Sunday, March 08, 2009

Kansas Wins The Big 12 Title

#9 Kansas 83, Texas 73
Despite that little hiccup against Texas Tech on Wednesday night, it's Kansas locking up the Big 12 regular season title here. It's their fifth consecutive season where they've earned at least a share of the title. It's a pretty remarkable turn of events for a team that was supposed to be a little bit too young this season, and probably a year away from being a serious National Title contender again. Well, they're a serious National Title contender now, and actually have an outside chance at a 1 seed if they can win the Big 12 tournament title and get a little bit of help. There are a few different ways for it to happen, but a Memphis loss in the C-USA tournament might be enough by itself. As for Texas, they amazingly enter the Big 12 tournament still on the bubble. They'd be in the Tournament if the season ended now, but there's still a scenario where they could be NIT bound. They finish 20-10 overall, 9-7 in the Big 12 and a solid 9-9 against the RPI Top 100. They have wins over Villanova, UCLA and Wisconsin to go with conference wins over Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Texas A&M. Their only bad loss came to Arkansas. All of that looks very good for a bubble resume, but Texas just has to avoid a clunker in the Big 12 tournanament. They open against a very bad Colorado team, and a win there should lock them into the Tournament. A loss and Texas fans are not going to relax until they see their name announced on Selection Sunday.

#5 Oklahoma 82, Oklahoma State 78
I'm actually very impressed with how Oklahoma State played here. They are such a small team that I figured they'd be dominated inside. And while Blake Griffin got his 33-and-14, in the end the Cowboys only lost the rebounding battle 34-23. They hung in there with solid ball play (only 8 turnovers) and good defense. But even with this great play they still fell just short, and now finish in that big tie at 9-7 in the Big 12. Of those 9-7 teams, Oklahoma State and Texas A&M probably have the best resumes, with Texas just behind. If the season ended now, I don't think there's any doubt that all three of those teams would be in the Tournament. The other 9-7 team, Kansas State, is out of the bracket at the moment and still has work to do. The best stat that Oklahoma State has going for them is that they only have one loss outside the RPI Top 40, and it was at Baylor. Their second worst loss was either against Texas or Gonzaga. That's incredibly impressive, and a great testament to Travis Ford's ability to get his kids motivated for and focused on every single game. They're going to be a tough out for anybody in the NCAA Tournament. They open the Big 12 tournament against Iowa State, and a win there will lock them into the Tournament. Even a loss and they're probably in, but you know that Oklahoma State fans want that win so they can be certain. As for Oklahoma, they end up a game behind Kansas in the standings, but I don't think there's any doubt that they'd have gotten at least a share of the title if Griffin hadn't gotten hurt. They can still earn a 1 seed if they win the Big 12 tournament.

Illinois State 73, Creighton 49
A shocking result that will make Creighton quite a conundrum on Selection Sunday. I don't have any idea why Creighton played so badly in the MVC tournament. Not only did they get rocked here, but they survived their last game on a miraculous and controversial shot by Booker Woodfox (I know that a lot of Wichita State fans swear that there's no way he could have completed that play in under 1.9 seconds). It's certainly bad news for the other bubble teams that Creighton is suddenly another challenger for one of the 34 bids. They went 26-7 with a 14-4 record in the Missouri Valley. They were 10-5 against the RPI Top 100 and 11-5 in road/neutral games, with wins over Dayton, George Mason and Illinois State to go with losses to Drake, Wichita State and Arkansas-Little Rock. They have an RPI of 39th, Sagarin of 53rd and Pomeroy of 67th. They're going to be under serious consideration on Selection Sunday, but at this point they're probably not making the Tournament. You might think this is a weird thing for me to say since just a few hours ago I put them in the most recent BP65. But that's because I don't know who is going to knock them out yet. I'd say that Creighton has a lower than 50% chance of making the Tournament, but still a better chance than any of the teams I left out. But Creighton is my last team in, and they're in the club house. You have to believe that several teams currently out of the bracket will earn their way in over the next week, and that's probably going to knock Creighton out.

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