Big 12 Look: Good as advertised

Nation's top conference is as good as everybody thought

If we’ve learned anything about the Big 12 Conference through a little more than the first half of league play, it’s that nothing new came from it.

The Big 12, which is the highest-rated RPI conference in the country and the only conference that won more 80 percent of its games during non-conference play, is just as good and as deep as everybody thought.

“It’s exactly what we expected in terms of every game being tough,” Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger said. “It just makes all the teams improve. If you don’t improve, you’re going to lose. If you don’t play well, you’re going to get beat.”

No team has won more than five straight games in conference play this year, and TCU is the only team that hasn’t beaten one of the top four teams in the league to date.

However with each passing week, the Big 12 might start to look more and more diluted to the outside world. Oklahoma State beating Kansas on Saturday doesn’t help get more teams in the NCAA Tournament, it actually hurts – because the outside perception is that no league should be able to get more than 70 percent of its teams into the tourney.

Still, the Big 12 has seven teams ranked in the top 50 – six in the top 25 – with Oklahoma State likely to rise after its win against No. 8 Kansas.

Six teams are ranked in the RPI top-50, usually a dead giveaway for at-large teams that will make the tournament. Oklahoma State and Texas, which played to overtime this week, are both still on the bubble. But they can beat anyone at any time.

“It just makes everybody in the league play better basketball,” Kruger said. ‘Hopefully, we’ll do that through the next eight games.”

Those next eight games started with a win against TCU on Saturday. TCU is the only team in the conference without a win against a ranked opponent and only Texas Tech hasn’t been ranked this season.

Biggest surprise: Maybe nothing more surprising than going to bed Saturday night knowing that Oklahoma was still the only team in the Big 12 to win in Stillwater. Three of the top four teams have taken their shots, with Kansas the most recent. Un-ranked Oklahoma State upset the No. 8 Jayhawks, 67-62, in Stillwater, watching its fans rush onto the court after the win. Although, some will say that any home win in conference this season shouldn’t be considered an upset. Fair point. Texas won on the road at Kansas State. Texas Tech’s 38-point performance against Iowa State was a little bit of revenge from the Cyclones. Payback is a . . . well, it’s payback.

What to watch this week: It’s Big Monday for a reason. Iowa State vs. Oklahoma for second place in the conference. Not two weeks ago, the Sooners were in seventh, but it was clear Oklahoma, which owns the conference’s longest active win streak, was on the rise. Now, they have their first of two meetings with the Cyclones. The winner of this game might be the only team that can challenge Kansas, which has already lost twice in conference play. Don’t forget, Baylor goes to Kansas on Saturday – another chance for the Jayhawks to slip up.

Quotable: “I don't know what our record is here, but I don't think it's very good. . . This is a great building, and I don't follow OSU basketball enough to know what kind of home court they have on a consistent basis, but when we've been here it's been a good home court and their players feed off of that.” - Kansas coach Bill Self after the Jayhawks lost in Stillwater for the second straight season. . . . Oklahoma State has beaten Kansas at least once in the each of the past three seasons. The Cowboys are the only team to have done that.

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