Big 12 Gears Up for a Bubblicious WeekendPosted by Brian Goodman on February 14th, 2014
Big 12 teams continued to beat up on each other this week, with Kansas State prevailing in overtime over their in-state foes, West Virginia thrashing Iowa State and Texas Tech rising up to take down Oklahoma. As Kansas figures to hold serve at the top when they welcome TCU to Allen Fieldhouse on Saturday, the focus this weekend will shift to teams further down in the standings as they look to strengthen their tournament resumes. Big 12 microsite writers Brian Goodman (@BSGoodman) and Kory Carpenter (@Kory_Carpenter) took some time to discuss what the league’s four biggest bubble teams need to do, starting with this weekend’s slate, to crack the field.
BG: Let’s start off with the hottest team among those in the hunt for a bid, and that’s West Virginia. As they get ready for a big game on the road against Texas tomorrow, what do you make of their resurgence? Given that they went so long without an important win, what do you think they need to do the rest of the way to get back into the NCAA Tournament after a one-year absence?
KC: West Virginia might need to win out in the regular season, for two reasons. They are 15-10 and only have three RPI top 50 wins, all of which came at home. They need more top 50 wins and they have four more opportunities in the regular season: At Texas, at Iowa State, at Oklahoma, and Kansas at home. Winning those four might give them enough quality wins to impress the tournament committee. The two remaining games are Baylor at home and TCU on the road. Losing either of those would kill their at-large chances. Speaking of Baylor, half of their wins have come against teams outside of the RPI top 100, and they have only four wins over top-100 RPI teams. They have five games left against RPI top-50 teams. Do they need to win all five to have any chance at an at-large bid?
BG: I don’t believe they do, but they probably need to take at least four of them if they want to give themselves any wiggle room in the Big 12 Tournament. They also can’t lose to Texas Tech again. Baylor could also use a little help outside of the conference. That Kentucky win from December still has a lot of meaning, and the value of that win could go up if the Wildcats beat Florida at home tomorrow. Of course, depending on someone else to do your dirty work is always tricky proposition, so it will be interesting to see how things play out. Moving on to another underperforming team, Oklahoma State is in shambles, but is still projected to be in the field of 68 by the slimmest of margins. The Cowboys were embarrassed by Texas on Tuesday and still have to play two more games without Marcus Smart before they get him back for the stretch run. How do you see the rest of Smart’s suspension shaking out for Oklahoma State and where do you picture the Cowboys in the long term? Do you think a bid will come down to needing to win games in the Big 12 Tournament?
KC: Oklahoma State is on the right side of the bubble today, but they are far from a lock. They are around a #8 seed on most bracketology sites (including our own) and have lost five in a row, including losses to Baylor and Texas Tech. The latter was a sub-100 RPI loss, which can hurt a team’s at-large hopes. Marcus Smart will sit for two more games (Oklahoma and at Baylor) and I wouldn’t expect the Cowboys to win either of those. They’ve already lost to Oklahoma and Baylor this month with Smart. Without him, as well as Michael Cobbins and the departed Stevie Clark, the Cowboys lack depth and an identity. They need to go no worse than 4-3 to finish the regular season and win a game or two in the Big 12 Tournament to feel comfortable on Selection Sunday. We never would have guessed this three months ago, but Oklahoma and Oklahoma State have about the same resume on Valentine’s Day. Both teams have three RPI top-50 wins, three top-100 wins, and no terrible losses (sub-200 RPI). The Sooners are 18-7 and have games against Kansas State, Kansas, and Texas remaining. The Cowboys are 16-8 and get Kansas, Kansas State, and Iowa State. Oh, and both schools meet in Norman tomorrow afternoon. If you could pick one school to take you further in March, are you taking Oklahoma or Oklahoma State?
BG: I have to go with the Sooners here. Oklahoma has a terrific inside defender in Ryan Spanger, a very good point guard, scorers throughout the lineup and a coach who knows how to get it done in March. Assuming the Cowboys crack the field (which is dicey right now), there’s a lot that would worry me. Their depth issues at point guard and down low are well-chronicled, and Travis Ford really made some bad in-game decisions in last season’s tournament loss to Oregon. Marcus Smart is better than Jordan Woodard, but I really worry about Smart ignoring his teammates down the stretch in close games. If the Cowboys end up in the tournament with an eight or nine-seed, it’s not hard to picture their round of 64 opponent keeping it close (without knowing the bracket). In that kind of scenario, what will happen when Oklahoma State has to make a play? I don’t see Oklahoma advancing farther than the Sweet 16, but I like their chances more than the Cowboys’ at this point.