The regular season is complete and now all eyes will be turning to Kansas City for the Big 12 Women’s Basketball Championship. Baylor once again enters the tournament as the favorite to win it all, but the Horned Frogs are right on their heels this season as the No. 2 seed, the best seed in the program’s Big 12 history. There is a lot to be played for this season as some teams enter squarely on the bubble, while others like TCU will be playing for beneficial seeding in terms of travel.
Thursday, March 12
First Round Game #1: (8) Oklahoma State vs. (9) Oklahoma, 6pm, FCS
First Round Game #2: (7) Texas Tech vs. (10) Kansas, approx. 8:30pm, FCS
Friday, March 13
Quarterfinal #1: (4) Iowa State vs. (5) Kansas State, 11am, FSN
Quarterfinal #2: (1) Baylor vs. First Round Game #1 Winner, approx. 1:30pm, FSN
Quarterfinal #3: (2) TCU vs. First Round Game #2 Winner, 5pm, FSN
Quarterfinal #4: (3) Texas vs. (6) West Virginia, approx. 7:30pm, FSN
Saturday, March 14
Semifinal #1: Quarterfinal #1 Winner vs. Quarterfinal #2 Winner, 11am, FS2
Semifinal #2: Quarterfinal #3 Winner vs. Quarterfinal #4 Winner, approx. 1:30pm, FS2
Sunday, March 15
Championship: Semifinal #1 Winner vs. Semifinal #2 Winner, 3pm, ESPN2
(1) Baylor Bears, 28-2 Overall, 17-1 Big 12, AP: #3, RPI: #5
The Bears once again will enter the Big 12 Tournament as the favorite to win the whole thing, as they have put together yet another impressive season. This season’s resume includes a thorough victory at UConn, as well as a nearly perfect conference record. Baylor leads the country in scoring margin, which makes sense given that they are No. 2 in the country in field-goal percentage on the offensive end and No. 1 in the country in defensive field-goal percentage. The Bears are led by a trio of All-Big 12 First Team players that does not even include Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year DiDi Richards, who earned Second Team honors. If Baylor does have a weakness, it is their three-point shooting, which ultimately led to their demise in Ames in the final regular season game.
(2) TCU Horned Frogs, 22-7, 13-5, AP: RV, RPI: #20
The Horned Frogs have put together their best season yet in the Pebley era and are on track to not only make it to the NCAA Tournament, but also earn a decent seed. TCU has made their living this season with a very aggressive style of play, leading the conference in turnovers forced on the defensive end and in free throw attempts on the offensive end, showcasing their mindset of aggressively getting to the rim. The Frogs have put together an impressive resume, but have been swept by Texas Tech, a team that they could potentially face in the first game.
(3) Texas Longhorns, 19-11, 11-7, RPI: #43
The Longhorns are traditionally one of the powerhouses in the Big 12, but have fallen short of expectations this year and at one point, didn’t even appear to be on track for the NCAA Tournament. However, they seemed to have changed course and seem to be fairly well on the good side of the bubble, although they might sweat a little come Monday if they lose their opening game. Winners of three of their last four, including a game in Fort Worth, the Longhorns will be looking to move up the seed lines behind experienced guard Sug Sutton and All-Big 12 First Team post Charli Collier.
(4) Iowa State Cyclones, 18-11, 10-8, AP: RV, RPI: #39
The Cyclones will be entering this weekend extremely confident after coming away with a victory over Baylor in the final regular season game of the year. That victory snapped a 58-game winning streak for the Bears and gave Iowa State their third consecutive to end the season. The Cyclones are led by unanimous All-Big 12 First Team selection Ashley Joens, who was the only player to average more than 20 points-per-game this season. Iowa State should feel good about their chances to make the NCAA Tournament on Monday, but losing to a non-NCAA Tournament team to open the Big 12 Tournament would increase nerves.
(5) Kansas State Wildcats, 16-13, 10-8, RPI: #76
K-State entered the season with NCAA Tournament aspirations and finished precisely where they were picked to begin the season, but a difficult non-conference schedule made the path much more difficult. The Wildcats likely have to win the whole tournament to be playing in the NCAA Tournament, but that is not out of the question considering they enter the weekend as winners of six of their last eight games. If they want to win though, they will need to get production from outside of their two stars, All-Big 12 First Team selections Ayoka Lee and Peyton Williams, who average above 15 points and 11 rebounds-per-game each.
(6) West Virginia Mountaineers, 17-12, 7-11, RPI: #71
Going into the Big 12 Tournament, the Mountaineers actually sit in a better position to make the NCAA Tournament than Kansas State thanks to their 10-1 non-conference record, which included home victories over Michigan State and Syracuse, as well as an incredibly impressive road victory over perennial powerhouse Mississippi State. Conference play has not been as kind to West Virginia and they enter this weekend having lost seven of their past ten games; however, they know what they are capable of and can not be discounted. Currently sitting in the Next Four Out in ESPN’s Bracketology, they have a lot to play for this weekend and could cause problems with their interior defense.
(7) Texas Tech Lady Raiders, 18-11, 7-11, RPI: #134
Despite a flawless 11-0 non-conference record, Texas Tech enters this weekend as the lowest RPI team in the conference. If you want a fast-paced, high-scoring affair, make sure to check out this team as they are No. 2 in the conference at nearly 79 points-per-game. Although the NCAA Tournament is likely out of reach unless they win the Big 12 Tournament, I would not be surprised to see them make the WNIT and make a run. However, should TCU face them in Kansas City to open tomorrow, the Frogs will be looking to overcome the biggest blemish on their resume, which is being swept by Tech.
(8) Oklahoma State Cowgirls, 15-15, 6-12, RPI: #66
Despite being the No. 8 seed this weekend, Oklahoma State is definitely a team to watch out for. They are led by unanimous All-Big 12 First Team selection Vivian Gray, who finished second in the conference in scoring. The Cowgirls went without a bad non-conference loss, but struggled through conference play to get much production from anyone besides Gray and Natasha Mack. Oklahoma State should be in for a great game to open the weekend, but have struggled mightily with Baylor this season, who awaits them if they advance.
(9) Oklahoma Sooners, 12-18, 5-13, RPI: #91
The No. 8 vs. No. 9 game will be a fun one to watch, not only because of the rivalry between the Oklahoma schools, but because the Sooners have a star of their own to pit against Gray. Taylor Robertson from Oklahoma finished third in scoring in the conference, earning her All-Big 12 Honorable Mention honors, but she gets it done almost exclusively from beyond the arc. The Sooners are a young team and did manage to upset LSU earlier in the year; however, they enter the Big 12 Tournament on an eight-game losing streak and likely will see their season end in Kansas City.
(10) Kansas Jayhawks, 15-14, 4-14, RPI: #132
It seemed as though the Jayhawks might get out of the Big 12 cellar this year when they finished non-conference at 11-0, but once again they enter the Big 12 Tournament as the No. 10 seed. Kansas did manage to upset Texas this season, but outside of that have struggled. The player to watch for Kansas will be freshman Zakiyah Franklin, who earned All-Big 12 Freshman Team, who led the team in assists while averaging more than 12 points-per-game.
Players to Watch
Lauren Cox, Baylor
Big 12 Player of the Year. Unanimous All-Big 12 First Team selection. Unanimous All-Big 12 Defensive Team selection. When your stats don’t exactly pop off the page, but the coaches in the league bestow you with these honors, you know you’re a difference-maker. Lauren Cox is the best player in the league, if not the country, and is an extremely difficult matchup with her skill and size. As a senior, she is a veteran leader looking to lead the Bears back to the title and does so by causing problems on the interior on both ends of the floor.
DiDi Richards, Baylor
Although she earned only All-Big 12 Second Team honors, Richards also brought home Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year honors and was selected for the All-Big 12 Defensive Team. She is a 6’1” guard that has a knack for doing the things that help her team win and she has knows her own game well. She makes her living on the defensive end, but also leads the Bears in assists and is shooting almost 50% from the field.
Lauren Heard, TCU
The junior guard has been the production leader for the Frogs this season, leading TCU in points, assists, and steals. The Frogs’ only All-Big 12 First Team selection, Heard has grown every year at TCU and has truly been a key player on this year’s team. Late in games, you will likely see Pebley turn to Heard to create for the offense in key moments and she is extremely aggressive, coming in at No. 4 in the nation in free throw attempts.
Charli Collier, Texas
The sophomore post player for the Longhorns has provided a strong inside presence, leading the team in scoring while averaging a double-double. Collier also serves as a rim protector on the defensive end, standing tall at 6’5” and leading the team in blocked shots. As a team, Texas is not as strong as they have been recently, so they will need Collier to produce this weekend if they want a chance to win it all.
Ashley Joens, Iowa State
You can’t make a “players to watch” list without including the leading scorer in the conference, so here she is. Joens was the only player in the Big 12 to average more than 20 points-per-game and she plays very aggressively, similar to Heard. The Cyclone’s star is No. 3 in the country in free throw attempts and is also extremely efficient, shooting nearly 42% from the field. Iowa State will need her to continue to produce this weekend if they hope to lock in their NCAA Tournament berth.
Vivian Gray, Oklahoma State
The Cowgirls might have struggled a bit down the stretch this season, but Gray is an absolute star in this league, as evidenced by earning unanimous All-Big 12 First Team honors. She finished right behind Joens with 19.3 points-per-game and is a near lock to knock down free throws when she gets to the line. Any team that faces Oklahoma State will certainly be keyed in to locking her down.
Locks: Baylor, TCU
The Bears and the Horned Frogs are the only true locks to make the NCAA Tournament at this point, regardless of what happens to them this weekend. Baylor will almost certainly be a No. 1 seed in the field given their impressive resume, while TCU will be playing for seeding this weekend. Depending on results from around the country, the Frogs could end up anywhere between a No. 5-7 seed.
On the Bubble: Iowa State, Texas, West Virginia
The Cyclones and Longhorns both enter this weekend in a good spot for making the NCAA Tournament, whether or not they lose. However, their situations are not quite as solid as TCU or Baylor’s and losing their opening games could cause some stress on Selection Monday. The Mountaineers likely need to at least make the Big 12 Tournament championship game, but even that might not be enough to move them into the NCAA Tournament field. West Virginia will need to get help from around the country, but some teams they have to pass have already completed their season. The Big 12 is a deep conference, so we will see how the committee handles them on Monday.
Better Luck Next Year: Kansas State, Oklahoma State, Oklahoma, Texas Tech, Kansas
The season did not quite go as expected this year for any of these five teams, but depending on this weekend’s results, a few of these teams could end up continuing their seasons in the WNIT. All of these programs are young and will be fun to watch in the future, but this season just wasn’t theirs.
We will see if any more changes are made due to the impact of the coronavirus going forward, but the Big 12 Women’s Basketball Tournament will definitely be worth the watch if it is played! Will this be the year someone finally unseats Baylor? Why not TCU?