In a year when the Final Four is in San Antonio, nobody holds more lottery tickets for a trip to the Alamodome than the state of Texas.
Texas placed a state-record-tying seven teams in the NCAA Tournament on Selection Sunday. Only twice before has that happened: California in 2002 and Texas in 2010.
Texas Tech, one of seven Big 12 teams to make it, is the only premium seed, a No. 3. There are a bevy of middle seeds, such as No. 7 Texas A&M and No. 10 Texas, and the Lone Star State roll call goes all the way down to No. 16 Texas Southern, the only team in the 68-team field with a losing record.
Yet there is no joy in Waco, where Baylor just missed the cut, designated as one of the committee’s “first four out.” The Bears will play in the NIT. Oklahoma State also was left out, despite two victories over Kansas, while stumbling Oklahoma made the grade. Trae Young, anybody?
Kansas, the 14-time defending Big 12 champion, is the top seed in the Midwest Region (Omaha, Neb., through Wichita, Kan.), but the Jayhawks are in a loaded bracket with Duke, Michigan State and SEC regular-season champ Auburn.
No. 1 overall Virginia (South), Villanova (East) and Xavier (West) also are on the top lines.
There is Texas flavor nearly everywhere one looks in this tournament. Dallas is a host site for the first two rounds and, lo and behold, old friend Rick Barnes will be there with Tennessee, the No. 3 seed in the South. Barnes, whose team will open with Wright State, made the tournament 16 out of 17 times with the Longhorns.
There’s always controversy. Syracuse, with mediocre computer numbers and no signature victories, was the 36th and last at-large team, according to the committee. Arizona State, 8-10 in a down year for the Pac-12 but with wins over No. 1 seeds Kansas and Xavier, is one of the last four in, along with UCLA and St. Bonaventure.
Notre Dame, whose star Bonzi Colson just returned from injury, was the first team out, according to committee chair Bruce Rasmussen. Nationally ranked Saint Mary’s, USC, Baylor, Oklahoma State, Louisville, Nebraska and mid-major power Middle Tennessee also had good cases but came up short.
The ACC led the way with nine selections.
A quick recap of the state and Big 12 teams (by seed):
- Kansas (27-7), No. 1 in the Midwest, will start Thursday in Wichita against Ivy League champ Pennsylvania (24-8). The Jayhawks’ second rounder could get a bit testy against Seton Hall (21-11) or North Carolina State (21-11).
- Texas Tech (24-9), No. 3 in the East, will open Thursday in the friendly confines of American Airlines Center in Dallas against Southland Conference Tournament champ Stephen F. Austin (28-6). A win would put the Red Raiders up against either Florida (20-12) or First Four winner St. Bonaventure-UCLA.
- West Virginia, No. 5 in the East, will take on Murray State (26-5), one of the top mid-majors, on Friday in San Diego. A date with Wichita State could await the Mountaineers in round two.
- TCU (21-11), No. 6 in the Midwest, will square up against the Arizona State-Syracuse First Four winner Friday in Detroit. Unfortunately for the Horned Frogs, Michigan State probably awaits in the second round.
- Houston (26-7), No. 6 in the West, will begin Thursday in Wichita, Kan., against Mountain West Tournament champ San Diego State (22-10), which has caught fire and won nine games in a row. The Michigan-Montana winner awaits the Cougars if they take down the Aztecs.
- Texas A&M (20-12), No. 7 in the West, will play in the same place where the Aggies had their bowl game — Charlotte, N.C. A&M drew Providence (21-13), the Big East Tournament runner-up, on Friday. No. 2 North Carolina, playing close to home, probably awaits the winner, making it a brutal draw for the Aggies.
- Kansas State (22-11), the No. 9 in the South, will trade baskets with Creighton (21-11) on Friday in Charlotte. Virginia probably awaits the winner.
- Texas (19-14), No. 10 in the South, will play Mountain West regular-season champ Nevada (27-7) on Friday in Nashville, Tenn. Cincinnati (30-4) is the top dog in that quadrant.
Oklahoma (18-13), No. 10 in the Midwest, made it despite going 2-8 in its last 10 games and 4-11 over the last 15. The Sooners will play Rhode Island (25-7) on Thursday in Pittsburgh. Duke looms as a second-round opponent.
Texas Southern (15-19), No. 16 in the West, has North Carolina Central (19-15) in a First Four game Wednesday in Dayton, Ohio. Survive that, and the Tigers, who started 0-13 but finished 7-0, would get Xavier.