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March Madness 2017: Big 12 Tournament Preview, Bracket and Conference Postseason Awards

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Big 12 Player of the Year: Frank Mason III, Kansas

Mason’s play this season makes him the no-brainer conference player of the year and perhaps the frontrunner for the national award. He’s averaging 20.5 points, 5.1 assists and 4.2 rebounds while shooting 48.8 percent from the field and a sizzling 49.3 percent from 3-point range for the potential No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA tournament.

Big 12 Coach of the Year: Bill Self, Kansas

There was a temptation to reward Brad Underwood for Oklahoma State’s turnaround, but it’s impossible not to recognize Self leading his program not only to a 13th-straight conference title, but doing it by four games in the country’s toughest league. Kansas may have the top talent in the league year in and year out, but Self’s presence on the sideline guarantees it comes together year in and year out. This season was no exception.

First-Team All-Big 12:

  • Frank Mason III, Kansas (POY)
  • Monte Morris, Iowa State: The nation’s leader in assist-to-turnover ratio is as consistent an elite presence on the floor as there is in the country.
  • Jawun Evans, Oklahoma State: The most dynamic and important piece of the country’s best offense, Evans averaged 18.7 points per game.
  • Josh Jackson, Kansas: Mason is Kansas’ MVP, but Jackson is the Jayhawks’ most difficult matchup and is a likely top-five NBA draft pick.
  • Johnathan Motley, Baylor: The big man doubled his rebounding output this season to average a double-double of 17.5 points and 10 rebounds per game.

Second Team All-Big 12:

  • Jevon Carter, West Virginia
  • Jeffrey Carroll, Oklahoma State
  • Devonte Graham, Kansas
  • Deonte Burton, Iowa State
  • Jo Lual-Acuil, Baylor

RELATED: Player of the Year | Coach of the Year | NBC Sports All-Americans

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The thought was coming into the year that the Big 12 would be down this season, but for the fourth-straight year it ranked as the country’s best conference by KenPom. Another thing that didn’t change was Kansas winning the league, making it 13 in a row for the Jayhawks. The league isn’t going to send a huge number to the NCAA tournament this season, but make no mistake, the conference’s round-robin schedule was a grind, making it all the more impressive Kansas cleared the league by four games.

The Bracket

When: March 8-11

Where: Sprint Center; Kansas City, Mo.

Final: Saturday, March 11, 6 p.m.

Favorite: Kansas

The Jayhawks are clearly the class of the Big 12, winning the conference by its largest margin since 2010. Kansas isn’t invulnerable at the Sprint Center, as the rest of the league has more than enough firepower to threaten them, but there’s no argument that makes anyone else the favorite.

And if they lose?: West Virginia

The Mountaineers should have swept Kansas this year. They rocked them in Morgantown, but blew a late lead in spectacular fashion in Lawrence later in the season. Their Press Virginia style seems to seriously bother the Jayhawks, and it could make for a raucous title game.

MORGANTOWN, WV - JANUARY 24: Head coach Bob Huggins of the West Virginia Mountaineers reacts to a call in the second half during the game against the Kansas Jayhawks at WVU Coliseum on January 24, 2017 in Morgantown, West Virginia. (Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images)
Bob Huggins (Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images)

Other Contenders:

  • Baylor: The Bears went 2-4 against the top-four of the conference, but their length and the talent of Johnathan Motley makes them an intriguing matchup
  • Iowa State: The Cyclones have won six of their last seven and three members of their core — Monte Morris, Naz Mitrou-Long and Matt Thomas — who have won two Big 12 tournament titles in their career. They’ve also have claimed wins against each of the other top teams in the league this year.

Sleeper: Oklahoma State

The Cowboys opened the Big 12 slate with six-straight losses, but then won nine of 10 before ending the season with losses to Iowa State and Kansas. Their defense is porous, but their top-ranked KenPom offense, led by point guard Jawun Evans, makes them a legitimate threat to reel off three wins in three days.

The Bubble Dwellers: One

  • Kansas State: Most projections have the Wildcats just on the bad side of the field of 68 line, which means they’ll probably have to score a win against Baylor in the quarterfinals to move the needle. Depending on what happens around the rest of the country, that one more win could be enough to earn a berth.

Defining moment of the season: Kansas erasing a 14-point deficit in the final three minutes at home against West Virginia. This is Peak Phog Allen.

CBT Prediction: Kansas

Top-25 guard trims list to six

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One of the top points guards in the Class of 2017 has trimmed his list of potential collegiate destinations to six.

Trae Young, a consensus top-25 recruit, listed Texas Tech, Kansas, Oklahoma, Washington, Oklahoma State and Kentucky as the schools he is considering as he readies to begin his senior year of high school.

The list of the 6-foot-2 point guard is largely provincial as it includes Oklahoma, whose campus is just minutes away from Young’s Norman North High School, and fellow in-state school Oklahoma. Another pair of Big 12 schools make the list in powerhouse Kansas and the Red Raiders, whose first-year coach, Chris Beard, has spent the bulk of his career working in Texas. Texas Tech is also Young’s father’s alma mater. Washington has been on a role sending its players to the pros and recently received the commitment of top-five 2017 recruit Michael Porter, Jr.

Kentucky, of course, needs no explanation as to its attractiveness to high-level players.

Texas Tech adds Florida transfer

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A former top-50 recruit is joining Chris Beard at Texas Tech.

Brandone Francis-Ramirez, is transferring from Florida to become a Red Raider, he announced Tuesday,

It was an inglorious two-year run for Francis-Ramirez in Gainesville as he was ineligible his freshman year for academic reasons and then averaged just 10.8 minutes per game as a sophomore under first-year coach Mike White, who took over the program when Billy Donovan jumped to the NBA’s Oklahoma City Thunder.

Francis-Ramirez shot 20.2 percent from the floor and 16.9 percent from 3-point range in his limited action last season. While his collegiate track record has been sparse, the 6-foot-5 shooting guard was one of the most well-regarded players in the 2014 class, with Rivals ranking him 35th nationally and the likes of Cincinnati, Indiana and USC offering him.

Texas Tech gets a bit of a reclamation project with quite a bit of upside once Francis-Ramirez becomes eligible in 2017-18. He’ll have two years of eligibility remaining.

Report: Texas Tech adding grad transfer Livingston

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Arkansas State graduate transfer Anthony Livingston is headed to Texas Tech, according to ESPN’s Jeff Goodman.

Livingston was one of the top grad transfers available this spring after a junior year with the Red Wolves that saw him average 15.5 points and 9.4 rebounds per game as a 6-foot-8, 230-pound forward. Arkansas State went just 11-20 last season.

It’s a major get for new Red Raiders coach Chris Beard, who inherits a roster that over-achieved last year in making the NCAA tournament under now-Memphis coach Tubby Smith. Adding a talented, productive and experienced big is a significant move.

Livingston played his freshman season at San Jacinto Junior College in Pasadena, Texas, which is over 500 miles from Lubbock, was a two-time all-Sun Belt pick. He’ll almost certainly start immediately for the Red Raiders, and will be a strong candidate for Big 12 newcomer of the year next season.

Texas Tech loses starting big man Odiase for up to 6 weeks

(Mark Rogers/Lubbock Avalanche-Journal via AP)
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Texas Tech took a huge blow to its interior depth this week as head coach Tubby Smith confirmed on his radio show that starting big man Norense Odiase is expected to miss the next six weeks with a broken bone in his foot.

The 6-foot-9 Odiase broke his fourth metatarsal in a win over TCU this week and he is expected to spend the next three weeks in a cast before being reevaluated. Starting in all 17 games for the Red Raiders this season, Odiase averaged 9 points and 4.4 rebounds per contest in 19.5 minutes per game. Although he doesn’t put up huge numbers, Odiase has been a steady interior presence for a Texas Tech team that doesn’t have much depth up front.

Without Odiase in the lineup, head coach Tubby Smith will likely rely on reserves like junior forward Matt Temple or other options that have seen more regular rotation minutes like sophomore forward Zach Smith and junior forward Aaron Ross.

Texas Tech sits at 12-5 and is hoping for some upsets in Big 12 play to spring an NCAA tournament bid, this is not a good sign of the Red Raiders making that postseason run happen.

Four-star 2016 center Schnider Herard announces final five schools

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One of the top interior prospects in the Class of 2016 announced Thursday night that he’s narrowed his recruiting focus down to five schools. Schnider Herard, who attends Prestonwood Christian Academy in Plano, Texas, announced via Twitter that Kansas, California, Mississippi State, Purdue and Texas Tech are the five schools he’s still considering at this time.

Herard cut his list to ten schools in early August, and at the same time it was reported that he’d set up an official visit to Mississippi State for the second weekend of September. According to Scout.com Herard has lined up officials to Texas Tech (beginning September 25) and Kansas (October 11) as well. While California and Purdue don’t have scheduled official visits with Herard just yet, both programs have some personnel issues to account for in the front court in the 2016 recruiting class.

The Boilermakers will lose senior center A.J. Hammons at the end of the season, and while Cal doesn’t have a scholarship senior in its front court rotation they do have to consider the possibility of highly regarded freshman Ivan Rabb spending just one year in school.

As for Kansas, the Jayhawks will lose multiple seniors from its front court rotation and freshman Cheick Diallo has yet to be cleared for the upcoming campaign. While that may not impact 2016, the fact that no decision has been made on him is something the staff has to consider in its recruiting.

Mississippi State has one scholarship senior in its front court rotation (Gavin Ware), but they’re in a position where they need another interior body moving forward. Texas Tech doesn’t have a senior in its front court rotation, but 2015 signee Shawntrez Davis not qualifying academically puts them in a spot where they’ll need another body to call upon in the post.