Big 12 Tournament predictions: What needs to go right for each team to the win the conference tourney
The Big 12 Tournament gets underway this week and there are plenty of contenders
If the Big 12 Tournament is half as chaotic and unpredictable as the regular season was, things could get very interesting in Kansas City.
The regular season began with Kansas not only as the prohibitive favorite to extend its Big 12 title streak to 15 seasons, but with the preseason No. 1 Jayhawks expected to be the favorite to win it all, too.
Then KU big man Udoka Azubuike got hurt, his season ending too soon for a second time in three years. Then another big man, Silvio De Sousa, was ruled ineligible, caught in the crosshairs of the college basketball scandal. Then super senior guard Lagerald Vick stepped away from the game for personal reasons at the stretch run of league play -- and won't return.
The roller-coaster for Kansas -- even by Kansas' standards -- was too bumpy to overcome. Its streak ended.
This all culminated with Texas Tech and Kansas State taking significant leaps forward, and eventually sharing the regular season title as co-champions with matching 14-4 league records while Baylor and Iowa State fell from the ranks of mid-season contenders.
As we look ahead to postseason play, it's a blank slate for the two title winners, for Kansas -- and even for cellar-dwelling West Virginia. Let's break down each team's chances to win the tourney and clinch the automatic bid.
1. Kansas State
Kansas State clinched the No. 1 seed over Texas Tech via a tiebreaker scenario, but, as luck would have it, its path to the title game is no cakewalk. In the quarterfinals, KSU will face the winner of TCU/Oklahoma (the Wildcats went 4-0 against both programs this season), and will either face Baylor or Iowa State in the semis if they advance (K-State beat Baylor twice this season and split the season series 1-1 with Iowa State.) From there it would face the winner of the bottom bracket. The Wildcats need some injury luck to fall their way -- valuable big man Dean Wade is listed as questionable -- and they need to hope KU doesn't make it through to the finals. Kansas City is Jayhawks country this time of year; even with a No. 1 seed in their home state, the Wildcats may be playing in a semi-road environment in the finals if they meet their cross-state rival.
Prediction: Big 12 Tournament runner-up
2. Texas Tech
Quarterfinals should be a breeze for Tech with either OU or West Virginia advancing. From there it's either Kansas or Texas in the semis, and likely K-State, Baylor or Iowa State in the finals. If the Red Raiders have any luck Texas, a bubble team which is playing above its head will oust Kansas in the quarters. Otherwise, it's going to be a dog fight against the Jayhawks in the third round. Big 12 Player of the Year Jarrett Culver needs to be at the top of his game regardless of matchup here for Chris Beard's team to advance; Tech is 8-2 this season when he scores 20 or more points.
Prediction: Semifinals loss to Kansas
Bill Self may have been the beneficiary of some luck when Texas Tech's Jarrett Culver won Big 12 Player of the Year honors over KU forward Dedric Lawson. Lawson may just take that personally and be motivated to prove the voters wrong. Kansas lost only twice all season when Lawson scored 20 points or more in a game, but in the other six losses, Lawson managed only 15.2 points per contest. When he and Ochai Agbaji are both on, the Jayhawks are a tough out.
Prediction: Big 12 Tournament champion
Consider it a lucky draw for Baylor that it gets Iowa State in its first game of the tournament. The Cyclones have been a trainwreck for much of the last month, and limp into the week having lost five of six and six of their last eight. Baylor carries its own skid into the postseason with a three-game losing streak in hand, but no team has been more surprisingly dysfunctional as Iowa State among Big 12 teams expected to clinch an at-large bid to the NCAAs.
Prediction: Semifinals loss to K-State
5. Iowa State
Iowa State is in a free-fall and desperately needs some luck to fall their way. It has the talent to make as deep a run as any team in the conference, but also the dysfunction of a team that might forget its flight time and ends up no-showing March Madness. The Cyclones have lost five of their last six amidst a freefall in the league standings. They need the trio of Marial Shayok, Lindell Wigginton and Talen Horton-Tucker all firing on the same cylinders at the same time to escape an early exit. I'm not banking on it.
Prediction: Quarterfinals loss to Baylor
With any luck at all, Texas' Kerwin Roach didn't build up too much rust while sitting out a five-game suspension. The Longhorns are getting him back for the Big 12 Tournament after he missed the last five games serving a suspension. But he's going to have some cobwebs needing to be shaken off -- and No. 3 seed Kansas isn't going to allow him time to clean 'em before they face off Thursday night.
Prediction: Quarterfinals loss to Kansas
Oklahoma's draw may be lucky indeed for a team which may need just one more victory to make it into the NCAA Tournament. For a team needing just one more win, the opponent is perfect as Sooners will open by taking out West Virginia, the team with the worst conference record in the Big 12 this season before running into the freight train that is Texas Tech.
Prediction: Quarterfinals loss to Texas Tech
TCU, another team on the bubble is one bad loss away from feeling squeamish on Selection Sunday. A loss to OSU would certainly induce that. The Horned Frogs are 19-12 overall, 7-11 in Big 12 play. Luck was shining on the Horned Frogs in their victory over Texas to end the regular season. That win was a big one -- it docked Texas, a team that also badly needed a victory-- and boosted TCU's own profile. Will that luck continue? The Horned Frogs could use a win (or two) to feel comfortable and potentially push their seeding into the single digits.
Prediction: First-round loss to Oklahoma State
9. Oklahoma State
Oklahoma State needs its luck to turn around after losing players throughout the season and finishing with just seven scholarship players. But the Cowboys are still alive and kicking. It won its last two regular season games at Baylor and at home against West Virginia, its first win streak since early January. Will it continue against TCU? OSU went 1-1 against the Horned Frogs this season, winning at home and nearly winning on the road. If freshmen Isaac Likekele and Yor Anei continue their strong play, they'll be a threat to reach the semifinals.
Prediction: Quarterfinals loss to K-State
10. West Virginia
The worst season West Virginia's had under Bob Huggins was the 2012-2013 season, when the Mountaineers went 13-19. The 'Eers are 12-19 going into the postseason -- and on track to officially make it the worst season WVU has had under Huggins unless the Mountaineers hit a streak of really, really good luck in the Big 12 Tournament.
Prediction: First-round loss to Oklahoma
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