By Big 12 Conference schedule terms, it's March. The Conference slate is in the homestretch with everybody having just three games remaining before all 10 teams make their way to Kansas City for the— truly one of the greatest sporting events of the year.
As far as the rankings go, here goes the next-to-last edition, which shows just a little bit of separation between the upper and lower half. Just think ... it only took two months for that to happen. What a ride it's been.
1. Kansas Jayhawks (22-6, 13-2) — Not a bad run for a team that at one point or another this year: allegedly had no point guard; allegedly had a flop of a phenom; and allegedly was/is missing that "killer" instinct. The reality is Naadir Tharpe has won KU some games; Andrew Wiggins is making a lot of awards finalists lists; and thanks to a kinda surly (at times) Joel Embiid, this team is proving to be more than tough enough for the March grind.
2. Texas Longhorns (21-7, 10-5) — The Longhorns had a nice, steadying win against Baylor on Wednesday and have a schedule that could catapult them into the postseason on a high note. Saturday could be tough against Oklahoma, but then TCU and Texas Tech finish out the year. Raise your hand if you saw 23 or 24 wins coming out of Austin this year.
3. Iowa St. Cyclones (22-5, 10-5) — The 'Clones dropped off the grid for a bit after a rough January, but they're 7-1 since Feb. 1, including getting payback on West Virginia this week. It isn't an easy finish for the fightin' Fred Hoibergs (@ K-State, @ Baylor, vs. OSU), but this team looks like it is set up for a strong finish to the year.
4. Oklahoma Sooners (20-8, 9-6) — The Sooners have been somewhere between competitive and pretty good this year, which is a good range to be in if you're not going to be consistent. No ifs, ands or buts here, monster tilt with Texas on Saturday. A 10-6 mark in conference play looks much better than 9-7 to you, me, and important people like, say, NCAA Tournament Selection Committee members, who are starting to gather seed-determining notes.
5. Kansas St. Wildcats (19-9, 9-6) — K-State HAD to have that win against Texas Tech. I say that because had the Wildcats lost, I wasn't convinced they would find 20 wins in the regular season, and that's scary territory heading into Selection Sunday. Now, KSU needs to turn a few more heads nationally, which will happen with an incredible sixth Top 25 win if it beats Iowa St. in Manhattan.
6. Baylor Bears (18-10, 6-9) — The Bears have a point guard who can do everything (Kenny Chery). They have double-double machine in the post not named Isaiah Austin (Cory Jefferson). They have freak rebounding talent as a group. They also get out-coached nearly every game. Frustrating.
7. West Virginia Mountaineers (15-13, 7-8) — Remember all those warm, fuzzy, moonshine-fueled feelings we had about WVU back at the beginning of the month? Yeah, it's a rotten hangover now. Three straight uncompetitive losses pushed the Mountaineers back to barely above .500 and back to that spot where losing to Bob Huggins' team is a bad loss. (Are you listening, Oklahoma?)
8. Oklahoma St. Cowboys (18-10, 6-9) — I guess I should think this game holds some intrigue with it being in Stillwater and Marcus Smart being back and all. I can't do it. KU is fighting for a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, and something tells me Andrew Wiggins welcomes a chance to guard Marcus Smart's barely alive jump shot. (no, I don't believe in a one-game turnaround).
9. Texas Tech Red Raiders (13-15, 5-10) — It's kind of amazing what's happening in Lubbock. The team is 3-7 in its last 10, including four-straight losses. Still, if you were to ask most people who actually do pay attention, they would say the Red Raiders are on the upswing. In every sense of the word, Tech is only a couple of unlucky bounces (against KU and K-State) away from being 15-13, 7-8 and looking at a potential NIT bid.
10. TCU Horned Frogs (9-18, 0-15) — Now that the rest of the league is out of the Jan./Feb. doldrums and focused on postseason goals as they may apply, TCU's chances at winning a league game have dwindled. This group fights, but games at WVU, at Texas and home against OU have it looking pretty likely that the Horned Frogs are on pace to join the infamous 2003-04 Texas A&M Aggies, led by Melvin Watkins, that went a perfect 0-16 in league play.*
*My vote would be for TCU as the worst all-time Big 12 team since it proved its worth over the course of 18 league games. Hey, anyone who fights that hard for a title should be recognized.