Dylan Disu, Texas Longhorns, Big 12 basketball

The Big 12 basketball conference heard seven teams’ names called on Sunday, an impressive feat.

Among those teams were Kansas, Texas, Baylor, Kansas State, Iowa State, TCU, and West Virginia. Oklahoma State, Oklahoma, and Texas Tech will not be representing Big 12 basketball, with Oklahoma State being named the first team out of the tournament.

All seven teams have unique paths to the finish, and each one can get there. Let’s break down each team’s path, floor, and ceiling.

Note: Path is assuming the higher seed wins in each matchup

Kansas Jayhawks

Seed: 1 seed

Path: Howard, Arkansas, UConn, UCLA, Houston, Alabama

Floor: Round of 32

Ceiling: National Champions

If you were to write an article about winners and losers of Selection Sunday, Kansas would 100% be a loser. First, they were placed in the West region instead of the Midwest, which many people expected. This means they will have to play the second weekend in Las Vegas instead of Kansas City. Then, they got put into the group of death, going up against potentially UCLA, Gonzaga, and Uconn.

They also have a tough Round of 32 matchup against the winner of Arkansas/Illinois. Both teams have a ton of talent and could pull off the upset, similar to the Baylor-UNC situation last year.

When everything is clicking, there isn’t a better team in the country than Kansas. They were the best team in the best league in the regular season and destroyed notable nonconference opponents in Indiana and Missouri. They have tremendous players in Jalen Wilson, Gradey Dick, and Dajuan Harris, and they defend at an extremely high level. If they can get guys other than Jalen Wilson to contribute on the offensive end, good luck beating this team.

Kevin McCullar and Bill Self’s health will be a big question mark heading into the NCAA Tournament. We saw how Kansas looked when both were out against Texas, and if they match up with a deep-scoring lineup in the tournament without McCullar, they can fall into a hole they can’t get out of. We haven’t seen a repeat champ in years, but if anyone can do it, it’s Kansas.

Texas Longhorns

Seed: 2 seed

Path: Colgate, Texas A&M, Xavier, Houston, Kansas, Alabama

Floor: Round of 32

Ceiling: National Champions

Texas looks like the team to beat heading into the tournament after looking dominant in the Big 12 Tournament. They get rewarded by playing the second weekend in the T-Mobile Center, the same spot they were just named Big 12 champs. Their path to get to the Elite 8 seems easy as long as they can beat the winner of Texas A&M/Penn State in the second round. Texas A&M has great size in the frontcourt, and Penn State is a team that can get hot from three-point land and not look back.

Their guard trio is one of, if not the best in the country. Marcus Carr and Sir’Jabari Rice are lethal scoring options, and Tyrese Hunter brings the intensity on the defensive end. They also have a really talented forward squad, with Timmy Allen leading the way. Dylan Disu, who was arguably their fifth or sixth-best player all year just won Big 12 Conference Player of the Tournament, just proving their depth.

The two question marks, like Kansas, rely on their wing and coach. Timmy Allen has been a key piece and one of their top players all season, but he missed the entire Big 12 basketball tournament with an injury. His status remains unknown, and they’ll certainly need him in the later rounds. The second is Rodney Terry as a coach. He’s done a tremendous job since taking over midseason, but having an interim coach in the biggest games of the year is a cause for concern. A different Big 12 basketball team has made the final the last three years, and Texas can become the 4th.

Baylor Bears

Seed: 3 seed

Path: UCSB, Creighton, Arizona, Alabama, Purdue, Houston

Floor: Round of 32

Ceiling: Final Four

If Baylor wants to make some run, it’s going to have to kick it into the next gear. They’ll potentially have to play a Creighton team that many argue is underseeded, an Arizona team that loves to run, and the top overall seed Alabama on their path to just the final 4.

Offensively, they have what it takes to make a run in March. Adam Flagler, Keyonte George, and LJ Cryer all have the ability to score 20 points nightly, and each has the ability to score from all three levels. Keyonte George is the difference maker, and if he can show early on that he has the maturity of an upperclassman rather than a freshman, they can repeat their success from two years ago.

The issue is defense. Baylor ranks outside of the top 100 defenses according to Kenpom, something this team is unfamiliar with compared to recent seasons. If the shots aren’t falling, they can lose to anyone, and if they can’t limit transition, it won’t even be close. Their forward play is lacking, and they’ll need Flo Thamba and JTT to step up defensively. If they are able to do that, then they are more than capable of making a run. Plus, they have Scott Drew, who’s one of the few coaches in college basketball with a ring on his finger.

Kansas State Wildcats

Seed: 3 Seed

Path: Montana State, Kentucky, Marquette, Purdue, Alabama, Houston

Floor: Round of 64

Ceiling: Final Four

What a story this Wildcat team has been. From a preseason last-place team in the Big 12 to a three-seed in the NCAA tournament. They get rewarded with a path that many people would consider one of the more favorable. Kentucky has had issues all season, Shaka Smart struggles in March, and Purdue has freshmen guards, something that never works in March. If they can get it to click, this team can come out of this region on top.

The way they’re going to do that is the duo of Marquis Nowell and Keyontae Johnson. This is the best duo in the country and their scoring ability and overall talent are what has led them to where they are today. If Nowell hits four or more threes, there’s no team beating them until the Sweet 16. They also have one of the best coaches in the country Jerome Tang. The rookie head coach has already turned this program around and we’ve seen him make some great in-game adjustments this season.

The question is everyone else. If Nowell or Johnson gets in foul trouble, will anyone else step up? Nae’qwan Tomlin and Desi Sills both stepped up at times this season and contributed big games, but inconsistently. Those two, and the rest of the team will need to step up in the most important time of the year, or Kansas State could be bounced in the first weekend.

Iowa State Cyclones

Seed: 6 seed

Path: Mississippi St/Pittsburgh, Xavier, Texas, Houston, Kansas, Alabama

Floor: Round of 64

Ceiling: Sweet Sixteen

Iowa State played in the 6-11 matchup last year and ended up making the Sweet 16. Of course, they were on the 11-seed side last year, but there isn’t much stopping this team from doing so again. History says that there’s a good chance they lose the first game, as the play-in winner has gone on to win in nearly every tournament since the play-in was introduced.

The way they win not only their first game but make a run is by staying consistent on defense. That was their strong suit all year, and having a great defense in March usually proves to be beneficial. They also need to play at their tempo. They like to slow the game down and force teams to beat them in the halfcourt rather than the transition, so if they can keep the place of play at minimal possessions per team then they can make a run.

The question is the offense. Gabe Kalscheur and Jaren Holmes are their top two scoring options, and neither is necessarily known for their offensive skillset. If they can get to 60 points, they’re winning the first game and possibly the second. If they can’t get there, it doesn’t matter how good the defense is.

TCU Horned Frogs

Seed: 6 seed

Path: Arizona State/Nevada, Gonzaga, UCLA, Kansas, Houston, Alabama

Floor: Round of 64

Ceiling: Elite Eight

Consistency has been an issue for TCU all year. When this team is on its A game, they’re a top 20 team in the country. When they’re not, they could lose by 20 in the first round. The good news is Mike Miles looks completely healthy. He’s been battling injury all season. Like Iowa State, either they or TCU will most likely lose in the first round according to history, and TCU is hoping that isn’t the case. They got paired in the bracket of death, and could potentially play Gonzaga, UCLA, and Kansas, three top-ten Kenpom teams in a row just to get to the final 4.

One positive is they do a great job limiting the three-point shot. Their opponents only shot 30.4% from three this season and could cause some of their opponents down the stretch to struggle if they make it. They will also have the best player on the floor in most situations, as Mike Miles continually proves he’s a game-changer on offense.

TCU struggled with rebounding, and with Eddie Lampkin, their starting center of the team, this could pose a serious issue for the Horned Frogs. They also struggle to shoot from behind the ark. If they fall into a 10-point deficit late, it’ll be very difficult for them to make a comeback and keep it competitive. The good news is they shot 43% from three over the two Big 12 basketball tournament games, a 13% jump from the regular season.

West Virginia Mountaineers

Seed: 9 seed

Path: Maryland, Alabama, Virginia, Arizona, Purdue, Houston

Floor: Round of 64

Ceiling: Round of 32

West Virginia enters as a nine seed, meaning they’re the only team among the Big 12 basketball teams in March Madness that isn’t considered a favorite in the first round according to seeding. By no means does that mean that this team won’t bring their A-game. They’ve got one of the best coaches in college basketball history in Bob Huggins, and one of the streakiest scorers in Erik Stevenson. Can they beat Alabama? They’d need a perfect game to do so, and even then it might not be enough.

As mentioned earlier, Erik Stevenson is the difference maker. He can score 20 in an instant, and it wouldn’t be surprising if he went for 30 points in their game against Maryland. They also turned it around at the end of the season, winning four of their last six games of the season. If they can get balanced scoring from players like Kedrian Johnson, Emmitt Matthews, and Tre Mitchell, it’ll be very hard to match up with this team.

The biggest issue is their 3-8 road record. Obviously, March Madness isn’t played at home and their inability to win consistently on the road is concerning. Defense is also an issue. West Virginia has allowed 60 or more points in every game this season since November 27th. Against a team like Maryland, they can win in a shootout, but against Alabama, that won’t be enough.

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