Baylor heads to the Big 12 Tournament with a huge battle against Kansas State. We’ll preview that game Tuesday. The Wildcats tournament hopes are on the line. With a loss, Kansas State will likely miss the NCAA Tournament, and if that happens, Bruce Weber may be done in Manhattan. With a loss, Baylor is likely a 3-seed in the NCAA Tournament. If one of the three PAC-12 teams—Oregon, UCLA, or Arizona—loses earlier than expected in their tournament, then Baylor might stay on the 2-line. Yet, a few brackets have Baylor on the 3-line right now. The Bears probably wouldn’t drop down to a 4-seed because there is clear separation between the Bear’s resume and those teams.
If Baylor wins, they’ll likely take on West Virginia in the Big 12 semifinal. A win against West Virginia would make it very likely Baylor secures at least a 2-seed. Someone else on the 2-line will likely fail to make it to the semifinal round of their tournament, which would make a Baylor finals appearance a clear separation point. The Bears would also have picked up another top 15 win. Several teams are likely to lose before the conference finals: Louisville has a tough run in the ACC Tournament, a PAC-12 team could get upset and Kentucky—while hot right now—has had moments of mediocrity.
The Big 12 Championship is likely to mean a game against Kansas. Iowa State or Oklahoma State have a chance to upset the Jayhawks, but with the games in Kansas City, that will be a minor upset. If the Bears win that game, they will have added one of the best wins of the season. They will have also likely knocked off West Virginia for a second time in as many weeks. At that point, the Bears would have an outside chance at a 1-seed. The committee gave a ton of respect to Baylor in the selection special a month ago. They also had UCLA relatively low. That indicates that once again, non-conference scheduling is incredibly important. With wins over Oregon, Louisville, Michigan State, Xavier, and VCU, the Bears would have one of the best non-conference resumes in the country. Add in a semi-away game victory against Kansas, the two West Virginia wins, and two Oklahoma State wins, and Baylor would have an outside chance at a 1-seed. Baylor would likely need some help. Gonzaga with just one loss is probably getting a 1-seed over Baylor. North Carolina also has a good shot if they make the ACC Tournament Championship, and Oregon would have a good case for a top seed with a win.
Regardless of what seed Baylor receives, the Bears are likely to open in Tulsa. That presents two advantages. First, it means Baylor plays closer to home, and in turn, Baylor fans can travel to the game. The Bears are not going to face Yale in New England this season. Second, Baylor would be unlikely to draw Wichita State in a Tulsa game. The committee is unlikely to place the lower seeded Shockers in a closer location than the Bears. This is a big advantage because Wichita State is going to be vastly underseed. Wichita State is #10 on KenPom. But they’re likely going to be seeded somewhere from 7 to 11. Somebody is going to get a terrible draw from the committee, while someone else will face a mediocre power six team.
Some years the first round sites can harm you, but Baylor shouldn’t have that problem this year. Now, if the committee throws Wichita State in Tulsa against Baylor, then we all have plenty to be passive-aggressive about.