Big 12 Key Questions: NCAA TournamentPosted by dnspewak on March 14th, 2012
Despite hiding relatively under the radar for most of the regular season, 60% of the Big 12 will represent the league in the NCAA Tournament this week. Texas was the last team to cement its at-large bid, knocking off Iowa State in the quarterfinals of the Big 12 Tournament to secure an 11 seed. Here’s a team-by-team look at the burning questions this weekend (apologies in advance for that Jim Rome reference):
Will its lack of size eventually be its downfall? The Tigers have proven this season that they are capable of overcoming a thin frontcourt. If it was really such an issue, they would not have won a Big 12 Tournament title and finished with 30 victories. Still, when Frank Haith‘s team runs into a team with dominant bigs, it will simply have less room for error. A foul-ridden game by either Ricardo Ratliffe or Steve Moore could end Missouri’s season.
Will it overlook Detroit? Hard to say. The idea of “overlooking” anyone in the NCAA Tournament is a little trite, but the Jayhawks actually did draw a scary matchup in this instance. Nobody’s going to doubt Bill Self with all of his Big 12 titles and a national title to his name, but you have to take the good with the bad. He has suffered four fairly enormous upsets during his tenure: Bucknell (2005) Bradley (2006), Northern Iowa (2010), and VCU (2011). Will the trend continue? Probably not, but Detroit is a team that has high-major talent and underachieved in the regular season. Remember, they were a trendy pick to win the Horizon over the two-time national runner-ups.
Can it play to its potential? One of the final teams to remain undefeated in 2011-12, the Bears once looked invincible. In Big 12 play, they stumbled a bit, and now we are all questioning whether or not Scott Drew can coach. It all depends on Perry Jones. The guy looked like a new player in the Big 12 Tournament, especially when he torched Kansas State for 31 in the quarterfinals. He’s finally starting to give a consistent effort night in and night out. If that continues, Drew will be in fine shape here.
Does this team know how to win in this setting? A stupid question, probably, but it’s fair. Chris Allen is so important here. With a roster and program so new to the NCAA Tournament, Allen has to use his Final Four experience from Michigan State to keep this team under control. If the Cyclones can get by Connecticut, this is about as scary as any eight seed could be. They have a star in Royce White, a wealth of three-point shooters, and Allen to serve as the grizzled leader.
Will it defend better than it did in the Big 12 Tournament? This team played so uncharacteristically poorly on the defensive end against Baylor in that quarterfinal loss. Frank Martin was livid with his team after the game because it undermined everything Martin’s program has stood for. Jones abused the Wildcats, and the Bears easily dominated the rebounding battle. That shouldn’t happen to a Kansas State team. Ever.
Are they too young? After a victory over Iowa State in the quarters, Myck Kabongo made a bold statement: “We’re not young anymore.” He’s right, to an extent. Kabongo has really grown up lately, especially in that win against the Cyclones. As the point guard, he’s the most important player on this team, and it’s up to him to find J’Covan Brown and let him go to work. Rick Barnes has a lot of young players, sure, but this is also an improving team peaking right when it needs to.