Among flurry of commitments and graduations, Texas improves while conference weakens

Dalton Phillips

The 2017 season ended in disappointment as the premier Big 12 teams were left watching the Final Four from their couches. Oklahoma and Texas saw unceremonious exits in the second and third rounds just before Baylor fell a game short of the Final Four for a fourth-consecutive year. 

As the conference begins rebuilding, the teams within it will face some challenges. All three programs lost key starters, leaving the top of the conference up for grabs next season. 

Texas will miss the presence and athleticism of its two seniors, Kelsey Lang and Brianna Taylor. Lang finished sixth all-time in school history in blocks and provided the defensive anchor to complement the run-and-gun style of her backcourt teammate, freshman Joyner Holmes. But the Longhorns, who averaged 74 points per game during conference play, retain their top-three offensive producers, including Holmes. Texas also boasts the third-best draft class in the nation, according to ESPN.

Chasity Patterson and Rellah Boothe are the top point guard and forward of the class of 2017. The star duo made headlines in March by winning the McDonald’s All-American Game Three-Point Contest and the McDonald’s All-American Game MVP, respectively. 

Baylor isn’t starting from scratch, but it’s close. The team lost three of its top-four scorers, but the Lady Bears will likely build around 6-foot-7-inch sophomore center Kalani Brown. The post averaged 15.4 points, 8.2 rebounds and 2.0 blocks last year.

The Lady Bears will receive a boost from the seventh-best draft class in the nation as they look to fill the gaps in their offense. Deauzya Richards and Alexis Morris are both five-star commits, entering as the No. 4 guard and No. 6 point guard, respectively. The pair, along with two four-star guard commits in Cara Ursin and Trinity Oliver, give Baylor a wealth of shooters and playmakers. 

Oklahoma finds itself in a similar situation. The team is graduating both of its starting guards and its best two scorers in Peyton Little and Maddie Manning. Like Baylor, next season will likely be built around the team’s talented big. The Sooners may have the most skilled post player in the Big 12 conference in Vionise Pierre-Louis, who is the reigning Big 12 Sixth Man of the Year. Pierre-Louis lit up Texas for 21 points on 8-12 shooting in the teams’ final game. Her dazzling array of post moves ought to shoulder the bulk of the offensive load for the Sooners in the upcoming season.

As teams throughout the conference begin rebuilding, look for these three programs to make minor adjustments before the new season arrives. Of the three programs, Texas boasts the strongest draft class and fewest roster changes. Despite a historic season of conference play, including a record 19-straight victories, Texas is poised to enter the 2017–2018 campaign stronger than the year before.