7 RPG) to help propel the Cowgirls back into the NCAA tournament, where Oklahoma State advanced to the Sweet 16 last season. They'll get help from LaShawn Jones and Roshunda Johnson. There is talent on this team, but someone needs to try to cover Bias' leadership role.
5. Oklahoma (18-15): More was expected of the Sooners last season than they were able to deliver, which is very much a rarity with that program. Injuries hurt, and Oklahoma just didn't have quite the same resilience that has been such a hallmark of Sherri Coale's teams. Nonetheless, the Sooners still made an NCAA tournament appearance in the final season for Aaryn Ellenburg, Morgan Hook and Nicole Griffin. Senior guard Sharane Campbell-Olds (12.6 PPG) will anchor a team this season that is younger and has players with a lot to prove. That includes Nicole Kornet and Texas A&M transfer Peyton Little.
6. TCU (18-15): The Horned Frogs improved from 2-16 in their first season in the Big 12 to 8-10 last year, and they advanced to the WNIT. But then longtime coach Jeff Mittie left to take over at Kansas State. He was replaced by Raegan Pebley, a former Colorado player who competed in the Big Eight/Big 12 in the 1990s. Mittie didn't leave the cupboard bare; four starters return, led by guards Zahna Medley (17.1 PPG, 3.7 APG) and Natalie Ventress (11.6 PPG). Five other letter winners from last year are also back.
7. Kansas (13-19): After back-to-back NCAA Sweet 16 appearances, the Jayhawks missed the postseason again in 2013-14. They will need seniors Chelsea Gardner, Natalie Knight, Asia Boyd and Bunny Williams to re-establish the forward momentum that Kansas finally had gotten going. The 6-3 Gardner (17.1 PPG, 8.4 RPG) is one of the most under-the-radar standouts in the Big 12. And another Texan, freshman guard Terriell Bradley, could be an impact player right away.
8. Iowa State (20-11): The Cyclones are going to miss the graduated Hallie Christofferson (18.4 PPG). And senior point guard Nikki Moody (12.5 PPG, 5.3 APG) is starting the season suspended from the team for so-called "attitude" issues. She's supposed to meet with coach Bill Fennelly this week to determine when (or if) she'll return. Last season, Iowa State ran into a deep freeze shooting against Florida State in the NCAA tournament first round and lost at home. A return to the Big Dance likely will take quick maturation from younger and less-experienced players.
9. Kansas State (11-19): The Wildcats lost an overtime game to rival Kansas at the Big 12 tournament to end last season. And then coach Deb Patterson's 18-year career at K-State concluded when she was fired. Mittie, a Midwest native, was excited to take over, but the Wildcats' best player, guard Leticia Romero, decided to transfer. K-State's extreme resistance to that got the school and Mittie a lot of bad publicity. Now Romero is at Florida State. Mittie hopes to recapture the success and popularity that peaked for the Wildcats a decade ago. This, though, will be a building year.
10. Texas Tech (6-24): Former Lady Raiders player Candi Whitaker knew she'd be starting in the basement last year in her first season, taking over a team that had lost four starters. But it was even worse than expected, as Texas Tech went 0-18 in Big 12 play. It might not be quite so bad this season, as three starters return for Texas Tech -- led by senior guard Amber Battle (16.2 PPG) -- and eight newcomers join the program. But it's still going to be tough for the Lady Raiders to avoid last place again.