The Big 12 reached its official halfway point this week, which means there are enough data points out there for speculation about NCAA tournament positioning to begin in earnest.
The speculation gets its official stamp of approval from the NCAA this weekend. Taking a page out of the College Football Playoff selection process, the NCAA tournament committee will release its current version of the Top 16 seeds in this year’s tournament field on Saturday.
We should expect to see three Big 12 teams in that group — Baylor and Kansas as likely No. 1 seeds, and West Virginia conceivably anywhere from a 2-4 depending on the committee’s thought process. (Ohio State’s recent resurgence is a much-welcomed boost to the Mountaineers’ resume, so a 3 figures to be the most likely initial seed).
Barring collapse, Texas Tech is safely in the field as an at-large, albeit not as a Top-16 seed. But beyond that, it will be a fight on the bubble for any other Big 12 teams to get into the field.
That means games between the bubble teams and the Big 12’s “safely in” teams are at a premium for the bubble teams — such as West Virginia’s trip to Oklahoma on Saturday.
1. Baylor (20-1, 9-0) Last week: 1
There are a lot of banners in the Ferrell Center rafters, but almost all of them belong to the women’s basketball team. The men haven’t won a conference championship since 1950, but they are halfway to ending that drought.
2. Kansas (19-3, 8-1) Last week: 2
The Jayhawks have back-to-back road games at TCU and West Virginia upcoming. if the Mountaineers are to get close to Kansas, this is the week to pounce.
3. West Virginia (18-4, 6-3) Last week: 3
The Oklahoma game is an important test to see if the Mountaineers are ready to win on the road against a team that has a lot more on the line.
4. Texas Tech (14-8, 5-4) Last week: 4
It should be smooth sailing for the Red Raiders until the first week of March, when they close the regular season with back-to-back doozies against Baylor and Kansas.
5. Oklahoma (14-8, 4-5) Last week: 7
Of the three teams sandwiched together with 4-5 records, the Sooners have the most attractive tournament resume — and it screams “First Four trip to Dayton at best.” Which is why they’re salivating for a win over WVU, Baylor or Kansas.
6. Texas (14-8, 4-5) Last week: 6
The Longhorns have been in every game since getting embarrassed in Morgantown, including last week’s game at Kansas that remained nip-and-tuck until the final five minutes or so. Texas has its work cut out, but there’s still a path for this team to get to the tourney.
7. TCU (13-9, 4-5) Last week: 5
Turns out the Horned Frogs are getting exposed after a Charmin-soft non-conference schedule. TCU has lost four straight and may need a split of its next two games with Kansas and Texas Tech if it wants to resuscitate its tourney hopes.
8. Kansas State (9-13, 2-7) Last week: 8
The Wildcats challenged Baylor before falling by six at home. West Virginia would be perfectly fine with avoiding this matchup in the Big 12 tournament.
9. Oklahoma State (11-11, 1-8) Last week: 10
Congrats to the Cowboys for finally peeking their heads out of our cellar. Though they are last in the Big 12 standings, they’ve gone 2-2 in their past four games, and more closely resemble the team they appeared to be in November.
10. Iowa State (9-13, 2-7) Last week: 9
An utterly lifeless Cyclone team was on display in Morgantown. These guys feel a lot like West Virginia last year — you see there’s talent, but no one appears to be on the same page.