Love the stat this week from the Big 12, which helps stamp just how tight the conference is this season. Of 42 Big 12 games played thus far, 31 of them have been decided by 11 points or less (73.8%). Of those 31, 24 have been decided by nine or fewer points.
It's been a great first half of conference play, and the past weekend's results proved (again) that anything — other than a TCU win — is possible.
1. Kansas Jayhawks (16-5, 7-1) — Been awhile, but the Jayhawks got bullied in Austin over the weekend. Texas is a monster awakened right now, and it gave KU a legit "learn-and-grow" game as it preps for the toughness level needed in March.
2. Texas Longhorns (17-4, 6-2) — Rick Barnes is the Big 12 Coach of the Year if the season ended today. Athletic, long, and tough, this group's best attribute is its relentlessness - something long missing from most UT men's sports. Plus, this team appears to be getting stronger as the season goes on.
3. Oklahoma Sooners (17-5, 6-3) — OU dropped a tough game at Ames in one of those games where somebody had to lose. It wasn't the Sooners' best day, and they were still in position to get a huge road win against a Top 25 opponent before Georges Niang buried an ill-advised three late. This team has no horribly glaring issues right now, but it needs to handle its business over the next 10 days against unranked West Virginia, Baylor and Texas Tech.
4. Iowa St. Cyclones (16-4, 4-4) — It's always a little tricky to judge where a team's season make-or-break point may be, but had ISU lost to OU on Saturday, it would have been 1-5 in its last six games, been swept by OU and looking for some answers. Niang's huge bucket solved all that, but Fred Hoiberg is tinkering with his starting five while looking to restore that dominant, early-season firepower the Cyclones showed.
5. Kansas St. Wildcats (15-7, 5-4) — A week between games comes at a good time. KSU's defense wasn't sharp against West Virginia, appearing to be a step slow most of the day. However, the Wildcats still clawed their way into having multiple chances to take control of the game — which didn't happen as several late-game turnovers were committed by veterans. A week of preparation before Texas comes calling should make for a good rematch.
6. Oklahoma St. Cowboys (16-5, 4-4) — Marcus Smart 's jumper took the day off again, and OSU fell to desperate Baylor. After shooting .457 FG (59/129) in his first 10 games this year, the guard is hitting just .346 (36/104) FG in Big 12 play. He's also just 10 of his last 45 (.222) from 3pt-range. Overall, is that loss a crime for OSU, considering we all know Baylor has inexplicably underperformed? No, but the Cowboys are drunk walking into oncoming traffic with Iowa St., Texas and OU up in three of the next four games.
7. Baylor Bears (14-7, 2-6) — Call me moving BU up to No. 7 this week ahead of WVU an indication that I think the Bears might finally wake up after a BRUTAL 2-6 month of January. The Bears are much better than the 2-6 Big 12 record, and they're now in position to ruin the postseason push for teams ranked ahead of them on this list.
8. West Virginia Mountaineers (13-9, 5-4) — Juwan Staten abused K-State's lackluster defensive effort, going off for 35 points in the WVU win. Could we talk about his 21 trips to the free throw line? Yeah, but only if you want to credit a guy for recognizing the game as it played out and taking advantage of it. I don't think the Mountaineers have the front court to really compete on a nightly basis, but when the guards go off like Staten did, they're talented enough to compete and maybe win at home against better overall teams like K-State, Oklahoma St., etc.
9. Texas Tech Red Raiders (11-11, 3-6) — Tubby Smith's guys had to get a win against TCU. Had to. Why? How about five straight games against Top 25-caliber opponents between now and near the end of the month, including three on the road and a home game against KU? Yuck.
10. TCU Horned Frogs (9-11, 0-8) — The Conference losing streak continues, and there's no relief in sight. The Frogs built an eight-point lead in the second half, and promptly watched it disappear. It's just ... I mean ... it's gotta get better someday? ... sigh.