With the 2014 Women's Big 12 tournament happening in just a matter of days, we're going to break down the pretenders and contenders for the Big 12 tournament championship.
Favorites: Baylor Lady Bears (26-4, 16-2), West Virginia Mountaineers (27-3, 16-2)
Led by the nation's leading scorer, Odyssey Sims, the Baylor Lady Bears are your big favorite to win the tournament. They're the regular season champs and they're looking to defend their three straight tournament championships. Baylor has won four of the last five Big 12 tournaments, and now it's just turning into something that's expected year in and year out. Gone is the superstar, Britney Griner, but their senior, Sims, is really showcasing her scoring ability, averaging 29.6 points per game, best in the nation. This tournament is for Baylor to lose.
Yet we were all put on alert on just how really good West Virginia can be this season. They walked into Waco and put the Bears on blast by beating them at their own game. Led by Bria Holmes, the Mountaineers are the best defensive team in the Big 12 Conference, scoring wise. They allow just 57.7 points per game. That's good enough for 19th nationally.
The Mountaineers joined Stanford Cardinal as the only team to shoot 50 percent against Baylor in a span of 282 games, while snapping the Lady Bears’ 35-game home conference win streak. West Virginia is 5-1 against opponents ranked in the AP Top 25 this season, and for the first time in program history, the Mountaineers have recorded four wins over top 15 opponents in a season.
Contenders: Oklahoma St. Cowgirls (22-7, 11-7)
For the Cowgirls, the last leg of the Big 12 has been really tough. However, led by Tiffany Bias and Liz Donohoe, they're a force to be reckoned with when this tournament kicks off on Friday. They've beaten Oklahoma, Texas and Iowa State. They can win some games, but they're just 5-5 in their last 10 games. There's plenty of potential for the Cowgirls, cut can coach Jim Littell get a game plan good enough to topple Iowa State and Baylor? That will remain to be seen, but the Cowgirls have everything they need to win the whole tournament.
Longshots: Texas Tech Lady Raiders (6-23, 0-18) , Kansas Jayhawks (12-18, 5-13)
Calling Texas Tech a long shot is like saying the sun is bright. The Lady Raiders are the only team in the conference who dropped every game. They didn't do it in a fun fashion, their average loss was by 20.6 points. They're 6-23 and losers of 18 straight and the battle with TCU Horned Frogs in the opening game might be their only chance at a victory in this tournament.
Darkhorse: Oklahoma Sooners (18-13, 9-9)
Some may call me biased for this pick, but the Sooners were the preseason favorite to win the conference, though they have yet to live up to expectations. They're just 5-5 in their last 10 games, but they've played some quality teams really close. See Duke, Louisville and numerous ranked Big 12 games. Many of the same games have the same faulty loss. Oklahoma cannot close. If the Sooners could right their ship, take care of turnovers and find a way to close, they may find their way into a few late round games.
History says most of the time, it may goes the tournament likes to fall in line. A few times, a lower seed slips through and steals a championship. However, 11 of the 17 previous Big 12 tournaments, the number one overall seed won the championship. Only the 2004 Oklahoma Sooners won the tournament being seeded lower than fourth (Oklahoma was sixth).
There is still plenty of seeding left to be placed and some teams, Oklahoma and TCU may be fighting for their NCAA lives this weekend. Oklahoma is just on the cusp of the NCAA tournament, while TCU is on the outside looking in.