Many are calling the Big 12 the best conference in college basketball this year. That should make the Big 12 tournament must-watch television as we prepare for the madness. Here’s all the information you need to know as you bone up on your college basketball knowledge and get ready to tear up your brackets in exasperation.
Before we get to the tournament, here’s how the Big 12 standings shook out when the season ended:
|Seed||Team||Conference Record||Overall Record|
Now to the tournament! Let’s start with the schedule and where you can watch each game:
|Date and Time (All times Eastern)||Game||Matchup||TV|
|Wednesday, March 12|
|7 p.m.||1||Oklahoma State vs. Texas Tech||ESPN3|
|9:30 p.m.||2||Baylor vs. TCU||ESPN3|
|Thursday, March 13|
|12:30 p.m.||3||Iowa State vs. Kansas State||ESPN2|
|3 p.m.||4||Kansas vs. Oklahoma State/Texas Tech||ESPN2|
|7 p.m.||5||Oklahoma vs. Baylor/TCU||ESPN3|
|9:30 p.m.||6||Texas vs. West Virginia||ESPN3|
|Friday, March 14|
|7 p.m.||7||Winner of Game 3 vs. Winner of Game 4||ESPN3 or ESPNU|
|9:30 p.m.||8||Winner of Game 5 vs. Winner of Game 6||ESPN3 or ESPNU|
|Saturday, March 15|
|9:30 p.m.||Final||Winner of Game 7 vs. Winner of Game 8||ESPN|
Note: You can view the tournament bracket on the Big 12 website.
Favorite: Kansas Jayhawks
When was the last time Bill Self’s team wasn’t the favorite to win the Big 12 tournament? A long time ago. The Jayhawks have been the conference’s regular-season champion in every year since 2005 and, to nobody’s surprise, have been one of the best teams in the country.
The biggest names on the squad are two freshmen you may have heard of: Andrew Wiggins and Joel Embiid.
Both project to be superstars at the NBA level, but they are both raw and have shown inconsistency playing for Coach Self. With the team so reliant on the freshmen, it will be fascinating to see how they handle the pressure of a single-game elimination tournament.
A bigger concern for Kansas has to be Embiid’s health. The Cameroonian 7-footer missed the last two regular-season games due to a back injury, but Coach Self is optimistic according to Jesse Newell of The Topeka Capital-Journal:
Hopefully, we’ll get real positive news. I’m hopeful that he can be back out on the practice floor very, very soon, but we’re not going to put him out there just because he feels better. We’re going to put him out there because the doctor says it’s time for him to get back out there. Hopefully, it’ll be real soon. If not, we’ll sit him a little longer. But I still don’t think it’s going to affect the NCAA Tournament in any way.
The Jayhawks’ chances of winning the tournament take a hit without Embiid, but they are by no means ruled out if Embiid misses the entire tournament. This Jayhawks team has plenty of depth, and backup center Tarik Black would start for most other college teams.
Sleeper to Watch: Oklahoma State
Star point guard Marcus Smart didn’t come back for his sophomore year to finish eighth in the Big 12, but that’s how it all played out.
Now, Smart and the Cowboys have a chance to rewrite their season and finish with a bang. Judging from the way they’ve rebounded from a losing streak and Smart’s three-game suspension, they may just accomplish that feat.
There is no denying the talent on head coach Travis Ford’s team, with players like Markel Brown, LeBryan Nash and Phil Forte making Oklahoma State so much more than “The Marcus Smart Show.”
That depth and the ability of all those players to score in bunches makes this a dangerous team, but its fate ultimately rests on the broad shoulders of Smart.
That may not be a bad thing considering how Smart has returned with a vengeance:
|Per-Game Stats||Before Suspension||After Suspension|
The way Smart is playing—and more importantly, the way he has this team running—it wouldn’t be at all surprising to see the Cowboys turn it on and make a run all the way to the conference championship.
The Cowboys have the perimeter talent to go the distance, but they do have a fairly glaring weakness, as noted by John Helsley of NewsOK.com: "The Cowboys still have some issues when it comes to size, and a team that is talented and physical on the front line would be a matchup problem—but there are few of those."
In the end, Oklahoma State will go as Smart goes.
Prediction: Kansas Wins the Big 12 Crown
Kansas will be looking to win the Big 12 tournament for the fourth time in five years, and right now you have to assume that the Jayhawks will. Andrew Wiggins has come on really strong, ending his regular season with a career-high 41 points against West Virginia.
Furthermore, there is enough veteran leadership on this team with the likes of Perry Ellis and Naadir Tharpe knowing how to handle the bright lights.
Nevertheless, the biggest factor working in the Jayhawks’ favor is their head coach. Kansas is too talented and too well coached to not take home the trophy this year as it prepares for a long run in the NCAA tournament.
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