Last night six Big 12 teams played as part of the Wednesday night slate. West Virginia traveled to Baylor, Iowa State traveled to Austin to face Texas in Myck Kabongo's return to the court and Oklahoma State went to Lubbock to face Texas Tech.
At this point in the season nearly every game counts in the grand scheme of things. Whether it's a league title, playing for tournament prospects or just playing the role of spoiler, the intensity and the level of play seems to take a step up beginning in Mid February and continue to elevate through the tournament. In one way or another, every game last night told us a little something about what everyone is talking about right now in Stillwater, Lawrence and Manhattan and that is the Big 12 title chase.
Oklahoma State continued to look like a team approaching their peak. The Cowboys dismantled Texas Tech on the road and while the Red Raiders aren't exactly the most difficult opponent in the world, the Cowboys took care of business the way that a league champion would. Oklahoma State was led by Marquel Brown who dropped 7 of 8 from beyond the arc on his way to 25 points. The Cowboys as a team shot 56% from the floor and an impressive 60% from three. It's going to be hard to beat Oklahoma State if they are stringing together games like that.
In Austin the Longhorns welcomed back Myck Kabongo and despite Kabongo fouling out, Texas was able to beat the Iowa State Cyclones in double overtime. The Cyclones are no slouch, but the loss puts them at five losses and that means they are two games back of the three first place teams. It's hard to see them crawling their way back into the picture, but they will still provide a stiff test for both Kansas and Oklahoma State who still have to travel to Ames this season.
As for Texas, the offense looked significantly improved from where it had been. Is that due to the return of Kabongo? Can Texas now play the role of spoiler? The Wildcats still have a game on the road against the Longhorns and Texas heads to Lawrence this weekend for a big game complete with ESPN's College Gameday in tow.
Last but not least there is Baylor. The Bears started a little bit slow but with the win over West Virginia they are still just one game back of the three way tie atop the league standings. The Bears have won back to back games since losing three in a row and they seem to be playing better basketball offensively. They will head to Manhattan this weekend and they still host Kansas and Kansas State later this season. After Saturday Baylor could either find themselves back in the conversation or looking at playing the spoiler similar to Iowa State down the stretch. That's not to say that five games couldn't put a team in contention for the league title, but odds of a team like Baylor or Iowa State running the table at that point would appear slim.
In short, Oklahoma State continues to look the part and has the pieces in place to make things happen. Texas could be a potential stumbling block going forward, Iowa State would have liked to pull off the win but they might now be relegated to spoiler status which is something they are very good at when at home. Baylor is a sleeper, but any further consideration depends on Saturday's performance in Manhattan. Ease of schedule for the three first place teams still works out to Oklahoma State, Kansas State and then Kansas. The gap between Kansas State and Kansas is slim, but the Wildcats probably have a slight edge.