The regular season is over, and we're now jumping into one of the great events on the sports calendar: March Madness. The major conference tournaments kick off next week, with things kicking off on Wednesday, March 9. Kansas State and Oklahoma State open things up from the Sprint Center in Kansas City, with the winner advancing to face regular season champion Kansas. West Virginia finished a wild regular season in second place, and will get the Texas Tech-TCU winner. Baylor, Iowa State, Oklahoma, and Texas have also all spent time in the polls this season. Kansas is the definite favorite here, but all of these teams are capable of making a run. Ticket information for the Big 12 Tournament is available here.
Here is the full tournament bracket:
Every Big 12 Tournament game will be broadcast on ESPN, ESPN2, or ESPNU.
The Jayhawks ran away from the pack in February to lock up an astounding 12th straight Big 12 title. At this point, a Kansas regular season championship just feels like a certainty. The tournament has provided a bit more drama in recent years, but right now the Jayhawks are playing the best ball in the league. Veteran forward Perry Ellis mans the frontcourt for KU, averaging 16.5 points, tops on the team. He's surrounded by a very talent group of guards. Juniors Frank Mason III and Wayne Selden Jr., and sophomore Devonte' Graham all average over 11 points per game, and all shoot over 40-percent from three point range. They make for a very difficult group to shut down, because of their scoring balance. Kansas is currently a favorite to land the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament. With a decent showing in Kansas City, they may lock it up.
It took a little while for the Longhorns to adjust to Shaka Smart's "Havoc" system. Texas dropped a number of non-conference games early, and even fell to lowly TCU early in Big 12 play, 58-57. At that point, Smart's team was 9-6, and looked like a great bet to miss the NCAA Tournament. Three days later, the Longhorns upset No. 17 Iowa State, and they've been competitive since. They split the season series' with the Cyclones, Baylor, and Oklahoma, and swept West Virginia. Kansas handled Texas in both of their games, including a blowout 86-56 win on February 29, so running into the Jayhawks may make things tough, if that match-up comes to fruition in the Big 12 semifinals. We never count out Shaka Smart in a tournament, though. The system can be very hard to prepare for with quick turnarounds, and the Longhorns get better at playing in it by the game.