Big 12 Tournament Notebook
Some notes from the afternoon session of today’s Phillips 66 Big 12 Championships at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo.:
* The first session here today has more than made up for Wednesday night’s lackluster games.
Iowa State and Kansas State played a back-and-forth affair in game one, the Cyclones eventually pulling away with 16 seconds left on a pair of Naz Long free throws. Big 12 Player of the Year Melvin Ejim scored 24 and grabbed 10 rebounds, while fellow all-conference first-teamer DeAndre Kane overcame foul trouble to score 11 and grab five rebounds for the Cyclones.
Marcus Foster scored 21 and Shane Southwell added 19 for the Wildcats.
In game two, Kansas got a game-high 30 from outstanding freshman forward Andrew Wiggins to hold off eighth-seeded Oklahoma State, 77-70, in overtime.
The Cowboys led with 1:32 left in the game before Wiggins tied it with a jumper with 1:05 remaining. Oklahoma State also led briefly in the first overtime before the Jayhawks took control.
Iowa State and Kansas will play tomorrow night at 7 p.m. ET.
The second game will come from tonight’s winners.
* Wiggins had several fast break dunks that brought the fans to their feet. I am not an NBA draft expert by any stretch of the imagination, but I would have to say that Wiggins is one of the best natural talents I’ve seen in person. Allen Iverson, Carmelo Anthony, John Wall and Blake Griffin are some others who immediately come to mind as far as having such a presence on the court.
* The Kansas fans were really giving it to Smart and one KU fan even kept track of how many times Smart “flopped” during today’s game. By and large, though, the Jayhawk fans are very knowledgeable and really support good basketball.
* Several NBA executives were in town today to get a closer look at Wiggins and Oklahoma State’s Marcus Smart, two players likely to be picked near the top of this year’s draft. Another potential lottery pick, Kansas center Joel Embiid, is sitting out the Big 12 tournament but is expected to be back for the NCAA tournament.
* I didn’t see him myself, but I am told former Mountaineer Mike Gansey is in the building taking in today’s action. Gansey is the Director of Development League Operations for the Cleveland Cavaliers.
* The West Virginia players took in Wednesday night’s opening round games at the Sprint Center and I happened to catch Juwan Staten signing lots autographs and posing for many pictures during both games, which shows that Big 12 fans have already become quite familiar with Juwan’s game.
* Here is how good the Big 12 is this year: Oklahoma State, the tournament’s No. 8 seed, could also be a No. 8 seed in this year’s NCAA tournament. The Big 12 continues to be rated the No. 1 basketball league in the country with seven teams currently ranked among the top 47 in the RPI.
Nine Big 12 teams, including 17-14 West Virginia, are ranked among the top 71 teams in the country, according to the latest Sagarin ratings.
* It’s hard to compare the Big 12 and Big East tournaments because Madison Square Garden is such a unique place – as is New York City – but Kansas City has done a great job of hosting this event and the fans have certainly come out to support it. The first session started at 12:30 local time and the place was packed.
In terms of the quality of play, I would say the two quarterfinal rounds are very comparable, especially once all of those bottom teams in the former Big East were weeded out.
* West Virginia is clearly on the outside looking in as far as the NCAA tournament goes, but if the Mountaineers can get hot and win a couple of games here in Kansas City and get to 19 victories that might be enough to get them into the discussion.
The problem is if the Mountaineers get to 15 losses I’m not sure a 15-loss team has ever made the tournament. I know many 14-loss teams have made the Big Dance, including five in 2011.
One thing to keep in mind with a smaller Big 12 Conference: each team has to play everybody twice, including the top teams and when a league is as strong as the Big 12 is this year, that means more opportunities to improve your résumé.
Right now, it looks like West Virginia is in great shape to make the NIT and could even get a first-round game at home. West Virginia is probably going to be the only Big 12 team in the NIT. Texas Tech and TCU are not in contention for postseason play with losing overall records.
* In case you’re interested, the Big 12 tournament record for scoring is the 43 points put up by Texas Tech’s Mike Singletary against Texas A&M on March 11, 2009. He made 14 field goals in that game.
* Among the national writers covering this year’s Big 12 tournament is Dennis Dodd of CBSSports.com, who wrote this about the conference earlier today: http://www.cbssports.com/collegefootball/writer/dennis-dodd/24481252/big-12-may-be-small-but-its-strength-in-hoops-football-looms-large
The West Virginia-Texas game is schedule to tip off sometime around 9:30 p.m. ET tonight.
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