By Marc Lawrence
PROJECTED FINAL FOUR:
Kansas, Kansas State, Missouri and Texas
THE WAY WE SEE IT:
The NCAA committee will probably hand out invitations to seven Big 12 schools, but can any of them be trusted in this event? KANSAS does arrive with some gaudy offensive and defensive numbers but their rusty 2-11 ATS mark with 3 or more days of rest this season is cause for concern. So is their 1-5 ATS record over their last six tourney games. After last year's opening round loss to Baylor, expect the Jayhawks to be all business. HC Bill's Self's 14-3 ATS post-season log against a foe off a SU dog win ensures that. A strong showing at the Sprint Center could vault KANSAS STATE into a No. 1 seed. However, the Wildcats' one-and-out each of the last two seasons along with their 1-3 SU and ATS record as tourney chalk this decade leaves us with too many questions. Can MISSOURI make it two in a row? The defending champs ran through the field last year (3-0 SUATS) and their 6-3-1 ATS record in their last 10 as tourney dogs offers much promise. Keep an eye on the Tigers in the opening matchup as they are a solid 5-1 ATS vs. a conference opponent off a SU loss this season. TEXAS has advanced to the semis or finals in each of the last 4 years. Before the loss to Baylor last season, it was the Jayhawks who handed them the boot the previous three seasons. With injuries in their starting backcourt, the Longhorns may not get the chance to avenge any of those losses.
THE SLEEPER: Baylor
The Bears caught the conference by surprise when they lost to Missouri in the title game last season. There will be no surprises this year. Baylor has rung the register in 11 of 16 conference tourney games this decade and they were 6-0 ATS this season in games against foes off a double-digit win. The question is: can they be trusted laying points? Not according to the history books as they are 0-3 SU and ATS lifetime in this tourney as a favorite. Play accordingly.
KEY TOURNAMENT BEST BET: Play On Kansas
The Jayhawks were stunned in the opening round of this tournament last year by Baylor and have been stumbling to the finish line this season. So why all the support, you ask? Simple. Kansas is the only team in the country to rank in the Top 10 in the three key statistical categories, namely: Offensive Field Goal Percentage, Defensive Field Goal Percentage and Rebounding. An angry Jayhawk, fueled with ammo like this, can be lethal. Note: avoid the Jayhawks in the opening round if they face a losing team as they are 1-9 ATS versus sub .500 conference foes under Bill Self.