There is something going on this year unlike any other in the past. The 10 team league known as the Big 12 has a chance to send 7 or 8 of its 10 teams to the Big Dance. This is truly unbelievable. What is going to be interesting is seeing how much conference record comes into play.
While it is rare for teams with losing conference records to be selected as an at-large team, it has happened. Even rarer is 2 teams from the same conference with losing conference records to be selected as an at-large. It has only happened twice: In 1998 in the ACC and in 1991 in the ACC. Also not since 1998 has a team been selected that finished more than 2 games under .500.
But the 2014 Big 12 could be historic. Baylor is currently 5-8 in conference, and Oklahoma St. is currently 4-9 in conference. Oklahoma St. is on a 7 game losing streak, including the last 3 without hothead Marcus Smart.
If the tournament started today, it is very likely that 1 or both of these teams would make the field. Each accomplished enough during the non-conference slate to be in the field. But it remains to be seen how much that glaring conference record comes into play. Should it matter? If the schedule were reversed and each of these teams had a strong conference record, would they be more deserving?
That is a big question at this point for one specific reason: The West Virginia Mountaineers
In the recent media mock selection process, Baylor was not included in the field, while West Virginia was. Since that time, Baylor has two big wins and may have made the field if the process were done again, but it is not unreasonable to think that conference record certainly came into play. In a 10 team league where the 9th place team could be rewarded with an at-large selection, West Virginia is over .500.
When you look at the Baylor resume vs. the West Virginia resume and you ignore what conference their opponent plays in, it is hard to argue that West Virginia has the better resume. Baylor has more big wins, fewer losses, and has no truly terrible losses. Yet the mock committee placed West Virginia in the field.
It will be very interesting to see what happens with these three teams. They could all make the tournament, and they could equally all miss it. This is going to be a huge test to see if conference record is a big factor.