NCAA Tournament Instareaction: Big 12 Edition

Posted by Brian Goodman on March 17th, 2019

There’s no way around it: The Big 12 had a down year, propelling fewer than seven teams to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2013 (five). Despite having a smaller presence than usual, the pressure will be on the league to have a team make a deep run — and all the better if that team is not Kansas. Compared to some of the other power conferences, the Big 12 may be light at the top, but the middle of the league is sufficiently meaty. Here are some quick thoughts on each team’s draw.

Is Texas Tech Ready for Another Run to the Second Weekend (USA Today Images)

Texas Tech (#3 Midwest)

  • Quick First Round Preview: Northern Kentucky is a spicy match-up for Texas Tech’s robust defense. The Norse move the ball extremely well, assisting on a higher percentage of all their shots than all but four teams in college basketball. Fortunately for the Red Raiders, Northern Kentucky’s defense isn’t much to write home about.
  • Intriguing Potential Match-up: Buffalo in the Round of 32. The Bulls have repeatedly shown that they aren’t afraid of major conference powers and are loaded with experience. Texas Tech won a share of the Big 12 this season by loading up on transfers and having one freshman make a big enough leap to turn himself into a lottery pick. There are more than one ways to skin a cat, but what’s the best way?
  • Final Word: It’s reassuring that last Thursday’s neutral court loss to West Virginia didn’t have a measurable effect on the Red Raiders’ seeding. Their region has the most manageable pair of top seeds (North Carolina and Kentucky), so I’ll be very curious to see if Chris Beard can deliver Lubbock its first Final Four.

Kansas (#4 Midwest)

  • Quick First Round Preview: Northeastern is a small team that isn’t shy about firing away from deep and is a very good defensive rebounding team despite its relative lack of size. If the Huskies get hot from long range, anything can happen, but they struggled mightily in earlier losses to Syracuse and Virginia Tech. Kansas fans shouldn’t be too concerned about this game.
  • Intriguing Potential Match-up: North Carolina in the Sweet Sixteen. The Jayhawks have faced off against their previous coach multiple times over the last 10 years and could certainly be poised to do so again. From a match-up standpoint, however, a game with Auburn in the Round of 32 would be an interesting tilt. The Tigers, like Kansas, have experienced some head-scratching losses this season, but the their defense could cause problems for the inconsistent Jayhawks’ offense.
  • Final Word: The Jayhawks got a massive break by being placed in the Midwest Region despite finishing third in the Big 12, a testament to the staff’s savvy non-conference scheduling. This team is so tough to peg that it’s challenging to see them winning enough to earn a trip back to Kansas City, much less winning there and advancing to consecutive Final Fours.

Kansas State (#4 South)

  • Quick First Round Preview: The Anteaters are no slouch, having beaten Saint Mary’s and Texas A&M on the road earlier this season. They also have the country’s best two-point field goal percentage defense, which could make for a problematic outing for Kansas State if Barry Brown, Kamau Stokes and Xavier Sneed cannot connect from distance. Although the Wildcats will be favored in this game without Dean Wade, having him back would make me feel much more comfortable about predicting them to advance.
  • Intriguing Potential Match-up: Oregon in the Round of 32. There aren’t many coaches who know firsthand just how difficult it is to have success in Manhattan, but one of those is current Ducks head coach Dana Altman, who led the Wildcats to the Big Dance in 1993, the same year he won Big Eight Coach of the Year.
  • Final Word: It’s tough to see the Wildcats without a healthy Wade making it back to the Elite Eight again, but this team has been overachieving all season long.

Iowa State (#6 Midwest)

Iowa State is Fresh Off Another Big 12 Tournament Title (USA Today Images)
  • Quick First Round Preview: Six years after being done in by a buzzer-beating three-pointer from Aaron Craft, the Cyclones finally get their chance to exact some revenge. Georges Niang is watching, fellas. Fortunately for Iowa State, Ohio State is as forgettable a #11 seed as it gets. Iowa State has turned in some clunkers itself, but they should be alright on Thursday.
  • Intriguing Potential Match-up: Houston in the Round of 32. Pitting one of the country’s most explosive offenses with one of the country’s best defenses would make for great theater this Saturday in Tulsa.
  • Final Word: Iowa State is riding high after capturing its fourth Big 12 Tournament title in six seasons and will be a trendy pick to advance deeper than its #6 seed would suggest.

Baylor (#9 West)

  • Quick First Round Preview: The Bears are the country’s second-best offensive rebounding team, while Syracuse struggles mightily on the defensive glass. The key for Baylor will be holding on to the ball and hitting their threes over the Orange’s zone.
  • Intriguing Potential Match-up: If Scott Drew’s team prevails in the battle of zones, it will get a crack at #1 Gonzaga, setting the stage for a fight between the most decorated coaches in their respective program’s histories.
  • Final Word: The Bears always seem to find themselves in the thick of it in the NCAA Tournament. When they aren’t losing to Cinderella teams like Georgia State and Yale, they’re making deep runs. This team is more likely to have an early exit than make the second weekend, but it will be fun to tune in on the Bears regardless.

Oklahoma (#9 South)

  • Quick First Round Preview: The Selection Committee threw Christian James and the Sooners a life raft after a monitor review concluded that the senior’s toe was just over the line on what would have been a game-winning three-pointer in last Wednesday’s Big 12 Tournament loss against West Virginia. Oklahoma’s match-up with the Rebels will be a battle between coaches who have a way of extracting every last bit of production out of unimpressive rosters. This one is going to be a complete toss-up.
  • Intriguing Potential Match-up: I like Lon Kruger just as much as the next guy, but the Sooners probably aren’t going to make the Sweet Sixteen so let’s focus on their match-up should both Oklahoma and top-seeded Virginia advance. Everyone wants to be the team to send the #1 seed home early, and if James and Brady Manek erupt, they might just have a prayer.
  • Final Word: The Sooners weren’t expected to do much this year, so a good showing on Friday would be a bonus even if it doesn’t result in a win.
Brian Goodman (987 Posts)

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

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