By: Patrick Windsor
The Big 12 has been one of the deepest conferences in the country and will likely send seven teams to the NCAA Tournament. Despite the depth of the conference, Kansas (27-4, 15-3) found a way to earn the top seed and its 12th consecutive Big 12 regular season title.
Games begin on Wednesday, March 9 at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo. The No. 8-seeded Kansas State Wildcats will take on the No. 9-seeded Oklahoma State Cowboys in the tournament’s first game, followed by No. 7 Texas Tech versus No. 10 TCU.
The championship game will be on Saturday, March 12 at 5:00 p.m. on ESPN.
Players to Watch
Devonte’ Graham, Guard, Kansas Jayhawks
To go along with Frank Mason III and Wayne Selden Jr., the guard play of Devonte’ Graham has been vital to the success of Kansas this season. Graham seemed to play his best when the stage was the biggest. Graham scored a combined 49 points in two crucial wins against Oklahoma that helped lead the Jayhawks to their 12th straight regular season championship. The stage is at its biggest during tournament time and Graham has his chance to prove that he can thrive in big moments.
Buddy Hield, Guard, Oklahoma Sooners
Buddy Hield is not only one of the top players in the conference but he is one of the top players in the country. At 25.1 points per game, Hield has put himself in a good position to win the player of the year award. With individual accolades aside, Hield is primed to lead the Sooners on a deep run in March.
Georges Niang, Forward, Iowa State Cyclones
The 2015 Big 12 Tournament MVP looks to cap off his senior season with another tournament title. Niang averaged 18 points per game in the Cyclones championship run last season and would love nothing more than to have a repeat. Look for the senior to have another good performance in this year’s go around.
Who Wins it All?
The Jayhawks started off conference play with a 4-3 record and their championship streak looked like it was in jeopardy. Since then, Kansas has won 11 games in a row and has earned the No. 1 seed in the Big 12 and the No. 1 ranking in the country. The depth and experience of the Jayhawks, led by senior Perry Ellis, has carried the team throughout the season and makes them a favorite to reach the final four, as well as the favorite to win the Big 12 Tournament.
Contenders: West Virginia, Oklahoma
Bob Huggins’ “Press Virginia” squad has caused a lot of teams fits with its press defense. The Mountaineers (24-7, 13-5) up-tempo style has led them to a No. 2 seed in the tournament and makes them a tough outing for anybody.
The Sooners look to be another tough outing for opponents with the 21st ranked offense, scoring 80.9 points per game. Buddy Hield leads the team in scoring, but Isaiah Cousins, Jordan Woodard and Ryan Spangler also contribute heavily to one of the best shooting teams in the country. If Oklahoma catches fire in the tournament, watch out.
Baylor is usually a team that disappoints in the regular season with the talent it has, but they seem to find a way to get into gear come tournament time. The Bears have made two finals appearances in the Big 12 tournament, three Sweet 16 appearances and two Elite 8 appearances in the NCAA Tournament since 2010. With guys like Taurean Prince, Rico Gathers and Johnathan Motley, Baylor can be a dangerous team to play.
Prediction: Kansas wins Big 12 tournament