On the list of life’s head-scratching surprises, few things trump spring weather conditions in North Texas. The past two weeks have required residents to break out snow boots, sun screen and umbrellas. Sometimes on the same day.
But there is one event that promises the potential for even crazier results: the Big 12 men’s basketball tournament that begins Wednesday in Kansas City, Mo. Whatever happens, or fails to happen, between now and Saturday in the Sprint Center will impact the postseason plans for several local teams.
Coaching tenures could swing in the balance, most notably the continued employment of Rick Barnes at Texas if his team fails to land an NCAA Tournament berth for the second time in three seasons.
The Longhorns (19-12, 8-10 Big 12) need to win once, and probably twice, in Kansas City before Barnes should feel comfortable about clinching an at-large NCAA berth with a team that was ranked No. 6 in The Associated Press’ poll in December. TCU (17-14, 4-14), on the other hand, seems well-positioned to become an NIT participant with a victory in Kansas City and could emerge as a surprise NCAA participant by winning the tournament as the No. 9 seed.
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TCU plays Kansas State (15-16, 8-10) in Wednesday’s early game (6 p.m., ESPNU), with Texas meeting Texas Tech (13-18, 3-15) in the nightcap.
An opening-night participant projects to have as good a chance to claim the 2015 tournament title, along with the accompanying NCAA berth, as at any time in the league’s 18 seasons because of the Big 12’s balance. Kansas (24-7, 13-5), the regular-season champion, enters as the first No. 1 seed with five conference losses in tournament history. Seven of the 10 teams in the field rank among the nation’s top 45 teams in RPI, the highest total from any Division I conference.
Throughout conference tournament history, only one trend remains constant: No men’s basketball team from a Texas school has cut down the nets and celebrated when it ended. That means the quartet of TCU, Texas, Texas Tech and Baylor will seek to break that 0-for-17 streak in the Sprint Center, where any outcome seems possible.
Jimmy Burch, 817-390-7760
What’s the forecast for this weekend and beyond? Here’s a peek, starting at the top of the seed list, with each team’s chances to make the NCAA Tournament:
No. 1 Kansas (100%)
A Sweet 16 berth seems inevitable. Anything more will require consistent guard play, which is not a given.
No. 2 Iowa State (100%)
Sweet 16 berth is expected. A deeper NCAA run is possible because ISU presents more matchup challenges to first-time foes than any Big 12 school.
No. 3 Oklahoma (100%)
If the perimeter shots are falling, the Sooners could make an under-the-radar run to the Elite Eight. If not, they can lose to anyone.
No. 4 Baylor (100%)
A solid NCAA sleeper with Elite Eight upside. The Bears are 17-4✔ in their last five postseason appearances (3 NCAA, 2 NIT✔).
No. 5 West Virginia (100%)
The health of guard Juwan Staten✔ (knee) during NCAA play will determine if this team is one-and-done or headed to the Sweet 16.
No. 6 Oklahoma State (55%)
The Cowboys last won an NCAA tournament game in 2009✔. Don’t expect that to change. But this team could win the NIT, if placed in that event.
No. 7 Texas (51%)
Texas’ postseason could include anything from a Sweet 16 run to a coaching change. Ample talent is offset by incredible inconsistency.
No. 8 Kansas State (10%)
Barring a 4-0 record in the Sprint Center, the Wildcats’ season will end in Kansas City.
No. 9 TCU (5%)
The Horned Frogs should be Road Warriors in a postseason event, most likely the NIT.
No. 10 Texas Tech (2%)
The Red Raiders could make their season, and ruin Texas’, with an upset. Beyond that, it’s all about next year.
Big 12 tournament
No. 8 Kansas State vs. No. 9 TCU, 6 p.m., ESPNU
No. 7 Texas vs. No. 10 Texas Tech, 8 p.m., ESPNU
No. 4 Baylor vs. No. 5 West Virginia, 11:30 a.m., ESPN2
No. 1 Kansas vs. Kansas St./TCU winner, 1:30 p.m., ESPN2
No. 2 Iowa St. vs. Texas/Texas Tech winner, 6 p.m., ESPNU
No. 3 Oklahoma vs. No. 6 Oklahoma St., 8 p.m., ESPNU
Semifinals: 6 p.m. and 8 p.m., ESPN or ESPN2
Final: 5 p.m., ESPN