The depth of the Big 12 conference will be on full display this weekend at the Big 12 Championship inside Kansas City's Sprint Center. Kansas coach Bill Self knows the depth will present its fair share of challenges.
The league has been widely regarded as one of the best if not the best conferences in the nation. Its strength will be on showcase and will create a gauntlet for whichever team emerges victorious on Saturday night.
"No, no. I think we've always had very competitive Big 12 tournaments, but I don't know if I can ever remember where if there's a final between whatever seeds there are, it would be absolutely not a major surprise to anybody.," Self said.
"When you look at our side, you've got a No. 1 (Kansas) playing No. 8 (Oklahoma State), and No. 8 (Oklahoma State) was picked to win the league. No. 4 (Iowa State) and No. 5 (Kansas State), obviously, are right there, have been ranked the majority of the year, and the No. 4 seed has been ranked in the top 10 a good portion of it. K-State has been ranked the majority of the year. I don't think there's very many leagues in the country that could say that you have a team that's ranked in the top 10 and a team that is ranked in the top 10 six weeks ago or seven weeks ago could play in the first round of a conference tournament. So that means it's pretty strong. It's going to be a pretty special weekend."
The Jayhawks will enter the tournament without starting center Joel Embiid, who was diagnosed with a stress fracture in his back, which will sideline him indefinitely, or at least until the middle of the NCAA Tournament at the earliest.
While it will be a challenge for Kansas, the silver lining could be found in that it will forced the Jayhawks to adjust to life without Embiid, which will serve them well as they head into the NCAA Tournament. Simply put, they can grow and only get better through the adversity.
The other item at stake is Kansas' aim at securing the final number one seed in the tournament. Despite being 23-8 overall and 14-4 in the Big 12, KU's high RPI could help still catapult into the one line with another tournament victory. Still, Self believes that it'll be all for naught if his team doesn't use the week to improve.
"I think we'd have to win the tournament. I think you can play well and not win in Kansas City. But for us to get back on the No. 1 line, I would say that we'd probably have to win the tournament and Villanova would probably have to not win their tournament," Self said. "But that's really not our focus. I just want us to go play well this weekend. If we play well this weekend and get some momentum going into next weekend, that would be the biggest thing."