A best-guess, fingers-crossed, maybe-it’ll-go-this-way look at this year’s Big 12 tournament

Baylor guard Keyonte George (1) pulls back for a dunk against Kansas forward KJ Adams (24) during the first half on Saturday, Feb. 18, 2023, at Allen Fieldhouse. Photo by Nick Krug

You’ve watched the games, followed the scores, tracked the race and seen the slugfest that the Big 12 Conference became this basketball season.

Now, you’ve been tasked with predicting how the conference tournament will play out.

Good luck.

One of the easiest ways to start this seemingly impossible exercise is by looking at the odds for which teams might win the tournament.

We’ll start with Draft Kings, which initially had regular season runner-up Texas as the betting favorite at +300. Maybe that was simply a reaction to the Longhorns’ convincing win over Kansas over the weekend or listed that way because of Texas’ path in the tournament.

By mid-day Monday, the odds had flipped to Kansas at +300, with Texas now second at +330.

After that, it went Baylor (+475), Kansas State and Iowa State (+650) and TCU (+750) as the next in line.

West Virginia (+1500), Oklahoma State (+3000) and Texas Tech and Oklahoma (+4000) rounded out the odds, with all four playing an extra game, starting Wednesday.

So, what do we make of this?

Well, for starters, it’s wide open, which you already knew. Six teams have pretty decent odds — 7.5-1 or shorter — to win the tournament.

Compare that to the rest of college basketball, and you’ll see yet another way to illustrate how the Big 12 was by far the best conference this season.

The SEC has just four teams with 7.5-1 odds or shorter. The Big Ten and Big East also have four teams with those kind of odds. While the Pac-12 has just three and the ACC has five.

The betting odds don’t tell the entire story, but they do indicate that this year’s Big 12 tournament is as wide open as any in recent memory. Sixth-seeded TCU, which opens against No. 3 Kansas State on Thursday night, is a legitimate Final Four contender.

The No. 5 seed, Iowa State, which will play 4th-seeded Baylor in the early game on Thursday, just walked into Waco, Texas, and beat the Bears last weekend.

And even though top-seeded Kansas and No. 2 Texas both swept the teams in the 8-9 and 7-10 games, each played at least two one-possession games against those foes at the bottom of the conference standings during the regular season.

That brings us back to that whole good luck idea. When you’ve got a team that finished last in your league that beat a future No. 1 seed by 24 points earlier this season, you know they’re capable of bringing that on any given night. It’s not likely to happen in the Big 12 tournament, simply because these teams know each other so well. But you definitely can’t say it can’t happen.

If 10th-seeded Oklahoma can get by Oklahoma State on Wednesday, they’ll get Texas on Thursday. The Sooners lost to UT by one at home in the Big 12 opener and then by two in overtime at Texas a couple of weeks ago. There’s at least something about that matchup that they like, and now’s the time for them to make it count.

As things stand today, it looks like seven Big 12 teams are a lock to get into the NCAA Tournament field — Kansas, Texas, Kansas State, Baylor, TCU, Iowa State and West Virginia.

That leaves it up to the one of the other three — or maybe even two — to make enough noise this week to earn a bid and make it eight of 10 in the Big 12. This league was just too good all season to only get seven of the 10 teams into the Big Dance.

Regardless of which team makes it eight, one more has to find a way to get in. We’ll see if they can do it.

It won’t be harder to win this than it will be to win a national title because three wins, instead of six, will do it. Unless, of course, one of those bottom four clubs makes a run and wins four games in four days. But those three wins, for most of these teams, will be every bit as difficult and probably more so than what they would see in Rounds 2 through 4 in the NCAA, so winning the Big 12 tournament could definitely be a primer for a Final Four run.

So much of finding success this time of the year is about matchups and all that, though. So, it’s not as if a good showing in Kansas City guarantees anything. But no matter how this week goes, all 10 of these teams certainly would have to feel like they’re tested and ready to make a memorable run starting next week.

With that in mind, here’s my quick rundown — i.e. best guess or totally inaccurate read — of how this year’s Big 12 tournament will play out.

Wednesday games

• No. 7 Oklahoma State defeats No. 10 Oklahoma – The win moves the Cowboys into the NCAA Tournament.

• No. 8 West Virginia defeats No. 9 Texas Tech – Too much going on with the Red Raiders right now and WVU’s the better team anyway.

Thursday games

• No. 4 Baylor defeats No. 5 Iowa State – ISU’s win in Waco got Baylor’s attention, but the Bears get revenge in this one and in relatively easy fashion.

• No. 1 Kansas defeats No. 8 West Virginia – Buoyed by the pro-KU crowd and the start of the money season, KU bounces back from its poor effort at Texas and runs past Bob Huggins’ bunch in another battle.

• No. 2 Texas defeats No. 7 Oklahoma State – OSU shows well enough to not lose its bid, but the Pokes never really threaten to win.

• No. 6 TCU defeats No. 3 Kansas State – In my opinion, TCU is that team this season. I think the Frogs are a legit Final Four contender and I think they might’ve won the regular season title if they hadn’t been bit by the injury bug. This pick is way more about TCU than it is K-State. The ‘Cats are fine and will be a solid 3 seed ready to make a run in the Big Dance.

Friday games

• No. 4 Baylor defeats No. 1 Kansas – The revenge tour continues for the Bears, who were shell-shocked by that all-out blitz that Kansas put on them in the second half to win in Lawrence. Scott Drew’s bunch won’t let that happen again, and this semifinal showdown of college basketball’s last two national champions will have a late-March feel to it. It also won’t be the worst thing in the world for KU to drop this game. Their resumé is stellar. They should be the No. 1 overall seed and the extra rest will only help them.

• No. 6 TCU defeats No. 2 Texas — TCU got up big on the Longhorns in Fort Worth last week before watching UT turn up its defensive pressure and make it a game. The same thing will happen this time around, only, in this one, the Frogs won’t be phased when the Longhorns flip the switch.

Saturday’s game

• No. 4 Baylor defeats No. 6 TCU – The Bears and Frogs split the regular season series, and the rubber match will be a classic. Both teams won on the other’s home floor, and in this one, the extra dose of Baylor fans in the building, will be enough to push Adam Flagler, LJ Cryer, Keyonte George and company to the Big 12 title.

Bringing this all back to that betting-line angle we started with, if this is how it plays out, a $100 bet on Baylor will pay $475, just enough for gas and a night or two in a hotel to go watch Kansas play in Des Moines next week.

Let’s finish this off with my predictions for how the Big 12 tournament, as I see it unfolding, will impact each team’s seeding in the NCAA Tournament:

Kansas – 1 seed

Baylor – 2 seed

Texas – 2 seed

Kansas State – 3 seed

TCU – 4 seed

Iowa State – 5 seed

West Virginia – 9 seed

Oklahoma State – 11 seed

Let the games begin!


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