The Big 12 has been a gauntlet this season. Any team is capable of winning any game, which is credit to the great depth of this league. The only thing that went as planned this year was Kansas claiming their 14th straight regular-season title. This all equates to a phenomenal ending to what has been a great year for the conference. The Sprint Center will be rocking all weekend long, and here are my predictions for how I see the tournament unfolding:
Wednesday, March 7
No. 8 Oklahoma State vs. No. 9 Oklahoma (7 PM ESPNU)
No better way to kick off the Big 12 Tournament than Bedlam. Both Oklahoma State and Oklahoma are desperate for a win, as the winner will get to face the top-seeded Jayhawks. Oklahoma State swept the season series with KU, and are looking for a chance to bolster their resume with another win over the Jayhawks. Mike Boynton’s team cannot look ahead as they will try and contain Trae Young the same way they did in their win at home on January 20th. Oklahoma comes into the game with a little bit of momentum following their 81-60 win over Iowa State last Friday. The Sooners will try and replicate their performance in the first matchup between these teams when OU blew out the Cowboys 109-89 behind 27 points from Trae Young and 28 from Brady Manek.
Prediction: Oklahoma State
No. 7 Texas vs. No. 10 Iowa State (9 PM ESPNU)
Feels weird that Iowa State isn’t playing in Kansas City for NCAA tournament seeding, but Steve Prohm has had a tough year trying to rebound from losing Monte Morris, Naz Long, Matt Thomas and Deonte Burton. Still, freshman guard Lindell Wigginton can lead this team to an upset over the Longhorns, especially if Mo Bamba is out. For Texas, they will need this win if they have any aspirations for sneaking in the bracket. According to ESPN’s Joe Lunardi, Texas is squarely on the bubble, sitting as one of the last four teams in. Shaka Smart has had success in March, so if this Texas team can rattle off a couple wins, watch out. That being said, they will need Mo Bamba if they want to make a deep run, but in terms of their first-round game, even without Bamba Texas will take care of the Cyclones.
Thursday, March 8
No. 4 Kansas State vs. No. 5 TCU ( 12:30 PM ESPN/2)
This game will be a battle. Both K-State and TCU look to be locks for the tourney, so the loser of this one won’t do much sweating come Sunday. K-State and TCU spilt the regular season series, with both home teams winning their respective games. For K-State, they will need production from juniors Dean Wade and Barry Brown, who are both averaging over 16 ppg. TCU on the other hand will need Vladimir Brodziansky and Kenrich Williams to carry the load on the offensive end. Since losing sophomore point guard Jaylen Fisher to injury, the Frogs have gone a surprising 8-6, and have been in almost every game. I think that Dean Wade will be a tough matchup for Jamie Dixon’s squad, as he has averaged 22 ppg against the Horned Frogs this season. This one will be a dogfight, but in the end I think K-State edges TCU in another tight game.
Prediction: Kansas State
No. 1 Kansas vs. OU/Ok State Winner (7:30 ESPN/2)
The Jayhawks will begin their quest for the tournament crown in the second quarterfinal of the day, against the winner of OU/Ok State. OU split the season series with Kansas, but their second meeting just a few weeks ago was all KU. Oklahoma State on the other hand has had KU’s number so far, winning both regular-season meetings. Big 12 Player of the Year Devonte’ Graham will need to carry this team in crunch time, but Svi Mykhailiuk and LaGerald Vick are also capable of taking over a game. Kansas will also want to get rid of the bad taste in their mouth left from last season’s quarterfinal loss to TCU. Regardless of who KU plays, I like their chances in this one, especially inside the Sprint Center.
No. 2 Texas Tech vs. Texas/Iowa State Winner (7 PM ESPN/2)
Texas Tech ends up getting the 2 seed after Bob Huggin’s West Virginia squad lost at Texas in OT on Saturday. The Red Raiders ended their 4 game losing skid with a home win over TCU last Saturday, so they come into Kansas City with some positivity. Texas Tech also announced this week that they have extended coach Chris Beard for another 6 years, so this program’s future is only getting brighter. As for their quarterfinal matchup, I think the Red Raiders will win comfortably if Mo Bamba is not on the floor, but even if he still is, I still think Keenan Evans will outperform Matt Coleman and lead the Red Raiders to the semis.
Prediction: Texas Tech
No. 3 West Virginia vs. No. 6 Baylor (9 PM ESPN/2)
The last quarterfinal game may end up being the best game of the day, with the Baylor Bears facing off against West Virginia. Baylor needs this game if they do not want to sweat out selection Sunday, but I think Jevon Carter and Daxter Miles are too much for Manu Lecomte and the Baylor Bears. With the loss, I think Baylor will be destined for the NIT, but don’t ever count out Scott Drew.
Prediction: West Virginia
Friday, March 9
Game 3 Winner vs. Game 4 Winner (7 PMESPN/2)
If my predictions were to go as planned, we would have a 1-4 and 2-3 seeded semifinal, which seems awfully weird considering the parity in the Big 12 this year. In the first semi-final matchup, Kansas and Kansas State will battle for the Sunflower State, again. Again I think Kansas will come out with a win, but not after Bruce Weber’s team has given Bill Self’s squad all they can handle.
Game 5 Winner vs. Game 6 Winner (9 PM ESPN/2)
This matchup would feature Texas Tech against West Virginia, and I would have to give the edge to the Mountaineers. There’s something about Senior guards in March, and Jevon Carter and Daxter Miles will grind their way to the championship game with a very close win over Texas Tech.
Prediction: West Virginia
Saturday, March 10
Game 7 Winner vs. Game 8 Winner (6PM ESPN)
I’m predicting a West Virginia-Kansas matchup here in the championship. West Virginia realistically should have swept the season series with KU, but were unable to hit shots late in the first meeting, and got the Phog affect in the second. Jevon Carter vs. Devonte’ Graham will be a great matchup, but I think the Mountaineers will finally break through and not choke away a game versus the Jayhawks.
Prediction: West Virginia