BLOG: A look ahead to this year’s Big 12 tournament
Baylor guard Keyonte George (1) retires for a dunk against Kansas forward KJ Adams (24) in the first half Saturday, February 18, 2023 at Allen Fieldhouse. Photo by Nick Krug
You’ve watched the games, watched the results, watched the race, and watched the slugfest that the Big 12 Conference has become this basketball season.
Now you have been tasked with predicting the course of the conference tournament.
One of the easiest ways to start this seemingly impossible exercise is to look at the odds that teams could win the tournament.
We start with Draft Kings, which originally had regular season runners-up Texas as the betting favorite at +300. Perhaps it was simply a reaction to the Longhorns’ convincing win over Kansas over the weekend, or because of Texas’ path in the tournament being so listed.
By midday on Monday, the odds had turned to Kansas at +300, with Texas now in second place at +330.
After that, Baylor (+475), Kansas State and Iowa State (+650) and TCU (+750) came next in line.
West Virginia (+1500), Oklahoma State (+3000) and Texas Tech and Oklahoma (+4000) rounded out the odds, with all four playing an extra game starting Wednesday.
So what do we make of it?
Well, for starters, it’s wide open as to what you already knew. Six teams have pretty good odds – 7.5-1 or less – of winning the tournament.
Compare that to the rest of college basketball and you’ll see yet another way to illustrate that the Big 12 was by far the best conference this season.
The SEC only has four teams with odds of 7.5-1 or less. The Big Ten and Big East also have four teams with such odds. While the Pac-12 only has three and the ACC has five.
The betting odds don’t tell the whole story, but they do suggest that this year’s Big 12 tournament is as open as any in recent memory. Sixth-seeded TCU, which opens Thursday night against No. 3 Kansas State, is a legitimate Final Four contender.
No. 5 Iowa State, who will play 4th-ranked Baylor in Thursday’s early game, just got to Waco, Texas and beat the Bears last weekend.
And although top-ranked Kansas and No. 2 Texas both defeated the teams in games 8-9 and 7-10, both played at least two one-possession games against those opponents at the bottom of conference scoring during the regular season.
Which brings us back to this whole lucky idea. When you have a team that finished last in your league and beat a future No. 1 seed by 24 points earlier this season, you know they have the ability to do that on any given night . That probably won’t happen in the Big 12 simply because these teams know each other so well. But you definitely can’t say it can’t happen.
If Oklahoma gets past Oklahoma State in 10th place on Wednesday, they will reach Texas on Thursday. The Sooners lost to UT at home in the Big 12 opener by one and then in overtime in Texas a few weeks ago. There’s at least something they like about this matchup, and now it’s time for it to count.
As of today, it looks like seven Big 12 teams are a ban on entering the NCAA tournament field — Kansas, Texas, Kansas State, Baylor, TCU, Iowa State and West Virginia.
That leaves one of the other three – or maybe even two – to make enough noise this week to get a bid and make it to eighth place in the Big 12. This league has been just too good all season to get just seven of the 10 teams in the Big Dance.
Regardless of which team makes it to eighth place, another will have to find a way to get in. We’ll see if they make it.
Winning this will be no harder than winning a national title as three wins instead of six is enough. Unless, of course, one of those bottom four clubs makes a run and wins four games in four days. But those three wins will be just as difficult, and likely harder, for most of these teams than what they would see in Rounds 2 through 4 of the NCAA, so winning the Big 12 tournament could definitely be a prerequisite for a Final Four run .
However, being successful this time of year is so much about matchups and all that. So it’s not as if a good performance in Kansas City guarantees anything. But no matter how this week goes, all 10 of these teams must feel tested and ready for a run to remember starting next week.
With that in mind, here’s my quick rundown of how this year’s Big 12 tournament will play out.
games on Wednesday
• Oklahoma State No. 7 defeats Oklahoma No. 10 – The win moves the Cowboys into the NCAA tournament.
• No. 8 West Virginia defeats No. 9 Texas Tech – The Red Raiders are too busy right now and WVU is the better team anyway.
Games on Thursday
• No. 4 Baylor defeats No. 5 Iowa State – The ISU win in Waco caught Baylor’s attention, but the Bears got their revenge in a relatively easy way in this case.
• No. 1 Kansas defeats No. 8 West Virginia – Buoyed by the pro KU crowd and the start of money season, KU bounces back from its poor performance in Texas and runs past Bob Huggins’ pile in another fight.
• No. 2 Texas defeats No. 7 Oklahoma State – OSU is showing up well enough not to lose their bid, but the pokes never really threaten to win.
• No. 6 TCU defeats No. 3 Kansas State – In my opinion, TCU is that team this season. I think the Frogs are a real Final Four contender and I think they would have won the regular season title if they hadn’t been bitten by the injury virus. This pick is much more about TCU than K-State. The ‘Cats are doing well and will be a solid 3 seeds ready to run in the Big Dance.
games on Friday
• No. 4 Baylor defeats No. 1 Kansas – The rematch continues for the Bears, who were shocked by the total blitz Kansas put on them in the second half to win Lawrence. Scott Drew’s squad won’t let that happen again, and this semifinal showdown of college basketball’s last two national champions will feel like late March. It won’t be the worst thing in the world for KU to drop this game either. Your resume is excellent. They should be #1 overall seed and the extra rest will only help them.
• No. 6 TCU defeats No. 2 Texas – TCU was big with the Longhorns in Fort Worth last week before watching UT ramp up their defensive pressure and turn it into a game. The same thing will happen this time, only in this case the frogs won’t be phased when the Longhorns flip the switch.
game on Saturday
• No. 4 Baylor defeats No. 6 TCU – The Bears and Frogs split the regular-season streak, and the rubber match becomes a classic. Both teams won on each other’s home floor, and in this case, the extra dose of Baylor fans in the building will be enough to lead Adam Flagler, LJ Cryer, Keyonte George and co. to the Big 12 title.
To bring it back to the angle of the betting lines we started with, if things go this way, a $100 bet on Baylor pays off $475, just enough for gas and a night or two in a hotel, to see Kansas play in Des Moin next week.
Let’s wrap this up with my predictions of how the Big 12 tournament as I see it will affect the seeding of every team in the NCAA tournament:
Kansas – 1 seed
Baylor – 2 seeds
Texas – 2 seeds
State of Kansas – 3 seeds
TCU – 4 seeds
State of Iowa – 5 seeds
West Virginia – 9 seeds
State of Oklahoma – 11 seeds
Let the games begin!
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