By KEVIN LONNQUIST
Big 12 Insider
It’s not something that many loyalists want to hear. But the Big 12’s reputation took a serious blow this week when Kansas lost at TCU.
Without question, it was arguably the single greatest event in TCU basketball history. However, a result like that really shouldn’t happen if the conference wants to make the claim that it is one of the best in the country. For a league that’s probably going to have likely four NCAA tournament teams, making a case to have a No. 1 seed is gone and the hope that a team getting through the first weekend is questionable. Kansas is probably going to fall from the top 10 when the rankings are released Monday.
In its defense, this is a young conference. Several freshmen are the stars including Kansas’ Ben McLemore, Baylor’s Isaiah Austin and Oklahoma State’s Marcus Smart and Philip Forte’ just to name a few.
So the league is at the halfway point. The second half begins Saturday. And here’s what we know:
- Kansas should still be considered the team to beat but given how much it has struggled offensively, the Jayhawks have become vulnerable. The presumed march to a ninth consecutive conference championship is no longer presumed.
- Bruce Weber should be a candidate for coach of the year at Kansas State because few were really sure how this move to Manhattan was going to work out.
- Baylor’s guard play after point man Pierre Jackson is really up in the air because no is really helping and teams are shutting down 3-point specialist Brady Heslip.
- Texas has completely collapsed.
- Oklahoma is better but still may be a year away from being an NCAA tournament.
- Iowa State is a mystery. The Cyclones have looked good at time but then played some really poor basketball.
- Oklahoma State is having a great turnaround season but has to make sure the youth can keep its nerves as the games become more important.
It’s possible that the conference champion could finish with four losses. The Big 10 can get away with something that because it is the best league in college basketball based on the rankings and caliber of play. The Big 12 can’t. This conference really needs its best teams to be its best teams.
BIG 12 WEEKEND
A look at Saturday’s games. There are several good ones that could shape the second half of the conference season.
No. 22 Oklahoma State (16-5, 6-3) at Texas (10-12, 2-7)
12:30 p.m. (Big 12 Network)
The Skinny: The Cowboys are the conference’s hottest team right now. Junior Markel Brown, who scored a career high 28 in the win at Kansas, had the game-winning layup in the 69-67 overtime win over Baylor.
West Virginia (11-11, 4-5) at TCU (10-12, 1-8)
3:00 p.m. (Big 12 Network)
The skinny: How TCU handles the monumental upset against Kansas will be the story. Garland Green has turned into a solid point producer. West Virginia is starting to play a little better with consecutive wins over Texas Tech and Texas.
No. 5 Kansas (19-3, 7-2) at Oklahoma (14-7, 5-4)
3:00 p.m. (ESPN)
The skinny:The Jayhawks can go either two ways from the upset loss at TCU: They can rise above and use it as a wake-up call or they can wilt and just get through the rest of the season. Since climbing to 5-2, the Sooners have dropped two straight and looked bad at Iowa State.
Texas Tech (9-11, 2-7) at Baylor (14-8, 5-4)
3:00 p.m. (Big 12 Network)
The skinny: This is really an important game for the Bears who have lost three consecutive games. That’s not what Scott Drew needed because those were NCAA tournament damaging losses to Oklahoma, Iowa State and Oklahoma State.
Iowa State (16-6, 6-3) at No. 13 Kansas State (18-4, 7-2)
5:00 p.m. (ESPN2)
The skinny: Arguably the matchup of the day. Iowa State won the first meeting in Ames, 73-67. So the Wildcats have a measure of payback. Sweeping the season series would be a great addition for the Cyclones. Kansas State has the best scoring defense in the conference at 57.8.
NEWS & NOTES
- One would think Kansas coach Bill Self used the postgame news conference after the TCU loss as a message to send his team. But it got plenty of play across the country. He called this team one of the worst in Kansas history and cited the game’s inventor Dr. James A. Naismith. Well, Self can do that because he’s: 1) Won a national title. 2) Played for a second. 3)Won eight consecutive Big 12 championships 4) Has coached his team to wins at Ohio State and Temple this season. But it made for amusing TV.
- Kansas center Jeff Withey collected three more blocks Wednesday to add to his career total. At 257, he needs two more to surpass Greg Ostertag (258) as the all-time shot blocker in KU history. He also needs eight more to pass Texas’ Chris Mihm (264) as the conference’s all-time leading rejection artist.
During the Big 12 conference basketball season, Rattle and Hum Sports unveils its power rankings. We also provide our postseason tournament projections.
1. Kansas – Bill Self says this is one of the worst teams in Kansas history
2. Kansas State – Tied for first place
3. Oklahoma State – Incredible week with a win at KU; beating Baylor in OT
4. Iowa State – Road trips to KSU and Texas loom
5. Oklahoma – So much for momentum with consecutive losses
6. Baylor – After Pierre Jackson, which guard is going to step up?
7. West Virginia – Back to .500 overall at 11-11
8. Texas – Surpassed 65 points in only three of 10 conference games
9. Texas Tech – Play Baylor and Oklahoma State next
10. TCU – Stunner over Kansas is the first win over a Top 5 team ever
Projected NCAA tournament teams: Kansas, Oklahoma State, Kansas State, Iowa State
Projected NIT tournament teams: Oklahoma, Baylor