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Sunday, March 12, 2017

A peek at the path forward for Big 12 teams in NCAA tournament

From left, Kansas guard Lagerald Vick (2), Josh Jackson (11) and Kansas forward Landen Lucas wrestle for a possession with Baylor guard Ishmail Wainright, left, and Baylor forward Terry Maston (31) during the first half, Saturday, Feb. 18, 2017 at Ferrell Center in Waco, Texas.

From left, Kansas guard Lagerald Vick (2), Josh Jackson (11) and Kansas forward Landen Lucas wrestle for a possession with Baylor guard Ishmail Wainright, left, and Baylor forward Terry Maston (31) during the first half, Saturday, Feb. 18, 2017 at Ferrell Center in Waco, Texas.

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The Big 12 Conference was considered one of the best conferences in the nation throughout the season and it was rewarded with six teams in the NCAA Tournament.

Three of the teams — including Kansas — will play in the Midwest regional. Here’s a look at each team’s path forward:

Baylor (25-7), No. 3 seed in East regional

Along with Kansas, the Bears will open the tournament in Tulsa when they face No. 14 seed New Mexico State (28-5) in the first round Friday.

New Mexico State, which has played in the tournament in four of the last five years, is one of the top rebounding teams in the country. Senior guard Ian Baker — the WAC player of the year — led the Aggies with 16.6 points per game.

The Baylor-New Mexico winner will face No. 6 seed SMU (29-4) or the winner of the First Four game featuring Providence and USC.

SMU, coached by former Kansas assistant Tim Jankovich, has won 16 straight games, including an AAC tournament title. The Mustangs own one of the best defenses in the country, holding opponents to 59.4 points per game. Ottawa, Kan., native Semi Ojeleye was named the AAC’s player of the year after averaging 19 points and 6.7 rebounds.

Baylor could face No. 2 seed Duke in the Sweet 16 if all the top seeds advance.

West Virginia (26-8), No. 4 seed in West regional

After losing in the Big 12 Tournament title game, the Mountaineers will open against No. 13 seed Bucknell (26-8) on Thursday in Buffalo, N.Y.

The Bison enter with a six-game winning streak, which includes their run through the Patriot League Tournament for an automatic bid. Led by its front court, 6-foot-9 center Nana Foulland, the league’s player of the year, averages 14.9 points and 7.8 rebounds.

With a victory against Bucknell, West Virginia would play No. 5 Notre Dame or No. 12 Princeton for a spot in the Sweet 16.

Gonzaga is the No. 1 seed in the West regional, which could be a Sweet 16 opponent for West Virginia if the top seeds win each game. Second-seeded Arizona and No. 3 seed Florida State are on the other side of the bracket.

Iowa State (23-10), No. 5 seed in Midwest regional

Fresh off its Big 12 Conference Tournament title, Iowa State receives one of the top 3-point shooting teams in the country: No. 12 seed Nevada.

The Cyclones will face the Mountain West champions Thursday in Milwaukee. The Wolf Pack, which won its last nine games, features versatile 6-8 sophomore forward Cameron Oliver, who shot 38 percent from the 3-point line and averaged 2.6 blocks per game.

“We’re happy that we’re going, but we’re going there to compete and try to win,” said second-year Nevada coach Eric Musselman, former coach with the Sacramento Kings and Golden State Warriors. “And we’re not just going there and saying ‘Hey, we’re a mid-major, we’re in this tournament.’ We’re going there to win.”

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Iowa State guard Deonte Burton (30) puts up a shot over Kansas guard Josh Jackson (11) during the second half, Saturday, Feb. 4, 2017 at Allen Fieldhouse.

The Iowa State-Nevada winner will meet the winner of No. 4 seed Purdue (25-7) and No. 13 seed Vermont (29-5).

If Iowa State advanced to the Sweet 16, the Cyclones could play top-seeded Kansas.

Oklahoma State (20-12), No. 10 seed in Midwest regional

Entering the NCAA Tournament on a three-game losing streak, the Cowboys will match up against one the hottest teams in the country Friday.

Oklahoma State will open against No. 7 seed Michigan (24-11) in the first round in Indianapolis. The Wolverines rolled through the Big 10 Tournament, which included wins over NCAA Tournament teams Purdue, Minnesota and Wisconsin.

Michigan’s senior point guard Derrick Walton Jr. leads with 15 points and 4.6 assists per game. He registered 29 points and nine assists in the Big 10 semifinal win over Minnesota and followed with 22 points and seven assists in a 15-point title-clinching win against Wisconsin.

On the other side of the regional from top-seeded Kansas, the Cowboys could face No. 2 seed Louisville (24-8) in the second round. Third-seeded Oregon or sixth-seeded Creighton could be waiting in the Sweet 16.

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Kansas guard Devonte' Graham (4) and Oklahoma State guard Jawun Evans (1) fight for a loose ball during the first half, Saturday, March 4, 2017 at Gallagher-Iba Arena.

Kansas State (20-13), No. 11 seed in First Four/South regional

The Wildcats were one of the last teams picked by the NCAA selection committee and will play Danny Manning’s Wake Forest squad (19-13) in the First Four on Wednesday in Dayton, Ohio.

With a win in the First Four game, Kansas State, which punched its ticket to the tournament with a Big 12 Tournament win over Baylor, would play No. 6 seed Cincinnati (29-4) in the first round in Sacramento, Calif.

Wake Forest won four of its last five games, which included wins over Louisville and Virginia Tech, before an ACC Tournament loss to Virginia Tech. Sophomore 6-10 forward John Collins, a potential NBA lottery pick, leads with 18.9 points and 9.8 rebounds per game.

Cincinnati took second in the AAC and ranks fourth in the country with a defense that allows 60.5 points per game.


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Comments

Kent Gaylor 9 months ago

Can someone please explain why 3 Big 12 teams are in the same region?

John Randall 9 months ago

Because that's where the seeding committee put them ... this is one of the times there is no better explanation.

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