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The State of the Big 12 heading into the conference tournament

This season has been unlike any other in college basketball. Throughout the sport, many teams dealt with long pauses in play, being unable to practice or play games. Everyone knew playing college basketball during a pandemic would not be easy, but here we are in March with conference championship week and the NCAA Tournament on the horizon. 

The Big 12 has been nothing short of crazy this year either. Arguably one of the best conferences in America, the Big 12 boasts seven teams that will make it to the NCAA Tournament and all seven are currently ranked in the Associated Press Top 25 Poll. 

The past two weeks have been a wild roller coaster for many Big 12 teams. There was a lot of movement within the standings and a lot of really good games down the stretch of the season and for a conference whose slogan is “every game matters,” over the last two weeks, every game has mattered. 

After the completion of games on Sunday, March 7, the Big 12 regular season officially ended. 

The conference standings were as follows: 

  1. Baylor (13-1)
  2. Kansas (12-6)
  3. Texas (11-6)
  4. West Virginia (11-6)
  5. Oklahoma State (11-7)
  6. Texas Tech (9-8)
  7. Oklahoma (9-8)
  8. TCU (5-11)
  9. Kansas State (4-14)
  10. Iowa State (0-18)

As we head towards Kansas City, and the Big 12 Tournament, many teams are still vying for NCAA Tournament seeding and it could be a very interesting week, to what was a very interesting end to the Big 12 regular season.

Baylor had a very good week to end the regular season. After having a 21 day pause in February due to COVID-19, the Bears lost on the road to Kansas 71-58. They responded in a big way as this past week picked up three wins, all against Top 25 teams. In what was arguably one of the best college basketball games of the year against West Virginia on Tuesday, Baylor was able to pull out a 94-89 victory on the road. They followed this performance by beating the red hot Oklahoma State Cowboys on Thursday, 81-70, and then beating Texas Tech on Sunday 88-73. The Bears won their first Big 12 regular season title and makes the Bears the favorite heading into the conference tournament. 

Kansas was able to play all 18 of their conference games this season. Unlike many other teams in the league, Kansas was able to stay healthy and play their schedule. Kansas had a very rough January, losing five games during the month and even dropping out of the Top 25 in early February. As of late however, Kansas is playing their best basketball of the season. Kansas finished 6-1 in conference play to end the year, capping it off with a win against Baylor. This past week however looked like Kansas would be dealt with a bad loss. Kansas hosted UTEP in what you could call a tuneup to the Big 12 Tournament. Kansas struggled early but was able to comeback and win 67-62. Head coach Bill Self after the game said “[Kansas] needed a game like this.” Now, Kansas will look to make a deep run in Kansas City and might be poised for a deep run come tournament time. 

Texas had a solid ending to the regular season. This past week, the Longhorns played three road games and were able to pick up wins in all three of them, with their biggest win of the week coming on the road against Oklahoma, winning 69-65. Texas at one point in time was thought to be one of the best teams in the country. Although they are not ranked as high anymore, they still have the ability to be playing for a conference championship Saturday night in Kansas City. 

West Virginia ended their regular season slate on a bad note. Coming into this week, West Virginia looked to have the opportunity to claim second in the Big 12, get head coach Bob Huggins to 900 wins, and solidify their spot as a two seed in the NCAA Tournament. They accomplished zero of these things. West Virginia lost a heartbreaker on Tuesday night against Baylor, and then struggled against a bad TCU team on Thursday. On Saturday, the Mountaineers lost to a Oklahoma State team that was without their two best players, and will travel to Kansas City to play this same team on Thursday. 

Oklahoma State might be one of the hottest teams in America right now. Coming into this week, the Cowboys knew they would have a tough week, but they made the most of it. In their last five games, Oklahoma State has faced Texas Tech, Oklahoma (twice), Baylor, and West Virginia. They finished this stretch going 4-1, with it being capped off with a win on the road against the Mountaineers without superstart Cade Cunningham. The Cowboys could be a dangerous team this week in Kansas City, and are playing their best basketball of the year at the right time. 

Texas Tech did not prove much this week. The Red Raiders had three games this week, although two of them were against Iowa State and TCU who have a combined conference record of 5-29. The Red Raiders though ended their season with a loss at Baylor. Texas Tech has always prided itself on defense and that defense let Baylor score 88 points, including MaCio Teague scoring 35. Head coach Chris Beard is still confident his team can find success saying “We didn’t come to Waco to prove to ourselves we could play with these teams. We know we can.” 

Oklahoma drew the short straw and finished as the seventh best team in the Big 12 and is forced to play a first round game in the Big 12 Tournament. It was just two weeks ago that the Sooners were ranked No. 7 in the country and were looking to possibly be a top three finisher in the Big 12. Since then however, Oklahoma has lost four straight games including a bad loss against Kansas State and will look to recover and could be playing for a Big 12 Championship Saturday night, just like any of the previous six teams mentioned could. Oklahoma could also be a dangerous tournament team and have a lot of experience with seniors Brady Manek and Austin Reaves. 

TCU is having a down year, again. The Horned Frogs are a very young team, and will look to get better next year. As for this year, TCU has two good wins against Oklahoma State and the rest of its Big 12 wins have been against the other two teams below them in the standings. Unless the Horned Frogs have some magic in them, their season will be ending Wednesday or Thursday most likely. All TCU fans can hope for is that the top seven teams in the Big 12 are not as stacked next year. 

Kansas State is setting itself up for next year and beyond. The Wildcats ended their season winning three of their last four, including a win against then No. 7 Oklahoma. Kansas State has a really young team and if their lone senior Mike McGuirl returns with the extra year of eligibility, this Kansas State team could take a serious step forward next year. As far as the Big 12 Tournament goes, they will play TCU in the first round on Wednesday evening. 

Iowa State had a terrible year and was the bottom feeder in the Big 12. When you go 0-18 in conference and 2-21 overall, there are not many positives you can take away from that. Head coach Steve Prohm said “Obviously, the wins and losses, we all know it’s unacceptable. We’ve won multiple championships in the last five years. We’ve had guys go and do special things. We’ve had unbelievable wins. And had great conference finishes. But there’s no question it’s unacceptable.” It looks like the Cyclones will be rebuilding for the next couple of years and also may be rebuilding with a new coach. They will play Oklahoma in the first round of the Big 12 Tournament on Wednesday. 

This Big 12 this year is one of the deepest conferences in recent history. Having seven teams that could all be a five seed or better come tournament time is incredible and unheard of. Unfortunately, that also means you usually have a few teams that just are not able to compete and you see that at the bottom of the standings. This group of teams should deliver one of the more fun and exciting conference tournaments, as you have some of the top teams in the country facing off in the quarter finals, and I would bet that the Big 12 is represented in Indianapolis when the Final Four rolls around. If we have learned anything from this wild year in college basketball it is to expect the unexpected and that should be what we will see this week in Kansas City and beyond.

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