It’s finally time again as Big 12 fans descend on Kansas City for the most competitive conference tournament in the country. For the 7th time in the last 9 years, the Big 12 has ranked as the #1 basketball league in the country per Kenpom. All 10 teams rank in the top 78 of the NCAA NET rankings. Simply put, it does not get better than this. This year marks a welcome return of full capacity to the now-T. Mobile Center and especially the Power & Light District across the street. The only thing to make it better is putting down a few dollars on the games.
*Odds via DraftKings sportsbook mobile app
Kansas (+200) The Jayhawks are back at their usual perch, winning a share of their 16th Big 12 regular season title in 19 years. Ochai Agbaji took honors as the Big 12 Player of the Year and should be motivated after a terrible showing in the home finale against Texas. Christian Braun is a swing guy, and if David McCormack is playing well, Kansas is a national title front runner.
Baylor (+200) Scott Drew was a somewhat controversial choice as Big 12 Coach of the Year because of who else was in the running for the award, but the man definitely deserves some recognition. His rotation was inconsistent at best all year, with James Akinjo, LJ Cryer, Adam Flagler, and more all missing time. And to make it worse, the defensive anchor, Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua was lost for the year in late February. Even still, Baylor went 14-4 in the Big 12 to share the regular season crown with Kansas. I like the pieces that Baylor returned from the championship team, and the freshman Kendall Brown and Jeremy Sochan are winning players.
TCU (+2000) Jamie Dixon’s Horned Frogs enter the conference tournament as the 5th seed and on the more favorable side of the draw. If they can sneak past a good but not spectacular Texas team, they’ll presumably play Kansas in the semifinals. They just played Kansas tough twice in the past 7 days with a win at home. This team is sneaky good on defense (24th on Kenpom) and Mike Miles is an alpha dog capable of leading an upset. 20/1 is good value.
Iowa State (+3500) This is about Hilton South and the history of the event. Iowa State fans will take over the T. Mobile (Sprint in spirit) Center and have the home-court advantage throughout the bottom half of the bracket. Texas Tech went 18-0 at home this year but really struggled away from Lubbock. Izaiah Brockington is the type of player who can take over a game by himself and carry the Cyclones. Caleb Grill’s record as a sharpshooter away from Hilton Coliseum will hopefully carry over. Iowa State has a certain mojo when they come to this tournament with a competitive team.
DON’T WASTE YOUR MONEY ON
Texas Tech (+350) Two weeks ago, I would have said Texas Tech is a slam dunk choice to advance deep in the NCAA Tournament, but we’ve hit the point where their inability to win on the road is too much to look past. This tournament is also a brutal draw for the Red Raiders. Should they survive Iowa State, they’ll likely play a Baylor team motivated to not lose 3 times to the same opponent. Mark Adams has done wonders with this team and they are still tough as nails, but their odds are too short for a team that can’t win away from home.
Chalk is boring, but I think it makes the most sense here. I’ll take Iowa State and TCU to pull upsets in the quarterfinals, but Baylor and Kansas have separated themselves from the pack. Let’s roll with Baylor to win the rubber match on Saturday night.