Big 12 Resumes at the Quarter Pole of the SeasonPosted by Justin Fedich on December 9th, 2016
The Big 12 has contributed seven of its 10 teams to the NCAA Tournament in each of the past three seasons, but the conference will be challenged to reach 70 percent representation this year. When TCU lost to SMU on Wednesday and Iowa State fell to Iowa on Thursday, it went to show that the middle tier of the league behind Kansas, Baylor and West Virginia probably isn’t as strong as it typically has been. By way of comparison, it was abundantly clear at this time last season that at least six Big 12 teams would make the NCAA Tournament field. Inexperience and a lack of quality wins beyond those three leave a bunch of teams with many questions to be answered. Let’s briefly take a look at the resume of each at the quarter pole of the season.
- Kansas (99.8% chance of making NCAA Tournament, according to teamrankings.com): No justification is needed to explain why Kansas will be in the NCAA Tournament for the 28th straight season. The bigger question should be whether Bill Self’s Jayhawks can finish the season as the No. 1 overall seed.
- West Virginia (99%): Aside from a strange slip-up against Temple, the non-conference season has been impressive for the Mountaineers. A huge road win at Virginia and a nearly 50-point win over Manhattan — a game in which West Virginia forced a whopping 40 turnovers — provides enough assurance that Bob Huggins’ squad will make the Big Dance, and likely as a top-four protected seed.
- Baylor (97.8%): Arguably no team in college basketball has a stronger non-conference resume than Baylor to this point. The Bears have been one of the most pleasant surprises of the young season and would need to seriously falter in Big 12 play to lose its grasp on an NCAA Tournament bid.
Jury Is Still Out
- Iowa State (63.3%): The Cyclones had been competitive in every game until a crushing rivalry loss to an Iowa team that’s not nearly as loaded this year. Close losses to Gonzaga and Cincinnati could come back to haunt Iowa State if it struggles in Big 12 play. A win against Miami (FL) is the most quality win Iowa State will have heading into the New Year. More work needs to be done for Iowa State to assure its sixth consecutive bid.
- Texas Tech (32.4%): The Red Raiders’ best win is against Rice and their only loss came to Auburn. In a relatively down year for the Big 12, going .500 in conference play might not cut it for a resume this weak.
- Kansas State (22.4%): A one-point loss to Maryland is all that separates Kansas State from being the only undefeated team remaining in the Big 12. Aside from that defeat, the Wildcats haven’t yet been tested through their non-conference schedule. Like Texas Tech, the schedule has been very weak to this point.
- Oklahoma State (18%): Wins over Connecticut and Georgetown should be enough to soften the blow of quality losses to North Carolina and Maryland. One more big non-conference test awaits at Wichita State on December 17. If the Cowboys can avoid accumulating bad losses in conference play, they should be able to sneak back into the NCAA Tournament after a one-year hiatus.
- Oklahoma (17.1%): All four remaining non-conference games for the Sooners — Wichita State, Memphis, Auburn and Florida — will impact their resume in one or another. With plenty of youth on this team, it’s not yet certain the Sooners can mature quickly enough to string together enough wins for an NCAA Tournament bid.
- TCU (16%): Jamie Dixon’s squad was looking solid until the 15-point loss at SMU. Without a significant quality win yet on its resume, TCU needs to vastly improve upon last season’s 2-16 Big 12 conference record to earn a trip to the NCAA Tournament.
- Texas (4.6%): The Longhorns have endured an abysmal start to their season, going 4-4 with losses to every decent team they’ve faced. Texas will need multiple wins over Kansas, Baylor or West Virginia once Big 12 play rolls around, or the Longhorns will likely will on the outside looking in come March for the first time since 2013.