At least in football, we knew who was good. Oklahoma, and Texas, and West Virginia sometimes — they were reliable.
But now that the Big 12 is in basketball season, I have no idea who is good, outside of Kansas, and even then I have my doubts. Texas Tech might be good, or maybe TCU just can’t play on the road; Kansas State might be good, or maybe they just haven’t played anyone tough yet. Baylor being good isn’t something I’m ready to come to terms with yet.
At any rate, it’s time to look at the action around the Big 12 from the last week. As always, these aren’t power rankings — I’m going in alphabetical order here.
Baylor (14-6, 5-2 Big 12): The Bears have won five straight, including a victory over No. 8 Texas Tech and a 30-point shellacking of Oklahoma on the road Monday night. Baylor also knocked off Alabama in the Big 12-SEC Challenge.
With the exception of the Oklahoma win, which was an exercise in brutality and nothing more, all of Baylor’s recent victories have been fairly close. That’s either a sign that the Bears’ win streak won’t last, or that Baylor is just really, really good in close situations. Either way, Baylor is currently tied for first in the conference.
Iowa State (15-5, 4-3 Big 12): The only game the Cyclones have played since the last edition of this series was an 87-73 win over then-No. 20 Ole Miss in the Big 12-SEC Challenge. Now Iowa State is up to No. 20, and the Cyclones are a game back of first place in the conference.
Nick Weiler-Babb can do pretty much whatever Iowa State needs him to do. In the last five games, he’s led Iowa State in assists twice and points and rebounds once each, and none of those were in the same game. It feels like each year, the Cyclones’ team is made up of five Weiler-Babbs (or is it Weilers-Babb?) who can do it all, and once again, ISU is solid.
Kansas (16-4, 5-2 Big 12): Kansas’ lone game since our last jaunt around the Big 12 was a loss at No. 8 Kentucky. There’s no shame in that — the Wildcats are a good team.
But Kansas needs to start looking like Kansas soon. Losing Udoka Azubuike for the season hurts, there’s no doubt about that. Bill Self has enough talent on his roster to overcome that loss, though, and until the Jayhawks start blowing out Big 12 teams by 20 points again, I won’t trust them in the tournament. (That doesn’t mean they won’t still win the conference. They’re definitely doing that again.)
Kansas State (15-5, 5-2 Big 12): Look, I don’t get it either. Barry Brown is good, and so is Dean Wade, specter of my nightmares, but Kansas State shouldn’t be 5-2 in conference play. And yet, here the Wildcats are, fresh off a win over Texas Tech last Tuesday in which the Red Raiders only scored 45 points.
A loss at Texas A&M in the Big 12-SEC Challenge doesn’t mean much. Kansas State is, inexplicably, tied for the lead in the Big 12. Don’t expect them to go away, even if we don’t know why.
Oklahoma (15-6, 3-5 Big 12): Talk about laying an egg. After Oklahoma beat Oklahoma State and Vanderbilt last week, Baylor marched into Norman and beat the Sooners 77-47. These comparisons are trite, but in football season, Oklahoma put up 66 points on the Bears! The offense was anemic for Oklahoma Monday, and it was a step in the wrong direction for the Sooners.
There are still plenty of games left for Oklahoma, but Lon Kruger better start righting the ship soon.
Oklahoma State (9-11, 2-6 Big 12): There might not be plenty of games left for Oklahoma State, however. Sure, the Cowboys beat South Carolina in non-conference play last week. But OSU is riding a three-game conference losing streak, and the Cowboys play Kansas State, at TCU, at Kansas and home against Texas Tech in their next four games.
The schedule has done them no favors. But if the Cowboys are 1-3 over their next four games, that should be considered a success — and it would leave them at 3-9 in conference play.
TCU (15-5, 3-4 Big 12): TCU is most likely fine, but the Frogs are going to have to start winning against good opponents. Beating Florida and Texas is fine — wins against teams like Texas Tech will take this program to where it needs to be.
Also, the Frogs are apparently petrified of playing away games. TCU is 0-4 away from Schollmaier Arena this season.
Folks, I haven’t seen a group of people this unable to win crucial matchups on the road since Napoleon tried invading Russia!
Texas (11-9, 3-4 Big 12): I’m not ready to count out Texas yet, not even after back-to-back losses at TCU and at Georgia. Those are acceptable losses, and the Longhorns had beaten Oklahoma earlier last week.
The home game against Kansas tonight will be very telling. If Texas can win, or even manage to keep it close, it’ll be a sign the Longhorns can finish in the top half of the conference. If Texas loses, they’ll enter Saturday’s game at Iowa State with no momentum whatsoever, which could doom their chances once and for all of earning a good Big 12 Tournament seed.
Texas Tech (17-4, 5-3 Big 12): After losing to Kansas State last week, Tech edged out Arkansas before punching TCU square in the mouth early and cruising to a 19-point win. The Red Raiders are better than their 5-3 record indicates, and are only a half-game out of first place in the conference.
I hesitate to say this for the second straight week, because I know these hot takes can be inflammatory, but it must be said: Chris Beard is a very good coach!
West Virginia (9-11. 1-6 Big 12): I watched the first half of West Virginia’s game at No. 1 Tennessee Saturday, and the Mountaineers looked like the Press Virginia of old. Tennessee was flummoxed, and though West Virginia couldn’t score, they still held an early lead.
Then Tennessee held the Mountaineers scoreless for about 9:30.
West Virginia is not good.