With less than two months before the volleyball season is expected to begin, the Big 12 released its Preseason Poll.
Based off the poll, the Big 12 head coaches expect the Baylor Lady Bears and Texas Longhorns to fight for the top stop in the conference, the Iowa State Cyclones and Oklahoma Sooners to fight for third, the TCU Horned Frogs, Kansas Jayhawks and Texas Tech Lady Raiders to finish with conference records similar to one another and the Kansas State Wildcats and West Virginia Mountaineers to finish at the bottom.
Baylor and Texas are the front-runners in the Big 12
Last season, Baylor and Texas only lost once in conference play — to each other.
Texas has won 34 out of 36 conference games in the last two seasons and has the sixth-best incoming recruiting class in the NCAA, according to volleyballmag.com.
With a highly-ranked recruiting class and experience winning in the Big 12, Texas is the favorite to win the league in 2020 (Texas had 62 points and six first place votes, while Baylor had 59 points and three first place votes).
Baylor is closely behind Texas, as it made it to the 2019 NCAA Championship semifinals and has defending AVCA (American Volleyball Coaches Association) and Big 12 Player of the Year senior outside hitter Yossiana Pressley (who is picked to be Player of the Year again).
Pressley, along with senior setter (2019 Big 12 Setter of the Year) Hannah Sedwick and junior "opposite" (player who plays to the right of the setter) Marieke Van Der Mark are Baylor's three Preseason All-Big 12 selections, which is tied for the most selections along with Texas.
Junior middle blocker Brionne Butler, junior outside hitter Logan Eggleston and sophomore opposite Skylar Fields, are Texas' three players on the Preseason All-Big 12 Team.
Iowa State and Oklahoma expected to fight for third
Iowa State had just one more point (47) than Oklahoma (46) in the poll, which gave it third out of nine.
Last season, Oklahoma finished third in the league (19-9, 11-5 Big 12), while Iowa State finished fourth in the league (17-12, 8-8 Big 12).
Both teams have two players on the Preseason All-Big 12 Team. Iowa State has middle blocker Candelaria Herrera and right side player Eleanor Holthaus, while Oklahoma has junior outside hitter Sarah Sanders and 2019 Big 12 Libero of the Year Keyton Kinley.
In the season series last year, the two teams split the series.
Oklahoma had three players graduate in the spring, but still have 10 upperclassmen (three juniors and seven seniors) on this season's roster.
Iowa State only lost outside hitter Josie Herbst to graduation and have eight upperclassmen (four juniors, one redshirt junior and three seniors) this season.
The Cyclones had a hitting percentage of .237 last season, which was third in the Big 12, while the Sooners hit .196, which was seventh.
The Sooners held their opponents to a .176 hitting percentage last season, second-best in the Big 12 behind Baylor, while Iowa State finished fourth with a .208 opponent hitting percentage.
With both teams having plenty of experience, the same number of Preseason All-Big 12 selections and being two of the better defensive teams statistically in the Big 12 a season ago, it appears these two are on the same level.
Kansas, TCU and Texas Tech fight for fifth
In the media poll, these three teams nearly all had the same amount of votes.
Kansas and TCU tied for fifth in the poll with 29 points while Texas Tech had 26.
If one of these teams can break away from the other two and finish with a similar record to Iowa State or Oklahoma, like Texas Tech did last year, they could be an NCAA Tournament team.
Texas Tech finished fifth in the conference last season (17-13, 7-9 Big 12), but a weak nonconference schedule finish kept them out of the NCAA Tournament. Texas Tech had a rating percentage index (RPI) of 91, while Iowa State, who made the NCAA Tournament with one more win than Texas Tech, had an RPI of 46.
Part of the reason Texas Tech finished fifth is that they beat Iowa State twice last season. If the Lady Raiders have a stronger nonconference and maybe another win or two in conference play, that could propel them to the NCAA Tournament.
However, Kansas and TCU are picked to finish ahead of Texas Tech in the Big 12 this season.
Kansas finished sixth (9-17, 5-11 Big 12) in the conference last season. Kansas is still a young team, 11 out of the 16 players on its roster are either freshmen or sophomores.
With a young roster and no players on the Preseason All-Conference Team, the other eight Big 12 coaches aren't projecting Kansas to break in or fight for a top four spot in the conference this season.
TCU failed to meet expectations a season ago as they were picked to finish third in the Big 12 but finished seventh with a 4-12 Big 12 record.
They only lost Sarah Langs and Ashley Waggle to graduation, but still return four out of their five top scorers, so there is potential for an improvement in record from a season ago.
Kansas State and West Virginia round out the poll
Kansas State and West Virginia stand alone at the bottom of the poll.
The Big 12 coaches gave Kansas State 17 points and West Virginia nine points.
Kansas State struggled out of the gates in Big 12 play last season, losing its first six conference games but won four Big 12 matches before the season's end.
No Kansas State players made the Preseason All-Big 12 Team.
Two of West Virginia's three Big 12 wins last season came against Kansas State.
Senior middle blocker Briana Lynch is West Virginia's lone selection on the Preseason All-Big 12 Team.