For months, Big 12 men’s basketball coaches have been extolling the virtues of their league as the ultimate laboratory to create teams capable of making deep runs in the 2014 NCAA Tournament.
From the league’s double round-robin schedule to the quality of coaching peers and NBA-caliber players, there has been widespread optimism about seeing one or more Big 12 teams advance to the Final Four at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, April 5, 7. Because the Big 12 is the official host of this year’s event, watching a league team cut down the nets after the championship game in JerryWorld looms as the potential payoff for conference administrators who have invested years of preparation to stage the first Final Four in DFW since 1986.
“I like our chances,” said Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby, whose league has more teams in the field (seven) than any other conference. “We have a number of teams with the potential to play at that level if they get hot and stay healthy.”
Bowlsby’s brash talk is justified. He oversees a league that ranks first among the nation’s conferences in league-wide RPI and strength of schedule. The Big 12 also posted the nation’s best winning percentage in nonconference play (.797), thanks to a 102-26 record in intersectional matchups.
But no league team earned a No. 1 seed in the 68-team bracket. The Big 12’s highest-seeded team, No. 2 Kansas (24-9), is expected to play its first two tournament games without 7-foot center Joel Embiid (back injury), the Big 12 defensive player of the year.
Kansas has struggled in recent games without Embiid in the lineup, dropping its regular-season finale to a West Virginia team that did not make the NCAA field and falling to Iowa State in the Big 12 tournament. The Cyclones (26-7) claimed the conference tournament crown, as well as a No. 3 seed in the East Region, heading into Friday’s game against North Carolina Central (8:50 p.m., San Antonio).
Based on tournament seeds and potential matchups in the NCAA bracket, the logical conclusion is that Iowa State — the only Big 12 team with an undefeated record against nonconference opponents this season — projects as the league’s best bet to make it to Arlington.
Yet Kansas, at 10-1, received the Big 12’s best odds from Bovada Sports Book to cut down the nets at AT&T Stadium. Iowa State received 33-1 odds to emerge as the national champion, the second-best odds among league teams.
Based on what we know heading into Thursday’s first full day of tournament games, here is a top-to-bottom look at Big 12 teams considered most likely to make it to Arlington:
Big 12 breakdown
Based on odds released by Bovada Sports Book, here are the Big 12’s best bets to cut down the nets in Arlington:
Final Four favorites
Final Four odds by Bovada Sports Book :
|Florida||No. 1 seed||11-2|
|Michigan St.||No. 4 seed||7-1|
|Louisville||No. 4 seed||13-2|
|Arizona||No. 1 seed||9-1|
|Virginia||No. 1 seed||10-1|
|Wichita St.||No. 1 seed||10-1|
|Kansas||No. 1 seed||10-1|
|Duke||No. 3 seed||12-1|
|Wisconsin||No. 2 seed||20-1|
|Villanova||No. 2 seed||20-1|
|Michigan||No. 2 seed||20-1|
|Syracuse||No. 3 seed||20-1|
|Creighton||No. 3 seed||20-1|