The madness is mounting nationwide and the fans are forming and storming at regional basketball venues around the country on the eve of the 2013 NCAA Tournament. The Big 12 sends five to this year’s tournament – a top seed (Kansas), four and five seeds (Kansas State and Oklahoma State) and a pair of 10 seeds (Iowa State and Oklahoma).
This is the sixth straight year at least five schools from the Big 12 have received bids to the three-week tournament. The five teams frepresenting the conference this year have a combined 131 NCAA appearances all-time. Upsets can abound in a single-elimination win-or-go-home atmosphere such as exists every year in the NCAA Basketball championship. That is one of the great allures about the NCAA tourney and this time of you.
For the most part, the Big 12 has done a reasonably good job of avoiding going down in the first game and surviving to play another day. Over the last four years, teams from the Big 12 Conference are 18-6 in their first games in NCAA play or prior to the cutdown to 32 teams after Thursday/Friday games. The big 12 also has done well in terms of overall tournament success. The Big 12 has won nearly 62 percent of its NCAA Tournament games.
Here is how we see the opening games going for the five Big 12 representatives in this year’s tournament:
Oklahoma State (24-8) draws the opening-game assignment, the only Big 12 team on a Thursday/Saturday schedule. And even then, the Cowboys don’t play until approimately 9:20 ET in San Jose, Calif. The No. 5 seed in the Midwest Regian, OSU is matched up with Pac-12 champion Oregon (26-8), the 12-seed in the Midwest. This could be a difficult first-game test for Oklahoma State, because a number of experts believe thue Ducks are a better team that their low seed indicates. Oregon is the automatic qualifier out of the Pac-12 by winning the conference tournament, but the Ducks came close to winning the regular-season title as well.
The Cowboys finished the season strong and have one of the best freshman players in the country in guard Marcus Smart, Big 12 Player of the Year. He hasexcellent talent around him in Markel Brown and Le’Bryan Nash, but both have been inconsistent at times, and OSU can’t afford for that to happen against the quality of teams in this tournament. At one point in time, the Cowboys had some difficulty winning away from home, but that has not been an issue this year. I see Smart and Co. getting by the pesky Ducks on Thursday and then having a real good shot of eliminating St. Louis (27-6) on Saturday in their play-in game to the Sweet 16
Iowa State (22-11) is in Dayton, Ohio, where they are paired with Nortre Dame (25-9) in the late game Friday night. The Cyclones are the best three-point shooting ream in the country, shooting a 38 percent accuracy behind the three-point line. And it’s noit just one or two guys who can shoot them, its every one of the starting five. Plus, the teams best three-point shooter, senior Tyrus McGee, comes off the bench as the sixth man. The Cyclones are willing to live and die on their ability to make threes, but they are so good at it that it spreads the defense and opens lanes to the basket or dropoffs deep to the rim. Notre Dame has one of the best inside players in the country in 6-9 Jack Cooley. The Irish should have an advantange in the paint. This matchup, however, is going to come down to how well the Notre Dame guards can defend Iowa State’s firepower on the perimeter. I see Iowa State surviving Notre Dame and moving on to the round of 32 before losing to Ohio State on Sunday.
Oklahoma (20-11) is the 10 seed in the South Region. The Sooners will play the San Diego State Aztecs (22-10) out of the Mountain West Conference in a game scheduled for 9:20 Friday night in Philadelphia. OU gets solid play out of its front line, headed by senior 6-9 forward Romero Osby, the team’s leading scorer. OU is coming off of two straight losses and three of its last four. The Sooners are going to have to have more consistent production and better ball handling out of their guards. Otherwise, San Diego State will take a page out of Iowa State’s second-half adjustment in the Big 12 Tournament last week and pack in the paint to deny Osby and Amath M’Baye the ball down low.
The Sooners have had trouble all season closing out teams after holding double-digit second-half leads. This cost them two games they should have won in the final weeks of the regular season. If they don’t get that corrected, the Sooners 2012 NCAA journey to the tourney will be done in one fell swoop. San Diego will be the one being chased in this game and, in all likelihood, OU will be one and done in this one, putting a swift end to head coach Lon Kruger’s unprecedented milestone of having taken five different teams to the NCAA Tournament.
Kansas State (27-7) will have to wait until later on Wednesday before knowing who it will play Friday at 3:10 ET at the Sprint Center in Kansas City. The Wildcats get the winner of the LaSalle (21-9) – Boise State (21-10) play-in game, which will take place Wednesday night in Dayton, Ohio. I don’t see that it much matters, Kansas State should not have much trouble with either Boise State or LaSalle. Either way, the Wildcats are too much for either to handle. Bruce Weber has his team playing with great confidence. They are patient, they believe in and trust each other, and they generally don’t take bad shots. And they play strong defense and don’t beat themselves.
K-State would get the winner of the Ole Miss vs. Wisconsin game. I see Wisconsin getting the best of what should be a tired Mississippi team that had to win the SEC Tournament last week just to earn a bid to the NCAA tourney. Wisconsin will be a tough out, but will probably hold the keys on Sunday to Kansas State going on or going home.
Finally, Kansas gets the privilege (as does Kansas State) of playing its first weekend of action in the NCAA Tournament in Kansas City and only 30 minutes of so away from its campus. The Jayhawks get Western Kentucky (20-15) first in the late game on Friday night at the Sprint Center. The Hilltoppers can give Kansas more trouble than most people think think, but KU’s senior leadership and deep talent is more than Western Kentucky can handle over a full 40 minutes. No, 16-1 upset in this one. The Jayhawks’ next game, however, poses an intrigueing storyline: Kansas coach Bill Self against former Kansas coach Roy Williams and North Carolina. That assumes, of course, that the eighth-seeded Tar Heels are able to get by first-round opponent Villanova.
Recap of Big 12 First and Second Round NCAA Projections
Oklahoma Sate over Oregon (Thursday)
Oklahoma State over Wichita State
Kansas State over Boise State
Wisconsin over Kansas State
Kansas over Western Kentucky (Friday)
Kansas over North Carolina ((Sunday)
San Diego State over Oklahoma
Iowa State over Notre Dame
Ohio State over Iowa State
Check out Bracketology and all of the March Madeness results and how it affects your favorite Big 12 school at Talking12.com.