Baylor Bears

Which Big 12 Men’s Basketball Teams Will Make NCAA Tournament?

Jerome Tang.

Right now, the Big 12 Conference could get nearly every one of its men’s basketball teams into the NCAA Tournament. Ask ESPN’s Fran Fraschilla and Joe Lunardi.

But, let’s be realistic. It won’t be that way in March. The Big 12 is too good for its own good. So, who’s going to get there?

I took time diving into data for the past five ‘normal seasons.’ That’s last season (2021-22) and the four before COVID-19 forced the cancellation of the 2020 NCAA Tournament (2015-16 through 2018-19).

 

I wanted to test a theory that a team’s non-conference record has a correlation to its ability to make the postseason. In a league as difficult as the Big 12, a double-digit non-conference start before league play gives you a good head start.

Based on the data, I’m projecting each Big 12 team’s chances of making the postseason. The projections are based on the following criteria:

Teams that win 10 or more games in non-conference make it to the NCAA Tournament, as long as they’ve won at least 20 games by the Big 12 Tournament;

Teams that win 10 or more games in non-conference, but don’t have 20 or more wins by the Big 12 Tournament USUALLY go to the postseason (NCAA or NIT);

Teams that win nine or fewer games in non-conference USUALLY go to the postseason (we’ll talk about the outlier);

Teams that have eight or fewer non-conference wins usually don’t go to the postseason.

Ready? Here we go. Below is each team, their history, how many wins they need before the Big 12 Tournament to get to 20 wins, and my prediction.

 

Baylor (10)

The Bears went 10-2 in pre-Big 12 play. The Bears have done that four times in the five-year sample and went to the NCAA Tournament three times. In the 2017-18 season the Bears started 10-2, went 8-10 in Big 12 action, were 18-14 entering the Big 12 Tournament, and ended up in the NIT. The following season, Baylor started 8-4, then went 10-8 in Big 12 play, were 19-12 entering the Big 12 Tournament, and went to the NCAA. The postseason is basically a lock. NCAA, NIT or Nothing — NCAA

Iowa State (11)

The Cyclones are 9-2 and winter storm Elliott (I can’t believe we’re naming these things now) robbed the Cyclones of the chance to get to 10 wins. Still, the odds are in their favor. No team in the sample missed the NCAAs with 20 wins by KC. Even if ISU fails to get to 20, teams with exactly nine wins have reached the postseason one out of two times, and the Cyclones are the ONE team that didn’t. That was in 2017-18, which went 9-2 but went 4-14 in Big 12 play to miss the postseason. NCAA, NIT or Nothing — NCAA

Kansas – (9)

Kansas (11-1) hasn’t missed an NCAA Tournament in the five-year sample. In all five sampled years Kansas went 12-0, 11-1, and 10-2. In the five sampled seasons Kansas won an average of 14 Big 12 games by Kansas City. The Jayhawks are as close to a lock as you’re going to get when it comes to the postseason. NCAA, NIT or Nothing — NCAA

 

Kansas State – (9)

Kansas State is 11-1 and in the five-year sample, the Wildcats accomplished that one other time — 2016-17. But, those 2016-17 Wildcats went 8-10 in league play, were 19-12 by the Big 12 Tournament, and still made it to the NCAAs. A win in the Big 12 Tournament enhanced their credentials. Still, one should be cautious because K-State is ALSO one of three teams to win 10 games before Big 12 action and miss the postseason entirely. In 2015-16 K-State started 10-2, went 5-13 in league play, was 16-15 by Kansas City, and didn’t make any postseason play. NCAA, NIT or Nothing — NCAA

Oklahoma – (11)

Oklahoma (9-3) started 10-2 last year, went 7-11 in Big 12 play, and was 17-14 going into Kansas City, where it beat Baylor and then barely lost to Texas Tech. It wasn’t enough for the NCAAs but the Sooners went to the NIT.  Let’s broaden the nine-win sample to include teams that had fewer than nine wins in pre-conference. Seven teams with nine or fewer wins before Big 12 play have made the postseason — four to the NCAAs, two to the NIT, and one to the CBI (when West Virginia bought their way into that event with a 12-19 overall record in 2018-19). Of the four teams that reached the NCAA Tournament, each won at least eight Big 12 games. The Sooners need to squeeze three more wins out of Big 12 play to lock it down. That’s no small feat. NCAA, NIT or Nothing — NIT

Oklahoma State – (12)

No one is in more trouble than the Cowboys, who are 8-4 entering Big 12 play. But that trouble can be overcome. The minimum number of wins for those seven teams that won fewer than 10 non-conference games and still made some kind of postseason was eight. The Cowboys need to win 12 games to get to 20, but they need at least eight to be in the running for some type of postseason. Three teams have won eight games before Big 12 play and haven’t made the postseason. One was Oklahoma State back in 2015-16. But those Cowboys went 3-15 in Big 12 play. NCAA, NIT or Nothing — NIT

TCU — (9)

TCU (11-1) won 10 or more games in pre-conference in four of the five sampled seasons. The Horned Frogs have only reached 20 wins before the Big 12 Tournament once in those four seasons, but they made the NCAA Tournament twice and the NIT the other two times. More interesting? The Horned Frogs didn’t have a winning record in any of those four league seasons. That’s how the Big 12 pulls you up. This year’s team already has 11 wins, and if they finish league action at .500 they’ll be safe as houses. NCAA, NIT or Nothing — NCAA

Texas — (9)

The Longhorns are 11-1 going into the Big 12 slate and their history is interesting. Texas has entered Big 12 play with 10 or more wins just once in the sample. But, that didn’t stop them from making either the NCAA Tournament or the NIT in three of those other four seasons. By losing only one game, the Longhorns have significantly helped their margin of error. All they have to do is match last year’s 10 Big 12 wins and they’re in. NCAA, NIT or Nothing — NCAA

Texas Tech — (10)

The Red Raiders (10-2) are used to being here.  They’ve won 10 or more pre-Big 12 games in each of the five years of the sample. But, the Red Raiders are one of the three 10-win outliers. Back in 2016-17, the Red Raiders started 11-1, went 6-12 in league action, and were 18-13 going into the Big 12 Tournament. The Red Raiders lost their tournament opener and were left out of the NCAA and the NIT. The moral of the story? Don’t let the Big 12 Tournament control your destiny. Otherwise, when Tech wins 10 or more they get some sort of postseason berth.  NCAA, NIT or Nothing — NCAA

West Virginia – (10)

The Mountaineers (10-2) fit the profile. In the sample, West Virginia reached 11 wins three years in a row and went to the NCAA Tournament. The Mountaineers also went 11-1 entering Big 12 play last season and went 4-14 in league action and were 15-16 going into the Big 12 Tournament. WVU is the third 10-team outlier. The overall data suggest they’re a lock and their history suggests they should make it. NCAA, NIT or Nothing — NCAA

You can find Matthew Postins on Twitter @PostinsPostcard

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