The way Baylor coach Scott Drew views it, having a bubble team such as his is like playing the lottery.
"Fortunately, percentages don’t matter because someone is not supposed to win the lottery and everyone does," Drew said after the Bears lost to TCU 82-72 Saturday afternoon.
With two regular-season games remaining for Big 12 teams, only Iowa State and Oklahoma State appear to need a Big 12 Tournament championship to earn an NCAA tournament berth.
The top half of the standings are shoo-ins for the tournament, which leaves Oklahoma (17-11, 7-9 Big 12), Baylor (17-12, 7-9) and Texas (17-12, 7-9) scrambling to earn the last two of the projected seven automatic bids from the conference.
"As long as the ball is bouncing, the great thing in the Big 12 is every game is a quality win opportunity," said Drew, whose team had won five consecutive games before dropping the previous two to West Virginia (21-8, 10-6) and TCU (20-9, 8-8). "A lot of times we all look at it and think ‘we’re in.’ Nobody is in. "
That's Drew's way of making sure his team realizes the final two games could go a long way in determining the Bears' fate.
And the Bears could definitely close out with two wins at home against faltering Oklahoma on Tuesday and on the road at surprising Kansas State on Saturday. The Sooners, after being a highly ranked team behind super freshman Trae Young, have struggled down the stretch. They lost six in a row before beating Kansas State on Saturday. They finish with Baylor and at home against Iowa State. The Big 12 Conference tournament begins March 7 in Kansas City, Mo.
TCU, which has Kansas State at home Tuesday night and at Texas Tech on Saturday afternoon, could finish at or over .500 for the first time in the Big 12 (and in any other conference) since 2005 in Conference USA. They've already won as many games in the Big 12 than they had in the two previous seasons combined.
"We lost some tough ones early but I like where we’re at, considering we lost a player who was playing 35 minutes a game," TCU coach Jamie Dixon said, referring to point guard Jaylen Fisher's season-ending injury. "We’re in a good spot right now, we’re playing our best basketball. Everybody else is speculating. It’s fun. We look at [the tournament], we challenge our guys with it, but we also don’t want to feel like we’ve accomplished something because we’ve got more to do."
The last time TCU finished with a winning conference record was 2001 in the Western Athletic Conference. TCU last earned an NCAA tournament berth in 1998.
Among the bubble teams in the Big 12, Texas has the roughest road remaining. The Longhorns play at Kansas on Monday night and close out with West Virginia in Austin on Saturday. They've won two of three after a three-game losing streak.
Big 12 Standings