The Big 12 struggles in the NCAA tournament, gets just one of five representatives to Sweet 16


The Big 12 had five representatives to start the 2013 NCAA tournament, but finished the first weekend with just one remaining: Kansas. The Big 12 went 1-4 in games without the Jayhawks, but even Kansas’ performances this past weekend were far from perfect.

For starters, No. 5 seed Oklahoma State was upset by No. 12 seed Oregon on Thursday afternoon. There is no shame in losing to a team that was criminally underseeded (as made apparent by its handling of No. 4 seed St. Louis on Saturday), but the Cowboys’ performance was one of the worst of their season, and in a do-or-die tournament it only takes one bad day. Big 12 Player of the Year Marcus Smart scored only 14 points on 5-for-13 shooting and committed five turnovers, leading to a 68-55 season-ending loss in a stellar freshman year.

Next, No. 4 seed Kansas State was upset Friday afternoon by No. 13 seed La Salle. The Wildcats dug themselves into a 44-26 hole to enter the break, but managed to take a 61-60 lead with 2:25 to go in the game. Unfortunately, the Wildcats could not hold on, despite only allowing three field goals in the second half, and lost 63-61.

To finish the round of 64, Oklahoma played San Diego State, Iowa State took on Notre Dame and Kansas matched up against Western Kentucky. The Sooners took a 33-31 lead into halftime, but the Aztecs proved to be too much for Oklahoma to overcome, falling 70-55. The Cyclones of Iowa State, on the other hand, had a fairly easy time with the Irish, shooting 9-for-21 behind the arc en route to a 76-58 victory, the Big 12’s first of the tournament. Finally, the Jayhawks slept through the first half of their contest and trailed the No. 16 seed 31-30 at the half. But coach Bill Self figured out the Hilltoppers, and Jeff Withey led Kansas to a 64-57 victory despite only hitting one shot outside of the paint.

In the round of 32, the Cyclones hit 12 three-pointers against Ohio State and had a chance to pull away late. Unfortunately for them, a questionable charge was called against Will Clyburn, and Aaron Craft of Ohio State drained a three-pointer to lead the Buckeyes back to the Sweet 16 for the fourth consecutive season, with a score of 78-75.

And with that only Kansas was left to represent the Big 12 in a game against the North Carolina Tar Heels. The Tar Heels started strong and led 30-21 heading into the break, but the Jayhawks pulled away in the second half. Travis Releford scored 22 in the game (Kansas is now 27-0 when he scores nine or more points this season), while Withey scored 16, grabbed 16 boards and blocked five shots. The Jayhawks eventually won 70-58, and will face No. 4 seed in the South, the Michigan Wolverines, on Friday night. However, for the other Big 12 schools in the NCAA tournament, they will need to wait until next year to make a splash at the Big Dance.