Douglas: Power ranking teams ahead of the Big 12 Tournament

Iowa State Head Coach Steve Prohm talks with Rasir Bolton and other Iowa State players during a timeout Feb. 2 at Hilton Coliseum.

Zane Douglas

It’s that time of year, where the Big 12 men’s basketball teams will head down to Kansas City in the hopes of taking home a Big 12 Tournament crown.

This year is a bit different though, as it’s the first Big 12 Tournament since 2019 after 2020’s rendition of the event was canceled right at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

For a league rich with talent and parity (at least among the second tier of teams), only two teams have been victorious in the last six Big 12 Tournaments. Kansas has won a couple while Iowa State has dominated the pack, winning four of the last six.

The seeding for the tournament is out, but my ranking isn’t quite the same, as some teams have been better than others of late.

1. Baylor (Tournament seed: 1)

Record: 21-1 (13-1 in the Big 12)

AP Poll ranking: 2

This one is not a surprise and there should really be no stray from this. Whatever happens in the Big 12 Tournament, Baylor almost certainly will be a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament as well.

To use the analogy of a two-headed dragon of Jared Butler and Davion Mitchell would not be telling the full story, because the Bears boast one of the deepest teams in the league on top of two of the best players in the country in Butler and Mitchell.

There is little doubt that the Bears have been the most dominant team in the conference, but a somewhat recent loss to Kansas, a scare against Iowa State and a thrilling overtime escape over West Virginia has shown some cracks.

Tournament prediction: Win the championship

2. Kansas (Tournament seed: 2)

Record: 19-8 (12-6 in the Big 12)

AP Poll ranking: 11

I can’t be the only one who thought this year would be a massive negative for Kansas somewhere in the middle. At one point the Jayhawks weren’t even ranked.

To say they’ve found their footing would be an understatement.

Kansas enjoyed a good February where it went 7-2, with both losses coming away to West Virginia and Texas.

Baylor, Texas Tech and Oklahoma State fell in February to Bill Self’s group as well, cementing it as a successful month where the Jayhawks found momentum.

There have been some issues however.

A recent game against the University of Texas at El Paso in March gave Kansas a scare as it needed a late comeback to win at home.

Still, the Jayhawks found themselves with a top-two seed and a comfortable spot in the tournament.

Tournament prediction: Lose in the semifinals

3. Oklahoma State (Tournament seed: 5)

Record: 18-7 (11-7 in the Big 12)

AP Poll ranking: 12

One of the recent risers in the country checks in at No. 3 in the Oklahoma State Cowboys.

Still awaiting a ruling on whether their postseason ban will be in effect for this year, the Cowboys have cruised into the top 15 in college basketball with wins over the Sooners twice, Texas Tech and West Virginia all in nearly two weeks.

A lot of the praise can be shifted toward phenom and possible No. 1 overall pick Cade Cunningham.

Not only is the freshman guard leading the conference in scoring, but he’s been one of the smartest players on offense and defense while oozing potential and being asked to lead a young Oklahoma State team.

It has worked and a quarterfinal matchup between West Virginia and Oklahoma State will be one of the most fun matchups of the tournament.

Tournament prediction: Lose in the quarterfinals

4. West Virginia (Tournament seed: 4)

Record: 18-8 (11-6 in the Big 12)

AP Poll ranking: 10

The Mountaineers surprised some after losing Oscar Tshiebwe to the transfer portal by becoming a top 10 team in the country and giving Baylor a run for its money.

Led by Miles McBride and Derek Culver, West Virginia has put together a strong campaign and has competed with the best of the Big 12.

The Mountaineers were rolling before the loss to Oklahoma State, and the overtime loss to Baylor was perhaps the game of the year.

They’ll make things interesting in the Big 12 Tournament.

Tournament prediction: Lose in the semifinals

5. Texas Tech (Tournament seed: 6)

Record: 17-9 (9-8 in the Big 12)

AP Poll Ranking: 20

What has Texas Tech done to move up in the rankings recently? Nothing really.

The Red Raiders have had an up-and-down season and have for the most part stayed afloat in a hypercompetitive Big 12.

Mac McClung has been impressive and he is a huge plus for a team to have at this point. He’s helped the Red Raiders be competitive.

Texas Tech has been close to being really good. It’s been close a lot. Two wins against its opponent Thursday helps that even more.

Tournament prediction: Lose in the championship

6. Texas (Tournament seed: 3)

Record: 17-7 (11-6 in the Big 12)

AP Poll ranking: 13

This could be my worst ranking yet, but Texas’ recent stretch of three wins isn’t quite doing it for me.

The win against Oklahoma is solid, but the Sooners have been a mess of late. TCU and Iowa State wins don’t really offer much and before that it was ugly for Texas.

It went 3-5 in February and two of those wins were against Kansas State and TCU. Winning at home against Kansas is really good for the Longhorns, but they are not among the hottest teams in the conference.

Tournament prediction: Lose in the quarterfinals

7. Oklahoma (Tournament seed: 7)

Record: 14-9 (9-8 in the Big 12)

AP Poll ranking: 25

What happened Oklahoma?

What was once a top 10 team with a ton of promise looks absolutely terrible right now.

The Sooners haven’t had a quality win since Feb. 12 against West Virginia — a game that took two overtimes to determine.

Before that, a win over Alabama in January was the last quality win.

January and before however were excellent months for the Sooners, and there is still hope for them as recent games haven’t been terrible, but Oklahoma is struggling right now.

Tournament prediction: Lose in the quarterfinals

8. Kansas State (Tournament seed: 9)

Record: 8-19 (4-14 in the Big 12)

AP Poll ranking: N/A

Here is the steep drop off, and it seems out of place to see Oklahoma play on day one with the bottom three teams in the Big 12.

For Kansas State, it hasn’t been pretty, but there is reason for some optimism.

The Wildcats have won three of their last four games, including a win over Oklahoma. The other two came against TCU and Iowa State, but Kansas State will take wins wherever it can find them.

The Wildcats also get a crack at TCU, a team struggling mightily right now, instead of having to face any of the top seven teams in the conference.

Tournament prediction: Lose in the quarterfinals

9. TCU (Tournament seed 8)

Record: 12-13 (5-11 in the Big 12)

AP Poll Ranking: N/A

The Horned Frogs have had a better season than their opponent Wednesday, Kansas State. But while the Wildcats have gained some momentum, TCU has found itself with just two wins in its last eight games — both coming against the only team below it on this list.

Nothing has come easy recently for TCU and while a solid start to the season and a couple close contests have made the season look palatable, recent struggles have been ugly.

Tournament prediction: First-round exit

10. Iowa State (Tournament seed: 10)

Record: 2-21 (0-18 in the Big 12)

AP Poll: N/A

Ah, the team I’ve covered all season. The team that has had NBA players drafted in the last two drafts and has won two-thirds of the last six conference tournaments.

To put it nicely, Iowa State probably hoped for better in the 2020-21 season after losing its star point guard Tyrese Haliburton to the NBA Draft.

The Cyclones were slated to be bad, but a winless conference season bad? I don’t think so.

Either way, there is some optimism, as leading scorer Rasir Bolton looks like he may return Wednesday for Iowa State’s opening round matchup against Oklahoma. The Cyclones have also played a couple close games recently and have sprinkled in close contests all season long.

It’s a massive uphill battle, but the conference tournament defending champions from 2019 have shown that momentum can be shifted in Kansas City.

Could an upset be on the horizon?

Tournament prediction: First-round exit