ISD Staff: Who will win the Big 12 Championship?


Emily Blobaum/Iowa State Daily and Max Goldberg/Iowa State Daily

The 2017 Big 12 Championship starts Wednesday at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, Missouri.

Aaron Marner and Austin Anderson

Iowa State Daily reporters Aaron Marner and Austin Anderson took sides to debate who — besides Iowa State — will win the Big 12 Championship this week in Kansas City, Missouri. Here are their predictions:

Good Cop | Aaron Marner

Big 12 basketball has changed quite a bit over the past decade.

Players like Kevin Durant, Michael Beasley, Buddy Hield and Georges Niang have come and gone. Four teams left the Big 12 and two new teams joined.

But one thing has remained constant over the last 10 years: nobody can dethrone the Kansas Jayhawks.

No. 1 Kansas has finished in first place — or a tie for first — in the Big 12 every year since 2003-04, which was coach Bill Self’s first season there. Of course, that doesn’t guarantee a win in the Big 12 Tournament, but Kansas is consistently the best team in the league.

Basically, Kansas owns Big 12 basketball, and this year is no exception.

Led by Big 12 Player of the Year and National Player of the Year candidate Frank Mason III, Kansas has run through its schedule with relative ease this season.

The Jayhawks have knocked off top-25 teams such as Kentucky, Duke, Baylor and Iowa State — and those are just the teams they have beaten away from home.

Do other teams — such as West Virginia, Iowa State and Baylor — have a chance to win the Big 12 Championship? Certainly, but the odds are in Kansas’ favor. With the tournament being played just 40 minutes from Lawrence, Kansas, the Jayhawks will have a huge crowd in attendance for each game.

Maybe a team can stop Mason from reaching his typical 20 points and five assists per game, but can they also stop Josh Jackson, a likely top-five pick in this summer’s NBA Draft? Both Jackson and Mason were named All-Big 12 First Team over the weekend.

During Big 12 play, Kansas ranks second in the league in offensive field goal percentage and third in defensive field goal percentage. Led by Mason at nearly 50 percent, Kansas hits almost 10 3-pointers per game.

Simply put, Kansas is better than every other team in the conference and probably better than every other team across the country. With a Kansas-friendly arena and the best player in the conference, the Jayhawks are poised to take home the Big 12 Championship crown for the second consecutive year.

Bad Cop | Austin Anderson

West Virginia doesn’t just have wins over the top two teams in the Big 12 — the Mountaineers have wins over the top two teams in the country.

Kansas is the presumptuous best team in college basketball. It has the No. 1 ranking and is full speed ahead to be the No. 1 overall seed when teams start dancing in the NCAA tournament.

Heck, if the Jayhawks secure a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament this year, they’ll have been a No. 1 seed in seven of the past 11 tournaments. The other four years? Three No. 2 seeds, one No. 3 seed.

But who handled the kings of college basketball this season better than West Virginia? Nobody.

The Mountaineers demolished the Jayhawks by 16 points in late January.

Everybody knows West Virginia likes to play defense so harassing that, if anybody got that close to you on the street, you would have 911 dialed up faster than Steve Prohm could even take off his suit jacket.

West Virginia caused Kansas’ backcourt of Josh Jackson, Frank Mason III and Devonte Graham to turn the ball over 10 times in the team’s first meeting. That might be more than Monté Morris has turned it over in his life.

Mason is the Big 12 Player of the Year, and deservedly so. What’s the best way to keep a potential first-team all-America point guard in check? How about with the best defensive player in the conference, Javon Carter, in his hip pocket for 40 minutes.

I get it was just one game. But it should have been a sweep for West Virginia over Kansas. It would have been if not for some Bill Self sort of tomfoolery that led to an epic West Virginia collapse in Phog Allen Fieldhouse.

The Mountaineers had a commanding double-digit lead in the final few minutes over the Jayhawks but unraveled in an overtime loss.

West Virginia will have to get past the Texas Tech/Texas winner and presumably Baylor to reach Kansas in the finals of the tournament, but with Baylor faltering late, that shouldn’t be too challenging of a task.

It is possible Baylor could bounce back or Iowa State could net a ridiculous amount of threes to shake things up. But with Kansas facing the “Press Virginia” defense in its third game in three days, the Jayhawks will struggle.

In a Big 12 title game we are destined to see, West Virginia will have another double-digit lead on Kansas in the final minutes.

Only this time, the Mountaineers will hold on.