Big 12 Quarterfinal TakeawaysPosted by Brian Goodman on March 10th, 2017
Thursday’s quarterfinal round of the Big 12 Tournament in Kansas City had a little bit of everything. While #1 seed Kansas wasn’t at full strength with Josh Jackson out of the lineup, TCU pulled off what could be the upset of the week in college basketball in moving to the semifinals. The other afternoon game featured Iowa State’s Monte’ Morris and Oklahoma State’s Jawun Evans putting on an entertaining show as the Cyclones treated their big contingency of traveling fans to a win. In the evening session, West Virginia wore Texas down in the only game that lacked significant drama, but Kansas State made up for it by winning a game it absolutely needed to stay alive for an at-large bid. Let’s get to the biggest takeaways from the day that was.
- TCU stuns Kansas, but the Jayhawks are still in position for a #1 seed. Prior to Thursday afternoon’s upset, Jackson’s suspension didn’t seem like a deal-breaker. Kansas had swept TCU in the regular season, including a December 30 win in Fort Worth where the freshman wing scored four points and fouled out in 12 forgettable minutes. As it turned out yesterday, however, Kansas sorely missed Jackson’s presence, especially on the offensive glass. The Horned Frogs, playing for the second day in a row, rebounded 78.8 percent of Kansas’ misses, about 10 percent above their season-long rate. Still, despite the shock factor, this isn’t a devastating loss for Kansas. The Jayhawks won the nation’s top-rated conference by four games, beat Kentucky, Baylor and Iowa State on the road, and outlasted Duke on a neutral court. One thing to keep in mind, however, is that when Kansas begins its NCAA Tournament appearance on March 17, it will be playing in just its fourth game in 19 days, and Jackson will be playing his first game in almost two whole weeks. The Jayhawks could benefit from some rest and a #16 seed will provide a chance to shake off any rust, but it’s a very different stretch from what the team has grown accustomed to.
- Kansas State delivers in desperation. The bubble is a weird place because your peers’ results matter almost as much your own. No single result can be fully judged in a vacuum, but the Wildcats did themselves a huge favor in beating Baylor in the nightcap. Bruce Weber‘s squad frustrated all-Big 12 first-teamer Johnathan Motley into an average performance for the second straight time, but the bigger story was sophomore Barry Brown, who went 4-of-4 from deep en route to 21 points. Brown’s standout night neutralized a bagel from Dean Wade, who is usually the team’s barometer. Kansas State’s win was probably enough to crack the field of 68, but they aren’t safe just yet. They can remove all doubt with a win over West Virginia in tonight’s semifinal.
- Monte’ Morris embarrasses the Bob Cousy Award committee. Thursday’s opener between Oklahoma State and Iowa State delivered as promised with the two teams combining for 175 points and both floor generals shining, but Morris was very clearly the best player on the floor. The Cyclones’ senior posted 21 points, 10 rebounds and came one assist shy of a triple-double, leading his team to a 92-83 victory. A third shot at Kansas would have been a nice opportunity for the Cyclones to strengthen their NCAA Tournament seeding, but instead they’ll face a TCU team riding high after its first-ever win against a #1 team. Morris probably doesn’t mind, though, as he has averaged 11.8 points, 7.5 assists and just 1.3 turnovers per contest in eight career games against the Horned Frogs. Iowa State is one of the hottest teams in the country right now, having won eight of 10, including four of their last six away from Ames.
- The Horned Frogs creep toward the bubble, but remain well outside the field. Most analysts considered TCU’s loss to Kansas State on March 1 as the death knell for their NCAA Tournament chances. They’re still alive, which is more than many teams in their position can say, but let’s be real. Following yesterday’s upset of Kansas, Jamie Dixon‘s team is 63rd in the RPI and just 3-10 against teams in the top 50. There’s some evidence to suggest that the selection committee could weigh a small handful of noteworthy wins more heavily than an abundance of losses (provided they aren’t egregious), but TCU’s 14 losses are still too many to overlook. A second win over Iowa State may push the Horned Frogs into the conversation, but it feels it’s the automatic bid or bust for this group.