The Big 12 was filled with impressive stat lines last week.
Perry Ellis torched TCU for a career-high 32 points. Kenny Chery lit up Kansas State for 20 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds. And all five of the Texas Longhorns’ starters scored 11 or more points in a blowout of West Virginia.
Which one was best? It’s difficult to choose .
You can discount Ellis slightly, because everyone seems to play well against TCU. Heck, Iowa State’s Melvin Ejim had 48 points against the Horned Frogs. But Ellis was named co-Big 12 player of the week along with Baylor’s Isaiah Austin. Chery recorded the 14th triple-double in Big 12 history, and his stats were instrumental in Baylor’s victory over K-State. But they were also inflated by two overtimes. So maybe the honor goes to Texas.
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It’s not often all five starters get that involved. That showed during an 88-71 victory that left West Virginia coach Bob Huggins demoralized.
“We couldn’t guard. Couldn’t, didn’t, wouldn’t,” Huggins said. “You can’t let people shoot that well, especially when you’re not making shots.”
Texas guard Demarcus Holland described things this way: “It’s one of the best games we’ve had moving the ball.”
That is a telling quote, considering the Longhorns are one of the most unselfish teams in the conference.
“We’re all playing for each other,” Texas center Cameron Ridley said. “We’re playing for a Big 12 championship. Everybody on the team has the same goal, which is to win games, not anything selfish.”
The race for second
The most compelling race in the Big 12 might not be for first.
Yes, Texas is only one game back of Kansas in the loss column, but its closing schedule is difficult. With games at Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas Tech and Iowa State, the Longhorns are more likely to lose ground than make it up. If they falter down the stretch, that will open the door for Oklahoma, K-State and Iowa State, which all have five losses.
The Cyclones and the Sooners both have soft remaining schedules, and the Wildcats don’t lose at home. A 12-6 record might be good enough for second. All four teams can get there.
Quote of the week
“It’s nice being in Lawrence. Hopefully, I’ll be able to come back next year if I don’t kill myself in the meantime.” — TCU basketball coach Trent Johnson, following a 30-point loss at Kansas.
Excluding Monday’s game
1. Kansas (19-6, 10-2): If Ellis continues to play this well — he had 32 points against TCU and 19 points against K-State — when Joel Embiid returns to full strength, the Jayhawks will have Final Four potential.
2. Texas (20-5, 9-3): The Longhorns appeared out of sync against TCU and K-State. Then they looked dominant against Oklahoma State and West Virginia. They are still on the rise, but a difficult closing schedule could prevent them from challenging for a league title.
3. Oklahoma (19-7, 8-5): Other than a trip to Allen Fieldhouse, the Sooners should be favored in all of their remaining games. Sweeping Texas could give them a leg up in the race for second place.
4. Iowa State (19-5, 7-5): Hilton Coliseum may be enough to keep the Cyclones in the mix for second. Iowa State has a favorable closing schedule.
5. Kansas State (17-8, 7-5): Late collapses at Texas and Baylor may end up haunting the Wildcats on Selection Sunday. They will make the NCAA Tournament, sure, but they won’t earn a favorable seed until they beat a decent team on the road.
6. West Virginia (15-11, 7-6): Easily the most intriguing bubble team in the Big 12. It can play its way into the NCAA Tournament with Kansas, Oklahoma and Iowa State left on the schedule.
7. Texas Tech (13-12, 5-7): Most think the Red Raiders could make the NIT in Tubby Smith’s first year.
8. Baylor (16-9, 4-8): Can Baylor make a late push to the NCAA Tournament? Victories over TCU and K-State last week kept the dream alive.
9. Oklahoma State (16-9, 4-8): Marcus Smart will need to play with a vengeance when he returns for the Cowboys to finish the season strong.
10. TCU (9-15, 0-12): Will the Horned Frogs become the first Big 12 team to go 0-18 in conference play?