Big 12 Tournament Preview: The Final Gauntlet

(Graphic by Catherine Eldridge)

Kansas State men’s basketball enters the conference tournament still looking to prove itself. The Wildcats were predicted to finish last in the conference in the preseason poll but finished in third place. Leading the charge was the All-Big 12 first-team duo of guard Markquis Nowell and forward Keyontae Johnson behind Jerome Tang, Big 12 Coach of the Year.

    1. Kansas 25-6 (13-5)
      1. The Jayhawks enter the tournament as the conference title holder, but K-State still split their series with their champion rival. Home-court advantage played a huge role in both games and fans would once again be a factor in Kansas City. K-State’s All-Big 12 duo would have to outplay Big Player of the Year Kansas forward Jalen Wilson.
      2. Worst loss: 83-60 vs. TCU
      3. Best win: 88-80 vs. Texas 
      4. ESPN Bracketology: 1 seed
      5. Strength: Jalen Wilson
      6. Weakness: Depth & guard Gradey Dick’s inconsistency
    2. Texas 23-8 (12-6)
      1. Texas opened as the betting favorite to win the tournament, per DraftKings Sportsbook. If K-State were to play the Longhorns they could avenge their loss in Manhattan where they led by 11 at halftime, but lost due to turnovers and a lack of physicality. 
      2. Worst loss: 74-67 @ Texas Tech 
      3. Best win: 75-59 vs. Kansas
      4. ESPN Bracketology: 2 seed
      5. Strength: Guard depth
      6. Weakness: 3-point shooting
    3. K-State 23-8 (11-7)
      1. K-State has defeated each Big 12 opponent at least once this season, including sweeping Baylor and Oklahoma State. Losses for K-State typically consist of many turnovers, while most wins include Nowell running the offense and getting everyone involved in scoring. 
      2. Worst loss: 79-65 @ Oklahoma
      3. Best win: 83-82 vs. Kansas
      4. ESPN Bracketology: 3 seed
      5. Strength: Johnson-Nowell-Tang trio
      6. Weakness: Turnovers
    4. Baylor 22-9 (11-7)
      1. Although K-State swept Tang’s former team in the regular season, Baylor remains a talented team behind guards Adam Flagler and Keyonte George. A third matchup could prove if the Wildcats under Tang are Baylor’s kryptonite. 
      2. Worst loss: 73-58 vs. Iowa State
      3. Best win: 75-69 vs. Kansas
      4. ESPN Bracketology: 2 seed
      5. Strength: Guards
      6. Weakness: K-State
    5. Iowa State 18-12 (9-9)
      1. Iowa State concluded its regular season with a cold streak, culminating in the dismissal of guard Caleb Grill. Despite this, they won their last game on the road against then No. 7 Baylor and are usually a very strong team in Kansas City.
      2. Worst loss: 61-50 vs Oklahoma
      3. Best win: 73-58 @ Baylor
      4. ESPN Bracketology: 5 seed
      5. Strength: Kansas City & Defense
      6. Weakness: Scoring
    6. TCU 20-11 (9-9)
      1. K-State faces a dangerous TCU team in the tournament quarterfinals. The return of preseason conference player of the year, Mike Miles Jr., from injury enhances TCU’s chances of beating any conference opponent.
      2. Worst loss: 74-60 @ Oklahoma
      3. Best win: 83-60 @ Kansas
      4. ESPN Bracketology: 5 seed
      5. Strength: Transition scoring 
      6. Weakness: Injuries & 3-point shooting
    7. Oklahoma State 17-14 (8-10)
      1. The Cowboys would have to advance and upset Texas in the quarterfinals to face K-State. In their two matchups, Oklahoma State kept it close, but ultimately never defeated K-State, though a bubble team looking for quality wins is always dangerous. 
      2. Worst loss: 73-68 vs. K-State
      3. Best win: 64-56 @ Iowa State
      4. ESPN Bracketology: First four out
      5. Strength: Rebounding
      6. Weakness: Field goal percentage
    8. West Virginia 18-13 (7-11)
      1. Despite a tough schedule, the Mountaineers are expected to make the NCAA tournament. K-State and West Virginia split their series, playing at the start and end of the conference season, and could only meet again in the championship game.
      2. Worst loss: 78-72 vs. Texas Tech
      3. Best win: 89-81 vs. K-State
      4. ESPN Bracketology: 10 seed
      5. Strength: Schedule
      6. Weakness: Opponent scoring
    9. Texas Tech 16-15 (5-13)
      1. The Red Raiders gave K-State issues in both matchups, but only came away with a victory in Lubbock. To face K-State, Tech must advance to the championship game, but its path is challenging following head coach Mark Adams’ suspension.
      2. Worst loss: 68-63 vs. Oklahoma
      3. Best win: 74-67 vs. Texas
      4. ESPN Bracketology: Off bubble
      5. Strength: Defense
      6. Weakness: Coaching situation
    10. Oklahoma 15-16 (5-13)
      1. The Sooners came in last in the Big 12 this season but still beat the Wildcats in Norman. Oklahoma would likely need to win the championship to make the NCAA tournament and face K-State in the semifinals.
      2. Worst loss: 74-63 vs. Texas Tech
      3. Best win: 74-67 @ Iowa State
      4. ESPN Bracketology: Far-off bubble
      5. Strength: Nothing to lose
      6. Weakness: Scoring