The Big 12 Conference tournament gets underway with two games on Wednesday from Kansas City’s Municipal Auditorium. This marks the first year of the newly configured Big 12 bracket.
With the conference size of ten teams, the top six seeds received first-round byes and the bottom four teams will face off in order to reach the quarterfinal round. Here is a brief look at who plays whom on Wednesday and what to expect as the top RPI conference goes against each other in a last bid to secure an NCAA tournament berth.
The first round will be seen on Metro Sports in the Kansas City area, but no other television option is available. All times listed are central. More on Wednesday’s games after the jump.
#8 Texas vs. #9 Texas Tech; 5 p.m.
The underachieving Texas Longhorns open up the conference tournament against another team that didn’t quite live up to early expectations, the Texas Tech Red Raiders.
Texas, slated to finish third in the conference in the preseason coaches poll, finished with an 8-10 conference record and found themselves in a tie for sixth in the conference standings with Oklahoma State and Kansas. Based on head-to-head performance, the Longhorns ended up with the eighth seed in the tournament.
Texas sophomore guard Chassidy Fussell, a first-team all-Big 12er is joined by honorable mention selections Ashleigh Fontenette and Yvonne Anderson. Fussell holds the second spot in the league for scoring, averaging 19.6 points per game, trailing only Baylor’s Brittney Griner. She shoots a league-high 90.5 percent from the free throw line for UT. Anderson and Fontenette also average double figure scoring to make up the bulk of the Longhorns offense. Senior Ashley Gayle, a Big 12 all-defensive selection, finished second in the Big 12 in blocks this season with 88.
They’ll face off with a team that started the year 14-0 and achieved a #10 ranking on Jan. 9 before finding themselves slide down a slippery slope when Big 12 play started. The Red Raiders finished the regular season with a win over Kansas State to snap a five-game losing streak.There are a few things that Texas Tech does well, mainly noticeable in the categories of offensive rebounding, creating turnovers and forcing steals. In fact, the Red Raiders have three women in the league’s top 15 in steals – Monique Smalls, Casey Morris and Kierra Mallard. Smalls was rewarded for her overall efforts with a spot on the all-defensive team.
The Red Raiders and Longhorns split the regular season 1-1, both defending their home court opportunities. The winner will face the #1 Baylor Bears in Thursday’s quarterfinals.
#7 Oklahoma State vs. #10 Missouri; 7 p.m.
The Missouri Tigers knew they would be the 10th seed in the conference tournament long ago, while the Cowgirls’ fate was decided by a three-way tiebreaker put the Pokes in the seventh spot. This is a rematch of last Saturday’s regular season finale for both squads, where OSU picked up a 68-47win. The Cowgirls performed with perhaps one of their most well-rounded offensive effort of late, with two players finishing with a double-double and two others reaching the double-digit plateau in at one category. Defensively, the Pokes are second in the league in opponent field goal percentage, holding teams to 34.8 percent shooting. If the same offensive, defensive and rebounding firepower comes to Kansas City I expect OSU to advance to face Oklahoma, making a Bedlam rubber match as the 5 o’clock game on Thursday.
However, just because the Tigers have struggled in their program rebuild, as expected, they squad still has the potential to get themselves a first-round victory. Mizzou’s Kyley Simmons was honored by being selected to the all-freshman team, and senior Christine Flores was selection to the all-Big 12 second team. Simmons and the Tigers rely heavily on the 3-point shot for their offensive production and have four women who shoot at least 34 percent from long range. Simmons sinks 39.3 percent of her shots beyond the arc, good for second in the Big 12.
The Pokes found themselves scooping up individual awards as well, with Liz Donohoe picking up freshman of the year (along with the all-freshman team and honorable mention all-Big 12), and sophomore point guard Tiffany Bias earning a spot on the all-Big 12 second team. Donohoe finished the season averaging a team-high 12.4 points and 7.1 rebounds a game. Bias helped the Cowgirls with 6.59 assists a night, second in the league. She also added 12.3 points and 2.63 steals each game in her role as team leader. The Pokes are the only team in the Big 12 to have a seniorless roster. The Cowgirls swept the Tigers 2-0 this season.
Thursday’s tournament schedule features a full slate of four games in the conference quarterfinals.