October 28, 2023 

2023-24 Big 12 preview

Texas is the favorite in the new-look Big 12

You will be hard pressed to find a league in college athletics that looks so different from a year ago than what the Big 12 Conference looks like today. Now spanning from the East Coast to the Mountain time zone and showcasing some interstate rivalries that are guaranteed for just one more year, Big 12 women’s basketball will be full of tantalizing storylines and big games every night. There are four new schools, three new head coaches, numerous impact transfers that will be in the headlines and a host of outstanding returning players who are poised for big seasons.

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The Big 12 saw six teams claim NCAA Tournament bids last season and one that captured the 2023 post-season WNIT title. Iowa State won the 2023 Big 12 Women’s Basketball Championship crown, claiming its third post-season conference tournament trophy in program history. It was also the final bow for Municipal Auditorium in Kansas City, Mo., which has served as host to the tournament for several years, including the inaugural event in 1997. Starting this season, the women will play at the T-Mobile Center, the same venue as the men’s tournament in Kansas City. 

Two teams received votes for first place – Texas (12) and Baylor (2) – in the 2023-24 Big 12 preseason poll, which was voted on by the conference’s head coaches, with all teams voted in the top six receiving over 100 points in the voting process. What does this poll truly mean? It is a measuring stick to see who can compete at the highest level, but as most pre-season polls play out, the results in March never look the same. Each Big 12 school will play an 18-game conference slate this season and every program has strategically set their non-conference schedule to be a challenge. Where and when will we see upsets? Who can steal a win or two on the road this season? Who will capture the Bedlam series, the final go between Oklahoma and Oklahoma State? Which newcomers and returners will surprise us the most? 

Welcome to the Big 12 Conference season preview – things will look very different next year, but for now, 2023-24 is set to be a big year in the Big 12. *The order of teams in this preview reflects the preseason coaches’ poll.

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26-10 overall, 14-4 in Big 12 play in 2022-23 (AP Preseason Poll #13)

The Longhorns are the preseason favorite to win the 2023-24 regular season title, their last in the Big 12, after sharing the top spot a year ago with Oklahoma. If there is one thing Vic Schaefer, the 2023 Big 12 Coach of the Year, would like to avoid this season in Austin, it would be the injury bug running rampant in his program. If Texas can stay healthy and fold two top-50 recruits (per ESPN.com) into the mix, then it can be a special year on the Forty Acres. Junior playmaking guard Rori Harmon was tapped as the Big 12 Preseason Player of the Year and joins returning leading scorer Shaylee Gonzales (12.7 points/game) in the backcourt. Gonzales was the 2023 Big 12 Newcomer of the Year a season ago after transferring from BYU. Highly touted power forward Aaliyah Moore will be back after missing all but nine games with an injury to pair with 6’2 DeYona Gaston and 6’4 Taylor Jones in the paint. Texas returns over 80% of their scoring from a year ago and will continue to make opponents miserable with their defensive pressure. The Longhorns have key nonconference matchups against UConn and Arizona before the December holiday break and open Big 12 play at home against Baylor on Dec. 30.

Baylor looks to return to the top of the Big 12 standings in 2023-24 under third year head coach Nicki Collen. (Photo credit: Scott D. Weaver/Big 12 Conference)


20-13 overall, 10-8 in Big 12 play in 2022-23 (AP Preseason Poll #19)

For the first time in 12 years, someone other than Baylor won the Big 12 regular season title last season. Third year head coach Nicki Collen may finally have the depth and talent on the floor and not watching from the bench to get them back to the top of the new-look Big 12. Senior guard Sara Andrews returns as the Bears top scorer (14.7 points/game) and is a unanimous preseason All-Big 12 selection. Andrews has flourished under Collen to be one of the most well-rounded guards in the conference.  6’1 sophomore Darianna Littlepage-Buggs (10.6 points and 9.2 rebounds/game), the reigning Big 12 Freshman of the Year is back creating matchup problems on both ends. The Bears’ enhanced depth comes from forwards Aijha Blackwell (injury) and Dre’Una Edwards (Kentucky transfer) getting on the floor this season and a trio of guards who landed in Waco out of the portal. Jada Walker (Kentucky), Denae Fritz (Iowa State) and Yaya Felder (Ohio) all will bring experience to the floor. Walker, the 5’7 junior guard from Richmond, Va. was named the Big 12 Preseason Newcomer of the Year. This will be the last season for Baylor in the Farrell Center before they move into a new on-campus arena next year. They will need the home-court advantage on Nov. 14 when they host Utah. The Bears open Big 12 play on the road at Texas on Dec. 30.


25-11 overall, 9-9 in Big 12 play in 2022-23

Two years ago, Kansas returned to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2013, but tough losses later in the season pushed the Jayhawks off the bubble this past March. Head coach Brandon Schneider rallied his team to run off six wins and capture the 2023 postseason WNIT title in front of large and loud crowds in Allen Fieldhouse. KU reaps the benefit of “super seniors” on their roster this season, including unanimous All-Big 12 First Team selection Taiyanna Jackson (15.2 points and 12.7 rebounds/game). The 6’3 post is a dominant defender and has developed into a consistent scorer to pair with guards Holly Kersgieter, Zakiyah Franklin and Wyvette Mayberry. Schneider signed 6’0 guard S’Mya Nichols, the No. 22 player in the class of 2023 (per ESPN.com), from nearby Overland Park, Kan. Nichols has the game to fill a stat sheet and can be an impact freshman in the Big 12. 5’10 North Alabama transfer Skylar Gill arrives in Lawrence as the two-time ASUN Defensive Player of the Year to bolster the defensive effort and help the Jayhawks create more offense with their defense. KU will be challenged early when they travel to the Cayman Islands Classic in November to face Virginia Tech and UConn. Their Big 12 slate kicks off on Dec. 30 at home against West Virginia.

Kansas “super senior” Taiyanna Jackson and the Jayhawks are looking for their 2023 WNIT postseason title to be a catalyst for a run at a Big 12 title and back to the NCAA Tournament. (Photo credit: Missy Minear/Kansas Athletics)

Kansas State

19-17 overall, 5-13 in Big 12 play in 2022-23

A year ago, the questions out of Manhattan, Kan. focused on how K-State would survive without the services of their All-American center anchoring their offense and defense. With 6’6 Ayoka Lee out for the 2022-23 season dealing with knee surgeries, head coach Jeff Mittie had to regroup. The offensive system he designed opened the floor to give everyone the green light to shoot quick and fire from behind the arc. Now the question is how do the Wildcats incorporate Lee back into the system for the 2023-24 season? How effective can she be? Those questions are still to be answered, but Mittie has depth on a roster that could get the Wildcats back to the upper half of the league. 6’0 guard Gabby Gregory, who transferred to K-State from Oklahoma a year ago, returns after an All-Big 12 season, averaging 18.5 points/game. Fellow guard Serena Sundell (5.1 assists/game) solidified herself as a true point guard a year ago and heads into her junior year in the top 15 on the program’s career assist chart. Junior twins Brylee and Jaeyln Glenn must become more consistent scorers as the ‘Cats incorporate transfer and freshmen talent into the lineup with Lee. Questions could be answered on Nov. 16 when K-State travels to Iowa to see how the inside-outside gameplan is progressing against a top opponent. Big 12 play begins on the road for the Wildcats on Dec. 30 at Cincinnati.

K-State senior guard Gabby Gregory wanted a chance to play with All-American center Ayoka Lee this season so she has returned to Manhattan, KS for one more run at a Big 12 title. (Photo credit: Scott D. Weaver/Big 12 Conference)


26-7 overall, 14-4 in Big 12 play in 2022-23

The Sooners shared the regular season Big 12 title with their soon-to-be SEC running mate Texas on the shoulders of a trio of “super seniors” last season. With those talented players no longer in Norman, head coach Jenny Baranczyk will turn to her next set of experienced seniors to have another 20-plus win year in OU’s last run in the Big 12. Over 50% of the team’s scoring returns from a season ago, including redshirt senior Liz Scott (33 starts last year) and two-time Big 12 Sixth Player of the Year forward Skylar Vann (11.5 points/game). Senior point guard Nevaeh Tot, who has had over 100 assists each of the last three seasons, will run the high-flying Sooner offense again out front (84.2 points/game). Keep an eye on transfer guards Lexi Keys (Oklahoma State) and Payton Verhulst (Louisville) as well as 5’10 freshman Sahara Williams, the No. 23 player in the class of 2023 (per ESPN.com). Each can provide key depth and scoring on the perimeter. As always, rebounding and interior defense will be key, and the Sooners will need sophomores Beatrice Culliton and Kiersten Johnson to help Scott inside. The nonconference schedule includes matchups with Ole Miss, Tennessee, UNLV and North Carolina (all NCAA Tournament teams) before starting Big 12 play at home against UCF on Dec. 30.

Senior Emily Ryan, one of the best point guards that Bill Fennelly has had in his 29 years at Iowa State, will be key in leading a young but talented Cyclone team during the 2023-24 season. (Photo credit: Scott D. Weaver/Big 12 Conference)

Iowa State

22-10 overall, 11-7 in Big 12 play in 2022-23

The script could not have been written any better for Iowa State to celebrate their 2023 Big 12 Tournament title in front of their loud and faithful fanbase in Kansas City last March. Building off that victory without Cyclone All-American Ashley Joens and with one of the youngest rosters in the nation is the puzzle head coach Bill Fennelly must solve. Now in his 29th season at the helm of the Cyclone program, Fennelly returns just 25% of his scoring and 26% of his rebounding from a year ago. Senior Emily Ryan, a preseason All-Big 12 selection, will be called upon to do even more than in years past, provided the heady point guard is healthy and ready to go. 6’2 forward Nyamer Dew set a career high for three-point shots made last season and will lead this new-look roster with Ryan. 6’5 Sacramento State transfer Isnelle Natabou (15.8 points and 9.4 rebounds/game) can give them a lift inside along with a Top-15 recruiting class (per ESPN.com) that has arrived in Ames. Look for freshman forwards Jalynn Bristow and Addy Brown, both Top-50 recruits, to get minutes early with their ability to extend the defense and see the floor. A tough nonconference schedule which includes the other Division I women’s programs in the state of Iowa (Drake, UNI and Iowa) will get the Cyclones ready for Big 12 play that starts Dec. 30 at Oklahoma State.

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Oklahoma State

21-12 overall, 10-8 in Big 12 play in 2022-23

It was a reset season in Stillwater, Okla. as head coach Jacie Hoyt led the Cowgirls to over 20 wins and a trip to the 2023 NCAA Tournament in her first season at the helm of the program. Graduation and transfers took a toll on the OSU roster, leaving under 25% of the scoring and rebounding returning so Hoyt hit the portal hard for new faces. Seven transfers join the Cowgirl roster, each of whom brings experience and a resume that can help in the Big 12. 5’7 guard Kennedy Fauntleroy was the unanimous BIG EAST Freshman of the Year at Georgetown last season, averaging 10.9 points/game. Graduate student guard Quincy Noble was a three-time all-conference selection during her career at North Texas and 5’11 guard Chandler Prater arrives from Kansas with experience and speed in the open floor. Hoyt will rely on 6’1 forward Lior Garzon, second on the team in scoring a season ago, to not only be a three-point threat again but score in the mid-range game as well. The pace will be fast and furious on offense for the Cowgirls but a renewed focus on defense and rebounding will be key in having success this season. Nonconference challenges include games against Colorado, Ohio State and Oregon before the December holidays. Last year OSU dropped their first two Big 12 games and want to start better this season. They host Iowa State on Dec. 30 and then travel to UCF on Jan. 3.

Oklahoma State is poised for another 20-win season and trip to the NCAA Tournament with 6’1 forward Lior Garson leading the way. (Photo credit: Oklahoma State Athletics)

West Virginia

19-12 overall, 10-8 in Big 12 play in 2022-23

It was a tense time in mid-March in Morgantown, waiting to see if the bubble would burst but West Virginia landed in the 2023 NCAA Tournament as an at-large bid. Just weeks after the end of the season, head coach Dawn Plitzuweit exited after one year to take the same position at Minnesota. Enter Mark Kellogg, the 2022 WAC Coach of the Year who takes over the program after eight seasons at Stephen F. Austin. Kellogg inherited a small but talented pool of returners, including All-Big 12 guard JJ Quinerly, one of the most dynamic playmakers in the conference. Also back are forwards Kyla Watson and Jayla Hemingway along with 6’3 center Kylee Blacksten, all of whom averaged over 21 minutes/game last year. New faces from the transfer pool will add to the Mountaineers limited depth, including WAC Freshman of the Year guard Jordan Harrison, who followed her coach from SFA. Keep an eye on 6’0 junior Tirzah Moore, a transfer from Oral Roberts, who averaged a double-double last season and was a first-team All-Summit League selection as a sophomore. Kellogg is still waiting on two transfer waiver rulings to be made by the NCAA, and the Mountaineers will have just 10 available players if those are rejected. West Virginia will play seven of their nonconference games at home before tackling the Big 12 slate, which kicks off at Kansas on Dec. 30.

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8-23 overall, 1-17 in Big 12 play in 2022-23

After several average seasons of women’s basketball in Fort Worth, the TCU leadership made a change at the top of the Horned Frogs program last March. Mark Campbell, known for recruiting and program building, was named the seventh head coach in school history after two wildly successful seasons at Sacramento State. With just a handful of returners left in the locker room, Campbell and his staff dove into the transfer portal to try and put the rebuilding process in overdrive. Headlining the transfer haul is 6’7 forward Sedona Prince, a Texas native who missed last season at Oregon with injury but is healthy and ready to get back on the floor. She, along with Baylor guard transfer Jaden Owens (5.8 assists/game last year), Arizona guard transfer Madison Conner and Cal-State Fullerton guard transfer Una Jovanovic (14.6 points/game last year) will be key in Campbell’s pick-and-roll system that encourages three-point shots and attacking the rim. Also new to TCU are two Top-100 recruits from Texas in 6’1 forward Jade Clack and 5’7 guard Victoria Flores, both of whom can break into the lineup. 11 of their 13 nonconference games are at home which for a team that needs to gain confidence and learn to win consistently will be critical for what Campbell wants to do at TCU. They also stay at home to open Big 12 play against BYU on Dec. 30.

Fourth year head coach and former Lady Raider Krista Gerlach knows how tough it is to win the Big 12. If Texas Tech can reach that 20-win mark and then some in 2023-24, postseason opportunities will await. (Photo credit: Scott D. Weaver/Big 12 Conference)

Texas Tech

20-15 overall, 6-12 in Big 12 play in 2022-23

When you play in one of the toughest leagues in the nation, it is hard to get your team to the 20-win plateau. Head coach Krista Gerlich, now in her fourth year at the helm of her alma mater, knows that last year’s success can be a springboard to even better things in 2023-24. The Lady Raiders return just over 50% of their scoring but it is the combination of returners and new faces that can hopefully move Texas Tech up in the Big 12 standings. Sophomore guard Bailey Maupin, a 2023 All-Big 12 Freshman Team selection, is top returning scorer at 10.2 points/game. Junior Ryle McKinney shot 41% from behind the arc last season and along with Maupin gives Gerlich a steady backcourt to rely on. 6’3 forward Jordyn Merritt, who last played in 2022 at Florida, returns to her home state of Texas to give Tech an athletic presence in the paint. Look for two UTEP transfers, Jazion Jackson (11.6 points/game last year) and Elina Arike (11.9 points/game) to add a scoring punch as well. Continuing to taste success is something the Lady Raiders know they must do with 10 nonconference games at home before hitting the road at Houston on Dec. 30 for Texas-sized Big 12 battle.


16-17 overall, 9-9 in West Coast Conference (WCC) play in 2022-23

Amber Whiting heads into her second year at BYU after surviving her first season as a head coach at the Division I level. Just when you think it might even out a bit, the flip is switched and now the Cougars are a Power 5 school in the Big 12. One thing that Whiting has going for her is a host of experience on her roster, including 88% of the minutes played and 95% of the scoring returning from a season ago. Leading the way is the best rebounder in the nation last year, senior forward Lauren Gustin. Gustin posted a double-double average last season (16.1 points and 16.7 rebounds/game) and after dabbling in the transfer portal, decided to return to Provo for BYU’s inaugural season in the Big 12. Junior guard Nani Falatea not only averaged 15.3 points/game but led the team in assists last year and will quarterback a tough-minded Cougar system that will scrap and claw for every possession. Guards Kaylee Smiler and Arielle Mackey-Williams are great compliments to Falatea, and both are deep threats behind the arc. One new BYU addition of note – 5’10 sharpshooting guard Amari Whiting, the No. 33 recruit in the class of 2023 (per ESPN.com). She had previously committed to Oregon before signing to play for the Cougars and her mother. A December matchup with in-state Pac-12 power (and a soon-to-be Big 12 rival) Utah will be a big test for BYU before traveling to TCU to open Big 12 play on Dec. 30.

Lauren Gustin attacks the rim against Boise State. Photo Credit: BYU Photo
BYU forward Lauren Gustin led the nation in rebounding a season ago and is a key piece of a veteran squad that is ready for their first year as a Power 5 team in the Big 12. (Photo credit: BYU Photo)


15-16 overall, 10-5 in American Athletic Conference play (AAC) in 2022-23

Head coach Ronald Hughey’s team was one win away from capturing an automatic bid to the 2023 NCAA Tournament last March, but the Cougars came up short in the AAC Tournament title game. That momentum of ending on a strong note, along with key returners, new faces and a hard-nosed mentality throughout the program has Houston ready to attack their first season in the Big 12. Hughey’s program has been built on defense and making opponents uncomfortable for 40 minutes, which is directly linked to being second in the nation last year in turnovers forced (24.3/game). 5’8 senior guard Laila Blair, a first-team All-AAC pick last season, returns as the team’s leading scorer, averaging 14.2 points/game and was tops in assists and minutes played. Other key returners include 5’11 graduate senior Bria Patterson (9.9 points/game) and 6’1 senior Kamryn Jones (5.5 points/game). Hughey not only found scoring firepower but also speed and size in the transfer portal to help keep the Cougar defense as one of the best. Look for 5’6 guard N’Yah Boyd, a UTEP transfer, to bolster the backcourt and be a playmaking threat for herself and her teammates (11.6 points and 3.5 assists/game last year). This new-look roster will have a chance to get comfortable playing their first six nonconference games at home, but a Dec. 17 trip to Washington State will be an important test. The Cougars open their inaugural Big 12 season at home on Dec. 30 against Texas Tech.

Houston and Cincinnati have played many times in past season, but now both programs embark on their new home as part of the Big 12 Conference. (Photo creditL Joe Buvid for Houston Athletics)


9-21 overall, 2-14 in American Athletic Conference play (AAC) in 2022-23

Not only does Cincinnati begin its first year in the Big 12, but it will be with a new head coach that is very familiar with the program and the university. Katrina Merriweather, a 2001 graduate and former Bearcat women’s basketball player, is hoping to put together a solid first year in a new conference that can be the foundation for her program going forward. A year ago, Cincinnati averaged under 60 points/game on the season – not only do the Bearcats needs to execute to get good shots, but they need to knock them down to compete with their opponents this season. Merriweather has the luxury of seven players returning, including 6’1 forward Jillian Hayes who led the team in scoring the past two seasons. Also back is 5’7 guard Mya Jackson who averaged 11 points/game and played almost 33 minutes/game running the point out front. The Bearcats have seven newcomers, including 6’4 sophomore center Destiny Thomas, an All-AAC Freshman Team selection last year at Memphis under Merriweather who can help in the frontcourt. Five freshmen also join Merriweather in this first year, which gives the Bearcats a roster that blends of youth and experience. November will not be an easy ramp up to start the season as they open at home on Nov. 6 with Louisville and then face three fellow Power 5 opponents in the Paradise Jam. Cincinnati’s inaugural Big 12 opener will be Dec. 30 when Kansas State comes to town.

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14-15 overall, 4-11 in American Athletic Conference play (AAC) in 2022-23

Head coach Sytia Messer begins her second season at UCF and the first for her team in the Big 12, but she is no stranger to the strength and talent of the league. Messer spent eight seasons as an assistant coach at Baylor and knows that every opponent has a different system you must prepare for along with talent from top to bottom. Good news for Messer is her Golden Knights squad is ready for the challenge. With over 50% of the team’s scoring and over 45% of the rebounding returning, UCF will hang their hat on defense and executing at a high level. 6’0 forward Mya Burns (9.1 points/game) returns to blend with 6’2 forward Taylor Gibson, who made 14 starts as a sophomore and averaged closed to 18 minutes/game. New faces include mid-season transfer guard Kaitlin Peterson (Indiana) and 6’3 post Jayla Kelly (Missouri) who can help add size to the Golden Knights’ frontcourt. Only three of of UCF’s ten nonconference games will be played away from Orlando, Fla. and then they will hit the road to open Big 12 play at Oklahoma on Dec. 30.

Written by Missy Heidrick

I am a retired Kansas State shooting guard and spent almost 20 years working in Higher Education and Division 1 athletics. I am currently a basketball analyst for television and radio, contributing correspondent at The Next, Locked on Women's Basketball podcast host, WBB Naismith Award board of selectors member and run my own consulting business. I am a proud mother of two and wife to a patient husband who is almost as big of a sports junkie as I am!

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