Baylor’s victory over West Virginia, and Kansas State’s upset of Iowa State turned what once was just about as wide-open a league title race as there could have been in the final week of the season into a two-horse race – and two horses that will meet on the final day of the regular season.
Of course, Baylor and Iowa State are not mathematically eliminated from contention, but one more loss will knock them out.
With a one-game lead, Kansas is now completely in control of its own destiny if it wants to win an 11th straight Big 12 Conference regular season title.
It’s all up to Oklahoma now to end that streak.
Here’s what the top five teams in the Big 12 Conference have to do this week to win the title:
Kansas, 12-4 (vs. West Virginia, at Oklahoma) – The Jayhawks are the only team in the conference that doesn’t have to win out to claim the title, although that should come as no big surprise with a one-game lead and two games to play. In fact, all Kansas has to do is beat Oklahoma. If the Sooners lose to Iowa State on Monday night, there’s a chance Kansas could win the regular-season title even by losing its final two games – if WVU loses to Oklahoma State and Oklahoma loses to Iowa State, among a few other things. Either way, one win and Kansas is the Big 12 champion.
Oklahoma, 11-5 (at Iowa State, vs. Kansas) – If the Sooners win out, they claim at least a share of the Big 12 regular season title, no matter what else happens. Oklahoma wins the title outright if its wins its two games and Kansas loses twice. Oklahoma can also win with a split over its final two games. That’ll happen if the Jayhawks then lose out, West Virginia wins out and Baylor loses at least once
Baylor, 10-6 (at Texas, vs. Texas Tech) – First at foremost of the rest of the teams on the list, Kansas has to lose out. So keep that in mind. Baylor would also need Oklahoma to lose to Iowa State. Baylor swept the season series against West Virginia and Iowa State, so would only need to tie with so those schools to claim the title.
Iowa State, 10-6 (vs. Oklahoma, at TCU) – Cyclones win out, and Kansas loses twice. Baylor loses at least one game the rest of the season. West Virginia also has to win out – or win at least one more game than Baylor – so that Iowa State wins the second tiebreaker – comparative record of highest-rated remaining team. The Cyclones will have swept with WVU, which would have swept Kansas and split with Oklahoma.
Why West Virginia is eliminated?
Best-case scenario for West Virginia, 10-6 (at Kansas, vs. Oklahoma State) – Jayhawks lose out, Oklahoma loses to Iowa State, which loses to TCU. WVU wins its final two games, Baylor loses to both Texas and Texas Tech. This situation would put the Mountaineers tied with Kansas, which they would have swept, and tied record-wise with Oklahoma. If you’ve followed me this far, West Virginia is still eliminated because Oklahoma would have split with Baylor which swept West Virginia – giving the Sooners and Kansas a better record against the highest-rated remaining team in the conference (the tiebreaker after head-to-head).
Of note: No team has ever won the Big 12 regular-season title with more than four losses in conference. If Oklahoma is to win, that would have to be a first. The 2014-15 champion will at least tie a new high for conference losses.
Biggest surprise: Kansas State shocked Kansas, and Baylor went into Ames and knocked off Iowa State. Those two games put the top of the Big 12 into a tizzy. Without those two upsets, the conference race is much clearer. Now theoretically, there are still five teams in the running for the Big 12 regular season title – although Baylor needs A TON of help.
What to watch this week: Keep an eye on the Sooners. Oklahoma plays Iowa State on Big Monday and Kansas to close the regular season on Sunday. Both games will have a major impact on the Big 12 regular season championship and will play a role in determining which two Big 12 teams head to Omaha for the NCAA Tournament. West Virginia heads to Kansas this week Tuesday for another big game.
Quotable: “The league is a monster. It is not embarrassing to lose on the road. We have a pretty good team, but we also do not have a margin for error to not be our best when we are playing other good teams. It is not surprising to lose some games in a league this competitive. Now with the league race, there are basically four teams that are still in it. The team that plays the best in the last two weeks will have the best chance and we have not played well in the last couple of weeks.”- Kansas coach Bill Self