The Big 12's national reputation isn't a glorious thing in the world of college basketball. It has a number of programs that have had some success- Oklahoma State, Kansas State and Texas are all routinely good teams and West Virginia, Iowa State, Oklahoma and Baylor are in the tournament often enough, but the league is mainly seen as the home of the Jayhawks and that's about it. There was a thought in some circles that this could be the year that that perception changed- we had co-champions in the regular season, and Kansas looked vulnerable after getting beaten by a bad TCU team and annihilated by NIT-bound Baylor late in the season. And yet, here we are in week two of the Big 12 tournament with only the Jayhawks still playing ball. For another year the Big 12 is a Rock Chalk world and we're just living in it, to the point where even the teams that shared a conference with Kansas in the past were dropped in round 1. Here's what's happened in the tournament so far for the Big 12.
Kansas Jayhawks- In the Sweet Sixteen
The Jayhawks overcame three fairly awful halves of basketball to make their way back into the sweet sixteen, trailing 16 seed Western Kentucky at the half before foul trouble on their bigs doomed the Hilltopper hopes, and trailing 8 seed North Carolina by 9 at the half. Then, for the first time in the tournament, the Kansas that won the Big 12 and earned a 1 seed showed up, laying the wood on the Tar Heels and putting another boot in the backside of former KU coach Roy Williams to the delight of the mob of Jayhawk fans. It means a lot to a lot of programs to still be playing in the second week of the tournament, but for Kansas it's pretty well expected- now the real work begins, as 4 seed Michigan looms, as dangerous a shooting team as there is in the tournament, but also equipped with firepower at center that could challenge Kansas big man Jeff Withey. Center Mitch McGary has led the Wolverines in the tournament, but Withey needs to do more than just scrape a draw in the matchup- he needs to dominate it if Kansas is going to win, due to the advantages Michigan has at the guard positions. I picked Kansas to go fall to Michigan in my predictions last week, and the uninspired performances by the Jayhawks in their first two games make me feel validated in that.
Hawkeye's pick: Sweet 16- Not busted yet.
Next game: vs #4 Michigan
Kansas State Wildcats- Lost round 1
I won't mince words here- I believed in the Wildcats and got burned. I dismissed the winner of the Boise State/La Salle play in game, only to have the Explorers make the sweet 16 while K-State got dismissed by 2. What's worse is that La Salle dominated the majority of the game, running out to an 18 point halftime lead before getting just enough in the second half to squeak out with the win. As much as I'm kicking myself, the Wildcats have to feel much worse though- the bracket would have set up so beautifully for them. Thorn-in-the-side Wisconsin was dismissed by the one man gang of Ole Miss and the #1 seed of their region narrowly avoided an upset in round 1 only to fall hard in round 2- The wildcats wouldn't have faced a single seed higher than they were to make the elite eight and have a shot at Ohio State for the final four. That's going to hurt for a long time to come.
Hawkeye's pick: Elite Eight- Busted
Oklahoma State Cowboys- Lost round 1
Disappointing from a Big 12 perspective, but man did I peg this one. The one area of the game where Oklahoma State had a definite advantage on paper was at point guard with Marcus Smart, only to have him finish with more turnovers than assists. Oregon was severely underseeded, but it's the NCAA tournament- you have to play good teams every game, and Oklahoma State didn't belong on the floor against the ducks, getting absolutely crushed on the boards and never finding a good offensive rhythm as a result. It was a good season for the Cowboys, but it ends on a disappointing note- hopefully for their sake Smart comes back next year.
Hawkeye's pick: Round 1 loss- Correct
Iowa State Cyclones- Lost round 2
Notre Dame apparently only read half the scouting report on Iowa State- the "Cyclones love to shoot threes" part, and as a result got picked apart by drives from Iowans en route to a thorough 76-58 beating. Something about Notre Dame teams in the postseason, huh? Then came Ohio State, where I mentioned the transitive property not working, despite Iowa State getting screwed against Kansas, and... Iowa State got screwed again by a fairly dreadful charge call on Will Clyburn. Still, it likely wouldn't have mattered as Ohio State's Aaron Craft knocked down a pretty three pointer at the buzzer which would have given the Buckeyes the lead even counting those two points taken from Clyburn. A frustrating end to a good season for the Cyclones, but one that I predicted (yay).
Hawkeye's pick: Round 2 loss to Ohio State- Correct
Oklahoma- Lost round 1
The Sooners hung tight with the 7th seeded Aztecs through much of the game, only for San Diego State to pull away late with a run that Oklahoma just had no answer for. If that sounds familiar to you, then you followed TCU basketball this year and you have my condolences. Still, there was no flukeyness about this one, as the fightin' 'Zumas beat Oklahoma in every offensive category, including going 16-17 from the line. I had more faith in Oklahoma than that, though in hindsight it's hard to say why.
Hawkeye's pick: Round 2 loss- D'oh.
Join us again next week when we have a much shorter article about the Big 12's performance in the NCAA tournament. Go Jayhawks? If you want I suppose. For me it's always: