Last season, our friends over at Rock Chalk Talk began a tradition of inviting each of the Big 12 SB Nation blogs to participate in a lively roundtable discussion on the eve of the NCAA Tournament. What follows is an in-depth conversation about the Big Dance, both in general and from a conference perspective. I'd like to take a second to thank misterbrain for inviting us to participate as well as for moderating our discussion. Without further ado, let's go!
First of all, let's do a little roll call. Let us know who you are, which blog you are representing, and either where/when your team is playing in the NCAA Tournament, or which Big 12 team you are pulling for now that your team is done playing.
Bitterwhiteguy/Barking Carnival (Texas Longhorns)/Willing To Do Any Podcast Regardless Of Topic
Kevin Fitzpatrick/Wide Right & Natty Lite (Iowa State Cyclones)/Scared of Podcasting Regardless of Topic
PB/Burnt Orange Nation (Texas)/Scarred from Podcasting with Spencer Hall
Eric Rubottom (formerly TheBigE)/Bring On The Cats (Kansas State Wildcats)/Perpetually Upset with Big 12 Officiating
Gerald Tracy/Cowboys Ride For Free (Oklahoma State Cowboys)/Postseason Success Is Unnecessary
David Fankhauser/Our Daily Bears (Baylor Bears)/Wondering How My Soul Is Going To Be Broken This March
Drew Borsellino/Viva The Matadors (Texas Tech Red Raiders)/We're Kind of New to This Whole Postseason Thing
Andrew Felts/Frogs O' War (TCU Horned Frogs)/This Is About Baseball, Right?
Matt Kirchner/Smoking Musket(West Virginia Mountaineers)/Immediately Drowned Out By Whistles
Rich DeCray/Crimson & Cream Machine(Oklahoma Sooners)/What Does The President Know About Basketball Anyways!
misterbrain/Rock Chalk Talk (Kansas Jayhawks)/Relieved We Don't Have A Star Center To Be Injured Going Into This Tournament.
So the Big 12 got 7 teams in the tournament. Which one was the most surprising (either the fact they got a bid or the seed/region they received)?
BWG: The most surprising bid is Texas Tech, mainly because Tubby Smith was able to divine the ability to get into the NCAAs with a bag of feral cats at his disposal. Even still, several national writers wanted to give Bill Self the B12 CotY award because he managed to get his roster of 5-star athletes to agree to share the ball between dunk sessions & AAU shoe deals.
Fitzy: I'd have to agree with Texas Tech being the most surprising. Going .500 in this year's version of the Big 12 is nothing short of spectacular considering what the Red Raiders have had to build from. The fact that they are technically in the top half of the tournament field is a credit to the job that Tubby's done in Lubbock. It'll be interesting to see whether they can build on their success next season.
PB: If you mean who was the most surprising given expectations, then Tech, for sure. But if you're asking about whose placement was a bit surprising, I'd have to say West Virginia on the 3-line. You can justify Michigan State and OU (barely) ahead of the Mountaineers, but Villanova and Xavier? Come on, pick one as the Big East's best, but the difference between the Big 12 -- where West Virginia finished 2nd and made the finals of the conference tournament -- and Big East was substantial. Roughly equivalent to the difference between a meal at at a Michelin three-star restaurant and the Cracker Barrel buffet.
TheBigE: I'm not completely sold on Texas Tech. Their inclusion in the tournament is, I guess, justified by their record in Big 12 play, but I watch them and have a hard time believing they're not overachieving hard right now. I suppose playing in the Big 12 for more than half a season skews your perspective a bit, because in the grand scheme of things, I don't think K-State is as bad as their record shows. From a seeding perspective, I'm surprised they stuffed 3 Big 12 teams into the West. Would have made more sense to me to send Texas to the South Region so there would be a region with 1 team (East), and all others with 2.
GT: I'd have to agree with Texas Tech. There was a time in the season where they were undefeated and looking good, then it went down hill and they somehow were able to pick it back up in time and make the big dance. Tech impressed and for a team like OSU who is officially rebuilding, that's just another scary hump they'll have to eventually pass over.
DF: I'm going to have to fall in line with everyone else and say Tech. I think we all probably wrote off their NCAA chances when they started conference play 3-7 but that 3 game winning streak against Iowa State, Baylor and Oklahoma really speaks to the job that Tubby Smith did for that team this year. I also agree with PB that I thought West Virginia was deserving of a 2 seed given that they finished 26-8 against a top 5 schedule and finished 6th in KenPom.
DB: Well, I hate to do it but I'm going to say Texas Tech. The team started off super hot and was sitting at 11-1. Once Big 12 play started, we saw the typical Texas Tech team rear it's true self and the Red Raiders saw themselves sitting at 13-9. At that point Tubby Smith basically told his guys that if they wanted to play in the tourney they needed to turn it around. The team closed out the season winning 6 of their final 8 regular season games and picked up some huge wins over top 25 teams. You can easily say that this team has overachieved this season.
AF: I'm going to keep this Texas Tech theme going. I have been so impressed with what Tubby Smith has been able to do in Lubbock over the last couple of years. But more surprising to me is the fact the Red Raiders received an 8-seed. To go 9-9 in Big 12 play in the regular season then lose to the league's worst team in the opening round of the conference tournament (@VivaTheMatadors: https://i.ytimg.com/vi/kdOPBP9vuZA/hqdefault.jpg) and still be a higher seed entering the Big Dance is quite impressive. I think that speaks volumes about just how good the Big 12 was this season. Not only did seven teams receive bids, but each one was a higher seed in their First Round matchup. Good job, Big 12.
MK: There's really not an answer besides Tech. This is a hell of a job by Tubby and it's a rebuild that's a couple of years ahead of schedule. If they can somehow pull off a Sweet 16 run, that's how you start building a program.
RD: Of course, it's the Red Raiders. One thing that has yet to be mentioned is their performance in the Big XII Tournament. Losing to TCU certainly wasn't expected but it happened. More teams play themselves out of the NCAAs during Championship Week and I just so happen to think TTU was one of them.
MB: I don't think there was any shock in terms of the teams that did or didn't make it in. However, I was a bit surprised that West Virginia didn't get a 2 seed. My biggest seeding surprise though was probably Baylor/Iowa State. I thought based on the way the season went that those two teams should have swapped lines, especially with the way the season ended. But then again, if we played the last week of the Big 12 season and tournament over again, we could have had completely different results very easily, so most of those guys are interchangeable.
What are your expectations for your team in this tournament, or if your team is no longer playing, what do you expect them to do in the offseason to prepare for a better season next year?
BWG: I can make a case for Texas to get to the Elite Eight or bounced in the first round, it all depends on if they can make a 3. UNI is no joke, they essentially dare you to shoot from the perimeter; if Eric Davis Jr, Javan Felix, and/or Connor Lammert are able to make their outside shots then Texas has a good chance to avenge yet another loss in the Bahamas by beating Texas A&M. The variable doesn't really change against the Aggies, or Baylor, or Oklahoma. Oh, and thanks to the NCAA Selection Committee for setting up 2-3 more weeks of Big 12 conference play. Really appreciate the hospitality.
Fitzy: As long as ISU avoids the whole "UAB thing" this year against Iona, I'll be content. Making it to the second round would be par for the course for the Fred Hoiberg era, and if Steve Prohm can guide the Cyclones to the Sweet Sixteen then he'd have already matched the best season of Dreamy's time in Ames. Win against Iona, and any victories after that will be gravy for Iowa State in my opinion.
PB: I'm nervous about a flameout against Northern Iowa, but so long as we're getting enough stops and a couple guys stretch the floor a little by hitting some open jumpers, Texas can get through. If Texas survives the opener, I like their chances to knock off A&M or Green Bay in the second round, and really -- with wins over at least one team on each of the top four seed lines (#1 UNC, #2 OU, #3 West Virginia twice, and #4 Iowa State) -- it's fair to say the Horns are at least capable of beating anyone on a given day. The West feels wide open to me, and after years of miserable draws, for once I feel pretty good about Texas' placement.
GT: Fire Travis Ford, hire an above average to good coach and recruit some good kids.
TheBigE: Bit of a conundrum, this one. We've got what I think is a good nucleus of kids at K-State (albeit completely void of sophomores), and some decent recruits coming in. However, Bruce Weber has a penchant for showing up to play chess at a streetfight. I would like to say that coaching is what needs to be improved; the problem is you can't get rid of one without getting rid of the other at this point, so we'll see where it goes next year. As for players/performance improvement, outside shooting (well, shooting across the board) and ball control needs to be much better next year. Bottom 300 in the country in both categories speaks for itself.
DF: It's been hard to get a read on this Baylor team all season and I think that applies to the tournament as well. The BU fanbase is a bit nervous about the game against Yale after the Georgia State debacle from last season. But Scott Drew teams typically peak in March and have historically performed well in the NCAA Tournament. If we could get past Duke to get to the Sweet 16, and exact some revenge for the 2010 Elite Eight game in the process, I think most Baylor fans would be pretty stoked.
DB: Texas Tech's season is already huge success for this year, no one thought they would even be in this situation. So at this point they're playing with house money in the NCAA tournament. If the Red Raiders were to beat Butler in the first round then the team would have won their first tournament game since 2005 when they made a run to the Sweet Sixteen. I expect the Butler game to be a hard fought contest and if the Red Raiders win watch out because they love being the underdog.
AF: Well, for TCU, that begins with hiring a coach. I could probably talk at length about how unfortunate this entire situation is for all parties involved, but the fact of the matter is that the university has backed themselves into a position where they are almost forced into making a home run hire. I'm not advocating that TCU should have kept Trent Johnson around much longer, but the school must do something now to put a charge into this program. A very important offseason for the Frogs begins with bringing in an energetic coach who can boost recruiting and eventually get TCU to a level where it is at least semi-competitive in Big 12 play.
MK: I feel like this needs to be an Elite Eight season for me to be completely satisfied. The depth we play with is great for tournament play and I think that we match up well with our side of the bracket.
RD: The Sooners have continuously improved from year to year under Lon Kruger. With the experience, the expectation seems to collectively rest on a Final Four appearance. However, the lack of depth speaks otherwise. After looking over the bracket, Oklahoma has been placed under the weakest No. 1 Seed in Oregon. Needless to say, Buddy Hield needs to find a way to overcome those who choose to face guard him. If that happens, I do expect OU to once again make an improvement over last year and earn a spot in the Final Four before being eliminated by Kansas.
MB: It's hard to say anything other than "Championship or Bust", but if this season has taught us anything, it's that even the unpredictability is unpredictable. Things would get wacky, then seem to level out again and start to return to normal, and then get wacky again, until finally everyone was just so dizzy that it hurt to think. This team is talented and hasn't lost since January, so they are either due to lose, or going to blow everyone out on the way to a title. I'm going to say that we expect the Elite Eight or Final Four, but I personally wouldn't be too shocked if we matched up with Maryland in the Sweet 16 and Melo Trimble went off and we have another early exit to complain about in the offseason. Disappointed, yes, but not shocked.
What are your impressions on the bracket as a whole? Are there any surprising inclusions or snubs that you are just dying to point out (we feel for you, KSU)?
BWG: Despite this being a relatively wide-open regular season, I'm not expecting that many upsets in the tournament. I'm pretty much penciling in Kansas & Michigan State in the Final Four and expecting the Sweet Sixteen to be mostly made up of chalk. A couple of double-digit teams might make it to the 2nd weekend, but this tournament doesn't scream ‘chaos' to me. Now that I've said that, Yale will make the title game.
Fitzy: Our resident bracketologists on WRNL were surprised to see Wichita State get in and St. Bonaventure get left out, but I don't follow as closely as those guys so I'm going to keep my mouth shut and just enjoy the fact that Iowa State is still in the tournament (never mind that we haven't played yet).
PB: Tulsa? I mean... wow. What about their resume did the Committee latch onto? I just don't see it. I thought the Committee got a little carried away with the Pac 12 -- to which I credit Bernard Muir being a ninja -- but on the whole the field seemed more or less fine. Kentucky as a #4 behind #3 A&M was amusing, but I can defend their decision to stick Michigan State on the 2-line -- the Big Ten was garbage this year.
GT: The Pac 12 was a little overly hyped I think. I know it's nothing huge but WVU did just get second in the conference but ranked lower than OU. It sort of reminds me of the UK/TAMU thing going on. You finish higher than one team but get seeded lower?
TheBigE: Pac 12 teams outside of Oregon, Arizona, Utah and Cal have me scratching my head a little. Oregon State and Colorado are both hanging their hats on home wins over Oregon, and that's about it. Tulsa was a soft bubble team until they got trounced by Memphis in the American tournament, then they should have been an afterthought. I also don't think Michigan belonged there, either. But something I've felt this year as the season progressed - with no factual backup at this point - is that basketball in general, across the country, is worse this year. It's not that there are more good teams, it's that the ceiling is lower. Maybe it's nostalgia, maybe it's nitpicking. As for K-State, not getting invited to the Dance isn't a snub in my mind. We beat Oklahoma at home, and we beat Georgia on the road. That's not enough, regardless of how good the Big 12 is. Losses are losses, regardless of how close some of them were. I was floored, though, to not see us in the NIT. That was an utter abomination compared to the other teams that made the secondary tournament. There were 18 at-large NIT spots available (which is the fewest ever), but I'd legitimately take our chances over a number of those at-large teams.
DF: I would have had Monmouth, St. Mary's and South Carolina in the field ahead of Michigan, Syracuse and Tulsa. Tulsa is the real head scratcher to me as I'm not sure what the heck the committee saw to put them in. I thought most of the seeding decisions were fine but it seems that Kansas got a really loaded South bracket for the team ranked #1 overall. Either Cal or Maryland could provide a really tough Sweet 16 game for the Jayhawks.
DB: Oregon being a 1-seed really surprised me. I know they had a great season but they slowly snuck their way into that 1-seed. I expected Michigan St to get a one seed, they're playing like one of the best teams in the country at the moment. Also, Monmouth and St. Bonaventure being left out over Tulsa and Syracuse left me scratching my head. It's funny how the committee's guideline for teams to get in changes almost every year.
AF: A lot like several of you above, I was pretty surprised to see Syracuse in the field. I thought, at best, the Orange would be playing in Dayton in the First Four, so to see them seeded straight into the First Round was pretty surprising. Speaking of the First Four, I could have done without the entire Tulsa-Michigan game. I'm 50/50 on Michigan receiving a bid, but the Tulsa thing was straight out of left field. I'm not sure how you defend a team with that kind of resume making the field. But those are all minor complaints. Overall, I think the committee did a pretty solid job. It should be a great tournament once again.
MK: Aside from Tulsa, I'm honestly not as upset with it as many are. The bubble was an enormous crapshoot this year and all of these teams except Tulsa have some sort of case for inclusion and you can only pick so many. Now I do think they did some weird things with seeding, and putting UVA with Sparty again is absolutely criminal.
RD: I understand all the criticism surrounding the inclusion of Tulsa but including Wichita State also leaves me baffled. With only one win over a Top 70 RPI team, the committee justifies the pick due to injuries suffered throughout the year. You've got to be kidding, right (and our AD sits as the chairman of the committee)? Sure they beat Vandy to earn a spot in the field of 64 but neither team was deserving in my opinion.
MB: First, I'll say the reference to KSU in the question was not meant to imply the NCAA tournament. I don't think anyone in their right mind could rationalize that, but I was shocked to see the Wildcats get left out of the NIT. I was looking at kenpom, and just a couple more wins against anyone in the Big 12 probably would have bumped them up into contention for an NCAA spot. While I think Monmouth and St Bonaventure deserved to be in, I'm almost kind of glad that the focus of the tournament isn't going to be craziness on the bench, since we're pretty much guaranteed to see plenty of it on the court. My main issue this year is just with teams being misseeded to set up matchups that the committee wanted to see. How else do you explain Indiana/Kentucky, Texas/Texas A&M (and the winner to potentially get Oklahoma), Notre Dame/Michigan, and all the other potential matchups that are littering the field that wouldn't happen without a team being on the wrong line?
Which Big 12 team do you see getting the furthest in the tournament this year? Which of the top 4 seeds do you see getting upset the earliest?
BWG: Well, I have Kansas in the Finals, so..Other than that, I have OU & WVU making it to the 2nd weekend. Baylor isn't in the top 4, but I keep staring at that Yale matchup like it was made out of prime rib. That could be a significant upset in the making. As for the 1-4 seeds, Villanova's always a good bet to drop out earlier than they should; Jay Wright is positively Barnesian in his tournament results.
Fitzy: I also have KU in the National Championship game. For the rest of the top 4 seeds, I actually have West Virginia losing to Stephen F. Austin in my bracket. Brad Underwood is a heck of a coach and I'm just not a believer in the Press Virginia system (that ISU happened to trip and fall flat on their face against twice this year). SFA Limiting their turnovers and forcing missed shots by the Mountaineers could lead to WVU getting bounced early.
PB: Not that he's on the hot seat or anything, but Bill Self needs to avoid a flop this year. I think he'll be just fine, and KU looks as good a bet as any to make it to Houston. I don't love the draw for Iowa State or Texas Tech, but West Virginia could be dangerous if they can get past Notre Dame. Out West, Oklahoma had better be careful with CS-Bakersfield, but all three Big 12 teams have a shot out West.
GT: I've got OU. They've been too cold lately to remain cold much longer, I think. They have one or two winnable games to start out along with a potential TAMU/UT matchup I'm interested in. Plus playing in OKC is a huge advantage.
TheBigE: I think KU is probably the most likely to make it to the Final Four, but I like West Virginia, too. Toughness translates; unfortunately, officiating doesn't. It'll be interesting to see if they get whistled out of the gym as soon as they play a tough game with a non-Big12 ref crew. I don't buy Texas yet...too many moving parts. Baylor could get hot and make a run, but I think they're out in the second weekend. OU is in a weird spot. I don't like teams that rely on jump shooting, but they're not going to face a single team in their regional that will be able to defend them for 40 minutes. OU will have to knock themselves out by going cold, but it's entirely possible.
DF: I've got both Kansas and Oklahoma in the Final Four which means we would get that third matchup that we would've gotten in KC if the ball had left Buddy Hield's hand 0.1 seconds faster. I've thought all season that KU had the best chance to win the Big 12 but that OU was the Big 12's best chance at a national champion. We've seen singular players take over the tournament in recent years (Kemba Walker comes to mind) and Hield has the capability of carrying OU all the way to the top. But at this point in the season, I think I like KU a bit better than OU because of their multiple weapons and ability to lock you down defensively. I also wouldn't be shocked to see WVU get to Houston either.
DB: Kansas has a very good chance of finding itself in the Finals. To me, they're the clear number 1 team in the nation and everything is running on all cylinders for the Jayhawks. Now turning to an upset, I could see Oklahoma losing in the second round. It seems as though the Sooners live and die by Buddy Hield. If Oregon St or VCU are able to slow down Buddy then they could upset OU in the early stages of the tourney.
AF: I have Kansas in my championship game, so I'm going to have to go with the Jayhawks as the Big 12 team that makes it the furthest. Kansas is playing some unbelievable basketball right now and it's going to take quite a performance to knock them off prior to the Final Four. As far as the top four seeds go, I think Iowa State needs to keep their head on a swivel this weekend. It wouldn't be an upset by any means, but a Purdue-ISU second round game could be trouble for the Cyclones.
MK: Kansas is a freight train right now and it's hard to bet against them winning the thing. If you put a gun to my head, I have KU-OU III in the Final Four and I believe that WVU can absolutely make that run as well if they get a favorable E8 matchup (IMO: not UNC). As for the rest, I see a first weekend loss for Tech and a fair bit of Sweet 16 losses.
RD: Reclaiming the Big XII Tournament Title, I have Kansas winning it all. As far as which top four team finds themselves eliminated early, I'd have to do with Iowa State. Georges Niang may be one of the toughest players to defend but the Cyclones still fail to force turnovers consistently as well as rebound. Those two stat lines will decide their fate undoubtedly.
MB: Yes, I'll freely admit that I'm a homer, both for Kansas and for the Big 12 in general. But I've seen enough from the conference this year, especially stuck down here in SEC/ACC country where I get to see plenty of what others mistakenly call the best basketball anywhere, and I believe the conference will break out in a big way. I can easily see 4 teams in the Elite Eight from the conference and 3 of them making the Final Four. But Kansas has to be the pick at this point to go the furthest. I do think that if they don't bring home the title, it will be another conference team that knocks them out though.
How many Big 12 teams do you think make it to the second weekend (and which ones)?
BWG: Kansas, Oklahoma, West Virginia, and maaaaybe Texas.
Fitzy: Kansas and Oklahoma are my only two. Maybe my pessimism can help ensure the Big 12 actually has a good showing in the tourney this year.
PB: Kansas, Texas, West Virginia, and Baylor.
GT: Kansas, Oklahoma, West Virginia.
TheBigE: Kansas, West Virginia, Oklahoma, and Baylor as long as they don't wet themselves when "DUKE" is on the front of the opponent's jerseys in the second round.
DF: Kansas, Oklahoma, West Virginia, Baylor, Iowa State. I think this ends up being a really solid showing for the Big 12 (finally).
DB: Kansas, Texas (maybe?), Oklahoma, and West Virginia
AF: I'm still hesitant because of how poorly the Big 12 showed up last year, so I'm going to go with Kansas, Oklahoma and West Virginia.
MK: I guess that I already sort of answered this above, but I think that everyone except Tech makes a Sweet 16 run. These are good teams and they're all battle tested. Now, I think that most won't see more than that. Texas and A&M is a matchup I keep going back and forth with as well.
RD: Kansas, Oklahoma, West Virginia, and Texas
MB: The only one I'm pretty sure won't make it is Texas Tech. As good as a season they have had, I just don't see how Tubby's squad will make it past Virginia. But if Texas can get past Northern Iowa, I see them as capable of taking down A&M, Iowa State should benefit from a UALR upset of Purdue, and Baylor should be able to shut down the Dukies. Going on record, I'd say that Kansas, West Virginia, Oklahoma and Iowa State are fairly sure to make it through, and one of Baylor or Texas will make it.
Biggest Upset of the tournament?
BWG: Either Hawaii over Cal or Brent Musberger's liver making it out of Vegas intact.
Fitzy: That whole SFA over WVU thing I mentioned earlier. Country roads, take me home (early).
PB: Because they have absolutely no business even being in the Tournament, I fully expect Tulsa to knock off Michigan, Notre Dame, West Virginia, and Xavier to reach the Elite Eight. I'm tempted to call CS-Bakersfield over OU, but I don't want to jinx anything.
GT: Weber State will beat Xavier.
TheBigE: Hmmm...this bracket looks rife with upsets. I could see a lot of the 3/14, 4/13, and 5/12 matchups going south for the favorite. The biggest in terms of seeds? Iona over Iowa State, or UNC-Wilmington over Duke. I like UALR over Purdue as the 5/12 upset this year.
DF: UNC Wilmington could cause problems for Duke since they play at a quick tempo and Duke basically just has a 6 man rotation. Not to mention, Duke's defense is meh at best. If we're getting a little crazy, watch out for Fresno against Utah.
DB: (13) Hawaii over (4) Cal might not be the biggest upset of the tourney but I have it as the most probable. Texas Tech beat Hawaii, but they're a very solid team. If I was Iowa St I'd be on the lookout for Iona.
AF: My upset special is South Dakota State over Maryland. TCU played in a non-conference tournament with both of those teams and I have been impressed with SDSU from the very beginning. If Maryland has another game where Rasheed Sulaimon decides not to show up, then the Jackrabbits could take advantage with their usually hot shooting.
MK: Hawaii over Cal is the upset of my dreams.
RD: I'm not sure this will be the biggest upset but I can see Seton Hall falling to Gonzaga in the first round. It's Kevin Willard's first time to coach in the NCAAs while Gonzaga outscores opponents by an average of 13.5 points. Simply put, it's a recipe for disaster if you're a Pirate fan.
MB: I'll talk about it more below, but I could see Dunk City over the Tar Heels. However, I'm definitely seeing Purdue being upended by Little Rock, and Wichita State could easily make a run to the Sweet 16 or Elite Eight.
Who's your darkhorse Final Four candidate?
BWG: I don't have a lower seed making the Final Four, and it's hard to call anything above a 4 a ‘darkhorse'. Is Miami a darkhorse? How about a tanhorse? Miami is definitely my beigehorse candidate to make the Final Four.
Fitzy: The highest seed I have making the Elite Eight is Duke at a 4-seed. If I had to pick someone who could potentially blow up my bracket with a Final Four run that's lower than that, I'd go with Iowa. Because when it rains, it pours.
PB: How about Purdue in the Midwest. Their path to the Elite Eight is reasonable enough, and I saw a team on Sunday that looked plenty capable of competing with Michigan State.
Gerald: I could see Indiana or TAMU doing some damage.
TheBigE: Going out on a limb, but I'm going to say Kentucky, if they make it out of the first round. But I agree with BWG - it's hard to call someone at a 4 or higher a "dark horse". I don't see anyone lower than a 4 getting through to weekend 3.
DF: It's a deep cut for a "darkhorse" but I'll go with Wichita State. I know they play in the First Four but that's an experienced team that's had multiple deep tournament runs. Now knowing that I've said this, I'm sure they'll lose to Vandy before this is ever posted.
DB: I personally don't have any darkhorses in the Final 4 but if I had to pick one true darkhorse that could make a run it'd be (7) Iowa. The Hawkeyes were playing some really good basketball earlier this season but have since slipped up a bit. I have them making it to the Elite 8 but if they can upset Kansas they'll find themselves in the Final 4.
AF: They're hardly a darkhorse, and it kills me to say this, but I think Texas A&M's region sets up nicely for the Aggies to make a run to the Final Four. /vomits/ If I had to go out on a limb and pick somebody lower than a 4-seed, I think Arizona has the best chance. Villanova and Kansas are the only teams that stand in the way of the Wildcats and a trip to Houston, and I think they have some of the weapons to potentially get it done.
MK: As an old Big East guy, March UConn is very real and might be the scariest thing that KU runs into between now and the Final Four. This is a thing, you guys.
RD: Over the past two season, Virginia has made an earlier exit than most anticipated regardless of the No. 1 & No. 2 seedings. I'm looking toward their side of the bracket at a program like Gonzaga who I've mentioned above. The Zags possess NBA talent on their roster but they'll have a time looking to get past Michigan State.
MB: I'm having a hard time deciding who my darkhorse would be. Wisconsin could potentially make a run, but I'm not going to count on it. The lowest seed I realistically see making a big run is Indiana. I think many people are underestimating them as the poll voters have done all year. Beat Kentucky and I'm not sure anyone stops them on the march to the Final Four.
What is the craziest thing that is going to happen the first weekend of the tournament? Anything crazier coming in second or third weekend?
BWG: Craziest thing: Texas fans voluntarily driving into Oklahoma and making it past Winstar.
Fitzy: John Calipari, Kevin Ollie, Bill Self and Tom Crean all decide they like Des Moines so much that they quit their jobs to move to Iowa and become assistants on Steve Prohm's staff. Endless National Titles follow in the coming years.
PB: Screw it: CS-Bakersfield upsets OU.
GT: If Texas and TAMU play, that'd be crazy. You'd have Texas, OU and TAMU fans all in the city, all drinking and all yelling. It's practically the beginning of the apocalypse.
TheBigE: A meteor hits Des Moines on Thursday, sometime around 4:00pm.
DF: Kentucky wins the championship. Starkville police have to bring out their SWAT teams to keep Mississippi State fans from rioting too hard as they celebrate the accomplishment of another conference school. John Calipari finally leaves to coach in the NBA again. Kentucky rehires Rick Pitino away from Louisville.
DB: Craziest thing of the tourney, (8) Texas Tech beating (1) Virginia.
AF: A coach in the field of 68 voluntarily leaves his team to come coach at TCU. That would be wild.
MK: DUNK CITY. Please.
RD: Steph Curry decides he likes the Sooners style of play and decides to enroll for a "senior season" after finding a loophole in the rulebook. Trotting in like Bobby Boucher at halftime against CSU Bakersfield, Curry leads Oklahoma to a national championship.
MB: I'm going to go crazy here and say that North Carolina gets upset in the first round. Florida Gulf Coast takes on the mantle of Giant Killer, they lose another coach to a struggling high-major team, and in another three years they set their sights on a 13 seed. If FGCU doesn't do the job, Providence is waiting to finish off the Tar Heels.
Who do you have making the Final Four, Championship Game, and winning it all?
BWG: Final Four: Kansas, Michigan State, West Virginia, Oregon. Champion: Kansas over Michigan State. Bill Self retires to live on an island made of human hair, Kansas hires Shaka Smart, and I am found dead in a dumpster outside the Lizard Lounge after trying to drink my weight in Ciroc to forget that Kansas gets whatever it wants.
Fitzy: Final Four: Kansas, Oklahoma, Xavier, Michigan State. Champion: Michigan State over Kansas. Izzowned.
PB: I haven't filled out my bracket yet, so consider this a working draft: Kansas, Baylor, Michigan State, and Kentucky. Kansas over Baylor, Michigan State over Kentucky. The Jayhawks win title number two under Self.
GGT: Kansas, UNC, MSU, Duke and I think UNC will do it.
TheBigE: Kansas (provided that meteor doesn't occur), Michigan State, Oklahoma, and the East Region will forfeit. Meh, probably UNC out of that region. Yep, it's KU/Oklahoma: Round 3 in the Final Four, with KU winning this one as well; Michigan State takes down UNC. And Izzo's club closes the deal out, beating KU for the second time this year.
DF: I've got Kansas, Oklahoma, Kentucky and Michigan State. Kentucky cuts down the nets.
DB: Kansas, Oklahoma, West Virginia and Michigan St. Maybe just a little Big 12 bias. Kansas beats Michigan St in the championship 69-67.
AF: Reluctantly... Kansas, Texas A&M, North Carolina, and Michigan State. I have the Jayhawks over the Aggies and Tar Heels over Sparty. In the final, give me Kansas over UNC, 77-69.
MK: KU, OU, UNC, Sparty. Sparty over KU.
RD: Kansas, Oklahoma, Michigan State, North Carolina with the Jayhawks taking home the prize over the Spartans in the finale.
MB: I'm going with some more home cooking and saying Kansas, Oklahoma, West Virginia and Michigan State. Jayhawks over the Spartans for the title.
And now for some fun. It's time for the Big 12 Conference Cook-Off. What dish would you deliver as the signature dish to represent your school or the region where it is located?
BWG: I'm sorry, you'll have to speak up. I can barely hear you over the sound of Franklin's BBQ melting my taste buds into a vat of ecstasy while I unleash a guttural utterance that's known to attract bears from the next county over. (No, not that kind of bear.) (OK, definitely that kind of bear.)
Fitzy: Pork tenderloin, obviously. Damn you all to hell for assuming I'd answer sweet corn.
PB: Well brisket, of course. From Franklin's, if we can cut the line.
GT: We're too poor to bring anything special after that massive buy out so we'll just bring some cheese fries from Joes. Everyone gets one fry.
TheBigE: Myself being removed from Kansas for nearly 13 years now, I would just treat you to my favorite things to eat in Manhattan - a Belly Buster sandwich (warm ham and turkey, swiss and american cheeses, lettuce, tomato, and I add mushrooms and mayo) and jalapeno kettle chips. Wash it down with a Boulevard Wheat (or five), and finish it off later with donuts from Varsity Donuts.
Editor's note: This question was asked to another contributor over at BOTC prior to the Big 12 tournament, and his response was too good to not include here, especially since it gives an example from the other Manhattan. I've included it here in its entirety for you all to enjoy:
If you've never had Call Hall ice cream then you are doing life wrong. Call Hall is easily the best ice cream I've ever tasted and it's made on K-State's campus in, you guessed it, Call Hall. So, I'm bringing a couple pints of Call Hall's vanilla ice cream, and some Tallgrass Vanilla Bean Buffalo Sweat Stout. You can eat/drink them separately if you'd like, but if you're feeling adventurous make you're self a beer float and enjoy a little slice of heaven.
DF: I'll bring a Vitek's Gut Pak and fight all of you. That is until I fall asleep in a deep, sweet coma of brisket, sausage, beans, pickles, onion, jalapenos, cheese, fritos and overall deliciousness. Washed down with a nice Dr Pepper of course.
DB: Jalapeno Poppers. Just like Texas Tech, these morsels are hot with a little bit of kick. Some big tough guys might not wait for them to cool off and they end up getting burnt.
AF: I'll get the Mexican food covered. Enchiladas, rice, beans, and tacos for everyone. And what dinner would be complete without some frosty margaritas?
MK: something, something, pepperoni roll, moonshine
Initials: Pupusas make the cut since they aren't anything fancy to look at but given the right ingredients quickly rise to the top of the list of food choices for me at least.
MB: I'll defer back to my answer from during the Big 12 tournament, drawing inspiration I decided to pull inspiration for this from the winner of our 2015 Lawrence Restaurant Bracket . In looking over their menu, I was inspired by the Roost Mac and Cheese. Unfortunately, I've never been able to try it myself, but I'm going to imagine that it is at least as tasty as a the nice baked homemade mac and cheese I grew up on. We'll class it up with some crumbled bacon and scallions on top.