Thursday, March 10, 2005

Big 12 Conference Tournament Preview

The Big 12 regular season championship came down to the final weekend of the season, where Kansas and Oklahoma State both lost, and Oklahoma came from out of nowhere to grab a share of the title and a #1 seed in the conference tournament. After the top three, there was a drop off to the middle of the pack.
Oklahoma, after a mid-season swoon, rebounded to make a great run and get a share of the regular season championship. Taj Gray and Kevin Bookout are as tough to stop as any post duo in the country when the high-low game is working. Andrew Lavender and Terrell Everett, two very solid guards, lead a deep group of perimeter players. Kansas might be without scoring guard Keith Langford for the Big 12 Tourney after he suffered an injury in the season finale. Wayne Simien is arguably the best power forward in the country. Other than those two, however, the Jayhawks are going to have to find a consistent third option. JR Giddens is ice-cold lately. Oklahoma State is a senior-laden club that has a great inside-outside combo in John Lucas and Joey Graham. Freshman JamesOn Curry has been a solid scorer since being placed in the lineup. Texas Tech has struggled lately, but still have a great perimeter trio in Ronald Ross, Jarrious Jackson, and Martin Zeno. If those three are playing well, the Red Raiders are tough to beat, but they need more production from the inside players Cameron Giles and Darryl Dora. Texas clinched a spot in the NCAA Tournament with their road win at Oklahoma State. Daniel Gibson is the front-runner for freshman of the year, while Brad Buckman is becoming a go-to-player in the post for the Longhorns. Iowa State won their final two games of the season after two game losing streak. Curtis Stinson is one of the hardest players to stop in the conference, and Jared Homan is a very underrated big man. The Cyclones play a difficult to penetrate, trapping zone defense. Texas A&M probably needs two wins to get into the NCAA Tournament, but the Aggies are playing well lately and can make a run. Antoine Wright is one of the best players in the Big 12, and Acie Law IV is a great second option on offense.
Prediction: There are several teams capable of winning the tournament title, but without Langford, I don't see Kansas getting past the quarterfinals match-up against Texas A&M. Overrated Oklahoma State is most likely going to meet Oklahoma in the finals. The Sooners play a very good zone, and the Cowboys have had trouble against those type of defenses. In addition, Oklahoma State is not a big team and can be beat by solid post players. Oklahoma has two of them. The Sooners will get the automatic bid from the Big 12 and win the conference tournament.

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