With Smart back, and Markel Brown and Le'Bryan Nash staying as well, Oklahoma State returns its top six scorers next season.
That could make the Cowboys a favorite to end the Kansas stranglehold atop the Big 12 standings. Or does it?
Kansas had four senior starters last season and star freshman Ben McLemore is a likely top pick Thursday night after declaring for the NBA draft. But the Jayhawks have another talented class of newcomers, headed by 6-foot-7 superstar recruit Andrew Wiggins.
Barnes said Oklahoma State had a good season and that with Smart staying, "you would naturally expect the progression there. But you can't out Kansas from the fact the caliber of player they have in Wiggins and what they were able to put together. I don't know what order necessarily, but I think those two teams belong at the top.''
Texas missed the NCAA tournament for the first time in 15 seasons, though Barnes (in 2003), Huggins (2010) and Self (2008, 2012) are the only Big 12 coaches to take their current teams to the NCAA Final Four. Self led the Jayhawks to the 2008 national championship, 10 years after Smith's title at Kentucky.
Smith, who spent the past six seasons at Minnesota, was fired three months ago right after the Golden Gophers won a game in the NCAA tournament. He has quite a task at Texas Tech, which hasn't been to the NCAA tournament since 2007 and is on its fourth coach in four seasons.
"I'm always concerned about players and how they're adjusting. So far, they've done a great job,'' Smith said. "My expectations are that we'll be a very competitive team. We have 10 returning players. That's a good thing, but sometimes it's hard to change. Obviously there are a lot of great players, a lot of good teams and a lot of excellent coaches in the Big 12. We know we have our work cut out for us. First, we want to get competitive in this league, and then institute a winning attitude and a winning atmosphere here.''