Big 12 tournament features handful of championship contenders

Greg Habeeb

Out of all of the major conferences, the Big 12 is the toughest to make sense of. 

All season long, it seemed that Kansas (24-7, 13-5 Big 12) had defined itself as the clear frontrunner in the conference while a battle for second raged below them. Then the Jayhawks promptly went 3-3 down the stretch and now nobody knows what to think. 

The conference has five teams ranked in the current AP poll (Kansas, Iowa State, Oklahoma, Baylor and West Virginia), and any one of those teams could conceivably make a case for the best team in the Big 12. Oklahoma (21-9, 12-6 Big 12) will probably be the Jayhawks toughest challenger in the conference tournament. 

The Sooners beat Kansas in the final game of the season thanks to an insane last second tip in from star junior guard Buddy Hield, and boast the conference’s best defense, allowing 91.4 points per 100 possessions. 

Kansas will likely also have its hands full with Iowa State (22-8, 12-6 Big 12), a team that has its issues defensively but also possesses one of the best offenses in the nation, ranking 22nd in points per 100 possession. 

The Cyclones play fast, with the sixth highest adjusted tempo and the shortest offensive possession length according to 

As a result, five Cyclones have managed to average double digit scoring this season, a group led by junior forward Georges Niang’s 15.2. Baylor (23-8 11-7 Big 12) and its nation’s best offensive rebounding percentage is another high powered offense that could cause problems for Kansas. 

West Virginia (23-8, 11-7 Big 12), could make noise as a well-coached unit led by senior guard Juwan Staten.

And then there’s the matter of Texas. The Longhorns were ranked tenth in the AP Preseason poll and were 12-2 on Jan. 3 before enduring a 17 game swoon in which they lost 12 games. 

Including two separate four game losing streaks. 

Texas has the talent to cause problems for the rest of the conference come tournament time, assuming of course head coach Rick Barnes doesn’t start doing Rick Barnes things and continue to make the least of yet another talented roster. The Longhorns, along with Oklahoma State, need to perform well in Big 12 tournament play to ensure their spots in the NCAA tourney. 

 At the end of the day Kansas is still the team most likely to emerge from this mess, but the gap between them and everyone else is much closer than it was a few weeks ago.