Big 12 basketball fans should count themselves lucky to have experienced such a wild season. It should get even more interesting down the stretch leading to the Phillips 66 Big 12 Championship tournament in Kansas City, Mo.
While the smart money is on Kansas to repeat as champions, the road for the Jayhawks is rather treacherous. With potential second-round games with Oklahoma State or Texas Tech, and a third round with either Kansas State or Iowa State, Kansas and anyone on their side of the bracket has the toughest schedule leading up to the championship game.
Meanwhile on the flip side of the bracket, the games – while still very intriguing – are far less daunting. No. 2 seed Oklahoma will meet Baylor (sorry TCU), and Texas will take on the Mountaineers of West Virginia.
Only one of the top five seeds are coming in with any momentum and that’s Oklahoma. The Sooners are the only team in the top five in the Big 12 standings to win their last three games leading into the tournament. The four others have all dropped two of their last three, respectively.
Oklahoma has one of the most potent offenses in the country led by sophomore guard Buddy Hield. Averaging 16.8 per game, the sophomore from the Bahamas has become an elite Big 12 guard. Senior forward Cameron Clark has also proven to be a match-up nightmare who averages 15.2 per game and 5.6 rebounds.
For their first game in the second round, Oklahoma will take on the winner of the Baylor vs. TCU matchup. Considering the Horned Frogs are 0-18 in Big 12 competition this year, it might be safe to assume that Baylor wins that one. The Sooners have an unappreciated center in sophomore Ryan Spangler and Clark to bang around with the likes of Baylor senior forward Corey Jefferson and sophomore center Isaiah Austin. Oklahoma also has the guard play to keep up with the scoring clip of senior Brady Heslip and junior Kenny Chery.
However, the Sooners swept Baylor in the regular season, so let’s assume they sweep them in the tournament too. After that, they would meet up with either Texas or West Virginia. Both Oklahoma and TV producers would most likely rather see a rematch of the Red River Shootout then see a Oklahoma-West Virginia matchup. Oklahoma swept Texas and junior forward Jonathan Holmes during the season and seem to have their number, while the Sooners lost a close one in overtime to West Virginia head coach Bob Huggins’ squad.
West Virginia is a team who can be very dangerous and will be extremely hungry to make a deep run in the Big 12 tournament so it can make it’s way into the NCAA tournament. If Oklahoma doesn’t bring their A-game, chances are, the Mountaineers’ will be going to the championship.
Assuming that Oklahoma does top either the Longhorns or the Mountaineers, that still leaves that elusive team from the left side of the bracket. It could be anyone. Oklahoma has beaten every team on that side of the bracket at least once, excluding Kansas. That’s their bugaboo. If the Jayhawks makes it to the championship game, even without Joel Embiid, that would mean that they found someone to step up and fill that gap. But, no matter who Kansas plays leading up to the game, you would think they may be worn out come Saturday.
Both regular season losses were close, both by less than 10 points. Oklahoma will have the fresher legs and lust for revenge. Head coach Lon Kruger’s Sooners could walk away with the trophy.
Timothy Everson is a sophomore in pre-journalism. Please send comments to [email protected]