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Big 12 Tournament Preview Guide

The upcoming 2023-24 Selection Show signals the end of another exciting season. As we prepare for conference tournaments, the Big 12 stands out as the top conference in college basketball for the second consecutive year. With the addition of four new schools - Houston, BYU, Cincinnati, and UCF - the Big 12 showcased a competitive season. Ultimately, it was tough defense and resilience that led Houston and Iowa St to claim the top spots in the Big 12, with Houston emerging as the regular season champions. 

The perennial powerhouse Kansas Jayhawks faced several challenges this year. The Jayhawks hit historically low milestones, such as failing to win three conference games in a row for the first time in 40 years, as well as recording over 7 conference losses for the first time since 1988-89 (when the conference was known as the Big 8).

As we eagerly anticipate the upcoming Big 12 Tournament in Kansas City, it's clear that this event holds immense significance in this year's college basketball landscape. Scheduled to kick off on March 12th and conclude on March 16th, the tournament promises thrilling matchups and fierce competition amongst the conference's top teams.

In this exciting journey towards crowning a champion, I invite you to join me as we delve into the intricacies of the Big 12 Tournament, navigating through these intriguing storylines and unraveling the drama and excitement that only the Big 12 can provide.

The Favorites

Houston (28-3, 15-3 Big 12)

The Cougars have shown this year that it doesn’t matter what conference they are a part of; they're always going to be a contender. Houston has two of the best guards in the Big 12 in LJ Cryer and Jamal Shead. That duo has lit up the Big 12 this year and is nationally recognized as a top 10 backcourt. A transfer from Baylor, Cryer’s previous experience in this conference helped put Houston over the edge this year. He is without a doubt the best scorer on this team and in the Big 12.

Jamal Shead, although capable of scoring himself, doesn’t receive enough recognition for his playmaking ability. He leads the Cougars in assists per game and leads the Big 12 as well. Houston is without a doubt the hardest team to prepare for, as it’s extremely difficult to game plan against them in a tournament format. The physicality and overwhelming defense are what set Houston above the rest. When you add in two great guards who can score at a high level, it’s no wonder Houston won this league by over two games. Houston is clearly a favorite to win the conference title in their first try. Looking at the bracket, they have a very high chance of coasting to the final.

Iowa St (24-7, 13-5 Big 12)

One of the most surprising teams this year has been the Iowa State Cyclones. Iowa State was projected to finish in the middle of the pack this season, but they managed to prove the doubters wrong, including myself, for a second place regular season finish. Anyone who has followed Iowa State in recent years has seen them start off strong in conference play, only to falter midway through the season. However, this was not the case this season. Despite not having a prolific offense, TJ Otzelberger led the team to just 7 losses in the regular season and is currently projected as a 2-seed in the NCAA Tournament.

Iowa State is one of the top defensive teams in the country, ranking 2nd in defensive efficiency according to The Cyclones have four players who averaged double figures in scoring this season, with the main contributors being Keshon Gilbert and Tamin Lipsey. Both players have had incredible years so far, and when they are paired with sharpshooter Milan Momcilovic, Iowa State has the potential to win the Big 12 Tournament in Kansas City.

Dark Horses

TCU (20-11, 9-9 Big 12)

TCU is a clear dark horse for me in this tournament. I was high on this team coming into the year for good reason, and despite some recent struggles, I still believe they have the potential to make some noise in March. Emanuel Miller has been a standout player for TCU this season, playing at a Big 12 All-Conference level with over 16 points per game and shooting over 40% from 3-point range. His efficiency and size make him a difficult matchup for opponents.

TCU's backcourt, consisting of Micah Peavy, Trevian Tennyson, and Jameer Nelson Jr., is often underrated but has proven to be capable of putting up big numbers. The team's ability to shoot well from behind the arc, leading the Big 12 in conference play with over 38% shooting, is a key factor in their success. While I believe TCU can win a game or two in the conference tournament, facing Houston in the quarterfinals would present a tough challenge. However, if TCU can stay hot from deep, they have the potential to pull off an upset against Houston if they beat Oklahoma in the Second Round.

Texas Tech (22-9, 11-7 Big 12)

The Red Raiders have truly been a surprise team this season, exceeding expectations after being projected to finish in the bottom half of the Big 12. Led by Coach McCasland, Texas Tech has found success by consistently finding ways to win games. The team's guard trio of Pop Isaacs, Joe Toussaint, and Darrion Williams has been instrumental in their success, all averaging double digits in scoring. Despite potential shortcomings in size and frontcourt depth, Texas Tech has adopted a small-ball style that has proven effective this season.

In contrast to previous years where defense was their strong suit, the Red Raiders have found success this season primarily through their offense. The team's ability to score and make shots has been a bright spot, with their guard play and shot-making abilities driving their success. Texas Tech's offensive prowess sets them apart from previous seasons and gives them a chance to continue surprising opponents in the upcoming Big 12 tournament. With their guard trio leading the charge, the Red Raiders have the potential to make a deep run in the tournament and create some upsets along the way.

Teams with the most to gain

Kansas (22-9, 10-8 Big 12)

The Jayhawks have experienced a challenging season in the Big 12, with their worst performance in conference play in a long time. This is a notable departure from their usual success, with this being the first time since 1989 that Kansas has suffered more than seven conference losses. Their seed in the tournament has dropped significantly from being considered a high two seed two months ago to now being a 4 seed, due to a 4-5 record in their last ten games. The team's lack of depth and ongoing injury issues are contributing factors that could potentially lead to an early exit from the NCAA Tournament.

Injuries have been a major concern for Kansas, particularly with Kevin McCullar dealing with a lingering knee injury that has hindered his ability to play at full strength. In the recent game against Houston, McCullar was unable to contribute in the second half, further highlighting the impact of his injury on the team's performance. Additionally, Hunter Dickinson suffered a shoulder injury during the same game, adding to the team's injury woes.

Heading into the Big 12 Tournament, Kansas could be without key players, and it may be in their best interest to focus on prioritizing rest and recovery rather than pushing for a deep tournament run. Resting players and ensuring their health should be a top priority for Kansas to avoid further setbacks and potential early exits from the tournament.

Kansas State (18-13, 8-10 Big 12)

After an impressive Elite 8 run last season, the Wildcats have unfortunately fallen short of expectations this year. Predicted to finish in the top 5 of the Big 12, Kansas State concluded conference play with a disappointing 8-10 record. The absence of Nae’Quan Tomlin has been a significant loss for the team, impacting their performance on the court.

Despite their struggles, the Wildcats still possess enough talent to potentially make a run in the Big 12 Tournament. Tylor Perry and Arthur Kaluma will be key players who can lead the team in any potential March success. While currently projected to head to the NIT, Kansas State's hopes of securing a spot in the NCAA Tournament rely heavily on a successful run in the conference tournament. Although this outcome may seem unlikely, the Wildcats have shown resilience in the past, as seen in last year's Elite 8 run when faced with adversity. With Head Coach Jerome Tang at the helm, there is still a chance for Kansas State to turn things around and defy the odds in the upcoming tournament.

Team with the most to lose

Oklahoma (20-11, 8-10 Big 12)

The Sooners are currently on the bubble for a spot in the NCAA Tournament, and their performance in the upcoming Big 12 Tournament will be crucial in determining their fate. It is imperative for Oklahoma to avoid a disappointing loss against TCU in the tournament as it could jeopardize their chances of receiving an NCAA Tournament bid. If the Sooners are unable to secure a win in the conference tournament, Selection Sunday could become a stressful day for both the team and their fans.

Despite the potential pressure, Oklahoma has a talented roster led by players like Javian McCullum and Otega Oweh, who have the ability to make an impact in the Big 12 Tournament. The team has the pieces to be competitive and win games in the tournament, but they must deliver when it matters most to solidify their position in the NCAA Tournament. The outcome of their performance in the upcoming tournament will significantly influence the committee's decision on Selection Sunday. The Sooners have the talent and potential to succeed, and their ability to rise to the occasion in the tournament could determine their postseason destiny.

Final Thoughts

My predictions for the Big 12 Tournament goes like this. I believe the Semi-Final matchups will be Houston vs Texas Tech, Iowa St vs Baylor, and in the finals I have Houston beating Baylor for the second time this season. Other game predictions, I think Kansas goes one and done, I think TCU ends Oklahoma tournament dreams, and I see BYU take an upset loss to UCF in the second round.

The Big 12 Tournament is always exciting to watch, and while I predict the top four seeds holding chalk this year, the tournament never falls short of delivering excitement. Kansas City is sure to be rocking, and who knows - perhaps we will witness a team like West Virginia steal a bid and really make other programs sweat out Selection Sunday. Make sure to tune into the Big 12 Tournament on March 12th, and let's all find out who will punch their ticket into the big dance on March 16th!


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