No need to debate whether Kansas University’s basketball team benefits more from winning the Big 12 tournament or getting extra rest by not making it to Saturday’s conference tourney title game in Oklahoma City.
Barring a shocker, staying close to home and playing the first two rounds in the Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo., depends on KU’s performance in the Big 12 tournament, which for Kansas begins at 11:30 a.m. Thursday against the winner of Wednesday’s Nebraska-Baylor game.
The general consensus among bracketologists is that either Kansas or Oklahoma, but not both schools, will open in Kansas City, and the runner-up will go elsewhere, in KU’s case, quite possibly to Minneapolis.
The NCAA uses eight sites, half with Thursday/Saturday games on March 19 and 21, the other four sites with Friday/Sunday games on March 20 and 22. (Kansas City’s games are Thursday/Saturday; Minneapolis is a Friday/Sunday site).
Each of the eight sites gets two of the 16 teams that earn Nos. 1, 2, 3 and 4 seeds. The higher seeds get preferential treatment in assigning geographically friendly sites.
Most believe that if Kansas wins the conference tournament, it will stay home for the first two rounds, but if Oklahoma wins, it will take the place of Kansas in the Sprint Center. What if both teams make it to the same level of the conference tourney and lose? In that case, it’s too close to call as to which Big 12 team starts the road to Detroit in Kansas City.
KU coach Bill Self hasn’t made “Kansas City, here I come” a battle cry with his players.
“I don’t even know if our guys know that there’s a subregional in Kansas City, in large part because I don’t know if (the media) talked about the potential of us being there because nobody ever thought that we could be, probably,” Self said. “I remember (in 2003-2004) ... that was the talk the whole time: ‘Can we get to Kansas City? Can we get to Kansas City?’ I don’t think our fans going into this season were saying, ‘Hey, we’ve got to make sure we’ve got to lock up the tickets in Kansas City because we expect to be there.’ It would be great if that happens, but if it doesn’t happen, I won’t put much emphasis on that at all.”
Self has concentrated on preparing his team to play winning basketball, rather than on bracketology, and as a result has overestimated how big a speed bump his team’s bad recent loss really was on the road to Kansas City.
“We hurt ourselves against Texas Tech,” Self said. “Call it like it is. I think in the national scope of things from a seeding standpoint, we may have dropped a line or something, at least if it were to come out now.”
Maybe, but Kansas can pass Oklahoma by having a better conference-tourney finish, and one Big 12 team is bound to play in Kansas City.
“We need to go have a really good Big 12 Conference tournament, I think, to give us the best chance to go to Kansas City,” Self said.
“But I don’t know,” Self said. “I’m not in the room.”
Meanwhile, his team is in the Big 12 tourney as the No. 1 seed. Again. This time, though, the Jayhawks are underdogs to the favored Sooners.