A Trip Around the Big 12 - Week 5

Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Kansas is still on top, but Texas closes the gap between first and second.

The Big 12 experienced several upsets on Saturday, not the least of which occurred to the leader in the standings.  Baylor over Oklahoma State in Stillwater was notable.  West Virginia got a big win to split the season series with Kansas State as well.

There is still one clear-cut favorite.  That favorite, of course, is Kansas.  Around these parts, most of us are confident (and rightly so) that KU will take this league for the 10th straight year, most likely with sole possession of first place. 

However (you knew there was going to be a "however" there, right?), it’s not out of the question that someone else could share the title with Kansas.  There’s even a small possibility that Kansas could lose the title outright.  After all, you never know what could happen. 

It looks like we’re down to two potential contenders for Kansas to watch out for in Oklahoma and Texas.  K-State, West Virginia, Iowa State, and Oklahoma State are all caught in a four-loss logjam; all will probably drop more games in the second half of the conference schedule.  As of right now, unless something really crazy happens, they’re out of it.  Texas Tech, Baylor, and TCU, while not yet technically eliminated from consideration, are not a threat. 

Contenders:

7-1, 16-5               (8) Kansas

6-2, 17-4               (15) Texas

6-3, 17-5               (21) Oklahoma

Pretenders:

5-4, 15-7               Kansas State

5-4, 13-9               West Virginia

4-4, 16-4               (16) Iowa State

4-4, 16-5               (19) Oklahoma State

What’s left:

3-6, 11-11            Texas Tech

2-6, 14-7               Baylor

0-8, 9-11               Texas Christian

(See, I can put teams in tiers too.)  I still think 14 wins will claim the conference outright and that the teams below Kansas (including Texas!) should continue to give each other losses.  I also still believe that anything above 14 wins is gravy.  And I still think, "Mmm, gravy…"

Anyway, that means that Kansas still "probably" has three losses to play with, which would get them to 14-4.  After Saturday, however, the gap between 1 and 2 – at least for the moment – has closed.  Kansas still has one game each against OU and UT, both in Lawrence.  Take those two games, and I think we can go ahead and celebrate ten straight.

In order for Texas to make a run at it, they’ll have to go through their last ten games with a better record than Kansas against a tougher schedule than what KU has remaining.  It’s a tall order.  It’s not impossible.  It’s not likely.  But it could happen.  Anything could happen.

Let’s dive in to the happenings on the court this past week.

(8) Kansas, 16-5, 7-1

Last week: win vs (16) Iowa State 92-81, loss @ (15) Texas 81-69

This week: @ Baylor 2/4, vs West Virginia 2/8

Remaining games: @ KSU, vs TCU, @ TTU, vs UT, vs OU, @ OSU, vs TTU, @ WVU

After holding off Iowa State and keeping them at arm’s length for most of the game, Kansas was smashed by a streaking Texas squad.  The Jayhawks need to get over the loss quickly, and to tweak a Wichita State slogan, "get angry" and take it to Baylor on Tuesday evening.  A loss to the Bears and the Jayhawks will suddenly find themselves in a dogfight for ten in row.  Hey, no one said winning championships was easy.

(15) Texas, 17-4, 6-2

Last week: win vs (8) Kansas 81-69

This week: @ TCU 2/4, @ Kansas State 2/8

Remaining games: vs OSU, vs WVU, @ ISU, @ KU, vs BU, @ OU, vs TCU, @ TTU

The Longhorns will try and take their show on the road this week and see if they can stay on KU’s heels.  Road wins have been tough to come by for any team not nicknamed "Jayhawks."  Unless, of course, those teams are playing on the road in Fort Worth.  But, I digress.  Texas will try to keep the show rolling through the afore mentioned city of Fort Worth before a Saturday showdown in Manhattan, KS, against what will be a rested Kansas State squad.

(21) Oklahoma, 17-5, 6-3

Last week: win vs (19) Oklahoma State 88-76, loss @ (16) Iowa State 81-75

This week: @ West Virginia 2/5, vs Baylor 2/8

Remaining games: vs TTU, @ OSU, vs KSU, @ KU, vs UT, vs WVU, @ TCU

The Sooners have very little margin for error if they harbor any Big 12 title dreams.  The remaining schedule isn’t terribly daunting outside of back-to-back dates which include a road trip to Lawrence and a visit from Texas in the future.  Split those and they may have a shot.

Kansas State, 15-7, 5-4

Last week: win vs Texas Tech 66-58, loss @ West Virginia 81-71

This week: vs (15) Texas 2/8

Remaining games: vs KU, @ BU, vs TCU, @ OU, @ TTU, vs ISU, @ OSU, vs BU

The Wildcats have the week off before Texas comes into town next Saturday.  If they can shake off the West Virginia loss, they can really help out their "buddies" over in Lawrence by holding serve at home.  That may irk some K-State fans, but they can’t really root for their team to lose.  Well… they shouldn’t, anyway.  That might be a good question to ask a K-State fan – would you root for your team to lose if it meant it would end KU’s conference title streak?  Of course, a Texas win over KSU on Saturday wouldn’t do that, but it’s an interesting hypothetical.

West Virginia, 13-9, 5-4

Last week: win @ Baylor 66-64, win vs Kansas State 81-71

This week: vs (21) Oklahoma 2/5, @ (8) Kansas 2/8

Remaining games: vs ISU, @ UT, vs BU, @ ISU, vs TCU, @ OU, vs KU

West Virginia has been showing some chutzpah this conference season.  They pushed Oklahoma State to the brink twice, knocked off Baylor in Waco (in front of about 300 ‘screaming’ fans), and avenged a loss to K-State.  Even in non-con, they hung with Wisconsin, Gonzaga, and Missouruh.  The Mountaineers should not be taken lightly, especially in Morgantown.  After hosting OU, the ‘Eers will see if they can hang with Kansas in Lawrence.

(16) Iowa State, 16-4, 4-4

Last week: loss @ (8) Kansas 92-81, win vs (21) Oklahoma 81-75

This week: @ (19) Oklahoma State 2/3, vs Texas Christian (2/8)

Remaining games: @ WVU, vs TTU, vs UT, @ TCU, vs WVU, @ KSU, @ BU, vs OSU

The Cyclones performed as most of us expected this past week, losing in Allen Fieldhouse and defeating OU in Hilton Coliseum.  The ‘Clones get Big Monday tonight with a game in Stillwater.  The schedule lightens up after Oklahoma State, and the Cyclones could start racking up some wins on the back end of the conference slate.

(19) Oklahoma State, 16-5, 4-4

Last week: loss @ (21) Oklahoma 88-76, loss vs Baylor 76-70

This week: vs (16) Iowa State 2/3, @ Texas Tech 2/8

Remaining games: @ UT, vs OU, @ BU, vs TTU, @ TCU, vs KU, vs KSU, @ ISU

As just mentioned, the Cowboys host Big Monday and Iowa State tonight.  Oklahoma State suffered a surprising loss to Baylor on Saturday, and they have very little time to regroup and prepare to host the Cyclones.  The crowd against Baylor was not impressive – is Oklahoma State a football school now or something?  Marcus Smart continues to lead the league in flops.  For OSU’s sake, let’s hope the crowd tonight is a little more impressive, in both numbers and volume.

Texas Tech, 11-11, 3-6

Last week: loss @ Kansas State 66-58, win vs TCU 60-54

This week: vs (19) Oklahoma State 2/8

Remaining games: @ OU, @ ISU, vs KU, @ OSU, vs KSU, @ BU, @ KU, vs UT

Still playing to the level of their competition, the Red Raiders surprised no one this week with their results.  However, they were in the K-State game until the last couple of minutes, and didn’t pull away from TCU until just a few minutes remained in that game.  Fun fact: with the defeat of TCU, Texas Tech has equaled their conference win total from last season.

Baylor, 14-7, 2-6

Last week: loss vs West Virginia 66-64, win @ (19) Oklahoma State 76-70

This week: vs (8) Kansas 2/4, @ (21) Oklahoma 2/8

Remaining games: @ TCU, vs KSU, vs OSU, @ WVU, @ UT, vs TTU, vs ISU, @ KSU

Still looking up at most of the rest of the Big 12 is our surprise team of the year, Baylor.  In this case, at least for the Bears, that’s not a good surprise.  We all know the Bears have talent on their squad.  Maybe they’re starting to play better – Baylor picked up one of the more surprising results this year by knocking off Oklahoma State in Stillwater.  Baylor played Kansas pretty well in Allen Fieldhouse and KU’s struggles against a zone defense have been well documented.

Texas Christian, 9-11, 0-8

Last week: loss @ Texas Tech 60-54

This week: vs Texas 2/4, @ Iowa State 2/8

Remaining games: vs BU, @ KU, @ KSU, vs ISU, vs OSU, @ WVU, @ UT, vs OU

The Horned Frogs are in trouble; if they want to get a conference win this year, it’s going to be… unexpected.  I for one predicted that TCU would go winless in conference play.  (Yes, it’s true, and I can prove it.)  All I can really say at this point is, as all Kansas fans know – anything can happen.  See 2/6/13.

Questions to consider:

Why isn’t Brady Heslip a starter?

What percentage chance do you give Texas to claim at least a share of first place?

Is 14 wins the "magic number"?

I’ll ask again – will TCU win a conference game this year?  If so, when?

How worried should KU fans be about the rematch with Baylor?

The week off for Texas may have benefitted them more than we here at RCT might care to admit.  This week, Kansas State has a week off before facing the Longhorns.  Will the Wildcats get any edge from this scheduling quirk?

What do you realistically expect to happen when Kansas visits Waco?  Keep in mind that most of us whiffed on our Austin prediction.

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