The eve of the Big 12 Championship in Oklahoma City is upon us. While conference standings provide a barometer of regular season success, the real question is which teams are going to perform well in the post-season?
Let’s examine the Big 12 teams, their triumphs and possible pitfalls as they head into the madness that is March.
1. Kansas (25-6, 14-2 Big 12)
Explanation: The Jayhawks starting lineup this season has mostly consisted of a pair of freshmen, two sophomores and junior Sherron Collins—the only major contributor back from last season’s national championship team.
Kansas’ only eyebrow raising loss was to lowly Texas Tech on March 4, but 10 of its 14 conference victories were by 10 points or more. Big 12 Coach of the Year Bill Self might have four other regular season conference titles, but this season’s outright championship is his most impressive.
2. Oklahoma (27-4, 13-3 Big 12)
Explanation: No player has meant more to his team this season than Blake Griffin. The evidence is in the two games he missed due to a concussion, both of which resulted in losses to Texas and Kansas.
As Griffin goes, so do the Sooners. Anything short of spectacular play from the Big 12 Player of the Year could mean an early exit from the NCAA Tournament.
3. Texas A&M (23-8, 9-7 Big 12)
Explanation: It’s not often that one game defines a team’s season, but the Aggies annihilation of 12th-ranked Missouri sent its NCAA Tournament chances soaring. Texas A&M started out 3-7 in conference play, but has won six straight and is peaking at the right time.
4. Missouri (25-6, 12-4)
Explanation: The Tigers have been another Big 12 surprise this season, but in wake of its loss to Texas A&M (see above), Mizzou’s roar through the conference schedule has been suddenly reduced to a whimper.
All six of the Tigers losses have come on the road or on a neutral court—a locale Missouri will be experiencing the remainder of this season. The best thing they can do is hope the Aggies win its first round game, setting up a rematch with Texas A&M. That could give the Tigers revenge and road confidence.
5. Oklahoma State (20-10, 9-7 Big 12)
Explanation: Travis Ford’s first season as head coach has had its periods of peaks and valleys. At one point, the Cowboys lost six of eight conference games. OSU has since surged, winning six of its last seven.
During that stretch, sophomore guard James Anderson has scored 30 or more points in two games and averaged 24 points. Ford has done a remarkable job this year and a first-round win over Iowa State should secure the Pokes its first NCAA Tournament bid in four years.
6. Texas (20-10, 9-7 Big 12)
Explanation: The Longhorns played a tough non-conference schedule and won 11 of its first 14 games. Texas played just well enough in the Big 12 (9-7) and with a first-round win over 12-seed Colorado, it will probably secure its bid to the big dance.
7. Kansas State (21-10, 9-7 Big 12)
Explanation: By virtue of a tie-breaker, the Wildcats secured the fourth-seed and an all-important first-round bye in the Big 12 Championship. K-State has played slightly better than the middle-of-the-pack Big 12 teams this season, with wins against Missouri, Texas and Texas A&M.
A second-round match-up with the Longhorns is likely and a win could be a proving point for the NCAA Tournament committee.
8. Nebraska (18-11, 8-8 Big 12)
Explanation: The Cornhuskers draw Baylor in the first round of the Big 12 Championship, a team they defeated by three points last Saturday. The winner gets top seed Kansas, who Nebraska played close with in last season’s conference tournament.
9. Baylor (17-11, 5-11 Big 12)
Explanation: Baylor has gone from being last year’s feel good story to being back in the basement of the Big 12. The Bears returned its top three scorers from their 2007-08 NCAA Tournament team, but have only managed five conference wins and had an extremely weak non-conference schedule.
10. Texas Tech
Explanation: Its been a tough first full season for Red Raiders head coach Pat Knight. The biggest surprise and point of pride came just a few days ago when Texas Tech took down conference champion Kansas.
It will be hard for them to beat red-hot Texas A&M in the opening round, though the Red Raiders lost by less than 10 points both times the two teams met during the regular season.
11. Iowa State (15-16, 4-12 Big 12)
Explanation: The Cyclones had zero impressive wins in conference play (Baylor, Colorado, Nebraska, Texas Tech) and dropped early season games against Hawaii, Drake and South Dakota State. The lone bright spot has been All-Big 12 first team member Craig Brackens, who averaged 20 points and nine rebounds.
12. Colorado (9-21, 1-15 Big 12)
Explanation: One win in the Big 12, nine wins overall. In these tough economic times, canceling the trip to Oklahoma City might have saved the athletic department a few bucks.