Big 12 Basketball: Predicting Each Team's Postseason Fate
The season's biggest week of basketball for the Big 12 conference tipped off on Monday with Kansas’ huge home win over Baylor.
With the Bears set to square off with Missouri on Saturday, a lot of questions are starting to get answered about what the league standings will look like by season’s end.
As the conference pecking order falls into place, it’s time to start looking ahead to Selection Sunday. Which Big 12 teams will make it to the Big Dance, and which ones will be settling for the NIT?
Herein, a look at where every team in the conference stands and where it’ll be seeded—or if it’ll be playing—in the postseason.
Texas Tech (7-10, 0-5 Big 12)
Texas Tech’s 0-5 start in conference play is no mirage—the best team it’s beaten all season is 11-8 North Texas.
A young team led by standout freshman Jordan Tolbert (13 points, 6.5 rebounds per game) and sophomore SG Javarez Willis is fighting a losing battle trying to stay even vaguely competitive in a tough Big 12.
Sub-.500 teams have no earthly appeal to the various tournaments, and there’s little reason to believe things are going to turn around for Texas Tech this season. The Red Raiders are unlikely to go 0-18 in conference, but they're not going to be much better than that, either.
Texas A&M (10-7, 1-4)
How the mighty have fallen in Billy Kennedy’s first year in College Station.
Ranked No. 19 in the preseason on the strength of a gritty defense and Khris Middleton’s return to campus, the Aggies have collapsed in a 2-6 slide featuring losses to Rice and Iowa State.
Middleton is fighting hard—13.2 points and 5.6 rebounds a night—but he and Elston Turner haven’t been enough to keep the A&M offense functioning.
It’s a bitter pill to swallow after being ranked in the preseason, but the Aggies have shown too little offense to compete for a postseason tournament spot.
The defense has played valiantly, but an average of 54.2 points a game in conference play isn’t just inadequate—it’s pitiful.
Oklahoma State (9-9, 2-3)
The Cowboys are a very young team, with standout swingman Le’Bryan Nash (12.5 points and five boards a night) leading a freshman class that makes up more than half the roster.
As such, it’s little surprise that they took their lumps against a brutal non-conference schedule featuring opponents like Stanford, Pitt and Alabama.
Oklahoma State is a better team than its record, but its record just isn’t going to be good enough to attract a tournament invite.
Five remaining games against Top 10 teams mean that a .500 finish in conference play is the best the Cowboys can hope for.
Texas (12-6, 2-3)
It’s not hard to pick up on the pattern in Texas’ conference games, with last night’s loss at Kansas State dropping the Longhorns to 0-3 on the road and 2-0 at home in Big 12 action.
The only road win for Rick Barnes’ team this season was a visit to the even-more-disappointing UCLA Bruins.
Despite their struggles away from home, J’Covan Brown (19.1 points a game) and star freshman Myck Kabongo (5.5 assists a night) make the Longhorns very dangerous in Austin.
A soft non-conference schedule will help them finish with just enough wins—probably in the neighborhood of 16 or 17—to convince a desperate CBI to pick them for their power-conference cachet.
Oklahoma (12-5, 2-3)
Individually, the Sooners have certainly outplayed expectations on the season with gaudy numbers like Steven Pledger’s 17.3 points a game (up 6.4 from last year) and Romero Osby’s 8.3 boards a night (up 5.8 from his last season at Mississippi State).
The team hasn’t done too badly either, knocking off Washington State, Arkansas and—last Saturday—then-No. 18 Kansas State among its 12 victories.
The schedule is about to catch up with overachieving Oklahoma as the meat of the Big 12 slate awaits. The Sooners have eight games remaining on the road…where they have yet to record a win this season.
Add in home dates with Missouri and Baylor, and they’ll be doing well to finish with more than 15 wins in spite of a strong start.
Kansas State (13-4, 2-3)
The Wildcats drew the short scheduling straw in Big 12 play, facing Kansas, Missouri and Baylor in consecutive games in both January and February.
They showed a lot of heart in the first of those brutal triple-headers, crushing the previously-unbeaten Tigers and coming within a basket of upsetting Baylor three days later.
Postseason: NCAA Tournament, No. 5 seed
K-State already has a promising tournament resume thanks to wins over Mizzou, Alabama and Long Beach State.
With their physical defense, the Wildcats are in a great position to rack up wins in the rest of the conference schedule and improve their seeding credentials.
Iowa State (13-5, 3-2)
Phenomenal play from Royce White—team-leading averages of 13.4 points, 9.6 rebounds and 4.3 assists a game—has helped Fred Hoiberg’s transfer-heavy lineup come together quickly.
Wins over Providence and Iowa in non-conference play helped make this team look like a genuine threat, and a 3-2 start in the Big 12 (including a 24-point road win at Texas A&M) has borne out that impression.
Postseason: NIT, No. 2 seed
Even having already suffered tough losses to Kansas and Mizzou, the Cyclones have an outside chance of finishing with 20 wins on the year.
They won’t have beaten enough tournament-caliber teams to make the NCAAs, but that record in a power conference should earn them a favorable slot in the NIT.
Missouri (17-1, 4-1)
Missouri’s 4-1 start in Big 12 play doesn’t mean a whole lot, considering that it’s played an easy schedule early on.
By the same token, the Tigers looked brilliant in winning their first 14 games, but the annual rivalry meeting with Illinois is the only statement win on their record.
Postseason: NCAA Tournament, No. 3 seed
Kansas State showed that undersized Mizzou can be overpowered by a physical front line, and there are plenty of those left on the schedule (a rematch with K-State, two games each against Baylor and Kansas).
This team is too good to lose them all—the offense is ranked fourth in the nation with 83.1 points a night—but it’s a good bet that enough of them will end up in the loss column to knock the nation’s No. 5 squad down to the next line on the bracket.
Baylor (17-1, 4-1)
There’s no faulting Baylor’s 17-0 start, which featured victories over Mississippi State, San Diego State and St. Mary’s.
As bad as they looked in an 18-point loss at Kansas, the Bears’ extraordinary talent—with stars like Perry Jones III and his 14.2 points and 7.5 rebounds a game—will let them roll over all but the best Big 12 opposition.
Postseason: NCAA Tournament, No. 2 seed
The frontcourt-heavy Bears look to have the head-to-head edge against backcourt-rich Missouri. A sweep of the Tigers will secure a No. 2 seed for Baylor, but Kansas will keep them from winning the conference crown or claiming the top seed that's likely to come with it.
Kansas (15-3, 5-0)
An upset loss to Davidson is a blot on Kansas’ record, but otherwise the Jayhawks have impressed all season. Already boasting wins over Long Beach State, Georgetown and Ohio State, KU became the first team to take down No. 3 Baylor on Monday night.
Postseason: NCAA Tournament, No. 1 seed
There’s a real chance that the Big 12 powers will beat each other up sufficiently in head-to-head play to allow the Big 10 champion (Ohio State, perhaps) to grab a top seed.
The bet here, though, is that Tyshawn Taylor’s experience at the point will be the X-factor that puts the Jayhawks over the top and onto the top line of the bracket.