The Jayhawks are still the cream of the Big 12 crop, but the cream has soured a bit of late. Losers of two of their last five games, KU was demolished at West Virginia, and most recently, saw their 51-game home winning streak halted by Iowa State. Kansas’ upcoming game at Texas Tech figures to be a battle royal.
Given Kansas’ recent foibles it is tempting to rank a team ahead of them. But who? Certainly not Baylor, which lost the head-to-head meeting between the two in Lawrence, and also dropped a home contest to Kansas State last week. The Bears responded to the latter with an impressive bounce-back win at Oklahoma State, but that’s not quite enough to hand them the No. 1 spot.
3. West Virginia
When they’re on their game, the Mountaineers are the best team in the Big 12—see their mashings of Baylor and Kansas respectively. Unfortunately for WVU fans, the Mountaineers are also maddeningly inconsistent—see their recent seven-point home loss to Oklahoma State. Still, West Virginia has won four of its last five and is playing as well as anybody in the Big 12 right now.
The Horned Frogs are far from a perfect team, but they are finding ways to win, as their current three-game winning streak confirms. But TCU’s upcoming stretch of games with Baylor, Oklahoma State, Iowa State, Kansas and West Virginia will tell whether this team is really legit or just a flash in the pan.
5. Iowa State
The Cyclones are a mighty hard team to figure. They’ve lost three of their last four—and all three are fairly “bad” losses—but their lone victory in that stretch came at the expense of Kansas in Lawrence. Three of ISU’s nine losses have come in the “magical” confines of Hilton Arena.
6. Oklahoma State
After an extremely impressive five-game winning streak that caught everybody by surprise, Baylor burst the Cowboys’ bubble with a three-point win in Stillwater. Still, this is a pretty good outfit, and with the exception of a season-ending home game against Kansas, every remaining game on OSU’s schedule is very winnable.
The Longhorns are still anything but world-beaters, but they have quietly won three of their last five conference games, which is easily their best Big 12 stretch of the season. Nevertheless, UT’s youthfulness and lack of offensive firepower will likely keep them in the lower echelon of the conference.
8. Texas Tech
The Red Raiders were once a very promising team, but close road losses to Baylor, Texas and TCU have at least temporarily knocked them out of the NCAA tournament conversation. Consecutive home wins over No. 3 Kansas and No. 6 Baylor would make Tech relevant again, but ultimately, they will need to close out an opponent or two on the road.
9. Kansas State
The Wildcats, losers of four of their last five, are mired in a tailspin similar to what TCU experienced earlier in the season. The Horned Frogs persevered and are now on the good side of the NCAA tournament bubble; can K-State do the same? Their first opportunity to do so comes this Saturday at West Virginia, where the Mountaineers have actually laid a couple of eggs.
With six straight losses, the Sooners are inching ever closer to sealing the deal for the Big 12 basement. If it’s any consolation, the Sooners may be the best last-place team in college basketball.