All 10 Big 12 teams are outstanding this year. From top to bottom, each team can compete with one another on any given night. It’s what’s made following this year’s conference play so enticing.
TCU, Kansas State, Oklahoma, and West Virginia could all make this year’s tournament, and could even make a run. But, their chances of going far are limited. Oklahoma State is ineligible for postseason play, and they would be in this category regardless.
Despite Iowa State’s recent struggles, they are still a top team in the Big 12, which is why they’re included in this article.
Why they will: Defense.
It’s going to be a familiar theme with Big 12 teams, but Kansas has one of the best defenses in America. They have big guards who are quick and athletic, and they make shots, meaning they get to set up their defense on most possessions.
If you have to play on set defenses against Kansas, you’re going to lose more frequently than not.
Why they won’t: Lack of consistency from the bigs
David McCormack’s career in Lawrence is complicated and has had plenty of ups and downs. One night he can go berserk on one of the best players in the country on both sides of the ball, and the next night he can get absolutely dominated by a true freshman from a mid-major. It makes no sense and is very frustrating for Jayhawk fans and coach Bill Self.
If Kansas doesn’t make an earlier exit than anticipated, it means either
McCormack has found consistency or sixth-year man Mitch Lightfoot has taken a massive, and frankly, completely unexpected leap from what he’s been for the last half-decade.
Why they will: Guard scoring
Last year’s Baylor team had three outstanding guards, all of whom scored plenty. This year, maybe the team’s best pure scorer comes off the bench in L.J. Cryer. They have Adam Flagler, who can get really hot, and there’s no stopping him when he’s hot.
Similarly, Arizona transfer point guard James Akinjo can really stash a box score. Combo guard/forward, freshman Kendall Brown has an all-around offensive game, which is why he will be amongst the top picks in the NBA draft next year should he decide to leave Waco.
Why they won’t: Free throws
It seems like such an insignificant statistic sometimes, but this team is not a good free-throw shooting team. Despite having some great shooters, the team as a whole just struggles from the line. If they get into a close game against a top free-throw shooting team, they might just blow it.
Why they will: Grit
This Red Raiders team is as gritty as they come. Every single one of them fights for their head coach Mark Adams, diving into the boards and jumping over the courtside spectators to save balls going out.
They’re all great athletes who can defend pretty much every position. They are disciplined, and they play angry. They might just scare some teams out of March Madness.
Why they won’t: Lack of scoring
This team has scoring woes that seem almost impossible. Despite their talent, they can get so tired on defense that their offense looks like a middle-school team’s warmup.
They tend just to chuck shots when things aren’t going their way, and if they don’t go in, it could get real ugly. They have improved with shot selection as the season has progressed, but don’t be shocked if it’s the reason they lose an early match.
Why they will: Star Power
This team seemed to have it all coming into the season. High-quality transfers in Marcus Carr, Tre Mitchell, Timmy Allen, Christian Bishop, Devin Askew, and Dylan Disu all provided high-caliber scoring and minutes for their previous teams.
On top of all that, they kept two of their starting guards from last year’s 3-seeded team, Andrew Jones and Courtney Ramey.
They also kept some bench guys to fill some holes in Brock Cunningham and Jase Febres. I don’t really understand what has Chris Beard stumped with this squad of stars, but if they go deep, it’s because the stars finally aligned.
Why they won’t: Three-point shooting
This team just isn’t a very consistent three-point shooting team, and it’s why they have experimented with what feels like an infinite amount of different starting lineups this year.
Jones and Ramey aren’t as consistent as they once were, and they struggle to move the ball to get open looks. If they face an offensive powerhouse, I’m not sure how they will keep up.
Why they will: Izaiah Brockington’s left hand
Brockington is one of college basketball’s biggest surprises this year. A transfer from Penn State, he has exceeded all expectations after an above-par career for the Nittany Lions. This year, he has been fantastic at all levels offensively, and his left hand might be one of the most dangerous weapons in college hoops.
Even when you shade him right, he still finds a way to get to his left, and he puts up some of the craziest shots you’ve ever seen. He also has a beautiful jump shot that he hits from impossible angles. Brockington could be in line for a classic March run.
Why they won’t: Neutral courts
This team is outstanding in their home court in Ames, but their defense leads to offense approach often falls apart without their fans cheering them on through droughts.
If their fans don’t show out in massive numbers, the Cyclones might dig themselves into a hole they just can’t climb out of.
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