There were no surprises on Selection Sunday in the Big 12 Conference. Kansas earned a #1 seed after winning the league tournament this weekend. Kansas State and Oklahoma State, the two other Top 25 teams in the conference, got top-five seeds. Oklahoma and Iowa State weren’t locks, but they had decent resumes heading into Sunday and both earned at-large bids without much debate. And Baylor, after bowing out in the quarterfinals of the Big 12 Tournament to the Cowboys, was relegated to the NIT. That’s what we thought would happen. So that’s five Big 12 teams in the NCAA Tournament, representative of a good-but-not-great year in the league. In the hours after Selection Sunday, here are a few quick reactions to each team’s respective draws:
- Kansas State gets Kansas City: We knew Kansas would return to the Sprint Center for the Second and Third Rounds. That was a given. But after Kansas State lost to the Jayhawks in the finals on Saturday, it certainly wasn’t a given that the committee would send the Wildcats there. Fortunately for Bruce Weber, it got a lucky draw and can now bus a few hours from Manhattan for its second round game against the winner of La Salle/Boise State. After the loss on Saturday, Weber recalled his Illinois team’s trip to nearby St. Louis for the 2005 Final Four and said he’d of course enjoy a similar home atmosphere on the first weekend of the Tournament this March. There will surely be Jayhawks blue in the stands rooting against the Wildcats, but if they make it to the Third Round, they’ll have a significant advantage against either Ole Miss or Wisconsin. There’s an argument that playing in front of a semi-home crowd adds more pressure — Weber also recalled this particular situation occurring during his days as an assistant at Purdue — but we’re not sure that holds much weight. Bottom line is, playing a few hours from home is a big deal. It matters. It changes the dynamics of the match-up. And for a #4 seed especially, it’s a really fortunate situation.
- Oklahoma State and collateral damage: Everybody’s angry that Oregon received a #12 seed. It doesn’t seem to make any logical sense, but the lost storyline here is how it affects Oklahoma State. The Cowboys now have to play the Pac-12 Tournament champions in their first NCAA Tournament game — and they’re the #5 seed, for crying out loud! Travis Ford’s team could not have drawn a worse #12 seed. It’s criminal, really. Oregon won at UNLV, beat Arizona and knocked off UCLA twice. You could argue that Oregon’s almost as good a team as Oklahoma State, based on both pure talent and resume. Life ain’t fair, is it?
- No worries for Iowa State and Oklahoma: They did it. They got in, both as #10 seeds. The bubble wasn’t very strong this year (which seems to be a trend during the past five years or so, whatever that means for college basketball), but after the Big 12 Tournament, these two teams were far from locks. Oklahoma looked like it might be in trouble after completely imploding in a loss to the Cyclones in the quarterfinals, and then Iowa State went out and hardly competed with Kansas in the semifinals. The committee gave them difficult match-ups: Oklahoma faces San Diego State, and Iowa State will play Notre Dame. Both of those teams have been ranked in the Top 25 at some point this year and may be a little bit underseeded. But the important thing is that both ISU and OU got in. For the Sooners, it’s a notable accomplishment for Lon Kruger in just his second year. It’s been a quick rebuilding process, that’s for sure, but we’d expect nothing less from Kruger. And Fred Hoiberg did a nice job with this team after losing Royce White, Chris Allen and Scott Christopherson. The Cyclones are a fun, high-octane team that could surprise some people if they knock down some threes (you know they love to shoot them). Read the rest of this entry »