KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Thousands of sports fans will crowd the Sprint Center and Power & Light District this week for the Big 12 Basketball Championship here in Kansas City.
It's expected to be one of the most competitive conference tournaments in years. Any one of the ten Big 12 schools could walk away with the championship trophy (maybe not TCU or Texas Tech).
Here's a preview of the ten schools competing in the 2014 Big 12 Championship.
No. 1 Kansas (23-8, 14-4 Big 12)
The Kansas Jayhawks remain in the top ten, despite a devastating loss to West Virginia over the weekend. The loss means they are locked in as a No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament, unless they win the Big 12 Championship. If the Jayhawks win the conference championship, they will likely be the No. 1 seed in the East. Freshman sensation Joel Embiid will likely miss the Big 12 Championship this week. He re-aggravated his back during the Oklahoma State game. KU faces the winner of Oklahoma State/Texas Tech Thursday at 2 p.m. on ESPN2.
Who to watch for: Andrew Wiggins (16.8 PPG, 5.9 RPG)
No. 2 Oklahoma (23-8, 12-6 Big 12)
Oklahoma finished the regular season second in the Big 12 conference. They are No. 17 in the country and can be very dangerous. The Sooners are coming off a 30-point win against last place TCU. Their star player Buddy Hield led the team with 24 points, 8 rebounds. Look for Oklahoma to do some damage in the tournament.
Who to watch for: Buddy Hield (16.8 PPG, 4.4 RPG)
No. 3 Texas (22-9, 11-7 Big 12)
The Texas Longhorns have turned their season around. After going 0-2 in the Big 12 at the start of the season, Texas turned up the heat. They've beat every team in the conference this year except Oklahoma. The Longhorns will be a competitive force to mess with this week. Head Coach Rick Barnes was also recently named the Big 12 Coach of the Year. Texas opens up the tournament against West Virginia Thursday at 8:30 p.m. on 38 the Spot.
Who to watch for: Cameron Ridley (11.5 PPG, 8.1 RPG)
No. 4 Iowa State (23-7, 11-7 Big 12)
My pick to win the Big 12 Championship this year. The No. 16 ranked Cyclones have so many offensive weapons that will give any team trouble. Senior guard Melvin Ejim beat out Andrew Wiggins for the Big 12 Player of the Year Award. The senior put up only 12 points against their overtime win against Oklahoma State, but he had an impressive 30 points against Kansas State a few weeks ago. Add guys like DeAndre Kane and Georges Niang into the mix, you've got a tough team to beat in Iowa State. They play Kansas State Thursday at 11:30 a.m. on ESPN2.
Who to watch for: Melvin Ejim (18.2 PPG, 8.6 RPG)
No. 5 Kansas State (20-11, 10-8 Big 12)
The Wildcats shared the Big 12 conference title last year with Kansas, but this year it's a different story. Bruce Weber has struggled to tame his cats away from home. Seven of their eight losses this season were on the road. I guess it's a good thing the Sprint Center is about as close to home as it can get for Kansas State. The powerhouse freshman Marcus Foster needs to play with energy in order for K-State to get past Iowa State in the tournament. Without him, the wildcats just don't seem to have enough players who can step up right now.
Who to watch for: Marcus Foster (15.4 PPG, 3.3 RPG)
No. 6 West Virginia (17-14, 9-9 Big 12)
Bob Huggins' Mountaineers have some heart left to upset any team they face in the Big 12 Championship. They just upset Kansas at home, taking away the Jayhawks No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament. Junior guard Juwan Staten is a beast. He's scored a combined 100 points over the last five games. The Mountaineers may surprise all of us here in Kansas City this week.
Who to watch for: Juwan Staten (18.4 PPG, 5.9 RPG)
No. 7 Baylor (21-10, 9-9 Big 12)
The Baylor Bears went on a five-game losing skid during the beginning of conference play, but started to turn things around as of late. They're coming off a big 2-point win against K-State at Bramlage. The Bears hope to build off some of that momentum in the tournament. Baylor should have no problems against TCU Wednesday at 8:30 p.m. on 38 the Spot.
Who to watch for: Cory Jefferson (13.4 PPG, 8.1 RPG)
No. 8 Oklahoma State (20-11, 8-10 Big 12)
Everybody counted the Cowboys out. They went on a 7-game losing streak and did not have Marcus Smart for a week and a half after his "shoving" incident with a Texas Tech fan. But now, they could be the "team to beat" this week in the tourney. Oklahoma State has a whole lot of talent. The so-called "flopper" Marcus Smart can be dangerous, while teammates Markel Brown and Le'Bryan Nash will give any defensive a headache. Who knows, the Cowboys could run the tournament. But they have to get through Texas Tech first. And then it would be Kansas. Even without Joel Embiid, I don't see KU losing to Oklahoma State. The Cowboys play Texas Tech Wednesday night at 6 p.m. on 38 the Spot.
Who to watch for: Marcus Smart (17.9 PPG, 5.6 RPG)
No. 9 Texas Tech (14-7, 6-12 Big 12)
The Red Raiders probably
won't do a whole lot in the Big 12 Championship. They have to get through Oklahoma State. Unless the Cowboys completely break down, the Red Raiders will be out in the first round. The only thing they have going for them is their inside game. Texas Tech can hurt teams by melting the clock and shooting lights out from inside the paint. Senior Jaye Crockett can also give teams some trouble. He put up 22 points, 10 rebounds against Texas on Saturday.
Who to watch for: Jaye Crockett (13.7 PPG, 6.4 RPG)
No. 10 TCU (9-21, 0-18 Big 12)
It would be an absolute miracle if the Horned Frogs won a game in the tournament. TCU has not won a single game in the Big 12 conference this season. And when you're up against a hot Baylor team -- no chance. TCU does have one good player on their team. Junior guard Kyan Anderson had 17 points Saturday against Oklahoma, and then 28 against Texas last week. They have to keep giving this guy the ball. But one player can't win it all for anybody. Andrew Wiggins tried that for KU... look what happened.
Who to watch for: Kyan Anderson (17 PPG, 4.4 APG)