Confidence Picks for Every Big 12 Team

Heartland College Sports – An Independent Big 12 Today Blog

The 2024 NCAA Tournament is set to begin on Thursday, March 21, and the college basketball world is waiting with bated breath to crown its new champion.

The Big 12 has been the best conference in the country throughout the season, and that showed up in the tournament as well, with eight of the conference’s 14 teams making the field.

From a No. 1 seed to a No. 9 seed, Big 12 teams have all kinds of matchups awaiting them later this week, but the one common denominator is that all of them are favored in their opening-round games.

 

  • 1 Houston (-24.5) vs. 16 Longwood
  • 2 Iowa State (-16.5) vs. 15 South Dakota State
  • 3 Baylor (-13.5) vs. 14 Colgate
  • 4 Kansas (-6.5) vs. 13 Samford
  • 6 BYU (-9.5) vs. 11 Duquesne
  • 6 Texas Tech (-5.5) vs. 11 N.C. State
  • 7 Texas vs. 10 Virginia (+5.0)/Colorado State (+3.5)
  • 8 Utah State vs. 9 TCU (-4.5)

However, as we all know, the NCAA Tournament never goes as planned. Upsets are the name of the game, and it’s almost a guarantee that at least one Big 12 team won’t make it to Saturday.

So, which Big 12 teams should you feel most confident in when filling out your brackets? Let’s take a look.

1 Houston (30-4, 15-3) vs. 16 Longwood (21-13, 6-10)

Line: Houston (-24.5)

NET RANK: Houston (1st) | Longwood (162nd)

RECORD VS. TOP 25: Houston (6-2) | Longwood (0-0)

STRENGTH OF SCHEDULE: Houston (7th) | Longwood (258th)

Despite what we witnessed last season with No. 1 Purdue falling to No. 16 Fairleigh Dickinson, 1-seeds are 150-2 in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Sure, it could happen, but this Houston team plays sound basketball and is coming off a disappointing performance against Iowa State in the Big 12 Championship Game. The Cougars have finished no worse than the Sweet Sixteen in any tournament dating back to the 2018-19 season. Despite their 11-game winning streak being snapped in Kansas City, I still like UH to make a Final Four run with Jamal Shead and LJ Cryer leading the way.

Confidence Pick: 9.9/10


 

Line: Iowa State (-16.5)

NET RANK: Iowa State (6th) | S. Dakota State (135th)

RECORD VS. TOP 25: Iowa State (6-5) | S. Dakota State (0-0)

STRENGTH OF SCHEDULE: Iowa State (31st) | S. Dakota State (235th)

Iowa State comes into the NCAA Tournament after beating every team it played in the Big 12 Tournament by at least 11 points, capping off their run with a 28-point victory over Houston in the process. Now, after a little less than a week off, the Cyclones will have to pick up the energy once again and stymie a good offensive team in South Dakota State. The problem for the Jackrabbits is that they haven’t seen a defense like what T.J. Otzelberger and the Cyclones will bring to Omaha, and there’s a good chance they’ll score well below their season average of 76.8 ppg. Iowa State’s offense will have to continue to roll under Keshon Gilbert and Tamin Lipsey for them to make the run I think they’re capable of, and cold offenses can cost teams like Iowa State dearly come March. However, that’s not going to be an issue in the first round here.

Confidence Pick: 8.7/10


Line: BYU (-9.5)

NET RANK: BYU (12th) | Duquesne (80th)

RECORD VS. TOP 25: BYU (4-5) | Duquesne (1-1)

STRENGTH OF SCHEDULE: BYU (15th) | Duquesne (72nd)

BYU was spectacular in its first year in the Big 12, being outdone by only 1-seed Houston as the most impressive newcomers in the nation’s toughest league. The Cougars were bounced in the Big 12 Tournament by Texas Tech but should still be taken very seriously in the NCAA Tournament. Meanwhile, Duquesne comes into the tournament as one of the true “Cinderella” stories of the year. In the midst of an eight-game winning streak to finish the year, the Dukes won their first Atlantic 10 Championship to secure an auto-bid in the Tournament. That being said, I think Mark Pope’s team is just too deep to lose in this spot. Duquesne feels a bit over-seeded here, and I’m not sure their offense can keep pace with Jaxson Robinson and the Cougars. I’m pretty confident about BYU’s chances of advancing here.

Confidence Pick: 8.1/10


 

3 Baylor (24-10, 11-7) vs. 14 Colgate (25-9, 16-2)

Line: Baylor (-13.5)

NET RANK: Baylor (15th) | Colgate (125th)

RECORD VS. TOP 25: Baylor (5-5) | Colgate (0-2)

STRENGTH OF SCHEDULE: Baylor (8th) | Colgate (276th)

Baylor comes into the tournament having lost four of its last 10 games and has had to maneuver its way through a difficult stretch without sixth-man Langston Love there to bring some juice off the bench. Love is being evaluated after practice this week and is hopeful to get back on the floor for the tournament. If he can do that, Baylor could be a legitimate threat to make a Final Four run. However, if Love is limited or flat-out can’t go, the Bears seem to lose a bit of the offensive luster that makes them so dangerous. Colgate plays at a slower pace and is holding opponents under 64 points per game. However, the Raiders are shooting just 68.1% from the stripe, and that’s not going to get it down when you’re trying to slow down a Baylor offense that averages over 80 a game. Love’s status makes me a little more weary, but I still like Baylor to win this one comfortably.

Confidence Pick: 7.8/10


Line: Texas Tech (-5.5)

NET RANK: Texas Tech (27th) | N.C. State (63rd)

RECORD VS. TOP 25: Texas Tech (6-5) | N.C. State (2-4)

STRENGTH OF SCHEDULE: Texas Tech (42nd) | N.C. State (61st)

Texas Tech seemed to find a good stride after losing to Texas last month, ripping off four straight wins before losing to Houston in the Big 12 Tournament semifinals. The Red Raiders are battle-tested and have taken very well to Grant McCasland’s style in just his first season at the helm. Pop Issacs, along with Joe Toussaint, Darrion Williams, and Chance McMillian, will lead the charge offensively for TTU, who is plenty good enough to make it out of the first weekend of action. Meanwhile, TTU’s opponent, N.C. State, comes into the Tournament on the heels of an ACC Tournament victory,+ taking down Louisville, Syracuse, Duke, Virginia, and UNC in order to secure an auto-bid. Senior guard DJ Horne put the exclamation point on the Wolf Pack’s improbable run with a 29-point performance in their 84-76 win over North Carolina. However, after taking a few days off, and consequentially cooling off, I believe the more consistent team will win the day on Thursday night. I’ll take the Red Raiders, but not with much more confidence than a coin flip.

Confidence Pick: 5.5/10


Line: Kansas (-13.5)

NET RANK: Kansas (19th) | Samford (74th)

RECORD VS. TOP 25: Kansas (7-4) | Samford (0-1)

STRENGTH OF SCHEDULE: Kansas (9th) | Samford (181st)

When Kansas learned who its opponent in the 2024 NCAA Tournament would be, one of the last teams that Bill Self was hoping for was Samford. The Bulldogs are one of the nation’s top three-point shooting teams, ranking seventh in field goal percentage (49.5) and seventh from three-point range (39.3%). When the Jayhawks have struggled this season, it’s been the deep ball, as Self pointed out on Sunday.

“What have we labored with the most this year? It’s teams that shoot a ton of 3s, and then we have a hard time making up the difference,” Self told KUSports’ Henry Greenstein.

Defensively, KU allows 33.2% from deep, ranking 152nd nationally, and is limping into the tournament, having lost six of its last 10 games. Hunter Dickinson and Kevin McCullar both missed the Big 12 Tournament and are hopeful to be available the rest of the way. But what if they can’t go, or they do, and they aren’t close to 100%? This game is throwing up all kinds of red flags, and because of that, I’m not as confident as I should be that KU will come out on top despite being the much higher seed.

Confidence Pick: 4.3/10


8 Utah State (27-6, 14-4) vs. 9 TCU (21-12, 9-9)

Line: TCU (-4.5)

NET RANK: Utah State (38th) | TCU (42nd)

RECORD VS. TOP 25: Utah State (2-0) | TCU (4-7)

STRENGTH OF SCHEDULE: Utah State (62nd) | TCU (85th)

8-seed vs. 9-seed games are almost impossible to predict, but TCU lands in a particularly interesting spot here against Utah State. Jamie Dixon’s squad was knocked out of the Big 12 with a 15-point loss to Houston, with leading scorer Emanuel Miller being held to a season-low of three points. In fact, it was just the third time all year that Miller didn’t cross the 10-point threshold. In the game before, Miller appeared to suffer a nasty ankle injury but returned to lead the Frogs to a 77-70 win over Oklahoma. Will Miller be 100% in the Tournament, or will the Frogs have to look elsewhere for production? The Utah State team that TCU will face is no joke, as they went 14-4 through a very competitive MWC slate. Aggies’ big-man Great Osobor will be the guy to watch, as he’s a posted double-double in almost half of Utah State’s 33 games. I’m skeptical that Miller will have had enough time to get back to full strength, and because of that, I don’t expect him to be as effective. On the other side, Utah State’s Osobor feels like the kind of player that gives the Frogs trouble, and that’s a recipe for disaster. If there were a Big 12 team that I’d pick to lose in the first round, it would, unfortunately, be the Horned Frogs.

Confidence Pick: 1.9/10