Quick Thoughts on the Big 12’s DrawsPosted by dnspewak on March 18th, 2013
There were no surprises on Selection Sunday in the Big 12 Conference. Kansas earned a #1 seed after winning the league tournament this weekend. Kansas State and Oklahoma State, the two other Top 25 teams in the conference, got top-five seeds. Oklahoma and Iowa State weren’t locks, but they had decent resumes heading into Sunday and both earned at-large bids without much debate. And Baylor, after bowing out in the quarterfinals of the Big 12 Tournament to the Cowboys, was relegated to the NIT. That’s what we thought would happen. So that’s five Big 12 teams in the NCAA Tournament, representative of a good-but-not-great year in the league. In the hours after Selection Sunday, here are a few quick reactions to each team’s respective draws:
- Kansas State gets Kansas City: We knew Kansas would return to the Sprint Center for the Second and Third Rounds. That was a given. But after Kansas State lost to the Jayhawks in the finals on Saturday, it certainly wasn’t a given that the committee would send the Wildcats there. Fortunately for Bruce Weber, it got a lucky draw and can now bus a few hours from Manhattan for its second round game against the winner of La Salle/Boise State. After the loss on Saturday, Weber recalled his Illinois team’s trip to nearby St. Louis for the 2005 Final Four and said he’d of course enjoy a similar home atmosphere on the first weekend of the Tournament this March. There will surely be Jayhawks blue in the stands rooting against the Wildcats, but if they make it to the Third Round, they’ll have a significant advantage against either Ole Miss or Wisconsin. There’s an argument that playing in front of a semi-home crowd adds more pressure — Weber also recalled this particular situation occurring during his days as an assistant at Purdue — but we’re not sure that holds much weight. Bottom line is, playing a few hours from home is a big deal. It matters. It changes the dynamics of the match-up. And for a #4 seed especially, it’s a really fortunate situation.
- Oklahoma State and collateral damage: Everybody’s angry that Oregon received a #12 seed. It doesn’t seem to make any logical sense, but the lost storyline here is how it affects Oklahoma State. The Cowboys now have to play the Pac-12 Tournament champions in their first NCAA Tournament game — and they’re the #5 seed, for crying out loud! Travis Ford’s team could not have drawn a worse #12 seed. It’s criminal, really. Oregon won at UNLV, beat Arizona and knocked off UCLA twice. You could argue that Oregon’s almost as good a team as Oklahoma State, based on both pure talent and resume. Life ain’t fair, is it?
- No worries for Iowa State and Oklahoma: They did it. They got in, both as #10 seeds. The bubble wasn’t very strong this year (which seems to be a trend during the past five years or so, whatever that means for college basketball), but after the Big 12 Tournament, these two teams were far from locks. Oklahoma looked like it might be in trouble after completely imploding in a loss to the Cyclones in the quarterfinals, and then Iowa State went out and hardly competed with Kansas in the semifinals. The committee gave them difficult match-ups: Oklahoma faces San Diego State, and Iowa State will play Notre Dame. Both of those teams have been ranked in the Top 25 at some point this year and may be a little bit underseeded. But the important thing is that both ISU and OU got in. For the Sooners, it’s a notable accomplishment for Lon Kruger in just his second year. It’s been a quick rebuilding process, that’s for sure, but we’d expect nothing less from Kruger. And Fred Hoiberg did a nice job with this team after losing Royce White, Chris Allen and Scott Christopherson. The Cyclones are a fun, high-octane team that could surprise some people if they knock down some threes (you know they love to shoot them).
- Kansas vs. Roy Williams: They did it again. The NCAA rigged a match-up between Roy Williams’ North Carolina team and Kansas in the Third Round. In 2008, they played in the Final Four. Last year, they played in the Elite Eight in St. Louis. This year, they might play in Kansas City! In case you were wondering, they don’t have a statue built of Williams in that city, and he’s not the city’s favorite person among KU fans. So even though the Williams vs. KU revenge game has happened before, this might be the most intense showdown yet. This is a moot point, though, if Villanova knocks of the Tar Heels (or if Western Kentucky makes history, of course).
- Steve Fisher vs. Lon Kruger: Heck of a coaching matchup, huh? Forget ‘Ol Roy vs. Kansas — this is the match-up of the minds you want to see. It’ll also be an interesting match-up from the players’ perspectives. San Diego State is an elite defensive team with terrific guards and one of the nation’s top wings in Jamaal Franklin, and it’s a lot like Oklahoma in that it’s tough-minded and solid in most aspects but not all that explosive offensively. Most everybody has trouble guarding Franklin, but look for Kruger to potentially stick Buddy Hield on the All-Mountain West performer. Hield is the team’s best defensive guard, and even though he gives up a few inches to Franklin, he’s been a critical part of this team since he returned from an injury.
- Oklahoma State probably has the most difficult task: It’ll be hard just to get past Oregon, and that’s no disrespect at all to the Cowboys. If they win that game, they’ll probably have to play Saint Louis, the trendy team to make it to Atlanta because of its hot streak, defensive tenacity and the playing-for-Rick Majerus factor. Win those two and you’ve probably got Louisville awaiting you in the Sweet Sixteen. For a #5 seed, that’s just not fair.
- Kansas State vs. Marshall Henderson would be hilarious: If Ole Miss knocked off Wisconsin and played Kansas State in the third round, Marshall Henderson and the Wildcats would not get along. He doesn’t get along with anybody, but this Frank Martin-grown team doesn’t take any prisoners. And Bruce Weber has continued the streak of toughness. Would Martavious Irving guard him like he guarded Ben McLemore for much of the Big 12 title game and held him well below his scoring average? We’d pay to see this happen.