NC STATE MAKE IT TO BIG DANCE?
March 6, 2012By Cavalier Dave Forrester of Hugh M Cummings High School
They could be talking about N.C. State at the Big 12 Tournament
In November, Rick Barnes pulled his Texas team together before taking the floor in a nearly empty IZOD Center in East Rutherford, N.J. Before the third-place game against North Carolina State in the TicketCity Legends Classic tipped off, Barnes delivered a message that resonates today.
“I can tell you for a fact,” Barnes said. “Five minutes before the game I could count everybody in the stands. Not much atmosphere. I told them, ‘If you don’t think this game is important, wait until March.’ “
It’s March, and that game may prove to be the tipping point in Texas’ NCAA Tournament chances. The Longhorns lost, and among the bubble teams they’re battling is the same Wolfpack squad that won that night.
If it came down to those two for the selection committee, which begins its Indianapolis hideaway on Wednesday and emerges Sunday with a 68-team bracket, the call would be easy. The Wolfpack won the head-tohead matchup.
That’s why the Big 12 Tournament this week at the Sprint Center is the most important in Barnes’ 13 seasons. He needs a resume enhancer, and opportunity presents itself on Thursday in the final quarterfinal game when the Longhorns take on third-seeded Iowa State. Win that — the teams split during the regular season — and secondseeded Missouri probably awaits for another chance to impress the committee.
The Big 12 event arrives Wednesday with a different look — 10 teams for the first time, which means six first-round byes and two first-day games instead of four — and a different feel.
It’s the final tournament for Missouri and Texas A&M and the first time the four schools closest to Kansas City — Kansas, Missouri, Kansas State and Iowa State — are poised to play in the NCAA Tournament, assuring intensity, hostility and vitriol, even perhaps among the teams.
But some things never seem to change. The Jayhawks arrive as the favorite, seeking their third straight championship and sixth in seven years.
And NCAA seeding and inclusion will be on the line.
“I’m not going to politick because I don’t believe in it,” Barnes said. “I believe in that committee. I think they’ll do what they think is right. Do we have to win another game? I don’t want to win just one. I want to win another one, and another one.”
Do that, and the Longhorns won’t be sweating out Selection Sunday.