Water Cooler Talk: How Will the Big 12 Fare in the NCAAs?Posted by dnspewak on March 15th, 2012
With the Madness kicking off Thursday, every workplace and classroom in America will buzz with NCAA Tournament talk, regardless of whether your co-workers or classmates have watched even a single game of college basketball this season. RTC Big 12 writers Clark Williams and Danny Spewak have watched a lot of basketball — too much, in fact — and they’ve got a take on how this edition of March Madness should go down in the Big 12.
Danny: Can’t wait to get started here. Let’s get right into it — Clark, who’s the ripest for an upset of the top three in the Big 12? Missouri, Kansas or Baylor?
Clark: When you think of the First Round of the tournament, you immediately think of upsets. They are what make the Tournament immediately great (assuming it was not your team that was just upset). Baylor, Missouri, and Kansas are all seeded highly enough to where a loss Thursday or Friday would be considered a colossal upset. Of the three, though, I’d say Baylor is most at risk for an early exit. While Missouri is going to play against a fired-up Norfolk State, and Kansas against former McDonald’s All-American Ray McCallum, I think both teams will get past those teams unscathed. Baylor, however, has to play a sharpshooting squad from South Dakota State, and if Bad Baylor shows up, they could be heading home to Waco much earlier than anticipated.
Danny: Yeah, Baylor is probably most vulnerable because it has played a little inconsistently at times during Big 12 play. It’s not as though the Bears have a ton of bad losses, though, and Perry Jones played like a man in the Big 12 Tournament. I don’t think Missouri’s got much to worry about with Norfolk State, and I only think Kansas has to worry because it is playing such a solid opponent. I’m not worried about Kansas necessarily, just that it’s facing a team with high-major talent Friday. This Detroit team was tabbed by many to win the Horizon League, and we’ve all heard the story of coach’s son Ray McCallum and the future pro Eli Holman at center. The Jayhawks will probably win by 20, but you never know if the bad memories of Bucknell/Bradley/Northern Iowa/VCU will become a self-fulfilling prophecy if the game gets close.
Clark: OK, Danny, how about Texas? Your thoughts on the Longhorns?
Danny: Probably out immediately, and if they slip by Cincinnati I’m not sure they are really the kind of team that can get on a roll. Sure, J’Covan Brown’s probably one of the better players in this Tournament, and Myck Kabongo has stepped up his game, but this is a team without a ton of size. And, sorry, I know it’s been beaten to death, but they are young. They just are. I’m impressed Texas made it to the NCAAs, but Rick Barnes may need to wait until next year for a true run.
Clark: The Longhorns did it. After a tumultuous start to the season, this young Texas team made the tourney. That being said, just like most young, inexperienced teams, I can’t see them advancing very far. Truthfully, the most I can hope for out of Texas is a strong performance against Cincy, with J’Covan Brown going off for 40, and they sneak into the Second Round (YES. I SAID SECOND, THE FIRST ROUND WILL NEVER BE THE SECOND ROUND IN MY BOOK), where they lose to a respectable Florida State team. However, I see the ‘Horns getting knocked off early by Yancy Gates and Co.
Danny: You know, UT probably made the NCAAs in part because of its two wins over Iowa State. What’s up with the Cyclones, in your mind?
Clark: Iowa State is a good team. Iowa State when Royce White is in the zone is a downright dangerous team. Unfortunately, the Cyclones face last year’s national champion in the first round, and this UConn team matches up particularly well. It will take all of Iowa State to win against UConn, not just Royce White’s domination. If they get past UConn, it doesn’t get much easier, likely playing Kentucky in the Second Round. I can see Iowa State beating UConn, but not getting past Kentucky. Which is a shame, if they got a better draw, this Iowa State team could have gone far.
Danny: I really like this team’s chances for some reason. No idea why. Kentucky may seem invincible — in fact, every top seed seems like that — but stranger things have happened. Remember when the Wildcats fell to UAB in 2004, despite most picking them as the obvious favorites to win it all? That kind of stuff happens, especially when you have to play a team with Royce White and all of those shooters from the perimeter. I just like the vibe I get from these Cyclones — they’re fun, happy-go-lucky and have nothing to lose. If they beat UConn, they’re a very scary matchup for John Calipari.
Danny: Speaking of matchups, Clark, will we see the dream Border War title game in April?
Clark: I think Kansas and Missouri in the National Championship would be about as intriguing as it gets for a title game. However, just like I don’t think I’ll fill out a perfect bracket, I don’t think it will happen. But boy, am I hoping for it. The nation deserves one more Border War. Really, both teams drew pretty good brackets, but Kansas gets the nod, assuming they can make it to the Sweet Sixteen, because they’ll be playing in Saint Louis, and will be in a home court situation.
Danny: I think both teams have equal chances of making the title game. I’m not sure it’ll happen… these are two flawed teams from a personnel perspective. The lack of depth (and Missouri’s lack of size) hasn’t slowed either down much this year, but it simply gives them less margin for error than, say, Kentucky. But every team has a weakness. Missouri and Kansas have shown all year they’re able to beat anybody, anywhere. A little bit of luck and we may see this Border War happen one more time.