Big 12 look: OU faces light road

Sooners fall behind the pack but have a chance to make a run

Oklahoma is staring at the wrong side of a .500 record in Big 12 Conference play. It’s a little daunting, but not all that surprising.

Of course, the Sooners’ home loss to Kansas State was a shock, but in the best conference in the country and one that has seen nine different teams ranked in the AP Top 25 at some point, it’s pretty much expected that Oklahoma would be where they are.

They have played the toughest schedule in the conference.

It’s going to be difficult for any team to win on the road this season – check out this week’s biggest surprise below. Oklahoma has held serve. It’s 3-4 conference record mirrors its schedule: Four road games and three at home.

With the losses in the early conference season, it’s tough to see Oklahoma making a run at Kansas or the Big 12 Conference regular season title. The way Oklahoma has lost is the most disappointing part of the season – not the fact that they have lost. Fear not, there’s light on the horizon.

In the next four games, Oklahoma gets a shot at the two teams below them in the Big 12 standings and a rematch with West Virginia – away from Morgantown, WV, where the Mountaineers are 4-1 in true road games.

The Sooners also gets Oklahoma State, which it has beaten three straight games.

The focus should be on avoiding that first day of the Big 12 Tournament, when the seven through 10 seeds play. There’s going to be a good team playing that day, and it wasn’t supposed to be Oklahoma. Now, it just might be.

Oklahoma has to do some work to climb out of this – albeit expected – hole. The Sooners remaining schedule is the easiest of any team in the Big 12. They have four games against the bottom two teams in the league and don’t have to face Kansas, Texas or West Virginia on the road. Oklahoma faces only two of the top six teams on the road the rest of the season.

Here’s a quick look at the rest of the teams in the Big 12 and their remaining schedules:

Kansas: The Jayhawks have already gone through the toughest part of their schedule with only trips to Kansas State and West Virginia ahead of them. But Kansas will close against five ranked teams and on the road against Kansas State in the final seven games. There’s a chance for them to be caught.

Kansas State: The Wildcats still have something to prove. Four of their five victories have come against the bottom four teams in the conference. Kansas State still has to play Kansas, West Virginia and Texas twice as well as at Baylor and heading to Iowa State. Chances are, they come back to earth and the middle of the Big 12 pack.

West Virginia: Beneficiaries of a soft early schedule that include three games against TCU and Texas Tech, the Mountaineers are a bit of an enigma. They’ll even play Texas Tech once more before ever facing Kansas or Baylor for the first time.

Iowa State: The Cyclones have faced the second-toughest schedule in the Big 12 – behind only Oklahoma. Iowa State has played the bottom four teams in the league only once total. Iowa State faces ranked teams on back-to-back occasions only twice and never faces three in a row.

Baylor: The Bears will have to get used to going on the road in the second half of the season. Not only does Baylor face six road games, but the Bears also face four currently ranked teams in those six games. Baylor faces just two more ranked teams at home, where the Bears lead the conference in overall home wins this season (11).

Texas: Things might get worse before they get better for the Longhorns. Texas will play Baylor and Iowa State on the road before four straight games against unranked teams – but one against Kansas State. The Longhorns have five straight ranked games and Kansas State to end the season. Three of those games are on the road.

Oklahoma State: If the Cowboys want to make a run to the top of the conference, they control their own destiny. Oklahoma State faces seven ranked teams – all above than them in the league standings – in the next eight contests. The Cowboys also play Texas Tech and TCU three more times.

TCU: Having already played Texas Tech, TCU will close the season with 11 out of 12 games against teams that have been ranked. The Horned Frogs are in the middle of a stretch seven straight games against ranked teams – the longest stretch of any team in the conference.

Texas Tech: Being the worst team in the best league usually comes with a pretty hectic schedule. The Red Raiders opened with three straight ranked teams and will play five-straight games against ranked opponents in February.

Biggest surprise of last week: There was a chance that Texas Tech went the entire conference season without a victory, especially after losing to TCU at home. But the Red Raiders came up and bit Iowa State, which has always struggled away from home in the conference. The Red Raiders had lost six straight and eight of nine games before the upset. Texas Tech shot 45.8 percent from behind the 3-point arc and led by as many as 18 points in the first half.

What to watch this week: Bedlam on Saturday will be a big game, and there will be a lot on the line Big Monday between Kansas and Iowa State. The biggest game of the week is West Virginia-Kansas State in Manhattan, KS, on Tuesday. A win by Kansas State would put the Jayhawks and the Wildcats two games ahead of the rest of the conference, whereas West Virginia could put itself in position to win the league title – with two games still to play against Kansas.

Quotable: “There were no words or anything. Guys like Bob Huggins are a big reason why guys like me have opportunities to be in his business. We were just talking about what needs to be corrected with the game of basketball in general. He’s one of the top 10 coaches in college basketball period.” – TCU coach Trent Johnson on his exchange with WVU coach Bob Huggins after his team lost in the overtime after multiple questionable fouls to end regulation and overtime.

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