There should be a wild finish in the Big 12 Conference as Kansas tries to claim at least a share of its 12th-straight league title, and everybody else tries to knock off the Jayhawks.
The best teams will decide it against one another.
The top six teams in the Big 12 are all within two games of first place. All six are currently ranked in the top 25 teams in the country for a league that is on pace for an all-time NCAA-best in conference RPI. There are seven league teams in the top 32 in the RPI.
“In this league, you have to always worry about the next game and worry about getting better,” Iowa State coach Steve Prohm said.
The Cyclones, Texas and Baylor are all 7-5 in league play. Oklahoma is in third place at 8-4. Kansas and West Virginia are tied at 9-3, atop the conference. But the final six games of the season will decide the champion.
Each of the top six teams plays at least three games against the rest of the top half dozen. Baylor will play five teams, the most of any program.
“It’s tough to win on the road, but it doesn’t guarantee you’re going to win home games either,” Baylor coach Scott Drew said. “. . . Each game is a dogfight. If you don’t play well, you’re not going to win.”
And don’t count out Texas Tech, which is currently in seventh place. The Red Raiders have won back-to-back games against Baylor and Iowa State. Texas Tech plays Oklahoma, West Virginia and Kansas down the stretch.
The Red Raiders won’t make a push for the title, but they could play a big role in determining the champion. That potential impact continues against No. 3 Oklahoma on Wednesday night with the Sooners coming off a second loss to Kansas.
“Our guys will fight back. They’ll compete,” Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger said. “It’s disappointing of course to lose to Kansas on Saturday. Our guys know how tough it’s going to be. We can’t go on the road and thing anything other.”
Here’s the remaining key games for each team:
Baylor – vs. Iowa State, at Texas, vs. Kansas, at Oklahoma, vs. West Virginia
Iowa State – at Baylor, at West Virginia, at Kansas
Kansas – at Baylor, at Texas, vs. Iowa State
Oklahoma – at West Virginia, at Texas, vs. Baylor
Texas – vs. West Virginia, vs. Baylor, vs. Texas, vs. Kansas
West Virginia – at Texas, vs. Oklahoma, vs. Iowa State, at Baylor
So who has the easiest road?
Iowa State got its star center Jameel McKay back, and it changed the way the Cyclones played.
Texas is at home in all its major games but is two games back. Baylor has a loaded back-end but could potentially win out for the title. Kansas has already completed its season series against West Virginia and Oklahoma – the two teams directly behind the Jayhawks in the standings.
That means that Oklahoma and West Virginia don’t have to play the reigning champ. With six games remaining, every team still has at least a little bit on control of its goals.
“Night in and night out you are going to play against high-level competition,” Texas coach Shaka Smart said. “. . . All of our goals are still right out there in front of us. Our guys understand that.”