The Big 12 may not be one of the biggest conferences in America, but it's undoubtedly the deepest.
Look no further than Day 1 of the conference tourney in Kansas City for proof. Featured on the first day of games—which is typically comprised of bottom dwellers with no chance of cracking the NCAA tournament—will be both Oklahoma State and Baylor, two squads that are essentially locks for the Big Dance.
You'd be hard-pressed to find more talented and more dangerous third- and fourth-worst seeds in any tournament setting. OSU is the No. 8 seed, but it is projected just two spots lower in the NCAA tourney by ESPN's Joe Lunardi. Similarly, Baylor is No. 7 in Kansas City but projected at No. 9 in the 68-team bracket.
ESPN's Myron Medcalf summed it up:
How good is the Big 12? Oklahoma State is the eight-seed in next week's conference tourney. Pokes could win it.— Myron Medcalf (@MedcalfByESPN) March 8, 2014
Benton Smith of KUSports.com gives us a look at the official bracket:
Seven of the 10 teams will likely be dancing on Selection Sunday, and eight squads could hoist the Big 12 tournament trophy without anyone batting an eye.
Let's take a look at everything you need to know for Wednesday's opening action in Kansas City.
Schedule and Viewing Info
|Game||Local Time (CDT)||Time (ET)||TV||Live Stream|
|(8) Oklahoma State vs. (9) Texas Tech||6 p.m.||7 p.m.||Big 12 Network||ESPN3|
|(7) Baylor vs. (10) TCU||8:30 p.m.||9:30 p.m.||Big 12 Network||ESPN3|
Oklahoma State vs. Texas Tech
As you may remember, the Red Raiders upset Oklahoma State in early February during the infamous game in which Marcus Smart decided to do his best Hulk Hogan impression on a fan. That loss was the Cowboys' fourth in a row, and Smart was hit with a three-game suspension that culminated in another trio of defeats for Travis Ford's squad.
They bounced back upon Smart's return, though, closing the season by winning four of five. That stretch included a win against conference champion Kansas and a near win at Hilton against Iowa State, who lost at home just once all year.
The Cowboys are better than their record indicates. They have a slew of offensive weapons in Smart, Markel Brown, Le'Bryan Nash and Phil Forte, but they quietly make their money on the other side of the court.
In conference play, they are fifth in points per possession (1.065) and second in points allowed per possession (1.012), per Basketball State. They force opponents into turnovers on 18 percent of their possessions (most in the conference) and then take advantage of their athletes and shooters once in transition.
After a recent victory over Kansas State, in which OSU held the Wildcats to just 0.934 points per possession, Ford talked about Smart's importance on the defensive end, via OKState.com:
You can't say enough about his effort. He is amazing defensively, because he can guard so many different positions and do it at a high level with great intensity. He soaks up the scouting report. He is really attentive to what we are doing defensively. What I loved about tonight and the Kansas game, is when he was struggling offensively, he was still getting after it on the defensive end. That's where we need to be.
Texas Tech turns the ball over a lot, and that will be its demise against a surging Oklahoma State squad.
Prediction: Oklahoma State 75, Texas Tech 62
Baylor vs. TCU
The Horned Frogs didn't win any Big 12 games this season, and you shouldn't expect that to change on Tuesday.
Baylor is hot. It won seven of eight to close the season, including a 33-point drubbing of TCU in Fort Worth. The Bears' interior prowess, which has been their strength all season, was evident in that one.
Led by Cory Jefferson, Royce O'Neale and Rico Gathers, Scott Drew's team pulled down 19 offensive rebounds. TCU, meanwhile, had just 18 total boards.
With Jefferson, Isaiah Austin, and tons of athleticism and length, Baylor rebounds and protects the rim extremely well against every team it faces. But against TCU, it's not even fair.
Throw in explosive guard Kenny Chery, who is averaging 17.7 points per contest over the last seven, and sharpshooter Brady Heslip on the outside, and the Horned Frogs have very little chance of staying close in this one.
Prediction: Baylor 80, TCU 61