Big 12 Tournament 2017: Preview, Predictions and Players to Watch

Paul KasabianSenior ContributorMarch 5, 2017

LAWRENCE, KS - JANUARY 14:  Jawun Evans #1 of the Oklahoma State Cowboys controls the ball during the game against the Kansas Jayhawks at Allen Fieldhouse on January 14, 2017 in Lawrence, Kansas.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Jamie Squire/Getty Images

This year, it's Kansas and then everyone else in the Big 12.

The Jayhawks rolled through the Big 12 schedule with a 16-2 conference record, which was good enough for their 13th straight regular-season title (either shared or outright).

KU is in line for a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament, but can anyone stop the Jayhawks in the Big 12 tournament?

Three players this season found much success against KU. Two of those performances led to Kansas' two conference losses.

Here's a look at those three, alongside the Big 12 tournament schedule and a quick preview and prediction.

Big 12 Tournament Schedule

DateGameRoundMatchupTimeTV
Wednesday, March 81First RoundNo. 8 TCU vs. No. 9 Oklahoma7 p.m.ESPNU
Wednesday, March 82First RoundNo. 7 Texas Tech vs. No. 10 Texas9 p.m.ESPNU
Thursday, March 93QuarterfinalsNo. 4 Iowa State vs. No. 5 Oklahoma State12:30 p.m.ESPN2
Thursday, March 94QuarterfinalsNo. 1 Kansas vs. Game 1 winner2:30 p.m.ESPN2
Thursday, March 95QuarterfinalsNo. 2 West Virginia vs. Game 2 winner7 p.m.ESPNU
Thursday, March 96QuarterfinalsNo. 3 Baylor vs. No. 6 Kansas State9 p.m.ESPNU
Friday, March 107SemifinalsGame 3 winner vs. Game 4 winner7 p.m.ESPN or ESPN2
Friday, March 108SemifinalsGame 5 winner vs. Game 6 winner9 p.m.ESPN or ESPN2
Saturday, March 119FinalsGame 7 winner vs. Game 8 winner6 p.m.ESPN

Information via big12sports.com. All times ET. All games will be played at the Sprint Center in Kansas City.

Players to Watch

Jawun Evans, G, Oklahoma State

The 6'1" sophomore point guard is enjoying a breakout season in his second year in Stillwater, averaging 18.7 points and 6.3 assists per game for the Cowboys.

Against Kansas on Saturday, Evans registered 22 points and 15 assists in a 90-85 loss, dazzling fans in his battle with Kansas senior guard Frank Mason III, who nearly put up a triple-double with 27 points, nine dimes and eight boards.

After watching Evans play on Saturday, Yahoo Sports writer Brad Evans made a bold claim:

It's easy to understand where Brad Evans is coming from, considering that he just watched Jawun Evans do things like this:

Evans will be fun to watch in the postseason. The problem the Cowboys have, however, is that they aren't a good defensive team, ranking 123rd in defensive efficiency, per the Pomeroy College Basketball Rankings. They do ranked second in offensive efficiency, but the defense has to improve for the Cowboys to go deep in March.

Deonte Burton, G, Iowa State

Senior guard Deonte Burton was the primary reason why Kansas' 54-game win streak at Allen Fieldhouse was snapped, as he dropped 29 points in addition to eight rebounds, six steals and one block in a 92-89 overtime victory.

Iowa State Associate Director of Athletic Communications Matt Shoultz posted this statistic about Burton on March 1:

Burton isn't a flash in the pan. He led the Cyclones to a six-game win streak before they lost to West Virginia to close the regular season.

Iowa State ranks 23rd overall in the Pomeroy rankings. Don't sleep on Burton and the Cyclones come tourney time.

Jevon Carter, G, West Virginia

The biggest pest in men's college basketball plays for the Mountaineers.

KU knows him well, as Carter nearly picked up a triple-double (nine points, eight rebounds, nine assists) in the Mountaineers' 85-69 win over the Jayhawks in Morgantown. That loss marked the only time KU has lost in regulation this year (the other two losses were in overtime, to ISU and Indiana).

Carter leads the Big 12 in steals with 2.7 per game and averages 12.9 points, five rebounds and four assists for the season. As his numbers suggest, he's one of the most tenacious players in the nation. College basketball analyst Jon Rothstein offered more commentary on Carter:

Led by Carter, WVU is fifth in defensive efficiency, per the Pomeroy rankings, and third overall. The Mountaineers should be considered a dark horse not only for the Final Four but the national championship as well.

Prediction

Don't expect any upsets. The Big 12 is top-heavy this year—five teams rank in the top 25 in the Sagarin ratings.

As for the title winner, it's hard to pick anyone but Kansas to win the Big 12 Championship, in large part because the tournament is taking place in Kansas City, which is a mere 45 minutes away from the KU campus in Lawrence. KU fans will likely make the Sprint Center feel like the Allen Fieldhouse.

Still, West Virginia is a legitimate national title contender. Had they not blown a 14-point lead with under three minutes left in Lawrence, the Mountaineers would have swept KU, the No. 1 team in the Associated Press poll.

WVU should defeat the Texas Tech/Texas winner and then its semifinal opponent (likely Baylor) before facing Kansas in a tough environment, but KU should win the title in front of a partial crowd.

Related

    5 Coaching Hires That Will Have the Biggest Impacts

    College Basketball logo
    College Basketball

    5 Coaching Hires That Will Have the Biggest Impacts

    NCAA.com
    via NCAA.com

    Ogunbowale Buzzer-Beater Wins ESPY for Play of the Year

    College Basketball logo
    College Basketball

    Ogunbowale Buzzer-Beater Wins ESPY for Play of the Year

    Kyle Newport
    via Bleacher Report

    John Beilein Signs Rollover Contract Extension

    College Basketball logo
    College Basketball

    John Beilein Signs Rollover Contract Extension

    Dylan Burkhardt
    via UM Hoops.com

    NCAA Announces Final Four Sites Through 2026

    College Basketball logo
    College Basketball

    NCAA Announces Final Four Sites Through 2026

    Rob Goldberg
    via Bleacher Report