Kansas, Big 12 Deserve Dangerfield Treatment

Once the Kansas Jayhawks had finally put away the Texas Longhorns in a Big XII tournament title game so good, even the pinheads at ESPN couldn't deny it "Instant Classic" status, I quickly settled down to watch the NCAA tourney selection show.

What a buzzkill.

Yeah, Kansas got their one-seed, but the selection committee wasn’t happy about it. Problem was, KU won 11 in a row and left the committee no other option. So they popped KU in the shorts and sent them West to the toughest regional.

Texas A&M, rated in the top ten much of the season, suffered a couple of late season losses, including a mildly surprising first-round conference tourney loss to Oklahoma State and had to settle for a three seed.

A frightfully talented Texas Longhorns team that has showed it can play with anyone took a four and had to be happy, despite having the best freshman in the country in a very, very long time. Kevin Durant is worth a one-spot seed bump just by showing up.

Texas Tech was the fourth Big XII team selected because, well, apparently somewhere it says the league gets four. Congrats, coach Knight! You’ll take your 10-seed and like it!

Finally, a 22-win Kansas State team that went 10-6 in the Big XII and got much better as the season went along nearly overcame a bad start and an awful nonconference schedule to get an at-large invitation. Trouble is, “nearly” is the key word there. For their efforts, they’ll take on Vermont in a first-round Nobody’s Interested Tournament game, most likely in Manhattan.

We all pay for our sins and the sins of others. I know because the nuns at Our Lady of the Perpetual Weeping Sores School told me for 12 long years.

That’s what I think may be going on here.

In 2004, the conference only got four teams in but they put on a pretty good show, going 10-4 in the NCAA tournament. Texas Tech went 1-1, but Texas, Kansas and Oklahoma all got to regional finals. The Cowboys State won theirs but lost to Indiana in San Antonio. Pretty solid showing.

In 2005, the conference was rewarded for a good season and six members were invited. The conference paid back the tournament selection committee by going 6-6. Led by three seniors, Kansas managed to find a way to lose to Bucknell. Texas also lost a first-round, 8-9 game to Nevada. Iowa State and Oklahoma went 1-1. Oklahoma State and Texas managed to make it to the sweet 16 before they were done. That’s nice, but this isn’t the showing you’d expect from six teams out of a power conference.

2006 wasn’t much better. This time, a youthful Jayhawks team got caught in the glare of the bright lights and dug themselves into a hole they couldn’t get out of, losing to Bradley. Oklahoma stubbed their first-round toe against Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Tourney novice Texas A&M, a 12-seed, acted like they’d been there before and knocked off Syracuse before losing. Texas got to the regional final but lost there. The record: 4-4. Not good.

Now that I think about it, the last Big XII team to win a title was 1988…

KU had a chance in 2003, and if it wasn’t for that damn Hakim Warrick

Forgive us, Father, for the Big XII has sinned; it has been three years since we have played worth a damn in the tournament. And it’s been much, much longer since we won a title.

The Big XII must atone – particularly our own Kansas Jayhawks.

I’m convinced the NCAA tournament selection committee would have taken just three Big XII teams, if they thought they could get away with it. And unlike Kevin Kietzman, I’ll admit I have no sources for my conspiracy theory. It’s just a gut theory combined with a little bit of cause-and-effect.

Thanks to dismal 2005 and 2006 showings, the committee decided to hold someone accountable. Those poor schmucks are the four Big XII tournament participants and Kansas State. It’s put up or shut up for the Big XII.

One can’t expect too much from the 10-seed Red Raiders, but one certainly could – and should – expect big things from Kansas, Texas A&M and Texas.

All three are talented enough to make the final four. All three have good coaching. Texas lacks tournament experience, but they’re just young enough they might overlook how nervous they’re supposed to be and win four in a row. And have I mentioned they have Kevin Durant?

No, all three won’t make the trip to Atlanta, but unless they do some substantial damage this year, look for more thinly-veiled disrespect and out-and-out snubs next year. They’ll continue to get the Rodney treatment: they’re gonna get no respect – no respect at all.

Sister Mary Romana would tell me, it’s perfectly reasonable that the basketball gods would make us atone for our former teammates’ transgressions.

Three teams in the elite eight and two in the final four would get the conference back some street cred. A national title would do a world of good. Dare to dream, a KU-A&M or KU-Texas final would make ‘em sit up and take notice like they haven’t since, well, 1988.

The Big XII gets no respect, and the only thing that can get it back is three weeks time and 52 19- and 20-year-old kids.

So try to enjoy the games, and be to share the positive waves with the three other conference teams, bud. That sweet buzz we all had after the game Sunday? We all could use a little more of that.


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