Saturdays Final Four could become a five-hour infomercial for the conference. The first national semifinal matches league champion Florida against Connecticut, followed by Kentucky against Wisconsin. This from a conference that placed half as many teams, three, into the NCAA Tournament as the Atlantic-10.
With an opportunity to buy Final Four tickets in November, Kansas City’s strongest connection to Wisconsin basketball had a sense about this season. “I had a feeling Wisconsin might make it this year,” said John Erickson, 80. The Badgers did and will take on Kentucky in Saturday’s national semifinals, and their former coach is thrilled to be along for the ride.
A bit of office banter Tuesday: This marks the first year since 2005 that a Kansas or Missouri school didnt reach the Sweet 16. That was the year Bucknell knocked out Kansas in the first round, and Missouri and Kansas State didnt make the NCAA Tournament. But the games continue and some new favorites have emerged. Heres a stab at reseeding the teams in the Sweet 16:
The Southeastern Conference felt disrespected for receiving only two at-large invitations, Kentucky and Tennessee, to the NCAA Tournament, to go along with Floridas automatic berth for winning the conference tournament. But the leaner SEC is meaner in the NCAA, with all three packed for the Sweet 16.
Who is the behemoth? Wichita State, perfect in the present, or storied Kentucky, whose fans were so energized about the Wildcats in the preseason that T-shirts reading 40-0 and The Pursuit of Perfection were printed? Who is the gritty overachiever? The Shockers, who despite coming off a Final Four opened the season ranked outside the top 15? Or Kentucky, which bids for a Sweet 16 spot with an all-freshman starting lineup?
The Star's Blair Kerkhoff, Vahe Gregorian and Rustin Dodd discuss the season-ending losses by Kansas and Wichita State in the NCAA Tournament that had fans from the Sunflower State leaving St. Louis disappointed.
Despite defeat against Kentucky Friday, K-State and its fans shouldnt forget the high points: a winning Big 12 record, a home victory over Kansas, and a season-pivoting triumph over Gonzaga.
Two of the games most hyped players will compete on the same floor Friday, Kansas Andrew Wiggins and Kentuckys Julius Randle. Theyre having superb seasons, but the Jayhawks and Wildcats fell somewhat short of their November projection, predictions that were based on the ability, advanced as it was, of 18-year-olds. Wrong move.
This year’s NCAA Tournament selection process provided more than the usual share of eyebrow raising, and the questions involve the top seeds and one of the final at-large teams.
Although the bracket collapsed on a few major conference tournaments, like the Big 12, it appears that heading into the final hours of NCAA selection committee deliberations, no team has come off the pace to play its way in. The only drama seems to be about who gets the fourth No. 1 seed.
The NCAA Tournament-bound teams started falling on Thursday. Kansas State first, then Oklahoma State and, finally, Oklahoma. But as they returned home for additional days of rest before Selection Sunday, they did so with disappointment. But they’re also buoyed by the knowledge that it’s unlikely any team they draw next had to march through anything like the Big 12 season.
This is the 18th Big 12 Tournament, and after the NCAA selection committee does its thing on Sunday, the guess is we will not have seen anything like it. Baylor coach Scott Drew marveled at the field. Toughest I can remember, Drew said. Not even close. More teams can win it this year. Normally, going in there are two or three teams that are the favorites.
Votes will be counted for postseason honors in college basketball this week. Nobody wants to wait until April to identify award winners, so we vote, and selecting a player of the year in the Big 12 could prove difficult. Same with the Southeastern Conference.
Speculation about seeds for the NCAA Tournament is escalating, and the unbeaten Shockers and Big 12 champion Jayhawks both have solid resumes. Each school will give the selection committee something to consider.
If Wichita State stays unbeaten, should the Shockers be a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament? The Star's Blair Kerkhoff & CineSport's Noah Coslov discuss this and where Kansas fits into the bracket.
A canyon exists between the Florida Gators and the rest of the SEC. At 12-0, Florida holds a three-game lead on Kentucky, four on Georgia and five on Mississippi. Everybody else has six or more losses. The conference championship race isn’t mathematically over, but it practically is. But it means little either to the coach of the leader or top pursuer.
West Virginia coach Bob Huggins wouldnt go into somebody elses workplace and scream at an employee. He doesnt expect that happen in the arena. Huggins was referring to Jeff Orr, the Texas Tech fan who provoked Oklahoma State guard Marcus Smart toward the end of the Red Raiders victory over the Cowboys on Saturday night.
Apologies were offered by both sides on Sunday, less than a day after Oklahoma State guard Marcus Smart pushed Texas Tech fan Jeff Orr during a game. Smart was given a three-game suspension and apologized. So did the fan for his words that triggered the shove, but even if piece of crap was Orrs lone description of Smart, what a rotten thing to call a 19-year-old, Blair Kerkhoff writes.
Theres nothing else like it in major-college basketball, Kansas command of Kansas State on the Wildcats floor. But if there was ever an occasion for a short memory for K-State, it is now. Not just because the longer view when it comes to Mondays Sunflower State clash is loaded with failure, but because the most recent exercise was such a positive.
Tuesday, an undisclosed number of Northwestern University football players moved to form a union, the College Athletes Players Association. There is a broader message here. As the college sports model changes, influenced more and more by television revenue that enriches coaches and administrators, athletes should be a bigger part of the evolution.
This seasons Big 12 is unforgiving and makes a team pay for a lousy shooting or terrible ball-handling game. The trick, for Iowa State on Saturday and for Kansas State now, is to not allow a couple of slips become a free fall.
The Cyclones are in the throes of eight straight against the powerhouses, and this helps explains Iowa States three-game skid heading into Saturdays home meeting against Kansas State.
The biggest difference-maker in Kansas 80-78 victory/escape over Oklahoma State on Saturday was not Joel Embiid, Marcus Smart, Markel Brown, Phil Forte or Jamari Traylor. KU point guard Naadir Tharpe was good early and dependable late. His production flowed steady, and his confidence never wavered.
So, when Joel Embiid isnt elbowing somebody in the noggin or pulling somebody to the floor, the Kansas big man and physical specimen is something to behold. I think Embiid is the best player in the country, said Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg.
Bulldogs coach Mark Fox gets emotional after Georgia pulls upset. His father Raymond Lewis Fox, 78, died on Saturday in the familys home town of Garden City, Kan.
New format for determining college football’s champion is coming next year.
Florence, Ala.'s run of nearly three decades as host of the NCAA Division II national title game ended Saturday with Northwest Missouri States 43-28 triumph over Lenoir-Rhyne. Next year, the event moves to the Heartland to Sporting Park and the soccer stadium becomes a football championship site for some of the same reasons it landed in Alabama.
With the handoff of the crystal ball from BCS president Bill Hancock to either Florida States Jimbo Fisher or Auburns Gus Malzahn on Monday, an era in college football will conclude, and the immediately consensus of opinion will be, good riddance. They forget that before the BCS, certain national championship games could not be arranged.
Today, and on this day for the previous 15 years, we debate whether the BCS got it right. This year, like most, it did with a championship game that matches Florida State and Auburn. So, as we consider this years pairings and there are some attractive ones lets plug in this seasons results into next years format and pretend the College Football Playoff is already upon us.
With its 59-42 loss to Auburn on Saturday in the Southeastern Conference championship, Missouri will conclude this chapter of college football history without a chance to play in the Bowl Championship Series. Maybe Missouri’s fortune will change in the new system, the College Football Playoff, because if any program is worthy of the sports grandest stage based on its accomplishments, it’s Mizzou.