NCAA Tournament Previews: Big 12
For more NCAA Conference Tournament previews check out the RotoExperts guide to March Madness.
BIG 12 CONFERENCE
Sprint Center, Kansas City, MO; Mar. 13-16
Record: 26-5, 14-4
Best conference wins: Kansas State (twice), at OK State, at Iowa State
Worst conf. losses: at TCU, at Baylor
Non-conf. wins: at Ohio State, vs. Saint Louis (neutral), vs. Colorado, vs. Belmont, vs. Temple
Non-conf. losses: vs. Michigan State (neutral)
Current run: Seven straight wins before a loss at Baylor
NCAA Outlook: 1-seed unless they lose before Championship
Quick note: The only team other than Kansas to have won the Big 12 Tournament since 2005 is Missouri, and they are no longer in the conference. That might not be the case this year, as the Jayhawks have not shown much consistency throughout the season. They were coasting back in February until they dropped three straight games, including an embarrassing loss at TCU. They had the chance to win the outright regular season title, but were destroyed by Baylor in the final game.
Kansas has numerous non-conference wins that show they can hang with the mid-majors (Belmont) and beat up on the big teams (at Ohio State). Winning this tournament is another animal, though. A third matchup with Iowa State could be in play for the semifinals. The Cyclones are still furious over their two overtime losses against the Jayhawks; that’s how most teams feel in this conference, as they just don’t want the Jayhawks to win.
KU has a chance to lock a No. 1 seed up with a win in this tournament, which is an added bonus. Ben McLemore and Jeff Withey are great, but they’ll need help to advance far in the NCAA Tourney, because shooting woes are the main reason for their losses.
Record: 25-6, 14-4
Best conference wins: at Oklahoma, at Baylor, Oklahoma (twice)
Worst conf. losses: Kansas (twice), at Iowa State
Non-conf. wins: vs. Florida (neutral)
Non-conf. losses: vs. Michigan (neutral), vs. Gonzaga (neutral)
Current run: Six straight wins before a loss at OK State
NCAA Outlook: 4-seed unless they make it to Championship
Quick note: It wasn’t exactly the route they wanted to become the regular season co-champs, but they’ll take it. The Wildcats can beat any team in the Big 12, but they continually have problems with Kansas. If these teams face off in the Championship game, the Jayhawks will be the heavy favorite.
Kansas State has been good this year, but they haven’t been able to stick with the top-tier teams, and it’s not just Kansas. They lost by double-digits to both Michigan and Gonzaga earlier in the season. If they grab a three or four seed in the Tourney, it’s going to be hard for them to beat a top seed.
Rodney McGruder has led this team for two years now, but he’s been getting a lot of help from Angel Rodriguez lately. The problem with Rodriguez is that he’s small, and that hurt against OK State in their last loss, as he finished just 3-of-16 from the field. With those two in the backcourt and solid big men down low, the Wildcats are a team to watch out for.
Record: 23-7, 13-5
Best conference wins: at Kansas, vs. Kansas State
Worst conf. losses: at Iowa State, at Baylor
Non-conf. wins: vs. Tennessee (neutral), vs. NC State (neutral)
Non-conf. losses: at Virginia Tech, vs. Gonzaga
Current run: Won four of their last five
NCAA Outlook: 4-seed unless they make it to the Championship
Quick note: A lot of people are on OK State’s bandwagon because they have one of the biggest and best backcourts in the nation. Marcus Smart and Markel Brown both come in well over six feet tall and they can both make things happen on the offensive end. The two have combined for over 30 points per game this season. Of course, you can’t forget Le’Bryan Nash, who’s right behind them in scoring and just as deadly as their small forward.
They’ve held strong with everyone in this conference. In fact, their only questionable loss on the year came back in December at Virginia Tech.
While they don’t have a great presence in the paint, this isn’t a team you want to face in the postseason. A bigger team will give them trouble, but the Big 12 doesn’t really have one of those. The Cowboys could easily win this tournament.
Record: 20-10, 11-7
Best conference wins: vs. Kansas, vs. OK State
Worst conf. losses: at TCU, vs. Kansas State
Non-conf. wins: vs. Texas A&M (neutral), vs. Ohio
Non-conf. losses: vs. Gonzaga (neutral), at Arkansas, vs. Stephen F. Austin
Current run: Have not won three straight games since January
NCAA Outlook: 8/9-seed unless they beat Kansas in semis
Quick note: The Sooners are very much like the Cowboys in that they are a very athletic, but mid-sized team without a huge presence down low. The only problem is that they don’t have players that can take over games. For instance, Oklahoma just lost at TCU, mainly because no one could help out Romero Osby on the offensive end.
The Sooners have a solid team, but lack that deciding factor. In games decided by five points or less (or overtime) in conference play, Oklahoma is just 1-4. They also lost to Stephen F. Austin by one point.
They get a hungry Iowa State squad in their first game, which could be a problem. The teams split on the year, with both home teams grabbing big wins. The Sooners could be slated for an early exit in the Big Dance too, if they don’t get the right matchup.
Record: 21-10, 11-7
Best conference wins: at Baylor, vs. Kansas State, vs. OK State
Worst conf. losses: at Texas Tech, at Texas
Non-conf. wins: vs. BYU, vs. Florida Gulf Coast
Non-conf. losses: vs. Cincinnati (neutral), at UNLV, at Iowa
Current run: Two straight wins
NCAA Outlook: 10/11-seed with a win, bubble team with a loss
Quick note: Expect a lot of three-pointers and an exciting game when you watch the Cyclones play. They take as many long-range shots as possible and don’t play a ton of defense. That explains why they’ve scored at least 83 points in eight straight games. Their opening game against Oklahoma is close to a must-win because ISU is currently slated as an 11-seed on the bubble.
Five players on their team have at least 30 made threes, while three of them have made at least 59. Tyrus McGee comes off the bench and fills it up, hitting 47 percent of his long-range shots. Starters Korie Lucious and Chris Babb keep things moving in the backcourt. They don’t have much size, but as seen with the previously mentioned teams, that’s not a major problem in this conference.
Record: 18-13, 9-9
Best conference wins: vs. Kansas, vs. OK State
Worst conf. losses: vs. Iowa State, vs. Kansas State
Non-conf. wins: at Kentucky
Non-conf. losses: vs. Colorado (neutral), vs. College of Charleston, vs. Northwestern, at Gonzaga
Current run: Have lost five of last seven
NCAA Outlook: Need to beat OK State to have a shot
Quick note: Baylor gets OK State in their first game and is in a must-win situation. With a loss, they will likely miss out on the Big Dance. This is a team that looks great from the outside, but they have trouble putting things together.
Pierre Jackson is short, but he can make things happen from the point guard spot. He filled the stat sheet with 28 points, six boards and 10 assists in their last win against Kansas. Cory Jefferson and Isaiah Austin will also have to repeat their performances from that game. Both are big guys who can cause plenty of problems for opposing defenses. As long as they play big and fight for boards, this is a tough team to beat.
The others: It’s unlikely that any of the bottom four teams will give trouble to the top squads. Texas has Myck Kabongo back, but he’s not going to win this tournament for them. If they win their first game, they’ll get K State in the quarters, a team they lost to at home by 12 points with Kabongo.
Prediction: This is the fourth straight year the tournament has taken place at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, MO. Basically it’s a home game for the two Kansas schools since many of their fans can be found in the Kansas City area. Missing from the tourney is Missouri, the other school in close proximity. Due to those reasons alone, a rematch of Kansas-Kansas State is very possible in the Championship game. Since the Jayhawks have their number, it’s best to assume they’ll win again. Still, don’t be surprised if Iowa State pulls the upset in the semifinals. If that game does happen, it’s going to be a must-watch, as their first two meetings ended in overtime.
Conference tournaments are starting to pick up, make sure to check back for ACC and Big 10 previews later this week.