Whoever the powers that be that govern order within the Big 12, they decided to take a vacation on Saturday.
As a result, the nation’s most competitive conference went to purge.
Baylor, Iowa State and Oklahoma State – all bottom-half teams in the Big 12 — beat ranked teams in the top half.
Baylor throttled No. 10 Kansas in Waco, Iowa State sat down No. 17 Oklahoma and Oklahoma State claimed its second big road victory on Saturday in a week with a triumph at No. 19 West Virginia.
First things first, here’s a snapshot of the conference standings following Saturday’s action:
Can 13 become 14?
Any conversation about the state of the Big 12 has to start with the 13-time defending champion Jayhawks.
As Gary Parrish of CBS Sports.com points out, the loss to Baylor is the earliest ever in the Bill Self Era that Kansas has suffered its fourth Big 12 defeat.
The last time Bill Self took a fourth Big 12 loss this early in a season was … never. So, yeah, the Kansas Jayhawks will still probably win at least a share of their 14th straight Big 12 title. But the task appears more challenging than ever.
— Gary Parrish (@GaryParrishCBS) February 11, 2018
Parrish highlighted how rare some of Kansas’ struggles have been this year:
So this is undeniably becoming a year-of-firsts for Self, who was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame in September. He’d never previously lost multiple games in the same season by double-digits at Allen Fieldhouse. But he’s already done it this season. He’d never previously lost more than two games in a season at Allen Fieldhouse. But he’s already done it this season. And he’d never previously taken a fourth Big 12 loss before Feb. 23. But he’s already done it this season.
Baylor’s size — and the Bears’ ability to spread the floor with quality perimeter shooting — exposed Kansas’ biggest weaknesses.
Kansas loses for the third time in the past six games — against Oklahoma State, Baylor and Oklahoma. Jayhawks still the favorite to win the Big 12 title, but lack of depth and size remains a major concern.
— Jeff Goodman (@GoodmanESPN) February 10, 2018
And yet…the Big 12 is still Kansas’ to lose.
The Jayhawks get a chance to rebound at Iowa State — more on how dangerous that could be later — before a high-profile showdown next Saturday with West Virginia at Allen Fieldhouse.
Kansas has 6 games left in Big 12 play, as does the rest of the conference. Of that 6, 3 are at home. Iowa State, Oklahoma State and Texas Tech are on the road.
The Jayhawks will likely be favorites in 5 of those games, Texas Tech being the exception. If Kansas can win those games, that will probably be enough to win the conference.
Can Texas Tech win the conference?
Emerging from the ashes of a wild Saturday, Texas Tech is now alone in first place in the Big 12 following its 66-47 win at Kansas State.
The Red Raiders smothered the Wildcats on their home floor, limiting K-State to 29% shooting from the field.
The old adage of “defense wins championships” could certainly ring true for Texas Tech. The Red Raiders have held Big 12 teams under 50 points 4 times this year.
Texas Tech went into Saturday’s contest against the Wildcats knowing a win would leave itself alone atop the league standings, and it took advantage of that opportunity.
That certainly plays into the narrative that the Red Raiders could close the deal.
So you want to go to Waco or Ames…
Baylor and Iowa State entered the week sitting in the final 2 spots of the conference standings at 3-7 in Big 12 play. The Bears beat Oklahoma State and Kansas this week, while Iowa State lost to Texas Tech before beating WVU.
Here’s a list of victims that have lost a game in Big 12 play in either Waco or Ames:
- Iowa State
- Oklahoma State
- Texas Tech
- West Virginia
Kansas State is the only team in the Big 12 to go to both Waco and Ames and win. TCU won at Baylor on Jan. 2 and still has a date at Iowa State on Feb. 21.
Road wins come at an extremely high premium in conference play. On paper, trips to Baylor or Iowa State seem like low-cost opportunities for the rest of the conference to notch a road victory.
But nobody is safe anywhere in the Big 12.
The Jekyll and Hyde case of Trae Young, West Virginia
When Trae Young is at his best, the Sooners are world-beaters. But when he turns into a volume shooter that’s inefficient, Oklahoma is at its most vulnerable.
As Jason Patt points out, Young’s struggles have popped up routinely on the road in Big 12 play.
Trae Young is great, but interesting that he hasn't shot 40% even once in a Big 12 road game yet.
— Jason Patt (@Bulls_Jay) February 10, 2018
Oklahoma is 1-5 on the road in Big 12 play — the Sooners also lost on the road to Alabama in the Big 12/SEC Challenge, a game Young shot just 35% from the field.
As for West Virginia, the Mountaineers have both of the largest margin of victories in Big 12 play — A 38-point win against K-State and a 35-point win over Texas. Yet, WVU hasn’t had a 2-0 week since the first week of January.
West Virginia struggles offensively, but its monicker of Press Virginia is well-earned.
Both Oklahoma and WVU are still ironing out their identities late into the year, and that could be either good or bad for either program.
7 teams are projected to make the NCAA Tournament
Going into Saturday, 7 teams from the Big 12 — Kansas, Kansas State, Oklahoma, TCU, Texas, Texas Tech and West Virginia — are projected to make the NCAA Tournament by Bracket Matrix.
The Jayhawks, Mountaineers, Sooners and Red Raiders are considered to be top-4 seeds.
Oklahoma State, which had hovered around the Others Receiving Votes category for a while but wasn’t listed on Saturday, will likely rejoin the bubble conversation after its win over West Virginia.
Can you honestly say that in a world where Baylor or Iowa State somehow make the NCAA Tournament, that neither would be capable of getting past the first weekend?
Also, can you honestly say teams like K-State, Texas and TCU are locks?
Two losses this week had nothing to do with “the strength of the Big 12.” Texas simply got outworked, outclassed by K-State, TCU. That should trigger major alarms.
— Brian Davis (@BDavisAAS) February 10, 2018
Expect March Madness to be heavily tinged with Big 12 chaos.
So what now?
Just 3 teams — Texas Tech, Kansas and West Virginia — have winning records in conference play.
Kansas State and Oklahoma are both at .500 with a 6-6 mark, while the rest of the conference is 5-7 or worse.
Saturday showed how chaotic the conference can be. 3 of the league’s 4 ranked teams suffered defeats.
The Big 12 is looking more and more like the movie Inception — the longer it goes, the more questions we have.
So why not have fun with the nation’s most competitive, hardest to predict conference?
The post Taking stock of the Big 12 after its wildest day of the year appeared first on Diehards.
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