With the first half of the conference basketball schedule just about in the books, fans of Big 12 Conference hoops have to be very happy. Well, except for those who live in the state of Texas anywhere but the city of Waco, that is. The other seven schools are all within three and a half games of the conference lead. Teams are not only jostling for conference position but all seven are trying to pad their resumes for the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee. Of those seven, all but West Virginia have a legitimate shot at a bid to the Big Dance. The Mountaineers, already with 11 losses overall, would just about have to run the table to have a shot. Of course, they could always win the Big 12 Tournament as well. Regardless, if only four or five schools make the tourney, each win is big and each loss is crushing for these top seven teams. With the standings as bunched as they are, and the importance of each contest elevated, it makes the atmosphere surrounding each game great for basketball fans. These last few weeks are going to be a blast.
1) Kansas (7-1, 19-2) – The Jayhawks saw their conference lead sliced to a mere half a game this week. Their 18-game winning streak came to an end, and their 33-game home winning streak halted when OSU invaded Lawrence on Saturday. KU has a few issues on both sides of the ball that need to be addressed if they want to maintain their league lead. Coming Up: Kansas will try to get better in Fort Worth tonight before traveling to Norman on Saturday and then hosting a big one on Big Monday when the Wildcats come calling with revenge and first place on their minds.
2) Kansas State (7-2, 18-4) – The Wildcats recovered nicely from their brief two-game skid by pummeling Texas at home, squeaking out a low scoring, 2-point nail biter at OU, and not stumbling in Lubbock. After their 3-0 week, KSU holds sole possession of second place in the conference for the time being. Coming Up: K-State has chances to avenge their only two league losses this week when the Cyclones come to visit Saturday and the Wildcats take a short bus ride to Lawrence to face KU on Big Monday. A sweep in these two games will thrust KSU into first place with a legitimate chance to break KU’s grasp on the league title.
3) Iowa State (6-3, 16-6) – The Cyclones aren’t out of this thing yet. Despite losing a heartbreaker in Stillwater Wednesday, ISU still had a good week by taking out contenders Baylor and Oklahoma in Ames and now hold the third spot in the conference standings by themselves. Will Clyburn won his second straight Big 12 Rookie of the Week, and his third of the season. Coming Up: Iowa State has yet another biggie this week when they go to Manhattan to take on the Wildcats. Their first match-up was a terrific game that saw ISU win at home. The Cyclones could use a big road win to make up for the stumble against Texas Tech a couple of weeks ago.
4) Oklahoma State (5-3, 15-5) – Here come the Cowboys! OSU got off a bit slowly with a tough early road schedule in conference play but the Cowboys always appeared to be dangerous. They proved that to be true this week by slipping past ISU at home then ambushing Kansas in the Phog, winning in Lawrence for the first time in nearly a quarter of a century. Super freshman Marcus Smart won the Big 12 Player of the Week for his stellar efforts against two of the top three teams in the conference. Coming Up: OSU has a big game tonight when they face Baylor at home in a match-up between the two 4th place teams, then they travel to Austin this weekend. OSU passed a couple of big tests last week and hopes to continue that success this week.
5) Baylor (5-3, 14-7) – It was a rough week for the Bears. Two big losses to Oklahoma at home and ISU on the road saw BU slip to a tie for 4th in the league. Baylor can ill afford another disastrous week if they want to maintain contact with the top teams in the conference and if they want to earn an NCAA bid. Coming Up: The time is now for Baylor. They head to Stillwater tonight to face the red hot Cowboys in what has become a must win for each school. BU faces Tech this weekend in Waco and would love to have a sweep for the week.
6) Oklahoma (5-4, 14-7) – The Sooners needed a big week to strengthen their status as a contender. It started well enough with a big road win against Baylor but fell apart dropping a close one at home against KSU and getting beat up in Ames on Monday. Like Baylor, OU is dangerously close to falling out of the race and missing out on the NCAA tournament. Coming Up: OU has a chance to make a big splash at home this week. A victory against Kansas this weekend would go a long way to earning that NCAA bid and a follow-up win against struggling TCU Monday would keep them in a solid position in the conference.
7) West Viginia (4-5, 11-11) – The Mountaineers enjoyed their best week yet in the Big 12 by beating two teams they should beat. They handled Tech quite easily in Lubbock on Saturday before outlasting Texas on Big Monday in very entertaining game. It appears as if WVU may have turned the corner in their loss against Kansas and are giving the effort required by them by Coach Huggins. Coming Up: WVU should maintain their momentum this week with a visit to TCU. A win against the hapless Horned Frogs will vault West Virginia to .500 in league play.
8) Texas (2-7, 10-12) – The Longhorns disappointing season continued this week despite gaining their second victory of the conference season. That win versus TCU was coupled with two road losses at KSU and WVU. They were crushed against the Wildcats but played well in their 2-point loss in Morgontown. Texas can play spoiler now, if they can just start performing more consistently on the floor. Coming Up: Here’s that first chance at playing the spoiler. They host OSU Saturday.
9) Texas Tech (2-7, 9-11) – The Red Raiders took it on the chin this week with losses to Texas on the road, and West Virginia and Kansas State at home. Victories for Tech are going to remain few and far between until the Red Raiders can upgrade their overall talent. Coming Up: Tech travels to Waco to take on the Bears this week.
10) TCU (0-8, 9-12) – The same old, same old for the Horned Frogs. Texas, the one of the worst teams in the league beat TCU at home by 17. Coming Up: TCU hosts Kansas and West Virginia this week.
Baylor vs. OSU, Wednesday, 6pm
KU vs. OU, Saturday, 3pm
ISU vs. KSU, Saturday, 5pm
KSU vs. KU, Monday, 8pm
Topics: Basketball, Baylor Bears, Big 12 Conference, College Basketball, Iowa State Cyclones, Kansas Jayhawks, Kansas State Wildcats, Marcus Smart, Oklahoma Sooners, Oklahoma State Cowboys, TCU Horned Frogs, Texas Longhorns, Texas Tech Red Raiders, West Virginia Mountaineers