Wednesday marks the beginning of the Big 12 tournament and unlike years past, this years version will have just four teams playing on day one. With the new ten team format, six teams actually receive a first round bye with the Kansas Jayhawks being one of them.
It's a change from years past where eight teams played on Wednesday afternoon and the four teams receiving first round byes had a marked advantage going forward. In fact no team was ever able to successfully win four games in four days during the old format and win the league tournament championship.
With now six teams only needing to win three in three days, it would seem that the pool of potential winners has expanded, at least in theory. So what is the major benefit for the top two seeds in Kansas and Missouri? Besides having the opportunity to play one of the four bottom tier teams in the league during the quarterfinals, Kansas and Missouri will also face a team coming off a night game just 24 hours earlier.
For the Jayhawks that team will be either the Oklahoma Sooners or the Texas A&M Aggies. Kansas finished the season with a clean sweep of both teams while managing an average margin of victory of over 12 points per contest.
While Oklahoma is the higher seeded team of the two, the Aggies might be the more difficult matchup for Kansas as the Jayhawks managed an eight point win against a healthy A&M team in College Station. That win was the closest margin of victory in all four games against the two potential opponents. A&M also managed to give Kansas a pretty solid game through one half of play in Lawrence when they were shorthanded and facing a tough environment.
As for Oklahoma and Texas A&M, the two split their season series with the Aggies taking the first one at home in overtime and the Sooners winning the return trip by three. On paper this is a very even matchup with just one game separating the two teams in the league.
For Kansas the best case scenario is to have the two teams grind out a sloppy game that takes the energy out of both teams. If that happens the Jayhawks will face an opponent coming off of short rest and Kansas they should already have a decided advantage against whoever it is that moves on.
The worst case scenario for Kansas is that one team comes out hot and rolls to an easy victory taking them into Thursday's game with some positive momentum and nothing to lose. Regardless of the winner and how they win, Kansas should expect to win on Thursday and that win would put them one step closer to cementing a no. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament.