By: Nate Kotisso, KCOU Sports
WHEN: March 11-14
WHERE: Sprint Center, Kansas City, Mo.
HOW TO WATCH: ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU
If the Big 12 regular season is any indication of things to come, this year’s conference tournament is one we will be talking about for a long time.
The 2014-15 season had the Kansas Jayhawks scratch and claw their way to a ridiculous 11th consecutive Big 12 regular season title. As successful as that run is, KU has only been able to win six of those 11 Big 12 tournaments which, still, is quite a feat but is an example of how difficult it is to win multiple games in a short amount of time.
The Jayhawks arrive in Kansas City wounded with star forward Perry Ellis sidelined in their regular season finale at Oklahoma with a sprained knee. Coach Bill Self said Ellis will wear a brace for the rest of the season but has not ruled out a return in this tournament or the NCAA Tournament. Self has also dealt with suspending sharpshooter Brannen Greene for the Oklahoma game. There is also the NCAA’s current investigation into freshman big man Cliff Alexander, a strong force in the interior when on the floor, due to eligibility concerns. Memo to the rest of the league: If there is a time to pounce on a vulnerable Kansas team, now would be it.
Iowa State, Oklahoma, Baylor and West Virginia — the two, three, four and five seeds in the tournament respectively — have the most to gain from Kansas’ concerns on and off the basketball court. Iowa State, Oklahoma and West Virginia were able to score wins on their home floor against the Jayhawks while Baylor was able to win five of six regular season games versus the Cyclones, Sooners and Mountaineers. If one of these teams were to run the table in Kansas City, their prospective seeding in next week’s NCAA Tournament would get a major boost.
The two teams who come into the Sprint Center on official business are Oklahoma State and Texas. Thanks to quality wins in conference play, the Cowboys’ status as a NCAA Tournament team is close to a done deal but would really be a sure thing if they take down archrival Oklahoma in their quarterfinal matchup on Thursday night. OU swept OSU in the regular season series so a win for the Pokes would definitely qualify as #Bedlam.
Texas dug themselves into a deep hole for much of the conference season. They entered the final week with a 6-10 record and only one win against a soon-to-be tournament team in West Virginia. UT was able to stage a comeback win against Baylor in overtime and defeating Kansas State on Saturday to close out Big 12 play at 8-10. While the Cowboys may not necessarily need to beat OU in their first game, the Longhorns find themselves facing off with Texas Tech later tonight, knowing full well that a loss to a mediocre Red Raider team could cost them a shot for an at-large bid for the NCAA Tournament.
And now that brings us to Kansas State, TCU and the aforementioned Texas Tech team. None of these teams are headed for March Madness this season but these clubs have combined to form an impressive list of notable wins against teams that are: Kansas, Baylor, Iowa State (twice), Oklahoma (twice) and Oklahoma State (thrice). No one can afford to suffer a bad L days before the Selection Committee is putting seeds together.
First Round – TCU over Kansas State, Texas over Texas Tech
Quarterfinals – Baylor over West Virginia, Kansas over Kansas State, Iowa State over Texas, Oklahoma State over Oklahoma
Semifinals – Baylor over Kansas, Iowa State over Oklahoma State
Final – Baylor over Iowa State
Tonight kickstarts the four wildest days in the wildest conference in college basketball. It is totally your call if you choose to watch the games with or without your pants. We will not judge you.