Big 12 teams face hur­dles in tour­ney

Plenty of road­blocks await Kansas, Texas Tech and West Vir­ginia

The Dallas Morning News - - Front Page - Twit­ter: @Tim­cowlishaw

The Big 12 is well rep­re­sented in the NCAA bas­ket­ball tour­na­ment, but the teams face for­mi­da­ble hur­dles, Tim Cowlishaw writes.

In its own proud way, the Big 12 stands alone as March Mad­ness gets set to com­mence. Could all that mad­ness con­clude with the con­fer­ence claim­ing its first ti­tle in a decade?

It seems un­likely, although Kansas’ 3-point shoot­ing even­tu­ally finds its mark in each game and has al­lowed the Jay­hawks to rep­re­sent the league as a No. 1 seed in the Mid­west Region. And I de­fer on all Big 12 bas­ket­ball mat­ters

to lo­cal guru Fran Fraschilla, who in­sists that a now healthy Texas Tech team is just as ca­pa­ble of work­ing its way from the No. 3 seed it brings to Dal­las on Thurs­day night down the road to San An­to­nio for its first Fi­nal Four.

If only foot­ball were this sim­ple.

This con­fer­ence spends a lot of hand-wring­ing time try­ing to fig­ure out how to get a rep­re­sen­ta­tive into the Col­lege Foot­ball Play­off each fall. The league’s just 2 for 4 in what should be about an 80 per­cent propo­si­tion although one could ar­gue that the mad love for the SEC ren­ders this cal­cu­la­tion slightly lower for all the “power five” con­fer­ences that don’t fea­ture Alabama.

Bas­ket­ball will never get the love that foot­ball gen­er­ates in these parts — I’m not re­fer­ring to Allen Field­house as these parts nat­u­rally — but the qual­ity of play in this con­fer­ence is ap­proach­ing an all-time high.

What Chris Beard and Jamie Dixon have done to re­store the hoop game at Texas Tech and TCU is mag­i­cal. As a re­sult, de­spite what Ok­la­homa State fans feel was a snub by the se­lec­tion com­mit­tee (although a snub mostly be­cause ri­val Ok­la­homa was picked), 70 per­cent of the Big 12 made the bracket.

The ACC might have nine teams and the SEC eight but no other con­fer­ence can make the 70 per­cent claim. With teams seeded at the one (Kansas), three (Tech), five (West Vir­ginia) and six (TCU) slots, the Big 12 has more clubs among the top 24 of this field than the Pac-12 has in the en­tire 68-team field.

Since when did the folks around here sur­pass the Ucla-ari­zona-ore­gon crowd at the hard­wood game?

So ev­ery­one should take a col­lec­tive bow. And then, well, it might be time to take a seat be­cause I don’t have any Big 12 squads travers­ing the road to San An­to­nio.

And you know how spe­cial my brack­ets have been, right?

(Skip that ques­tion).

Ob­vi­ously, the Jay­hawks have a chance as any No. 1 seed should. But the amaz­ing job that Bill Self pulls off in win­ning this league year af­ter year — 14 straight? Se­ri­ously? — sel­dom trans­fers with strangers met in March. Yes, the Jay­hawks won it all right there in the Alamo City a decade ago. Framed pho­tos of Mario Chalmers launch­ing that 3 over Mem­phis (tech­ni­cally now over “Va­cated”) can be found on any Lawrence street cor­ner.

The com­mit­tee did Kansas no fa­vors by plop­ping Duke and Michi­gan State in the Nos. 2 and 3 seeds. The Jay­hawks have reached four of the last 20 Fi­nal Fours. The Blue Devils and Spar­tans have been to 12. And while all three of these coaches have vis­its with the FBI in their fu­ture, Tom Izzo’s team seems most likely to sur­vive the hur­dles of the next two weeks.

The Red Raiders are a won­der­ful story filled with lo­cal bas­ket­ball tal­ent, and it’s not hard to see this team es­cap­ing Dal­las with wins over Stephen F. Austin and per­haps Florida. But Tech has never made it to an Elite Eight, and get­ting out of Bos­ton with Vil­lanova and Pur­due in line to be there as the top seeds might be ask­ing too much.

But I love the wild-card na­ture of West Vir­ginia, both the Hug­gins style of play and the se­nior guards Jevon Carter and Dax­ter Miles who led the team past Tech in Kansas City last Fri­day, then gave Kansas a good scare in the ti­tle game. The com­mit­tee did the Moun­taineers no fa­vors as a 5 seed, mean­ing that — as­sum­ing high seeds pre­vail — West Vir­ginia will have to knock off Wi­chita State, Vil­lanova and Pur­due to es­cape the same East Region.

Who knows? How about a Tech-west Vir­ginia re­match in Bos­ton? A 3 vs. 5 isn’t out of the ques­tion.

And for a con­fer­ence that cat­a­pulted 70 per­cent of its teams into the big dance, one more Tech-west Vir­ginia bat­tle would mark a heck of a way to send a team to San An­to­nio.

Wt­cowlishaw@dal­las­news.com

TIM COWLISHAW

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