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Big 12 Awards and Tournament Preview

Feb 28, 2023; Lawrence, Kansas, USA; Kansas Jayhawks forward Jalen Wilson (10) celebrates toward fans against the Texas Tech Red Raiders during the first half at Allen Fieldhouse. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

The Big 12 has been the toughest competition in all of college basketball this season, and March will be no different. On Sunday, the Big 12 announced the award winners for the regular season and the official bracket for the conference tournament. With a conference filled with as much star power as the Big 12, it ensures a thrilling post-season.

Big 12 Awards and Tournament Preview

Individual Awards

Player of the Year: Jalen Wilson was selected unanimously as the Big 12 POTY. The junior forward led the conference with 19.7 PPG and 8.4 RPG. Put simply, he was the best player, on the best team, in the best conference. Wilson won the Big 12 Tournament and NCAA Tournament with Kansas last year, as his hardware starts to pile up. Additionally, he is a finalist for the John Wooden Award.

Freshman of the Year: The Big 12 saw two phenom freshmen this year in Keyonte George and Gradey Dick. Both were 5-star recruits and made immediate impacts on their teams. George squeaked out what was assumed to be a very close decision. George averaged almost two more points per game than Dick and was a better playmaker. Both players are likely to enter the NBA Draft after the post-season.

Defensive Player of the Year: The Kansas Jayhawks ranked as one of the best defensive teams this season. This is why it’s no surprise a Jayhawk won DPOTY. There were many candidates, but Dajuan Harris Jr. stood above all others. Harris managed two steals per game while starting all 31 games for Kansas. His stats don’t jump off the page, but Harris certainly passes the eye test. Teammate Kevin McCullar Jr. also had a strong case for DPOTY.

Coach of the Year: The preseason poll saw the Kansas State Wildcats picked to finish dead last. Jerome Tang was a rookie head coach, and the Wildcats had little to no known talent. Fast forward five months and Coach Tang had his team finish the season tied for third in the Big 12. The Wildcats picked up wins against Kansas, Texas, TCU, and twice against Baylor. Overall, Kansas State racked up 23 wins, equivalent to the prior two seasons combined.

All-Big 12 Teams

First Team: Jalen Wilson (KU), Adam Flagler (BAY), Keyontae Johnson (KSU), Markquis Nowell (KSU), Marcus Carr (TEX)

Second Team: Keyonte George (BAY), Gradey Dick (KU), Gabe Kalscheur (ISU), Damion Baugh (TCU), Mike Miles Jr. (TCU)

Third Team: LJ Cryer (BAY), Kevin McCullar Jr. (KU), Kalib Boone (OSU), Sir’Jabari Rice (TEX), Erik Stevenson (WVU)

Big 12 Tournament Preview

Big 12 Tournament

All season long, the motto in the Big 12 has been “no nights off.” Now with the Big 12 Tournament tipping off, this couldn’t be more true. In order to be crowned champions, a team must win at least three games within three days. Five of the teams rank in the Top 20 in the NET rankings, and every team is ranked within the Top 70.

The Favorite

Led by Big 12 POTY, the Kansas Jayhawks enter as the clear favorites. Kansas and Big 12 basketball are synonymous, as the Jayhawks have won nine of the past 21 Big 12 tournaments. Coach Self and the Jayhawks won both the Big 12 regular season and Big 12 tournament last year (as well as the NCAA Tournament). They followed up that success by winning the regular season once again. Wilson is capable of taking over games single-handedly. The combination of Dick, McCullar Jr., and Harris Jr. gives Kansas a lethal defensive core. Furthermore, Kansas has an unprecedented 15 Quad 1 wins this year. One knock on Kansas is that in some games, their offense goes freezing cold for extended stretches.

Closely Behind

Breathing down Kansas’ neck are the Texas Longhorns, Kansas State Wildcats, and Baylor Bears. Texas and Baylor played a hard-fought classic a few weeks ago, and the Longhorns knocked off the Jayhawks to conclude the season. Texas is a veteran-heavy team with Carr, Rice, and Timmy Allen, which is always a good quality in March. They’ve been battle-tested all year long, having played Gonzaga in November, followed by the Big 12 gauntlet. The one concern with Texas is that the Longhorns went 6-7 in games outside of Austin.

Some Cinderella stories begin in March. Kansas State’s story began much earlier. The Wildcats started out with a great 15-1 record when expectations were non-existent. Nowell and Johnson have been the best one-two punch in college basketball this year. Kansas State hasn’t won a conference tournament since 1980 and is extremely eager. Similar to Texas, one major flaw with the Wildcats is that they went a mere 6-7 in road/neutral games.

The Baylor Bears might be the best 4-seed in any conference tournament. The Bears beat UCLA and Gonzaga early in the season and beat both Kansas and Texas in conference games. They are led by the three-headed guard trio of Flagler, George, and Cryer. Flager and Cryer both won the NCAA Tournament with Baylor in 2021, bringing their experiences to this post-season. When one guard struggles, another one will step up. One downside of being the 4-seed is that they have to face Iowa State, a team that swept them this year. Another would be drawing Kansas in the semi-finals instead of the finals.

Who Else?

When Mike Miles Jr. is playing at his peak, TCU is nearly unstoppable. He missed time this year with an injury, hurting TCU’s record and a casual fan’s view of the Horned Frogs. TCU beat Kansas State easily when Miles played but lost badly when he missed the rematch. If Miles gets hot, TCU could become a scary team for the rest of the conference. The Horned Frogs football team went on a magical run, so there’s definitely a chance for the basketball team.

The Mountaineers from West Virginia finished the year by winning three of their last four. Their only loss was a two-point defeat in Lawrence to the Jayhawks, a rare instance where a loss can be viewed as a win. Led by Erik Stevenson, West Virginia would need to win four games in four days. A task that will be extremely challenging and extremely satisfying if pulled off. With Coach Huggins, never count out the Mountaineers.


The first semi-final matchup will be Baylor-Kansas. Baylor finally beats Iowa State this year, and Kansas moves on after beating WVU. A semi-final between the two most recent NCAA Champions is a thriller, and Kansas pulls out a close win to advance to the finals.

The other semi-final matchup will be Texas-TCU. The Horned Frogs pull off the upset on the neutral court over Kansas State, and Texas takes care of business against Oklahoma. The Lone Star semi-final lives up to the hype as the Longhorns win a back-and-forth nail bitter.

The Big 12 Final comes down to the Kansas Jayhawks and the Texas Longhorns. The two best teams of the regular season meet in Kansas City (which is only 40 miles from Kansas University) with the Big 12 trophy on the line. The combination of the Jayhawks’ defense and the assumed Kansas crowd advantage will be pivotal in this matchup. Kansas will claim their second consecutive Big 12 Tournament Title and the number one overall seed for the NCAA Tournament.


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