It comes as little surprise that Kansas is the overwhelming favorite to win the Big 12 Tournament, considering the Jayhawks won the regular-season title by four games and have the look of a team headed toward a top seed in the NCAA Tournament.
But a closer look suggests the conference wasn't quite as lopsided as the final standings suggest.
The Jayhawks saw 10 of their 16 conference wins decided by single figures, seven came by six or fewer points and two by exactly 10 points.
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Such an extensive portfolio of close games lends credence to the idea that the Big 12 Tournament might not be a foregone conclusion.
Here are the odds to win the Big 12 Tournament, courtesy of BookMaker.eu:
West Virginia +200
Iowa State +700
Oklahoma State +1300
Kansas State +2500
Texas Tech +2500
THE FAVORITE: Kansas +125 (risk $100 to win $125) -- Perhaps the strongest testament to the Jayhawks' consistency came Saturday in their regular-season finale at Oklahoma State. They literally had nothing to play for.
Even so, Kansas (28-3, 16-2) refused to coast and knocked off the Cowboys, who badly needed a resume-building win. Excelling in what appears to be meager motivational spots is nothing new for Bill Self?s clubs. They were in a similar position last year, and ended up winning the Big 12 Tournament, regardless.
VALUE PLAY: Baylor +600 (risk $100 to win $600) -- The Bears (25-6, 12-6) stumbled down the stretch, with losses in five of their last 10 conference games. But each of those losses came by six or fewer points, and they took Kansas to the final possession in both meetings before falling to the Big 12 champs.
This is a pretty good value spot on what is still one of the more athletic and dangerous teams in the country.
LONG SHOT: Kansas State +2,500 (risk $100 to win $2,500) -- The Wildcats (19-12, 8-10) might be the most intriguing long shot in all the major conferences. They start play in Thursday?s quarterfinals against Baylor, and would likely face West Virginia in the semifinals. They beat both clubs during the regular season, and also competed well twice against Kansas in close losses.
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Kansas State also has maximum incentive, seeing as reaching the final presents its best chance of earning an NCAA Tournament berth.
PICK: Baylor (risk $100 to win $600): Ultimately, the Bears provide the best combination of value price, talent level and motivational factors. This should be a determined and focused club, and I like its chances in a potential third meeting with the Jayhawks.
TCU (-1) and Oklahoma battle in the Big 12 Tournament's opening round on Wednesday, and Texas versus Texas Tech (-4.5) follows.
In a shocker, TCU knocked off top-ranked Kansas 85-82 to advance to the semifinals. Kansas had beaten Baylor twice and Kentucky this season. According to ESPN, "Kansas is the 3rd AP No. 1 team to lose in its conference tournament in the last 10 seasons. The other 2 won the national title (2008-09 North Carolina and 2011-12 Kentucky)."