Seven Big 12 teams began this year’s NCAA Tournament and now only two remain; the Baylor Bears and Iowa State Cyclones have each punched a ticket to the Sweet Sixteen.
Baylor, after an upset win over number three seed Creighton in the third round, is one of the hottest teams in the field of sixteen, having won an impressive 12 of its last 15 games.
The Iowa State Cyclones are now the highest seeded team left in the East Region after a dramatic victory over the always-competitive North Carolina Tar Heels led by Roy Williams.
As the field gets smaller, the competition obviously gets tougher. Here is how I see the rest of this year’s tournament playing out for the two remaining Big 12 schools.
First we have Baylor in the West Region. The Wisconsin Badgers are the next opponent for the Bears.
Wisconsin finished second in the Big 10 this season, one of the toughest conferences in college basketball, but the Badgers have failed to move past the round of 16 in recent years.
I think this will be the year Wisconsin breaks that trend.
Baylor’s field goal percentage over the last two games is ridiculous. The Bears shot an astounding 68% to move past Creighton in the round of 32. But they can’t stay hot forever.
Wisconsin is a much more disciplined team, from a strong conference, and should take care of Baylor to go on and face Arizona in the Elite 8.
I’m sticking with the Iowa State Cyclones as the Big 12’s best bet to advance to the Elite 8.
The Cyclones have played well throughout the tournament and have been very efficient in scoring, especially down the stretch against North Carolina when they needed it most.
The Huskies are up next. Connecticut escaped Saint Joseph’s in round one to go on and upset two-seeded Villanova by 12 in the round of 32.
UConn finished third in the American Athletic Conference this season and will be a formidable opponent for the Cyclones in the Sweet Sixteen.
This will be a clash of Connecticut’s potent defense and Iowa State’s high-powered offense. ISU finished the season in the top ten in scoring and first in assists per game.
The Huskies can swat, averaging over six blocks a game this season while holding teams to an average of just 64 points.
I’ve watched the Cyclones all season long and their offense is consistent. I like Iowa State to move ahead and play Michigan State in the Elite Eight, despite the loss of Georges Niang.
But, the Cyclones will need that depth to get past MSU. After the injury (broken foot) to Niang, the depth simply is not be there for Fred Hoiberg.
The experience of Tom Izzo and his Spartans will overpower the Cyclones, ending their bid for a spot in this year’s Final Four.