Not quite the Wizard of Oz, but the Wildcats and Bears will face off in the Big 12 semis. Oh my! (Credit: Kevin Jairaj-US PRESSWIRE)
The semifinal match ups are set after a full day of quarterfinal action at Municipal Auditorium in Kansas City.
I was 'rooting' for chaos to prevail. It didn't happen.
After the lower seeded teams won both contests on Wednesday, three out of four games on Thursday were taken by the favorite to set up the semis. So the automatic qualifier will be someone who was expected to make the tournament field based on their regular season body of work.
If you are sensing a tinge of deja vu, it might be due to the fact that these four were the final teams standing in last year's conference semifinals as well.These two contests will be shown on FSN Friday afternoon to determine who will face off Saturday at 11 a.m. for the tournament title and Big 12's auto-bid. All times central.
Read more about the pairings after the jump.
#1 Baylor vs. #5 Kansas State, 12 p.m.
Kansas State rode the offensive firepower of Jalana Childs in Thursday's opening game, and the contest that proved to be the closest quarterfinal match up. Iowa State took the game down to the wire, but Childs and Co. were too much for Bill Fennelly's Cyclones to overcome. She finished with 31 points and 10 rebounds in the 67-63 win. She was helped along by Brittany Chambers' 12 points, eight rebounds and six assists, and 13 points from Tasha Dickey. I don't know what it would take for the Wildcats to pose a serious threat to the Bears, but I'm sure it would include these three to have lights out games, on both sides of the ball. Texas Tech even tried to play 6-of-5 for a hot second on Thursday, which might be a decent strategy, save all the technical fouls a team would get.
Baylor faced off with Texas Tech, the team that had played them the closest in the regular season. But, the Red Raiders could not hang with the Bears in Kansas City in the 72-48 affair. Baylor dominated and all without the handiwork of Brooklyn Pope, who was missing from the lineup due to what head coach Kim Mulkey called "disciplinary reasons". The Bears looked to be a complete package despite Pope's absence, with Odyssey Sims finishing with a game-high 18 points on 6-of-8 shooting and four 3-point shots. Brittney Griner added 15 points, nine rebounds, five blocks and four assists. Nae Nae Hayden chipped in 10 points, seven rebounds, six assists and three steals for the Bears. In total, the team had 22 assists on 27 made baskets. Baylor finished the night shooting 52.9%, but 12 minutes into the game, the Bears were an impressive 11-of-15 (73.3%) from the field.
Undefeated Baylor - of course - won both regular season games against the Wildcats. The combined score in these two meetings was 146-82. So, I'd place my bets on Baylor ... but there's a reason they play the games, right?
#2 Oklahoma vs. #3 Texas A&M, 2:30 p.m.
Oklahoma used a second-half spurt to overpower the Missouri Tigers and advance to the semifinal round of the Big 12 tournament. The Sooners trailed by 10 at the halftime break and looked to be in jeopardy of losing to the #10 seed in the field. But they started the second half on a 15-2 run to take their first lead of the game. From that point on, OU retained their advantage en route to a 70-59 win due in no small part to a pair of freshmen. Sharane Campbell scored 22 points in 25 minutes to lead the team. Her 5-of-8 shooting mark was matched by fellow freshman Kaylon Williams, who finished with 12 points and 10 rebounds. OU's traditional scorers, Whitney Hand and Aaryn Ellenberg, combined to go 7-of-26 from the field and they each played the full 40 minutes of the game.
In Thursday's nightcap, Texas A&M and Kansas played a close game for the first 30 minutes. But then the defending national champions wore down the Jayhawks and were able to pull away for a 78-63 win. Freshman Alexia Standish turned in a new career high with 25 points, including 6-of-9 shooting from beyond the arc. Sydney Carter finished with a well-rounded 18 points, eight assists and seven rebounds in the victory. A&M's Kelsey Bone and Adaora Elonu also turned in solid outings to advance. The Aggies were without Tyra White, who has been wearing a boot since their final regular season game on Saturday. Gary Blair made no final indication as to whether White would be available for the remainder of the tournament or if her injury will keep her sidelined, as the Kansas City native's status is listed as day-to-day.
The A&M bench is somewhat thin, and if White is still a spectator it will be interesting to see if fatigue becomes a factor for the defensively-minded Aggies. To advance to the finals, the Sooners will have to find a way to be more effective from the field against a tougher defensive challenge than the Tigers posed. The season series was a 1-1 split, with each team defending their home court.
OK, folks. Here is where I vehemently disagree with Mr. Charlie Creme of ESPN. There is no way that I feel like the Texas Longhorns should still be in the NCAA tournament after losing their first-round game to Texas Tech. He mentions that their profile is better overall than other bubble teams. (Ummmm....how??) He also uses last season's underachieving Texas team as a basis for his inclusion. He reminds readers that a worse Longhorn team in 2011 was a No. 9 seed in the tournament field. What he doesn't remind readers of is the result of Texas' trip to the 2011 NCAA tournament - a first-round loss to Marquette in Knoxville. Do you remember how they fared in 2010? The sixth-seeded Longhorns lost to 11th seed San Diego State in Austin. AT HOME. How about 2009? Texas, again a sixth seed, bowed out in the first round courtesy of No. 11 seed Mississippi State.
If you don't think it's time for someone else to get a chance at their spot in an underachieving year, you need to reread those last few lines. If there is indeed a sixth slot available for the Big 12, the team included should not be Texas. Take Kansas, who was the sixth seed in the Big 12 tournament. Or Oklahoma State, the seventh seed for chrissakes. Not the eight-seeded Longhorns who got completely drubbed by the Red Raiders, who in turn got blown out by Baylor. [head-to-head comparison of KU/OSU/UT]
Or really, give that bid to a more deserving smaller conference program. Which program, you ask? I really don't know - I cannot even pretend to know about all of the schools out there, and what merits or discredits them for inclusion into the NCAA tournament. My cursory glance at Creme's last bracket in conjunction with conference standings leads me to throw out a few random names:
James Madison (23-6, 14-4 CAA - on Creme's 'first four out' list), Appalachian State (25-6, 17-3 Southern), Davidson (22-9, 17-3 Southern), Central Arkansas (24-6, 14-2 Southland), Oral Roberts (20-10, 14-4 Summit League), Eastern Illinois (22-8, 13-3 Ohio Valley), UNLV (22-9, 10-4 MWC), Memphis (24-6, 13-3 C-USA). Are any of these teams worthy? Well, like most of you my knowledge is primarily of what I am surrounded by, which in this case is the Big 12 and whatever I can find on television. Which is basically a long answer that means, "I don't know". Would any of these teams win? I haven't the foggiest (remember I don't really even know these teams). But the projected match up of #6 Vandy vs. #11 Texas makes me think that the Longhorns wouldn't necessarily win either.
A friend told me the bubble must be pretty weak to even be having this quibble in the first place. And perhaps it is. But that doesn't mean that Texas gets a pass because they are Texas, or at least not to me. As much as I love the Big 12 and want the conference to be represented by as many quality teams as possible, Texas is not one of those quality teams that deserves entrance into the field.