Dylan Disu, Texas Longhorns, Big 12 Basketball

Big 12 basketball had no teams in the NCAA Tournament Final last year, the first time since 2018.

This left every Big 12 basketball school with a big “what if?”. What if this game went differently? What if this player didn’t get hurt? Each team can make that argument so let’s take a look back at each team’s biggest “what if?”.

Baylor Bears: What if they don’t blow the lead against Kansas?

Heading into a pivotal Big 12 basketball matchup against the Kansas Jayhawks, the Baylor Bears had all the momentum. They had won nine of their last ten games, including a home win against Kansas, and looked to be not only the team to beat in the Big 12, but one of the teams to beat in the country.

In the first half, it looked to be that way once again. The Bears came out firing, with the trio of Adam Flagler, Keyonte George, and LJ Cryer making every shot possible. At half, they were up 13 and looking strong. Then, the second half tipped off, and the game flipped. Kansas cut that lead in minutes and went on to absolutely dominate the Bears, one of the best halves of any college basketball team all season. From there, Baylor would go on to lose three of its last five games before an eventual Round of 32 loss to Creighton.

If they win that game at Allen Fieldhouse by double digits, does this change? They’d be winners of ten of their last eleven, including a big win at Kansas and all the momentum going their way. This can carry through the rest of Big 12 play and eventually through the tournament, where who knows what could have happened.

Iowa State Cyclones: What if they could make a shot against Pitt?

This is a pretty boring one, but honestly, there weren’t too many what-ifs for this team. Another one could be what if Caleb Grill doesn’t score 30 and beat UNC, but that seems like it’s more for the Tar Heels than the Cyclones.

If there was an award for the most boring game of the NCAA tournament, it would be hard to not give it to the Pittsburgh-Iowa State game. If you’re one of those weird anti-college basketball people, this would be the perfect game to prove your point because Iowa State couldn’t make ANYTHING.

Now, it’s not like Iowa State is this high-scoring team in general, but this was just horrendous. In the first 10 minutes of the game, Iowa State would score 2(!) points. Unbelievable. They trailed 22-2 at that point. Luckily, the shots started falling and they were able to cut it to 30-23 at the half and it looked like they’d built enough momentum to make the comeback and win this game.

Then, the 2nd half tipped off and it didn’t go much better. Iowa State would score just 5 points in the first ten minutes and 7 in the first 15, allowing Pitt to build up a lead and win this game easily. Iowa State shot 23.3% from the field, 9.5% from three, and 57.9% from the field. What if they started that second half strong? It’s not like Pitt was playing great, as they only scored 8 points in the first nine minutes of the second half. Unfortunately, these games happen, and Iowa State just got unlucky the ball wasn’t bouncing their way.

Kansas Jayhawks: What if Bill Self was healthy?

Obviously, health comes first always and we’re glad that coach Self prioritized his health over college basketball. With that being said, the Jayhawks were rolling, winning by far the most Quad 1 games in the country, winning the Big 12 regular season outright, and seven in a row in order to do so. Then, it was announced that coach Self would miss the Big 12 tournament due to a medical concern, and the Jayhawks would lose to Texas in the final.

The real “what if” comes in the second round of the NCAA tournament. Kansas, the 1 seed would take on Arkansas, the 8 seed. While Arkansas was definitely better than an eight-seed, this was still a game the Jayhawks should win. Ultimately, that wasn’t the case, as Arkansas would pull off the stunner and send the Jayhawks packing.

With no disrespect to coach Norm Roberts, what if Bill was on the sidelines? Does that game go differently? How far do they go if they end up winning? These are questions that haunt Jayhawk fans to this day.

Kansas State Wildcats: What if Keyontae Johnson stays out of foul trouble vs. FAU?

Many people didn’t believe in Kansas State heading into this year, and those people were proven very wrong. One of the main reasons? Keyontae Johnson. After not playing basketball for years, Johnson was terrific, averaging 17.6 PPG and 6.8 RPG while shooting 40% from deep. While his teammate Markquis Nowell stole the show with his unreal stat lines throughout the tournament, Johnson was a great Robin, scoring 22 points in that thrilling game against Michigan State to advance to the Elite 8.

In the Elite 8, they faced FAU, and many thought the combination of Nowell and Johnson would be too much for the Owls. Unfortunately, the refs didn’t think so, handing Johnson his second foul of the game with 12:21 left in the first half, limiting his time on the court, and allowing FAU to head into halftime with a lead.

In the second half, it wasn’t much better, with Johnson picking up foul #3 at the 17:22 mark and #4 with 14:10 left in the game. Once again, Johnson was on the bench while his team fought to keep their season alive. Johnson picked up foul #5 with 2:44 left in the game, ending his season and not allowing Kansas State to have its secondary scoring option when they needed it in a close game with just minutes to go.

What’s frustrating is Johnson didn’t play badly, scoring 9 points on 4-7 shooting in the 18 minutes he played. However, when you’re on the court for less than half the game, you can’t do enough to make a significant enough impact, which we saw. If he stays out of foul trouble, do the Wildcats win this game? That would send them to the Final 4, where they’d take on a San Diego State team that required a buzzer-beater to beat FAU. These are all what-ifs and not realistic, but Kansas State fans might have the most painful ones when it comes to what could have been.

Oklahoma Sooners: What if Tanner Groves’ three-point shot didn’t disappear?

There aren’t too many what-ifs for the Sooners, so sorry Oklahoma fans. Please let me know if there’s a bigger one that could have impacted the season even more.

One of the reasons that Tanner Groves became such a quality college basketball player last season was his ability to stretch the floor. Last season, he shot 38% from three, spreading the floor and making the jobs of his teammates easier. This year, that shooting touch disappeared, as that number would drop to 28%. As a result, he was shooting a lot less, congesting the lanes and making the offense more stagnant. In his final four games of the season, he shot 2-15 from deep, or 13%.

Now, it’s not like Groves’ three-point ability is the difference between them winning the Big 12 and finishing last, but if he was able to maintain that percentage and become an outside shooting threat, that could have allowed his teammates to excel at a higher level and perhaps would have given them the opportunity to sneak a few extra wins in there. Oklahoma didn’t have much three-point shooting in general, so having him be an option would have been nice.

Oklahoma State Cowboys: What if the refs call a foul instead of a block against Kansas?

After a subpar nonconference slate where they went 8-4, Oklahoma State looked to start off conference play with a bang, taking on Kansas at Allen Fieldhouse. For a while, it looked like they were going to do just that, jumping out to a 15 point halftime lead on the road and looking in control. That didn’t last, as Kansas would come back to tie and take the lead at the 10:58 mark.

The rest of the game would be neck and neck, with no team taking a lead bigger than four the rest of the game. With 16 seconds left, Bryce Thompson hit a huge three to even the score and KJ Adams would respond with a layup to give the Jayhawks the lead. With 0.3 seconds left, Thompson would get the ball near the rim on an out-of-bounds play and get blocked by Kevin McCullar.

At the moment, it looked like an iffy block that might have had some contact with the body. If the ref calls that, Thompson has a chance to go to the line and send the game to overtime. Thompson isn’t a great free throw shooter, but he was 2-2 on the day and was shooting the lights out. In overtime, who knows what would have happened, but they could have easily walked out with a win. As many know, Oklahoma State was the first team out according to the selection committee, but a road win against Kansas would have put them in the field, no question about it. From there, anything can happen, but we’ll never know.

TCU Horned Frogs: What if Eddie Lampkin didn’t leave?

After an impressive tournament in 2021-2022 as a freshman, many people thought Eddie Lampkin had the potential to be the next great center in college basketball. Unfortunately for TCU fans, they did not see this, as Lampkin averaged just 6.3 PPG and 5.9 RPG. The icing on the cake occurred just before the Big 12 tournament when Lampkin announced he was leaving the program. Lampkin wasn’t necessarily an impact player at that point, but a 6’11 263-pound frame can do wonders.

TCU couldn’t respond to the size issues, as the opponent’s big man would score double-digit points in every game after that, including Drew Timme’s 28 points in TCU’s last game of the season. Could Lampkin’s presence alone have changed the outcomes? Both of TCU’s losses since the departure were by six or less, so being able to limit the big man’s scoring may have been enough for TCU to go a little deeper than Round of 32 in last year’s NCAA Tournament.

Texas Longhorns: What if Dylan Disu doesn’t get hurt?

If you had to guess who would win the Big 12 player of the tournament before tipoff, Dylan Disu would be pretty low on your list. However, he was far and away the top guy, averaging 14.6 PPG, 8.3 RPG on 73% shooting from the field. It looked like his dominant ways would continue, especially when he dropped 17 and 10 on 72.7% shooting in the first round of the NCAA Tournament and 28 and 10 on 70% shooting to send the Longhorns to the Sweet 16.

This would all change on a Friday Night game vs. Xavier, where Disu would leave just 2 minutes into the game with a foot injury. The Longhorns would still manage to win that game, but he would not be cleared to play the next game vs. Miami. His absence was certainly felt in their loss against Miami, robbing them of a Final 4 appearance.

If Disu plays, can he hold Texas’ halftime lead and send them to the Final 4? This would have lightened the load on his teammates as well, and if any team had a chance of beating UConn, it was the Longhorns. Luckily, it seems like Disu is fully healthy for next season, but Longhorns fans are left wondering what if this never happened.

Texas Tech Red Raiders: What if Fardaws Aimaq was healthy all season?

When Fardaws Aimaq, the former leading rebounder in all of Division 1 announced that he was committing to Texas Tech, Red Raiders fans were stoked at the potential scoring and rebounding threat they were about to get. Unfortunately for them, due to injuries and off-the-court issues, we didn’t see Aimaq suit up until January 14th. By then, Texas Tech was 0-5 in conference playing and looking for a miracle. Mark Adams did a terrible job easing him back in, playing him 29 minutes in his first game in 10 months.

The Red Raiders would fall to 0-8 at that point, but suddenly with a fully healthy team and chemistry building, they would go on and win their next four, with three of those against future tournament teams. They couldn’t build enough momentum from then on to sneak in, but this shows the what-if factor if they had Aimaq for the whole Big 12 season. The team went 4-6 in conference games he played and 1-7 in the ones he didn’t. Many of those were single-digit losses, so could the presence of Aimaq be enough for them to win 2-3 more games and sneak into the tournament?

West Virginia Mountaineers: What if Jahmir Young makes the second free throw?

If this was the biggest what-ifs for the season and offseason, it’d be pretty obvious what the choice would be. This what-if is a little unique, as what happened should have benefitted the Mountaineers, but in a sense hurt them. You can also argue the bigger what if in this game was that Erik Stevenson, their leading scorer shot just 4-17 from the field, but let’s dig a little deeper.

The NCAA Tournament started with a bang, as the 8-seeded Maryland took on the 9-seeded West Virginia in the opening game of the tournament. The game was close throughout, and with 30 seconds left, Maryland would travel, giving West Virginia, down 3, the ball back. Tre Mitchell would make a layup to cut the lead to one with 8.4 seconds left and would foul Jahmir Young, an 82.7% free throw shooter who was 6/6 on the night. Young would make the second free throw to extend the lead to two, then miss the second. West Virginia would scramble to get down the court in four seconds with no timeouts, and that led to their final shot being a one-legged three from the logo that would miss.

If Young makes that free throw, yes it does extend the lead to three which means the best the Mountaineers could have done was force overtime, but this would have allowed the clock to stop and for West Virginia to set up an out-of-bounds play. This could have allowed West Virginia to get the ball up a lot quicker and get a closer and better shot. West Virginia made 8 threes in the game already and had several options, so saying that they could have made the shot isn’t an outlandish statement at all. Instead, Young missed the free throw causing the clock to keep running and not giving West Virginia enough time to get a good shot off.

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