Amid a week filled with brackets, pools, and trying to convince your boss that you have an off-site meeting from 11-5 tomorrow this is a week where we true hoops junkies finally get the spotlight. But it doesn't matter. We will never win our bracket contests. Because we know who should win every game. We know about Purdue's injuries and how UTEP has big time talent. That's not what wins bracket contests though is it?
Your odds are better to win by choosing to advance teams based on their student to faculty ratio or how many letters are in the team name. And sure we get semi-depressed because our carefully researched Cinderella team lost in the first round and Debbie from accounts payable's 14-3 upset (that she picked because her first date was with a boy from Montana and New Mexico is well... New Mexico) comes true. But then we remember why we're watching. We're here for the passion, the madness, and for Gus Johnson. So with that in mind, here is what you need to know most about the Big 12's seven teams.
Kansas Jayhawks 1 (vs. 16 Lehigh) - Thursday at 8:30
How you'll know if they're playing well: The play of the Morris Twins. You know what you're going to get in Collins and Aldrich, and Xavier Henry will be the best player on the court all the way to the Final Four, but the play of Marcus and Markieff is going to be the biggest determining factor in whether the Jayhawks cut down the nets at Lucas Oil Stadium, or fall prey to someone early.
Who can give them trouble: The committee managed to put the only two teams that have beat Kansas in the same bracket as the Jayhawks, but I'm not sure they're the biggest threats to watch out for. Kansas struggles if their opponent can set the tempo of the game, and if anyone is going to be able to do that, it might be Michigan State.
Kansas State Wildcats 2 (vs. 15 North Texas) - Thursday at 1:40
How you'll know if they're playing well: Turnover battle. Kansas State goes through stretches where they have problems scoring, but as long as they can protect the ball and limit their opponents' points off turnovers, their defense will be able to win the game for them.
Who can give them trouble: The Wildcats run into some issues, when a team with an elite scorer executes at a really high level. Unfortunately for them, that team could be BYU in the second round.
Baylor Bears 3 (vs. 14 Sam Houston) - Thursday at 1:45
How you'll know if they're playing well: Shooting percentage. Baylor wins when they are patient and take (mostly) good shots. They lose when they start bombing away from 3, except when they play Texas apparently.
Who can give them trouble: Everyone, and no one. Historically, Baylor defeats themselves a lot more often than other teams beat them. Also, Baylor hasn't won an NCAA Tournament Game since the 1950's. So for all we know Sam Houston might give them trouble, and for all we know they're going to the Final Four.
Texas A&M Aggies 5 (vs. 12 Utah State) - Friday at 2:45
How you'll know if they're playing well: Donald Sloan's shooting percentage. When the Aggies are playing well, point guard Dash Harris distributes the ball well and finds the players that are hitting shots. When the Aggies aren't playing well, they lean on Donald Sloan. There's nothing wrong with this as long as Sloan is hot, but when Sloan is cold things don't go as well.
Who can give them trouble: Utah State—if they can execute and get past Utah State they'll be favored in the second round game. They pull that win off, and then the Aggies will be headed home to Texas for the Sweet 16. ("But Aubrey, so will Baylor!") Yes, I realize that, but they aren't going to bring anywhere close to the crowd that A&M will.) And they wouldn't just be heading home to Texas—they'd be heading to Houston. There are more Aggies in Houston than anywhere else on the planet, and at that point anything could happen and any wins would be unexpected.
Oklahoma State Cowboys 7 (vs. 10 Georgia Tech) - Friday at 6:15
How you'll know if they're playing well: Keiton Page. Just watch Page the first few minutes of the game, if he's playing defense and shooting well, the Cowboys are in good shape.
Who can give them trouble: If the Cowboys get trough Georgia Tech, we're going to be treated to a match up of two of the best in the country at what they do. Evan Turner vs. James Anderson could be one of the premiere matchups of opening weekend. But Ohio State will give the Cowboys all kinds of matchup problems.
Texas Longhorns 8 (vs. 9 Wake Forest) - Thursday at 8:35
How you'll know if they're playing well: Opponent field goal percentage. The biggest difference between Texas now and Texas three months ago is their complete lack of defensive intensity. Baylor and Texas A&M dunked all over the Longhorns late in the season. They need to have some pride in keeping opponents off the rim.
Who can give them trouble: Geez, where to start—a team of bleacher report writers could probably piece together a semi decent game-plan and give the Longhorns a run for their money. I'd love to just see a Texas player crack a smile.
Missouri Tigers 10 (vs. 7 Clemson) - Friday at 1:35
How you'll know if they're playing well: Turnovers vs. opponents turnovers. To win, Missouri has to win the turnover battle. They do not have the offensive firepower to win solely on that end of the court. At the same time they are practically playing a mirror image of themselves in Clemson. Winning the turnover battle in this game is going to be absolutely crucial.
Who can give them trouble: Clemson is Missouri with better players. So it would be pretty surprising if Missouri were able to pull off this win. Then again, they're from the Big 12 which will probably have prepared them for this pace of play and hard fought defense more so than the ACC.