While Kansas State and KU both pulled off dominating performances last night, Oklahoma State was able to top Oklahoma in overtime to stay in the race for the regular season league championship. And while the three-way logjam remains at the top, another three teams are tied at 7-5 for fourth place in the conference. The Big 12 usually sorts itself out at some point, but it looks ready to go down to wire in determining order in 2012-13.
10. TCU (10-15, 1-11)
The fact that TCU’s lone win was at KU’s expense remains one of the most inexplicable of the season. In fact, according to Ken Pomeroy’s standings, it was the biggest upset of the season. David soon returned to form by incurring a 13-point loss to West Virginia, 27-point loss to Oklahoma, and 34-point loss to Iowa State yesterday. There really is no way to explain that victory over the Jayhawks.
9. Texas Tech (9-14, 2-10)
With the head-to-head win over TCU, the Red Raiders avoid a last place ranking. They haven’t done much else this season. The Red Raiders are last place in turnovers, which has led them to last in turnover differential (-2.6). Tech did show up yesterday against West Virginia, going on the road and playing the Mountaineers to 66-64. You know your team has problems when bragging rights are relegated to almost beating a mediocre team.
8. Texas (11-14, 3-9)
Sure, the Longhorns have three wins in the conference, but Saturday almost made The Jug drop UT to last after the dropped a 73-47 decision to KU. Between Texas, Texas Tech, and TCU, there is no state playing worse basketball than Texas (Big 12 traitor Texas A&M has a losing record in an awful SEC conference to boot). Texas is tied with Kansas for most offensive rebounds/game in conference play, but all those rebounds are coming from the extreme bounces of missed threes. Texas is last in the league with an awful .245 percentage from behind the arc.
7. West Virginia (13-12, 6-6)
THuggins probably expected an easy transition from the Big East to the Big 12. While UConn, Syracuse, and the rest of those teams knock each other around, the Big 12 was supposed to be a collection of second-tier competitors. So it makes The Jug smile to see Huggins struggling to navigate the league in his first year. West Virginia got to six wins by beating TCU, Tech, and Texas twice apiece. With no wins against any other teams and no games left against the basement dwellers, the chances of this team entering the tournament conversation are absolutely toast. Not a single player averages over ten points on this team.
6. Iowa State (17-8, 7-5)
This is where picking an order becomes akin to throwing darts. The Cyclones are tied with Baylor and Oklahoma at 7-5, have played each team once, and won both games. They should be in the number four spot, but a double overtime loss to Texas last Wednesday wins you no love on this page. A trip to Baylor this Wednesday will help provide some clarity to these rankings – at least temporarily. Iowa State does lead the Big 12 with 75.7 points per conference game.
5. Baylor (16-9, 7-5)
Baylor has been a mildly pleasant surprise in the Big 12 given their lackluster out-of-conference. The Bears have done it with defense, and rank second in the league in several categories (scoring defense, opponent FG percentage, blocks, defensive rebounds). They’re also third in the conference with a +7.1 average scoring margin. Baylor has a tough remaining schedule to navigate that will either legitimize this team or expose it as a pretender.
4. Oklahoma (16-8, 7-5)
The Sooners had a shot at the number three spot by going into Stillwater and taking Oklahoma State into overtime yesterday afternoon. But almost doesn’t count, and OU remains tied for fourth overall. However, the Sooners have the easiest remaining schedule of the three 7-5 teams. ISU, Baylor, and Oklahoma place each other once more, but beyond those game OU has to play teams 7-10 once more apiece. This is the surest bet for a fourth-place finish you’ll see this early in the season for a long time.
3. #17 Oklahoma State (19-5, 9-3)
The Cowboys beat KU, lost to K-State, and one game left against each to prove they belong in the contention conversation. Markel Brown and Marcus Smart offer one of the best 1-2 punches in the Big 12, with both averaging over 16 points/game in league play, good enough for second and fourth overall. In fact, OSU has four the top 12 scorers in the league, with Le’Bryan Nash at number 12 and Phil Forte at 15th. Everyone on this team is a threat, as the Cowboys have been infuriating defenses with their scoring options.
2. #10 Kansas State (20-5, 9-3)
It was a great ride. After several picked this team to be an NIT representative, the Wildcats rose to sole possession of the conference during KU’s three game losing streak. It all came crashing down with a bad loss in Lawrence. Bruce Weber’s team bounced back by beating Baylor last night by the almost same score as it lost to KU, winning 81-61. Jordan Henriquez, who had all but faded out of the equation, had one of his best games of the year with a line of 10 points, 10 rebounds and 5 blocks. This team is by no means going away, but with two losses against KU, the opportunities on the path to winning the regular season are limited. West Virginia visits next, so expect this team to sit at 10-3 when it goes down to Austin and knocks around Texas next Saturday.
1. #14 Kansas (21-5, 9-3)
Rarely does a team record both the best win and worst loss of the conference in the same season. Giving up TCU’s lone win has to be the Big 12’s worst loss. Beating K-State by 83-62 has to be the best win. Taking down Texas with a 73-47 win last night was also impressive. Yes, the Longhorns are down this year. Really down. But that’s an impressive margin by any definition. Oklahoma State hosts KU Wednesday night. Hold on to your hats, because this has the makings of an epic to determine which team keeps pace with K-State.