The Big 12 Championship Tournament is once again upon us and this year has been one of the most competitive regular seasons in Big 12 history despite Kansas winning the regular season title for the 14th consecutive year.
This year’s highlights included a freshman leading the nation in points and assists per game, an unexpected leap forward from Texas Tech, and the 13-time defending champion adding another season to their unprecedented run atop this league.
After finishing No. 7 in the preseason poll, the No. 14 Texas Tech Red Raiders jumped all the way up to the No. 2 spot in the regular season standings in the Big 12. This team, to everyone outside of the program itself, has been the surprise of the season, playing stout defense and overcoming major injuries to Zach Smith and Keenan Evans to finish strong in the Big 12. However, the Red Raiders have only made it to one Big 12 championship game and has not won a game in the Big 12 tournament since 2013. I believe this season that’ll change with the health of Mohamed Bamba in question, I think that Texas Tech has a rather large advantage against either Texas or Iowa State.
1. Either Texas Tech or Kansas State will play in the Big 12 Championship game.
It’s a numbers game for this one. Since 2010, either the 4 or 2 seed has played their way into the Big 12 championship. My confidence that this will happen goes farther than a mere coincidence of numbers. Both teams have coaches that will prepare them well, and with Texas Tech getting a first-round bye, they get an extra day to get Keenan Evans, Zach Smith, and Justin Gray completely healthy, the Red Raiders look ready to make a deep run in this tournament. This Kansas State team also has a ton to play for as they are considered a bubble team to get in the NCAA tournament. As the No. 4 seed, look for K-State to potentially make a run to the championship.
2. Kansas doesn’t win the tournament
I know Kansas is the No. 1 seed coming into the tournament. They will put up a crazy number of points in what is almost like a home game for them. Their defense is the thing that is causing me to hedge and go with the field. We have all heard the saying “defense travels.” Look for teams with great defenses such as West Virginia or Texas Tech to take advantage of the Jayhawks in the championship game. It also goes deeper than that. The Jayhawks may have to play Oklahoma State, a team that Kansas has not beaten this season and a team that dominated them just a week ago. If there is one quarterfinal game that has the most potential to be an upset, look for the Cowboys, a bubble team for the NCAA tournament, to be playing for their season to continue.
3. If Tech makes it to the championship, they win it all.
I understand that is one big “if.” Frankly, the Red Raiders don’t match up all that well with the West Virginia Mountaineers and that is the team that most likely stands in the way between the Red Raiders and the Big 12 Championship game. If Keenan can take over games in this tournament like he did when he was healthy, watch out. The Red Raiders only lost the game against the Mountaineers by 10 and that was with Keenan Evans, Zach Smith, and Justin Gray on the bench. If Zach Smith can continue to start, the Red Raiders can now have two big men on the floor and that changes the dynamic of the defense. This causes the Red Raiders to focus on running teams off the three-point line and forcing them towards the paint where the Red Raiders now have the advantage. They do however match up great with the Kansas Jayhawks, especially with all of the Red Raiders healthy. The perimeter defense played by the Red Raiders in their two games against the Jayhawks makes it hard for you to route against the Red Raiders to win their first Big 12 tournament. In the end, I see Keenan Evans stepping up in the biggest game of his career and burying the Jayhawks in the championship game.
What are your thoughts on the Big 12 tournament? Do the Red Raiders win their first Big 12 tournament ever? Please leave your thoughts in the comment section below.
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