Big 12 Tournament Primer

A detailed look at every team competing in this week's Phillips 66 Big 12 Baseball Championship in Oklahoma City. Who has the best shot at emerging victorious?

The Big 12
championship is set to begin Wednesday. Some teams are hot, some teams are cold, and although it's the post-season, some teams are yet to have an identity.

The Oklahoma State Cowboys enter the tournament as the favorite, but look out for Kansas, TCU and Texas Tech. These teams are hot and could wind up with the crown. Other teams are just relieved they finished ahead of Kansas State. The pre-season pick to win the conference will watch the tournament from their homes.

Defending tournament champion Oklahoma will get a shot to defend their title, but if they don't defend the championship, they'll be staying home for the NCAA regionals. It's been an interesting season and the post-season should be no different.

Click here to see the Big 12 tournament bracket

Division One

1. Oklahoma State Cowboys 41-14 (18-6)
Josh Holliday is building a monster in Stillwater. Holliday received the Big 12 Coach of the Year award Tuesday and outfielder Zach Fish was named Big 12 Player of the Year. The scary part about this team is they could be better. Oklahoma State should be playing for a national seed, but they tend to get the hiccups a lot. The Cowboys dominated Big 12 Conference play with three sweeps and only one series loss. Oklahoma State lost its first conference series in Waco against Baylor. They dominated the rest of the way en route to the Big 12 Regular Season Championship. Mid-week losses against UT Pan American, Oral Roberts and Wichita State are the main reasons this team is destined for a 2 seed. A host bid is not out of reach, but the Cowboys have to offset the awful hiccups.

History is not on the Cowboys side though. Oklahoma State has an all-time Big 12 Tournament record of 13-30 and have dropped seven straight games. Although the history is awful, the Cowboys managed to win the 2004 Big 12 Conference Tournament.

The Cowboys are the hottest team entering the regional, but they dropped their final regular season game against the team who Oklahoma State plays first, the Oklahoma Sooners. The loss snapped a 12-game win streak.

4. Texas Tech Red Raiders 40-16 (14-10)
If the Oklahoma State Cowboys didn't win the regular season trophy, perhaps Texas Tech head coach Tim Tadlock would have been named coach of the year. The Red Raiders have had one of the best turnarounds in college baseball history and are set to end a decade-long regional drought. Texas Tech is the toughest squad in this tournament. There were a number of times this season where the Red Raiders were punched in the mouth, but answered the critics. The most recent situation is after being swept by Kansas, Tech finished the regular season with four consecutive victories.

Tech now gets a chance to avenge a couple of series the Red Raiders know they should have won. Their first game will be against Texas. The Red Raiders had all the momentum during their rubber match with Texas Tech after Zach Davis stole home with two outs in the bottom of the ninth. After leaving five runners on base during extra innings, the Longhorns were able to escape Lubbock with the victory.

If Tech wins, they will probably face Oklahoma State. The Red Raiders could have crashed the Cowboys party early on in Stillwater, but a bullpen collapse allowed Oklahoma State to survive their first series victory and reel off seven straight en route to their first Big 12 regular season title.

If the Red Raiders are to advance to Sunday's championship game, perhaps they will meet the red-hot Kansas Jayhawks. Kansas swept the Red Raiders and seriously hurt Tech's chances at not only a conference championship, but a regional host bid.

To hold up the Big 12 Championship trophy would bring sweet revenge to a Red Raider team who proved all pre-season doubters wrong.

Texas Tech will send RHP Corey Taylor to the mound Wednesday night against Texas.

5. Texas Longhorns 36-16 (13-11)
The Longhorns are a roller coaster team to say the least. This team has shown everything from winning the Houston College Classic to dropping a series to a dismal California team. This team could be the Big 12 Conference Champions. The pitching staff is phenomenal and the Longhorns are never short of talent. When it comes to tournaments, the Longhorns can run the table or they can lay goose egg. The Longhorns are a team that will lose if you bet on them or win if you wager against them.

Texas is currently going down on the roller coaster after dropping five of their last nine games and eight of their last 14. The Longhorns were swept in April by TCU in Austin, but at one time had 14 victories in 16 games. These 14 victories included sweeps against Oklahoma and Baylor plus a mid-week victory at Reckling Park against Rice.

The Longhorns missed out on the Big 12 Tournament one year ago after finishing last in the conference. Texas is on a three-game losing streak at the tournament, but they are tied with Nebraska for the most tournament championships at four.

Texas will place RHP Lukas Schiraldi (6-3, 4.39 ERA) on the rubber to play Texas Tech the first night. The pitching staff is usually not a problem for the Longhorns, but offense is the key to a Texas victory. If the power switch is off for the Longhorn offense, this team will be a quick elimination regardless of how well the pitching staff works its magic. The only conference squad with a winning record they took a series from is Texas Tech.

8. Oklahoma Sooners 28-27 (8-16)
There is only one way Oklahoma can make a regional this season: win the Big 12 Conference Championship.

The Sooners have been nothing short of a disappointment in the first season under head coach Pete Hughes. The only team with a more disappointing outing this season is the pick to win the Big 12 this season, Kansas State. The Wildcats will be watching the tournament from their nice, cozy houses this year. The Sooners, however, get one last shot to make a miracle happen.

The first game for the Sooners is against a team they just lost two-of-three against, in-state rival Oklahoma State. Oklahoma is the clear underdog. There are not many times when a Sooners squad is considered a "Cinderella", but the Sooners are 2-9 against the squads in their half of the bracket. Both victories came against Oklahoma State with one being a non-conference mid-week game.

The only thing the Sooners have going for them heading into Oklahoma City is the fact they are the closest team in regards of location. Oklahoma will play in their home state where they are 21-18 with a 19-15 record in Norman.

Any team that loses to the Sooners this week will bury their dreams of a regional host bid.

Division Two

2. TCU Horned Frogs 38-15 (17-7)
This team was knocked down twice in the first two rounds of Big 12 Conference play. They came back and nearly won the regular season championship. The red hot Horned Frogs went on 13-game win streak and reeled off 20 victories in 21 games after dropping a series against Oklahoma State.

This team wants to get to the championship for one reason in particular. They want a second shot at Oklahoma State, or even Texas Tech. After finishing one game back of the Cowboys, the Horned Frogs have a chance to host a regional and prove to the Big 12 Conference they belong with big boys. Yes, TCU has appeared in the College World Series, but they were snubbed from the Big 12 Conference in 1996. This is their second year playing in a power conference and this is the perfect opportunity for them to show they belong.

TCU has a stellar pitching staff. Preston Morrison received Big 12 Pitcher of the Year Tuesday. The award could have easily gone to teammate and TCU ace Brandon Finnegan. With these two dealing, they are the team to beat in their half of the bracket.

TCU's first opponent will be Baylor. The Bears were able to knock out Finnegan early Friday, but had no such luck the rest of the weekend. TCU should be able to take care of Baylor Wednesday, but the games aren't played on paper.

3. Kansas Jayhawks 34-22 (15-9)
A lot of people are diving into some humble pie after picking the Jayhawks to finish last. Specifically, those wearing purple in the Little Apple. In-state rival Kansas State was selected as the preseason favorite to win the Big 12 Conference. Kansas was picked to finish last.

The Jayhawks are on a nine-game conference winning streak and could be the hottest team going into the tournament. If there is one team who could throttle TCU's chances of making it to the title game, it's Kansas.

The Jayhawks raised a few eyebrows with a 12-1 start to the season, but were dismissed after seeing who they had played. The eyebrows were raised again when the Jayhawks stole a series from Texas in Austin to open conference play.

On April 23, it seemed the Jayhawks had been placed in their rightful spot of the bottom half of the Big 12 Conference. The Jayhawks lost their third conference series out of their last four and the one they had won was against cellar dweller Kansas State. Nine conference games later and the Jayhawks are considered a lock for a regional berth by Baseball America.

Kansas took a game from TCU during the Horned Frogs hottest time of the season. The Jayhawks placed the feet of Texas Tech back on the ground with a sweep and throttled West Virginia's hopes of an at-large berth.

No one knows for sure if the Jayhawks are pretenders or contenders, but they have gotten hot at the right time. To solidify this run, the Jayhawks will need to stay hot.

6. West Virginia Mountaineers 27-24 (9-14)
Without a doubt, the coldest team heading into the tournament is the West Virginia Mountaineers. A team once considered a 2 seed for a regional by College Baseball Daily is now falling faster than a glass of milk knocked off a table by an elbow.

The Mountaineers enter the tournament as losers of seven straight and will face the hottest team in the conference first. West Virginia must get off to a fast start against Kansas or the free fall can easily drop the Mountaineers in two games.

Not only is this team rapidly hitting the panic button, but they are doing so by traveling further than any of the other teams.

The Mountaineers should not even be thinking about the fact they're in a tournament. Game one has never seemed so important to a team. The Mountaineers must beat Kansas before they think about anything else.

If the Mountaineers do happen to beat Kansas, West Virginia is going to need some help from the other conferences and will certainly need to beat TCU at least once to have any hope of an at-large berth.

7. Baylor Bears 24-29 (8-15)
The only team with a worse road record in the Big 12 than Baylor is West Virginia. With how far the Mountaineers have to travel, it's understandable. Now the Bears are not in Waco where they took a series against Oklahoma State and Texas Tech. These Bears are so bad on the road, they became the only Big 12 Conference team to drop a series to the Kansas State Wildcats.

Now Baylor must figure out a way to defeat a red-hot TCU squad in a different state. If they do happen to muster that up, they'll probably play a Kansas team that swept them at home in Waco.

Baylor is 4-16 this season on the road and lost all three games played on a neutral site. They do have some things going their way though. The Bears are 2-1 this season when playing in the state of Oklahoma and the coldest team in this tournament is in Baylor's half of the bracket.

Baylor has a winning record at Bricktown Ballpark and is 3-0 all-time against teams in their bracket during the Big 12 conference tournament.

History is on the Bears side, but first they must find a way to somehow win away from Waco.

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