1) Is this year a 'welcome back to the pack' season? It still doesn't make sense to pick anybody but the Jayhawks to win the league, what with them winning seven league titles in a row. But this will likely be the most down that Kansas will have been over that time period. Kansas still has some great pieces in the starting lineup like Thomas Robinson and Tyshawn Taylor. And when you have an elite big man and a top point guard, you're typically going to win a lot of games. But the Jayhawks can't afford foul trouble or injuries, because their depth isn't what it used to be. And so one of the season's biggest stories will be whether they can defend while playing somewhat shorthanded.
2) Can Texas A&M take the next step with a new coaching staff? Led by junior swingman Khris Middleton, the Aggies were picked as co-No. 1 with the Jayhawks. And Texas A&M does return several players from a year ago, including three starters in guard Dash Harris and frontcourt players Middleton and David Loubeau. Sprinkle in touted newcomer Jamal Branch, and Texas A&M has the big bodies and the backcourt to make some noise. But Mark Turgeon was considered one of the better gameday coaches in the Big 12, even if he never did totally click with Aggie fans. Now Billy Kennedy will get a chance to try and take that next step.
3) What does it say about Baylor coach Scott Drew that his team has the most talent in the league, but is picked to finish third? The Bears have preseason Big 12 Player of the Year Perry Jones III, a rugged rebounder in Quincy Acy, length in J'mison Morgan and Anthony Jones and add Quincy Miller, who has drawn comparisons to Kevin Durant in some circles. That should be, by far, the best frontcourt in the league. Add in a backcourt of A.J. Walton, transfer Gary Franklin and freshman scorer Deuce Bello, and the Bears should be strong there, too. But last season fell short of expectations in Waco, and Drew will have to win the league with this group to catch back up.
4) Can Missouri win on the road? One of the underlying stories about the Tigers the past few years has been their utter inability to win on the road. Part of that likely had to do with the style the Tigers played. Now new coach Frank Haith will have to install his own system with a team built to run and press. Marcus Denmon is the best of the players on roster, though don't be surprised if Ricardo Ratliffe sees the biggest jump in production. Losing Laurence Bowers to an ACL injury is the kind of thing that could push the Tigers down further in the standings.
5) Just how good is Myck Kabongo? It's no secret that Texas coach Rick Barnes has had his best offenses when he's been given a point guard who can break down defenses and make plays. And in terms of pure talent in that area, Kabongo is the equal of former standouts T.J. Ford and D.J. Augustin. How well he teams with preseason All-Big 12'er J'Covan Brown could dictate how far this Texas team, one without an established low-post threat, can go.