The Big 12 is in the middle of a landmark season and currently has 70.0 percent of its teams in position to earn at-large bids to the field of 68.
But will the Big 12 perform better in the NCAA Tournament than it did a year ago?
That’s to be determined.
The Big 12 looked like it was on par with the ACC as the best conference in college basketball for most of last season, but that perception changed in March.
Four of the Big 12’s six teams that reached the bracket in 2015 — Kansas, Baylor, Iowa State, and Texas — didn’t advance to the field of 68’s second weekend while Oklahoma and West Virginia were knocked out in the Sweet 16.
The ACC, meanwhile, had three teams — Duke, Louisville, and Notre Dame — play in the Elite Eight last season.
Will the Big 12 have a different outcome next month?
It all depends on how much this league wore down its teams during the regular season’s double round-robin.
If seven Big 12 teams wind up making the NCAA Tournament, then each of those teams will have played at least 12 games against tournament-caliber teams before starting the Big 12 Conference Tournament.
That’s the epitome of brutality.
Davon Reed is the X-factor for Miami
The Hurricanes have several known commodities on their roster, making them a team that could advance deep into the NCAA Tournament.
Miami’s back court features a pair grizzled veterans in fifth-year seniors Angel Rodriguez and Sheldon McClellan, while senior big man Tonye Jekiri has emerged as a legitimate candidate for ACC Defensive Player of the Year in the pivot.
That trio, along with Jim Larranaga — a proven head coach who led George Mason to the Final Four in 2006 — makes the Hurricanes rock solid, steady, and consistent.
But the guy who can take this team to a different level might be junior Davon Reed.
The 6-foot-5 wing had a season-high 21 points in Monday night’s 64-61 win over Virginia and opened up Miami’s offense in the second half.
School officials told CBS Sports that Reed was in the gym at 11 a.m. on Monday shooting by himself and his hard work paid major dividends.
The Hurricanes are 11-4 this season in games where Reed scores in double-figures.
Xavier has a lot in common with Evander Holyfield
To those who don’t know, I’m a huge professional boxing fan.
I love the history, the pageantry and the mystique that went along with the big fights we saw in the heavyweight division during the 1990’s.
Holyfield was at the epicenter of that and initially made his name in boxing when Mike Tyson was in prison.
He beat Buster Douglas to win the heavyweight title and then earned decisions over both George Foreman and Larry Holmes before losing and then regaining the title from Riddick Bowe.
Holyfield had achievements, but he didn’t have the type of respect he craved because he didn’t beat Tyson.
That’s very similar to where Xavier sits today.
The Musketeers are 24-3 overall and have a terrific team that’s made mincemeat out of Michigan, USC, Dayton, Providence and others.
Chris Mack is doing as good of a coaching job as anyone in college basketball and has a squad that many, including myself, believe will have an excellent chance to advance to the Final Four in Houston.
But Xavier still hasn’t beaten Villanova.
In fact, in the six meetings the two programs have had since the creation of the new Big East, the Wildcats have beaten the Musketeers by an average of 17.1 points.
The two teams will meet again on Wednesday at the Cintas Center in what feels like the most anticipated Big East regular season game we’ve seen since realignment.
Win or lose, Xavier is still going to be a trendy pick to do damage in the NCAA Tournament.
But just like Holyfield needed the chance he got against Tyson when he beat him in 1996, the Musketeers need to beat Villanova to take another step forward in terms of enhancing their national perception.
They’ll get that opportunity on Wednesday night.
This just in
- Rhode Island’s Christion Thompson (concussion) will not play Tuesday against Davidson, source told CBS Sports.
This and That
- If Arizona winds up winning the Pac-12, then Sean Miller deserves serious consideration for National Coach of the Year. The Wildcats lost four starters — T.J. McConnell, Stanley Johnson, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, and Gabe York — from last year’s team that reached the Elite Eight and dealt with injuries this season to both Allonzo Trier and Kaleb Tarczewski. Another thing to remember about Arizona? Ray Smith — the Wildcats’ top freshman prospect — suffered a torn ACL in the preseason.
- Oklahoma’s Buddy Hield hasn’t shot over 50.0 percent from the field in a game since Feb. 2 at TCU and hasn’t shot better than 50.0 percent from 3-point range in a game since Jan. 30 at LSU. Hield is terrific, but he’s not nearly as efficient offensively as he was earlier in the season.
- Kentucky’s Isaiah Briscoe has had six games this season with seven or more rebounds. Remember when this guy was the burly guard who only wanted to play offense? Oh right, that’s when he was in high school.
- Guards have always been the key to teams advancing deep in the NCAA Tournament, but what other team is going to be able to compete inside with North Carolina’s front court quartet of Brice Johnson, Kennedy Meeks, Isaiah Hicks, and Joel James? Those four guys a problem. Just ask Miami.
- I’m on the fence about buying Oregon as a second weekend NCAA Tournament team, but the Ducks’ final two Pac-12 games at USC and UCLA will be a good barometer. Oregon will need both of those games to win the conference regular season title and how they perform in Los Angeles will tell us an awful lot about their overall maturity.
- Pac-12 teams better start paying attention to Cal’s Kameron Rooks. The 7-foot sophomore had a combined 21 rebounds in two games this past weekend at Washington and Washington State. Rooks is the son of former NBA big man Sean Rooks.
- Where would Indiana be without Max Bielfeldt? The graduate transfer from Michigan has tallied a combined 31 points and 19 rebounds over his last three games and is 5-10 from 3-point range during that span. Bielfeldt has given the Hoosiers the veteran interior presence they’ve desperately needed alongside Thomas Bryant.
- Pat Birt has been a difference maker for Tulsa. The 6-5 wing had 26 points in Sunday’s win at UCF and is averaging 12.4 PPG. Birt has already made 70 3-point shots this season and gives Frank Haith’s team a guy who can take pressure off both James Woodard and Shaquille Harrison.
- A word to the wise: buy stock in St. John’s freshman Kassoum Yakwe. The athletic power forward has a combined 27 points, 26 rebounds, and eight blocks in his last two games. There’s one word to describe this kid — stud.
- Former Cincinnati guard Ge’lawn Guyn has found a home at East Tennessee State. The graduate transfer has scored 500 points this season and is averaging 17.9 points, 3.9 rebounds, and 1.8 assists. Guyn scored a combined 312 points in the 101 games he played during three years with the Bearcats.
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