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March 7, 2011

Big 12 tourney preview




The Big 12 tournament opens with four games on Wednesday at the Sprint Center in Kansas City. PowerMizzou.com will be on hand to provide full coverage as long as the Tigers stay alive. We take a quick look at each team in the field and analyze the chances of all 12 walking away with the trophy. Teams are listed in order of league finish.



Kansas Jayhawks


Current Record: 29-2

Big 12 record: 14-2

Key Player: Marcus Morris was the Big 12 player of the year. When he's good, he's the most dangerous player in the league. And he's been good just about every night.

Why they could win: Because they're the best team in the league. It doesn't take a whole lot of analysis.

Why they could exit early: It's a stretch, but the major question about Kansas may be the Morris twins' ability to keep their cool. Could a technical or an intentional foul turn the tide if Kansas is in a close game?

It's a good weekend if...: Kansas wins it. Nothing else is a success for the No. 1 seed.

Postseason Seed: A one seed regardless of what happens this week.



Texas Longhorns


Current Record: 25-6

Big 12 record: 13-3

Key Player: Tristan Thompson was the best freshman in the conference and is capable of taking over games. Jump shooters can go cold, but guys who shoot as close to the basket as Thompson does rarely have nights where they disappear. He gives UT the best chance to match up with either Morris.

Why they could win: For a good portion of the year, many thought the Longhorns were the best team in the country. Plus, they already beat Kansas.

Why they could exit early: UT didn't exactly inspire anyone down the stretch, losing three of the last five after an 11-0 start to gag up the conference title.

It's a good weekend if...: Texas wins the tournament. Period.

Postseason Seed: The Horns go into the tournament as a 2 seed. As long as they aren't blown out by Baylor, they'll get at least that. Make it to Saturday and see what else happens and a one seed is still possible.



Texas A&M Aggies


Current Record: 23-7

Big 12 record: 10-6

Key Player: Nathan Walkup may be the most valuable player most fans outside of College Station don't know. He just does a little bit of everything. Walkup is a major reason the Aggies are here. If he plays well this week, A&M can win some games.

Why they could win: They just have a knack for winning games. No one thinks the Aggies are the third most talented team in this league, but here they are as the three seed. A&M is battle tested in March (one of two teams to win at least one NCAA game five years in a row) and many think Mark Turgeon did the league's best coaching job.

Why they could exit early: Like we said, almost no one thinks they are this good. The first game is likely against Missouri, a team the Aggies beat in overtime at home. A one and done wouldn't shock many people.

It's a good weekend if...: A&M makes the finals. Maybe it would be overachieving, but this team has overachieved all year.

Postseason Seed: The Aggies could probably play their way to a four if they win the whole thing, but winning one game would probably get them a six.



Kansas State Wildcats


Current Record: 22-9

Big 12 record: 10-6

Key Player: Jacob Pullen is playing as well as anyone in the country, let alone the Big 12. When he's on, Kansas State can beat anybody. When he's not, no one is sure the Cats have enough offense to beat the big boys.

Why they could win: K-State has won six in a row. It would have been ten if Rodney McGruder's shot in Boulder went up a quarter of a second sooner. They're the hottest team in the league and already beat the top two seeds.

Why they could exit early: Their first opponent looks to be Colorado, who already swept the Cats. And, again, if Pullen has a cold night from the floor, can they score enough to win?

It's a good weekend if...: The Cats are playing in the final. One win is decent, but a team this hot has bigger goals.

Postseason Seed: A win over Colorado could have the Cats as a five seed. More than that and you're looking at a team that will be seeded to make the Sweet 16.



Colorado Buffaloes


Current Record: 19-12

Big 12 record: 8-8

Key Player: Alec Burks is the star, but when Cory Higgins plays well, CU may have the best backcourt in the league. If Higgins is on, the Buffs can beat just about anyone.

Why they could win: Because they have two NBA guards. On the right night, as they proved against Missouri, Texas and Kansas State, they're as good as just about anyone in the league.

Why they could exit early: They were just too up and down. Yes, they beat the teams we mentioned. But they also lost to Nebraska, Oklahoma and Iowa State.

It's a good weekend if...: Colorado makes the semifinals. That would include a win over KSU and lock up a tournament bid.

Postseason Hopes: Two wins put the Buffs in the tournament on the 9 or 10 line. A loss to Iowa State sends them to the NIT. A round two loss leaves it up to the committee and has Buffalo fans praying for no upsets in conference tournaments around the country.



Missouri Tigers


Current Record: 22-9

Big 12 record: 8-8

Key Player: Marcus Denmon and Laurence Bowers have been fairly consistent over the last month. But the Tigers haven't had a third player step up. The key to a run this week is Ricardo Ratliffe. He is the only Tiger forward capable of relieving some pressure from Bowers and preventing the Tigers from getting their brains beat in on the boards.

Why they could win: Because most think they have as much talent as anyone outside of Texas and Kansas. If they shoot the ball well, they're good enough offensively to outscore anyone until at least Friday night.

Why they could exit early: They have lost three in a row. They went 2-6 against the top five seeds in the tournament. At some point, potential means nothing and what you have shown on the floor through 31 games means everything.

It's a good weekend if...: Mizzou gets to Friday. The Tigers ought to win in round one against Texas Tech and can make it a successful trip by taking out A&M (who Mike Anderson has never beaten). Anything more than that would be icing.

Postseason Seed: They go into the tournament as a nine. They can play up as high as a six, and down as low as an 11.



Baylor Bears


Current Record: 18-12

Big 12 record: 7-9

Key Player: Outside of Pullen, no player is more important than LaceDarius Dunn. He is probably not even the best player on this team (that's Perry Jones III) but he is going to take 20 shots a game. If he's hot, he can score 40. If he's not, Baylor can lose to anyone.

Why they could win: They have talent. They are as athletic as anyone in the league. They're the only team who has the ability to match up with Kansas in the frontcourt.

Why they could exit early: For all the talent, they've done little to impress anyone. The Bears swept Texas A&M, but were blown out by Kansas, swept by Texas and lost to Mizzou and K-State. They're the only team in the league to lose to Iowa State, Oklahoma and Texas Tech.

It's a good weekend if...: The Bears make it to the final. Anything short of that likely puts them in the NIT, which is a horrendous disappointment for a team that started in the country's top 15.

Postseason Seed: They're likely headed to the NIT. Three wins gets them in one of the 5-12 play-in games.



Nebraska Cornhuskers


Current Record: 19-11

Big 12 record: 7-9

Key Player: Lance Jeter may be the most underrated player in the conference. Everything Nebraska does goes through the point guard.

Why they could win: The Huskers do the best job of anyone in the league of forcing opponents to play the way Nebraska wants to play. The defense is very good. If they can hold everyone under 60, they can make a run.

Why they could exit early: They play Kansas on the second day. And that only happens if they get past Oklahoma State, which has won eight straight first-round games in this event.

It's a good weekend if...: They beat Oklahoma State on Wednesday. Sure it would be nice to beat Kansas, but let's be realistic.

Postseason Hopes: The Huskers are in the NIT. The only way they can change that is making it to the tournament final…and even then, they might still have to win it.



Oklahoma State Cowboys


Current Record: 18-12

Big 12 record: 6-10

Key Player: Marshall Moses is a solid player inside who gives the Pokes a guy who can match up with some of the league's better forwards. For OSU to make any noise, Moses has to be really good.

Why they could win: They probably can't. But if Keiton Page can get hot from outside and Moses plays well, it's not completely impossible. Just close.

Why they could exit early: They're the nine seed. Outside of Gallagher-Iba, they just aren't very good.

It's a good weekend if...: The Pokes win one game. Any more than that is very unlikely.

Postseason Seed: OSU is headed to the NIT.



Oklahoma Sooners


Current Record: 13-17

Big 12 record: 5-11

Key Player: Cade Davis is capable of getting hot and putting up some big numbers, which would allow the Sooners to spring an upset or two.

Why they could win: There is no scenario where we can see this happening.

Why they could exit early: They're the ten seed and just not very good. A win over Oklahoma State on Saturday was the only thing that kept the Sooners from a nine-game losing streak to end the year.

It's a good weekend if...: They can find a way to beat Baylor on Wednesday. Nothing else is possible for this team.

Postseason Hopes: They're going nowhere without winning the tournament.



Texas Tech Red Raiders


Current Record: 13-18

Big 12 record: 5-11

Key Player: Mike Singletary is the best player on the team, but he hasn't even been starting the second half of the year. Still, he is the best player.

Why they could win: They can't. They won five league games all year. They're not winning four in four days.

Why they could exit early: They are an 11 seed. The first time they faced Missouri, they played about as well as they did all year and lost by eight.

It's a good weekend if...: Tech can upend Missouri on Wednesday.

Postseason Hopes: It's NCAA Tournament or bust for the Raiders. Even with a Big 12 title, they'd finish a game under .500.



Iowa State Cyclones


Current Record: 16-15

Big 12 record: 3-13

Key PlayerDiante Garrett looked like an all-Big 12 player for the first half of the year. He's the best player on any of the five lowest seeds in the tournament.

Why they could win: They can't win. But Garrett and some hot shooting could get them a win over Colorado and make things interesting against Kansas State.

Why they could exit early: They're the 12 seed and went 3-13. They didn't beat anyone seeded better than seventh in the tournament.

It's a good weekend if...: They beat CU and give Fred Hoiberg a feel good finish to a tough season.

Postseason Hopes: Would two wins, putting the Clones at 18-and-16, be enough to make the NIT? Probably not, but not out of the question.



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