The Big 12 has tied a conference record with four teams in the Sweet 16 heading into this weekend’s games.
Despite the conference’s strength, none of its remaining teams are fashionable choices to make the Final Four next week in San Antonio.
The Big 12 will be bucking history. After having five teams during a three-year period from 2002-04, the conference has produced only three Final Four teams since then. The most recent was Oklahoma in 2016.
Here’s a look at the matchup that each Big 12 team faces this week and a determination of how far they will advance in the tournament.
Seed – No. 1 in Midwest.
Upcoming – Game against No. 5 Clemson Friday night in Omaha.
Tournament to date – Beat No. 16 Pennsylvania 76-60, beat No. 8 seed Seton Hall 83-79.
Strengths – Tournament experience, offensive firepower, return to health of Udoka Azubuike.
Weaknesses – Rebounding, depth inside.
Early scoop – Kansas has played to the level of the team that claimed the Big 12 regular-season and tournament championships. They aren’t always pretty, but Bill Self’s squad always has the firepower to be competitive in the tournament. The more that Udoka Azubuike plays, the better their chances. Devonte’ Graham must shoot himself out of his tournament slump if they have any hope of winning this weekend.
Prediction – Lose in the Elite 8 to Duke.
TEXAS TECH (26-9)
Seed – No. 3 in East.
Upcoming – Game against No. 2 Purdue Friday night in Boston.
Tournament to date – Beat No. 14 Stephen F. Austin 70-60, beat No. 6 Florida 69-66.
Strengths – Athleticism, play of Keenan Evans, fierce man-to-man defense.
Weaknesses – Struggling 3-point shooting, difficulty with opposing up-tempo offenses, foul prone.
Thoughts after two games – The Red Raiders needed big efforts down the stretch in both of their earlier tournament games. Evans’ practice time has been limited, but you couldn’t tell it by his play so far. If Isaac Haas can’t play for Purdue on Friday, the Red Raiders have a good chance at making a trip to the Elite Eight. But not past Villanova. The Wildcats’ perimeter shooting should be kryptonite for the Red Raiders’ defense.
Prediction – Lose in Elite 8 to Villanova.
WEST VIRGINIA (26-10)
Seed – No. 5 in East
Upcoming – Game against No. 1 Villanova Friday night in Boston.
Tournament to date – Beat No. 12 Murray State 85-68, beat No. 13 Marshall 94-71.
Strengths – Pressing defense, balance, Bob Huggins on the sidelines.
Weaknesses – Perimeter defense, rebounding.
The early scoop – The Mountaineers have scarcely been challenged so far in the tournament with two impressive victories. Arguably, they have looked better than any Big 12 team to date. But they will be supremely tested by a Villanova team that looks built to beat them. The Wildcats are hitting a blistering 45.6 percent in the tournament and are the first team in history to hit at least 14 3-pointers in back-to-back NCAA games. West Virginia must enforce its defensive will to have any chance at an upset.
Prediction – Lose in the Sweet 16 to Villanova.
KANSAS STATE (24-11)
Seed – No. 9 in East.
Upcoming – Game against No. 5 Kentucky Thursday night in Atlanta.
Tournament to date – Beat No. 8 Creighton 69-59, beat No. 16 UMBC 50-43.
Strengths – Defense, balanced scoring.
Weaknesses – Athleticism, struggles against teams with strong backcourt play.
Early scoop – The return of Dean Wade will bring back Kansas State’s best scorer and rebounder after missing his last 3 games. But teams with athletic backcourts have proved difficult for the Wildcats, who are 0-7 this season against Kansas, West Virginia and Texas Tech. They must protect the ball better after 18 turnovers in a close victory over UMBC. They can’t afford such sloppiness against Kentucky.
Prediction – Lose in Sweet 16 to Kentucky.
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