Big 12 Conference Tournament Preview
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The Big 12 Conference came into the season projected to be the best league in the country, and it lived up to all its expectations – although some of its teams failed to justify the individual hype. Kansas ran away with the league title, starting 13-0 before falling to Oklahoma State on February 27, after the league was already out of reach. Behind the Jayhawks were three times tied at 11-5: Kansas State, Baylor and Texas A&M. Missouri was 10-6, while Texas and Oklahoma State were 9-7. All seven teams are locks for the NCAA Tournament.
Favorite: Kansas was the preseason No. 1 team by most publications, and the Jayhawks are still the favorite to cut down the nets in Indianapolis. They lost just twice all season, on the road at Tennessee and Oklahoma State. Kansas is fantastic on both sides of the ball, with the ability to score inside and outside, while also defending two-pointers better than anyone in the country. Sherron Collins is an All-American, while Cole Aldrich is one of the top centers in the country. Xavier Henry and Marcus Morris have stepped up to become viable offensive options, and Tyshawn Taylor produces a little of everything. This team has stars, role players, X-factors (in Henry’s case, literally) – everything necessary to win it all.
Contenders: Kansas State looked like the main threat to Kansas, but the Wildcats proceeded to get blown out in Lawrence and then lost at home to Iowa State in the season finale. KSU attacks the basket as well as anyone in the country, and also forces turnovers. Denis Clemente and Jacob Pullen form an excellent backcourt duo, but the Wildcats will need more consistent inside production. Baylor has been steadily rising up the NCAA Tournament charts over the past couple of months. The Bears have won seven of their last eight, and haven’t lost a game by more than seven points this season. They are phenomenal offensively, with the ability to score from anywhere. Defensively, they guard the rim and lead the nation in blocked shots percentage. Tweety Carter and LaceDarius Dunn are one of the best backcourts in the country, and Ekpe Udoh has made an enormous impact down low. Texas A&M has won eight of 10, and has proven it can hang with anyone in the league. The Aggies are very solid defensively, and also get to the charity stripe as well as any team in the country. Donald Sloan shoulders the load offensively, while Bryan Davis is a double-double threat down low. Texas still has all the talent in the world, but the Longhorns turn the ball over too much and don’t have enough playmakers on the perimeter. Damion James can only carry them so far.
Sleeper: The top seven teams are locks for the Big Dance, not leaving too much room for a sleeper. However, Colorado did win four of its last six games to end the season and was surprisingly competitive against some of the top teams in the league. The Buffaloes are very efficient offensively and can really shoot the ball from the perimeter. The guard duo of Cory Higgins and Alec Burks is one of the highest-scoring backcourts in the Big 12. Texas Tech and its duo of Mike Singletary and John Roberson should not be completely overlooked, either. These two teams do face-off in the 8-9 game on Wednesday.
Prediction: This should be one of the more competitive conference tournaments in the country, although there is a clear favorite in Kansas. The league is very deep and each of the top seven teams have the ability to win at least one game in the NCAA Tournament. With that said, it might be tough for anyone to win four games in four days, essentially eliminating Missouri, Texas and Oklahoma State – although neither of those teams would win it anyway. I think Kansas will emerge on one side of the bracket, while the other side will be interesting. Kansas State is struggling right now, while Baylor is playing some of its basketball. The Bears advance before falling to the Jayhawks in the title game. The tournament is in Kansas City, and Kansas has the defense to slow down Baylor.
No. 8 Colorado over No. 9 Texas Tech
No. 5 Missouri over No. 12 Nebraska
No. 7 Oklahoma State over No. 10 Oklahoma
No. 6 Texas over No. 11 Iowa State
No. 1 Kansas over No. 8 Colorado
No. 5 Missouri over No. 4 Texas A&M
No. 2 Kansas State over No. 7 Oklahoma State
No. 3 Baylor over No. 6 Texas
No. 1 Kansas over No. 5 Missouri
No. 3 Baylor over No. 2 Kansas State
No. 1 Kansas over No. 3 Baylor