Michael C. Johnson-USA TODAY Spo
Texas, Texas Tech, TCU and West Virginia are all on the outside of the bubble looking in and will need to run the table on the Big 12 Tournament to play with the big boys in March.
The first round of the Big 12 Tournament opens on Wednesday at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, with a host of teams from Texas hoping to crack through the upper echelons of the conference and punch a ticket to the NCAA Tournament.
The opening round features play-in games pitting the eighth-seeded West Virginia Mountaineers against the ninth-seeded Texas Tech Red Raiders and the seventh-seeded Texas Longhorns against the 10th-seeded TCU Horned Frogs.
Both the Mountaineers and the Red Raiders are finding optimal times to play each other. Although West Virginia won both games against Texas Tech this season, their last meeting on Feb. 16 was the last win the Mountaineers posted in conference play. West Virginia lost its final six games to close out the regular season. The Red Raiders, meanwhile, are only riding a two-game losing streak, but also struggled mightily in conference play by going just 3-15. Texas Tech enters the Big 12 tournament having lost 11 of its last 12 games. The winner gets the rights to play the top-seeded Kansas Jayhawks on Thursday.
In a showdown of the rest of the Texas-based schools in the Big 12, the Longhorns take on the Horned Frogs in the second game of the evening. The Longhorns ended the season on as much of a hot streak as they had all season, winning three of their final four games. The Longhorns beat the Horned Frogs in both matchups this year by healthy margins, 60-43 and 68-59.
Not a whole lot went right for the Horned Frogs this year, who went just 2-16 in conference play. But their two wins had big implications for tournament seeding when they upset the then No. 5 Kansas Jayhawks, 62-55, back on Feb. 6. They proceeded to lose their next eight straight before putting a blemish on the Oklahoma Sooners' resume with a 70-67 win to close out the season. The winner of the Longhorns and Horned Frogs matchup will play second-seeded Kansas State on Thursday.
Game 1: No. 8 West Virginia vs. No. 9 Texas Tech, 6 p.m. ET
Game 2: No. 7 Texas vs. No. 10 TCU, 8:30 p.m. ET
For a link to the full bracket, click here.
More in College Basketball: