Big 12 Tournament 2013: Underrated Players to Watch for in Kansas City

Patrick ClarkeCorrespondent IMarch 14, 2013

Mar 02, 2013; Waco, TX, USA; Kansas State Wildcats guard Angel Rodriguez (13) dribbles against Baylor Bears guard A.J. Walton (22) during the game at the Ferrell Center. Kansas State won 64-61. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Championship week is in full swing as all of the major conference tournaments have tipped off this March, including the 2013 Big 12 Tournament in Kansas City.

With reigning champion Missouri now in the SEC, we are guaranteed to have a new Big 12 Tournament champion crowned this weekend.

The favorite is Kansas, a team that nearly won the NCAA tournament 11 months ago in New Orleans. But fellow top seeds Kansas State and Oklahoma State are set to challenge the Jayhawks for Big 12 supremacy.

Here, we'll take a closer look at some underrated players on contending teams who fans should be watching carefully in Kansas City this weekend. 


Travis Releford, Kansas

Kansas senior Travis Releford played an underrated but critical role for the Jayhawks a year ago when he helped lead Kansas to the 2012 National Championship Game.

Again in 2013, Releford is flying under the radar but making big-time contributions for the Jayhawks.

The 6'6" guard is averaging just under 12 points per game, but shooting nearly 58 percent from the field, which ranks third in the Big 12 this season. He's also hitting 44 percent of his three-point attempts in 2012-13.

Releford isn't a phenomenal rebounder or shot-blocker, but he does seem to almost always make the right play on defense. He's averaging 1.2 steals per game this season and can defend opposing players without fouling too often.

A Kansas City native, look for Releford's senior leadership to propel Kansas in Missouri this weekend.


Angel Rodriguez, Kansas State

Sophomore guard Angel Rodriguez has improved considerably in his second season with Kansas State, averaging 11.5 points and 5.5 assists per game this season.

Although the Puerto Rico native has struggled shooting the ball this season, hitting just 37 percent from the field, he's been one of the conference's top playmakers with the ball in his hands. He ranks second in the Big 12 in assists per game and in assist-turnover ratio (2.3).

Rodriguez has also made an impact for the Wildcats on defense and at the foul line, where he's averaging 1.5 steals per game (fifth best in Big 12) and connecting on 83 percent (fourth best in Big 12) of his free throws. 

If the second-seeded Wildcats are going to reach Saturday's tournament final and ultimately cut down the nets as Big 12 champions in 2013, Rodriguez will have to continue to star as an offensive playmaker this March.


Michael Cobbins, Oklahoma State

Oklahoma State sophomore forward Michael Cobbins doesn't get the love that fellow teammates Marcus Smart and Le'Bryan Nash often do, but the argument can be made that he has been just as crucial to Oklahoma State's success this season.

A 6'8", 220-pound forward, Cobbins has been providing a huge lift for Travis Ford's squad on the boards, where he leads the team with 6.2 rebounds per game.

In addition to starring as one of the Big 12's best rebounders, Cobbins is tremendously efficient on offense. He's shooting better than 55 percent from the field in 2012-13 and is also connecting on 75 percent of his free throws. 

On defense, Cobbins can change a game with his ability to stuff shots in the paint. He ranks fifth in the Big 12 Conference with 1.5 blocked shots per game. Look for him to make an impact for the Cowboys on the interior this weekend in Kansas City.


2013 Big 12 Tournament Bracket


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