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Handicapping The Big 12 Tourney: Upset-Special Futures Pick

Iowa State (4 titles ) @ Kansas (10 titles )

  • Where: Sprint Center . Kansas City, MO
  • When: March 7, 2018 12:00 pm EST
  • Moneyline: Kansas (+200), West Virginia (+350), Texas Tech (+450), Kansas State (+700), TCU (+1000), Baylor (+1200), Oklahoma (+2000), Texas +(2000), Oklahoma State +(2000), Iowa State +(2000)

As the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona drew near, American head coach Chuck Daly warned his squad of NBA HOFers – the original “Dream Team” – that they could potentially lose a preliminary game or even the gold medal match. As if on cue, the squad lost to a college all-star team in one of its final scrimmages.

Daly was clever. The skipper had rearranged the lineup, moved Larry Bird and Michael Jordan out-of-position on purpose, and called irrational plays for the offense and defense. In other words, he didn’t mind losing at all. It put the U.S. Olympic team in the right frame of mind to play hard and dominate in Spain.

There is no direct parallel between the Kansas Jayhawks and the Dream Team. No college or NBA team will ever compare. But Kansas was just blown out by Oklahoma State on March 3rd, and we suspect Jayhawk coach Bill Self doesn’t mind that much.

Post-game, Self said that his unit isn’t athletic enough to win the Big 12 tournament without a fanatical effort. It sounded like a skipper who knows he’s got a good roster, but wants it feeling absolutely humble going into the stretch run.

That’s great, but the fact remains that KU has gotten too tight against big-time rivals in 2017-18. Time and again the squad has dominated tall, talented lineups only to blow a big game in the days to follow.

Hence the odds for the Big 12 postseason tourney, which are some of the closest-matched of any NCAA betting market. 3 favorites (including Kansas) are at better than 5/1 odds, but the Jayhawks are only 2/1.

Meanwhile, the biggest long-shot on the board is Iowa State at (+2500). Everyone else is at 20/1 or shorter.

Sunflower swoon

It’s not KU’s season-ending loss to Oklahoma State that scares us away from a futures bet at (+200). It’s the pattern of the entire 2 semesters.

To be sure, the Jayhawks are as star-studded and dynamic as usual. Self has groomed an experienced backcourt that includes senior Devonte’ Graham, an versatile shooter and passer, and classmate Svi Mykhailiuk, a powerful player from the Ukraine who is popping 3s at a rate of 45% in his final season. Kansas traveled to West Virginia and beat the Mountaineers in January, then overpowered Bob Huggins’ team again 32 days later.

February also brought a lovely 2-point road win over Texas Tech. Graham and Mykhailiuk were dominant against the Red Raiders, but the Kansas bench didn’t exactly light things up. Big center Udoka Azubuike was the Jayhawks’ saving grace with 7 rebounds.

Some outings have told a different story. Kansas toured the Pac-12 in December and lost 2 games in a row to Washington and Arizona. Weeks to follow brought losses to Texas Tech, OKST and OU. The Jayhawks were putrid in a February clash with Baylor, losing 80-64. Mykhailiuk went 1-of-8 from the field and the squad couldn’t draw fouls, going to the free throw line less than 10 times.

In a tourney full of excellent basketball, a (+200) favorite ought to be more consistent than what KU has shown in big games this year. Not to say the ‘Hawks won’t claim the mantle and earn a #1 March Madness seed. But the Crimson and Blue wouldn’t win the Big 12 tournament 4 times out of 10. There are better bets.

Selecting a bet from a crowded field

Bet on the Texas Tech Red Raiders to win the Big 12 Championship and earn a 50% sign-up bonus from Bet Online.

If the odds on Kansas are too short, that means a few chips have been left out on the table. Where’s Waldo? Regretfully there are half of a dozen fine basketball teams in the Big 12.

Well, no regrets if you’re one of those lucky teams, but it makes finding the right wager a challenge.

There are 2 logical places to start. League records should be factored in more than usual, since there are no cupcakes. All conference wins are well-earned. Secondly, being able to beat Kansas is prerequisite.

West Virginia (+350) is 11-7 in the Big 12 as of March 3rd. The high-water mark of the Mountaineers’ regular season came in early January when WVU defeated Oklahoma to cap-off 3 thrilling conference wins in a row. But then the squad squeaked by Baylor in an ugly 57-54 clang-fest, lost 4 of the next 5 games to follow, and lost to Kansas twice. Players like Dexter Miles Jr. and Sagaba Konete can shoot the lights out, but the group doesn’t play the kind of swarming, brutish defense that Huggins teams are known for.

Texas Tech is a less-popular but higher-in-value pick at (+450). Yes, the Red Raiders suffered a 4-game losing streak in February. But when your game is built around giving up 64 points on average, a slight slip in intensity or coaching tactics can cause a late-season hiccup. Like Self at Kansas, coach Chris Beard is likely not ruffled in private. The Red Raiders have already qualified for the Big Dance and could afford to coast over the past 10 days.

Keenan Evans has ratcheted the intensity level back up a notch, scoring 23 points against TCU as the squad snapped out of the streak. The senior guard was a hot 3-point shooter last season, but when defenses adjusted to his outside looks, Evans learned how to find space inside and has been pouring in shots.

There’s depth at TTU as well. In an impressive 85-73 win over Kansas in mid-season, the bench scored 42 points while underrated big man Norense Odiase snagged 8 rebounds.

Texas Tech may not beat Kansas or even advance to the tourney final. But the brief late-season slump has knocked their odds into value-territory. It will take a versatile, deep, potent unit like TTU to win in Kansas City. At (+450), there is no better gamble than on the kids from Lubbock.

Kurt BoyerThis article was written by Kurt Boyer

A freelance sportswriter from Missouri, Kurt has covered court, gridiron, rink and ring for 10+ years. He muses about High School football on social media as The Gridiron Geek.

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