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Handicapping the First Round of the Big 12 tournament

Tomorrow morning, in the newly-built Sprint Center in Downtown KC for the first time ever, the Big 12 Tournament will begin. And with the conference as deep as it has been in years, as many as 10 teams may be playing basketball beyond this weekend including the NIT and the newly-christened CBI (College Basketball Invitational), the four days in Kansas City figure to filled with awesome games and even better overall play. While Bring on the Cats has the entertainment side of things well taken care of (seriously, that is a must-read if you are heading to KC), the picks have been left over to anybody who decides to throw their hat into the ring. Because my gambling side is shining through right now, screaming to be noticed, I guess I will give it a shot. And make sure to put your predictions in KGRTC's diary about Big 12 Conference predictions.

1st Round

Oklahoma State (8) vs. Texas Tech (9) :: Two teams going in completely opposite directions right here. While the Techers did beat Texas just 11 days ago, that home win was sandwiched in-between two more-than-embarrassing road losses, one by 44 to the Texas A&M Aggies and one by 58 in Allen Field House to our Kansas Jayhawks. Okie State, on the other hand, has been streaking as of late, even winning a road game or two (including one in Reed Arena) and beating the 'Hawks at home. Were they to beat the Longhorns in Austin on Sunday, a completely realistic proposition up until the final 60 seconds, they would have an outside shot of sneaking into the Field of 65 this season, almost exclusively due to their late-season run. Byron Eaton is way too much for anyone in the Big 12 to handle, much less the Techers. Pick: OSU

Baylor (5) vs. Colorado (12) :: I know I bring this up every time Colorado comes up, but Ricardo Patton really did leave the cupboard incredibly bare in Boulder. Sure, they have Richard Roby and a halfway-decent role player here and there, but nowhere near the talent needed to compete in a conference as strong as the Big 12. Hell, they would have struggled to go .500 in the WAC this season. Not as bad as Oregon State, I guess, who is getting absolutely mugged by a Arizona Wildcats that is 3-7 its last 10 games to the tune of 40-12 6 minutes shy of the halftime. I didn't even know it was possible to let a BCS program fall that far. Moving back to the matchup, I am fully and completely expecting an absolute blowout, with Baylor needing a win to prevent a free-fall out of the bracket. Pick: Baylor

Nebraska (7) vs. Missouri (10) :: Interesting case right here. The Huskers started out pretty bad in conference play, beginning the conference season 0-3 and 1-4 (with two losses to KU), and have sense played good ball. This is Aleks Maric's last rodeo, so expect extra-good play from him, and they have the players to be a bubble team next season. Missouri has never really recovered from that whole night-club incident, and wasn't that great to start out with. Their win over Texas to open up conference play makes even less sense now than it did way back when it happened. Pick: Nebraska

Texas A&M (6) vs. Iowa State (11) :: I hate picking all favorites in anything, which is partly why I have never actually won an NCAA Bracket contest. I fall a-little-too-in-love with the underdog, and always envision some low seed sneaking their way into the Sweet 16, which inevitably leads me to my demise. So, when I looked over the first-day matchups of the Big 12 Tournament, I was pretty depressed. The 8/9 contest doesn't count as an upset, and the other two games aren't going to shock anybody. So, feeling the need to make some outside-the-box pick, I decided to settle on the struggling-again Aggies to take a fall against the Clones. Because while the Clones have had their ups-and-downs this season, they have the players in Wes Johnson, Jiri Hubalek and Craig Brackins to beat just about anybody in the league. And while it would likely prohibit the Big 12 getting six teams in, I just am getting a vibe for the team from Ames here. Pick: ISU

From here on out, all the matchups are subject to change, obviously. I will be making more predictions following tomorrow's action, previewing the actual games that will be taking place on Friday, specifically the one involving the 'Hawks. So, instead of offering commentary about the next couple of rounds, I will merely copy and paste what I predicted in KGRTC's diary:

Texas over OSU
Baylor over OU
KU over Nebraska
KSU over ISU

Baylor over Texas
KU over KSU

Baylor over KU

There you have it, the Baylor Bears are your 2008 Big 12 Tournament Champions. And while all throughout the season I have almost wanted a loss in the Big 12 Tournament, with the way we are playing I have changed my tune. Much like the folks over at It's Business Time, who said:

You don't want to base too much on three games (2 of them home), but after watching Kansas over the last 2 weeks, I just don't see them losing this weekend. And more than ever, I hope they don't. I always watch with the same intensity, but I typically could care less what happens in the Big 12 tournament, because rest is always an issue. This year is the exception as I don't want anything damaging the swagger they have right now. For the first 20 games, they played with this swagger and looked basically unbeatable. For whatever reason, the loss in the Rotten Apple knocked them down a couple of pegs for a while. But even then, since their only loss for the next few weeks was to a good Texas team in Austin, nothing was done until they lost a lifeless game in Stillwater. Since then, they have looked focused, pissed off and confident. Needless to say, I don't want that to change.

Couldn't agree more. Honestly, I wish I would have written it. If we play the way we have played the last three games, pissed off, mean and aggressive, I honestly believe that we will win the entire shebang. We are the best team in the country right now, I don't have a problem saying that, and we will continue to be as long as Brandon Rush still feels like dunking on people just to do it.

We need to be, in one word, nasty.