Big 12 could stake claim as game’s top league after Sunday

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Could be a statement day for the Big 12.

With Kansas and Baylor vying for spots in the Final Four, the conference could become the only league to place two teams in the NCAA tournament’s final weekend, and the first to do so since 2009. The Big East (the last to pull it off with UConn and ‘Nova), missed a chance when Syracuse lost to Ohio State in Saturday’s East Regional final.

It’ll be a tall order for the Big 12, though.

No. 2 seed Kansas (30-6) is a slight favorite to beat No. 1 North Carolina (32-5) in the Midwest Regional final. If the Heels don’t have point guard Kendall Marshall, the Jayhawks are the league’s best bet to advance. Not that favorable matchups have helped KU the last two years.

The longshot is Baylor. The Bears (30-7) play tournament favorite Kentucky (35-2) in the South Regional final and are 7.5-point underdogs. They’re almost as talented as the ‘Cats, featuring NBA lottery picks in Perry Jones III and Quincy Miller, but can be maddening at times because of their complacency. That won’t fly against the region’s top seed, a squad that rarely has an off-game.

But if the Bears win – and reach their first Final Four since 1950 – expect them and the Big 12 to puff up their chests and make a claim as college basketball’s top league. If Kansas follows suit with a win of its own, the argument might be tough to refute.

Though a naysayer could always bring up Missouri …

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