NCAA Tournament Instareaction: Big 12 TeamsPosted by Brian Goodman on March 12th, 2017
The Big 12 will send six teams to the NCAA Tournament, down from seven in each of the last three seasons. Kansas State may have missed the cut if not for its win over Baylor on Thursday night, but the Wildcats took care of business and the committee rewarded them with a bid despite a soft non-conference schedule. In other relevant news, Kansas lost its grip on the #1 overall seed after its quarterfinal defeat to TCU, while Baylor slipped to a #3 seed due to a 5-6 stretch entering Selection Sunday. Below is a quick look at the Big 12’s lot, including best-case and worst-case scenarios for each team over the coming weeks.
Kansas (#1 Midwest) – Bill Self‘s team opens on Friday against the winner of North Carolina Central and UC Davis. Assuming a win there, the Jayhawks will either face Miami (FL) or Michigan State, a familiar foe from the Champions Classic rotation.
- Best Case: Powered by a deathly combination of hot three-point shooting, Josh Jackson‘s dynamic athleticism and Frank Mason‘s knack for closing games, the Jayhawks compartmentalize their off-court issues and cut down the nets in Glendale on April 3.
- Worst Case: Foul trouble from Landen Lucas and a poor shooting night lead to the Jayhawks underperforming versus their seed for the fifth straight NCAA Tournament.
Baylor (#3 East) – Baylor’s sputtering finish definitely cost them. Not only did the Bears drop from a #2 to a #3 seed, but they received a very tough potential draw in the form of SMU in the second round. That match-up would neutralize (to some degree) the advantage the Bears gain by playing in nearby Tulsa.
- Best Case: The Bears put the last two seasons of disappointing finishes in the rearview mirror, stifling offenses with their amoeba zone and riding Johnathan Motley‘s all-around game to the team’s third Elite Eight appearance under Scott Drew.
- Worst Case: With Manu Lecomte compromised by ankle problems, Motley faces constant double-teams and the Bears once again fail to beat a double-digit seed in the opening round.
West Virginia (#4 West) – The Mountaineers are headed to Buffalo, where they’ll take on #13 seed Bucknell in the first round. The Bison beat Lehigh for the Patriot League’s automatic bid.
- Best Case: West Virginia’s combination of pressure defense and offensive rebounding is something that very few teams can navigate, especially on the back end of weekends. The Mountaineers successfully utilize all three and deliver for those who have them as a dark horse Final Four team.
- Worst Case: The Mountaineers get past Bucknell but are sent packing by their Kryptonite — a Notre Dame team that ranks first in the country in holding onto the ball — in the Round of 32.
Iowa State (#5 Midwest) – The Cyclones draw another high-scoring unit in the form of WAC champion Nevada. Winners of nine straight, Eric Musselman’s team enters the Big Dance on a hot streak similar to that of Iowa State.
- Best Case: The Cyclones continue to play their best ball of the season, earning a trip back to Kansas City for the Sweet Sixteen, where they score a second win this season over Kansas to land in the Elite Eight.
- Worst Case: On the strength of four regulars who shoot 38 percent or better from deep, Nevada notches the upset and Iowa State’s vaunted senior core leaves Ames quietly.
Oklahoma State (#10 Midwest) – The Cowboys make their return to the NCAA Tournament in Brad Underwood‘s first season at the helm. Their game against Michigan promises to be one of the most high-scoring affairs of the opening weekend.
- Best Case: Jawun Evans, Jeffrey Carroll and Phil Forte score just enough to get past the Wolverines and score the program’s first NCAA Tournament win since 2009, but are worn down by Louisville’s swarming, athletic defense on Sunday.
- Worst Case: The Cowboys get overwhelmed by Michigan’s pick-and-roll offense and go one-and-done heading into a likely rebuilding year in Stillwater.
Kansas State (#11 South) – The Big 12 makes its play-in game debut as Kansas State faces Wake Forest for the right to play #6 seed Cincinnati in Sacramento on Friday.
- Best Case: Kansas State beats Wake, a team with a similarly shaky resume, but can’t overcome a fantastic Bearcats defense in the Round of 64.
- Worst Case: The Wildcats struggle to defend the nation’s eighth-ranked offense and are sent home by a familiar face in Danny Manning and one of the game’s breakout performers in big man John Collins.