Previewing The Phillips 66 Big 12 Men's Championship
Courtesy: Big12Sports.com
          Release: 03/12/2013
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By Wendell Barnhouse | wendell@big12sports.com
Big12Sports.com Correspondent

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - The general consensus gleaned from Monday's Big 12 men's basketball coaches' teleconference was to expect the unexpected. Over the next four days in Kansas City's Sprint Center, we'll find out if the Phillips 66 Men's Basketball Championship fulfills that expectation.

If the season is any indication, the games should be tight.

In the 90 Conference games, 52 went overtime or were decided by 10 points or less. That's 57.7 percent.

The season produced co-champions as Kansas and Kansas State finished with 14-4 records. The Jayhawks will be the No. 1 seed here, having swept the Wildcats in the regular season. If the seeds hold, the teams could meet again in Saturday's title game.

No team seeded lower than No. 3 has ever won the Big 12 Championship. Kansas coach Bill Self says this could be the year a Cinderella emerges.

"You go into the tournament in the past and you could say, 'You know what, this team could win a couple of games or this team could do good or this could be an upset,' " Self said. "Not very often do you go in and say, I think that team can positively win three games in a row.' There are six teams that can win three games in a row.
"I've never seen the league better with more teams that could win your league tournament than what we have now."
There are at least as many story lines.

Kansas still has a shot at being a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. Self down plays that goal, saying a No. 1 seed is overrated. The Jayhawks, though, appear in good shape to return to the Sprint Center for the opening weekend of the NCAA tourney.

Kansas State could join its in-state rivals in Kansas City for the NCAA Tournament. To do that, the Wildcats need to be seed No. 4 or higher. That might require winning their first Big 12 Championship.

Baylor, according to the bracketologists, is living in Bubble Land. The Bears have made the Big 12 final in 2009 and 2012; if they win three games here, they'll receive the Big 12's automatic NCAA bid. Just two victories, though - coupled with Baylor's season-ending upset of Kansas - might put the Bears in the bracket.

Big 12 newcomers West Virginia and TCU each will be in Wednesday's first-round games because of disappointing and struggling seasons. The Mountaineers are a No. 8 seed and face No. 9 seed Texas Tech while the Horned Frogs are the No. 10 seed and will play No. 7 Texas.

Team by team previews:

No. 1 Kansas
Next at the Sprint Center: Will play at 2 p.m. Thursday against the winner of the first-round game between No. 8 seed West Virginia and No. 9 seed Texas Tech.
Thus far: 26-5.
Coach: Bill Self.
Big 12 Championship history: 32-8. Championships in 1997, 1998, 1999, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2010, 2011.
Probable starters: Jeff Withey, 7-0 Sr. C; Elijah Johnson, 6-4 Sr. G; Ben McLemore, 6-5 Fr. G; Travis Releford, 6-6 Sr. G; Kevin Young, 6-8 Sr. F.
You need to know: Kansas has been the No. 1 seed in this event 10 times. ... The Jayhawks are 8-1 in Big 12 Championship game finals. ... Kansas is holding opponents to 35.8 percent shooting and that is the best in Division I. ... The Jayhawks are 17-4 in the Sprint Center and has played 281 games in Kansas City. ... Jeff Withey leads the Big 12 in blocked shots and is third nationally with four per game. ... Ben McLemore is the top freshman scorer and is second in the Big 12 at 16.7 per game.

No. 2 Kansas State
Next at the Sprint Center: Will play at 6 p.m. Thursday against the winner of the first-round game between No. 7 seed Texas and No. 10 seed TCU.
Thus far: 25-6.
Coach: Bruce Weber
Big 12 Championship history: 9-16.
Probable starters: Angel Rodriguez, 5-11 Soph. G; Martavious Irving, 6-1 Sr. G; Rodney McGruder, 6-4 Sr. G; Shane Southwell, 6-6 Jr. G/F; Jordan Henriquez, 6-11 Sr. F.
You need to know: The Wildcats' conference title was their first since 1977. ... Kansas State joins Oklahoma and Texas as Big 12 schools to win the football and men's basketball regular-season titles in the same school year. ... The 25 victories are the most in the regular season in school history. ... Four of K-State's six losses have come to teams ranked No. 1 during the season. ... Martavious Irving has started the last two games in place of Will Spradling, who is battling a chest injury. ... Rodney McGruder has started 98 consecutive games and he's the only All-Big 12 first-teamer to also be named first-team all-academic.

No. 3 Oklahoma State
Next at the Sprint Center: Will play No. 6 seed Baylor at 8:30 p.m. Thursday.
Thus far: 23-7.
Coach: Travis Ford.
Big 12 Championship history: 21-14. Championships in 2004, 2005.
Probable starters: Le'Bryan Nash, 6-7 Soph. F; Michael Cobbins, 6-8 Soph. F; Philip Jurick, 6-11 Sr. C; Markel Brown, 6-3 Jr. G; Marcus Smart, 6-4 Fr. G.
You need to know: Oklahoma State has won 13 conference games for just the third time in school history. ... The Cowboys are allowing just 62.4 points per game this season, the second lowest average since 1968-69. ... Marcus Smart is the third player to be named player and freshman of the year in the Big 12. Kevin Durant of Texas (2007) and Kansas State's Michael Beasley (2008) also accomplished the double. ... Markel Brown became just the sixth player in school history with 100 steals and 75 blocked shots in a career. ... Michael Cobbins is averaging 6.20 rebounds per game this season, higher than any other sophomore in the Big 12.

No. 4 Oklahoma
Next at the Sprint Center: Will play No. 5 seed Iowa State at 11:30 a.m. Thursday.
Thus far: 20-10.
Coach: Lon Kruger.
Big 12 Championship history: 20-13. Championships in 2001, 2002, 2003.
Probable starters: Amath M'Baye, 6-9 Jr. F; Romero Osby, 6-8 Sr. F; Sam Grooms, 6-1 G; Steven Pledger, 6-4 Sr. G; Je'Lon Hornbeak, 6-3 Fr. G.
You need to know: Oklahoma has scored at least 83 points in five of its last six games (averaging 83.0 in the six). ... In the Sooners' victory over Iowa State on March 2, Oklahoma tied an NCAA record by making all 34 of its free throws. OU is shooting 75.8 percent from the line this season. ... In his second season with Oklahoma, Lon Kruger is trying to become the first coach to lead five different schools to the NCAA Tournament. ... Romero Osby has made 50 percent or more of his field goals in 19 of the last 23 games and he's averaging 24.5 points in his last four games.

No. 5 Iowa State
Next at the Sprint Center: Will play No. 4 seed Oklahoma at 11:30 a.m. Thursday.
Thus far: 21-10.
Coach: Fred Hoiberg.
Big 12 Championship history: 7-15. Championship in 2000.
Probable starters: Georges Niang, 6-7 Fr. F; Melvin Ejim, 6-6 Jr. F; Will Clyburn, 6-7 Sr. G; Chris Babb, 6-5 Sr. G; Korie Lucious, 5-11 Sr. G.
You need to know: In the four regular season meetings over the last two seasons, Iowa State has out¬scored Oklahoma 144-51 from 3-point range (the Cyclones won three of those games). ... The Cyclones have not won a Big 12 Championship game since 2005, a 77-57 victory over Baylor. ... Iowa State is the nation's leader in 3-pointers per game (10.0) and total 3-pointers made (309). ... Junior Melvin Ejim, the inaugural Scholar-Athlete of the Year for Men's Basketball, leads the Big 12 in rebounding at 9.3 per game and in double-doubles with 13. ... Georges Niang has made a 3-pointer in eight consecutive games and is 16-of-36 (44.4 percent) from behind the arc during that span.

No. 6 Baylor
Next at the Sprint Center: Will play No. 3 seed Oklahoma State at 8:30 p.m. Thursday.
Thus far: 18-13.
Coach: Scott Drew.
Big 12 Championship history: 11-15.
Probable starters: Pierre Jackson, 5-10 Sr. G; Brady Heslip, 6-2 Jr. G; A.J. Walton, 6-1 Sr. G; Cory Jefferson, 6-9 Jr. F; Isaiah Austin 7-1 Fr. C.
You need to know: Baylor is 1-7 in games decided by five or fewer points, and the Bears have shot below 70 percent from the free throw line in six of those seven losses. ... Baylor has more Big 12 wins in the last 5-plus seasons (53) than its first 11 years in the league (45). ... The Bears have four 20-win seasons in the last five years. Baylor had only three all-time 20-win seasons prior to Scott Drew's arrival. ... Pierre Jackson leads the Big 12 in scoring (19.4) and assists (6.6) and is on pace to be the first player to lead a power-6 conference in scoring and assists since Arizona's Jason Terry in 1998-99.

No. 7 Texas
Next at the Sprint Center: Will play No. 10 seed TCU at 8:30 p.m. Thursday.
Thus far: 15-16.
Coach: Rick Barnes.
Big 12 Championship history: 21-16.
Probable starters: Myck Kabongo, 6-1 Soph. G; Demarcus Holland, 6-2 Fr. G; Ioannis Papapetrou, 6-8 Fr. F; Jonathan Holmes, 6-7 Soph. F; Connor Lammert, 6-9 Fr. F.
You need to know: Texas has played in six overtime games, five coming in Big 12 play. Both are school records for a single season. ... UT has won six straight and 10 of the last 11 meetings against the Horned Frogs. ... In two of its last three victories, the Longhorns have overcome a 22-point second-half deficit and a 17-point first-half deficit and won both games in overtime. ... Since returning from a 23-game NCAA suspension, Myck Kabongo in eight games leads Texas in scoring (15.8 points per game), rebounds (5.3 per game), assists (5.3 per game), steals (15) and minutes played (37.8 per game).

No. 8 West Virginia
Next at the Sprint Center: Will play No. 9 seed Texas Tech at 6 p.m. Wednesday.
Thus far: 13-18.
Coach: Bob Huggins.
Big 12 Championship history: First appearance.
Probable starters: Deniz Kilicli, 6-9 Sr. F; Matt Humphrey, 6-6 Sr. F; Kevin Noreen 6-10 Soph. F; Eron Harris, 6-2 Fr. G; Juwan Staten, 6-1 Soph. G.
You need to know: Bob Huggins is 16-18 in Big 12 Conference games. He is 6-12 at WVU, and his Kansas State team posted a 10-6 Big 12 record in 2006-07. ... West Virginia has started 12 different players this season with 13 different starting lineup combinations. ... West Virginia has made at least one 3-point field goal in 454 consecutive games. ... Eron Harris leads the Mountaineers in scoring at 9.9 per game. He could become the second Mountaineer freshman to lead WVU in scoring. ... Juwan Staten leads the Big 12 in assist-to-turnover ratio (conference games only) at 2.90.

No. 9 Texas Tech
Next at the Sprint Center: Will play No. 8 seed West Virginia at 6 p.m. Wednesday.
Thus far: 10-19.
Coach: Chris Walker.
Big 12 Championship history: 12-16.
Probable starters: Ty Nurse, 6-1 Sr. G; Josh Gray, 6-1 Fr. G; Dejan Kravic, 6-11 Jr. C; Jaye Crockett, 6-7 Jr. F; Jordan Tolbert, 6-7 Soph. F.
You need to know: Texas Tech has gone eight consecutive games with fewer than 15 turnovers. ... Texas Tech is 2-12 in games played on the weekend and 8-6 in weekday games. ... The Red Raiders have failed to hit 62 percent in seven of their last nine games and are shooting 59.1 percent from the line during that stretch. ... Jaye Crockett's 6.8 rebounds per game is the highest single-season rebounding average by a Red Raider since Andy Ellis averaged 7.0 per game in 2002. ... Josh Gray is the fi rst freshman to lead the Red Raiders in assists since John Roberson in 2008 and just the fourth freshman ever.

No. 10 TCU
Next at the Sprint Center: Will play No. 7 seed Texas at 8:30 p.m. Wednesday.
Thus far: 11-20.
Coach: Trent Johnson.
Big 12 Championship history: First appearance.
Probable starters: Connell Crossland, 6-7 Sr. F; Kyan Anderson, 5-11 Soph. G; Nate Butler Lind, 6-6 Sr. G; Adrick McKinney 6-8 Sr. F; Garlon Green, 6-7 Sr. F.
You need to know: TCU is looking for its first postseason conference tournament championship. The Horned Frogs have twice played in the title game. TCU has appeared in 36 tourneys, posting an 18-36 record. ... TCU ranks No. 3 in the Big 12 and No. 56 in the NCAA in scoring defense, allowing 62.3 points per game. ... The Horned Frogs faced Texas twice in conference tournament play in the old Southwest Conference with UT winning both games. ... TCU is shooting 40.4 percent from the field but in its last two games is shooting 52.1 percent. ... Devonta Abron has averaged 12.7 points per game and a team-high 7.6 rebounds per game during the past five contests while scoring in double figures four times.

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