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Big 12 Futures
As expected, the Kansas Jayhawks open as the Big 12 Champion frontrunners. Bill Self has constructed one of the finest programs in the country, and Kansas remains a decisive threat on the national landscape each and every season. Is there anyone in the Big 12 that can dethrone Kansas?

The truth is that this conference is much tighter than you think.

The Big 12 Tournament kicks off Wednesday, March 13th and ends Saturday, March 16th with the championship game. It will be held at the Sprint Center in Kansas City. Lines are open for the first round of action at CarbonSports and the futures are also posted.

Let's crunch some numbers.

KANSAS JAYHAWKS (-120 to win Big 12)
As always, Kansas plodded along as one of the top ranked teams in the country. Ben McLemore led the team with 16.7 points per game and seemed to take a step in the right direction after a spotty history of off-court troubles. In most NBA Draft boards, McLemore is going first or second which speaks volumes about his talent. In my opinion, he is a wildly inconsistent player who has a nasty habit of checking out mentally.

The prodigal gifts that McLemore possesses are only useful if he - ya know - uses them. The real cornerstone of the team is center Jeff Withey, who averages 13.6 points, 8.6 rebounds and a comically absurd 4.0 blocks per game. As we learned last year, Withey is a game changer and getting around his big body is going to be difficult for any of the Big 12 hopefuls.

The Jayhawks finished the season 16-14 ATS, but were a 7-3 ATS juggernaut heading down the stretch. Unfortunately they lost to Baylor in a blowout which has to send a tinge of concern through their betting bandwagon. Still, no team in this conference is as reliable or as consistent as Kansas.

Their odds are slightly inflated by the massive following they have in general, but it's also an honest depiction of how far ahead Kansas is against the rest of the Big 12. You'll have to pay to win back some cash on Kansas, but it's money well spent.

The co-winners of the regular season in the Big 12 are the Kansas State Wildcats, who ended the year an even 13-13 ATS. Over their last ten games, the Wildcats went a solid 8-2 SU but were also evened out by the oddsmakers with a record of 5-5 ATS. Basically, the books have had their fingers on Kansas State's pulse all season.

Where this team excels is at defense, where they rank as one of the best overall units in the league. They have very concerning losses on the road to Oklahoma State and Kansas. However, they do have a legitimate star player in Rodney McGruder (15.1 points per game) and are capable of shutting down teams on the scoreboard. Unfortunately, I don't think Kansas State has proven they are a runaway force in this conference, and I think that their offensive shortcomings will haunt them this week.

Oklahoma State was a strong bet all season, going 15-12-2 ATS on the year. They manhandled Kansas State in the regular season finale to deny them an outright claim of the regular season crown. They also lost to Kansas in overtime by a score of 67-68. At 6-to-1, the Cowboys are posting very tempting odds. They are a defensively capable squad that is also electric on the scoreboard when they get going. Could the neutral territory be what this team needs to get an inside track on the pair of Kansas teams?

When it comes to outright value, the Cowboys have it in spades. A 6-to-1 return on investment on a team that has beaten all of the top teams in the Big 12, and at least challenged Kansas to a great degree, deserves a flyer bet.

The Baylor Bears are worth mentioning because they plastered Kansas in the final game of the season. Don't be fooled in to thinking that this is a darling, underdog team. The Bears have been wildly inconsistent overall, going just 4-6 SU and 5-5 ATS down the stretch. They finished the season at just 18-13 SU and 12-14 ATS, meaning they fell short of all expectations in general. Nobody was expecting them to usurp the Jayhawks this season, and I wouldn't expect them to repeat their 81-58 upset in the Big 12 Tournament. They likely won't get past Oklahoma State, a team they lost to just over a month ago.

Baylor may have caught the attention of the betting world with their win over Kansas, but anyone who has been tracking the Big 12 knows that the real sleeper here is the Cyclones. With a record of 14-12 ATS on the season, which included a 5-2 SU and ATS finish to the year, the Cyclones have a legitimate chance of causing a major stir. The Cyclones picked up wins over Baylor, Oklahoma State and pushed Kansas to overtime. If you love chasing after long odds, then Iowa State is probably your best play. Of course, those odds are long for a reason so tread lightly.

THE PICK - Oklahoma State Cowboys
They have basically been the most competitive team in the Big 12 towards the end of the season. Nobody, including Kansas, has done much to distinguish themselves from the rest of the group and I fear that McLemore will fade away when the going gets tough. The Cowboys present the best odds in terms of value on return, potential to win and momentum. If you're a member of the Kansas faithful, then by all means bet on your beloved Jayhawks, but the smart money is on Oklahoma State.

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