To reach the NCAA Tournament, Big 12 Conference teams have needed at least nine conference wins.
Because of the Big 12’s increasing parity, this seven-year old pattern might change, and teams with an 8-8 Big 12 record might not have their bubbles burst.
The Big 12’s coaches discussed the possibility of a .500 team gaining an at-large berth to the NCAA’s field of 65 in the weekly conference call.
“In the end, I think the question that the tournament committee is trying to answer is, ‘Who are the best teams?’” Nebraska coach Barry Collier said. “Without question, the play in some leagues is clearly better than other leagues.
“The league records speak a lot more in one league than in another, so I think you have to consider that.”
Nebraska, which is a big reason for the balance in the league, has climbed within two games of .500. Wins at Kansas on Wednesday and at Colorado on Saturday would greatly aid the Cornhuskers’ chances.
“I think you’d have to be dumber than a sack of hammers not to understand how good this league is and what it would mean to do something like (going .500),” Collier said.
The Cornhuskers (16-10, 6-8 Big 12) came on strong after a 1-6 start in the Big 12, including a 72-44 win against then-No. 25 Texas Tech. The Cornhuskers have not made the NCAA Tournament since 1998 when they finished fourth in the Big 12.
Iowa State coach Wayne Morgan said if the Cyclones (15-10, 6-8) can win their final two regular season games and win a few in the Big 12 Tournament, they would have to receive consideration for an NCAA berth.
Although nearly unbeatable at home, the Cyclones have yet to win a Big 12 road game, and they close the season at Texas Tech on Saturday.
Oklahoma, the three-time defending Big 12 Tournament champion, joins the Cornhuskers and the Cyclones in a similar situation, a game back of sixth place.
Even though Oklahoma (16-9, 6-8) has struggled at times, Colorado coach Ricardo Patton said the Sooners will present a challenge for whomever they play in Dallas.
“What we’re seeing is just how tough this conference is,” Patton said. “(The Sooners have) always played extremely hard and physical basketball, and they are battle tested.”
The Sooners won key nonconference games at then-No. 8 Michigan State on Dec. 6 and against Purdue on Dec. 11. In addition, the Sooners have an RPI rating of 44, according to rpiratings.com.
“It would be best to have a real clear division, but that’s never the case,” Collier said. “(Teams) 63, 64 and 65 (in the tournament) are tough calls for that committee.”
PADGETT SIDELINED: After falling awkwardly in Kansas’ 79-58 win against Oklahoma on Sunday, Kansas freshman David Padgett has a sprained right ankle and probably will miss the Jayhawks’ next two games.
Jayhawk coach Bill Self said Padgett will need to use crutches for the next few days.
“I can’t anticipate him being ready Wednesday, and he would be a serious question mark for Sunday,” Self said.
Self also said it would be more realistic to expect Padgett to return for the Big 12 Tournament, which begins March 11.
The Jayhawks (18-7, 10-4) host Nebraska on Wednesday and travel to Missouri in the regular-season finale Sunday.
Padgett, who averages 6.9 points and 4.9 rebounds, had jumped for a rebound when he fell in the second half.
WEEKLY HONORS: Texas’ P.J. Tucker won Big 12 Rookie of the Week Award for the fourth time this season.
Tucker, a 6-5 forward, scored 13 points per game and had nine rebounds per game in Texas’ two wins against ranked opponents this week.
Tucker made two free throws with 28 seconds left to secure the Longhorns’ 74-71 win against Texas Tech on Saturday. He had 11 points and eight rebounds against Kansas on Monday.