Big 12 tournament will be more compelling with multiple teams capable of winning it all

The Kansas Jayhawks shoot around during an open practice on Wednesday, March 13, 2019 at Sprint Center.

It has become an annual tradition to mention how wide open the Big 12 tournament is.

Any team, regardless of the seed, is capable of cutting down the nets on the final day of the event. This year is no different, especially with No. 17 Kansas (23-8) listed as the No. 3 seed in the tournament for the first time since 2004.

“It’s been anybody’s ballgame every year,” KU coach Bill Self said. “Every time we come over here, people always say ‘this is the most wide open the field has ever had.’ I’m not sure it wasn’t, but maybe we or Iowa State just played particularly well that weekend.”

But history would suggest that mindset isn’t true, despite how many teams in the field have NCAA tournament aspirations.

Since the Big 12 era began in 1996-97, only four active league members have won enough games to secure a title in this tournament. Kansas leads the way with 11 such crowns, while Iowa State is second with four. Oklahoma and Oklahoma State have won three and two, respectively.

The Jayhawks have lost in the championship game two other times, and own a 44-11 record in the league tournament.

“If (Texas) Tech plays great, they can win this tournament easily,” Self said. “If we play our best, I think we can win the tournament. I do think it is more wide open than in years past, but when you really look at it, Tech and K-State won the league by two games. That’s a pretty substantial amount.”

Both the Red Raiders and Wildcats will look to claim their first tourney title this weekend. Most of all, though, they will look to validate their share of the regular season crown, which ended KU’s NCAA-record stretch of 14 consecutive league titles.

“This tournament has always meant something to us, but it’s always been a validation,” Self said. “That’s what Texas Tech and K-State should be saying to each other. Because if it is one of them, they can actually say they are the best team in the league.”

According to TR Brackets, Texas Tech, the No. 2 seed, has the best chance of cutting down the nets with a 32.9 percent winning percentage. Kansas, the No. 3 seed, has the second-highest odds with a 16.64 percent. No. 5 seed Iowa State and No. 1 seed Kansas State are third and fourth on the list at 16.37 percent and 14.51 percent, respectively.

That coupled with the fact that many of the top seeds split the two-game series with each other makes this week’s tournament feel more compelling than usual. TTU split with the other four teams in the top half of the league. Kansas State, Kansas and Iowa State all split with three of the top five seeds.

Perhaps this year, it really is anybody’s ballgame after all.

My prediction: Texas Tech over Iowa State in Big 12 championship game


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