Conference season has gotten off to a fast start, with Texas Tech and West Virginia leading things off with a 3-0 record. Both Tech and WVU seem to be shoe ins for the tournament, and are now looking to positions themselves appropriately. As you go a bit further into the standings, you see Oklahoma and Kansas, both sitting at 2-1 and both also seem to be on their way to the tournament. After those four, the rest of the conference will be looking to also get into the tournament somehow or another, but just how many will get to play longer into March?
The most teams that have ever gotten into the tournament from the Big 12 is seven, last achieved in 2014. This was also the highest percentage of teams to make a tournament from one conference ever. Thiss year, the Big 12 is arguably the strongest it has ever been, with all 10 teams having nine or more wins going into the conference season. With wins over ranked Nevada, Wichita State, Northwestern, Virginia, and Florida State, Big 12 teams have been able to truly flex their muscles as the strongest conference in the country.
To figure out if it’s even possible for all 10 teams to make the postseason, we must first start off at the top, the big dance, the NCAA Tournament. As previously mentioned, Texas Tech, West Virginia, Oklahoma, and Kansas, are all playing very well this year and should all cruise towards a tournament berth. TCU’s unbeaten non-conference also gives them a boost that should help them get in comfortably. This leaves five teams that will battle to get into the tournament.
Baylor has the best chance of the five as they are stillheld in high regard. Baylor spent most most of the non-conference season ranked and still currently receives AP votes. As long as Baylor can stay afloat during the conference season, I believe they can still get in. The Bears will have to compete hard to win their home games and beat the teams they should beat, but eight wins in conference would put them at 18-12 in the toughest conference in the country. The remaining three teams would have a tough time getting enough wins in this conference to truly make the tournament but luckily for them there are more tournaments to be played.
Texas and Oklahoma State are two teams on opposite ends of the spectrum who will fight to end up in the same place. Oklahoma State was picked to finish dead last in the conference yet have had a surprising start to the season. The Cowboys have played both Wichita State and West Virginia tough while actually upsetting Florida State. A six win conference season would put them at 17-16, which is what West Virginia had in 2014 to get them to the NIT.
Texas is an interesting case. Texas was thought to finally be able to have a successful season, but as the year has gone on, this seems to be the same Shaka Smart Longhorns we’ve seen. Texas was the only team to have three losses, and unlike Oklahoma State, they currently don’t have any signature wins and would have to acquire multiple during conference play. The Longhorns have the talent and length to beat any team they play, however have proven incapable of actually sealing a win against a tough opponent when needed. At the very least, the Longhorns have proven to be able to compete with the best.
UT pushed 17th ranked Gonzaga, 11th ranked Kansas, and No. 1 ranked Duke to the very end before conceding losses. This team has the ability, they just need to pull it together in order to make a postseason. This team is capable of getting six conference wins which is what it would need to get in the NIT and possibly the eight to get to the big show. I do believe their inability to win the big game gets to them and they miss out on the big show, but get just enough to play on the road in the NIT.
This all brings us to the teams at the bottom. Kansas State has yet to notch a signature win, but they did suffer a signature defeat by taking a nasty home loss at the hands of Tulsa. The Wildcats just don’t seem to have the wherewithal to get the victories needed to get to the postseason.
Iowa State has also had a tough year, and it doesn’t seem to be getting much better. The Cyclones are the only team to start conference play 0-3 and did so against three teams that will be in the bottom of the conference. Iowa State seems to be the punching bag of the conference which does not bode well. In order for ISU to get to the CBI, they are going to need to get five wins, which seems nearly impossible with how tough this conference is.
Not only that, but no power conference team has accepted a bid to the CBI since 2015. There seems as though power conference schools seem to find the CBI to be beneath them. I’m sure the CBI would have enjoyed having Texas Tech join them last year, but Tech spent their March in Lubbock instead.
In 2014, there were eight teams that made a postseason tournament with seven of them going to the NCAA tournament and one more to the NIT. However that same year, TCU won zero games in conference which truly made that possible. Now I do not believe Iowa State will go winless in conference because they are better than that, however I am not sure they can pull off much more than two victories in this conference.
In order for this conference to be successful, there has to be a team that takes the brut of the damage and unfortunately this year, K-State and Iowa State look to be the teams that will be missing out.