With two early-round NCAA Tournament sites located within driving distance of their campuses, and the Midwest Regional slotted for the Sprint Center, Kansas and Kansas State basketball fans will be hoping for the same thing this week.
They both want their teams to win enough games at the Big 12 Tournament to continue playing close to home in the Big Dance.
The dream is for one, or perhaps both, to start the NCAA Tournament in Tulsa, Okla., or Des Moines, Iowa with Kansas City serving as the next stop on a potential path to the Final Four.
What will it take for that to happen? A lot, according to one expert.
“I don’t think there will be a local Big 12 team in Kansas City,” CBS bracket guru Jerry Palm said. “It’s going to be more coincidence and luck than anything else, if it happens.”
The same goes for first- and second-round sites in Tulsa and Des Moines. In his latest bracket projection, Palm has K-State as a No. 4 seed in the South Region (starting in Hartford, Conn.) and KU as a No. 4 seed in the East Region (starting in San Jose, Calif.).
The only Big 12 team he currently projects to play in the Midwest Region is Texas Tech as a No. 3 seed starting in Salt Lake City.
In most years, those would be strong enough seeds for preferential locations, but other teams from other conferences seem to have dibs on Tulsa and Des Moines.
The NCAA Tournament selection committee could send Houston, LSU or Texas Tech to Tulsa before they get to K-State or KU.
Michigan, Michigan State or Purdue could get priority in Des Moines.
If those sub-regionals are spoken for, the Jayhawks and Wildcats will have to play elsewhere, even though they seem to be in line for quality seeds.
“Columbus (Ohio), Tulsa and Des Moines are some of the more competitive places this year,” Palm said. “If they get taken up by teams in the top 10, the next thing you know teams like KU and K-State are in Salt Lake because that is the closest spot available. If a Big 12 team can push all the way up to eight or nine, most likely Texas Tech, they would have a better chance of playing close to home.”
“After that, it becomes dumb luck. And, right now, it would take a stroke of luck for either of those teams to play in Des Moines, Tulsa or Kansas City.”
Perhaps a Big 12 Tournament championship could be enough to change that forecast.
K-State (24-7, 14-4 Big 12) is coming off a regular-season conference title and can further strengthen its resume in Kansas City. Palm thinks the Wildcats can climb as high as a No. 3 seed in the NCAA Tournament, but it will be difficult for them to impress the committee without star forward Dean Wade, who is doubtful to play in the Big 12 Tournament because of a foot injury.
More likely, Palm thinks K-State will cruise into the NCAA Tournament as a No. 4 seed. The only way he could see the Wildcats falling below that is if they go winless at Sprint Center and Wade is ruled out for the season.
“That could drop them one line,” Palm said. “It’s never a dramatic thing.”
The Jayhawks (23-8, 12-6) are in a similar boat. Both teams need more wins if they hope to play close to home in the NCAA Tournament.
“I have them as a four (seed),” Palm said. “Maybe then can be a three. They don’t have to play any more road games, so that is good for them.”