Three teams practiced Tuesday at the Sprint Center. Four were supposed to, but travel issues caused by bad weather forced a late arrival by Texas Tech and the Red Raiders scrapped their workout.
That left Kansas State, Oklahoma State and TCU, the teams bound by their NCAA Tournament status.
They don’t have one, unless a Big 12 Tournament champion emerges from the group. This is the 20th event, and no team has gone 4-0 to win their way onto the NCAA bracket.
So unless 10th-seeded TCU can begin a path by defeating Tech, second-seeded West Virginia and probably two more NCAA-bound teams, or the Kansas State-Oklahoma State winner gets through top-ranked Kansas in the next game, the season will end.
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But will coaching tenures at those schools?
There’s grumbling at each of the bottom three seeds. K-State, 16-15, will miss the NCAA Tournament for the second straight year after dancing the previous five. That will give Bruce Weber an acceptable .500 average —two NCAAs in four years —but that’s not the issue as much as the downward trend.
The Wildcats won 14 conference games in Weber’s first year, sharing the Big 12 title, then 10, eight and five this season. K-State won 11 games against ranked teams in the last two seasons. This year, the Cats are 1-11.
Prospects for improvement are good in Manhattan. Forward D.J. Johnson is rounding into a superb player. Three others expected to start against the Cowboys are set to return, as is freshman point guard Kamau Stokes, lost for most of conference play because of a knee injury.
Weber should be back to coach this team. But missing a third straight NCAA year would be grounds for change.
Oklahoma State will miss the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2012, and the Cowboys had to deal with two devastating injuries. Top returning scorer Phil Forte tore a ligament in his elbow and missed all but the first three games.
Then, freshman Jawun Evans emerged, scoring 42 points against Oklahoma and leading the team with a 13-point scoring average before suffering a season-ending shoulder injury. Despite missing nine games, he was chosen Big 12 freshman of the year.
Still, coach Travis Ford, nearing the end of his seventh season in Stillwater, might not see an eighth. Lack of interest in the program — with sections of empty seats in Gallagher-Iba Arena — is alarming and sad.
The Cowboys’ 3-15 league record marks the fewest conference victories since 1985, and the most losses ever. Ford’s contract runs through 2019, and he makes $2.4 million annually. This complicates the decision.
But the growing sense is it’s time for change at Oklahoma State.
And at TCU.
Trent Johnson took over at Fort Worth four years ago looking to join the handful of coaches to take four different programs to the NCAA Tournament. He went with Nevada, Stanford and LSU. But TCU has proved to be his most difficult challenge.
The Big 12 has been a monster in Johnson’s tenure. This will be the third straight year the league will send 70 percent of its teams to the NCAA — not ideal conditions to build a program.
There have been glimmers of hope. Three years ago, the Horned Frogs knocked off Kansas. Last season, they won 18 games and made a brief appearance in the top 25. But TCU didn’t build on that season and returned to last place this season for the third time in four years.
The time for change may have arrived at TCU and elsewhere. Barring an unprecedented run to the championship for three of the teams playing on the first day, the next news made could be at a news conference announcing a coaching search.