OK, here we go again with the Headlinin' feature. Again, just to review; these are just the primary storylines going around the Big 12. The more comprehensive, talk-about-games stuff comes on Sunday, with the Big 12 Roundup. This is just a quick trip around the major topics.
NCAA Tournament Picture Shaping Up
In all reality, the Big 12 will get at least 5 teams into the NCAA Tournament. If enough teams get hot (like, starting right now, though) and pick up enough big wins and there isn't too much beating up on each other, we could slip 6 in. But that isn't likely. So, yeah, we should get 5 teams in, and the first four are quite obvious: Oklahoma, Missouri, Kansas, Texas. Texas has faltered some as of late, but they picked up a huge win, momentum-wise, against Oklahoma State on Tuesday, and as long as they win the games they should, they should still get a ticket. Now, it won't be nearly as high of a number as once expected, but they'll still be invitied.
So, that basically leaves five teams to fight over one (and maybe two) spots: K-State, Nebraska, Texas A&M, Baylor, Oklahoma State. Coming into the season, Baylor was thought to be a near-lock to get in, and the Ags were also expected to, at the very least, make a push. But now, both are currently on the outside looking in. And with Oklahoma State's implosion pretty much guaranteeing they aren't going anywhere, that kinda-sorta leaves K-State and Nebraska to fight over that last spot (or two).
It's too early to completely count out the Bears (who have non-con wins over Providence and Arizona State and won in Manhattan) or the Aggies (non-con wins over Arizona and LSU), but they both need to pick up wins, fast. K-State and Nebraska, on the other hand, struggled mightily in the non-con (K-State lost to Oregon and their best win was @ Cleveland State; Nebraska lost to UMBC (!!) and Oregon State, with their best win coming against Ceighton), but have both picked up the pace in conference play. Both have a big victory against Missouri (a legitimate Top 15 team) at home and against Texas (K-State in Austin), while Nebraska toasted the Powercats up in Lincoln. Who is ahead between the two is a topic of debate, but both clearly stand above Baylor and ATM.
The race should be delightfully fun to watch the rest of the way, though. K-State and Nebraska, in order to make up for their non-con deficiencies, need to keep on winning. Baylor and ATM need to start piling up the wins, and their strong(er) non-cons could sneak them ahead of the North teams. But, just imagine for a second that K-State is the final team in. That would give the North three NCAA teams, and the South only two. With, likely, Nebraska being the best team on the outside-looking-in.
More headlines after the jump...
Texas A&M @ Baylor -- Game of the Week
It doesn't have all of the flash as some of the other Big 12 contests (Kansas @ K-State, mainly), but it is every bit as important. Both teams, particularly the home Bears, desperately need a win. It is damn near impossible for both teams to sneak back up into the NCAA Tournament race, making this an elimination game of sorts. The loser likely won't make too much noise the rest of the way out (particularly if it's Baylor, who would have then lost six in a row and have gotten swept by ATM), while the winner will be in much better shape; and in firm hold of the #7 slot on the Big 12 Depth Chart.
Baylor has a stronger non-conference resume, but a loss here would send them to 3-8 in conference play, making every game after a must-win just to get to .500 in conference play. Texas A&M, on the other hand, could bounce back to 9-7 even with a loss. But with a weaker non-conference slate, would that be enough? Who knows.
This is what makes the bubble so incredibly exciting. I absolutely adore the bubble, and this is why; it makes games like these, between two legitimately good teams with different strenghts, incredibly important. Season-breaking. The game is just on FSNSouthwest (and FullCourt, thank God), so you might not get to watch it. Still, it is the most important game in the Big 12 this Saturday; a season-changing event for both the Aggies and the Bears.
Coach of the Year?
Really, there are numerous candidates for Coach of the Year. You could give it to Jeff Capel, whose Boomer Sooners are 23-1 and tops in the Big 12. You could give it to Bill Self, who has replaced all five starters from last season (plus Sasha Kaun) and has still led the Jayhawks to an 8-1 mark in conference play. You could give it to Frank Martin, who has replaced Michael Beasley and Billy Walker off of last year's team and is leading a Powercats team tha has won six straight. All are deserving, and assuming K-State doesn't go off the deep end, all should get votes.
But, the real Coach of the Year has to be Mike Anderson. Missouri is a legitimate Top 15 team, currently, after
only going to the NIT not playing postseason ball last season. They are going to be a threat in March, and could probably beat anyone in the country when they're "on". Mike Anderson is a helluva coach, and deserves the honor. Of course, that's assuming no shitting of the bed will occur.
Those are all of the headlines for now, check back later on today for the K-State preview.