Bubble bursts for two Big 12 teams, Colorado survives

Graham Watson

Three teams went into today's Big 12 Tournament with NCAA Tournament hopes, but just one survived an ugly day of upsets.

Baylor, Colorado and Nebraska all were considered bubble teams heading into today's first round matchups and all were playing lower-seeded teams. But only No. 5 Colorado, who was playing No. 12 Iowa State, earned a 77-75 win to give the Buffs some more legroom on the NCAA Tournament bubble.

No. 8 Nebraska couldn't score on the last possession against No. 9 Oklahoma State and fell 53-52, but from the beginning of the game, the Huskers looked tight. They shot a dismal 22.6 percent from the field in the first half and had to claw back from a 14-point deficit to even be in a position to try to win the game.

No. 7 Baylor didn't react well to playing without freshman Perry Jones III, who was suspended by the NCAA for taking impermissible benefits from his AAU coach, and was dominated by No. 11 Oklahoma 84-67.

Realistically, Colorado had the best shot of the three to make the NCAA Tournament anyway. It had wins over Texas, Missouri and Kansas State (twice) and with its win over Nebraska in the regular season finale, the Buffs were considered one of the last teams to get into the tournament. The win against Iowa State helps them dig their heels in a little more.

It's uncertain whether a loss against Kansas State on Thursday will hurt Colorado's cause. After all, the Wildcats are one of the hottest teams in the country right now and Colorado is the only Big 12 North team to sweep the season series. But even if the Buffs don't win, keeping it close will go a long way in the eyes of the selection committee. And if there are no bids stolen from any of the other remaining conference tournaments, the Buffs should be in.

Baylor and Nebraska would have had to defeat Texas and Kansas respectively in the next round to get serious consideration for the NCAA Tournament. Likely, both will be in the NIT field, which is a sad consolation for a Baylor team that was projected to be one of the top teams in the Big 12, and sort of a 'blah' outcome for a Nebraska team that showed flashes of being an NCAA Tournament contender.

But for now, all eyes will be on Colorado to see if it can make the Big 12 a six-bid league along with Kansas, Kansas State, Texas, Texas A&M and Missouri.