College Basketball Handicapping: Big 12 Tournament Preview
by Robert Ferringo - 3/9/2010
While the Big East is getting all of the love and attention for the mediocre teams that are playing their way into the NIT, the Big 12 currently sits as the best conference in college basketball. And we’ll get to see this group go at it starting at 11:30 a.m. on Wednesday in Kansas City as the Big 12 Conference Tournament gets underway.
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The Favorite: Kansas (-300)
There isn’t much to say about the Jayhawks that you shouldn’t already know. This team has dominated one of the two best conferences in the country, and they have done so for the better part of the last three years. Sherron Collins is the most important player in the nation in terms of what he brings to his team. This group has size (Morris twins and Cole Aldrich), shooters (Brady Morningstar and Ty Reed) and athletic swing players (Xavier Henry and Ty Taylor). It’s a complete squad with Collins as the closer. The Jayhawks are 5-1 straight up but just 1-5 against the spread in their last six Big 12 Tournament games. That includes a quarterfinals loss to Baylor in their one and only game last year. But this team won’t suffer that fate.
Kansas State (+350) – The Wildcats enter the Big 12 Tournament as possibly one of the more overrated teams in the Top 25. That doesn’t mean that they can’t play. But what it does mean is that they lost their last two games (by 17 at Kansas, by three at home against Iowa State) and their best wins in the last two months were over Missouri and Baylor. But that’s it. Other than that this team has benefited immensely from an unbalanced league schedule. I do love their veteran guards, Jacob Pullen and Denis Clemente, and they have a bunch of towers near the basket. But this team lacks a third scoring option and if they run into a team that can rebound with them they can be beaten on the perimeter.
Baylor (+500) – Well, the word is out. Baylor has been one of my bread-and-butter teams all season and, up until the last week, has been the most underrated team in the nation. This team is all about Epke Udoh, who is one of the best interior defenders in the nation and who is right there with Wes Johnson as the most impactful transfer in the country this year. Veteran guards Tweety Carter and streaky Lace Dunn get it done on the perimeter and then a host of big, athletic frontcourt players provide the defense and rebounding. This team may rely a bit too much on Dunn, who is a gunner, but other than that they have few weaknesses and can play with any team in the country.
Texas A&M (+1200) – All the Aggies do is win. They are one of the best underdogs in the country and one of the best teams to line up and beat in any conference, anywhere. This team is all about physicality and defense. And with a bye to the second round they get a shot to either smother Nebraska or take their chances against a Missouri team set to press in their second game in 24 hours. Guard Donald Sloan is the leader, notching 18 points per game, and forward Bryan Davis will go toe-to-toe with any big man in the nation. If the Aggies hit their shots from the outside they can advance. But a tough semis matchup with Kansas may be too much for them.
Missouri (+1500) – Let’s not forget that this is a team that played deep into March last year and was close to a Final Four berth. They still have very powerful guards and are one of the most athletic teams in the conference, if not the nation. This team wants to press and trap and run and they have six guys that average seven or more points, but are still trying to work around the injury to Justin Safford. The Tigers won the Big 12 title last year. But that came after three straight years where they didn’t win a game in Kansas City. They are also just 1-5 against the top four seeds in the conference and I don’t think that they have the goods this year.
The Spoiler: Oklahoma State (+1000)
When you have one of the best players in the country (James Anderson) and a team full of streak shooters you have a shot to get hot and put a nice three-day run together. Anderson averages 22.9 points per game and has First Team All-America talent. This team doesn’t have much on the interior but Marshall Moses and Matt Pilgrim are very athletic and they can hold their own. Travis Ford is one of the most unheralded coaches in the country and he’s really getting it done with an undermanned team. The key guys are freshman point guard Keiton Page and senior swing guard Obi Muonelo. If they catch fire this team is capable of playing at a high level. And it will take that outside shooting to make up for their lack of depth in the post in a league full of power underneath.
No. 8 Colorado vs. No. 9 Texas Tech
These two teams play completely opposite styles, with Tech wanting to get up and down the court and with the Buffs relying on a slower tempo and their Princeton offense. Colorado just beat the Red Raiders, 101-90, at home on March 6. They shot 60 percent from the field in that game and I have to say that will be tough to duplicate. Tech has lost seven straight games and Colorado has won three straight, so there’s no doubt where the momentum is. The Red Raiders are 4-9-1 ATS in their last 14 neutral site games while Colorado is 37-16-1 ATS in their last 54 conference games.
No. 5 Missouri vs. No. 12 Nebraska
The Huskers have won two games in the last two months so I don’t think that there is much doubt over who will advance here. But Nebraska is 2-1 ATS in its last three games as a double-digit underdog (which I’m sure they will be). Missouri has covered three straight in this series and have won the last three meetings by an average of 18.3 points per game.
No. 7 Oklahoma State vs. No. 10 Oklahoma
It’s Bedlam, Round 3. Oklahoma State actually has dominated about 72 of the 85 minutes that these teams have played against one another this year. OU managed to win the first meeting in overtime mainly because James Anderson was hurt and foul trouble crept in. The Cowboys won by 21 in the rematch and now it’s time for the rubber match. Oklahoma has been a debacle in the Big 12 this year and have dumped eight straight and 11 of 13. Their only wins since mid-January have come against Texas and Iowa State. The Sooners have been shooting the ball really well from deep lately and have had just a brutal schedule down the stretch (K-State, Kansas, Baylor, Texas, A&M) so a slide was expected. But I don’t know where they are mentally and whether or not they can gear up and win this one. Oklahoma State is 25-10-1 ATS in their last 36 games and 21-8-2 ATS in neutral site games. Oklahoma is 3-9 ATS in its last 12.
No. 6 Texas vs. No. 11 Iowa State
Iowa State is riding high off a nice win over Kansas State. But that’s been one of the few bright spots in what has been a very disappointing season. This is another team that has just played an absolutely brutal Big 12 schedule. But they have a legit go-to guy in Craig Brackins and he’s the type of player that could definitely get hot and carry a team for two or three games. Texas has fallen as hard as any team in recent memory, tumbling from No. 1 in the country in January to now looking at a double-digit seed if they lose this game. Their problem is that their guards are pathetic and their frontcourt guys aren’t good enough to compensate. They weren’t good enough last year and they aren’t any better or more equipped this time around. Texas is 5-20-1 ATS in their last 26 conference games and the Cyclones are 5-2 ATS in the last seven meetings.
Robert Ferringo is a professional handicapper and he has gained well over +300 Units over the past three college basketball seasons. You can purchase his college basketball picks here.
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