We’re three quarters into Big 12 conference play, and what we know is… that we know nothing. In fact, we may know less now than we did before conference play started. To try and make sense of this crazy season, we ranked the teams in the conference and predicted their NCAA tournament seed.
- Oklahoma State (10-16, 3-10) No Bid
The Pokes are in trouble. Since their four-point win against South Carolina in the Big 12-SEC showdown, Mike Boynton’s team has lost by an average of 19 points. Yes, 19. Their only win since playing the Gamecocks most recently came over TCU, squeezing by a struggling Horned Frogs team with a seven-point victory.
There doesn’t seem to be much that Oklahoma State does well at all, to be honest. There’s no rhythm, no flow, no trust in teammates. With the exception of a win over LSU early in the season, The Pokes really have no source of excitement. Their only sliver of hope for an NCAA bid would be to win out the rest of the season, meaning wins against K-State, Kansas, Texas Tech, and Baylor. I wouldn’t hold my breath.
- West Virginia (10-16, 2-11) No Bid
So much for sustained success under Bob Huggins.
After losing their leader and best player Jevon Carter to the NBA, West Virginia looks lost. Hopes were high at the beginning of the season when the Mountaineers were ranked #13 in the first preseason AP poll. That hope, however, is long gone.
The once-vaunted defense is allowing over 75 points a game, good for #252 in the nation. Only a year removed from Jevon Carter averaging 3 steals a game by himself, the entire team finds themselves at #191 in the nation with only 6 takeaways per night.
The Mountaineers performance goes especially downhill away from home, where they are winless as an away team. Aside from a miracle home win against Kansas, Huggins’ team has nothing to show.
- Oklahoma (16-10, 4-9) No Bid
Oklahoma is also recovering from the loss of a star. Phenom G Trae Young took his talents to the Atlanta Hawks after his freshman year in Norman. Young being one of the highest usage players in the country a year ago, growing pains were to be expected from the Sooners as they adjusted to life without him.
Lon Kruger’s team has been excellent defensively. While they don’t get a ton of blocks or steals, the Sooners consistently push opponents into bad shots at the end of the shot clock, yielding one of the better defensive field goal percentages in the nation. They hold their opponents to an average field goal percentage below forty. However, that’s only half of the equation.
The offense is completely stagnant in Norman, where OU ranks near the #200 mark in field goal percentage. Maybe there’s just lids on the rim in Norman. Whatever it is, it needs to be fixed soon, or they’re going to be shooting their way right into the NIT.
- TCU (17-9, 5-8) #10 Seed
TCU has slowed down after starting the season hot. Riding an 8-game win streak into conference play, the Horned Frogs were rudely awakened with losses to Kansas and Oklahoma early. While they have been able to stay afloat in the Big 12 so far, their blowout losses against Baylor and Texas Tech show just how vulnerable this team can be.
However, don’t count the Horned Frogs out quite yet. They have two losses against Kansas, but neither game was decided by over double digits. TCU also pulled out victories over Baylor and Iowa State earlier in the season. Think of the Frogs as having a very high ceiling in how well they can potentially play, but also an extremely low floor. It’s not the worst situation entering the postseason, but then again, it’s far from the best.
- Texas (15-11, 7-6) #10 Seed
Oh, Texas. The team everyone loves to hate.
Really, it’s impossible to separate our feelings about UT football from our feelings about UT basketball. In fact, they’ve even had a few similarities in their seasons.
Texas Football started off slow with a loss to Maryland before slowly gaining momentum through the season, highlighted by a top end win over the eventual Big 12 champion Oklahoma. Texas Basketball, on the other hand, began conference play with a blowout win over Kansas State, who currently sit in first place in the Big 12, but now are struggling to stay in the conference picture.
Both programs are also both wildly inconsistent from game to game. Just like Tom Herman’s team, you never know what you’re going to get with Shaka Smart’s Longhorns from week to week. They may beat the best team in the conference. The next game, they lose to the worst. There really is no telling.
Regardless, Smart’s team is dangerous to overlook as a potential first round upset in the tournament.
- Iowa State (19-7, 8-5) #6 Seed
In recent years, Iowa State has gone from being “sneaky good” to consistently excellent year in and year out. This year is no different.
Iowa State’s offense averages 16 assists a game, the 20th best mark in the nation. Their scoring margin of +11.6 ranks in at #21. The Cyclones seem legit, with key wins over Kansas, K-State, and Texas Tech.
Senior G Marial Shayok’s 19 points per game have proven to be one of the more pleasant surprises of the season for coach Steve Prohm. Shayok, who averaged a hair over twenty minutes a game last year, has doubled his totals across the board while playing with top notch efficiency.
In a tough Big 12, even the fifth best team is nothing to laugh at.
- Baylor (17-9, 8-5) #7 Seed
I thought this was supposed to be a rebuilding year?
No, in fact the Bears are far from rebuilding. Until a recent skid, they were legitimate contenders for the Big 12 title. With close losses against Kansas and K-State, as well as solid victories up and down the board, Scott Drew’s team looks once again poised for the NCAA Tournament.
After it was announced that star forward Tristan Clark would be sidelined for the remainder of the season with a knew injury, the Bears were presumed to be out of the tournament discussion. Instead, they’ve only catapulted themselves upward. With their three-point shooting and rebounding prowess, Baylor is a team to be feared come March.
- Kansas State (20-6, 10-3) #5 Seed
Yes, they hold the best record in the Big 12 right now… but you didn’t think it’d be that easy, did you?
Give credit where credit is due. Kansas State has a legitimate shot at taking the Big 12 title and have shown it night in and night out of conference play. Their defense looks almost impenetrable right now, allowing only 59 points a game, which ranks in at 4th in the country.
But the Wildcats are far from perfect, especially on the other end of the floor where they average a measly 65 points per game. Despite bolstering one of the best defenses in the entire nation, their scoring margin sits at only +6.0.
While they hold key wins over Big 12 competition, they dropped easy games against Tulsa and Texas A&M earlier in the season, not to mention Texas’ 20-point trouncing at the beginning of Big 12 play.
The Wildcats are good, but the red flags are real. Let’s not coronate them just yet.
- Kansas (20-6, 9-4) #2 Seed
Take a picture in Big 12 basketball fans – we might not see this again for a long time.
Before the season, probably any other team would have been elated to hear that they would be 20-6 with wins over top teams in one of the hardest basketball conferences in the NCAA. You could have told them that they would be tied for second in the conference with a chance to take the first-place spot, and they would be jumping for joy.
Kansas, however, is not any other team.
The Jayhawks risk losing their Big 12 conference champion crown to not one, but two teams this year, which would break their 14-year streak. Yes, you read that correctly—14 years.
For reference, there are currently high school freshman that have never known a world without Kansas as the best team in the Big 12.
But that streak may soon be gone. Confusing losses like their one-point defeat against West Virginia only magnify the fact that this Kansas team looks different than years past.
The Jayhawks are still really, really good. But they may not be the best anymore.
- Texas Tech (21-5, 9-4) #2 Seed
Here’s a complete list of the teams outside of the Big 12 that the Red Raiders have lost too:
You know how we were raving about Kansas State’s defense a bit ago? Well, Texas Tech’s is somehow better, holding teams to only 57 points a game. The only team that holds their opponents to less points is Tony Bennett’s Virginia Cavaliers, currently projected to be a #1 seed.
The Red Raiders unquestioned leader is Jarrett Culver, who figures to be a top pick in the NBA draft this year should he forgo his junior and senior years. Culver’s huge frame poses matchup nightmares for Big 12 opponents on both ends of the court.
If there was ever a year for someone to beat out Kansas, it would be this year. And if there were ever any team, it would be Texas Tech.