There is no NCAA Tournament bubble team drama on the first day of the Big 12 Tournament, but all indications call for grand theater throughout the event.
For the first time in four years, no team playing at Sprint Center on Wednesday is expected to be selected as an at-large team to the NCAA Tournament.
Seventh-seeded Texas Tech, which meets No. 10 Texas, has an RPI in the low 100s. Eight-seeded TCU, which meets No. 9 Oklahoma, has the best power rating of the bunch in the high 70s.
Reaching the NCAA Tournament for any of those teams likely would require winning four games in four days, and that hasn’t occurred in the first 20 years of the Big 12 event.
The rosters of three of the four teams include players who played in last year’s NCAA Tournament, all but TCU.
The Sooners reached the Final Four.
Also, no coach among the top five seeded teams — Kansas, West Virginia, Baylor, Iowa State and Oklahoma State — will cop to softness among the bottom four.
Among that group, all but the Jayhawks lost at least one game to the bottom four finishers this season.
Finally, the Big 12 in 2016-17 has been defined by nail-biting conclusions. In conference games, 70 percent of the games were decided by 10 points or fewer.
The league champion Jayhawks finished 16-2 and averaged outscoring opponents by a mere 5.5 points this season.
Last-place Texas was outscored by only 6.1 points per game. A year ago, last-place TCU was outscored by 13.4 points.
“This league has so many close games this year,” said Jamie Dixon, the Horned Frogs’ first-year coach. “We’ll see two on the first day and four on the second.”
And perhaps two more in Friday’s semifinals and in Saturday’s championship game.
As for Wednesday’s games: the No. 9 seed has won eight of the last 10 first-round games. TCU and Oklahoma split the season series, with the Sooners’ avenging an earlier defeat by beating the Frogs last Saturday.
Tech and Texas also split their season series, and the Longhorns’ loss at Lubbock on March 1 is part of the seven-game losing streak Texas lugs into the tournament.
But only Kansas (18) has reached the semifinal round of the tournament more often than Texas (13).
Big 12 first-round games
No. 8 TCU (17-14, 6-12 Big 12) vs. No. 9 Oklahoma (11-19, 5-13 Big 12)
Tipoff: 6 p.m. Wednesday at the Sprint Center; ESPNU
Season series: 1-1
What to watch: With point guard Jordan Woodard out for the season with a knee injury the Sooners are led by freshman Kameron McGusty (10.9), who scored 22 in the victory over TCU last Saturday, and Rashard Odomes (10.3). TCU front liner Vladimir Brodziansky was named second-team All-Big 12 and averages 13.7 points and 5.7 rebounds. The Horned Frogs are looking to win the Big 12 Tournament game for the third straight year.
Winner faces … top-seeded Kansas around 2:25 p.m. Thursday in the quarterfinals
No. 7 Texas Tech (18-13, 6-12 Big 12) vs. No. 10 Texas (10-21, 4-14 Big 12)
Tipoff: about 8:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Sprint Center; ESPNU
Season series: 1-1
What to watch: Texas freshman Jarrett Allen was named third-team All-Big 12. He’s the league’s third leading rebounder at 8.5. Frontcourt teammate Shaq Cleare averages 14.5 points and six rebounds. Tech point guard Keenan Evans also was a third-team all-league selection and averaged 16.9 points in conference games (15.5 overall). Forward Zach Smith averages 12.3.
Winner faces … second-seeded West Virginia at 6 p.m. Thursday in the quarterfinals