March Madness is almost upon us, and as fans of TCU I'm sure a lot of you aren't really sure who to pull for, or who to slide ahead in your bracket because- let's face it, TCU fans are football fans (and occasionally baseball fans like Fungo). Still, the Big 12 has been our dream league for over a decade, and now that we're finally here it's likely that a lot of you will be pulling for Big 12 teams in the NCAA tournament- especially since none of our Texan rivals made it. Who in the Big 12 has the goods to make your bracket shine? We'll go through all of the Big 12 schools and their matchups to see who is most likely to make a deep run and who may be vulnerable early.
Kansas Jayhawks- #1 seed in the South region
I was quite surprised that the Jayhawks ended up earning a #1 seed, as they were the victims of the worst statistical upset in over twenty years (to us, of course). Still the Jayhawks co-won the league, won the Big 12 tournament and boasted some quality non-conference scalps, including #2 seed Ohio State. Kansas has talent and depth, but the worst point guard play of any of the top 8 seeds and a challenging bracket. On the plus side, Kansas will almost certainly not be the first victim of a 1/16 upset as they match up well with Western Kentucky, but round 2 will see the Jayhawks opposite a North Carolina team that is peaking at the right time or a strong defensive Villanova Team that has already beaten a #1 and a #2 seed this year. In the sweet sixteen a matchup with either VCU or Michigan likely looms, with Michigan being the more dangerous of the two in my opinion- The Wolverives have Big 10 (and possibly national) player of the year Trey Burke at point guard where the Jayhawks are weakest and have the potential to shoot the Jayhawks out of the building if the defense has to help too much on Burke. It's a tough road for the Jayhawks to reach the Final Four and I don't think that they'll do it.
Betting Line: 10-1 to win the title
Hawkeye's prediction: Sweet Sixteen loss to Michigan
Kansas State Wildcats- #4 Seed in the West region
Not a ton of respect for the Wildcats, as the Co-Big 12 champs get a four seed and a possible sweet sixteen matchup with a team that whooped them in the regular season. Kansas State shouldn't struggle too much with the winner of the Boise State/La Salle matchup, but a round two matchup with either the SEC tourney champion Ole Miss Rebels or the wizards of slowness and ugly basketball Wisconsin Badgers. Wisconsin is much like TCU this year in that they take the air out of the ball and try to keep games close by minimizing possessions, with the two differences being: They have more talent than the frogs, and they are not likely to change to a more fan-friendly scheme with improved recruiting. Kansas State will struggle with Wisconsin more than they would with Ole Miss, but they have a tough senior team that isn't going to be discouraged or baited in to playing badger ball. In the sweet sixteen Gonzaga looms, but the selector's disservice may be just what the Wildcats needed, as the Zags haven't played NCAA level competition since a loss to Butler. The intensity ratchets up in the tournament, and the Wildcat team facing Gonzaga will be a much more battle tested team than the one the Bulldogs beat in December. Should the Wildcats beat Gonzaga the region could be open to them, as Ohio State will face a tough road to the elite eight.
Betting Line: 60-1 to win the title
Hawkeye's prediction: Elite Eight loss to Ohio State, but the Big 12 team most likely to make the Final Four
Oklahoma State Cowboys- #5 seed in the Midwest Region
The Cowboys looked like a 4 seed to me, but instead Okie State lands in the dreaded 5/12 matchup against the criminally underseeded Pac 12 champion Oregon Ducks. Oklahoma State is a dangerous team, but will have no game that they can catch their breath in- the Oregon Ducks will be followed by top #4 seed St. Louis who has the defensive intensity to dispatch the Cowboys. If they somehow make it to the sweet sixteen top overall seed Louisville awaits. Don't bet big on the Cowboys.
Betting Line: 100-1 to win the title
Hawkeye's prediction: Round 1 loss to Oregon.
Iowa State Cyclones- #10 seed in the West region
The Cyclones are a very dangerous offensive team, which means that they're certainly capable of pulling an upset or two if their shots are falling. A first round matchup with Notre Dame should favor the explosive Cyclones, but the bracket turns cruel as Big Ten tournament champ Ohio State looms in the second round. There's certainly nothing out there that says Iowa State can't beat Ohio State- they "almost" (read as: actually did, but got screwed) beat Kansas, and Kansas beat Ohio State, but the transitive property isn't one to rely on in college basketball. Iowa State could make the sweet sixteen, but I'd be as shocked if they did.
Betting Line: 500-1 to win the title
Hawkeye's prediction: Round 2 loss to Ohio State
Oklahoma Sooners- #10 seed in the South region
While the Cowboys are suffering from a tough matchup as a result of poor seeding, the Sooners seem likely to benefit from the committee's love of the Mountain West conference this year. Although the Mountain West is a great league, San Diego State is a weak 7 seed and the Sooners have about a 50/50 shot of pulling the upset over the Aztecs. Don't get carried away with the Sooners though, as though they may be even money to pull past the fightin' Montezumas they have a hundred-to-one chance at best against Big East champion Georgetown in round two. Still, the Sooners will be happy to make it further in the tournament than the Cowboys, when the seeds of Oregon and San Diego State should really have been switched.
Betting Line: 500-1 to win the title
Hawkeye's prediction: Round 2 loss to Georgetown
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