The Big XII Tournament gets underway tomorrow at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, with the 7th-seeded Huskers playing in the third game, slated for a 6:00 PM start, against the #10-seeded Missouri Tigers. The Huskers have pretty much no at-large NCAA hopes, so if they're going to go to the big dance, they'll need to become the first Big XII team to win the conference tournament without a first-round bye.
More importantly for the Huskers, they need to at least beat Mizzou or risk falling out of the NIT and into the new CBI tournament. If they can win Thursday and have a stronger showing against KU in the second round, they can possibly move up in NIT seeding with the hopes of a home game or two.
Other Big XII teams have a lot to prove in the tournament, too. Although the Big XII is 2nd in the RPI and has been projected to get 6 teams in the tournament, not all 6 should feel safe. With some big upsets in the conference tournaments -- notably San Diego winning the WCC and South Alabama falling in the Sun Belt tourney -- the tournament bubble is getting highly competitive.
If you happen to be in KC, the 5-12 seeds will be having open practice this afternoon at the Sprint Center. Also, Bring on the Cats has a Guide to KC for the Big XII tournament.
Also, if you want to follow live stats or see live press conferences, check out the Official Big 12 Conference Tournament Page.
With no further ado, on to the 1st-round games:
Game 1 -- #8 Texas Tech vs. #9 Oklahoma State, 11:30 AM.
TV: ESPN2 (Webcast at ESPN360.com)
Team Blogs: Texas Tech -- Double T Nation, Oklahoma State -- None.
Regular Season Meetings: Jan. 12 @OSU 74, TTU 55; Feb. 2 @TTU 67, OSU 60.
Both of these teams are looking to lock-up an NIT berth. Both had some big wins down the stretch (OSU knocking off Kansas and Tech knocking off Texas) that got them into the at-large conversation, they both lost their last 2 and finished below .500 in conference. Oklahoma State was a dismal 2-7 in conference before running off 5 straight. Tech has been good in Lubbock, bad everywhere else (only road wins @Colorado and @Alaska-Anchorage).
Prediction: Oklahoma State, 70-65.
Winner plays: #1 Texas, 11:30 AM Friday, ESPN+/ESPNU
Game 2 -- #5 Baylor vs. #12 Colorado, 2:00 PM (depending on end of Game 1)
TV: ESPN+/ESPNU (KXVO in Omaha/Lincoln, Webcast on ESPN360.com)
Team Blogs: None
Regular Season Meeting: Feb. 27 Baylor 68, @Colorado 57
Baylor is probably already in the NCAA tournament, with a winning conference record and an RPI in the 30s, but losing to Colorado may give the selection committee pause. Colorado's season is over with their next loss. Baylor toyed with CU in Boulder two weeks ago. No reason to think tomorrow will be any different.
Prediction: Baylor, 75-58.
Winner plays: #4 Oklahoma, 2:00 PM Friday, ESPN+/ESPNU
Game 3 -- #7 Nebraska vs. #10 Missouri, 6:00 PM
TV: ESPN+ (KXVO in Omaha/Lincoln, Webcast on ESPN360.com)
Opponent Blog: Rock M Nation
Regular Season Meetings: Jan. 30 Nebraska 66, @Missouri 62; Feb. 13 Missouri 86, @Nebraska 78 (OT)
Nebraska's played extremely well since losing to Mizzou in February. Missouri has been horribly inconsistent down the stretch, since losing leading scorer Stephon Hannah following the barfight just before the first NU-MU game in January. In Lincoln, Nebraska went scoreless at the end of the first half, and missed several key free throws in the second half. These teams are fairly well-matched, so it should be a tight game. Both teams really need a win to feel safe about an NIT berth, though the loser may still be safe from CBI-land. The winner gets the worst prize ever -- a second-round matchup with KU.
Prediction: Nebraska, 66-65.
Winner plays: #2 Kansas, 6:00 PM Friday, ESPN+
Game 4 -- #6 Texas A&M vs. #11 Iowa State, 8:30 PM (depending on end of Game 3)
TV: ESPN 2 (Webcast on ESPN 360.com)
Team Blogs: TAMU: The 12th Manchild, ISU: Clone Chronicles
Regular Season Meeting: Feb. 5 @Texas A&M 69, Iowa State 51
Texas A&M was once ranked, but sloppy conference play has led to an 8-8 Big XII record and a spot squarely on the bubble. Iowa State was 3-3 in conference at one time, but has lost 9 of its last 10 and 5 in a row. An A&M loss would likely drop them into the NIT. Iowa State isn't going to the postseason without a miracle conference title. Expect A&M to roll.
Prediction: Texas A&M, 70-54
Winner plays: #3 Kansas State, 8:20 PM Friday, ESPN+
I'll be back after the conclusion of tomorrow's games to preview Friday's matchups.