Texas finds itself in a unique situation going into the Big 12's postseason tournament. For once, the Longhorns aren't comfortably just awaiting a high seed. Instead, they find themselves squarely on the tournament bubble, teetering between the "Last Four In" and the "First Four Out".
Interestingly enough, the rest of the teams in the tournament fall on either side. The top five teams in the Big 12 have their bags packed for the tournament, while the bottom four need to win out to get in. Here's how the Big 12 tournament shakes out:
FINAL FOUR CONTENDERS
Kansas Jayhawks (Big 12 Tournament #1 Seed)
Season Recap: Chalk. The Jayhawks rocked the Big 12 again, securing the regular season championship for the 8th consecutive year. Thomas Robinson is either 1A or 1B in the National Player of the Year races (to Kentucky's Anthony Davis), and Tyshawn Taylor is one of the most improved players in the nation. But Kansas' calling card is the defense, from shot-blocker extraordinare Jeff Withey to All Glue-Guy Travis Releford.
Predicted Big 12 Tournament Finish: Champions. Kansas has won five of the last six--bet against them at your own risk.
Predicted NCAA Tournament Bid: #1 seed. And the inevitable head-scratching loss to a lesser opponent.
Missouri Tigers (Big 12 Tournament #2 Seed)
Season Recap: Senior experience. The Tiger seven-man rotation includes five seniors, a junior, and an emerging sophomore point guard in Phil Pressey. The inside-out duo of Ricardo Ratliffe and Marcus Denmon is comprised of two of the most offensively efficient players in the nation. And versatile swingman Kim English has a smile that lights up the sun.
Predicted Big 12 Tournament Finish: Title game. The Tigers avoid the rugged frontcourts of Baylor and Kansas St., which makes for a yellow brick path to the finals.
Predicted NCAA Tournament Bid: #2 seed. Very match-up dependent. Drawing a rugged, interior-powerful team early could spell doom for the Tigers.
Baylor Bears (Big 12 Tournament #4 Seed)
Season Recap: A mystery wrapped in an enigma. A promising 17-0 start dissolved into a disappointing run through Big 12 play (sound familiar, Longhorns fans?). Still, they're probably the most talented team in the Big 12, if not the most intelligent. Perry Jones III and Quincy Miller are future lottery picks. However, I find that the team's two players to watch are Quincy Acy, who rightfully won first team All-Big 12 honors over Jones III, and Pierre Jackson, a dagger 3-point shooter and deft passer who also loves to turn the ball over.
Predicted Big 12 Tournament Finish: 2nd round exit. The Bears' two games with Kansas St. this year have been won by a combined 3 points. I'll give the nod to the Wildcats, but it's a coin flip.
Predicted NCAA Tournament Bid: #4 seed. Can Baylor make the Final Four run I had predicted at the beginning of the season? The Bears will need to channel the ghosts of 2010 to do so.
SWEET 16 POTENTIAL
Iowa St. Cyclones (Big 12 Tournament #3 Seed)
Season Recap: Transference. The Cyclones got a new Mayor in town in head coach Fred Hoiberg. He, in turn, went out and recruited some talented cast-offs, most notably future NBA first round draft pick Royce White. In conference, the Cyclones beat every single team except Missouri. If they don't hit their three's, they're toast. If they do, their opponent is.
Predicted Big 12 Tournament Finish: 2nd Round Exit. Cold shooting touch helps the Big 12's quest for six tournament teams? That's what the Horns are hoping for.
Predicted NCAA Tournament Bid: #8 seed. Brand name recognition is a problem for Iowa St. The Cyclones haven't made the tournament since 2005, and the "just happy to be there" mentality won't be enough to get them past a 1 seed, let alone a 9.
Kansas St. Wildcats (Big 12 Tournament #5 Seed)
Season Recap: Martinesque. It's been the typical rock 'em, sock 'em, Frank Martin ballclub. The Wildcats don't win pretty, but they win. Rodney McGruder is one of the more underrated players in the nation. A couple of guys that hardly look capable of playing pickup basketball, Angel Rodriguez and Will Spradling, leads the offense, while the interior is mix and match.
Predicted Big 12 Tournament Finish: 3rd Round Exit. The Wildcats haven't been able to figure out their in-state rivals, and the third time isn't the charm.
Predicted NCAA Tournament Bid: #7 seed. Despite the high KenPom ratings, the tournament projections aren't showing the mid-tier Big 12 teams a lotta love, so the Wildcats may need to pull a big upset to make it to weekend two.
EVERYDAY I'M BUBBLIN'
Texas Longhorns (Big 12 Tournament #6 Seed)
Season Recap: So close, yet so far. Had the Horns returned one-and-dones Tristan Thompson and Cory Joseph, we would have been talking about a Final Four run. Instead, we lament all the close losses that led to a 9-9 conference record. J'Covan Brown is awesome-o, and Myck Kabongo is enigmatically talented. All that is for naught if we're having the same discussion next year with both players gone to the professional ranks.
Predicted Big 12 Tournament Finish: 3rd Round Exit. The intelligent, experienced Tigers have been all kinds of wrong for Texas.
Predicted NCAA Tournament Bid: Last Four In. Call me an optimist.
Oklahoma St. Cowboys vs. Texas Tech Red Raiders (Big 12 Tournament #7 vs. #10)
Season Recap: The Cowboys have a promising core for next year if diaper not-so-dandy Le'Bryan Nash returns to team with Markel Brown and incoming five-star Marcus Smart. That's no help for this year, as the team was just too talent-deficient to make a dent in the Big 12. Despite a valiant effort against Texas, the Red Raiders are one of the worst power conference teams in the nation.
Predicted Big 12 Tournament Finish: Texas Tech wins. Upset of the century of the week!
Oklahoma Sooners vs. Texas A&M Aggies (Big 12 Tournament #8 vs. #9)
Season Recap: The Sooners are on the up-and-up with new head coach Lon Kruger at the helm. They could be a homeless man's Missouri next year with returning seniors-to-be Romero Osby, Steven Pledger, and Andrew Fitzgerald. The Aggies are on the down-and-out as they exit the Big 12 with their tail tucked between their legs. Preseason top 25 rankings in both football and basketball fizzled into ~.500 seasons, with oft-injured Khris Middleton yet another poster child of why it's better to leave when your draft stock is highest.
Predicted Big 12 Tournament Finish: Did you hear about the Aggie that moved to Oklahoma and raised the IQ of both states? Sooners win, I guess.