A Conference Tournament Spotlight On: The Big 12

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Though it may be known for being an elite football conference, the Big 12 is no slouch in basketball either. The championship kicks off on March 9 at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, Missouri, and will certainly feature some of the most ferocious rivalries in the country.

The second-ranked Kansas Jayhawks finished the year atop the regular season conference rankings.

The Texas – Kansas Rivalry
As two of the flagship schools in the Big 12, it’s no surprise that the Texas Longhorns and Kansas Jayhawks are known for being one of the bitterest rivals in the nation. Both teams are currently in the top 10, and the potential for a championship showdown is high–especially given that the two teams met in the title game three consecutive years between 2006-2008.

Regular season history: Despite both teams being among the oldest in the country, the two did not begin playing each other regularly until 1997, and since then, the series has belonged to Kansas. The Jayhawks own a 7-17 edge over the Longhorns, including taking six of the last eight meetings.

Postseason history: The only postseason meeting between the two teams occurred in 1960, when Texas lost to Kansas in the Sweet 16.

Best players: One thing Texas or Kansas doesn’t lack is a slate of legendary players. Boston Celtics superstar Paul Pierce is a former Jayhawk as is the Miami Heat’s Mario Chalmers. For the Longhorns, Kevin Durant is alone at the top. The Oklahoma City Thunder only played one year at Texas but was one of the best Austin has ever seen.

Best games: That title has to go to the epic 2008 showdown in the conference finals. The Longhorns opened up what seemed to be an insurmountable 22 point lead. But, led by Collins, Kansas battled back to force overtime where they eventually won 88-84. Durant scored a game-high 37 points.

The Oklahoma – Oklahoma State rivalry
Most in-state rivalries are more intense than others, but this one takes the cake. Known as the Bedlam Series, the two teams have played an astonishing 216 times over the years. 

Regular season history: Oklahoma has a 126-90 edge over the Cowboys, but the rivalry has become more intense in recent years due to the growing strength of each program.

Postseason history: Despite their numerous regular season match-ups the two teams have never met in March outside of conference play.

Best players: Throughout much of, both the Sooners and Cowboys had a number of talented players. For Oklahoma – Blake Griffin has made waves in the NBA for his high flying dunks and Oklahoma States Tony Allen won a championship with the Celtics. 

Best games: March 12, 2009. The unranked Cowboys managed to edge the No. 7 Sooners–led by Griffin–71-70 to reach the Big 12 Tournament semifinals. Oklahoma State took the lead with just 2.3 second remaining on free throws by James Anderson.