While Kansas won its 10th consecutive Big 12 regular-season title this year, the conference tournament is wide open.
The Big 12 has been arguably the toughest conference in college basketball throughout the year thanks to its overall depth to give teams a serious battle almost every game. Jon Rothstein of CBS Sports agrees:
The Big 12 has clearly separated itself as the best conference in college basketball. League has eight legitimate teams. No nights off.— Jon Rothstein (@JonRothstein) February 2, 2014
Seven of the league's 10 teams are likely to get a bid to the NCAA tournament, while West Virginia could realistically make a run this weekend to make it eight.
As a result, fans should be ready for anything to happen in Kansas City. To make sure you do not miss a second of the action, here is a full look at the tournament's schedule and a preview for the top teams to watch.
Where: Sprint Center, Kansas City, Mo.
When: March 12-15
Live Stream: WatchESPN
|1||Wed, March 12||Oklahoma State (8) vs. Texas Tech (9)||7 p.m.||Big 12|
|2||Wed, March 12||Baylor (7) vs. TCU (10)||9:30 p.m.||Big 12|
|3||Thur, March 13||Iowa State (4) vs. Kansas State (5)||12:30 p.m.||ESPN2|
|4||Thur, March 13||Kansas (1) vs. Game 1 Winner||3 p.m.||ESPN2|
|5||Thur, March 13||Oklahoma (2) vs. Game 2 Winner||7 p.m.||Big 12|
|6||Thur, March 13||Texas (3) vs. West Virginia (6)||9:30 p.m.||Big 12|
|7||Fri, March 14||Game 3 Winner vs. Game 4 Winner||7 p.m.||ESPNU|
|8||Fri, March 14||Game 5 Winner vs. Game 6 Winner||9:30 p.m.||ESPNU|
|9||Sat, March 15||Big 12 Tournament Championship||9 p.m.||ESPN|
Teams to Watch
No. 1 Kansas
One of the top storylines in college basketball heading into the weekend is the injury of freshman center Joel Embiid. According to Gary Parrish of CBS Sports, the big-time interior defender will miss the entire Big 12 tournament and possibly some time in the NCAA tournament.
Interestingly, ESPN's Andy Katz reports that the NCAA selection committee will be monitoring the center's progress to decide a seed. Committee chair Ron Wellman explained:
I can assure you it will be a detailed discussion as to when he is going to be available, and we will be monitoring and communicating with Kansas throughout the week as to what his availability will be going forward.
Then again, Kansas can remove any debate over its seed by going out and having success without him in the conference tournament. Tarik Black will try to fill in alongside Perry Ellis, who has had some good games but is inconsistent.
Andrew Wiggins is the team's leading scorer and possible first overall pick in the upcoming NBA draft. He has a unique offensive skill set with off-the-charts athleticism that allowed him to score 41 points in his latest game against West Virginia.
On the other hand, David Ubben of Fox Sports Southwest points out that this shows how much the Jayhawks missed Embiid:
When Wiggins goes for 41 and you lose to an unlikely tourney team, you get a sense of how valuable Embiid is.— David Ubben (@davidubben) March 8, 2014
The draw to the finals is tough, but Kansas has as much talent as anyone in the country and remains the favorite to take home another conference title.
No. 4 Iowa State
Oklahoma has had a great season behind the tandem of Buddy Hield and Cameron Clark to get the No. 2 seed in the tournament, while Texas has utilized a strong defense to stand at No. 3 in the conference. Still, neither of these teams are as exciting to watch as Iowa State.
The Cyclones have one of the best scoring trios in the country with DeAndre Kane, Melvin Ejim and Georges Niang averaging 51.5 points per game. All three of them can score from the perimeter or in the paint and it makes it almost impossible for opponents to guard.
Ejim was named the conference's Player of the Year, something that was a surprise to Rothstein:
Surprised Melvin Ejim was voted Big 12 POY and not DeAndre Kane. Either way --- would you want to play Iowa State in March? Didn't think so.— Jon Rothstein (@JonRothstein) March 9, 2014
The fact remains that any of these three players can go off and help outscore virtually any team in the postseason. Although defense might be a problem, there are not too many opponents that will keep up on the scoreboard.
This alone will put Iowa State in contention for a Big 12 title as long as the shots continue to fall.
No. 8 Oklahoma State
This tournament features so many top teams that you almost expect the eventual winner to come from the bottom half of the standings. While Baylor is one of the squads that could make a run (and could use a win to ensure a spot in the Big Dance), Oklahoma State remains the most dangerous.
The Cowboys have had quite an adventurous season, starting 16-3 before dropping seven games in a row to fall out of the NCAA tournament picture. The worst part of the year featured leading scorer Marcus Smart shoving a fan in a loss against Texas Tech.
However, he returned to action after a suspension and helped Oklahoma State win four of its last five games. After his team's victory over then-No. 5 Kansas, the media seemed to have nothing by good things to say about Smart:
Marcus Smart is a good dude who made a mistake. Nice to see him have this moment tonight in Gallagher-Iba.— Gary Parrish (@GaryParrishCBS) March 2, 2014
Marcus Smart played his tail off—steals, boards,big 3 and a win…welcome back to the good side of the force— Doug Gottlieb (@GottliebShow) March 2, 2014
When composed, the point guard is one of the most complete players in the country who contributes on both ends of the court. With Markel Brown, Le'Bryan Nash and Phil Forte all performing at their peak ability, this is one of the best teams in the nation.
Even as a No. 8 seed in this tournament, the Pokes have the talent to run the table.
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