#1 Baylor vs. #16 Norfolk State
Thursday, March 17th 1:00 PM CT, TBS
1 seed Baylor (26-6) kicks off the Big 12’s NCAA tournament slate with their opening game against #16 Norfolk State (24-6). Norfolk State was the winner of the MEAC, which landed them a tournament berth. Most of the Spartans’ losses came in the nonconference, to teams like Xavier, Wichita State, and New Mexico. They lost two games in conference to Morgan State and NC Central. The Spartans have three players that average double digit scoring, with guard Joe Bryant leading with 16.8 ppg. While that’s impressive, you have to remember that that scoring was against significantly weaker defenses than the likes of Baylor. Even shorthanded, Baylor should be able to handle this game just fine. And it sounds like Kendall Brown will be good to go, so this will be a nice tune up after the disappointing Big 12 tournament performance.
#1 Kansas vs. #16 Texas A&M-CC/Texas Southern
Thursday, March 17th 8:57 PM CT, TruTV
1 seed Kansas (28-6) rounds out the Big 12’s Thursday action with this late matchup with the winner of the 16 seed play-in game between Texas A&M-CC (23-11) and Texas Southern (18-12). Texas Southern is slightly favored in that initial game, but it won’t matter much because Kansas will be massively favored against either going into this game. The Jayhawks look like they are hitting peak form as they won the Big 12 conference tournament. There might be some concerns with fatigue, but that shouldn’t be an issue in this game. Ochai Agbaji is going to dunk on either of these teams to an absurd degree.
#3 Texas Tech vs. #14 Montana State
Friday, March 18th 12:45 PM CT, TNT
Day two of the first round has some much more interesting Big 12 matchups, starting with 3 seed Texas Tech (25-9) taking on 14 seed Montana State (27-7). The Red Raiders ended their season strong with a run to the Big 12 tournament final, before losing to Kansas in a hard fought game. Montana State is not a team Tech can sleep on, however, as the Bobcats won the Big Sky and have only lost two games in their last twenty. They also played Colorado really close in their first game of the season. Tech’s defense should give Montana State fits, but if this does become an upset it will be because Tech has a penchant for going really, really cold randomly. However, even if that happens, I still think Tech’s defense can probably give them the edge.
70-59 Texas Tech
#6 Texas vs. #11 Virginia Tech
Friday, March 18th 3:30 PM CT, TBS
6 seed Texas (21-11) is entering this tournament on a pretty significant downturn, losing their last three games and getting bounced first round of the Big 12 tournament. This led to some snippy comments from coach Chris Beard about his players. Compare that with 11 seed Virginia Tech (23-12) who won their way into the NCAA tournament by winning the ACC tournament, and this is a major upset alert game. The Hokies just beat Duke by 15 points, and Duke is way better than Texas right now. So I am confidently predicting Texas to lose their first round game to a lower seed for the second year in a row given the differences in locker room mentality and momentum.
71-64 Virginia Tech
#6 LSU vs. #11 Iowa State
Friday, March 18th 6:20 PM CT, TBS
Here is another really interesting 6 versus 11 from the standpoint of locker room differentials. 11 seed Iowa State (20-12) did just get eliminated in the first round of the Big 12 tournament thanks to a terrible shooting performance, but that pales in comparison to the issues at LSU. Coach Will Wade was fired after the NCAA formally issued allegations of major rules violations and a lack of institutional control. That happened the day before the tournament bracket was announced, so I have to imagine the Tigers locker room will be in disarray and distractions will abound. That plus Iowa State’s really tough defense makes this another 11 seed upset in my book.
61-55 Iowa State
#8 Seton Hall vs. #9 TCU
Friday, March 18th 8:57 PM CT, TruTV
The final game of the first round features 8 seed Seton Hall (21-10) and 9 seed TCU (20-12). Both of these teams finished near the middle of their respective conferences, and both the Big 12 and Big East were among the best conferences in the country this season. So resume wise, these teams match up well. However, Seton Hall had issues down the stretch winning big games. TCU, on the other hand, won their first game against Kansas before losing their next two. While 1-2 is not a highly impressive record, it does show that TCU is probably tougher to play against the first time you meet them. Further, their comeback win against Texas in the Big 12 tournament showed a lot of grit and determination to win. The biggest challenge for TCU will be checking Seton Hall’s 1-2 scoring punch from Jared Rhoden and Bryce Aiken, both of whom average over 14 ppg. Still, TCU has succeeded against better scorers so I like the Horned Frogs to pick up a close win.