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Kansas, West Virginia Sweating NCAA Bubble
March 10, 2013
Wendell Barnhouse is a nationally-known and respected columnist who has spent over 20 years covering collegiate athletics. He has reported from 25 Final Fours and more than three dozen bowl games and has written about the Big 12 and its schools since the conference's beginning. Barnhouse will be updating the Big 12 Insider on happenings and behind-the-scenes information about the conference.

According to's bracketologist Charlie Crème, following Saturday's women's games, his projected NCAA Tournament bracket had West Virginia as the last at-large team in and Kansas as the first at-large team out.

The Big 12, obviously, believes that both the Mountaineers and the Jayhawks should be dancing when the bracket is announced a week from Monday. That would give the top conference in the Ratings Percentage Index seven teams in the 64-team bracket.

"I think we should definitely have seven teams in the NCAA Tournament, without question," Kansas State coach Deb Patterson said. "I think it would be a shame to the game if they don't take seven teams from the Big 12."

West Virginia coach Mike Carey, whose team let a 22-point second-half lead over Oklahoma slip away in a quarterfinal loss, isn't so sure. Last Tuesday, the Mountaineers lost at Texas and also loss top reserve Jess Harlee to a season-ending knee injury.

"Man, I'm frustrated. You know, we go to Texas, get beat. We lose Harlee, one of our better players. And it just seems like we just went down at halftime once she tore her ACL. And then we bounce back in this game (Oklahoma), have a good first half, and do that," Carey said of his team's 65-64 loss. "We are on the bubble big time. On the bubble big time.

"This is the No. 1 RPI league in the country, I mean, I would hope six people would get in. But

you never know. You never know. We are going to be really worrying about it."

Carey could call Kansas coach Bonnie Henrickson for advice. Two years ago, the Jayhawks were disappointed not to be selected. Last season, they were the final at-large team selected and made a run to the Sweet 16.

Kansas beat TCU in Friday's first round but then lost to Iowa State in Saturday's quarterfinal to post an 18-13 overall record.

"Of course I think we should be in," Henrickson said. "I thought the committee made a great decision last year and I thought we made them look real smart. I think we should be. We play the best teams in the best league in America.

"I think what's hard is people think because we all beat each other up - we are a great league and we have one team ranked (in the top 25) and we deserve better than that as a league. Outside, a lot of people don't understand how good the league is and how competitive it is."

This year, the wait will be longer for Big 12 bubble teams. Splitting the Phillips 66 Big 12 Women's Championship from the men's Championship meant starting it earlier. It will be over a week of nervousness waiting for the bracket to be announced.

"We are excited about the opportunity and certainly on pins and needles ... it was only a four-day sweat-out last year," Henrickson said. "This year it will be a little longer."

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