Top 5 Big 12 Takeaways From the First Weekend

Heartland College Sports – An Independent Big 12 Today Blog

Here are five takeaways from Big 12 Conference men’s and women’s basketball after the first four days of the NCAA Tournament.

There are three women’s games left to play on Monday, but there are already some great takeaways for the league after the conclusion of the first and second round of the men’s tournament, and the first three days of the women’s tournament.

Here are five thoughts on the weekend.

 

DID THE BIG 12 FAIL?

When the dust settled on the second round, only Houston and Iowa State advanced to the Sweet 16 for the Big 12. In some ways, that makes sense. They were the two best teams in the Big 12, and both played in the Big 12 Tournament title game.

But, given the reputation that the league built this season, and in seasons past as the game’s best conference, was it a failure that only two teams made it out of the first two rounds?

When Pete Mundo and I did our pre-tournament podcast, he asked me what the baseline would be for the Big 12 in terms of getting to the Sweet 16. I said two. I based that on the vagaries of this tournament. You really never know what you’re going to get.

Well, two advanced. But I felt two OTHER teams had a really good path to get to the second weekend.

One was Baylor. I felt their draw in the West was quite favorable. The Bears fell to Clemson in the second round (more on that in a bit). The other was Texas Tech. I felt the Red Raiders had a favorable draw too, and it became even more favorable after Oakland upset Kentucky.

 

But the Red Raiders lost to NC State in the first round and rendered that moot.

This tournament is nuts. It always is. Trying to put a pin on how success and failure should be measured based on the number of teams that get out of the first weekend is a fool’s errand.

So let’s call it a disappointment that only the Cyclones and the Cougars are taking it to the Sweet 16.

BILL SELF JUST SPOKE THE TRUTH

Kansas coach Bill Self was talking to reporters after Saturday’s loss to Gonzaga and admitted that he’s been thinking about next season for the last month. That’s the headline, anyway.

You can also read about a pair of ESPN commentators, Jay Williams and Seth Greenberg, criticizing Self. You can also read the social media reaction.

 

First, you have to read the full comment. Self acknowledged what we’ve all talked about this season — this was not a deep team. In fact, two months ago, he told ESPN’s Fran Fraschilla that “This won’t happen next season,” in reference to this year’s roster construction. Do you know how I know that? I watch most Big 12 games, and Fran referenced their conversation during a Kansas game.

So, yeah, he’s been thinking ahead. You know what? EVERY coach thinks ahead. Apparently, Greenberg has forgotten that now that he’s in the studio. It’s called recruiting. Remember that Kansas-Kansas State game at Allen Fieldhouse a few weeks ago? Several of Kansas’ top recruiting targets make their official visits for that game. Do you know who you have to coordinate official visits through? The basketball office. That’s thinking ahead. And it’s totally normal.

I think the vast majority of high-level coaches can multi-task for the future without damaging the present, and it’s not disrespectful to your current team to do that. You don’t build a great program if you can’t do both. I think that’s what Self was saying, perhaps not as artfully as he could have.

If that ticks you off, well, then you’re not going to enjoy this new world of college basketball. I expect that Self will have his own “general manager” and “player personnel director,” much like Kansas football coach Lance Leipold already has (Self may have them by different titles already). Those are positions we’re used to seeing in pro sports. You’re going to see much more of it in college sports as these programs build up more like “pro” programs.

All Self did was speak the truth and, likely, nothing he hadn’t already told his own players.

BIG 12 WOMEN PERFECT AGAIN

The Big 12 women sent seven teams into the NCAA Tournament. All seven of them won their first-round games on Saturday and Sunday. Its perfection is not easily attained. But it’s not the first time it’s happened to the Big 12.

In fact, it happened two tournaments ago. In 2022, the league sent six teams to the NCAA Tournament, and all six won the first round. Ultimately, the league went 9-6 in the tournament, with Texas going the furthest, as the Longhorns reached the Elite Eight.

Even better is the future of the league. As Texas and Oklahoma depart after this season, the four corners schools join the league. Three of them — Arizona, Colorado, and Utah — made the tournament. All three of them won their first game. Arizona won the First Four game and then lost in the first round. Colorado defeated Kansas State after winning its first-round game, while Utah will face Gonzaga on Monday after winning its first-round game.

So, combining the current Big 12 and the future Big 12, the league went 9-1 in the First Four and the first round.

This league is going to be so competitive next season.

DID THE ACC ‘GAME’ THE TOURNAMENT?

I kid, I kid.

But, undeniably, the ACC has had a great NCAA Tournament. Four teams advanced to the Sweet 16, including Clemson’s win over Baylor, led by the same coach who started the whole “Gaming the NET” conversation earlier this year.

In fact, only five ACC teams got into the tournament, and the conference went 8-1. Does that mean the NCAA Tournament committee erred in letting that few ACC teams in? And did it err in letting eight Big 12 teams into the Tournament?

Well, no. The committee should only be making decisions based on this season’s data. This season’s data indicated the Big 12 was a better conference and that its teams, overall, were better than the ACC’s. And the committee can only make decisions based on the data available. They can’t project how well or how poorly a conference and its teams will do, nor should it. What happened is just what happens in the NCAA Tournament.

I would contend a couple of things. First, NET needs an overhaul. I don’t believe any team’s non-conference results should have a significant influence on their selection. Look at Kansas. The team that was eliminated on Saturday was not the same team that went 11-1 in non-conference. But, admittedly, that 11-1 record helped the Jayhawks get a No. 4 seed. For that matter, NC State was probably under-seeded based on how it was playing leading up to the tournament.

Second, the NCAA should be giving schools more guidance on non-conference scheduling if it’s going to be that important. The powers-that-be should even start asking high majors to standardize their schedules if it’s going to make THAT much of a difference. If you’re going to compare credentials, it needs to be as apples-to-apples as possible.

But if all that were done, we’d have nothing to debate about, right?

WVU GETS THEIR MAN

West Virginia officially announced the hiring of Darian DeVries on Sunday, filling one of two openings in the Big 12 (Oklahoma State is the other). This is a great hire for WVU. All DeVries did at Drake was win. He led the Bulldogs to three NCAA Tournaments. He’s proven to adapt to the changing landscape of the game. And if his son Tucker comes along for the ride, the Mountaineers will have a great starting point.

I told our Pete Mundo recently that this was probably a better situation than Oklahoma State right now due to the prowess WVU’s collectives have shown in the NIL space. The Mountaineers built a great roster last offseason, though frankly, it fell apart after the Bob Huggins fiasco. NIL was a factor in building that roster.

Now, DeVries has to rebuild it. In this new era of college basketball, it may not take long at all.

You can find Matthew Postins on Twitter @PostinsPostcard.