This past week did little to provide a clearer picture of the Big 12 title race. Kansas couldn’t have started the week out any better with a commanding road win at Kansas State, but the lackluster performance against Oklahoma State on Saturday brought the Jayhawks back to the pack.
If we learned anything, it’s that Texas Tech (tied for first, 7-3 in conference) has stepped up as the top competitor, Oklahoma (6-4) still can’t win on the road, and K-State (5-5) has likely dropped out of serious contention after two bad losses, albeit against good teams.
KU’s Place in the Standings: Tied for First
I don’t think anyone saw Kansas sharing the lead after Monday’s 70-56 victory in Manhattan. But here we are 55% of the way through the Big 12 season and Kansas and Texas Tech are neck-in-neck. The thought all season has been that five losses could win the league outright. That’s looking like an accurate prediction. Kansas’ most difficult road games are behind it, the question now is if the Jayhawks can get things right at home—a phrase no one is used to hearing.
Biggest Challenger: Texas Tech
Texas nearly pulled the upset against Texas Tech in Lubbock during the week, but Keenan Evans’ buzzer beater put a stop to that. The Red Raiders have a winnable game at home Wednesday when Iowa State comes to town, but after that the schedule gets noticeably more difficult. Tech ends the weekend traveling to K-State before hosting Oklahoma three days later, then goes on the road for two games against Baylor and Oklahoma State. It’d be hard for any team in the Big 12 to run that gauntlet without at least one loss. And Texas Tech’s prize for that five-game stretch? Kansas comes looking for revenge. The next two weeks should give us a strong idea as to how competitive Texas Tech will be in the title chase the remainder of the season.
Game of the Week: West Virginia at Oklahoma
West Virginia made life miserable for Oklahoma in Morgantown, coming away with a 89-76 victory. Trae Young had 29 points, but on just 8/22 shooting and accompanied by eight turnovers. West Virginia has not been the same team of late, and this game is in Norman, so it’s unlikely we see the same 13-point margin as the first matchup. Still, this game carries with it some significant stakes with regards to both teams’ place in the standings. This first game of the week is going to leave one unlucky team two games back in the loss column before hoping to bounce back on Saturday as West Virginia hosts Oklahoma State and Oklahoma travels to Iowa State.
Streak Level Threat: Orange
I had to do it, given Saturday’s outcome against the orange Cowboys of Oklahoma State. But really, Kansas fans should still feel optimistic (I know that’s asking a lot given what we just watched) about the Jayhawks’ chance of at least sharing the title. While other contenders are facing tough stretches in the schedule, Kansas has a string of winnable games that can help regain a lead. Kansas should get back on track against TCU at home, and then will take its great road record to Waco and Ames against the teams tied for ninth place in the conference.