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Around the Big 12 in Basketball: Anxiety Levels

Let’s find out which Big 12 fanbases are biting their nails.

NCAA Basketball: Big 12 Conference Tournament-Iowa State vs. Kansas Amy Kontras-USA TODAY Sports

One of the better ideas to come from our mothership is that of fan base anxiety, popularized by the Podcast Ain’t Played Nobody duo of Bill Connelly and Steven Godfrey. There’s no metric or set scale for the concept, but it does exist in fan bases that support either a perennially underachieving bunch or a once-mighty team that has plummeted from the ranks of the elite.

And now that the college basketball regular season has ended and the selection committee has handed down its decisions from on high, it’s time to change up our format in this weekly column and rank each Big 12 team based on anxiety level. (Note here that I am not making fun of the actual medical condition of anxiety, obviously.)

To the rankings!

  1. Texas — The Longhorns missed out on the NCAA Tournament and were just barely above .500 on the season. Hiring Shaka Smart away from VCU four years ago seemed at the time like the hire of the century; now, he’s on a seat hotter than Matthew McConaughey in a burnt orange suit. The good news for Shaka is that he’s had fewer embarrassing NCAA Tourney losses than Rick Barnes at Texas! The bad news is that it’s because Shaka’s teams have only made the tournament twice. Anxiety is high in Austin.
  2. TCU — The disappointment for the Frogs was real, especially in the earliest moments after the bracket was revealed. But TCU fans can’t be too mad at the committee. Bad losses to Oklahoma State and West Virginia couldn’t outweigh good wins against Iowa State, and the non-conference schedule just wasn’t up to snuff. The momentum from last year’s tourney bid hasn’t fully worn off, but we’re getting close to that point. Next year, Jamie Dixon’s fourth at the helm of the Frogs, will be immensely important.
  3. Kansas — The cracks in the armor are widening. The Jayhawks didn’t win the Big 12 regular season for the first time since 2005, and they laid an egg in the Big 12 tournament as well. Kansas is a 4-seed in the NCAA Tournament, its lowest seeding since 2005-06. The rumors of NCAA investigations around the program dealing with Adidas money are constantly swirling. Add all that up, and Kansas fans can’t be very comfortable at the moment. The Jayhawks will always be a blue blood, but even the best programs can undergo slumps, and barring a deep tourney run this season, KU will be praying they’re not next on the list for a decline.
  4. West Virginia — One year after Press Virginia took the Mountaineers to the Sweet 16 and made defense fun again, WVU had its worst season since 2012-13. Wins over TCU and Kansas were fun, sure, but it was a marked step back from last season. West Virginia only checks in at No. 4 here, though, because Bob Huggins has built up enough goodwill and success to alleviate some of the Mountaineers’ concerns.
  5. Oklahoma State — The “Mike Boynton has these boys playing hard” good cheer works for precisely one year. If the Cowboys are as lackluster next season, there’s going to be some hard questions asked in Stillwater. But OSU will (presumably) have a full compliment of players next year after transfers, suspensions and injuries decimated the roster this season. The Cowboys have reason to be cautiously optimistic.
  6. Oklahoma — A middling year earned the Sooners a middling seed in the tournament. But after losing Trae Young to the draft, OU can’t be disappointed with a tourney bid and some decent wins during the season. Besides, Oklahoma fans are more worried about Kyler Murray’s hand size than anything the basketball team is doing.
  7. Baylor — A weird matchup against Syracuse in the first round could send the Bears home early. Baylor doesn’t see much zone in the Big 12. But still, Baylor made it to the Big Dance despite Makai Mason’s injury in the middle of the season that kept him out for a few games, so the Bears should be happy. Scott Drew has had cyclical success since taking the BU job, and Baylor is due for an upswing next year.
  8. Kansas State — KSU pulled the rug out from their in-state rivals, ending Kansas’ regular season title streak. The lone inkling of anxiety for the Wildcats: what if that’s it? What if they break through, win the Big 12 regular season, and then get upset in the first round by UC-Irvine or sent home by Wisconsin? One year after reaching the Elite Eight, what if KSU has peaked?
  9. Iowa State — Sure, the Cyclones didn’t end their regular season like they wanted. But they rallied strong to win the Big 12 conference title, and now they’re right where they want to be — in position to play spoiler and ruin someone’s season. Sleep with one eye open, Houston.
  10. Texas Tech — Chris Beard is building a rock solid program at Tech. The Red Raiders lost Zhaire Smith and still earned a No. 3 seed. All is good in Lubbock, except for the weather, the food, the scenery, the aching isolation from society, the football...