KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Big 12 Tournament started on Wednesday night, with Oklahoma State and Kansas State claiming victories. Check out HeartlandCollegeSports.com for previews of each of Thursday’s games. But, for now, here are five thing we learned after Wednesday’s games.
THE CORONAVIRUS IS ONLY MAKING COLLEGE SPORTS MESSIER
I thought Wednesday was going to be the start of a pretty easy day at the Big 12 Tournament. Covering two games isn’t that difficult a task. By the time I filed this story Wednesday night, we had flown off the highway and into college basketball bizarro world.
I mean, it looked normal. Heck, our floor seat to watch and report on the game hadn’t changed from a year ago, as you can see below.
But plenty of other things have changed, and they keep changing, so much so that CBSSports.com had to create a tracker to keep up with it all. Their tracker is linked here and it’s a great one-stop shop to keep up with everything. But, around 3:40 CT on Wednesday, the NCAA dropped the hammer on spectators for the entire NCAA Tournament.
And now here is the NCAA — March Madness — on its plans for basketball tournaments (largely) without fans … pic.twitter.com/zyhOjAGw56— Marc Stein (@TheSteinLine) March 11, 2020
The World Health Organization’s decision to designate the coronavirus a pandemic — which also occurred on Wednesday — must have been the final straw in the NCAA’s decision-making. Baylor’s Freddie Gillespie found out just a few minutes after the Bears’ workout, and while he said all the right things, it must have been a gut punch.
#SicEm F Freddie Gillespie on the #NCAA decision to have the #NCAATournament played largely without fans (which happened minutes before this video). @Heartland_CS@DerekDuke25@CamBrockHCS@SicEm365@PeteMundopic.twitter.com/J7mIxbtz80— Matthew Postins (@PostinsPostcard) March 11, 2020
Just before tip-off of the Oklahoma State-Iowa State game, Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby declared that fans would not be able to attend any tournament games starting Thursday. Here is the complete Q&A as compiled Wednesday night.
And then it got much worse. The rest of the conference tournament followed suit. The NBA suspended its season for the time being. Jazz forward Rudy Gobert is likely the league’s first case of the coronavirus. Nebraska head coach Fred Hoiberg was visibly sick on the Cornhuskers’ bench and had to go to the hospital.
I never thought I would see a day in which there would be no crowds at the NCAA Tournament. I’ll get a first-hand look at what the Big 12 Tournament is like with no fans today. Baylor guard Devonte Bandoo said he hoped they find a cure for this soon. It probably won’t be soon enough to change what is turning out to be the strangest March Madness in history.
OKLAHOMA STATE, NIT BOUND
The Oklahoma State Cowboys aren’t going to the NCAA Tournament. But I think it’s clear after Wednesday’s game they have a place in the NIT.
The Cowboys defeated the Iowa State Cyclones, 72-71, in a wild final sequence that saw the Cyclones take the lead, and then the Cowboys regain the lead on a coast-to-coast layup. I captured the final seconds here.
With the win the Cowboys are now 18-14 for the season and, according to DRatings.com, the Cowboys were a solid No. 2 seed in the NIT coming in. The Cowboys are the type of team the NIT is looking for — a Power 5 team with good chemistry, on an ascendant track and should match up well with the mid-majors that will populate the field. Don’t forget the Cowboys got to the NIT quarterfinals in head coach Mike Boynton’s first year at the helm. The way they’re playing, they could do it again.
BRACKETOLOGY AS OF WEDNESDAY NIGHT
ESPN’s Joe Lunardi — Kansas (1 seed), Baylor (1 seed), West Virginia (7 seed), Oklahoma (9 seed), Texas Tech (10 seed), Texas (11 seed, First Four game). Lunardi had Texas Tech as one of the last four byes and Texas as one of the last four in. Last update was March 9.
CBSSports.com’s Jerry Palm — Kansas (1 seed), Baylor (1 seed), West Virginia (6 seed), Oklahoma (9 seed). Palm had Texas Tech and Texas as two of his First Four out. Last update was March 10.
KANSAS STATE WITH SOME GUTS
Kansas State could have phoned it in against TCU on Wednesday night. But it didn’t. The Wildcats could have just let the game slip away when the Horned Frogs got up by four points in the second half. But they didn’t. No, the Wildcats fought through it and “gutted it out,” as their head coach, Bruce Weber, put it.
That’s a valuable win for the team’s pride and future, if nothing else. Remember — most of those guys are coming back next season and Weber and his staff must figure out a way to get the most out of them. We know the Wildcats aren’t going to win the Big 12 Tournament (unless something truly miraculous happens). But what you’re hoping for is some momentum into the offseason. K-State did that Wednesday night, win or lose.
AS FOR THE CYLCONES AND HORNED FROGS …
Iowa State fell far short of what I expected. I know this was a transition year for the Cyclones, but it’s also their second losing season in three years. Forward Michael Jacobson, who was out of eligibility after the game, said, in talking about players like Tre Jackson and Caleb Grill, that “they’ll have a ton of success moving forward.” He also said they realize that what happened this season was “unacceptable.”
More from Jacobson below.
Head coach Steve Prohm said the program has a lot of work to do this offseason, and we’ll get to that in our season wrap soon.
As for TCU, the Horned Frogs end their season at .500, 16-16, and likely on the outside looking in as a postseason team. I thought with a record above .500 the Horned Frogs might attract the NIT, but DRatings.com didn’t even have the Horned Frogs listed as an option before the game. We’ll take a deeper look at the Horned Frogs in our season-in-review, but for now, we leave you with these comments from TCU head coach Jamie Dixon.
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