The Big 12 was undoubtedly the deepest conference in college basketball this season. It seemed night in and night out this league produced upset after upset and there certainly weren’t any “gimmes” in the most competitive conference in the country. The Kansas Jayhawks took home their 14th consecutive Big 12 regular season title, despite five conference losses. Meanwhile, Iowa St finished last, but it has been well-noted how tough it is to win at Hilton Coliseum. The next four days in Kansas City should be just as wild as the regular season. Here’s a quick breakdown of each team in the Big 12.
Baylor (18-13, 8-10)
The Bears finished non-conference play with a 10-2 record, but got off to an abysmal 2-7 start in Big 12 play that included home losses to middle-of-the-road TCU and Kansas State. However, led by a resurgence from senior guard Manu Lecomte, Baylor rattled off five straight wins. The Bears picked up wins against Kansas and Texas Tech in that stretch, but lost three of their last four to end the regular season.
Baylor earned the No. 6 seed in the Big 12 Tournament and will play No. 3 seed West Virginia on Thursday, March 8 at 9:00 p.m. ET. The Bears are currently in our Brett Siegel’s “Last Four Byes,” and are well and truly on the bubble. Expect Baylor to come out with a sense of urgency as a win over West Virginia would go a long way to getting them into the field.
Iowa State (13-17, 4-14)
The Cyclones lost 4 of 5 starters from an NCAA Tournament team last year, so this was an expected rebuilding year for Steve Prohm’s club. However, this Iowa State team surprised some people, notably with an 18-point win over then No. 8 Texas Tech. Despite totaling just four conference wins, the Cyclones knocked off three ranked opponents in Big 12 play. Freshman guard Lindell Wigginton (16.6 ppg) was one of many bright spots for this Iowa State who battled through an extremely tough conference schedule.
The Cyclones may have had some big wins, but lost their last six games and will have the No. 10 seed this weekend. Iowa State will take on No. 7 Texas on Wednesday, March 7 at 9:00 p.m. ET. Iowa State has offensive firepower, but they’ll take on a Texas team who needs a win in the worst way, so don’t expect the Cyclones to get the win, but their future looks bright.
Kansas (24-7, 13-5)
Death, taxes, and Kansas winning Big 12 regular season titles. Bill Self’s group overcame some frontline issues early on with the development of Udoka Azubuike. Additionally, the conference player of the year, Devonte Graham, paced the Jayhawks through a gauntlet of a Big 12 schedule. Kansas, similar to Baylor, started slow, but got hot down the stretch, and picked up a bit of revenge with a win at Texas Tech to wrap up the Big 12 title. Kansas, like any other great team this year, has a number of issues including size and depth in the frontcourt, but the Jayhawks also have elite guard play.
As expected, Kansas will be the top seed this week in Kansas City, but it will be no means be an easy road to a conference tournament title. The Jayhawks await the winner of Oklahoma – Oklahoma State on Thursday, March 8 at 2:30 p.m. ET. If Oklahoma State can get past Trae Young and the Sooners, this Cowboys team swept Kansas in the regular season, and don’t be surprised if Oklahoma State knocks off the Jayhawks again. That being said, Kansas is still fighting for a 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament and will need a deep run this weekend to do so.
Kansas State (21-10, 10-8)
In a conference full of wild upsets and up-and-down teams, the Wildcats maintained a level of consistency in Big 12 play. Led by juniors Dean Wade (16.7 ppg) and Barry Brown (16.6 ppg), the Wildcats just took care of business. Their marquee wins in conference play were against then No. 4 Oklahoma and No. 24 TCU, but both teams finished the regular season outside the Top 25. However, Kansas State also had no bad losses in conference play.
The Wildcats earned the No. 4 seed in the Big 12 Tournament, and will take on No. 5 seed TCU on Thursday, March 8 at 12:30 p.m. ET. Kansas State also sits in our Brett Siegel’s “Last Four Byes,” so a one-and-done in Kansas City would make for a nervy Selection Sunday. The Wildcats and the Horned Frogs split the season series, both teams winning at home, and the average margin of victory was just 6 points in those games. If Kansas State can get by the Frogs, a more than likely matchup with top-seeded Kansas awaits, and a win over their in-state rival would all but guarantee Kansas State a spot in the dance.
Oklahoma (18-12, 8-10)
It’s fair to say people around the Big 12 expected Oklahoma to be a contender, but no one expected the Sooners to climb all the way to the 4th ranked team in the country. Led by all-everything freshman Trae Young, the nation’s leader in points and assists per game at 27.5 ppg and 8.9 apg, Oklahoma entered Big 12 play with everyone watching. And this Sooners team lived up to the hype early on, starting 4-1 in a brutal first 5 games in Big 12 play. However, as the season progressed, opponents figured out how to contain Trae Young, and Oklahoma lost six straight, capped by a 30-point beatdown at Kansas. A top 5 team just two months ago was actually on the bubble for a bit before the Sooners won 2 of their last 3.
Almost unbelievably, Oklahoma fell all the way to the No. 9 seed in the Big 12 Tournament and will play rival Oklahoma State on Wednesday, March 7 at 7:00 p.m. ET in the opening game of the tournament. These two split the series in the regular season, with both teams winning at home, but haven’t played each other since late January. Since then, the Sooners have drastically trended downward while Oklahoma State has gotten much better. An opening round loss would put the Sooners back on the bubble, so expect Trae Young and co. to be ready to go. This team showed its potential early on, and as the saying goes, “when you have a guard, you have a chance.” Well, Oklahoma certainly has a guard.
Oklahoma State (18-13, 8-10)
First-year head coach Mike Boynton’s team was thrown right into the fire that is the Big 12, opening conference play with losses vs West Virginia and at Oklahoma. However, the Cowboys really started to figure it out as the season progressed. Oklahoma State knocked off West Virginia in Morgantown, Texas Tech at home, and swept the Kansas Jayhawks. Those big wins have the Cowboys on the brink of the bubble, but a tough 1-point loss at Texas two weeks ago means the Cowboys need a deep run this weekend.
The 8th-seeded Oklahoma State Cowboys will take on No. 9 seed Oklahoma in the opening round of the Big 12 Tournament on Wednesday, March 7 at 7:00 p.m. ET. If the Cowboys can get past Oklahoma, they would get a shot to knock off Kansas for the third time this year, and they need those wins to have a chance of making it into the field. Keep an eye on Kendall Smith, the Cal State Northridge transfer, who has become a nice complement to Jeffrey Carroll, a preseason All-Big 12 first team selection.
TCU (21-10, 9-9)
The reigning “best of the rest”, or better known as last year’s NIT Champions got off to a horrendous 2-5 start to Big 12 play. It didn’t get any easier for the Frogs when they lost starting point guard Jaylen Fisher for the season due to a torn meniscus in mid-January. However, TCU really picked it up, and it started with taking care of business at home. The Frogs won 6 of their last 7 in Fort Worth, and despite a loss at Texas Tech this past Saturday, are playing their best basketball of the year.
TCU, the No. 5 seed in the Big 12 Tournament, will take on No. 4 seed Kansas State on Thursday, March 8 at 12:30 p.m. ET. The Frogs are already a lock to make their first NCAA Tournament since 1998, but head coach Jamie Dixon has his team playing outstanding basketball right now. TCU won two games in last year’s Big 12 Tournament, and don’t be surprised if they replicate that success this year in Kansas City.
Texas (18-13, 8-10)
Shaka Smart’s third year in charge of the Longhorns was a roller coaster. Texas, behind the development of freshman big man Mo Bamba and the unexpected rise of point guard Matt Coleman started 5-5 in Big 12 play, including some marquee victories. However, the Longhorns also had to get past some devastating losses. Sophomore guard Andrew Jones was diagnosed with Leukemia in mid-January, Bamba is currently fighting an ankle issue, and guard Eric Davis is being held out as part of the looming scandal weighing over all of college basketball. That caused Texas to drop five of their last eight in the regular season, but did pick up a huge win against West Virginia on senior night.
Texas will enter the Big 12 Tournament as the No. 7 seed, and will take on No. 10 seed Iowa State on Wednesday, March 7 at 9:00 p.m. ET. Our Brett Siegel has the Longhorns in his “Last Four In,” meaning this is a must-win for Texas. They’ll be without Bamba and Davis for likely the entire tournament, but Texas swept Iowa State in the regular season, and they need to win Wednesday night to at least have a chance of making the field of 68.
Texas Tech (23-8, 11-7)
Head coach Chris Beard deserves an enormous amount of respect for the turnaround he’s led in Lubbock. The Red Raiders were one of a few pleasant surprises across the Power 5 conferences in college hoops this season. Senior guard Keenan Evans would’ve arguably been a favorite for conference player of the year if not for what Devonte Graham and Trae Young did for Kansas and Oklahoma, respectively. In fact, Tech started 10-3 in Big 12 play including wins over the aforementioned Jayhawks and Sooners. But the Red Raiders came crashing back to reality down the stretch, losing 4 in a row before ending the regular season with a narrow home victory against TCU.
Texas Tech was in contention for a Big 12 regular season title before their 4-game losing streak, but the TCU win meant the Red Raiders will have the No. 2 seed in Kansas City this weekend. They await the winner of the Texas-Iowa State game, and Texas Tech could really use a couple wins in the Big 12 Tournament to get their confidence back. Evans has been struggling with a toe injury, but rattled off 23 second half points against TCU on Saturday. Behind Evans and a dynamic freshmen duo in Jarrett Culver and Zhaire Smith, the Red Raiders are capable of a deep run of March.
West Virginia (22-9, 11-7)
The Mountaineers are more than likely going to bust your brackets; just letting you know now. No one can figure out this West Virginia team. The Mountaineers have a marquee non-conference win over No. 1 Virginia, but also had a massive second half collapse at home to an average Kentucky team. Similar to just about every Big 12 school, West Virginia has some big time wins and some surprising losses. However, West Virginia does have consistency at one spot and that is with senior point guard Jevon Carter. Carter has become the undoubted leader of this Mountaineers team, and his impact on both ends of the floor cannot be understated. He leads this West Virginia team with 17 points per game and 6.5 assists per game. Carter also leads the nation with nearly 3 steals per game.
West Virginia earned the No. 3 seed in the Big 12 Tournament, and will face No. 6 seed Baylor on Thursday, March 8 at 9:00 p.m. ET. The Mountaineers really aren’t playing for anything except for seeding in the NCAA Tournament, but Baylor needs a win to get off the bubble, so West Virginia better come ready to play. Bob Huggins’ team can make a deep tournament run, but they need to find some level of consistency or figure out how to win when they aren’t at their best.