Big 12 baseball: Tournament teams taking a 'win or else' approach

Like never before at the Big 12 Tournament, every team is on high alert: win or else. And that includes the Kansas State Wildcats, who are securely positioned in the postseason, yet so want to solidify coveted status as one of 16 NCAA Regional hosts.
by John Helsley Published: May 22, 2013
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photo - OU / OSU / COLLEGE BASEBALL: Teams line up before the Bedlam baseball game between the University of Oklahoma and Oklahoma State University at the Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark in Oklahoma CIty, Saturday, May 11, 2013. Photo by Sarah Phipps, The Oklahoman
OU / OSU / COLLEGE BASEBALL: Teams line up before the Bedlam baseball game between the University of Oklahoma and Oklahoma State University at the Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark in Oklahoma CIty, Saturday, May 11, 2013. Photo by Sarah Phipps, The Oklahoman

Baylor is considered an NCAA Tournament outsider, although an RPI of 64 hints of hope. Still, like the other remaining teams — West Virginia, Kansas, TCU and Texas Tech — the Bears' best bet remains a run to the tournament title.

That would put the Big 12's best-case scenario for NCAA Tournament teams at four, which would match last year's total — the league's lowest since the conference's debut season in 1997.

The conference routinely produced a minimum of five teams for the postseason over the past decade, with several serving as Regional and even Super Regional hosts. In 2009, a record eight Big 12 teams made the NCAA Tournament, putting the league on par with the best in the country.

Now, nobody beyond the conference footprint looks at the Big 12 the same.

How did the Big 12 get here, with a perception problem placing them among the Sun Belt, Big Ten and Big West?

It started with a cumulative rough run through the nonconference schedule, where Big 12 teams were beaten regularly in major matchups. And that's not all. The conference was also losing to mid-major leagues, going 1-5 against the Sun Belt, 9-10 against the Big West, 3-8 against Conference USA and 1-3 against the Big East.

When the season started, four Big 12 teams were ranked and two more were receiving votes. Now, only K-State and OSU are in all four major polls, while OU appears in two.

Baylor coach Steve Smith said the Big 12 is getting a bad rap.

“This is not a down year in the league,” Smith said. “This is actually the strongest our league has ever been. The ninth-place team in our league is Texas.

“Would Texas have finished ninth in the SEC? Would Texas have finished last in the ACC? Would they have finished last in the Pac-12? I think the answer to that is a resounding, ‘No.'”

There's no way, of course, to prove that.

Instead, it's on the Big 12 clubs to prove they're better than perceived.

And it starts this weekend.


by John Helsley
OSU Reporter Sr.
John Helsley grew up in Del City, reading all the newspapers and sports magazines he could get his hands on. And Saturday afternoons, when the Major League Game of the Week was on, he'd keep a scorecard for the game. So the sports appeal was was...
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