Big 12 Men’s Basketball: Sweet Sixteen Preview
Then there were 16 teams. After a dramatic, bracket-busting weekend in the First and Second Rounds of the NCAA Tournament, the Sweet Sixteen is set. And among those teams vying for the national championship are three teams from the Big 12 and not the three you might have guessed. Sure, two of them were predictable in Kansas and Texas Tech. But an 11-seed Iowa State is in while a 1-seed defending national champion sits at home in Waco? Yes, last weekend was truly a weekend of upsets.
Kansas wants its fourth NCAA Tournament title in program history. Behind a strong roster that includes the Big 12 Player of the Year Ochai Agbaji, they could do just that. Texas Tech came within one buzzer-beating shot in 2019 of their first national championship. That shot was blocked by Virginia, but had it gone in, the Natty would have gone to Lubbock. Tech wants what they didn’t get in 2019. Iowa State, who went 2-22 just a season ago, is making their sixth appearance in the Sweet Sixteen. Someone has to be the tournament Cinderella, why not them?
The Big 12’s three Sweet Sixteen teams are tied with the ACC (Duke, North Carolina, and Miami) with the most teams. Three conferences have two teams each in the Sweet Sixteen – Big East (Providence, Villanova), Big Ten (Michigan, Purdue), and the Pac-12 (Arizona, UCLA). That leaves four conferences with one team – American Athletic (Houston), Metro Atlantic (St. Peter’s), SEC (Arkansas), and the West Coast (Gonzaga).
This year, one quarter of the teams are a double-digit seed – Miami (10), Iowa State (11), Michigan (11), and St. Peter’s (15). This is the third time that a 15-seed has made the Sweet 16 – Florida Gulf Coast (2013) and Oral Roberts (2021). Only 19 double-digit seeds have ever made the Elite Eight. There will be at least one this year as 11-seed Iowa State will face 10-seed Miami in the Sweet Sixteen,
Iowa State and Kansas are both playing in the Midwest Region. If both teams win, they will face each other in the Elite Eight. Texas Tech is playing in the South Region. The South Region champ will face the Midwest Region champ in the Final Four, so potentially, this could be two Big 12 teams.
Here’s a closer look at the three games featuring Big 12 teams in the Sweet Sixteen:
(11) Iowa State vs. (10) Miami (FL)
Friday, March 25, 8:59 p.m. CT – TBS
United Center, Chicago, Illinois
Line: Miami -2.5; Over/Under – 133.5
Records: Iowa State is 22-12 and was 7-11 in Big 12 play (7th place). They were eliminated in the quarterfinals of the Big 12 Tournament by Texas Tech. Miami is 25-10 and was 14-6 in ACC play (4th place). They were eliminated in the semifinals of the ACC Tournament by Duke.
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Key storyline: With both teams coming in as a double-digit seed, this year’s Elite Eight will have at least one double-digit seed. This will be the 20th time that has happened. One of these teams could be the Cinderella team of the tournament come the Elite Eight round.
(1) Kansas vs. (4) Providence
Friday, March 25, 6:29 p.m. CT – TBS
United Center, Chicago, Illinois
Line: Kansas – 7.5; Over/Under – 141.5
Records: Kansas is 30-6 and was 14-4 in Big 12 play (tied for first with Baylor). They won the Big 12 Tournament defeating Texas Tech. Providence is 27-5 and was 14-3 in Big East play (1st place). They were eliminated in the semifinals of the Big East Tournament by Creighton.
Key storyline: The Jayhawks enter the game with 12 Quadrant 1 wins, the most in the nation. They have the talent and roster to be an offensive juggernaut with Agbaji, Christian Braun, Remy Martin, and others. However, they struggled in Round Two against Creighton, another Big East team who happened to beat Providence in the Big East semifinals. Will KU be able to get back to their offensive game plan?
(3) Texas Tech vs. (2) Duke
Thursday, March 24, 8:49 p.m. CT – CBS
Chase Center, San Francisco, California
Line: Texas Tech -1.5; Over/Under – 137.5
Records: Texas Tech is 27-9 and was 12-6 in Big 12 play (3rd). They were eliminated in the finals of the Big 12 Tournament by Kansas. Duke is 30-6 and was 16-4 in ACC play (1st place). They were eliminated in the finals of the ACC Tournament by Virginia Tech.
Key storyline: Texas Tech was one shot away from a national championship in 2019. Under first-year coach Mark Adams, they are looking for redemption and another trip to the Final Four. Legendary Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski has been on his farewell tour this season and plans on retiring when his season is done. Will Texas Tech get to go down in history as Coach K’s last game? Last weekend, Coach K notched is 1,200th career victory and his 99th NCAA Tournament victory. Duke fans certainly want him to win his 100th and advance to the Elite Eight.
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