Kansas State University

Rules say Bill Self can't vote for KU, so here's his Big 12 first-place pick

Kansas Jayhawks head coach Bill Self encouraged his team from the bench in the second half during the University of Kansas and Villanova University NCAA Final Four game on Saturday, March 31, 2018, in San Antonio, Texas.
Kansas Jayhawks head coach Bill Self encouraged his team from the bench in the second half during the University of Kansas and Villanova University NCAA Final Four game on Saturday, March 31, 2018, in San Antonio, Texas.

Which Big 12 men's basketball team will pose the biggest challenge to Kansas as the Jayhawks seek their 15th consecutive conference championship next season?

KU coach Bill Self already knows the answer: Kansas State.

"K-State could be picked to win it," Self told Andy Katz on his latest March Madness 365 podcast. "I'll definitely pick them first in my preseason poll."

Big 12 coaches are not allowed to vote for their own team in the poll.

The Wildcats have not received a first-place vote in the Big 12's preseason poll since 2010, when they were picked to win the league with Jacob Pullen and Curtis Kelly coming back as seniors. But K-State should receive preseason hype this year, as Bruce Weber's team expects to return its entire starting lineup after winning 25 games and advancing to the Elite Eight.

The Kansas State Wildcats celebrated after reaching the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament with a 61-58 victory over Kentucky on March 22, 2018 in Atlanta. K-State will play Loyola-Chicago for a trip to the Final Four.

With all-conference selections Barry Brown and Dean Wade expected to return, the Wildcats have been a popular pick in various expert preseason top 25 polls.

K-State finished fourth in the Big 12 last season with a 10-8 conference record, three games back of Kansas, which went 13-5.

In addition to K-State, Self said fans should keep an eye on Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, TCU, West Virginia and Iowa State.

"From an appearance standpoint, they may have been a little down last year," Self said of the Cyclones, "but they have a great recruiting class."

Katz suggested next year could be difficult for KU to win another league championship.

"They all are," Self said. "The league is great, as you know. I really feel like this past year was probably about as challenged as we have ever been, and we had some things fall for us late. ... It will be hard to win, but it is hard every year."

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