March 09, 2011
The Big 12 Tournament tips off in about three hours. Over the next four days, 11 games will determine the league champ. I will have a courtside seat, at least for as long as Missouri hangs around. Here are 12 thoughts for the Big 12 tourney:
*Missouri got the best draw it could have hoped for. Texas Tech isn't very good, A&M is the weakest of the top four seeds and the Tigers won't have to face Kansas or Kansas State until the title game at the earliest.
*Realize, that doesn't mean I think Missouri is going to win the thing. The Tigers have hardly proven they're capable of winning four straight games against decent competition. I'm just saying IF they're going to make a run, they got the most friendly draw to do so.
*The Tigers hopes hinge on Ricardo Ratliffe. Marcus Denmon has been his usual self during Mizzou's three-game losing streak. Laurence Bowers has averaged 16 points and eight boards, while getting five steals and blocking five shots. Those guys have been good enough to win. But Bowers needs help. Over the last three games, Ratliffe has a grand total of 12 points and eight rebounds in 66 minutes. Not gonna get it done.
*Jacob Pullen is the most valuable player in the tournament...and maybe in college basketball. If he's as good as he was the last ten games, K-State can win the thing easily. If he's off, they can lose to Colorado.
*Five teams are in the NCAA Tournament regardless of what they do. Kansas will be a one seed, Texas a one or two. K-State and A&M are locks and should be favored to win their first tournament game. Missouri is in even if it loses to Tech, but can really help its seeding with a win or two. Baylor, Colorado and Nebraska have varying levels of tournament hopes. The Buffs MIGHT get in with one win. Baylor and Nebraska need at least two, maybe three. Everyone else has to win the tournament to get in.
*Mark Turgeon did the best coaching job in the league. I have no problem with Bill Self being the coach of the year, but Self has guys who rarely see the floor who would be A&M's best player. Turgeon doesn't have a star, doesn't have a major inside presence and generally doesn't have as much talent as many teams he beat in the league standings. No wonder his name comes up for other jobs all the time.
*Iowa State is one of the best last place teams in the country. The Cyclones won just three Big 12 games, but had seven losses by nine points or less. Colorado better watch out. The Clones can win on Wednesday.
*Baylor is dangerous. After watching them at Mizzou Arena, I just couldn't figure out how they were so bad. Lace Dunn is the Big 12's all-time leading scorer, Quincy Acy is a monster and Perry Jones III is going to be a top-three NBA draft pick. How that team finished 7-9 in this league is beyond me. But if they can put it together at the right time, they can wreck the bracket.
*This is the last Big 12 tournament we will see. Next year, only ten teams remain. No one knows how the tournament will work, but I'd think the 7-10 seeds and the 8-9 seeds play on day one with the top six getting byes. That would leave eight teams in a tournament that will be the same as the final three days are now.
*Are we seeing any Big 12 coaches besides Pat Knight coach for the final time at their schools? I've got to think that seat for Jeff Capel is pretty hot. Scott Drew, Turgeon, Doc Sadler and Mike Anderson will all be mentioned for other jobs prominently, but I think Sadler is the only one who may go anywhere.
*Thank God the tournament is back in my home town. I've been to this event in Oklahoma City and Dallas. It just isn't the same. Kansas City just does this thing right. The Big 12 Tournament MATTERS to Kansas City. It should be there every year (plus it reduces my travel costs to cover it ten-fold).
*Time to pick some winners. Wednesday's winners will be Colorado, Nebraska, Missouri and Baylor. Day two puts Kansas, Kansas State, Texas and Mizzou in the semis. The Cats pull the upset, the Tigers don't and then Kansas State takes down Texas in the final on Saturday night.