Big 12 tournament preview: Oklahoma State just one of several teams capable of beating Kansas

Kyle Ringo
The Dagger: College Basketball Blog

The Dagger will be previewing this week's eight marquee conference tournaments. Here's our look at the Big 12 tournament:

Big 12 Tournament
Dates: March 13-16
Site: Kansas City (Sprint Center)
Top four seeds: 1. Kansas 2. Kansas State 3. Oklahoma State 4. Oklahoma
Draw: Click here

Best draw: It's Kansas of course. Winning the regular season title and the top seed generally works out well for teams in the conference tournament, though it's not always the case. The Jayhawks should have no problem with the winner of Texas Tech-West Virgina. They cruised in victories over those teams in the regular season. Both Iowa State and Oklahoma are capable of upsetting the Jayhawks in a semifinal. Not having to face either Oklahoma State or Kansas State until the championship helps.

[Related: The Dagger picks every conference tournament winner]

Worst draw: Tough call here. A case can be made for either Kansas State or Oklahoma State. The Wildcats will likely start against a Texas team playing better of late with Myck Kabongo leading the way. The Cowboys open against a desperate and talented Baylor team that is capable of putting together a winning streak. Survive those challenges and KSU and OSU would face each other in the semifinals. If one is knocked off, the other has another desperate team to get by. Oklahoma State probably has it a little bit worse simply because Baylor has learned how to survive and advance the past two years in the NCAA tournament.

Three players to watch:

• Rodney McGruder, G, Kansas State— Leads the Wildcats in scoring (15.1 ppg). In a tight game. Kansas State wants the ball in his hands down the stretch.

• Ben McLemore, G, Kansas — Possibly the nation's best freshman. Second in the conference in scoring (16.7 ppg) and the Jayhawks' top playmaker.

• Marcus Smart, G, Oklahoma State — He does a little bit of everything for the Cowboys. When he's on his game, OSU is hard to beat.

Bubble implications: Iowa State, the Big 12's highest scoring team, is likely in the NCAA tournament at this point but a first-round win here against Oklahoma would solidify its place. Baylor has the most to fear. The Bears are teetering on the edge of in or out and they have a tough one in their opening game against an Oklahoma State team capable of winning the championship. The guess here is Oklahoma State wins and knocks the Bears into the NIT.

Projected champ: Oklahoma State. Sure, Kansas is the popular pick and, frankly, the easy choice, but something about that last regular season loss to Baylor creates some doubt about the Jayhawks' focus. It wouldn't be a shock to see any of the top six teams get hot and sweep through the bracket. Oklahoma State has the talent to beat anyone in the country. It surprised Kansas on the Jayhawks' home floor earlier in the season. It might have been the most impressive win for any team in the conference. If the Cowboys decide winning this is important to them and they're not looking ahead to the NCAA tournament, look out.

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