With two announcements Wednesday, the outlook of the Big 12 and Southeastern Conference tournaments were altered. And the news of Michael Porter Jr.’s return for Missouri and Udoka Azubuike’s absence for Kansas could affect their seeding for the NCAA Tournament.
Mizzou likely got better. The Jayhawks got worse.
The prospect of Porter seeing action for the Tigers for the first time since the opener has stoked the fan base and brings the added value of a roster addition with Missouri down a man because of the recent season-ending injury to Cullen VanLeer.
Missouri just added one of the nation’s best prospects. His legs should be fresh.
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An NBA scout covering the Big 12 tournament at the Sprint Center was planning on hanging around Kansas City for the weekend. He’s headed to St. Louis and the SEC on Thursday morning to catch Mizzou’s opener.
Next to the Tigers and their opponents, no group will be more eager to see the impact of the 6-10 do-everything Porter than the NCAA tournament selection committee. A former member said recently all the group can do is observe and collect as much information as possible to help evaluate the Tigers’ seeding.
Performing well in St. Louis obviously will help Mizzou. But if Porter somehow fulfills his preseason promise, why wouldn’t Missouri advance a seed line?
Missouri is largely seen as a No. 8 or No 9 seed at the moment. If that holds, and the Tigers survive in the opener, a top seed would await.
Kansas didn’t help its cause of perhaps being that opponent with Azubuike’s injury. The Jayhawks’ 7-footer, who averages 13.7 points and 7.1 rebounds, was declared out of the Big 12 tournament by coach Bill Self because of a sprained medial collateral ligament. He should return to action the following weekend.
But depth-shy Kansas is weakened by the absence of its top big man. In most bracket projections the Jayhawks enter the Big 12 as the fourth No. 1 seed behind Virginia, Villanova and Xavier. And perhaps just ahead of Duke.
A quick exit by KU —Kansas was eliminated in the quarterfinal round by TCU last year — could result in a seed demotion.
But if Kansas becomes a No. 2 seed and Missouri a No. 7, they could find themselves in the same pod for a potential second-round matchup.