The first Thursday of the NCAA Tournament was not kind to the Big 12. All three conference teams that took the floor were knocked out. Iowa State and Baylor came into the tournament as three seeds, but combined to lose each game by one point. Even 11 seeded Texas was a slight favorite over Butler, but they also lost their first game of the postseason.
Now the Big 12 has four more games to get their first win of the NCAA Tournament. Three of the teams are favorites coming into the game, so there’s a chance that the conference could have one of worst tournament performances ever.
The No.2 Kansas Jayhawks start the day with 15 seed New Mexico State. The Jayhawks limped into the postseason with various injuries and suspensions, but Perry Ellis and company should be able to play at full strength. They won the Big 12 regular season title for the 11th straight time, and have the guards to control the game. Frank Mason has been as dominant as any point guard throughout the college season. He must play with force from the outset, and continue to play consistently well throughout the game.
Ever since the NCAA brackets were revealed, the No.12 Buffalo Bulls were a trendy pick to upset the No.5 West Virginia Mountaineers. There’s no question that West Virginia will bring a tenacious press to Buffalo’s doorstep, but if the Bulls can handle it, they’ll be able to create many offensive opportunities. This could be one of the most exciting games of the day.
Oklahoma State is the only Big 12 team not to be favored in the NCAA Tournament. However, the Cowboys are a slight underdog to the PAC-12 runner up, Oregon Ducks. Oklahoma State enters the tournament with 13 losses, yet, they were able to earn a nine seed. Based on recent results, it looks like Oklahoma State was given too high a seed. To pull off the win, Cowboys must contain PAC-12 POY, Joe Young.
The No.3 Oklahoma Sooners are a sleeper to make the Final Four. First, the Sooners need to get past the No.14 Albany Great Danes. The Sooners average 72 points per game, while Albany uses tough defense to hold opponents to 60 points. Oklahoma has had a couple of prolonged scoring droughts this season, so they must be wary of losing their edge at any moment. Still, the Sooners are a very exciting offensive team that can strike from anywhere on the court.
It’s not likely that the Big 12 will go winless for the second day in a row. However, chances are every team will be challenged early, and the pressure will fall squarely on the favorites.