Tramel: How the Big 12 is challenging Big Ten for college basketball supremacy
Big 12 basketball looks stronger than it’s ever been.
Seven virtual shoe-ins for NCAA Tournament berths. Six teams in the top 21 of the NCAA’s Net rankings. Five teams in the NCAA selection committee’s top 16 via the first bracket reveal of the season.
But the Big 12 probably takes a backseat to the Big Ten in terms of overall conference prowess this season.
The selection committee’s rankings released Saturday included No. 3 Michigan, No. 4 Ohio State, No. 5 Illinois and No. 13 Iowa. The Big 12 had No. 2 Baylor, No. 10 West Virginia, No. 12 OU, No. 14 Texas Tech and No. 15 Texas.
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In ESPN’s bracketology breakdown Monday, teams were broken down into locks, should be in and work to do.
The Big 12 had three locks -- Baylor, OU and West Virginia. Texas, Kansas, Texas Tech and OSU were listed as should be in.
In the Big Ten, Michigan, Ohio State, Illinois and Iowa were labeled locks. Wisconsin, Purdue and Rutgers were placed under should be in. Minnesota, Indiana, Maryland and Penn State were considered work to do.
So the Big Ten, with 11 of its 14 teams still at least in contention, would appear to have more depth than the Big 12, with seven of 10 under consideration.
But the Big 12’s seven are in great shape for inclusion in the 68-team field. For the Big Ten to achieve 70 percent NCAA Tournament participation, it would need 10 teams in the field. Not likely, but possible.
The other power conferences aren’t projected to have nearly as much representation come March.
ACC: Virginia a lock. Florida State, Virginia Tech, Louisville and Clemson should be in. North Carolina and Syracuse work to do.
Big East: Villanova a lock. Creighton and Xavier should be in. Seton Hall, Connecticut and St. John’s work to do.
Pac-12: No locks. Southern Cal, Colorado and UCLA should be in. Oregon and Stanford work to do.
SEC: Alabama a lock. Missouri, Tennessee, Florida and Arkansas should be in. LSU and Ole Miss work to do.
American: Houston a lock. Southern Methodist a work to do.
So the Big 12 is in great shape to garner seven NCAA Tournament bids, more than 10 percent of the field, while also getting seeds that should lead to first-round success.
Here are the latest Big 12 rankings:
1. Baylor (17-0, 9-0): Will the Bears have rust after more than two weeks off?
2. Oklahoma (13-5, 8-4): The Sooners still have games against Kansas State and Iowa State remaining, plus two against OSU. No reason OU can’t finish second.
3. Texas (13-5, 7-4): Longhorns have a tough finish. Games against Baylor, OU, West Virginia, Kansas and Texas Tech.
4. West Virginia (14-6, 7-4): Mountaineers still get to play Kansas State once and Texas Christian twice but also has Baylor twice.
5. Kansas (15-7, 9-5): The Jayhawks’ demise is greatly exaggerated. KU is 9-5 in the Big 12, and its four remaining games are at Texas, Texas Tech, at Kansas State, Baylor. The Jayhawks should beat K-State. Win one of the other three games, and KU finishes 11-7 in the league. That’s strong.
6. Texas Tech (14-6, 6-5): The Red Raiders are poised to win some games -- Iowa State once, TCU twice -- down the stretch.
7. Oklahoma State (13-6, 6-6): Can the Cowboys finish .500 in the conference for just the second time since 2009?
8. TCU (11-8, 4-6): The Horned Frogs struggled to win at home against Iowa State.
9. Kansas State (5-17, 1-12): Is this the end for coach Bruce Weber?
10. Iowa State (2-14, 0-11): Is this the end for coach Steve Prohm?