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Around the Big 12, Mid-January Basketball Edition

Conference play is well underway, and the Big 12 picture is still murky.

NCAA Basketball: Kansas at West Virginia
How on earth did this happen?
Ben Queen-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome, all, to a special basketball edition of Around the Big 12! With conference play in full swing, we’ll start taking a weekly look at the action from around America’s Most Unknowable Basketball Conference. (So named because it’s impossible to know what teams are good or what teams are bad in the Big 12, at least until the end of the regular season when Kansas inevitably wins.)

Obviously there’s some overlap between games, so we won’t go game-by-game like we did in football season. We’ll just look at the last seven days for each team in the conference, and we’ll go in alphabetical order. If you want a ranking of the Big 12 teams, be sure and check out Parker’s Power Ranking coming later today. He knows more than I do.

Baylor (12-6, 4-2 Big 12): The Bears beat No. 8 Texas Tech 73-62 on Saturday and then turned around and beat West Virginia on the road 85-73 on Monday. Is Baylor good? It’s hard to say. But Makai Mason certainly is, as he scored 29 points against the Mountaineers.

Baylor’s riding the second-longest win streak in the conference at three games, and is a half-game back of Kansas in the standings.

Iowa State (14-5, 4-3 Big 12): The Cyclones beat No. 8 Texas Tech 68-64 Wednesday and Oklahoma State 72-59 Saturday, but ran into a pissed-off Kansas team Monday night and lost 80-76. All of that was enough to bump Iowa State into the AP Top 25. Senior Marial Shayok has been a revelation, scoring more than 20 points in his last three games.

I really don’t have any jokes to make here. Iowa State is solid. That’s all I got.

Kansas (16-3, 5-2 Big 12): Yeah, sure, Kansas lost to West Virginia by a point, 65-64, on Saturday. But the Jayhawks bounced right back and beat No. 24 Iowa State Monday night, and they’ve only lost three games all year. It’s hard to evaluate this Kansas team right now, especially after the last week. The AP has them at No. 9, and that’s probably about right. But if everything starts clicking for Kansas, they’ll be ready for another Final Four run. Ho hum.

Kansas State (14-4, 4-2 Big 12): The Wildcats beat Oklahoma 74-61 and TCU last week, and are on a four-game win streak, the longest in the conference. Barry Brown Jr. is still very good, as it turns out, having led his team in scoring in four of the last five games. Kansas State might not be ready to have the same incredible run as they did last year, but they should be a tournament team, and Dean Wade still haunts my dreams on a nightly basis.

Oklahoma (13-5, 2-4 Big 12): After ripping the heart out of TCU two Saturdays ago, the Sooners laid eggs against Kansas State and Texas last week. Thanks a lot, Oklahoma.

The Sooners are a lot better than I thought they would be after losing Trae Young, and they’ve played the toughest teams (and also Oklahoma State) in the Big 12 so far. But the conference is fairly solid from top to bottom, and Oklahoma can’t afford to have off nights anymore this year if they want to make the tourney.

Oklahoma State (8-10, 2-4 Big 12): Oklahoma State only played one game this week, a loss to Iowa State. The Cowboys are hemorrhaging players worse than TCU — OSU head coach Mike Boynton had to put out a call for walk-ons after dismissing three players from the team Thursday. If you have college eligibility left, please email (That’s probably not a real email. I didn’t check.)

The Cowboys aren’t good. I think they can be under Boynton, who seems like a good dude and good coach, but this ain’t their year.

TCU (13-4, 2-3 Big 12): The Frogs are a good team — beating the absolute snot out of West Virginia 98-67 last week proved that. But they put up only 55 points in a loss to Kansas State Saturday and have blown great chances against Kansas and Oklahoma so far this season.

Also, everyone is either leaving the program or injured, which is not good. But y’all know this already. And remember — it can always be worse.

Texas (11-7, 3-3 Big 12): The Longhorns played just one game this week, the win over Oklahoma mentioned above.

Texas has beaten No. 7 North Carolina this year, and has also lost to Radford, VCU and Providence. The Longhorns do whatever they can to hurt my feelings, it appears.

At least they’ve got McConaughey.

Texas Tech (15-3, 4-2 Big 12): Texas Tech might have flown too close to the sun. The Red Raiders cracked the Top 10 in the AP Poll, and then promptly lost to Iowa State and Baylor last week. The Baylor game was on the road, to be fair, and ISU is a solid team, but Texas Tech needed to win those games to keep the momentum going and prove they belong in the conversation for a top-three seed in the NCAA Tournament.

Tech will still be fine. Every high school coach I’ve talked to about Red Raiders coach Chris Beard cannot say enough good things about him, and sophomore Jarrett Culver has played like a man possessed recently. I would imagine Texas Tech takes out its frustrations on Kansas State tonight.

West Virginia (9-10, 1-6 Big 12): The Mountaineers are bad, and in fact not good, and then they beat Kansas on Saturday.

A team that is absolutely awful beating a perennial powerhouse? Why, that’s almost like that time Kansas beat Texas in football!