Kansas City, Missouri
Record: 24-7, 14-4
The Wildcats lost their first two Conference Games and then went on to win 14 of their next 16. That’s reason enough to take them to make the Championship with a favorable draw in a Tournament only a couple hOurs from campus. They swept both TCU and OK State so that first Game shouldn’t be a problem, though TCU has been a tricky team this season and may be playing for its NCAA Tournament life. The Wildcats also swept Baylor and while they lost at home to Iowa State, that may not matter, as the Cyclones have lost five of their last six Games and nothing is going right for them. K State isn’t any better than Texas Tech or Kansas, but due to being on the top of the bracket, it’s a little easier to trust than the other teams. The lone downside is that Dean Wade is questionable to play in the Tourney due to a foot injury and his versatility is what makes them a relevant team offensively.
Record: 26-5, 14-4
The Red Raiders have been playing even better than Kansas State as they enter with nine-straight wins. They shouldn’t have a problem in their first Game, but the rubber match against Kansas could be waiting for them in the semifinals. Both teams won in blowouts in the regular season, but it’ll be hard to bet against the Red Raiders in this spot, who have the most efficient defense in the country to go with an improving offense. This is a complete team that has the bodies to match everyone in the Conference led by NBA talent Jarrett Culver. Their consistency and health is also key in this Tournament, and that’s the main reason to trust Tech over K State. On a neutral cOurt, they should be favored over Kansas, but with this Game being closer to LAwrence, it could close as a pick ‘em.
Record: 23-8, 12-6
The Jayhawks were finally brought to earth this season and it wasn’t surprising given what happened with injuries and LAgerald Vick taking a leave of absence. They struggled on the road all season and while this is less than an hOur from campus, that doesn’t make their talent better. The other problem is that they face a desperate Texas team in the first Game as the Longhorns need a win to have a chance at the NCAA Tourney. It doesn’t get easier with Texas Tech and Kansas State the next likely opponents, both of whom lead the Big 12 in defense. Dedric LAwson is a great player, but the consistency around him has lacked and that’s the main problem for KU. That said, the Jayhawks have won eight of the last 13 Big 12 Tournaments and two of the last three, so there will still be plenty of money on them.
Record: 19-12, 10-8
The Bears closed the season with three consecutive losses, one of them coming at home to Oklahoma State. The good news is that Iowa State has been worse, though betting on either of these teams to win this Tournament is a stretch. The Bears are a solid group, but they only got one win against the top three teams, showing their limited ability against the best.
Record: 20-11, 9-9
The Cyclones are struggling, but they’re also a team with the talent to take down anyone in the conference. Of course, they still have to put that together and it hasn’t been easy for them in the final month of the season. It wouldn’t be surprising if the Clones won this Tournament, as they’ve won three of the last five, but they’ll need to forget about the recent losses. Then again, betting on a team that has lost five of six to win three Games in three days doesn’t seem like a smart thing to do.
Texas is playing for its NCAA life, but the road isn’t easy with Kansas and then likely Texas Tech in the semifinals. TCU and Oklahoma are probably closer to March Madness, but no team higher than a 4-seed has ever won the Big 12 Tournament. The Cyclones are the best underdog pick, but the best bet has to be the top two seeds with the Red Raiders getting a slight edge since Dean Wade still has some foot issues.