The 2019 Big 12 Co-Champions garnered at 4-seed selection in the South Regional, and will face 13-seed UC Irvine in the Round of 64 in at the SAP Center in San Jose, CA.
The Wildcats enter the tournament at 25-8 (14-4 Big 12), and bowed out the Big 12 tourney after a 63-59 loss to eventual Big 12 Tournament champions Iowa State in the semifinals. The Wildcats have suffered just four losses since the second week of January, and have win streaks of 5, 4 ,2 and 4 between those losses.
The Wildcats were without the services of Big 12 First Team selection Dean Wade for the Big 12 Tournament, but the return of sophomore guard Cartier Diarra softened the blow of losing the talented forward. Wade’s status is still questionable headed into the Big Dance, but, like 2018, would likely be available for limited minutes if his team needed him.
UC Irvine is the auto-qualifier for the Big West, earning the spot after knocking off Cal State Fullerton in the Big West championship 92-64. UC Irvine has been the class of the Big West all season, and enter the tournament at 30-5 (15-1 Big West). The Anteaters picked up a 74-73 victory over Texas A&M back in early November, and also beat NCAA Tournament regular Saint Mary’s 80-75 in late November, but those two wins are the only real highlights on the schedule. Two of their five losses have come at home, and one loss came at Butler in late December.
UC Irvine will actually get a significant benefit from this draw, needing only to make the 6-hour car ride down I-5 to get to San Jose, while the Wildcats must travel two timezones west.
The winner of game one will advance to face either 5-seed Wisconsin or 12-seed Oregon in the Round of 32. This means that should the Wildcats win, they will either face Tournament arch-nemesis Wisconsin, or former Wildcat head coach Dana Altman in the second round.
We’ll have more analysis as the games draw near, but for now get your dancing shoes on and get make plans to cheer on the Cats!