KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Kansas stands as the Big 12 Tournament favorite.
Choose anyone else at your own risk, although the Jayhawks' tournament success (five of the past seven titles) isn't as impressive as their stronghold run of nine straight league regular season championships.
Still, conference coaches — including KU's Bill Self — agree that this year's event could be more competitive than ever, with as many as six teams capable of getting hot and carrying off the trophy.
“I've never seen the league better, with more teams that can win your league tournament, than we have now,” Self said.
“Not very often do you go in and say, ‘Well, I think that team can positively win three games in a row.' And there are six teams that can win three games in a row.”
Optimism runs rampant, with Oklahoma State and Oklahoma among those hoping to provide some Sprint Center magic.
Kansas State, after tying the Jayhawks for the regular season crown, Iowa State and even Baylor all appear in play. The Bears, who face OSU in the Thursday late game, arrive on the heels of an 81-58 rout of Kansas on Saturday.
“All season long, I've said there is parity in college basketball,” said Baylor coach Scott Drew. “Our team can beat anybody in the nation, and as everybody has shown in college basketball, anybody can lose to anybody.”
Why not OSU?
The Cowboys at one point were the hottest team in the Big 12, winning seven straight conference games. They closed the conference regular season by winning 11 of their last 13, entering the conference tournament among the teams to beat.
Reasons to believe
*In recent years, OSU rolled into Kansas City needing a mini-miracle to advance, let alone make it to the title game. This time, no miracles are necessary, only consistent strong play. During the course of the season, the Cowboys beat every team in the league at least once. And their win over perceived tournament favorite Kansas came in Lawrence, so while a pro-Jayhawk crowd in the Sprint Center is a given, it won't approach the atmosphere in The Phog. As Brian Williams said recently, they fear nobody.
*Maybe more than any team in the league, the Cowboys can rely on a variety of guys to carry them on the offensive end. Markel Brown. Marcus Smart. Le'Bryan Nash. All can — and have — led the way in big wins this season.
*While many teams have already peaked, the Cowboys continue to improve. Nash has never played better on a consistent basis. Michael Cobbins is gaining confidence and productivity after an early season injury, as does Williams, who just recently returned.