Among the largest NCAA athletic conferences, the Big 12 is the one with the most in-state representation, as it features four teams: Baylor, Texas, TCU, and Texas Tech. Other conferences — the Southland, for instance —feature more Texas teams, but of the heavy-hitter conferences, the Big 12 is our state's conference.
Each of the four Texas teams competing come with different backgrounds and different things that they're looking to get out of this conference tournament. Let's look at what each of these teams have at stake. (All NCAA bracket projections come from ESPN's Charlie Creme's bracketology.)
Baylor - No. 1 Seed
Baylor has both nothing to lose and, potentially, a lot to lose. They're in the NCAA Tournament. Right now, they're one of the four No. 1 seeds in the NCAA Tournament. And a loss to someone like TCU in the finals of the conference tournament probably won't change Baylor's ability to get that No. 1 seed, though this is complicated a little by Baylor's loss to Iowa State at the end of the regular season, a shocking moment that prevented Baylor from posting three consecutive undefeated Big 12 regular seaon campaigns.
The only thing that would really derail the Lady Bears's chances of going into the Big Dance as a top seed would be a loss in their opening game to the winner of Oklahoma State/Oklahoma, but I also think it's important to be realistic about things when discussing sports scenarios, and the realistic thing with that is to say "yeah, not going to happen."
A Baylor loss at any point during this tournament would have some big implications, though. First, it would only be the second loss in the Big 12 Tournament for Baylor since 2010; since then, a 2017 loss to West Virginia in the conference championship game has been the only blemish on Baylor's conference postseason resume. Kim Mulkey just doesn't lose these games. It would also have implications for whoever beat them; a win over Baylor could be a huge resume building win for a team, which could help someone boost their postseason seeding.
Baylor certainly has the best roster in the conference. Lauren Cox was named the Big-12 Player of the Year, while DiDi Richards was named Defensive Player of the Year. Baylor should be able to beat any team in the country, and the loss to Iowa State doesn't really change that outlook.
TCU - No. 2 Seed
Creme has TCU down as a seven seed right now, but winning the Big 12 Tournament would give them a good chance of moving up.
This has been a surprising year for the Horned Frogs, who've gotten strong production from seniors Kianna Ray and Jayde Woods and junior Lauren Heard, all of whom made the All-Big 12 teams, with Heard on the first team, Ray on the second team, and Woods on the honorable mention list.
The Horned Frogs shoot well and defend well. Bradley's shot the ball excellently from deep, while Heard has blossomed as the team's lead scorer, raising her points per game average by nearly 10 points. The Denton Guyer alum is crucial to TCU's success.
The biggest issue for the Horned Frogs — aside from Baylor, of course — might be their first game. If Texas Tech advances to that Friday meeting, TCU has to face a team that's beaten them twice already this year, and while beating the same team three times is tough, Tech matches up well with the Horned Frogs, and have won both games without Tech's star, Brittany Brewer, needing to even have a major scoring presence, so...yeah, that's going to be an incredibly interesting game to watch if it happens.
Texas - No. 3 Seed
The Longhorns are the most interesting team in the Big 12. They underachieved this season, but they still earned the three-seed in the conference tournament and Creme has them as 10 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
The Horns would be a very dangerous 10 seed.
After dropping a good number of winnable games in non-conference play, Texas had an uneven Big 12 season, starting it out with a 6-2 record before struggling more near the end, finishing the regular season 5-5.
Senior Joyner Holmes didn't make the kind of leap that many expected, but sophomore center Charli Collier was a revelation, giving the Horns a strong defensive presence on the interior while also stretching out to the three-point line on offense. Collier's going to be huge over the next couple of years for Texas.
But, can she come up huge in this tournament? Texas opens in the second round against West Virginia, who've been even more disappointing than Texas was this year, and they'd potentially face TCU in the game after that. Texas has beaten both of those teams in the past month.
What Texas hasn't done at all this year is look competitive against Baylor, losing both meetings by double-digits. It's hard to see the Longhorns making a run that involves them beating the Lady Bears, but the future looks good for this team with Collier leading the team, though they'll have to replace a good amount of senior talent.
Texas Tech - No. 7 Seed
A promising start to the season that saw Texas Tech end non-conference play with an undefeated record went awry once conference play began, with the Lady Raiders going 7-11 in conference play.
Tech is led by senior Brittany Brewer, one of the most versatile bigs in the country. Brewer can shoot the ball, she can score inside, and she can make a huge impact on the defensive end with her shot blocking ability.
Tech opens the tournament against Kansas, who were 4-14 in conference play. Tech beat Kansas by 17 and also lost to Kansas by 17, so it's hard to get a good read on how these teams matchup, but Tech has been allowing a ton of points and Kansas is a fine team offensively, so let's not pencil in a Texas Tech win yet.
But the Lady Raiders are also a team that can hang with most teams, and a win against Kansas followed by an upset victory over TCU — who they've beaten twice this year — could help Tech get an NIT berth. This is an interesting team, and it'd be fun to see what Brittany Brewer could do in the postseason, even if an NCAA Tournament bid depends entirely on Tech finding a way to win the conference tournament, which seems like a long shot.
Look, I know this is easy to write and I'm not taking any chances here, but Baylor. Baylor wins the Big 12 Tournament. They're the best team. They're going to come in hungry after that Iowa State loss. They have the personnel to play whatever style of basketball they need to play. They need to make sure they don't somehow fall off the first line in the NCAA seeding race.