Ten who are all-in
Kansas State’s charge to the top of the Big 12 standings has added extra intrigue to a conference title race that was already considered wide open.
All 10 teams have at least one league loss, nine teams have at least one league victory, eight teams are projected to make the NCAA Tournament by ESPN bracket expert Joe Lunardi and six teams are ranked in the Associated Press Top 25.
The lack of a dominant team has created more parity than Big 12 coaches are accustomed.
“This is the hardest league I have played in,” West Virginia coach Bob Huggins said coming off a blowout loss at Texas. “There are 10 teams that are obviously very good.”
“There is not a league in the country that is better,” added Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg.
“Four or five losses would be an unbelievable record for the team that wins it,” said Kansas coach Bill Self.
That may turn out to be the case. A reasonable case could be made for every team, other than TCU and Texas Tech, hoisting a trophy at the end of the regular season.
Iowa State and Kansas remain the favorites, sure, but they were both looking up at K-State in the league race when the weekend came to an end. The Wildcats, fresh off a pair of dramatic victories against Oklahoma and Baylor, have moved past a disappointing start and have become contenders. And let’s not forget about Baylor, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas and West Virginia, which have all had moments of brilliance this season.
With so many teams bunched together, what is the key to creating separation?
K-State coach Bruce Weber says consistency and the ability to win close games are the biggest factors. Self thinks the team that best protects its home court will have the advantage, as long as it can find four four or five road victories, too. Texas coach Rick Barnes seem to avoiding unexpected losses is just as important as pulling off surprising wins.
“There are no easy games,” Barnes said. “Anybody in this league, on any given night, can beat anybody.”
The league schedule hasn’t reached the halfway point, and it is already shaping up to be a fascinating race.
Quote of the week
“There are no safe leads in this conference.”
– Baylor coach Scott Drew, after his team blew a 14-point lead against Kansas State. The Bears also needed a buzzer-beater to knock off Iowa State, despite owning a double-digit lead in the second half.
Players of the week
Oklahoma guard Buddy Hield was named Big 12 Player of the Week on Monday after averaging 25 points against West Virginia and Oklahoma State, while Kansas guard Kelly Oubre took home newcomer honors. Oubre scored in double figures twice last week.
1. Iowa State (13-3, 3-1): Only Big 12 loss came by a point at Baylor.
2. Kansas (14-3, 3-1): Rematch against Iowa State should be fun in Lawrence.
3. Kansas State (11-7, 4-1): Forget the 7-7 start. The Wildcats have turned things around.
4. Oklahoma (12-5, 3-2): Pounded Texas and Oklahoma State.
5. Texas (13-4, 2-2): Pounded West Virginia.
6. West Virginia (15-3, 3-2): Pounded Oklahoma.
7. Baylor (13-4, 2-3): Bears are inconsistent. They can beat anyone and lose to anyone.
8. Oklahoma State (12-5, 2-3): So much for being ranked.
9. TCU (14-3, 1-3): Won’t go winless in conference play this year.
10. Texas Tech (10-8, 0-5): May go winless in conference play this year.