Big 12 men’s basketball: Sweet Sixteen preview
Then there were 16 teams. After a dramatic and crushing weekend in the first and second rounds of the NCAA Tournament, the Sweet Sixteen is set. And among those teams vying for the national championship, there are three Big 12 teams and not the three you might have guessed. Of course, two of them were predictable at Kansas and Texas Tech. But an 11-seeded Iowa State is there while a 1-seeded defending national champion sits at home in Waco? Yes, last weekend was definitely a weekend of upheaval.
Kansas is seeking its fourth NCAA Tournament title in program history. Behind a solid roster that includes the Big 12 Player of the Year Ochai Agbaji, they could do just that. Texas Tech came one buzzer away in 2019 from its first national championship. That shot was blocked by Virginia, but if he had gone in, the Natty would have gone to Lubbock. Tech wants what they didn’t get in 2019. Iowa State, which went 2-22 just a season ago, is making its sixth appearance in the Sweet Sixteen. Someone must be the Cinderella Tournament, why not them?
The Big 12’s three Sweet Sixteen teams are tied with the ACC (Duke, North Carolina and Miami) for the most teams. Three conferences have two teams each in the Sweet Sixteen – Big East (Providence, Villanova), Big Ten (Michigan, Purdue) and the Pac-12 (Arizona, UCLA). That leaves four conferences with one team – American Athletic (Houston), Metro Atlantic (St. Peter’s), SEC (Arkansas) and West Coast (Gonzaga).
This year, a quarter of teams are double-digit seeds — Miami (10), Iowa State (11), Michigan (11) and St. Peter’s (15). This is the third time a 15 seed has made the Sweet 16 – Florida Gulf Coast (2013) and Oral Roberts (2021). Only 19 double-digit seeds made it into the Elite Eight. There will be at least one this year as 11th-seeded Iowa State takes on 10th-seeded Miami in the Sweet Sixteen,
Iowa State and Kansas both play in the Midwest region. If both teams win, they will face off in the Elite Eight. Texas Tech plays in the southern region. The Southern Region champion will face the Midwest Region champion in the Final Four, so potentially it could be two Big 12 teams.
Here’s a look at the three games featuring the Big 12 teams in the Sweet Sixteen:
(11) Iowa State vs. (10) Miami (FL)
Friday, March 25, 8:59 p.m. CT – TBS
United Center, Chicago, Illinois
Line: Miami -2.5; Over/Under – 133.5
Recordings: Iowa State is 22-12 and 7-11 in Big 12 play (7th place). They were eliminated in the quarterfinals of the Big 12 tournament by Texas Tech. Miami is 25-10 and 14-6 in ACC play (4th place). They were eliminated in the semi-finals of the ACC Tournament by Duke.
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Key scenario: With both teams entering as double-digit seeds, this year’s Elite Eight will have at least a double-digit seed. This will be the 20th time this has happened. One of those teams could be the Cinderella Team of the Tournament in the Elite Eight round.
(1) Kansas vs. (4) Providence
Friday, March 25, 6:29 p.m. CT – TBS
United Center, Chicago, Illinois
Line: Kansas – 7.5; Over/Under – 141.5
Recordings: Kansas is 30-6 and 14-4 in Big 12 play (tied for first with Baylor). They won the Big 12 tournament by defeating Texas Tech. Providence is 27-5 and 14-3 in Big East play (1st place). They were eliminated in the semi-finals of the Big East Tournament by Creighton.
Key scenario: The Jayhawks enter the game with 12 wins in Quadrant 1, the most in the country. They have the talent and the roster to be an attacking juggernaut with Agbaji, Christian Brown, Remy Martin, and others. However, they struggled in the second round against Creighton, another Big East team that beat Providence in the Big East semi-finals. Can KU return to their attacking game plan?
(3) Texas Tech vs. (2) Duke
Thursday, March 24, 8:49 p.m. CT – CBS
Chase Center, San Francisco, California
Line: Texas Tech -1.5; Over/Under – 137.5
Recordings: Texas Tech is 27-9 and 12-6 in the Big 12 game (3rd). They were eliminated in the Big 12 tournament finals by Kansas. Duke is 30-6 and 16-4 in ACC play (1st place). They were eliminated in the ACC Tournament Finals by Virginia Tech.
Key scenario: Texas Tech was one shot away from a national championship in 2019. Under freshman coach Mark Adams, they are looking for redemption and another trip to the Final Four. Legendary Duke Head Coach Mike Krzyzewski did his farewell tour this season and plans to retire once his season is over. Will Texas Tech make history as Coach K’s final game? Last weekend, Coach K picked up his 1,200th career victory and his 99th NCAA Tournament victory. Certainly Duke fans want him to win his 100th and advance to the Elite Eight.
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