As I watch the younger Drew son lead Valparaiso in the Horizon League Championship game, I find myself trying to get ready for the Big 12 Tourmanent that will start in less than 24 hours (as of typing this). It must be a different feeling for a team in a lower level, as their tournament is the ONLY way most of them will ever get into the BIG tourney. That feeling of anxiety, fear and pure happiness are blatantly absent from the power conference tournaments.
The Big 12 starts their journey to find out who will get the auto-bid for the conference, but more than likely, it will be one of the 5 teams that are solidly in the NCAA tournament that earns the bid. But as they say, that is why they play the games.
The Big 12 will have its first ever 10 team tournament starting Wednesday. Let's take a look at the games and match-ups that we know are going to happen:
Game 1: #8 Oklahoma vs #9 Texas A&M -
Wednesday @ 6pm - Big 12 Network
Teams Split Season Series
Both of these teams will be playing for pride as the Aggies play in their last Big 12 tournament. Both of these teams are more on the mid-major approach to the conference tournament, gotta win it to keep playing. This is actually a rematch from this weekend, a game that the Sooners won 65-62. Oklahoma led for most of the game, and did just enough to stay ahead of the Aggies.
Texas A&M might be one of the most disapointing teams in a major conference this year. Voted as the league pre-season co-favorite, the Aggies struggled all year with injuries and inconsistent play. The Aggies have not won since Valentine's day. They are just not a very good team right now. They play okay defense, but are just a terrible offensive team.
I want to pick the Sooners to win this game, just to have the Aggies go out of the Big 12 on a big losing streak, but I think Texas A&M does enough to win though. Just don't expect anything pretty. This game will probably be slow and ugly, as both teams tend to muck it up a bit. The first team to get to 62 will probably win this game.The winner of this game will go on to play #1 Kansas.
Game 2: #7 Oklahoma State vs #10 Texas Tech -
Wednesday @ 8:30pm - Big 12 Network
Oklahoma State Swept Season Series
At this point, Billie Gillespie might just be wishing someone will put the Red Raiders out of their misery. Just one win in the year of 2012 will not make many coaches happy, and drive some to the glass (too soon?). The Red Raiders have been outscored by an average of 15.9 points per game in conference, and outside of their win over Oklahoma, have only had two games where they lost by less than 10 (9 to both Texas A&M and Oklahoma).
Oklahoma State has been an up and down team. They were a good team at home, as it is always tough to go into Stillwater and win, but only had 1 Big 12 road win (@Texas Tech). That usually does not bode well in a tournament format. However, Oklahoma State has a lot more talent than Texas Tech at this point, and they will get going from 3-point range to pull away late. The winner of this game will play Missouri.
Game 3: #4 Baylor vs #5 Kansas State -
Thursday @ 11:30am - ESPN2
Teams Split Season Series
With the Bears loss to Iowa State to close out the year, they get the gift of the early game Thursday morning. Yeah. So happy that I get to be at work. Thanks Scott Christopherson. Anyways...Baylor and Kansas State played two very close games during the regular season. They are two of the bigger teams in the Big 12 and a really goo match up for each other.
Baylor finished the season 4-4 in the Big 12, including a loss to these Wildcats, while Kansas State finished a very up and down 5-3. They beat Baylor and Missouri on the road, but lost to Texas in Austin and Iowa State at home. Kansas State is another slow it down team, and they like to play an aggressive man defense. They are an excellent rebounding team, they don't turn the ball over, and they are the best offensive rebounding team in the league.
The Bears have been a really good team at neutral courts this year, and have really played well when they are not in in front of a full house. 5 of their 6 losses have been in front of a sellout crowd (@ KU, @ Missouri, @ Iowa State, Kansas and Missouri).
What does this mean? I honestly have no idea. But I am going with the Bears in this game. Kansas State needed a few breaks and the Bears having their worst offensive game of the season to beat Baylor by just 1 point. I just don't see that formula working again.
Game 4: #3 Iowa State vs #6 Texas -
Thursday @ 8:30p - Big 12 Network
Teams Split Season Series
Iowa State got the third seed courtesy of the new tie-breaker rules this year and their big win at home over the Jayhawks. Their prize is a young but talented Texas Longhorns with a desperate look in their eyes. Texas seemed to be in control of their own destiny going into the last 5 games of their regular season.
However, dropping a game at Oklahoma State and losing to Baylor on their home court put them in a tough position. They did beat Texas Tech (in overtime, but Tech outplayed them) and Oklahoma but got beat pretty bad by Kansas up in Lawrence.
The Longhorns are really the only team that has to have a win to get into post season play this year. Does that desperation make them more dangerous or get them to start pressing? I think it makes a young team press, and Iowa State rolls in this one.