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March 12, 2008

Big 12 still has hopes for No. 1 seed

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Texas: The Longhorns and Kansas met in last season's tournament final. The two most talented teams in the league were neck-and-neck for the Big 12 lead for most of the season. Texas won the regular-season meeting 72-69 in Austin even though star guard D.J. Augustin was held to 10 points on 1-for-13 shooting. The only question for Texas in the NCAA Tournament will be seeding. The Longhorns defeated three top-10 teams Kansas, Tennessee and UCLA and played the nation's fourth-toughest schedule.

AT A GLANCE
Brandon Rush and the Jayhawks could still earn a No. 1 seed.

WHEN: March 13-16 (final at 3 p.m. EDT on ESPN).
WHERE: Kansas City, Mo.
EXPECTED NCAA BIDS: 4-6. Co-regular season champions Kansas and Texas will use the tournament to state their cases for a No. 1 seed and hope another of the projected top seeds loses in its conference tournament. Kansas State and Oklahoma also look fine, but this tournament will cause Baylor and Texas A&M to sweat a little bit. First-round wins by both should be enough to get them in the field. Baylor has Colorado in the first round, A&M has Iowa State. The Bears would face the Sooners and the Aggies would face K-State in the quarterfinals.

TOURNEY SCHEDULE
FIRST ROUND - THURSDAY
No. 8 Tex. Tech vs. No. 9 Okla. St., 11:30
No. 5 Baylor vs. No. 12 Colorado, 2 p.m.
No. 7 Nebraska vs. No. 10 Missouri, 6 p.m.
No. 6 TAMU vs. No. 11 Iowa St. 8:30 p.m.
SECOND ROUND - FRIDAY
No. 1 Texas vs. No. 8/9 winner, 11:30
No. 4 Oklahoma vs. No. 5/12 winner, 2 p.m.
No. 2 Kansas vs. No. 7/10 winner, 6 p.m.
No. 3 KSU vs. No. 6/11 winner, 8:30 p.m.
SEMIFINALS - SATURDAY
Game 5 winner vs. Game 6 winner, 1 p.m.
Game 7 winner vs. Game 8 winner, 3:20
FINAL - SUNDAY
Semifinal winners, 2 p.m.

Kansas: The Jayhawks have spent all but one week of the season in the top five. Kansas' roster is the most experienced in the Big 12, and the Jayhawks are playing at a high level. The senior class has won at least a share of three regular-season titles, and juniors Brandon Rush and Mario Chalmers were on teams that have won the past two conference tournaments. The Jayhawks are a lock for the NCAA Tournament, with a chance at a No. 1 seed if they win this tourney.

SLEEPERS

Kansas State: Anything can happen with national player of the year favorite Michael Beasley on the floor. The Wildcats are struggling to find consistent production beyond Beasley, though, leading to four losses in their past six games. A deep run in the Big 12 tourney would help the Wildcats' NCAA seeding.

Oklahoma: Freshman forward Blake Griffin returned to the lineup six days after arthroscopic knee surgery to score 14 points and grab eight rebounds in the Sooners' win over Missouri to end the regular season. Kansas couldn't win at Oklahoma State, and Texas couldn't win at Texas Tech. The Sooners won in both places. As with most teams in this league, a nice run in the league tourney would pay off when it comes to NCAA seeding.

Baylor: The Bears' inspiring start was derailed by a 1-6 slump at midseason, but they saved face near the end of the regular season. A win in the regular-season finale at Texas Tech was big, and the Bears would like to win a game or two to make sure they're not sweating it out on Selection Sunday.

FILLING OUT THE FIELD

Texas A&M: Few Big 12 teams are as unpredictable as the Aggies, who ran hot and cold throughout the conference season. The Aggies could catch a hot streak, as they did in late January and early February, and make a deep run in the tournament. Or they could flop. The Aggies can't lose in the first round against Iowa State if they want to go to the NCAA Tournament.

Oklahoma State: The Cowboys stunned the league with a five-game winning streak late in the season, including wins over Kansas and Texas A&M. But only a four-game winning streak in this tournament (i.e., winning it all) will land the Cowboys in the NCAAs.

Texas Tech: The Red Raiders played like a different team in Lubbock than they did on the road. Too bad this tournament is in Kansas City.

Nebraska: A three-game winning streak against Kansas State, Texas A&M and Oklahoma (who all slumped at the same time) is the only reason to believe the Huskers can make a run. NIT stands for "Nebraska Invitational Tournament" this season.

Missouri: Although the Tigers have a depleted roster, they have some potential for a first-round upset over Nebraska but little else.

Iowa State: The Cyclones won only one of their final 10 regular-season games. Their fortunes don't turn around here.

Colorado: Jeff Bzdelik's painful first season in Boulder likely ends as cannon-fodder for a Tournament-bound team.

MORE: Rivals.com Daily Bubble Watch | Drive for 65: Forecasting the Field | Play Tourney Pick'em

David Fox is a national writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at dfox@rivals.com.



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