After a great season of Big 12 basketball, that saw all nine eligible teams being in the conversation for a tournament berth, the nine teams descend on Kansas City in possibly the best Conference Tournament of them all.
Some teams are fighting for a #1 seed in the Big Dance, while some will be fighting for a chance to get in with an automatic bid, here’s what constitutes success for each of the nine Big 12 Tournament teams.
Kansas- Win the Tournament
This one’s easy, they’re as talented as anyone, 40 minutes from home, and have a pedigree of lifting Big 12 Titles. After they blew the outright conference title in Waco and Fort Worth on the final week they won two tight ones in Lawrence to clinch a share with Baylor. The problem for the Jayhawks may be getting to Saturday, a potential matchup with cross-state rival Kansas State could await them on Thursday. Should they win that, the 4v5 matchup features two teams they split 1-1 with and neither of their wins came in comfortable fashion. In the four games against TCU and Texas, they were outscored a combined 284-282. Still, the standards for this roster should be to cut down the nets on Saturday.
Baylor- Win the Tournament
Despite some great seasons over the past decade-plus in the Scott Drew era, the Bears are still yet to break through and win the conference tournament, in fact, they haven’t made a final since 2014. Covid derailed one of their most talented teams ever in 2020 and last year it was Cade Cunningham and Oklahoma State that did them in. They open with an Oklahoma team that has won their last 3 and a coach with a history of making runs in tournaments. After that, a potential semifinal with a Texas Tech team they were swept by. Going deeper than wins if LJ. Cryer gets any minutes that will bode well for the Bears in the NCAA Tournament.
Texas Tech- Win the Opener, and get McCullar healthy
Normally when you’re the 3 seed, 5-1 against the top 4 seeds, and have 12 players that have played key conference minutes, the expectation is to win it all. But when two of your best three players are banged up, winning three games vs quality teams in three days becomes a daunting task. Their opener vs Iowa State is going to be a tough test, it’s likely to feel like a road game, and Tech went just 3-6 in conference road games this year. A win vs a quality team on a neutral court would be a huge boost especially if McCullar can get into a rhythm, and also clinch a 3 seed in the NCAA. The question for the semi-final would be how many minutes Shannon and McCullar get nursing injuries. The ten other players are certainly capable and beat Kansas in January, but it’d be a tricky one. Should they get to Saturday it’d likely be all hands on deck, but with nagging injuries that Friday game could be a hill too high should they get there.
Texas- Make the Final, they’re good enough
How seriously does Chris Beard take the Big 12 Tournament? In 2018 with Texas Tech he used unusual rotations in the semifinal vs West Virginia, but he had 3 starters dealing with injuries. The next year he was bounced by the 10 seed in the quarterfinals, but some close to the program said that was about as frustrated as they had ever seen him. All-time Chris Beard is 9-3 in the NCAAs but just 1-4 in the Big 12 Tournament. You’d have to think this time out with some of Texas’ struggles at stringing big wins together, it’s a huge chance for them to do that before the Tournament. It’s a tough road though, as Thursday they play a TCU team they swept, that also looks like they’ve rounded into form. If they get through that, it’s a Friday evening date with a Kansas team they nearly beat at the Phog. Win that, they’re likely a four-seed and would enter the Big Dance with plenty of confidence. This team could easily have a Thursday afternoon flight home or cut down the nets on Saturday evening.
TCU- Avoid going 0-3 vs Texas
This team is hot, I don’t care about the loss in Morgantown, that’s a road loss after playing 80 extremely hard minutes midweek vs Kansas. Now they need to get revenge against Texas, after putting a lot into that matchup in Fort Worth earlier in the year just to get blown out in front of their largest student attendance to date. That game at 11:30 on Thursday may be the matchup of the Quarterfinals. If they get by that, they certainly wouldn’t fear a potential date with Kansas after last week especially if Mike Miles continues to show up. While it wouldn’t shock me to see them make the final for the first time ever, a semifinal appearance for the first time since 2017, and just second-ever would definitely constitute success and could lock them into a 7 seed.
Iowa State- Beat Tech, give their fans a Friday semi
Iowa State has defied all expectations this year and has a chance to continue that in front of a friendly crowd Thursday night vs a struggling Texas Tech team. While no team has ever won the tournament from the 6 seed or worse, the three times the champion has come from worse than a 3 seed, has been by the Cyclones. Take away that abomination they tried to pass off as basketball against Oklahoma State last week, they’ve actually been very good the last few weeks with their only other loss coming in Waco where they gave the Bears a game. If they beat Texas Tech on Thursday, which is a tall task, then playing on Friday night in a Big 12 semifinal with their crowd showing up as they normally do in Kansas City, certainly isn’t a game I’m betting against them in.
Oklahoma- Make the Semifinals
This has been a season of what-ifs for Oklahoma, and opening up with a hot Baylor squad is gonna be a difficult task. After Elijah Harkless went down you could see their NCAA Tournament hopes fading away. But they’ve won three straight to earn a bye, and other than one week, have played very well the last month. Porter Moser knows a thing or two about tournament runs, while unlikely that they go far, they certainly won’t be a team to sleep on.
Kansas State- Make the Semifinals
Many Kansas State fans may answer this question by saying Bruce Weber being fired and Brad Underwood being hired at the end of the tournament. But this is a team that should have every opportunity to beat West Virginia and set up a date with Kansas. With a player like Nigel Pack, and playing so close to home there’s no reason to think they can’t spring an upset on Kansas if the brakes go their way, especially with how they played them in Manhattan. They’ll play hungry, and have a coach that has made a surprising tournament run before.
West Virginia- Beat Kansas State on Wednesday
The reality is that at home West Virginia has been a tough team, but their road record and performances are horrendous, sitting at 0-10 in 2022. For a fanbase that came into conference play clammering to be ranked there’s likely nothing that can happen in Kansas City short of winning it that would constitute a success. Still, they’ve been extremely competitive at home this year and have a player in Taz Sherman that’s capable of winning a game. In order for them to make the NIT they need to make the Semifinals. Across both their meetings with Kansas there’s no indication that they can spring that upset, but Kansas State is a different story. They split the season series in two competitive games. Winning that and giving themselves at least a chance to play for an NIT birth would at least give their fans something to look forward to.
Oklahoma State- Have Baylor blow out OU
Not much to elaborate on here.