Kansas coach Bill Self makes the case for 6 Big 12 teams in this year's NCAA Tournament
Even after what has been perceived by many as a down season, Kansas coach Bill Self believes the Big 12 Conference still can get six teams into the NCAA Tournament when the pairings are announced two weeks from Sunday.
“I think our league has a shot to get six,” Self said. “And I think we’ll get five at least. I do.”
Most bracketology predictions from national college basketball analysts currently have the Big 12 with five in the field.
Kansas and Baylor are locks and project as No. 1 seeds.
West Virginia and Texas Tech both appear to be safe on the strength of their schedules and resumes and the fact that each program has spent most of the season ranked in the Top 25 polls and also in the Top 20 at KenPom.com.
That leaves Oklahoma, TCU and Texas still battling to build their cases to be included in this year’s Big Dance. None of them are locks and at least two of them — OU and Texas — are currently bouncing on the bubble.
In his latest version of the field, ESPN.com bracketologist, Joe Lunardi, has Oklahoma in his “Last Four In” category and Texas as the final school in his “Next Four Out” category, which essentially puts the Longhorns as the eighth team on the outside looking in.
OU and Texas are 7-8 in Big 12 play, with three regular season games to go, and TCU sits at 6-9, needing more help and/or a stronger finish than the other two to get in.
“I think that there’s some teams that are 7-8 in our league that all need to finish strong,” Self said. “I do think there’s a shot that 8-10 could get in, even though the committee doesn’t base it on what your league record, they base it on your overall (record).”
Of that trio, the Horned Frogs have by far the hardest schedule left, finishing vs. Baylor, at Kansas and vs. Oklahoma. That, along with their 15-13 overall record and recent 6-game losing streak puts TCU as the longest shot of that group.
Texas finishes the regular season at Texas Tech, at Oklahoma and vs. Oklahoma State. Oklahoma finishes the regular season at West Virginia, vs. Texas and at TCU.
And all three will have the potential to add to their cases at the Big 12 tournament in Kansas City, Mo., March 11-14.
For what it’s worth, two of the three are currently in the top 68 of the KenPom.com rankings — barely.
Oklahoma sits at No. 39 after games played through Thurssday. And Texas is ranked No. 63. TCU is way down the list at No. 88, behind even Oklahoma State, at No. 66.
Despite the Cowboys’ tournament-worthy KenPom ranking, their overall record (14-14) and resume — OSU is 2-9 in Quadrant 1 games and six of its wins are of the Quadrant 3 and 4 variety — has the Cowboys needing to win the Big 12 tourney to get in.
Another area worth looking at is the fairly new NCAA Tournament Evaluation Tool (NET), which is designed to better break down teams that are worthy of inclusion in the field and teams that aren’t.
Kansas and Baylor currently sit 1-2, respectively, in the NET rankings and four other Big 12 teams are in the Top 68.
West Virginia is 17th, Texas Tech is 20th, Oklahoma 49th and Texas 65th. Oklahoma State is 70th and TCU way down the list at 96th.
One of the things people in the Big 12 and many of its men’s basketball coaches have celebrated throughout the past few years is the fact that the Big 12 has been the No. 1 rated conference in college basketball for six years in a row.
“I would say we’ve probably gotten less national respect this year, as a league, than we have in prior years,” Self said Thursday.
The numbers would show that’s a little misguided. Despite the perception of the league being down, the Big 12 is still currently ranked as the second best conference in college basketball per the RPI rankings. The Big East is No. 1.
“We’ve kind of bellyached or whatever (in) the past about our league maybe not getting the attention it deserves because the metrics (showed) it was the best league,” Self said. “But a lot of times, when there’s parity within your league, it gives the view of it being maybe more average. And a lot of times when it’s top heavy and bottom heavy it gives the view of being superior. … Our league is still terrific and we’ve had teams in our league have terrific years.”