Best in the Nation? Big 12 Thinks NCAA Field Will Prove Case
Is it the Big East or the Big 12 that has been the best conference top to bottom? Which of the two power leagues deserves more teams in next week's NCAA tournament field? Which conference has the most realistic chance of pushing multiple teams through to the Final Four?
So many questions, still so much basketball to be played.
What is already certain is that the Big 12 has managed a major victory just being in the conversation. In past seasons, the debate would have focused on the Big East versus the ACC, the Big Ten, Pac-10 or even the SEC.
That's when the perception of the Big 12 was it was a league made up of basketball power Kansas and
Armed with the No. 1 overall RPI and following on the heels of one of the most exciting seasons in league history, the Big 12 has clearly sent a message to NCAA selection committee and the national media.
"I don't know if [the league reputation as an elite conference] is huge with the committee, I'm not saying that at all because I think the committee does enough research and they have a lot of different information from a lot of different areas so they will figure it out," said Kansas coach Bill Self, whose team returned to the top of the rankings Monday where it has been all but four weeks this season. "But from a national perspective and really getting people to talk about you, maybe it has some kind of influence over the committee, I do not know but getting people to talk about you also bodes well for recruiting.
"You don't hear them talking about the Big East taking a step back. To be honest, we should be in that same conversation with our league based on the consistency we've had since I've been here and even before that. A down year and our RPI is 4 and good year we are RPI 1. We're definitely one of the premiere leagues, but I still think it's so good to have that reputation because the East Coast media still does not see it that way unless the RPI facts backs up it which gets them to talking more about us, which I think bodes well for our league."
The expectation is the selection committee will show just how elite the Big 12 has become by allowing a Big East-like seven league teams into the 65-team NCAA tournament field when the bracket is unveiled Sunday.
The rest will be up to the Big 12.
Virtually all seven potential candidates: Kansas, Baylor, Texas, Texas A&M, Kansas State, Missouri and Oklahoma State all can win games in the tournament. Kansas and Kansas State could go deep, possibly Final Four deep.
Getting multiple teams into the Sweet 16 and Elite Eight and Final Four rounds will say more about the Big 12 prowess than its national-best .821 non-conference winning percentage (142-31) or the fact no other team can boast seven teams with a winning percentage of .700 or better.
"Last year we had to Elite Eight teams a Sweet 16 team in a year that was a rebuilding year for our league, which was very very positive," Self said. "But we need to punch the ticket and get to the ultimate destination which would be the Final Four. Selfishly, I hope it's us. But it's good for our league if that can occur even if it's not us. I hope multiple teams can go like they did a few years ago when Texas and Kansas were in it."