Busting Brackets

Reflections On Frenzied, Wild Big 12 Tournament


The Iowa State Cyclones captured their second consecutive Big 12 Tournament title with a 70-66 come-from-behind win over Kansas. Let’s reflect on a frenetic weekend of Big 12 basketball.

You would never know it judging from the calm demeanor of Fred Hoiberg, but the Iowa State Cyclones (25-8, 12-6 Big 12) survived a frenzied weekend of tournament basketball to claim their second consecutive Big 12 Tournament title.

Pulse-pounding comebacks were the norm for Iowa State, but Hoiberg’s Cyclones were unflappable during come-from-behind wins over Texas, Oklahoma and regular season conference champs Kansas. Iowa State’s comebacks were only part of the the Big 12 story. Let’s reflect on an amazing weekend from the best conference in college basketball.

Game Of The Tournament: Iowa State Over Texas

The Texas Longhorns (20-13, 8-10 Big 12) appeared to be on their way towards salvaging a sub-par season but Iowa State’s Monte Morris had other plans. Iowa State trailed 67-57 with less than 4 minutes to play then unleashed a full court press to mount a furious comeback.

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  • Morris was the catalyst. His three with 1:42 left drew the Cyclones even at 67. Some very questionable shot selection and clock management issues by the Longhorns gave Iowa State an unexpected shot to win with 5.8 seconds remaining.

    Hoiberg put the ball in the hands of his steady leader Morris, and Morris delivered. His 18-foot jumper as time expired gave the Cyclones their one and only lead of the game.

    TCU Deserves An NIT Bid

    The TCU Horned Frogs (18-15, 4-14 Big 12) grabbed their first ever Big 12 Tournament victory with a 67-65 win over Kansas State in the opening round. The Frogs then played powerhouse Kansas to within five points in the quarterfinals

    Trent Johnson has been successful as a head coach at Nevada and Stanford. His Horned Frogs won four conference games after going winless in Big 12 play a season ago.

    With a $45 million renovation project of their on campus arena underway and a taste of success in the Big 12, Johnson has the Frogs pointed in the right direction.

    The NIT would be a great venue for TCU to gain more experience and exposure and extend the careers of seniors Kyan Anderson and Trey Zeigler. The Horned Frogs were competitive against the top RPI conference in the nation and would be a worthy participant in the NIT field.

    Texas Is In Disarray

    At one point early in the season the Texas Longhorns were the sixth-ranked team in the nation. They went to Rupp Arena and battled toe-to-toe with Kentucky. Things have changed.

    Now the Horns find themselves firmly on the bubble and will be sweating out Selection Sunday. Did Texas do enough to make the tournament? Avoiding the meltdown against Iowa State would have helped their cause. But now the selection committee must take a hard look at the Longhorns’ credentials

    While the Horns have no bad losses (17-0 vs. teams outside the BPI top 50), they lack a collection of impressive wins as well. Rick Barnes’ club is only 3-13 against teams inside the BPI top 50 and they have lost 9 of their last 15 games. Will the committee reward the Longhorns for playing the nation’s 10th toughest schedule or will it punish the Horns for going 8-10 in their league?

    Perhaps the better question is why is Texas on the bubble in the first place. The Horns have appeared lackluster and offensively inept despite a talented and gigantic line up. The Big 12 Tournament did little to instill confidence in the Longhorns. An opening round win over Texas Tech then an epic meltdown versus Iowa State did little to boost their qualification.

    Texas has the personnel and defensive moxie to be a threat in the field of 68, but do they have the team cohesiveness to back it up? And why was the nation’s #2 recruit and projected lottery pick Myles Turner on the bench down the stretch against Iowa State? There are serious questions in Austin.

    The Big 12 Has Multiple Tournament Threats

    The number of intense and thrilling contests in the Big 12 Tournament was staggering. Fans in Kansas City were treated to epic battles between highly ranked teams.

    The Big 12 does not have an elite team that will crack the number one seed line, but what it does have is a plentiful roster of teams that could make runs into the Sweet Sixteen and beyond.

    The Baylor Bears (24-9, 11-7 Big 12), behind the massive Rico Gathers, are one of the nation’s top rebounding teams (seventh in the country in offensive rebounding). The Bears have big guards that can shoot the three and a confounding zone defense that could give tournament teams trouble

    Oklahoma has terrific guard play behind Big 12 Player of the Year Buddy Hield and Isaiah Cousins. The Sooners (22-10, 12-6 Big 12) fell victim to one of Iowa State’s tournament comebacks in the semifinals, but their guard play will be tough to deal with in the big dance. Oklahoma also has a top five team in adjusted defensive efficiency – a recipe for tournament success.

    West Virginia (23-9, 11-7 Big 12) leads the nation with 10.9 steals per game. They are second in the nation in turnover margin and lead the nation in offensive rebounds per game (16.8). Bob Huggins’ Mountaineers are the best pressing team in the nation. That style is tough to simulate and even tougher to prepare for during the quick turnarounds of tournament play.

    Of course, the Kansas Jayhawks (26-8, 13-5 Big 12) are a tournament fixture. Kansas finished as the conference tournament runner-up, but claimed their 11th straight regular season Big 12 title. And due to the toughest schedule in the country the Jayhawks have the second highest RPI in the nation – a trait that will surely boost their seeding.

    The Big 12 Tournament lived up to the lofty standard that the regular season set. Iowa State made incredible comebacks and gave fans a spectacular performance. But the true spectacular performances are yet to come. This conference could get as many as seven bids. If the conference tournament is any indication, those bids will not be wasted.

    Next: Busting Bracketology: March 15th - Selection Sunday