Big 12 Conversation: NCAA Tournament Takes, Part II

Posted by Brian Goodman & Chris Stone on March 15th, 2018

Yesterday, Big 12 microsite writers Brian Goodman (@BSGoodman) and Chris Stone (@cstonehoops) reviewed Thursday’s Big 12 match-ups. Today, they’re back to talk about the roads ahead starting on Friday for West VirginiaKansas State and Texas.

CS: This is the fourth NCAA Tournament for Press Virginia and so far the Mountaineers have yet to make it past the Sweet Sixteen. That seems odd given how tough their defense is to prepare for. Do you think West Virginia can finally get over the regional semifinals hump this season?

Bob Huggins’ Mountaineers will need some help to make a deep run. (Washington Times)

BG: They certainly can, but it’s going to be a major challenge. The OVC was home to two of the top 15 teams in the country at generating turnovers — Tennessee State and Austin Peay — and Murray State won all three meetings with them. I like West Virginia’s chances to advance on Friday, but the Mountaineers’ pressure will not be anything new to the Racers and they’ve already proven they can win in spite of it. As far as the Round of 32 goes, West Virginia will likely have to contend with a Wichita State team that takes excellent care of the ball and crashes the defensive glass. Furthermore, the neutral environment in San Diego won’t swing the officiating in the same way it often does in Morgantown. And that’s just to get to the Sweet 16. If you can beat Virginia as West Virginia did earlier this year, you can beat anyone, but I don’t see the Mountaineers getting the requisite amount of help they’ll need to go any further.

CS: We’ve got the Marcus Foster Revenge Game coming up in the Round of 64 when Kansas State faces Creighton. Foster’s tenure with the Wildcats didn’t end very well with head coach Bruce Weber making pleas for players who care and will play hard. Who gets the last laugh in this game: Foster or Weber?

BG: Weber should be commended for leading Kansas State safely into the NCAA Tournament, but I’m giving the edge to Foster’s Bluejays in this matchup. While Wildcat guard Barry Brown will be healthy, there hasn’t been much to suggest that forward Dean Wade will be particularly close to 100 percent as he continues to recover from a foot injury. Wade’s ability to hit deep shots and defend the interior without fouling are paramount to Kansas State’s success. Just one other player on the team shoots better than 34 percent from deep (freshman Cartier Diarra) and backup big man Makol Mawien is prone to whistles, so the Wildcats will be will be in for a long night if his mobility is as compromised as it seems.

CS: Texas will be a slight underdog to Nevada in the opening round. If the Longhorns stumble — making it two First Round losses and a missed NCAA Tournament in Shaka Smart‘s first three seasons in Austin — do we start hearing rumblings of unhappiness coming out of central Texas?

BG: It’s possible, but let’s keep a few things in mind. It is true that Smart has underachieved there and the athletic director that originally hired him is no longer at Texas. But the Longhorns desperately needed a point guard coming into this season and got one in Matt Coleman to go along with blue-chip center Mohamed Bamba, only to be snake-bitten by Andrew Jones‘ leukemia diagnosis and Eric Davis‘ alleged involvement in the FBI investigation. As much as some fans don’t want to hear it, there’s been some bad luck there, too. The upshot is that the Longhorns project to return basically everyone of significance aside from Bamba and possibly Kerwin Roach next season, and there’s also the matter of Smart having some $12 million left on his contract. With an early exit this weekend, there might be some discontent in Austin, but I wouldn’t expect it to be actionable.

Brian Goodman (987 Posts)

Brian Goodman a Big 12 microsite writer. You can follow him on Twitter @BSGoodman.

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