March Madness Conference Preview: Big 12
By Grant Becker
Before the regular season is over, The College Tailgate decided we would preview the college basketball teams that we think will make the NCAA tournament, teams that are on the bubble, and teams that we believe are on the outs this season.
#7 Kansas 18-6 (9-2)
Kansas has been a lock for the national tournament for some time now. A tough overtime loss at the hands of in state rival Kansas State was simply the result of playing in a deep conference. The rise of Joel Embiid and the limitless potential of Andrew Wiggins will continue to carry this team through tough games. Kansas has been and still is the top team in the Big 12.
#19 Texas 20-5 (9-3)
Texas looks like a lock for the tournament at 18-5 on the season with an impressive 8-3 record in conference play. I’m hesitant to count this team in because the remainder of their schedule includes trips to Iowa State, Kansas, and Oklahoma. Away at Texas Tech on March 8th isn’t a gimme and neither is hosting a red-hot West Virginia team this Saturday. A 4-3 record to finish conference play would be enough to get this team in, but that won’t be easy.
#11 Iowa State 19-5 (7-5)
The Cyclones have accrued all five of this season’s losses in Big 12 play. They currently sit at 6th in the conference but still look a lock for the national tournament. Cyclone fans shouldn’t get too comfortable just yet, an embarrassing loss at the hands of West Virginia early this week brought Iowa State’s ability to play road games into question.
Kansas State 17-8 (7-5)
K-State just brought themselves into the national tournament conversation with statement wins over Kansas and Texas. Their only loss in the last four games was on the road at West Virginia, where anybody can be beat by forty points. Baylor and TCU are up next. I’ll be a K-State fan this week; I recommend you do the same. If the wildcats can pull off a win at home against ISU or at OU they will be a lock for the dance.
Oklahoma 19-7 (8-5)
Oklahoma sit just outside the AP Top 25 and they are 4th in the Big 12 just a half game behind Kansas State. The good news for Sooners fans is that if the season ended today, Oklahoma would make it in. The better news is that the remainder of their schedule is relatively friendly (if that’s possible in the Big 12). The away games are at the Marcus Smart-less OK State Cowboys, at Kansas and lastly at TCU. A loss at home to Texas Tech last night will hurt, but this team should bounce back. Look for OU to finish strong and play in March.
On the Bubble
West Virginia 15-11 (7-6)
The Mountaineers have won three of their last four, the only loss coming AT Kansas. Those three wins could be huge on selection Sunday, especially the complete drubbing of Iowa State. At this point though it’s still an uphill battle for the WV. They will need to win two of the following games to get an at-large bid: AT Texas, AT Iowa State, AT Oklahoma, home to Kansas. The Mountaineers have a lot of climbing to do.
Texas Tech 13-12 (5-7)
The Red Raiders earned a season saving victory on the night of Marcus Smart’s demise. Then they added a resume building win AT Oklahoma last night. Tech sit 7th in the Big 12 standings and their only wins came against teams sitting below them. If that trend continues Tubby’s team will finish at 6-12 in the Big 12. If they win every game for the rest of the year they’ll finish 12-6, which would earn them a bid considering that would require wins in Lawrence, Norman, and Ames. It’s a tough time to be Tubby.
Oklahoma State 16-10 (4-9)
The Cowboys story has been well documented over the past few days. Prior to the Texas Tech game, OK State had lost four straight. Now they play Oklahoma without Marcus Smart. Looks like six to me. When Smart comes back the best-case scenario would be that the Cowboys win his last five and finish 8-8 in the conference. Let’s get one thing straight, this team must win the Big 12 Conference tournament. The Marcus Smart incident shall henceforth be remembered as ‘the shove that broke the Cowboys back’.
Baylor 17-9 (5-8)
Baylor’s fall from grace has been arguably more dramatic than OK State’s. Baylor was ranked as high as #7 in the country. Now they sit 9th in the conference standings. Yikes. They entered conference play at 12-1. The one and only loss was to #1 Syracuse. They’ve gone 3-8 in conference play. What happened to this team?
TCU 9-15 (0-12)
TCU entered conference play with an overall record of 9-3 and they are 0-11 in conference play. The Horned Frogs’ struggles are a testament to the strength of this conference. The Big 12 has been fantastic all year and TCU simply fell victim to being an average team in a well above average conference. If you told TCU fans in December that they would finish just behind OK State and Baylor in the conference standings, I’m guessing there would have been a parade.