By Jonathan Lidskin
After only completing the first round of their tournament last year, the Big 12 tournament is expected to be phenomenal in its full return. The conference features seven ranked teams including five teams ranked in the top 15. The tournament will tip off at 5:30 P.M. CST on March 10th and conclude with the championship game on March 13th at 5:00 P.M. CST. Let’s look into the teams in this league.
The Baylor Bears have been the best team in the Big 12 all year. They enter the tournament as one of the National Championship favorites as well as the favorite to win the Big 12 tournament. The Bears finished the regular season 21-1 and 13-1 in the conference with their only loss coming to Kansas two games after a Covid-19 pause. The Bears rely heavily on experience and guard play as the team is led by potential first team All-American, Jared Butler. Butler averages 17.1 points per game and shoots just above 44% from three. As a team, they shoot just under 43% from three. Butler is complimented well by MaCio Teague and Davion Mitchell as the two guards both average double figures for the Bears. This team is extremely well-rounded and can beat any team in a plethora of ways.
Oklahoma State might be the five seed in this tournament, but they’re not playing like the fifth best team in this conference. The Cowboys finished the season winning in Morgantown against West Virginia without Big 12 player of the year Cade Cunningham. Cunningham will be back for the rematch on Thursday in the quarterfinals. Oklahoma State, however, is more than just Cunningham. Avery Anderson lll, the Cowboys second leading scorer, led Oklahoma State with 31 points on Saturday against West Virginia. This team has length, athleticism and will have the best player on the court in any game they play. They could be a threat to Baylor if they meet on Friday.
As I previously mentioned, West Virginia will get an attempt at their revenge on Thursday. This team was playing good basketball going into the game against Oklahoma State last Saturday. Led by Miles “Deuce” McBride, this team’s defense is good enough to not only win the conference, but get this team to the Final Four. In addition, Taz Sherman, Sean McNeil and Derek Culver are all offensive threats on Bob Huggins best offensive team since they went to the Final Four in 2010.
Kansas would be in the contenders category, but David McCormack and Tristan Enaruma won’t play this week due to Covid-19 protocols. The only team all year that beat Baylor will have its depth tested this week in Kansas City.
Texas was off to an incredible start this year and leveled out as we got deeper into the season. The Longhorns backcourt of Matt Coleman lll, Andrew Jones and Courtney Ramey can score with anyone, but it remains to be seen if Texas’ perimeter defense is good enough to win three games in a row.
The Red Raiders will open with Texas who they’ve beaten twice this season. Mac McClung’s consistency could be the driving force behind a Texas Tech deep run in this tournament.
Oklahoma stumbled down the stretch losing four in a row to finish the season. At their best, this team can beat anyone in this conference. At their worst, they could lose to Iowa State to open the tournament. Austin Reaves will need to be big for them, but winning games in this tournament will start with their interior defense led by Brady Manek and Kur Kuath.
It would take an impressive performance to beat Baylor even though this conference is very deep. I expect the Bears to win the tournament and enter the NCAA Tournament with one loss. Their toughest game will end up being in the semifinals against the winner of Oklahoma State and West Virginia. While he didn’t win player of the year in the conference, Jared Butler will win Most Outstanding player of the Big 12 tournament and wrap up the number two overall seed for the Bears.
Edited by Emma Moloney