Even without a clear national title contender beyond Kansas, it’s impossible to deny that this season has been hugely successful for the Big 12. No matter what you value, the conference has it.
- Top-shelf NBA Draft talent (Andrew Wiggins, Joel Embiid, Marcus Smart)
- Fantastic upperclassmen (Melvin Ejim, Markel Brown, Juwan Staten, Cory Jefferson, Cameron Clark)
- Impact transfers (DeAndre Kane, Ryan Spangler, Tarik Black)
- Coaches who have done remarkable jobs getting their teams to buy in (Bill Self, Rick Barnes, Fred Hoiberg and Lon Kruger)
That’s not to say that the season hasn’t had its low points (Marcus Smart getting popped for three games after shoving a fan; West Virginia shooting itself in the foot with early season losses; TCU’s continued struggle to make any discernible noise), but all in all, it’s been a fantastic year for the Big 12. The most impressive thing about the conference, however, doesn’t have as much to do with the here and now as it does with what could be on Selection Sunday: A league record-tying seven NCAA Tournament bids.
At the beginning of the season, most prognosticators pegged the Big 12 as a five-bid league. Granted, at the time, Oklahoma State and Baylor weren’t believed to be the teams that would need wins at the end of the regular season to earn bids, but that’s how things have shaken out as Kansas State, Texas and Oklahoma have overachieved as the Cowboys and Bears struggled. But with Travis Ford and Scott Drew’s teams now clicking again, the odds of the conference squeezing not five, not six, but seven teams into the NCAA Tournament, are rising. If seven bids come to pass, it would tie a league record set in 2010, but if we’re nitpicking, seven bids in 2014 would be even more impressive than seven bids in 2010, and I’ll explain why.