2021 Big 12 Tournament Preview
Updated: Mar 12, 2021
Though the Big Ten has the deepest conference this season, the Big 12 is certainly a close second. Despite the uber competitive nature of the conference, there is a clear best team in Baylor who stands above the rest. After being robbed of a possible run in March last year, Scott Drew and the Bears responded by having the best season of any power five school.
Already locked into a one seed, Baylor will be chasing Gonzaga for the overall number one seed. This will be no easy task as their opponents in Kansas City will be looking to make their own statements this week. There is no bubble situation to speak of in the Big 12, but the top seven are surefire tournament teams capable of making a deep run in a couple weeks.
Baylor is the clear favorite in Kansas City this week. The Baylor Bears finished alone at the top of the Big 12 and are arguably the most complete team in the country. Defense is the known commodity with this team, but the Bears are lethal offensively. They shoot the three at a 43% clip, which leads the nation. This attack is spearheaded by Wooden Award candidate Jared Butler, who averages 17.1 points per game and is shooting 44.4% from three. Davion Mitchell, Adam Flager, and Matthew Mayer are also outstanding shooters who are well above 40% from beyond the three-point line. In their last game against Texas Tech, Macio Teague shot 10-12 from three. The only loss the Bears suffered this season came at Allen Fieldhouse right after an extensive Covid pause.
A blueblood usually on the top seed lines, this Jayhawks team is still a force in the Big 12. For what the Jayhawks lack in offensive firepower, they make up for defensively. Kansas leads the conference in defensive field goal percentage, which is a formidable stat considering the defenses to be found in this league. The Jayhawks were the only team to beat Baylor this season, and they have several other impressive wins on their resume. Kansas can compete with the best in the nation, and a run in Kansas City would improve their spot in the bracket.
Credit to the Mountaineers who finished in the top half of the Big 12 standings after Oscar Tshiebwe left Morgantown earlier this season. After his departure, Miles “Deuce” McBride came to the forefront as the next great Bob Huggins guard. These aren’t the Mountaineers of old, trademarked by their “Press Virginia” with Javon Carter and Daxter Miles; rather this West Virginia is an excellent offensive team. They sit second in the Big 12 in scoring and three-point shooting, with McBride and Taz Sherman leading the backcourt. Derek Culver poses a major threat inside, averaging 15 and 10 on the season. However, West Virginia struggles defensively and their ability to advance in the postseason will hinge on getting stops.
This is a fun team to watch. The Texas Longhorns are in their best season under Shaka Smart and will be a tough out come tourney time. These Longhorns are deep and nine players play at least ten minutes per game. Texas is led by a triumvirate of guards that include Andrew Jones, Courtney Ramey, and Matt Coleman who runs the show. Their frontcourt does not lack talent either, with five-star freshman Greg Brown and Kai Jones, an outstanding athlete capable of defending all five positions. Consistency is the key for this team, but when they are on, they can beat anyone.
Assuming the OSU appeal on an NCAA ruling is still pending, the Cowboys are going to be a load to handle for any team they play these next few weeks. Mike Boynton has his team locked in and they are playing their best basketball down the stretch. The Pokes closed out the season with a sweep at Bedlam and won against Texas Tech and West Virginia. Cade Cunningham is the best freshman in the country and the unquestioned leader of this team. Cunningham scores at each level, and his ability to facilitate makes the game easier for his teammates. Beware of the Pokes come Selection Sunday.
The transformation in Lubbock since Chris Beard’s arrival has been remarkable. In their two previous tournament appearances, Texas Tech has reached the Elite Eight and National Championship game behind. Once again, Beard has a second-weekend team led by Kyler Edwards, Kevin McCullar, and Georgetown transfer Mac McClung. The Red Raiders have the best scoring defense in the conference, but they can sometimes struggle on offense. If Tech, specifically McClung, can put the ball in the hoop consistently, they are a tough matchup.
The Sooners gained a lot of momentum in the middle of the conference season, but have faded somewhat since then by losing their last four games. In such a strong conference, someone must be the odd one out, and Oklahoma drew this fate and will have to play an extra game en route to a Big 12 Championship. Austin Reaves is the do-it-all guard for Lon Kruger’s squad; he led the Sooners in points, rebounds and assists this season, and usually has the ball in his hands at the end of close games.
This is one of the few tournaments during championship week where essentially every game is must-see basketball. It will be exciting to see who advances, but I would be shocked if the Baylor Bears aren’t holding up the championship trophy Saturday night. I think the Bears have the best team in college basketball and Jared Butler will lead this team to the Final Four in April.