The Big 12 opened its conference season in men’s basketball with Kansas State hosting Oklahoma State back on the first weekend in January. It seems only fitting that those same two teams would meet again on the final weekend of the regular season, with the conference title still at stake.
Depending on the outcome of Saturday’s game between Kansas and Baylor in Waco, a victory by Kansas State and a season sweep over Oklahoma State would either give the Wildcats their first regular-season Big 12 championship in basketball or, at the very least, a share of the conference crown with the Jayhawks. But all of that is moot if Kansas State is not able to get by the Cowboys in Stillwater, and everyone who follows Big 12 basketball knows that OSU’s Gallagher-Iba Arena in one of the most difficult road venues in the country.
On Friday, I will preview the Kansas State-Oklahoma State game and offer up some things to watch for in the game as well as a predicted outcome, but for the purposes of this story let’s assume that nothing that happens on Saturday affects the seeding for Championship Week and next week’s Big 12 postseason tournament.
If Kansas gets by Baylor, which everybody in the upper echelon of the Big 12 has managed to do over the last month or so, nothing will change from the way things stand right now. Kansas would go into the Big 12 Tournament as the top seed, followed by Kansas State (2), Oklahoma State (3), Oklahoma (4), Iowa State (5) and Baylor (6). Texas needs a win at Texas Tech Saturday combined with an Iowa State victory at West Virginia to edge out West Virginia for the seventh seed. Otherwise, the Mountaineers would claim the seventh spot because of their two wins this season over Texas. Texas Tech has the ninth position locked down, followed by cellar-dweller TCU, the 10th seed.
As the bottom four teams in the conference standings this season, West Virginia (8) would play Texas Tech (9) and Texas (7) would be matched up with TCU (the No. 10 seed) on Wednesday at Sprint Center in Kansas City in two play-in games. The winners of these two games will advance to the quarterfinal round on Thursday. The top six seeds, based on the final conference standings, receive opening-round byes.
That brings us to the seven games over three rounds that will decide this year’s Big 12 Conference Tournament champion and the league’s automatic bid to the 68-team field that will make up the 2013 NCAA Tournament. Here is how I see the Big 12 Tournament games playing out:
Play-in Round (Wednesday, March 13)
West Virginia 71, Texas Tech 63
Texas 78, TCU 61
Quarterfinals (Thursday, March 14)
Oklahoma 76, Iowa State 72
Kansas 82, West Virginia 65
Kansas State 75, Texas 64
Oklahoma State 75, Baylor 65
Semifinals (Friday, March 15)
Kansas 80, Oklahoma 68
Oklahoma State 73, Kansas State 65
Championship (Saturday, March 16)
Kansas 79, Oklahoma State 72
Selection Sunday falls on St. Patrick’s Day this year (Sunday, March 17), which could be a good omen for schools like Notre Dame (the Fightimg Irish) and teams that have green as their school colors. We’ll have to wait and see what that might mean for Baylor in the Big 12. Realistically, Baylor is probably looking at the National Invitation Tournament unless, by some strange miracle, the Bears are able to pull the upet over Kansas in the regular-season finale on Saturday. Even that probably won’t be enough to get Baylor in the Big Dance, though.
That pretty much narrows the number of NCAA Tournament bids to five expected to be extended to Big 12 schools: Kansas (automatic qualifier), Kansas State, Oklahoma State, Oklahoma and Iowa State. Here is how I project those teams being seeded for the start of March Madness, which tips off in earnest two weeks from today.
Kansas Jayhawks – No. 1 seed
Kansas State Wildcats – 3 seed
Oklahoma State Cowboys – 5 seed
Oklahoma Sooners – 8 seed
Iowa State Cyclones – 10 seed
So there you you have it. The long wait is almost over. It’s time to stock up on the requisite supplies, sharpen your pencils so you’ll be ready to fill out all those brackets, catch a quick breath and get set to settle back for the coming of the Ides of March along with all the hoops Madness. Two weeks fron now it will be 24/7, wall-to-wall college basketball.
As for the rest of you – well, I guess you’re on your own.
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