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Big 12 Conference Tournament Preview


(I posted this over at FanIQ but I wanted to share this with you guys too)

The Big 12 might be having a down season this year but they have the defending National Champion in Kansas and the likely National Player of the Year in Blake Griffin. Throw in teams that are playing their best basketball down the stretch like Texas A&M and Oklahoma St., in addition to the crazy hectic style of Missouri and you have what will be one very entertaining tournament.

Not only will the Big 12 Tournament be very entertaining this season, there are also at least six teams playing for NCAA tournament seeding and bids. Oklahoma and Kansas are a Big 12 Championship away from a 1 seed while Missouri is in the running for a 3 or 4 seed. Texas, Texas A&M, and Oklahoma St. are all battling it out to get the best 7-10 seed that they can get while teams like Kansas St. and Nebraska are clinging to outside Tournament possibilities.

The Favorites

#2 Oklahoma - The Sooners have been a #1 seed lock up until recent struggles but in my opinion they are the best team in the conference. They are led by conference player of the year Blake Griffin and conference freshman of the year Willie Warren. The Sooners started out the season 25-1 but a Blake Griffin concussion has had the Sooners semi stumbling to the finish line as they went 2-3 over their last 5 games. The Sooners could have a very tough road to the Conference Championship with possible games against Oklahoma St., Missouri or Texas A&M, then Kansas. If the Sooners win the tournament they will be the final number 1 seed and get to play their 1st and 2nd round games in Kansas City.

#1 Kansas - The Jayhawks won their 5th consecutive regular season championship this past season and 9th in Big 12 history. The Jayhawks have a great inside-outside combo in Sherron Collins who was named first team All Big 12 this week and Cole Aldrich who has been a beast in the middle this season. Freshman Tyshawn Taylor has been up and down all season but has seemed to turn the corner these last 5 games. The Jayhawks have a slightly easier path to the tournament finals with possible games against Nebraska or Baylor, then Kansas St. or Texas in the semifinals. The Jayhawks have an outside chance at a number 1 seed in the Big Dance but a conference tournament championship would lock up a 2 seed and 1st and 2nd round games in Kansas City.

#3 Missouri - The Tigers have had a renaissance this season under Mike Anderson and are just as dangerous Kansas and Oklahoma since they have beaten both this season. The only problem is both wins came in Missouri and the Big 12 Tournament is being played in Oklahoma City. Missouri has All Big 12 first teamer DeMarre Carroll, Big 12 sixth man of the year Matt Lawrence and Big 12 defensive player of the year JT Tiller. Missouri averaged 81 points per game this season and they play Mike Anderson's run and gun style perfectly. Missouri likes to push the ball every chance they get and put some kind of full court ball pressure on their opponent. Missouri could possibly play their way to a 2 seed in the NCAA tournament if they are able to knock off Oklahoma and Kansas in back to back nights.

The Sleepers

#6 Texas A&M - The Aggies have been playing their best basketball of the season here at the end of the year and have won 7 in a row to close it out. Texas A&M has wins over Texas, Missouri, Oklahoma St., and Arizona this season and have all the piecies to put together a run through the Big 12 tournament.

#7 Oklahoma St. - The Cowboys also are playing thier best basketball of the season right now. They have won 6 of their last 7 and are scoring a Big 12 high 82 points per game this season. The Cowboys also play a frantic 4 guard, fire up as many shots as they can kind of style that is hard to prepare for and can wear teams down. If the Cowboys can get their shots to drop, they could make a magical run through the Big 12 tournament.

The Big 12 also did something new this year as they moved their conference tournament up a day so the final is now on Saturday night instead of Sunday right before the Selection Sunday special on CBS. They did that so the Big 12 Champion could get a better look at a better seed since by the time the Big 12 tournament final was finished, the bracket was usually already done.

Wednesday (All times Central and my pick will be bolded)

11:30am: #8 Nebraska vs #9 Baylor
2:00 pm: #5 Texas vs #12 Colorado
6:00 pm: #7 Oklahoma State vs #10 Iowa State
8:30 pm: #6 Texas A&M vs #11 Texas Tech

Thursday - Quarterfinals

11:30 am on ESPN2: #1 Kansas vs #8 Nebraska
2:00 pm: #4 Kansas State vs #5 Texas
6:00 pm: #2 Oklahoma vs #7 Oklahoma St.
8:30 pm on ESPN2: #3 Missouri vs #6 Texas A&M

Friday - Semifinals

6:00 pm: #1 Kansas vs #5 Texas
8:30 pm: #2 Oklahoma vs #3 Missouri

Saturday - Big 12 Title Game

5:00 on ESPN: #1 Kansas vs #2 Oklahoma

That is how I see this Big 12 tournament playing out. Yes I know it looks like a homer pick and Kansas has already beaten Oklahoma this season in Norman but that was without Blake Griffin. A healthy Blake Griffin means too much for Kansas and the Sooners win a classic Big 12 championship game and lock up that final number 1 seed in the Big Dance.