Conference Tournament Preview: Big 12

Story posted March 14, 2013 in Sports, CommRadio by Joe Garofalo

For the fourth year in a row the Sprint Center in Kansas City will play host to the Big 12 Men’s Basketball tournament, and with three teams currently ranked in the Top 15 it could be special.

Projected to have at least five teams in the NCAA tournament already, with Baylor as a possible sixth, the Big 12 is as loaded this year as its been in recent years.

Entering the tournament as the number one seed, after winning a share of the regular season conference title, is the Kansas Jayhawks. After being last year’s National Championship game runner-up, the Jayhawks had a bit of an up and down season as they lacked a true point guard.

With Tyshawn Taylor graduated after last season, the responsibility of playing point rested on the shoulders of Elijah Johnson who struggled early on. But after the emergence of backup point guard Naadir Tharpe, Johnson and the Jayhawks began to figure their problems out and now once again look like a title contender.

With Ben McLemore on the outside and Jeff Withey down low, its hard to see the Jayhawks not being a contender for the Big 12 crown.

Tied with Jayhawks at season’s end was the Kansas State Wildcats, who under Head Coach Bruce Weber had an incredible season. Finishing the regular season at 25-6 the Wildcats turned many heads this year as they exceeded expectations on the back of their senior leader, Rodney McGruder.

The 6-foot-4 guard has led Kansas State this season by posting 15.1 points per game. The question that lies with this Wildcat team is can they win away from their home floor in Manhattan, Kansas? They have struggled on the road this season with conference loses to Kansas, Iowa State and Oklahoma State away from their home floor.

If the Wildcats have any hope of making the conference finals they will have go through a very tough Oklahoma State team who finished just one game behind them. 

All season long the Oklahoma State Cowboys were looked at as the third team in the conference and nothing more than that. But after beating the Jayhawks and Wildcats this season the Cowboys have proved they should not be taken lightly.

Led by junior Markel Brown and freshman Marcus Smart, the Cowboys are currently ranked 14th in the country and have aspirations to be ranked even higher. If Marcus Smart gets hot the rest of the Big 12 could be in trouble.

Iowa State, Oklahoma and Baylor are certainly capable of rallying together a few great games and winning the conference tournament, but that would be a surprise.

Throughout the entire season there were three teams who were clearly above the rest and each of them could be considered a favorite. But this March and earlier conference tournaments will show, anything can happen.

Joe Garofalo is a sophomore majoring in broadcast journalism and a ComRadio Sports Director. To contact him, email joepgarofalo@gmail.com.