Big 12 Tournament
Dates: March 7-10
Site: Sprint Center (Kansas CIty, Mo.)
Draw: Click here
Favorite: It's got to be the league's regular season champ, Kansas. Their quarterfinal match-up will be against either Oklahoma or Texas A&M, who the Jayhawks handled without much of a sweat in their regular season meetings. It'd then be either Baylor or Kansas State in the semifinals … and it's the same story. The team that can give Kansas the most trouble in this field is, obviously, 2-seed Missouri. But those two wouldn't meet until Saturday's championship game, and given how the first two clashes played out, it's what every college hoops fan must be pulling for. The Jayhawks' lack of quality depth has been well-documented this season, but if it hasn't hindered them to this point, it shouldn't be expected to now. They have a frontrunner for National Player of the Year honors to ride in junior forward Thomas Robinson. A little consistent help from those around him, and Kansas will be tough to top.
Three others who can win it: Missouri would be the obvious second choice behind Kansas. Like the Jayhawks, the Tigers should have strong fan support in the stands, and their draw is really just as favorable. Baylor has the potential for a three-wins-in-three-days run based on length, athleticism and talent alone, but the Bears have sputtered some in terms of performing consistently down the stretch. Still, they started the season 17-0, and that doesn't just happen by accident. A dark horse for a run is 3-seed Iowa State. The Cyclones exceeded everyone's expectations this season, and really only got blown off of the floor once in league play (a 79-64 loss at Baylor on Feb. 13). Forward Royce White is a legitimate star, but the key for Iowa State will be its 3-point shooting. They shoot a ton of them. If they're hitting at a decent clip, the Cyclones can absolutely make a run.
Three players to watch:
• Tyshawn Taylor, G, Kansas — Yes, teammate Thomas Robinson is this league's brightest star. But how Taylor plays this week could have much more influence on Kansas's chances of cutting down nets. His numbers are significantly up across the board as a senior — including turnovers, as he's averaging 3.5 a game. The Jayhawks can live with a few cough-ups, but Taylor has a history of hurting his team with giveaways. He's been reliable in every way down the stretch, and needs to stay that way.
• Marcus Denmon, G, Missouri — After a mid-season shooting swoon, the Tigers' senior gunner finished the season hot. He averaged 19.9 points and shot 51.4 percent from 3-point range over the last nine games. He has to stay that way for Mizzou while playing in his hometown this week.
• Royce White, F, Iowa State — If you haven't seen the former McDonald's All-American play this season, make sure to check him out soon, because he might not be around for another year in Ames. At 6-foot-8 and 270 pounds, White can play — and produce — at all five positions. Just a ridiculous talent.
Bubble implications: Honestly, there's not a whole lot here. The tournament's top five seeds — Kansas, Missouri, Iowa State, Baylor and Kansas State — are all safely locked into the field of 68. Kansas has the most to play for out of those five teams, as winning this league tournament would likely lock them up as a No. 1 seed. The only team on the outside of a soft bubble with a shot at getting in would be 6-seed Texas. The young Longhorns went 19-12 overall and 9-9 in the Big 12 in what was expected to be a rebuilding year, and quality wins are tough to find on their résumé. Against the top five teams in the league, they went a combined 2-8, notching home wins against Kansas State and Iowa State. They need to give the selection committee more … a lot more.
Projected champ: Honestly, this feels like a toss-up between Kansas and Missouri. They've been the most consistent performers in this league from the start of Big 12 play to its finish. And, once again, a rubber match between these two is what everyone wants to watch, so lets throw a little karma in both teams' directions.
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