The looming Big 12 Tournament is fascinating in the way that it probably won’t be fascinating at all.
Unlike the remarkably awful Pac 12 and uniquely top heavy SEC, the Big 12 is such a legitimate conference that it feels as though there is no way it can surprise anyone. The good teams will be good and the bad teams will be bad – plain and simple. Even though all parties involved will obviously be giving it one hundred percent (more or less) to capture the conference tournament crown because of seeding and whatnot, there is only one squad out there really fighting for its Big Dance life – the young Texas Longhorns.
With a 19-12 overall mark and a 9-9 in conference record the Longhorns are basically a walking, talking example of a bubble team. A strong showing at this week’s Big 12 Tournament will be absolutely vital to this group’s survival; a weak showing wrecks Texas’ year for good.
For what it's worth, Texas already recorded a solid win versus Iowa State this year, but the two teams did nevertheless wind up splitting their season series. (Neither game was decided by more than seven points.) A win against the Cyclones is essential for Texas, and it should be enough to ensure that they get invited to the NCAA Tournament even if they do ultimately fail to win the entire Big 12 tourney. The Longhorns, despite the fact that they have everything to play for in this one, are 14/1 to win this week’s proceedings. Iowa State (with eight point wins versus both Kansas and Baylor on its résumé) is 12/1.
Despite Kansas traditionally dominating this conference, a roster only boasting one returning starter from last season made folks wary of eventual Sporting News’ College Basketball Coach of the Year Bill Self and company heading into 2012. Nevertheless, the Jayhawks drowned out all the noise, survived an early loss against Kentucky and then rode AP Big 12 Player of the Year Thomas Robinson all the way to a regular season conference title and a cushy position in the Big Dance. How cushy? That may depend on how Kansas looks in this tournament – one that they’re favored to win 5/6.
Whereas Kansas is fighting for the No. 1 overall seed (which it won't get), Missouri is hoping to make a case for a No. 1 seed this week – any No. 1 seed. Missouri deserves the honor no matter what, but the selection committee is notoriously awful when it comes to applying common sense to these sort of situations. Still, you have to figure that a revenge win versus Kansas and/or a Big 12 tourney victory would go a long ways in persuading folks the Tigers deserve a prominent seed in the Big Dance. Missouri is 7/4 to win the tournament.
For Baylor and Kansas State this tournament is about establishing legitimacy, building momentum and, specifically in the case of Baylor, reminding folks why they were legitimate Big Four contenders earlier in the year. Mind you, the Bears will inevitably wind up with anywhere from a three to a five seed in the Big Dance, so they’ll be prime candidates to be on the wrong end of an upset if they don’t get it together (and fast) before the real games start. These two teams are 7/1and 11/1 to win the Big 12 Tournament, respectively.
Oklahoma State, Oklahoma, Texas A&M and Texas Tech are 100/1, 200/1, 250/1 and 300/1, respectively, for obvious reasons.
(All odds via Bovada)