Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Big 12 tourney open race

Jayhawks looking for fourth straight crown

Texas A&M’s Chinemelu Elonu (41) dunks as Texas’ Damion James (5) and teammates look on. Texas A&M won, 81-66, Monday in College Station, Texas.

Texas A&M’s Chinemelu Elonu (41) dunks as Texas’ Damion James (5) and teammates look on. Texas A&M won, 81-66, Monday in College Station, Texas.


Jayhawks will play against Bears or Huskers

The Kansas men's basketball team knows that it gets the number one seed going into the Big 12 tournament. What they don't know is who their Thursday morning opponent will be.

The Big 12 tournament, which begins today in Oklahoma City, will feature teams with different outlooks on the bigger picture.

In just four days, the nominating committee will set the field of 65 for the NCAA Tournament.

For teams like Baylor and Nebraska, winning the Big 12 tournament, which ensures an automatic bid to the Big Dance, is likely their only hope. The Bears and Cornhuskers will square off in the opening game of the Big 12 tournament at 11:30 a.m. today at Ford Center.

Other teams are playing to slide off the bubble and into the madness. Kansas State, Texas A&M; and Oklahoma State don’t necessarily have to win this week’s tournament, but a victory or two would go a long way in making a good impression on the committee.

There are teams like Texas and Missouri, who have thoughts of winning it all. The Longhorns have been in the finals the past three years, but lost all three title games to Kansas.

Other teams, like the Jayhawks and Oklahoma, are playing for a high seed in the NCAA Tournament.

Then, there are teams playing for pride. Colorado, Texas Tech and Iowa State — which would have to win four games in four days — are extreme longshots.

Here’s a breakdown, in order of Big 12 tournament seedings:

No. 1 Kansas (25-6 overall, 14-2 Big 12)

Big 12 tournament outlook: The Jayhawks have a favorable road to the title game. They’d have to beat today’s Baylor/Nebraska winner and then likely the Texas/Kansas State winner. KU’s combined record against those teams this year is 6-0. The Jayhawks have won the tournament in six of the 12 years of the conference’s history, including the past three years.

NCAA Tournament outlook: bracketologist Joe Lunardi has KU as a No. 2 seed playing in Kansas City, Mo. If the Jayhawks win the Big 12 tournament, they could have an argument for a No. 1 seed in the NCAA’s. If not, the lowest they’re looking at is probably a No. 3.

No. 2 Oklahoma (27-4, 13-3)

Big 12 tournament outlook: OU has a tougher path to the title game than some might think. The Sooners could meet Oklahoma State in the second round and potentially Missouri in the semifinals. OU only beat OSU by four last Saturday and has already lost to Mizzou.

NCAA Tournament outlook: Lunardi has the Sooners as a No. 2 seed, which is probably the lowest seed they’ll receive. OU will still have a shot at a No. 1 seed with a Big 12 tournament title.

No. 3 Missouri (25-6, 12-4)

Big 12 tournament outlook: The Tigers have reached the tournament finals twice (2003, 1997), but have yet to win it. They’ll face the winner of tonight’s 8:30 p.m. Texas A&M; vs. Texas Tech game in the quarterfinals.

NCAA Tournament outlook: Lunardi has MU as a No. 4 seed. Quite an accomplishment, considering Missouri hasn’t been in the tournament since 2003.

No. 4 K-State (21-10, 9-7)

Big 12 tournament outlook: The Wildcats have gone as far as the semifinals (2007, 1999). They were knocked out by Kansas both times. The Sunflower state schools could meet again in this year’s semifinals.

NCAA Tournament outlook: Despite the first-round bye in this week’s tournament, Lunardi doesn’t have the Wildcats in the field of 65. If the conference sends six teams, K-State could be the odd team out. A win against Kansas, should they the in-state rivals meet in the semifinals, would change everything, though.

No. 5 Texas (20-10, 9-7)

Big 12 tournament outlook: The Longhorns have lost to the Jayhawks the last three years in the finals. UT has yet to win the tournament. It will face Colorado at 2 p.m. today in the first round.

NCAA Tournament outlook: Texas is a No. 8 seed, according to Lunardi. Based on its non-conference schedule (victories over Villanova, UCLA, Wisconsin), Texas should easily make the Tournament even with a poor showing this week.

No. 6 Texas A&M; (23-8, 9-7)

Big 12 tournament outlook: A&M; will face Texas Tech at 8:30 tonight in the first round. The Aggies would face Missouri the second round, should they advance.

NCAA Tournament outlook: Last Saturday’s victory over Missouri practically ensured the Aggies a bid. Six straight wins haven’t hurt, either. A victory over Tech tonight would keep the committee happy. Lunardi has A&M; as a No. 9 seed.

No. 7 Oklahoma State (20-10, 9-7)

Big 12 tournament outlook: The Cowboys will face Iowa State at 6 tonight in the first round. OSU would draw Oklahoma the second round, should it advance. The Cowboys won the tournament in 2004 and 2005.

NCAA Tournament outlook: Lunardi has OSU, winners of six of their last seven, as a No. 8 seed. OSU is considered a near-lock because of its RPI (No. 25 on and strength of schedule (No. 9).

No. 8 Nebraska (18-11, 8-8) & No. 9 Baylor (17-13, 5-11)

Joint outlooks: They’re facing each other in the first game of the tournament at 11:30 a.m. today. They both likely have to win the Big 12 tournament to be a part of the NCAA Tournament.

No. 10 Iowa State (15-16, 4-12), No. 11 Texas Tech (13-18, 3-13), No. 12 Colorado (9-21, 1-15)

Joint outlooks: Extreme long shots to win this week in Oklahoma City.


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