As the 2016 Big 12 Basketball Championship gets underway tonight all eyes will be on the Kansas Jayhawks. Bounced out the last two years, the top-seeded Jayhawks are looking for their first tournament title since 2013. At 27-4/15-3 the regular season champs could be playing for the overall top seed in the NCAA Tournament.
Possibly the most overlooked team in the Big 12 is the West Virginia Mountaineers. All they've done is won twenty-four games this season and finished second in the regular season standings. Bob Huggins most definitely gets my vote for Coach of the Year in the conference and any team that falls to sleep on the Mountaineers is going to get bounced out of Kansas City.
Buddy Hield made no bones about returning for his senior season in an effort to win a Big 12 championship and now he's down to his final opportunity. The Sooners were not able to close out the season on a real strong note, dropping road games at Texas Tech and at Texas, but now the post-season gets started and and OU will look to regain their stride. Oklahoma is also playing to get placed in Oklahoma City for the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament. A loss to Iowa State on Thursday evening would put that in jeopardy.
I'm not sure that you can't leave Iowa State off the list of contenders in Kansas City. The Cyclones aren't the same team that stormed the court in Kansas City last year but they are the back-to-back defending tournament champions and they'll travel a crud-ton of fans.
The Bubble Watch
With six teams currently ranked in the Top 25, you would think that the Big 12 Conference is a lock to get at least that many teams into the NCAA Tournament...but could they get a 7th? Iowa State, and Baylor are sitting on the top side of the bubble and the Texas Longhorns are in the middle. Any wins they could produce in Kansas City will serve to better their position. I honestly think all three are in but there should be a lot of attention placed on Thursday's Baylor/Texas game. A loss by the Longhorns could drastically damage their tournament plans while a win over the Bears could solidify their ticket.
Then there's Texas Tech. At 19-11 the Red Raiders are just on the outside and looking in. Tubby Smith and crew get TCU on Wednesday night which should put them against West Virginia on Thursday. If Tech can make it to Friday then they would have a strong case to be the Big 12's seventh representative in the NCAA.
Live To Fight Another Day
Three coaches travel to Kansas City sitting squarely on the hot seat and their next game could be their last. Two of those coaches will square off on Wednesday night when Kansas State plays Oklahoma State. It's no secret that Travis Ford is done in Stillwater. Attendance is abysmal and the team's struggles are more than apparent. Each game the Cowboys win in Kansas City prolongs his exit by at least one more contest. What about Bruce Weber? That 2012-13 season must feel like it was a decade ago as mediocrity has sat in. A Wednesday loss to Travis Ford's Cowboys could stoke the coals in the Little Apple.
I think TCU's Trent Johnson finds himself in a similar position as Travis Ford. People seem to like Johnson a lot, and that may bode well for him, but at some point the Frogs are going to grow tired of finishing last in the Big 12. I think that point may be right now and Johnson may need a miracle.