It doesn’t matter to Baylor – but the Big 12 Tournament could make the path to the Sweet 16 a lot easier for teams that play well.
The Bears are going to be a top seed no matter what happens in their first-round game Friday against the winner of the Thursday’s Kansas State-Texas game. Even should one of the Big 12 bottomfeeders pull off an upset for the ages, it won’t affect Baylor’s chances of winning a national title at all – and it wouldn’t even help Kansas State or Texas unless the winner rode that momentum all the way to the conference title.
As for Texas Tech and Oklahoma State, one of whom will play Baylor (barring a Friday miracle) Saturday, an upset would change their bracket status dramatically as well. The Red Raiders and the Cowgirls are pretty much in the NCAA Tournament even if they lose, of course, as getting smacked down by Baylor is hardly cause for the Selection Committee to rethink its position. But even a close loss might help, and every little edge could make a difference.
But Baylor’s focus is the Final Four, and even getting there won’t be enough for the Bears. Anything less than a national title is going to be a massive disappointment in Waco, which is why Baylor’s walk through its side of the bracket won’t be all that compelling.
The other side of the bracket, though, will be where the real action is. Kansas, which looked like its tournament position was solid just a couple weeks ago, went on a four-game tailspin to drop below .500 in conference and 17-12 overall – so now the Jayhawks need to get by 20-loss TCU in the first round, and then knock off Iowa State in the quarters to make sure they avoid a trip to the WNIT. Kansas has split with the Cyclones, but the last game was a 15-point loss, so Bonnie Henricksen needs to right the ship in a hurry.
Iowa State, though, could use that win as well, as a first-round elimination could drop the Cyclones into the dreaded eight-seed range, and result in an early matchup with one of the country’s best.
On the other side of those semifinals will be the winner of West Virginia and Oklahoma, and at 9-9 in conference and just 17-12 overall, the Mountaineers desperately need the win. The good news is that West Virginia beat Oklahoma by 19 the last time they played; the bad news is that the Mountaineers are coming off a 13-point loss to Texas in which they scored just 45 points.
Oklahoma at 21-9 doesn’t have to worry about the WNIT, but again, staying at a sixth seed or higher is crucial. The way the brackets work, is that a trip to the Sweet 16 is a lot easier if a team can avoid a No. 1 seed in game two – and the No. 1 seed is precisely who the eight seed draws.
The seventh seed isn’t that much better, as there are some solid projected No. 2s this year (Cal, Duke, Kentucky, etc.), so the Sooners definitely need to get to the finals against Baylor to make sure they don’t drop too far.
In the grand scheme of things, though, the Big 12 tournament – as with all of the Big Six events – isn’t played for much beyond regional pride. The regular season champ has proven which is the best team, and the NCAA Tournament is the big chance for redemption. A team like Kansas could conceivably salvage a ticket to the Big Polka by getting to the finals, and West Virginia could make Selection Monday a lot less nerve-wracking by beating Oklahoma, but this is the Big 12, after all, and if fewer than six teams go it will be an upset.
Granted, the conference isn’t as strong as it has been in the past, but then again, which conference is? The ACC is soft, the Pac-12 is its usual mediocre self, and the Big 10 is rife with inconsistent teams and bad losses. So Kansas might even be in with just a win over TCU, and those six seeds may fall from the committee’s computers even if Baylor wins every game by 40.
Don’t expect the Bears to do that, however, as their lack of interest in the proceedings will undoubtedly show up in occasional lackluster play. In fact, it wouldn’t be that much of a surprise if their long winning streak was snapped in Dallas, as the only thing that matters to Baylor is winning six in a row in the real tournament.
2013 Phillips 66 Big 12 Women's Basketball Championship
Friday, March 8 (all times Central)
Game 1: No. 8 Kansas State vs No. 9 Texas 6:00 p.m.
Game 2: No. 7 Kansas vs No. 10 TCU 8:30 p.m.
Saturday, March 9
Game 3: No. 4 Texas Tech vs No. 5 Oklahoma State 11:00 a.m. TV-FSN
Game 4: No. 1 Baylor vs. Game 1 Winner 1:30 p.m. TV-FSN
Game 5: No. 2 Iowa State vs. Game 2 Winner 6:00 p.m. TV-FSN
Game 6: No. 3 Oklahoma vs No. 6 West Virginia 8:30 p.m. TV-FSN
Sunday, March 10
Game 7: Game 3 Winner vs. Game 4 Winner 1:00 p.m. TV-FSN
Game 8: Game 5 Winner vs. Game 6 Winner 3:30 p.m. TV-FSN
Monday, March 11
Game 9: Game 7 Winner vs. Game 8 Winner 7:00 p.m. TV-FSN
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