By John Helsley
Rejoice, Cowboys fans, over your Bedlam blowout to start the Big 12 Tournament.
Get giddy, too, over Nebraska’s stunning upset of Missouri.
That opening day combination at the Sprint Center may have created a subtle shift in the NCAA Tournament bracket that carries seismic implications.
Checking out Joe Lunardi’s updated (as of late Wednesday night) bracketology, OSU moved from a No. 8 to a No. 7 seed in his bracket projection, joining the Tigers as a 7.
It’s the same at Sporting News Today, where Mike DeCourcy also shifted the Cowboys up a notch.
The Cowboys have been fit as a notch below Mizzou based on a lower finish in the conference regular season and a head-to-head loss. But the Pokes and Tigers have altered their images of late, punctuated Wednesday.
Better yet for the Cowboys, they can solify themselves as a bracket riser tonight against Kansas State, a team they’ve already beaten. And it comes with little risk, as a loss in an upset role at a neutral site wouldn’t be all that harmful.
Why all the issue over one spot in the bracket?
Here’s why: The first round pits 8 vs. 9 seeds in tossup games, leading into a second-round matchup with a No. 1. A 7 not only gets a lower-seeded first round foe in a 10, the next round leads to a 2, which this season is drastically different.
Consider Lunardi’s bracket.
The 8-9 matchups: UNLV-Wake Forst, Louisville-UTEP, Cal-Clemson and Northern Iowa-Florida State.
The No. 10 seeds: St. Mary’s, Old Dominion, Cornell, Marquette.
Who would you rather play?
And the next step is the difference in the No. 1 quartet of Kansas, Kentucky, Syracuse and Duke, and, the No. 2s of West Virginia, Kansas State, Ohio State and Purdue.
Again, taking your pick, it’s easy.
OSU-Kansas State: Three Keys:
1. Keep stroking. When the Cowboys are popping from the perimeter, they’re capable of beating anybody in the Big 12. The three likely teams standing between them and the tournament title — K-State, Baylor and Kansas — will attest. After Wednesday night, Keiton Page’s confidence must be soaring. Obi Muonelo’s strut is always in force. And James Anderson, after a quiet night against OU, figures to go off.
2. Stand Tall. The Wildcats are long and active, ranking fourth in the Big 12 in rebounding and second in offensive boards. They can kill a team with second chances. It’s vital that the Cowboys body up. And they’ll need the guards to help. The emergence of Matt Pilgrim should help.
3. Let It Fly. As mentioned above, the Cowboys have little to lose from this point forward, while the Wildcats are trying to reverse a two-game losing streak and confirm their own status as a No. 2 national seed that could land them in Oklahoma City for a regional. The Pokes say they’re having fun. Let the fun continue.