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March Madness: How Each Big 12 Team Fared in the First Round

Ryan Swantkowski
Ryan Swantkowski

Mar 16, 2023; Des Moines, IA, USA; Texas Longhorns guard Sir'Jabari Rice (10) dribbles the ball against the Colgate Raiders during the second half at Wells Fargo Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

It was a successful season collectively for Big 12 Basketball programs as 7 of the 10 teams in the league made it to March Madness this year. Texas, Kansas, Kansas State, Iowa State, TCU, Baylor, and West Virginia all received invitations to the Big Dance. If you have been watching Big 12 teams play this year, you likely understand just how strong and competitive the conference is. With this type of high-caliber play and competition in the regular season, let's take a look at how it translated into NCAA Tournament play in the first round.

Let’s start with West Virginia

The Mountaineers, a 9-seed in the tournament, took on the 8th-seed Maryland Terrapins. In a neck-and-neck battle, guard Kedrian Johnson dropped 27 points for West Virginia while former Texas forward Trey Mitchell played all 40 minutes of the game and had 13 points and 6 rebounds. In the 2nd half, the biggest margin between the 2 teams' scores was just 9 points. Maryland had a very different box score than the Mountaineers as they had 4 of their 5 starters score double-digits, with their 5th starter scoring 9 points. Their bench play was poor as their 3 players that saw the floor combined for just 5 points, and it will be interesting to see how successful the Terrapins can be moving forward if this trend continues. So, basically I just spoiled it, but the Mountaineers fell to the Terrapins by a final score of 67-65 in a March Madness classic. 

Let’s look at the Baylor Bears now. The 3-seeded Bears played the 14th-seed UCSB (University of California Santa Barbara) Gauchos on Friday, and the final score did not illustrate how close the game actually was. The Gauchos had a 1-point lead heading into halftime, but Baylor’s 3-pointers really started coming into play in the 2nd half. Baylor had a total of 13 players see the floor with 9 of them playing double-digit minutes. It was a team effort for the Bears all around as well, as 3 of their players scored 10 or more points. For UCSB, they shot just 25% from the 3-point line and had 2 players, Miles Norris and Ajay Mitchell, combine for half of their points. The Bears put the pedal to the metal midway through the 2nd half and avoided, what looked like earlier in the game, a potential unexpected first round exit with a 74-56 victory. They will now face the 6-seed Creighton Bluejays. 

Let’s now change gears and take a look at the Longhorns. Entering the tournament as a 2-seed for the first time since 2008 and fresh off a Big 12 Championship, Texas continued to show how strong of a team they are. With 4 double-digit scorers, including a 23 point performance from College Hoops Today’s National Sixth Man of the Year Sir’Jabari Rice, the Longhorns were firing on all cylinders as they shot a whopping 56.5% from the 3-point line and out-rebounded the 15-seed Colgate Raiders by 10 total boards. The Raiders shot just 20% from the 3-point arc, had only 2 double-digit scorers and never led in the game again after halfway through the first half. The Longhorns, after their 81-61 victory, will now play the 10-seed Nittany Lions of Penn State in the round of 32. 

Now to Kansas, the lone one seed coming out of the Big 12 and into the NCAA Tournament. In a similar fashion to Baylor, the first half of this game was much closer than most people probably expected as the 16-seed Howard Bison had the lead with 5 minutes to go. After that moment though, the Jayhawks started to show their true feathers. Kansas scored an impressive 96 points, had every single starter score 10 or more points, and only had 12 total turnovers. The Bison on the other hand gave it their all but got out-worked in every area of the game while shooting less than 40% from both the field and the 3-point line. Kansas will now play the 8-seed Arkansas Razorbacks after defeating Howard by a final score of 96-68 and tying with Alabama for the most points in the first round by any team. 

Opposite of Kansas’ performance, the Iowa State Cyclones started off slow and… basically stayed like that for the remainder of the game. The Cyclones found themselves in a 20-point deficit just halfway into the first half as the score was 22-2, and after climbing back a bit in the and cutting the lead to just 5 at one point, that deficit remained to be too big to overcome. Looking at the box score, Iowa State actually had 3 starters score double-digits yet only had 1 (!) bench point from the 4 guys that saw the floor. Not only that, but as a team they shot an abysmal 9.5% from the 3-point line and just 23.3% from the field overall. Looking at their opponent in the 11-seed Pittsburgh Panthers, they weren’t too efficient themselves but did shoot over 86% from the free throw line. With the final score being 59-41, Iowa State scored the least amount of points out of every team in the first round. 

Let’s now shift over to the Friday night game between 3-seed Kansas State and 14-seed Montana State. In what was a close game through and through, the Wildcats eventually pulled away and never looked back. They had 3 players with double-digits points, one of them being star forward Keyontae Johnson who had 18, and as a team shot an efficient 58.2% from the field despite shooting just 26.7% from three. Looking at the Bobcats, guard Raequan Battle had 27 points and 3 rebounds while 2 other starters also scored 11 or more points. The problem seemed to be their bench play efficiency as their 3 players off the bench that played 10 or more minutes combined for… 6 points. It also doesn’t help that they shot less than 30% from the 3-point line and only made 9 out of their 17 free throw attempts. So, after Kansas State defeated the Bobcats by a final score of 77-65, they will now face the 6-seed Kentucky Wildcats. 

Lastly, we will take a look at how the 6-seed TCU Horned Frogs fared against the 11-seed Arizona State Sun Devils. This game came down to the wire and man, was it a good one. TCU’s star guard Mike Miles Jr. had a game-high 26 points along with the pass to teammate JaKobe Coles that set up the game-winning floater. Coles had 11 points in 25 minutes off the bench, with the last 2 being the divider between a win or potential overtime play. Just before that game winning shot, Arizona State’s DJ Horne, who led the team with 17 points, hit a huge 3 pointer to tie the game at 70 with just over 15 seconds to play. Even after a play like that though, the Sun Devils were not able to finish it out and lost by a final score of 72-70 in one of the best games of the first round. TCU will next take on the 3-seed Gonzaga Bulldogs in what is sure to be a big-time matchup. 

All this being said, the Big 12 went an impressive 5-2 in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Let’s see how they all fare in the second round, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they continued to show how their competition in the regular season prepared them to make a potential tournament run. Oh, and the 16-seed Fairleigh Dickinson Knights beat 1-seed Purdue, making it just the second time in NCAA Tournament history that a one seed has lost to a 16-seed in the first round. Wow.

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