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Big 12 Baseball Tournament Preview (Part I)

The contenders, the pretenders, and what this tournament means for both.



With the preseason favorite Kansas State eliminated from postseason play, the eight-team field is set for the Big 12 Championship in Oklahoma City this week. The first round kicks off Wednesday, with the championship game Sunday afternoon. I took a look at the big stories heading into the tournament, along with a breakdown of the favorites and my predictions. 

Tournament Storylines

Battle For A National Seed

Both TCU and OSU are in line to host Regionals this year, but there are still a couple of national seeds up for grabs, and either of these teams could take one. It likely requires both teams going undefeated and one winning over the other in the championship game though, not to mention a few teams above them to struggle in their respective conference championships this week.

Riding The Hot Hand

The team with the most confidence might not be the conference champions or the runners-up; the Jayhawks open the tournament on a nine-game conference win streak, sweeping their past three series against West Virginia, Texas Tech and Baylor. KU will likely face two of those teams, as West Virginia and Baylor are on the same side of the bracket as the Jayhawks. Can the conference win streak be extended to 13?

History Repeats Itself?

In the past five years, we’ve had a No. 1 seed, a No. 2 seed, two No. 4 seeds, and a No. 6 seed as tournament champion. As with any win or go home tournament, crazy things can happen (see: basketball, Oklahoma State). The top seed hasn’t won since 2008, so the Cowboys have a tall task ahead of them. History says Texas Tech might be in the best shape as the No. 4 seed this year.

The Contenders

Oklahoma State Cowboys (41-14, 18-6 Big 12, No. 1 Seed)

What the tournament means to OSU: Holliday & Co. are virtually a lock to host a regional in Stillwater, but there are two national seeds still up for grabs. Getting a national seed would allow OSU to host a Super Regional as well, which would be a big advantage in the road to Omaha. There’s also a drive to make this one of the best seasons in OSU history, and this group of players is dedicated to seeing how far this team can go. OSU hasn’t won the Big 12 Tournament since 2004, and is looking to sweep both conference trophies this season.

Best-case scenario: Jon Perrin and Tyler Buffett continue having an excellent year, shutting down OU and Tech. An improved Tyler Nurdin ends UT’s comeback bid in the semis and Perrin comes back to win his second game of the tournament against TCU, collecting the tournament MVP in the process. The boost in RPI – along with a top 5 ranking – lets OSU sneak into the No. 8 national seed and the team is bursting with confidence heading into the Stillwater Regional.

Worst-case scenario: OU again shuts down the Cowboy bats in the opener, knocking OSU to the loser’s bracket. Tech is stunned by Texas, and they take it out on the Cowboys, ending the Big 12 Tournament for OSU. Holliday’s squad is rattled heading into the Stillwater Regional, and in a repeat of last season, don’t advance to a Super Regional.

Texas Christian Horned Frogs (38-15, 17-7 Big 12, No. 2 Seed)

What the tournament means to TCU: Like OSU, TCU is also in the hunt for one of the remaining national seeds, and might have a better claim to it.[1. RPI, one of the big factors of who gets national seeds, gives the Horned Frogs (No. 14) the edge over the Cowboys (No. 21).] Winning their first Big 12 Tournament would certainly help TCU argue its case. TCU last won a conference tournament in 2010, as a member of the Mountain West Conference.

Best-case scenario: This is the best pitching staff in the conference, as the rotation actually goes four guys deep. Preston Morrison and Brandon Finnegan mow down all hitters they face, carrying TCU to the title and splitting MVP and Big 12 Pitcher of the Year honors.

Worst-case scenario: Baylor beats the Horned Frogs for the second time in a week, knocking TCU into the loser’s bracket on Day 1. Day 2 brings more trouble as TCU faces Kansas, who beat them once during the season. A second bad game ends TCU’s Big 12 Tournament and makes them uneasy when Regional hosts are announced.

Kansas Jayhawks (34-22, 15-9 Big 12, No. 3 Seed)

What the tournament means to KU: The Jayhawks are crushing Big 12 competition lately, but their RPI is a bit low to be considered for a Regional host. A title run would remove the sting of losing in the final last year, although this team already has matched the win total from last season. The difference is last year’s team didn’t make the postseason, while this team should be traveling to a Regional barring a winless showing in OKC.

Best-case scenario: Kansas has figured out how to handle Big 12 teams, and extends its conference win streak to 13 as the Jayhawks claim their first Big 12 Tournament title since 2006.

Worst-case scenario: KU lays an egg against West Virginia, a team it swept in the regular season, and go on to lose against a weak Baylor squad. From there, they are left out of postseason play altogether and left to regroup during a long fall and winter.

Texas Tech Red Raiders (40-16, 14-10 Big 12, No. 4 Seed)

What the tournament means to TTU: Tech has actually had a really good year, and just struggled in conference play. This is the best Red Raider team in a decade, and fans are starting to feel like the program has turned a corner. A successful Big 12 Tournament would help validate that, as the program hasn’t won the conference tournament since 1998. TTU is the popular dark horse pick this week.

Best-case scenario: The conference’s best hitting team continues mashing the ball, outscoring Texas, OSU and TCU on its way to a Big 12 title. With a strong RPI and the help of a few Regional host contenders falling, Tech hosts a Regional of its own in Lubbock, giving Kliff Kingsbury yet another reason to buy shots for all the coeds.

Worst-case scenario: Tech compiled a 31-4 record at home this season. Unfortunately for them, the tournament is in OKC, and the Red Raiders have struggled away from Lubbock. The Longhorns remember they were supposed to be good this year, knocking Tech into the loser’s bracket. From there, TTU faces the Cowboys, who can’t get over the Bedlam curse in the Big 12 Tournament. OSU sends Tech back to Lubbock, where they prepare to travel to a regional they could have been hosting instead.

The Rest Of The Field

Texas Longhorns (36-16, 13-11 Big 12, No. 5 Seed)

The Longhorns aren’t necessarily a long shot, seeing as how they have the second-best pitching staff in the conference. But they’ve struggled the past few weeks, and would have to get through Tech and OSU to make it to the title game. The Longhorns should still make a Regional provided they win one game in OKC, but a few hitters are going to have to step up for this team to make any real noise.

West Virginia Mountaineers (27-24, 9-14 Big 12, No. 6 Seed)

WVU might be playing for a Regional berth this week. The only problem is they get Kansas at 9 a.m. Wednesday, and even if they win that game, the Mountaineers will likely face TCU the next day. WVU might pull the upset against KU if Bobby Boyd and Billy Fleming – the Big 12’s top two hitters – have great games, but it’s unlikely they get through TCU’s pitching.

Baylor Bears (24-29, 8-15 Big 12, No. 7 Seed)

Oh, Baylor. The Bears did take one game against TCU last weekend, but were held to one run combined in the last two games of the series. It’s been a rough year for Baylor, who has struggled at the plate (worst BA in Big 12), on the field (worst fielding percentage in Big 12), and on the mound (third-worst ERA in Big 12). Crazier things have happened, but Baylor’s offseason will start before the end of the workweek.

Oklahoma Sooners (28-27, 8-16 Big 12, No. 8 Seed)

A disappointing season, and one that wasn’t expected under first-year coach Pete Hughes. The only way the Sooners make a regional is by winning the tournament, which is unlikely at best and impossible at worst. Hughes and his staff will have a lot to correct this offseason to get this prestigious program back on track.

Photo attribution: @doafhat

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