Big 12 tourney important for second-division teams

By Steve Sell
March 12, 2019

The Big 12 Conference Basketball Tournament this week is going to be more for the have-nots than the haves.

Regular-season co-champions Kansas State and Texas Tech, along with Kansas, Iowa State and Baylor, are lead-pipe cinches to make the NCAA Tournament. No matter what they do this week, their perception probably won’t change much, if at all. 

But then you have Texas, Oklahoma and TCU that are on the cutline, with their performances in the tournament perhaps making or breaking their case to be in the field.

The tournament begins on Wednesday with the traditional play-in games. TCU and Oklahoma State are matched in the first game, with Oklahoma and West Virginia in the nightcap.

What we do know is that Oklahoma State and West Virginia won’t be in the NCAA Tournament as this was a down year for both.

Texas should get in, but it can wrap up a spot on Thursday in the late game with a win against Kansas, which really wouldn’t be that big of an upset considering how meek the Jayhawks have been away from Allen Field House.

Oklahoma and TCU are also bubble teams, though the Sooners’ domination of Kansas in the last week of the season will carry some weight, while TCU was my biggest disappointment this year as I had picked it second, but injuries played a role in its demise.

I think if TCU takes care of business against Oklahoma State, it will probably get in. Remember, this is a watered-down year throughout the country. Gonzaga, North Carolina, Virginia and Duke probably should get the nod as the Top 4 seeds, though Kentucky is garnering some attention.

Of course, the number of Big 12 teams getting into the field depends on how many Cinderellas emerge from the various postseason tournaments.

I think the team everybody is monitoring is Kansas. The Jayhawks’ 14-year run as the Big 12 Conference champion came to an end and they were a team clouded by numerous issues. There was the loss of star center Udoka Azubuike, the uncertainty and finally ineligibility of Silvio DeSousa, an injury to Marcus Garrett and finally the departure of Lagerald Vick, who coach Bill Self said on Monday will not return to the team for the postseason. At least the Jayhawks can move on without that doubt hanging over their heads.

I’m sure Self is challenging his team, telling it that everybody is counting it out and that it has a chance to quiet the detractors. He’s appealing to their pride and the fact the 1988 championship team came out of nowhere with a stunning run.

What KU fans don’t want to see is a first-round stumble against Texas, which would give the Jayhawks a bad vibe going into the tournament.

I think if KU can at least make it to the second week, that would salvage what has been a tumultuous season. It doesn’t shoot it well enough to get any farther and again, it’s a team whose game doesn’t travel.