After defeating West Virginia in improbable fashion, the Jayhawks are well positioned to win their 13th consecutive Big 12 title. They own a two-game advantage over Baylor, and a three-game spread over West Virginia and Iowa State. And with the exception of the upcoming game at Baylor, and a season-ending scrap at Oklahoma State, the schedule is favorable. Will this tyranny never end?
2. West Virginia
When the Mountaineers are on top of their game, they’re better than any other team in the Big 12, including Kansas. But their inconsistency makes them a poor bet. Still, they’re playing a bit better than Baylor right now, and they owned the Bears earlier in the season, so that’s good enough for the second spot.
You knew it would happen. The Bears, no matter how impressive they looked earlier in the season, are not the best team in America, and they’re almost certainly not the best team in the Big 12, as their three losses in their last five games proves. Still, for those hoops junkies hoping for somebody to dethrone the Jayhawks, Baylor is the only real hope. They’ll get Kansas in Nineveh-on-Brazos this Saturday.
4. Iowa State
The ‘Clones, winners of three of their last four—including the W in Lawrence—are rolling along pretty good right now, and are playing well enough to climb into the conference’s top three. However, the schedule is not propitious. ISU should handle TCU in Ames, but after that it’s Texas Tech, Baylor, Oklahoma State and West Virginia, with the Tech and WVU tilts on the road.
5. Oklahoma State
The Cowboys remain not only the hottest team in the Big 12, but just about the hottest team in the nation not named Gonzaga. They’ve won seven of their last eight, with a three-point loss to Baylor the only hiccup. What’s more, the schedule, excepting season-ending bouts with Iowa State and Kansas, looks favorable. A team that lost its first six games of Big 12 play now looks like an NCAA tourney lock.
6. Texas Tech
The Red Raiders are playing their best ball of the season, as a razor-thin loss to Kansas and an impressive win over Baylor attest. But if they hope to win at West Virginia in their next test, they’ll have to play better still. At some point Tech will almost certainly have to win a conference road game to make the NCAA tourney.
The Frogs are a streaky team. In conference play they’ve had four winning and losing streaks. Currently they’re on a two-game slide with road games against Iowa State and Kansas upcoming, followed by a home match with West Virginia. Methinks TCU’s NCAA tourney hopes are dimming.
8. Kansas State
Speaking of streaks and dimming hopes, K-State has lost three straight, including a blowout loss at West Virginia, and a fairly decisive loss to Iowa State in Manhattan. The remaining schedule doesn’t look particularly daunting, but the Wildcats must revive if they’re to push for an NCAA tourney berth.
The Horns are 4-9 in Big 12 play, and 10-16 overall. And looking at the remaining schedule, the only likely win is the upcoming home clash with Kansas State. Would Shaka Smart survive 5-13, 11-20? Given Texas’ apathy toward its basketball program, perhaps so.
The only thing the Sooners are winning this year is Trae Young’s heart.