Separating the top of the pack in the Big 12 this season has been like splitting hairs. One week, Oklahoma looks unbeatable, the next, West Virginia is sitting atop the standings, then you turn around and Kansas once again looks like the team that has dominated this conference for more than a decade.
As it stands now, the Jayhawks are leading the field by a nose with a one game lead over West Virginia, and a two-game cushion separating them from Oklahoma, Baylor and Texas.
Suffice it to say, there’s a log jam at the top of the conference right now, but West Virginia and Oklahoma both have a chance to make the picture a little clearer tomorrow afternoon.
If West Virginia were to win Saturday, the Mountaineers would keep the pressure on Kansas, who will enter the Octagon of Doom against K-State immediately following the Mountaineers’ and Sooners’ matchup.
A loss wouldn’t completely eliminate the Mountaineers from contention, but it would almost push them to the brink. West Virginia has a quick turnaround this week, as it takes on Iowa State at home Monday night, and there is the potential for Saturday’s result to have a residual effect on that outcome.
Because they are two games back currently, a loss would be much more detrimental to the Sooners’ conference title aspirations.
Especially when you consider that Oklahoma has dropped both of its head-to-head games against the conference frontrunners, a three-game deficit would be virtually impossible to overcome with just four games to play.
If Oklahoma were to win, it would only complicate things more among the teams trying to knock Kansas from its conference perch. Because 8-5 Baylor and Texas square off Saturday, an Oklahoma win would guarantee there being three 9-5 teams in a tie for second place.
There is no mistaking, both of these teams will be a desperate for a win in this game. West Virginia has lost two of its last three games and knows it must string some wins together soon in order to keep itself relevant in the Big 12 title conversation.
Similarly, Oklahoma comes into this game trying to break out of a slide of its own. Despite the masterful play of its Wooden Award hopeful senior guard, Buddy Hield, the Sooners have lost three of their last four games, including two-in-a-row.
With a national television audience tuned in on ESPN, there will surely be plenty of energy in the WVU Coliseum at the start of this tilt. Whichever team is able to harness that energy while keeping its emotions in check will likely come out on top, and as a result, keep itself firmly in the hunt for the regular season conference crown.
The calendar is about to switch to March, which means the pressure only ramps up from this point on, but Saturday’s matchup between the Mountaineers and Sooners will not be lacking in that department at all. It’s do or die time.