Big 12 Look: It's Tourney Time

Sooners, league foes prepare for start of the Big 12 Tournament

It’s time for the Big 12 Tournament.

Action begins Wednesday with games between Texas and Texas Tech as well as the No. 8/9 matchup between TCU and Kansas State.

Kansas coach Bill Self said Sunday after the Jayhawks’ loss to Oklahoma that nothing should be unexpected this week. He could see the Jayhawks winning the entire tournament or going home after just one game.

There are plenty of teams that could do exactly that. Eight teams were ranked at some point, and eighth-seed Kansas State took four of six games from the top three seeds during the regular season.

Oklahoma star Buddy Hield, who won the Big 12 Player of the Year on Sunday, echoed the sentiment.

“To win that championship, we have to go through everybody,” Hield said. “Every team is good, from TCU to Tech. No matter what, anybody can get hot. We’ve just got to be ready and locked in.”

Here’s a brief recap of each team and how they’re playing on the eve of the tournament:

1. Kansas (24-7, 13-5) - Biggest question for the Jayhawks is health. Wayne Selden and Perry Ellis are both nursing injuries as tournament play begins. … Coach Bill Self said he expects Brannen Greene to be re-instated from his injury, but there’s no guarantee Cliff Alexander’s eligibility issues will be solved. … Point guard Frank Mason tied a season high with 21 points against Oklahoma and had 18 or more in three of the final six games.

2. Iowa State (22-8, 12-6) - Well-tested Cyclones won seven games against ranked opponents this season but were swept by Baylor. … Jameel McKay was named the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year after averaging 2.4 blocks and 7.2 rebounds this season. … The Cyclones’ offense ranks ninth in the nation – 79.3 points per game. … Iowa State has lost or fallen behind by double digits in its past four games.

3. Oklahoma (21-9, 12-6) - No team is playing better than the Sooners, who have won nine of 11 games to close the season. … Guard Buddy Hield was named the Big 12 Player of the Year after leading the conference in scoring. … Oklahoma has won four of its final five games, all were decided by less than seven points.

4. Baylor (23-8, 11-7) - Led by Big 12 Sixth Man of the Year Taurean Prince, who leads the Bears with 14 points per game, Baylor won eight of its last 11 games, despite a shaky final week that included an overtime loss and a narrow victory against Texas Tech . … The Bears are one of only two teams in the nation to lead every game by at least six points. Kentucky is the other. … Forward Rico Gathers is the only player in the Big 12 averaging a double-double. He’s actually the only player in the Big 12 with a double-digit rebound average.

5. West Virginia (23-8, 11-7) - Mountaineers’ coach Bob Huggins was named the Big 12 Coach of the Year on Sunday and for good reason. Despite the struggles of the Preseason Player of the Year, Juwan Staten, West Virginia managed to earn at least a split with eight of the league’s 10 teams. … WVU, which played its final game without Staten and Gary Browne, will open tournament play against Baylor, which swept the Mountaineers this season.

6. Oklahoma State (18-11, 8-10) - The Cowboys come into the tournament on a losing skid, having dropped five of the past six with the only win against TCU. The Horned Frogs also beat Oklahoma State during the stretch, as did Texas Tech. … Phil Forte has seen a significant drop in production, being held scoreless against Texas Tech and not hitting his season average (15.5 points per game) for almost a month.

7. Texas (19-12, 8-10) - The Longhorns might have been the only team in the Big 12 that fell short of expectations after being picked to finish second in the preseason. … Myles Turner, who was named Big 12 Freshman of the Year, has blocked 13 shots in the past three games. … Texas needs a deep run in the Big 12 Tournament or might miss the NCAA Tournament for the second time in three years.

8. Kansas State (15-16, 8-10) - The Wildcats upset five ranked teams during the Big 12 season, including Oklahoma twice, but they split with Texas Tech and TCU. … In its last six games, Kansas State never allowed more than 70 points – a stretch that included games against Iowa State, Kansas, Baylor and Oklahoma. … The Wildcats don’t rank higher than 100th in the nation in any major offensive or defensive category.

9. TCU (17-14, 4-14) - After starting the season with 13 straight wins and cracking the top 25, the Horned Frogs had three losing streaks of at least three games – including a seven-game losing streak. … Kyan Anderson is the only playing average double figures (13.6) for TCU, which boasts defense that allowed just 62.2 points per game and ranked 15th in the nation in blocked shots.

10. Texas Tech (13-18, 3-15) - Save from a 28-point effort from freshman Devaugntah Williams in the regular season finale against Baylor, the Red Raiders wouldn’t have had a single player average in double figures this season. … Texas Tech has surpassed the 50 percent shooting mark in two of the past four games. Before that stretch, the Red Raiders had shot better than 50 percent just three times. … Despite winning just three games in conference, Texas Tech lost three of its final four games by five points or less.

Big 12 Championship prediction: Oklahoma makes the championship game by knocking off Iowa State – and ultimately earning a bid to Omaha for the NCAA Tournament. But it doesn’t play Kansas in the championship. Baylor upsets Kansas giving the Bears a win against every team in the conference and then knocks off Oklahoma.

Quotable: “Our talent level is really, really good. I’m not apologizing about that, but it’s probably not the same as some other Kansas teams that we’ve run out there in a year that the league’s been probably the best it’s ever been. It’s been a great year.” - Kansas coach Bill Self

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