After a successful Big 12 regular season, the Kansas Jayhawks embark on their quest to defend their conference and national championship over the next few weeks–and the odds favor them to do so.
Despite having a seven-game winning streak snapped by Texas on the final weekend of the regular season, No. 3 Kansas won the Big 12 season-long title for the 21st time. They now set their sights on repeating as Big 12 tournament champions. A win in Kansas City, Missouri, this week would give them 13 Big 12 tournament titles out of the 26 that have been contested in the conference’s history.
End of an Era for the Big 12
Before we get to this week’s action at the T-Mobile Center, this will be the final Big 12 tournament for longtime members Texas and Oklahoma. While a Sooners win would be unlikely, the Longhorns are ranked No. 7 and are coming off a win over Kansas. Texas won the tournament for the first time in 2021 after six prior defeats in the title game.
In 2024, the Longhorns and Sooners depart for the SEC. Taking their place will be Houston, who is currently ranked No. 1 in the country, Cincinnati, UCF, and BYU. With those additions, the conference will be back at 12 teams after running with 10 for just over a decade.
The Jayhawks are the Big 12 tournament favorites and are second in the odds for the NCAA tournament behind Houston. As the top seed, Kansas–along with the top-six seeds in the tournament–receives a first-round bye and will play either 8-seed West Virginia or 9-seed Texas Tech on Thursday. The Jayhawks then face the winner of Baylor and Iowa State in the 4 vs. 5 seed matchup. Interestingly, the Jayhawks went 1-1 against both of those teams in the regular season.
Point guard Dajuan Harris Jr. was held to just five points in the 75-59 loss at Texas on Sunday, but he has been excellent all season, averaging 13 points per game, 6.4 assists per game, and just 1.4 turnovers per contest. He is also an excellent defender, winning the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year award.
Jaylen Wilson, however, scored 23 points, which is three points north of his season average. The junior and Harris both have the experience from last year’s championship run under their belts, and freshman Gradey Dick is expected to play a big role after putting up 14.3 PPG and 4.9 rebounds per game this season. Kansas also has the shortest odds to win the national championship, at +900, of any team in the conference.
Texas Longhorns (+350)
If the Longhorns can put a game together like they did on Saturday against Kansas, they could easily be cutting down the nets on Saturday. Interim head coach Rodney Terry deserves credit after taking over abruptly for the fired Chris Beard after a domestic violence allegation. He led Texas to a second-place finish in the league, earning the endorsement of one popular college basketball personality.
Texas has a defense that can make things difficult for top teams. The Longhorns beat Gonzaga and Creighton in non-conference play, and the 59 points scored by Kansas was its third-lowest point total of the season.
Baylor Bears (+500)
Baylor is the 2021 NCAA national champion but hasn’t won a Big 12 tournament. In fact, they are 0-3 in the championship game, last appearing in 2014. The Bears have a nice resume with wins over Gonzaga, Kansas, and Texas under its belt, but a blowout loss at home to Iowa State over the weekend was concerning. The Bears can have defensive lapses, and their conference-worst 1.09 points per possession will eventually cost them in the most competitive conference tournament in the nation.
After making an improbable run to the championship game in college football, the Horned Frogs are the 6-seed in this Big 12 tournament but have the fourth-best odds. They will play 3-seed Kansas State in a quarterfinal matchup on Thursday and would likely take on Texas in the semifinal if they were to beat the Wildcats. Head coach Jamie Dixon is defensive-oriented and has been a good tournament coach here and during his time at Pittsburgh.
Due to the difficulty of the Big 12, the Horned Frogs were 9-9 in the league but finished 20-11 overall. TCU had a dominant win over Kansas State earlier in the year but also lost badly to the Wildcats in Manhattan. They earned a victory against Texas this past week but followed it up with a loss at last-place Oklahoma, so the Frogs are likely too inconsistent to rely on.
Value in Underdogs?
(Tie). Iowa State Cyclones and Kansas State Wildcats (+800)
The Wildcats are the 3-seed, and the Cyclones are the 5-seed in this year’s tournament. Kansas State is led by Markquis Nowell, who led the Big 12 in assists (7.7 per game) and was third in the league in points (17.0 PPG).
Iowa State, who is unranked, takes on No. 10 Baylor in the 4 vs. 5 seed matchup, but the Cyclones won 73-58 at Baylor on Saturday to snap a four-game losing streak.
West Virginia Mountaineers (+1600)
Winning four games, including a quarterfinal matchup with Kansas, would be a tough task. But, Bob Huggins’ team is peaking at the right time. The Mountaineers have won three of their last four, including wins at Iowa State and vs. Kansas State. The only defeat was a two-point loss to the Jayhawks in Lawrence. WVU should also be favored in their first-round matchup against Texas Tech. The Red Raiders have lost three in a row and just suspended head coach Mark Adams over “racially insensitive” comments made to his team.
Big 12 Tournament Prediction
Kansas enters the tournament the hottest team in the league, having won seven of eight. They already clinched the regular-season championship going into the game at Texas over the weekend. So, we’re not sure that they let the Longhorns see everything they had in their arsenal. If they meet for a third time in the title game on Saturday, we favor Kansas.