Sometimes the NCAA Tournament seeding guidelines create head scratching outcomes.
For instance, Oregon won the Pac-12 Conference tournament title after finishing tied for second place, a game-behind first-place UCLA. For all that, the Ducks were given a No. 12 seed. Oklahoma State, their NCAA Tournament opponent Thursday, finished third in the Big 12 Conference and was given a No. 5 seed.
The NCAA released its No. 1 through No. 68 seeding list. The Cowboys (24-8) were No. 17, the Ducks (26-8) were No. 43. Translation: Oklahoma State is the top-ranked No. 5 and was nearly a No. 4 seed. Oregon was an 11 seed but was moved to a No. 12 by the Division I Men's Basketball Committee in order to make the bracket work (teams can move up or down one spot from their actual seeding).
"I saw a great Oregon team that shouldn't have been a 12 seed," said Oklahoma State guard Markel Brown, who watched the Pac-12 championship game Saturday night. "They've got a nice offense. It's going to be a good one. No matter who we're playing at this point in the season, I appreciate being able to play. We've always talked about making the tournament and making a run when we get there."
While Oklahoma State will have to contend with an Oregon team that has a balanced attack, the Ducks must concern themselves with stopping Marcus Smart, the Big 12 player and freshman of the year.
"Our team has had a great season and Marcus has been a big part of that," Oklahoma State coach Travis Ford said. "Marcus is one of the most competitive players I've been around. He comes ready to play every single day."
Oklahoma State had at least one victory over each of the other nine Big 12 teams. They beat Kansas (a No. 1 seed) and lost to Gonzaga (another top seed) by one point. The Cowboys are 7-2 in games decided by two or fewer possessions.
"More than any year I can remember, I don't think seeding matters," Ford said. "I really don't. If you're a 1 seed, your first game, you've got a pretty good chance of getting by that. After that, I think it's throw it up in the air. Some of the No. 1 seeds have tough second-round games.
"This year, I think you can throw us in a list of 20-something teams that could win on any given day, where you could beat anybody. And I don't remember another year where it's been like that."
No. 5 Oklahoma State (24-8) vs. No. 12 Oregon (26-8)
3:40 p.m., Thursday at HP Pavilion in San Jose, Calif., TNT.
Coaches: Travis Ford, Oklahoma State; Dana Altman, Oregon.
Why they're here: The Cowboys were an at-large selection from the Big 12. They finished third in the standings. Oregon won the Pac-12 tournament and automatic bid.
Scouting the Cowboys: Marcus Smart, the Big 12 player and freshman of the year, leads a young and talented team. In addition to Smart, Oklahoma State starts two sophomores, a junior and a senior. Smart averages 15.4 points and 4.2 steals a game and led the Big 12 in steals. He needs nine steals to break the Big 12 single-season record of 102. Junior Markel Brown leads the team in scoring at 15.6 a game and had a breakout season. Le'Bryan Nash, a 6-7 sophomore, can carry the offense with his scoring around the basket.
Scouting the Ducks: Oregon led the Pac-12 in rebounding (37.4 per game) and steals (8.5 per game). E.J. Singler is the brother of former Duke star Kyle and he leads a balanced scoring attack. The Ducks have with six players averaging at least nine points a game. Senior forward Arsalan Kazemi, the first Iranian-born college basketball player in Division I, transferred from Rice and received a waiver from the NCAA to play this season. He averages 9.3 points, 9.5 rebounds and 2.1 steals per game.
What's next: The winner of this game will play either 13th-seeded New Mexico State or No. 4 Saint Louis in Saturday in a round of 32 game.