Currently No. 3 in the nation in both polls, the Jayhawks have a legitimate chance of getting a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament. Kansas has not only won seven straight games, it has dominated its opponents. Five of those seven wins are by 18 or more points. With potential No. 1 seeds Wisconsin and Florida (which Kansas beat in a neutral-site game) each losing twice recently, that leaves Kansas as a possible favorite for a top seed. And that may be important for a team that has been eliminated in the first round in the last two NCAA tournaments.
The only question for the Aggies is what seed they will receive in the NCAA tournament. It appears most likely they will get a No. 2 seed, but a No. 1 is still a possibility. What will hurt Texas A&M is its nonconference schedule. It played only two ranked teams outside of the Big 12 and lost both of those games, at UCLA and at LSU. A win at Kansas, the first-ever win by a Big 12 South team in Lawrence, will help the Aggies’ chances of landing a top seed. Winning the Big 12 tournament, in addition to not losing before the regular season ends, would make it tough for the NCAA tournament committee to overlook the Aggies as a No. 1 seed.
The Big 12 will get no fewer than three teams into the NCAA tournament. And Texas has to be one of those teams. Currently third in the conference standings, the Longhorns are most likely looking at a seed somewhere in the 4-7 range. Texas would be seeded higher, but it is missing a high-quality win outside of the conference. Helping the Longhorns is the fact that they are on a five-game winning streak. In the past, the NCAA Tournament selection committee has tended to reward teams that are playing their best at the end of the season as the tournament approaches.
Coach Bob Huggins has NCAA tournament talk back in Manahattan, Kan., for the first time in more than a decade. Reaching the 10-win mark in the conference will be important for the Wildcats. What could get the Wildcats into the tournament as an at-large team is their quality road win at Texas, the third place team in the conference standings. The Big 12 tournament will be as important for Kansas State as it will for any other team. The Wildcats will likely receive a first-round bye. In order to make the NCAA tournament, they probably will have to win a game in the second round. And they may have to advance further depending on how they finish up the regular season.
While the Red Raiders are only .500 in the Big 12, they have to like their chances of reaching the NCAA tournament. Texas Tech played a tougher out-of-conference schedule than any team in the conference, and clearly the experience helped it for Big 12 play. The Red Raiders are 3-0 against the Big 12’s top two teams, Kansas and Texas A&M. But they did go on a five-game losing streak in the conference, including two home losses. If they get in, it will most likely be a No. 10 seed or higher.
The Sooners are most likely looking at an NIT bid in coach Jeff Capel’s first season at Oklahoma. A win Monday against Kansas, a game they lost by only two points, would have made that almost a sure thing. The loss was the fifth straight for the Sooners, who still have to play at fourth-place Kansas State on Saturday. If they finish out the regular season on a six-game losing streak, they might not be playing in any postseason tournament at all, despite starting the conference season 6-4.
Through January, Oklahoma State was headed for the NCAA tournament with a seed as high as a four. Since, the Cowboys have lost six of seven, including a devastating loss to Texas Tech on Saturday. Oklahoma State has yet to win a road game this season. And no at-large tournament team has ever gone winless on the road. The Cowboys’ have two road games left, at Baylor on March 3 and a makeup game at Nebraska two days later. If the Cowboys fail to make the tournament, they are a lock to be selected to play in the NIT.
While the Huskers’ chances of making the NCAA tournament are all but gone, they remain a possible selection for the NIT. Nebraska’s final three games (Iowa State, Colorado and Oklahoma State), along with the Big 12 tournament, will be the deciding factor in determining whether or not it will be playing in the postseason this year. Nebraska does have a few quality wins, including Creighton, Kansas State, at Texas Tech and at Missouri.
Coach Greg McDermott’s first year at Iowa State will not result in an NCAA tournament bid, but it may get the Cyclones into the NIT. In order to accomplish that, however, the Cyclones must finish the season at least .500. Currently, they are 14-14. Iowa State will also need to win at least a couple games of the remaining ones on its schedule, including the Big 12 tournament. The Cyclones have two games left on their regular-season schedule, at Nebraska and at home against Texas Tech, both teams that will be fighting for their possible postseason selections.
The Bears, under coach Scott Drew, are still in the rebuilding stage in the Big 12. They will not be playing in the postseason. Baylor has not beaten any Big 12 team that has a winning record in conference play. But its win against 7-7 Texas Tech might change how the tournament committee looks at the Red Raiders. The Bears will have to be predicting improvement for next season. Only two players graduate after the season, and neither of those players are in the Bears’ top five scoring leaders this season. In the final two games of its schedule, Baylor will be trying to avoid finishing last in the conference. Currently, Colorado is one win behind the Bears.
Coach Ricardo Patton’s final year at Colorado will not include any postseason play. In fact, Colorado’s chances of not taking last in the Big 12 are slim. The Buffaloes have only won two games in conference play, and are 6-18 overall this season. One of their two conference wins came against Oklahoma State, which missed a chance to get its only road win this season while playing against the league’s worst team. A two-win conference season will not make the soon-to-be coach opening in Boulder, Colo. as attractive of a job as the Buffaloes had originally hoped.