The Big 12 conference is often considered one of, if not the best conference in college basketball. It would be hard to argue against the ACC having that title this year with three number one seed caliber teams. People who used to say that the Big 12 conference cannot be the best conference if Kansas wins it every year are now arguing that the Big 12 can’t be the best conference this season because Kansas is down. Whatever your opinion of the conference is, one thing that can’t be argued is that the Big 12 is one of the toughest conferences and both Kansas State and Texas Tech separated themselves form the rest of the teams during the regular season.
ESPN’s bracketologist Joe Lunardi currently has eight of the ten Big 12 teams in the NCAA tournament. The only schools without a chance to be a part of the big dance are Oklahoma State and West Virginia. Some of the current seed projections are as follows:
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So what do these seed projections mean? Well, nothing really. The tournament selection committee is using the NET power rankings for the first time. These projections are still probably pretty close but it wouldn’t be surprising for some teams to be off by several seeds. With that being said, let’s take a look at what these teams have to play for this week with the understanding that games outside of the Big 12 will have an impact on the tournament field as well.
TCU is barely hanging on to a spot in the NCAA field. ESPN’s Joe Lunardi has them in the group of the last four teams in the tournament right now. They are #46 in the BPI. Their opening round game Wednesday night against Oklahoma State can only hurt them. A tournament team should beat Oklahoma State. A loss in this game could very likely bump TCU out of the tournament field. A win gives them a huge opportunity against Kansas State without Dean Wade. A win over Kansas State will likely lock TCU into the field.
The Longhorns are in the tournament field according to Joe Lunardi of ESPN, but CBS Sports and Sports Illustrated do not have them in yet. That tells us that Texas needs a win over Kansas in their first game. Texas certainly can do that. A loss might keep them out of the big dance. The Longhorns lost in Lawrence by just two points and defeated the Jayhawks by ten in Austin. Texas will get Kerwin Roach II back after he served a five game suspension for a violation of team rules. Perfect timing for a head coach on the hot seat.
Oklahoma appears to be a little more comfortable with their spot in the NCAA field with seed projections of 8, 9 and 10. Their opening game against West Virginia has them in a situation similar to TCU. This game really can’t help the Sooners. It can only hurt. If Oklahoma wants to feel real comfortable about their spot in the field, the Sooners need that first game. A win would give them an opportunity against Texas Tech to try to improve their seed in the NCAA tournament. While a win over Texas Tech would be surprising, staying close and giving the Red Raiders a fight can only help Oklahoma.
Iowa State is the first team I will discuss that is comfortably in the NCAA tournament. Them and everyone else I will mention below will make the tournament even if they lose their first game. These teams are just playing to improve their seed. The Cyclones get to play Baylor in the 11:30am game on Thursday. The winner could play Kansas State in the semifinals on Friday night. Iowa State is going to be somewhere between and 6-11 seed based on how the week goes.
I could probably copy and paste Iowa State’s write-up here and just change the school name. Baylor defeated Iowa State both times they played in the regular season but both games were close. It was a three point win at home and a four point win in Ames. Both teams want a win bad to get the opportunity to play a Kansas State team without Dean Wade to improve their tournament seed with the upset.
Kansas has a lot to play for in this tournament. Their seed might not be affected much based on their results. They are expected to be a four seed right now. Maybe they fall to a five seed with an opening round loss to Texas. Maybe they can improve to a three seed if they win the Big 12 tournament. But what the Jayhawks need out of this tournament is confidence and to find a successful way to play heading into the NCAA tournament. It sounds strange to describe Kansas in this way heading into the Big 12 tournament but that’s where they are at this season. Their opening round game against Texas should be a close one. If the Jayhawks are able to get past Texas don’t expect them to get past Texas Tech. Although they certainly can beat the Red Raiders, it would be a little crazy to expect that given how both teams have played recently.
Kansas State was better than Kansas during the conference season. They won a share of the conference regular season title. But they are currently projected to get a four seed in the NCAA tournament, the same as Kansas. They should be closer to home but could still face just as tough of a road as their in-state rivals. Kansas State’s seed might actually have already taken a hit with the news that Dean Wade’s foot injury is more serious than when he injured it earlier in the season. There is some news that Wade might have received one recommendation to not play again this season to let his foot heal. It’s a tough blow to the Wildcats but they made it to the Elite Eight without Wade last season. It’s just tough for Wade to miss another NCAA tournament if he does.
Texas Tech is probably the favorite for most to win the Big 12 tournament. They have played the best of any of these teams the last several weeks. The Red Raiders have won their last nine games. If they face Kansas in the semifinals they can feel comfortable knowing they beat the Jayhawks by 29 in Lubbock after losing by 16 in Lawrence. If they face Kansas State in the championship game they will likely not have to worry about dealing with Dean Wade. The Red Raiders split with the Wildcats during the regular season.
I’ll wait for tomorrow to start making predictions as I continue to figure out what nobody can confidently figure out: how these teams will play in a loser-goes-home format. This should be a fun tournament with the top three teams in unfamiliar situations. How will Texas Tech handle being the favorite? How will Kansas State handle being a target but yet not have Dean Wade (again)? And how will Kansas handle being an underdog to win this thing?