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Big 12 tournament hoops preview: Storylines, observations and a prediction

A glance at this year's Big 12 tournament bracket triggered the following thoughts regarding the path to the championship at Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo:

If I'm a Kansas fan, I'm looking at the bracket thinking Texas has an easier path to the title game. Which team would you rather face in the semifinals, No. 3 Texas A&M or No. 4 Kansas State?

Kansas would beat Texas A&M in Kansas City nine out of 10 times. That's plain reality. A&M coach Mark Turgeon has never beaten KU and the Jayhawks are 17-1 in the Big 12 era against the Aggies.

K-State, conversely, is on a rampage right now, winners of eight of their last nine games and six straight. The Wildcats, after struggling early in the season, jumped to a No. 4 seed and would face the Jayhawks in the semifinals if both teams take care of business (KU against Nebraska/Oklahoma State; K-State against Colorado/Iowa State).

Jacob Pullen continues to play like an All-American. His point totals (19.6 ppg) are aided by his unrelenting ability to get to the rim and draw fouls. The last time Pullen attempted fewer than eight free throws in a game was Feb. 12. And he's making his trips to the line count. Since Feb. 12, he's converted 55 of 64 charities (85.9 percent).

Kansas and Kansas State can't meet for the Big 12 tournament championship like last year, but a semifinals matchup would be a heck of a game. Last year's final was the most electric I've ever seen the Power & Light District.

It could be argued that Texas has the more difficult second-round game, likely against a potentially dangerous No. 7 Baylor seed. Sure, the Bears have lost four of their past five games, but at 7-9 in the league, they're not heading to the Big Dance unless they win the Big 12 tournament. They have the talent, and they have a history of rallying in the Big 12 tournament in a last-ditch effort to make the NCAAs. In 2009, as a No. 9 seed, Baylor knocked out Kansas in the second round of the Big 12 tourney and nearly won it all. Eventually, BU fell to Missouri in the championship game.

Who could surprise: I'm going with No. 6 seed Missouri, of the teams that don't have byes in Round 1. The Tigers should beat Texas Tech. After that, they would have a winnable game against Texas A&M in front of a pro-MU crowd in K.C. In the semifinals, the Tigers would draw either Texas or Baylor, most likely. Texas, despite a victory over Baylor on Saturday in Waco, isn't playing nearly as well as it was earlier in the season.

Bold tournament prediction: Missouri makes it to the Big 12 tournament finals.

Who needs to get on track the most in K.C.: UT's Jordan Hamilton. Josh Selby could also be an understandable answer, but KU's depth provides various back-up plans for the Baltimore native's struggles. Texas does not have a back-up plan for Hamilton. In UT's past six games, Hamilton is 32-for-102 (31.2 percent) from the field. Texas is a mere 3-3 in that time. Tristan Thompson is carrying the Longhorns offensively of late, but UT plays considerably better when Hamilton is that guy.

Predicted champion: Here's what went through my head when predicting a winner:

First, the winner has to be one of the top 4 seeds. In the previous 14 years, no 5-12 seed has ever won the Big 12 tournament. To pull it off, the lower seeds would have to play four straight days. It just doesn't happen. This year, in particular, the top 4 seeds will be better and fresher.

Second, who's playing the best basketball right now? Many would say Kansas State, winners of eight of nine and six straight. It's not that simple, though.

One quick look at Kansas reveals the Jayhawks are just as hot. The Wildcats may have won eight of nine, but the Jayhawks have won 11 of 12. K-State cannot say that. Yeah, sure, K-State beat KU in Manhattan, so KU has the more recent loss. K-State hasn't lost since Feb. 12. But KU's most recent loss was just two days later, on Feb. 14. Big deal.

Third, a glance at Big 12 tournament history suggests recent Jayhawk dominance. Kansas has won four of the past five Big 12 tournaments, including the only two years at Sprint Center (2010, 2008). The Jayhawks are playing much better defense lately. And with UT's recent tailspin, Kansas is in a class of its own (again) atop the Big 12.

Final answer: Kansas.

That should be all for now, friends. As always, discuss.

You can follow the Big 12 tournament each day on KUsports.com. Starting Wednesday at 11:30 a.m., we'll be posting a live blog from Sprint Center. Be sure to join the discussion.

I'll be live in K.C. for most of the days, contributing to the blog and updating my Twitter feed. Give me a follow if you haven't already.

Comments

Selbyville 3 years, 9 months ago

I want to avenge BOTH our losses, it would be superb for the mentality of our team

Neom 3 years, 9 months ago

And shut up the media whinny babies.

SaulGood 3 years, 9 months ago

+20...they're all a bunch of liberal hippies anyway.

redlegger 3 years, 9 months ago

What are you, a conservative war lord?

Steve Jacob 3 years, 9 months ago

I see Iowa St, beating CU, and giving KSU a tough game (again).

Michael Luby 3 years, 9 months ago

No way man, if those guys play D like they have been the past 5 games, and shoot lights out like they normally do, KU runs away with it

yovoy 3 years, 9 months ago

If we get to play KSU I'd say we'll beat them pretty badly. KSU would have to play on a neutral court where the refs aren't interested in blowing the whistle just to keep the game close for a Big Monday game. The officials didn't blow it that much when the Cats came to Allen, and it was a blood-letting. They had to keep it close to keep people tuned in when we went there.

Yeah, sounds paranoid, but we will beat KSU in the Sprint Center if we both win our first games.

stache 3 years, 9 months ago

I don't think you can say the refs played much of a role in either of those games. 1st game fouls: KSU 20, KU 18. 2nd game fouls: KU 22, KSU 19. Both games were probably the worst mudstompings either team has taken in years. I'm with you on a KU victory at the Sprint Center, but let's not act like it's going to be the cakewalk it was inside Allen.

KGphoto 3 years, 9 months ago

The refs always end up helping the home team. I don't think they necessarily do it intentionally, but the crowd gets going, and the refs start exaggerating their signals. You know you've seen it. In the middle of a heated battle there is a turnover to the home team, and the ref takes a couple of steps before throwing his hand toward the home end of the court like he's Randy Moss signaling his own first down. Then the crowd gets even more jacked up!

Then the home team fouls and it's just the normal signal. The refs have a lot of pull in the area of crowd noise, and that's why K-State was able to keep momentum. It's also part of the reason KU and every other team is better at home.

stache 3 years, 9 months ago

Agreed. Home court advantage is nothing to be ashamed of.

xfitter 3 years, 9 months ago

You need to look at the timing for those totals as well. Most of KSUs fouls in Manhattan were at the end of the game after KU had "given in" at one point it was 10-3 toward KU on fouls.

stache 3 years, 9 months ago

True, but to act like the refs even remotely determined the outcome of either KU-KSU game this year is ignorant. KU dominated from beginning to end in Lawrence, and State (Pullen in particular) couldn't miss if they tried that night in Manhattan. I think if there's something we can all agree on in sports, it's that sometimes the other guys win.

Clarence Haynes 3 years, 9 months ago

One game at a time! Play focused ball every play!

mojayhawk 3 years, 9 months ago

Good analysis, Eric. Only one contradiction (my opinion of course). The most electric game I've seen in the P & L District was KU vs UT in '08. To me, it far surpassed last year's final and was the most high level game I've ever seen in person. Mario and Brandon lit it up from 3 and it was an all round amazing game to witness. Last year's was great, but in my mind, the Texas game was the best.

Thanks for the breakdown of this year's tourney.

Eric Sorrentino 3 years, 9 months ago

Couldn't agree more, with respect to the game. Could anyone miss from three? That was one of my favorite games to watch.

I was speaking more about the electricity surrounding the Sprint Center in Power & Light. In '08, it was mostly a KU crowd for the title game because UT basketball fans don't travel as well as some others. But last year, it was wild outside of Power & Light with the KU-KSU showdown.

As for the game, no question....08 was incredible, maybe the most enjoyable Big 12 tournament championship to date from a viewer's standpoint. Thanks for your input.

KGphoto 3 years, 9 months ago

"electricity", "lighting-it-up" in the P & L District. You guys are hilarious.

bradyboy 3 years, 9 months ago

I really see Colorado making a good run this year. Oklahoma state is my favorite to play Kansas in the finals. IDK I just want to put it out there.

Chris Bruning 3 years, 9 months ago

KU all the way to the trophy presentation. what happens in between i don't know and won't guess, because i've already stated what matters most.

Michael Luby 3 years, 9 months ago

If Texas chokes, we get Missou in the finals. If not Itll be Texas.

DHF 3 years, 9 months ago

Missouri won't beat A&M ever as long as Melvin Watkins is one of their assistant coaches. The Watkins curse has been in effect through two different A&M coaches and two different Missouri coaches from 2005-2011. In fact, you could say that it's been in effect since 2004, when Watkins went 0-17 in conference as A&M's head coach.

Michael Luby 3 years, 9 months ago

Personally I hope we see Texas in the final game cuz revenge is so sweet.

Alohahawk 3 years, 9 months ago

Revenge is sweet, and sweeter still when it's USDA prime beef/Longhorn on the barbie.

Dirk Medema 3 years, 9 months ago

In '88, we avenged our last 3 losses with our last 3 victories. I'd love to see us avenge our losses on the way to winning again this year as well. Definitely the team to beat, and hopefully the coaches etc. are over the silliness of picking a "Karl Malone" just for diversity sake.

Ron Franklin 3 years, 9 months ago

Remember how dead the legs were this time last year? I remember wanting the team to have an early out and get some fresh legs. I don't feel that way about this years team.

DHF 3 years, 9 months ago

It's amazing how many Missouri fans simply refuse to acknowledge one pervasive simple fact that has been constant since 2004:

When Melvin Watkins is on the sideline in a game involving Texas A&M, his team loses! Evidence below:

2004: 0-17 2005: 0-1 2006: 0-1 2007: 0-1 2008: 0-1 2009: 0-1 2010: 0-1 2011: 0-1

This week will mark Melvin's Silver Anniversary in conference games involving Texas A&M...25 straight losses. If you include all games, it will be 27 straight.

DHF 3 years, 9 months ago

You likely will play Oklahoma State instead of Nebraska. Nebraska (with the exception of the game in Lawrence) has been AWFUL on the road. In fact, the only teams that had at least a .500 road record in conference play were:

Kansas 7-1 Texas 6-2 A&M 4-4

Every other team had a losing record away from home.

KGphoto 3 years, 9 months ago

Oklahoma St. won zero road games in Big 12 play. Including a loss at Nebraska. It doesn't get more awful than that.

Nebraska racked up one road win in Big 12 play @ Oklahoma.

ljmhawk 3 years, 9 months ago

I want KU to take the trophy, but I'd be happy with us winning on Thursday then losing on Friday.....so we should get a number one seed as long as we win one game. need rest and healthy players.

DHF 3 years, 9 months ago

Depends on whether or not you want the overall #1 seed. Right now, everything I see has Kansas as the overall #1 because they have a higher RPI and strength of schedule than Ohio State. They have the same number of losses, same number of quality wins, same number of bad losses. Basically, in comparative ratings, Kansas wins 6-5 over Ohio State.

Joe Joseph 3 years, 9 months ago

A #1 seeds, let alone the #1 overall seed, means absolutely nothing.

It's all about match ups in the tournament, and a 2 or 3 seed could potentially give KU an easier path to the final four.

stache 3 years, 9 months ago

I'd say Selby has the most to prove in the Big 12/NCAA tourney's. Is there anyone that honestly thinks this guy is a legit one-and-done? He can't even get off the bench when it matters (check all close KU games this year). What will be interesting is to see what happens next: Test the NBA draft and hope that raw ability and high school reputation carry him into the 2nd round (Hard to see this guy going in the 1st, and if not in the 1st, why bother?)? Stick around KU (he's got to hate Bill Self, right?), or transfer and disappear into oblivion. Frankly, I couldn't be happier. Hopefully Bill is done with this silly flirtation with top-tier recruits. Someone please name me the one-and-done's who have won national championships...this should be easy for KU fans.

KGphoto 3 years, 9 months ago

Carmelo. Kinda hard to forget that one isn't it?

KGphoto 3 years, 9 months ago

But we also almost lost to Derrick Rose. And there are a whole slew of players who might have jumped straight to the NBA without the rule, but instead stayed two years and won a title. Including Darrell Arthur. BRush was originally considered a OAD and he turned out okay too right?

KGphoto 3 years, 9 months ago

If we had lost to Memphis, that would've made two OAD champs in 6 years. Not ALL that bad.

stache 3 years, 9 months ago

ALMOST lost. Then Rose missed a critical free throw when it mattered most. Rose was perfect for that Memphis team. They were stocked full of senior studs and everyone knew their role. Rose, by all accounts, was so concerned with fitting in that they had to beg him to shoot more. That is clearly not the situation with Selby, whose swagger cannot be tamed, even when he's throwing up blanks and generally the most ineffective player on the court. That man knows how to strut. OAD's are fine for programs looking for an immediate bump, but KU doesn't need them. Championships are won by TEAMS. About the only common denominators among championships squads over the last 10 or 20 years are teams that had talent, experience, and chemistry. Even the Syracuse team with Melo had lots of upperclassmen, including an All-American and future NBA-er in Hakim Warrick...remember him Michael Lee? OAD's do not breed championships and Bill should stop. He's always had better success with the second tier recruits. Guys that are still NBA-bound, but not after one year.

bwood 3 years, 9 months ago

Sorry a little off the subject....but I will be in St.louis over the Big 12 weekend and saw the second round in on Big 12 TV. Anyone know the best place to see the game or will it be on Satelite or Direct TV?

dynamitehawk 3 years, 9 months ago

Gotta love Jerry Tipton. Writes for the Lexington, KY paper and voted Kansas as #1 in the AP poll...

http://ukbasketball.bloginky.com/2011/03/06/kansas-no-1-ohio-state-no-2-on-this-ballot/#storylink=rss

KY? Where you at girl?

HawkBBall 3 years, 9 months ago

OSU, then KSU, then UT. Lace 'em up, boys, we got a championship to take!

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