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Big 12 Tournament Preview: Past national champions to clash

Two of the top four seeds in the Big 12 Tournament this March are also the two most recent national champions - Kansas and Baylor.

While there wasn’t a clear-cut No. 1 team in the nation throughout this college basketball season, there certainly was a clear cut No. 1 conference. 

As of March 7, five Big 12 teams are featured in the AP Top 25 poll. 

Those teams - Kansas, Texas, Baylor, Kansas State, and TCU - have seemingly already punched their tickets to the tournament this year, regardless of what happens in the Big 12 Tournament. Success isn’t new to the conference, with the last two national title winners (2022 Kansas, 2021 Baylor) both hailing from the league.

Below are the confirmed seeds and matchups for the Big 12 Tournament, starting Wednesday, March 8:

First round (Wednesday, March 8):

#8 West Virginia vs. #9 Texas Tech – 7 PM ET

#7 Oklahoma St. vs. #10 Oklahoma – 9:30 PM ET

Quarterfinals (Thursday, March 9):

#4 Baylor vs. #5 Iowa St. – 12:30 PM ET

#1 Kansas vs. winner of West Virginia/Texas Tech – 3 PM ET

#2 Texas vs. winner of Oklahoma St./Oklahoma – 7 PM ET

#3 Kansas St. vs. #6 TCU – 9:30 PM ET

What2023 Big 12 Men's Basketball Tournament
WhereT-Mobile Center, Kansas City, Missouri
WhenWednesday, March 8 to Saturday, March 11, 2023
How to watchESPN Networks, fuboTV
Odds (To Win Outright)Texas +220, Kansas +300, Baylor +450, Iowa St. +600, TCU +600, Kansas St. +650

The two most recent men’s tournament champions are among the favorites to win this year’s Big 12 Tournament. Which squad is more likely to run the table?

#1 Kansas: +300 to Win Big 12 Tournament

The defending Big 12 and national champion Kansas (25-5 Overall, 13-4 Big 12) find themselves in a familiar place this time of year. Key contributors from last year’s run such as David McCormack, Ochai Agbagi, and Christian Braun have moved on, but they’ve been replaced by star freshman Gradey Dick (14.5 PPG) and Texas Tech transfer Kevin McCullar (11.7 PPG).

Despite a midseason slide which saw losses in four of six conference games, Kansas has been nearly perfect. A 15-5 quad 1 record, coupled with another potential Big 12 tournament victory could see Kansas capturing the No. 1 overall seed during Sunday’s bracket reveal.

#2 Baylor: +450 to Win Big 12 Tournament

Baylor (22-8 Overall, 11-6 Big 12) was a total disaster when Scott Drew took over as head coach in 2003. Since then, the program has been a model of growth and consistency for just about every Division I school. 

Baylor’s recent overall success is well documented by now, but their recent history in the Big 12 tournament is puzzling. Baylor is 3-7 in Big 12 tournament play since 2015, not something you would expect from a team just two years removed from their first title.

But the past is the past, Baylor’s recipe for success starts with their guard play. Senior Adam Flagler (15.4 PG) and junior LJ Cryer (14.7 PPG) can fill it up on any given night, with both having already won a title in 2021. Combine that experience with star freshman Keyonte George (16.2 PPG) and big man Flo Thamba and you have the makings of yet another title contender. 

With the conference as deep as it is, more than just the top two or three teams in the conference are capable of capturing the Big 12 title. One of those teams is TCU.

#6 TCU: +600 to Win Big 12 Tournament

Head coach Jamie Dixon is one of the top coaches in all of college basketball. In 19 seasons, his teams have qualified for the NCAA tournament in 13 of them. TCU (20-10 Overall, 9-8 Big 12has never been known for its basketball program, but since Dixon took over at his alma mater in 2016, he has proved he can hang and win with the best of the best on the hardwood.

Senior Damion Baugh is in the midst of a breakout season. His 13 PPG are a career high and his play has caught the attention of NBA scouts. 

But the heartbeat of the program is star senior Mike Miles, who has battled through injury all season, yet still sits third in Big 12 scoring at 17.2 PPG. TCU’s success is predicated on Miles’ play. With him at his best, they can beat anyone, proven by a 33-point masterclass in a win at Baylor on January 4th. TCU is 3-5 without their star this year, and struggles when he struggles (2-10 FG in a 63-58 home loss to KU). 

Dixon’s squad is one of the most battled-tested teams in the country. The Big 12 tournament provides great opportunity for TCU to enhance their seeding in the big tourney, and will give us one last look at how they fair in the nation’s top conference. 

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