Big 12 Tournament 2021: Schedule and Conference Bracket Predictions

Zach Buckley@@ZachBuckleyNBANational NBA Featured ColumnistMarch 5, 2021

Big 12 Tournament 2021: Schedule and Conference Bracket Predictions

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    Jerry Larson/Associated Press

    If you wanted to argue the Big 12 was the best conference in men's college basketball this season, you could do it.

    You might not be correct—the Big 10 is absurdly loaded—but you wouldn't be laughed out of the room.

    So, when the conference links up at Kansas City's T-Mobile Center next week for its annual tournament, you'll probably want to find the best spot on your couch and keep a cold beverage (or beverages, rather) close by.

    There will be tremendous individual talents and some powerhouse programs on show; the basketball should be brilliant; and the competition level should be extraordinary, particularly in the latter rounds.

    To help build up this warranted excitement, let's lay out the upcoming schedule, examine the current standings and use all the available data to predict how this four-day tournament might play out.

Tournament Schedule

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    Kathy Batten/Associated Press

    Schedule (Game Times TBD)

    First Round

    Wednesday, March 10

    No. 8 seed vs. No. 9 seed

    No. 7 seed vs. No. 10 seed


    Thursday, March 11

    No. 1 seed vs. 8/9 winner

    No. 4 seed vs. No. 5 seed

    No. 2 seed vs. 7/10 winner

    No. 3 seed vs. No. 6 seed


    Friday, March 12


    Saturday, March 13

Latest Standings

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    Charlie Neibergall/Associated Press

    No. 3 Baylor Bears 12-1 (20-1 overall)

    No. 6 West Virginia Mountaineers 11-5 (18-7)

    No. 13 Kansas Jayhawks 12-6 (19-8)

    No. 15 Texas Longhorns 10-6 (16-7)

    No. 17 Oklahoma State Cowboys 10-7 (17-7)

    No. 18 Texas Tech Red Raiders 9-7 (17-8)

    No. 16 Oklahoma Sooners 9-8 (14-9)

    TCU Horned Frogs 5-10 (12-12)

    Kansas State Wildcats 3-14 (7-19)

    Iowa State Cyclones 0-17 (2-20)

Bracket Predictions

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    Jerry Larson/Associated Press

    This tournament might produce several surprises, but don't look for any internet-breaking shocks. In other words, all apologies to fans of the Cyclones, Horned Frogs and Wildcats, but your school's stay in Kansas City will be swift.

    Trim down to the top seven, and that's where things get interesting. All seven have top-20 national rankings—see what I was saying about the best-conference-in-the-country argument?—and they've all basically beaten up on each other.

    Except for the Bears. No one has really bothered the Bears.

    Sure, the Jayhawks sniped them last Saturday to remove them from the unbeaten ranks, but that was only Baylor's second game in nearly a month due to pandemic-related postponements and cancellations.

    "We had three weeks where they got worse and they had three weeks where they got better," Baylor coach Scott Drew told reporters afterward. "Even Superman has kryptonite and I guess COVID protocols are ours."

    The Bears have played two more contests since. They outlasted the Mountaineers in overtime in West Virginia, then returned home to beat a good Oklahoma State squad by double digits.

    The Bears are back, and that's bad news for the rest of the conference. Between junior guard Jared Butler (a projected first-rounder), senior guard MaCio Teague and junior guard Davion Mitchell (another possible first-rounder), Baylor has more firepower than its conference foes can handle.

    The Cowboys could've made for an interesting potential roadblock thanks to star freshman Cade Cunningham, the No. 1-ranked 2021 prospect by B/R's NBA draft guru, Jonathan Wasserman. But he exited Thursday's loss to Baylor after rolling his ankle, and Oklahoma State could be overly cautious with the future pro.

    "I'm always first and foremost worried about his future," Cowboys coach Mike Boynton told reporters. "... So I want to make sure he's OK. If he's OK, he'll continue to work with us. If it's anything more serious than it feels right now, then we'll evaluate how we move forward."

    Are there other possible obstacles for Baylor? Without question. Kansas has the best defense in the conference and a dynamite stopper in senior guard Marcus Garrett. Texas Tech's defense isn't too far behind. West Virginia can light it up, especially when sophomore guard Miles McBride is rolling. Texas has experience in the backcourt, size up front and a potential lottery pick in explosive freshman forward Greg Brown.

    This tournament is shaping up to be a minefield, but Baylor has the talent, experience and two-way balance to navigate it successfully. Bold predictions are overrated; it's better to be accurate. The Bears are getting this done.