Big 12 Outlook for March Madness
From top to bottom, the Big 12 is arguably the most competitive conference in college basketball. The league is likely to send seven teams to the NCAA Tournament, all of which are currently ranked in the top-20. All seven teams look capable of making a deep run in the Big Dance, including these three teams that have Final Four hopes.
A three-week hiatus for COVID-related reasons has been the only thing that’s been able to slow down Baylor this season. The Bears looked a little sluggish coming out of their shut down, losing their first game of the season to Kansas. But they quickly got back on track after a couple of games and have regained their form as one of the elite teams in the country.
While a lack of size in the frontcourt can sometimes hinder Baylor against big and physical teams, the Bears can more than make up for that with a loaded backcourt. Both Jared Butler and Davion Mitchell play the role of point guard. Both players can handle the ball and create for others, as Butler and Mitchell both average at least five assists per game. Of course, the kicker is that four of Baylor’s five leading scorers shoot over 40% from three-point range. That’s not to say they can’t drive to the basket and create scoring chances inside, but as a team, the Bears shoot 42% from the perimeter, making them a dangerous offensive team.
Baylor has been a college basketball consensus pick to reach the final four this year, so we are keeping our eyes glued on them as we get ready for the Big Dance.
The Jayhawks have not had a typical year, enduring a lot of struggles in the middle of the season that had many doubting whether they were capable of a deep tournament run. But Bill Self’s team won seven of eight games to close out the regular season, including an upset win over Baylor and wins over two other ranked teams. The Jayhawks have apparently figured things out and now look capable of going to the Sweet 16 and beyond.
Point guard play remains a slight concern, as Marcus Garrett’s offensive production can be inconsistent. But Kansas has found something with the forward tandem of David McCormack and Jalen Wilson. McCormack was outstanding down the stretch, finishing the regular season averaging 13.4 points per game. Wilson, meanwhile, got over the wall he hit in the middle of the season and is producing more like a sophomore. The Jayhawks also have Ochai Agbaji to serve as their go-to scorer when they need someone to create their own shot and get a bucket.
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The Longhorns are another team that was temporarily derailed by a COVID pause. Even coach Shake Smart suffered serious symptoms from the virus. But late-season wins over Kansas and Oklahoma helped Texas get back on track. Keep in mind the Longhorns were ranked as high as no. 4 in the country this season and are more than capable of playing at an elite level.
Texas has a trio of veteran guards who play well together and surpassed preseason expectations. Andrew Jones, Courtney Ramey, and Matt Coleman all average at least 12 points per game, and that balance means Texas is capable of surviving a tournament game in which one of them doesn’t show up. Meanwhile, if all three play up to their potential, the Longhorns can go toe-to-toe with just about any team in the country. Finally, freshman forward Greg Brown will be the X-factor in March. Brown has NBA potential but remains raw and inconsistent. If he’s able to rise to the occasion, there’s no telling how far Texas can go in the Big Dance.
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