The Big 12 is a top-heavy conference this year, as five teams rank inside the top 25 of the Sagarin ratings right now: West Virginia (third), Kansas (sixth), Baylor (13th), Iowa State (18th) and Oklahoma State (22nd).
The odds (see below) paint a similar picture, as those five teams each have 10-1 odds or better to win the conference tournament.
Games between those schools have been some of the most entertaining of the year, including Iowa State's 92-89 overtime win over Kansas in the Allen Fieldhouse and Kansas' 84-80 comeback victory over West Virginia.
Therefore, the Big 12 tournament will likely provide the highest entertainment value this week when the semifinal and final rounds take place.
Here's a look at the schedule, the bracket, the latest odds and a quick preview and prediction.
Big 12 Tournament Schedule
|Wednesday, March 8||1||First Round||No. 8 TCU vs. No. 9 Oklahoma||7 p.m.||ESPNU|
|Wednesday, March 8||2||First Round||No. 7 Texas Tech vs. No. 10 Texas||9 p.m.||ESPNU|
|Thursday, March 9||3||Quarterfinals||No. 4 Iowa State vs. No. 5 Oklahoma State||12:30 p.m.||ESPN2|
|Thursday, March 9||4||Quarterfinals||No. 1 Kansas vs. Game 1 winner||2:30 p.m.||ESPN2|
|Thursday, March 9||5||Quarterfinals||No. 2 West Virginia vs. Game 2 winner||7 p.m.||ESPNU|
|Thursday, March 9||6||Quarterfinals||No. 3 Baylor vs. No. 6 Kansas State||9 p.m.||ESPNU|
|Friday, March 10||7||Semifinals||Game 3 winner vs. Game 4 winner||7 p.m.||ESPN or ESPN2|
|Friday, March 10||8||Semifinals||Game 5 winner vs. Game 6 winner||9 p.m.||ESPN or ESPN2|
|Saturday, March 11||9||Finals||Game 7 winner vs. Game 8 winner||6 p.m.||ESPN|
Information via Big12sports.com. All times ET. All games will be played at the Sprint Center in Kansas City.
Big 12 Tournament Bracket
Big 12 Championship
Odds as of March 6 at OddsShark.
Kansas is firing on all cylinders right now, winning eight straight games to punctuate a 28-3 regular-season mark. In fact, it has only lost one game in regulation (to West Virginia) as the other two defeats were in overtime (to ISU and Indiana).
KU also had one of the most impressive wins any team registered this season, taking down Kentucky, 79-73 in Rupp Arena.
Senior point guard Frank Mason III and freshman phenom Josh Jackson, who almost certainly will be a top-five pick in this year's NBA draft, lead the team and form the top tag team duo in the nation, with all due respect to Malik Monk and De'Aaron Fox in Kentucky, Josh Hart and Kris Jenkins in Villanova and others.
Combined, they average 36.9 points, 11.4 rebounds, 8.2 assists and three steals per game. Mason also almost never leaves the floor, as he stays there for over 36 minutes per night.
Kansas' problem? It doesn't have a defense on the level of other elite teams this season. The Jayhawks rank 26th in defensive efficiency, per the Ken Pomeroy rankings, which is the worst mark of any team sitting in the top 10 overall.
Defense isn't a problem for West Virginia or Baylor, the two teams with the best chance to unseat Kansas as the Big 12 champion.
West Virginia junior point guard Jevon Carter is seventh in the nation (and first in the Big 12) in steals with 2.7 per game. As a team, the Mountaineers lead the nation with 10.9, one more than any other team. They also rank fifth in adjusted defensive efficiency in the Pomeroy rankings.
Meanwhile, Baylor, who didn't even receive a vote in the preseason Associated Press poll, is 10th in defensive efficiency, led by 6'9" junior forward Johnathan Motley, who is averaging a double-double this season (17.5 points and 10 boards per game).
The last two contenders for the Big 12 title are Iowa State, who beat Kansas earlier this season, and Oklahoma State, which nearly did so on Saturday, losing 94-90 despite 22 points and 15 assists from junior guard Jawun Evans.
The Cyclones averages 80 points per game, and four players score between 12 and 16 points per game, led by senior guard Monte Morris' 16.2.
OK State is No. 1 in offensive efficiency but struggles on the other end (123rd). Evans has been fantastic this year in leading the Cowboys to a 20-11 overall record, averaging 18.7 points and 6.3 assists per game.
With all due respect to Baylor, ISU and OSU, Kansas and West Virginia are a cut above the rest this season. WVU's defense is one of the best in the nation, and Kansas has a little of everything (elite NBA-level talent, senior leadership, great coaching, etc.).
These two should meet in the Big 12 title for the rubber match. Give the edge to Kansas to take that one and win its eight Big 12 tournament in 12 years, in part because they are playing in Kansas City, which is only a 45-minute drive from Lawrence. Therefore, the KU fans will make the Sprint Center feel like the Allen Fieldhouse.