Ah - we’ve made it. It’s gone by too fast. The final week of the Big 12 season awaits us.
The Big 12 Tournament starts March 8, and Big 12 teams only have one, or two, games left before postseason prep begins.
In this week’s rankings, our final of the regular season, the Kansas Jayhawks have overcome this blog’s “Curse of the #1”. Before this week, not a single team had been ranked #1 in back-to-back weeks; Kansas and its 2-0 record this week, break that curse.
The Jayhawks are back to being THE Jayhawks. Kansas always seems to be this good by the time March rolls around.
Kansas has triumphed in six consecutive games, and now owns a one-game advantage in the race for the Big 12 regular season championship. It’s pretty much indisputable at this point that the Jayhawks are the conference’s most dominant team.
Nonetheless, and unfortunately for Jayhawk fans, this doesn’t imply Kansas is invincible, or can’t be defeated in the Big 12 Tournament. It’s going to be an absolute grind the whole way through.
This isn’t the same conference the Jayhawks won last year. It’s much deeper.
Kansas gets Texas Tech in Allen Fieldhouse, and Texas in Austin, to finish its season.
2. Kansas State
In my opinion, and I’ve been consistent with it season-long, it is crucial to acknowledge the significance of head-to-head records, particularly during this stage of the season when differences between teams’ ability may be miniscule.
It’s the reason Kansas State has risen two spots in this week’s rankings, jumping both Texas and Baylor. With a 3-1 record against these two teams, a recent 75-65 home win against Baylor, and a current three-game winning streak, the Wildcats have seemingly overcome the slump it experienced in the latter part of January, and early February.
Last Tuesday, the Bears suffered a 10-point road loss to Kansas State, but then managed to handle Texas quite convincingly on Saturday, winning 81-72 in Waco. The Bears also dusted off Oklahoma State in Stillwater on Monday 74-68.
Saturday and Monday’s wins were strange occurrences, though welcome ones at that, especially since one of Baylor’s three key guards, Keyonte George, was sidelined for both games due to injury.
He’s been one of the Big 12’s best players this season. His status will be worth keeping an eye on.
Despite this, Baylor’s guards have continued performing impressively; even role-guards like Dale Bonner have contributed to the team’s scoring sprees. And - if players like Flo Thamba can continue to have games like Saturday’s and Monday’s (combined for 20 points, 20 rebounds), this team could be even more formidable once George returns.
Look - the Longhorns’ triumph over Iowa State was satisfactory enough, but the team’s overall lack of competitiveness against Baylor, especially with a share of the Big 12 lead at stake, seems almost unforgivable at this juncture of the season. Especially if Texas wants to be “ranked” above Baylor and Kansas State.
Dylan Disu has been Texas’ best player recently. Disu’s a great player, but he can’t be a #1 on a championship team, conference or national, and his play alone will not be sufficient for Texas to get deep into the NCAA Tournament.
A big game in Schollmaier awaits the Longhorns. Senior night at TCU. It will be loud.
Will the Frogs ever be at full strength this season? We haven’t seen it yet. I’m really unconfident we’ll ever get there. It’s why, at-the-moment, the Frogs are at the top of “Tier 2” in the Big 12.
From here on out in the rankings, it appears the remainder of the conference is quite evenly matched; it’s truly difficult to differentiate between which teams belong where in the rankings.
But - despite losing to Kansas at home 63-58, the Frogs managed to triumph over Texas Tech in Lubbock, even with a sold-out, hostile crowd in attendance.
The team performed exceptionally offensively on Saturday, and it all stemmed from Mike Miles Jr.. As it always does. If the Frogs can continue to play how it played Saturday, there’s nothing stopping this team from climbing up to a four-seed in this year’s NCAA Tournament.
And - there’s nothing stopping Eddie Lampkin from patting a few more opponents’ heads on the Frogs’ run to the Final Four.
TCU’s final home game of the season, against Texas, is Wednesday night.
6. Texas Tech
Yes. Texas Tech is currently the sixth best team in the conference. I completely understand your concern about the Red Raiders’ record, but I’m urging you to take into account Tech’s overall performance.
In its last five games, Texas Tech has secured victories in four (TCU being its only loss), and have won six in its last nine games. Jaylon Tyson has been exceptional, as have De’Vion Harmon and Fardaws Aimaq.
Yes, it’s uncertain as to whether the Red Raiders will make the NCAA Tournament (I believe they should - for what it’s worth), and the NIT is undoubtedly a possibility.
If the Red Raiders do make some noise in the Big 12 Tournament though, and do get an at-large invitation to the NCAA Tournament, Tech has serious potential as a sleeper team.
7. West Virginia
West Virginia went 2-1 this “week”, including a road win over Iowa State, so it’s safe to rank the Mountaineers a bit higher than the team was last week.
West Virginia’s 85-67 victory over Oklahoma State demonstrated a clear dominance over the Cowboys, even if the game was played in Morgantown.
The Mountaineers then had to go to Lawrence, where Bob Huggins must win before he retires, right? WVU lost 76-74 in a game that presented a significant opportunity for the Mountaineers to cement its position into the NCAA field. Did they play well enough, and lose close enough to score points with the committee anyway?
After beating Iowa State on Monday, West Virginia has a prime chance against #11 Kansas State on Saturday. It may be worth watching that one.
8. Iowa State
The Cyclones’ performance at the moment is quite confusing. Although I did anticipate the road loss to Texas, losing by 18, 72-54, was a bit unexpected. Then, the home loss against Oklahoma, 61-50, last Saturday was also concerning. It gets worse when you mention the 72-69 loss to West Virginia, again in Ames. Something must improve.
But - it’s worth noting the Cyclones faced a similar situation last season and still managed to make it to the Sweet 16. It can happen again, but I have a feeling the Cyclones will be on the radar for a lot of teams.
I can’t find it again - but I remember seeing an NIT edition of “Bracketology” that predicted Oklahoma to qualify for the field as an at-large team, even with its losing record. However, I’m not sure the NIT committee would approve.
Yet, the Sooners have found a way to captivate my attention with some sporadically impressive performance. It’s 61-50 win over Iowa State in Ames was necessary, but it remains to be seen if it can maintain its momentum and stay competitive in tough games this week against Kansas State and TCU.
10. Oklahoma State
The Cowboys are in an unfortunate situation and it’s quite evident. Oklahoma State has lost four consecutive, only highlighting its decline after performing exceptionally well three weeks ago.
Unfortunately, the injury to Avery Anderson III only further exposed the team’s vulnerability, and its margin for error is creeping incredibly low, especially without its best player.
Despite these setbacks, the Cowboys may still have a shot at qualifying for the NCAA Tournament through the route of the First Four, but after losing to Baylor in Stillwater on Monday, OSU will need to win in Lubbock on Saturday. Though Texas Tech is just as motivated as the Cowboys are.
This Week’s Rankings
- Kansas State
- Texas Tech
- West Virginia
- Iowa State
- Oklahoma State