As the clock ticked down in front of a relatively empty Gallagher-Iba arena, the Texas Tech Red Raiders were staring at their championship season begin to slip away. The shouts that were heard were not only from the Oklahoma State fans who had just upset the sixth ranked team in the country but also from the neighboring Kansas Jayhawk fans who were now in sole possession of first place in the Big 12.
The rest of the Big 12 shares in Tech’s solace as we all hoped this was the year Kansas’ reign on the Big 12 was over. All is not lost however, each team still has three games remaining in the regular season. This still gives Texas Tech, West Virginia, and Kansas State a fighting chance at the title, but if this past week is any indication, Kansas is likely to be the one holding the trophy at the end of the year.
1. Kansas (+1)
That didn’t take long. Kansas slipped in the rankings for just one week before regaining the top spot behind two dominant wins against high profile teams. The West Virginia sweep was vital to the Jayhawks’ title defense as it virtually knocked the Mountaineers out of contention. Not to mention, the Oklahoma game was an onslaught. Bill Self has this team playing tremendously as the season winds down.
2. Texas Tech (-1)
It was all good just a week ago. Tech had looked like the best team in the Big 12 over a three week span, but all that went away when the best player in the Big 12 went down. In my opinion, by virtually not playing or being healthy, Keenan Evans is the bonafide player of the year. No doubt in my mind that Tech is currently enjoying a nine-game winning streak with a healthy Keenan Evans still playing, but unfortunately a hurt one helped Tech to back-to-back losses. Kansas come to the USA on Saturday in front of what will be the toughest environment they’ve played in front of all year. If Keenan Evans is at 100%, I expect a Red Raider victory, if he is not then the Jayhawks can go ahead and raise another banner.
3. West Virginia (-)
The Mountaineers couldn’t overcome the Phog or Udoka Azubuike as they fell victim to the Jayhawk sweep on Saturday. Yet the team was able to bounce back on the road against the Baylor Bears. At this point, West Virginia is fighting for positioning, both in the Big 12 tournament and the NCAA.
4. Kansas State (-)
K-State is back to playing the way Bruce Weber wants them to as of late. After suffering three losses in four games, the Wildcats have bounced back with a three game win streak. The victory over Texas was arguable the biggest as it featured two teams primarily on the tournament bubble. The Wildcats close the season out with three very winnable games against teams that are also on the tournament bubble. It will be a fight to the end, but Barry Brown Jr. and company have proven to be battle tested.
5. Baylor (-)
Baylor might’ve beaten the seventh ranked Red Raiders but they were hardly impressive in doing so. A down to wire win against a team without their two best players that still held you to 24 second half points isn’t exactly something to be excited about. However, a win is a win and come tournament time, there’s a good chance the committee will forget all these points and still move the Bears in the tournament.
6. TCU (+1)
TCU join Kansas and K-State as the only other perfect teams this week, but TCU just had to beat the bottom of the barrel to do so. Wins against Oklahoma State and Iowa State is hardly something to feel superior about, but TCU is doing what they’ve done all season, beat teams they are supposed to beat. For that, I give them credit.
7. Oklahoma State (+2)
Every time you think this team is dead they rise from the ashes. The Cowboys should feel good about their win over Tech. Yes Keenan Evans was ineffective because of his toe injury and yes Zach Smith was still out, but that doesn’t change the fact that the Cowboys still played to their ability. Not to mention, this is what Okie State does to ranked opponents. This team has won four of their last five games against ranked opponents and that alone is keeping them in the tournament hunt. The final game of the season is home against eight ranked Kansas, I know these guys will be ready to play spoiler.
8. Texas (-)
Shaka Smart has lost five of their last seven games. They are in a free-fall and currently out of Joe Lunardi’s bracketology. Smart will still be the coach here next year thanks to his agent getting him a large contract from the onset, but they have looked awful lately. During their 10-point loss to K-State, they never looked like the better team and the entire game, it felt as though the Wildcats would pull away in which they did. The last two games of the season are against ranked Kansas and ranked West Virginia, so if Mohamed Bamba and the rest of the Longhorns don’t get it together, a once promising season may end up on the couch.
9. Oklahoma (-3)
Those two wins Texas accumulated in their last seven games happened again one team, this team, the Oklahoma Sooners. Losers of six straight and nine of their last 11, Oklahoma has looked bad as a unit, and so has Trae Young. The once Naismith award lock has dropped considerably to where I don’t think he’d even win Big 12 player of the year anymore. Just two weeks ago, the NCAA tournament committee announced the Sooners as a four seed, now they are listed as a 10 seed on bracketology. Fellow 10-seeder K-State is next on the schedule, if Oklahoma doesn’t break this snide soon, it will noted as one of the worst collapses in recent college basketball history.
10. Iowa State (-)
If Iowa State can get above .500 I believe they will get a NIT invite. They have a tough schedule combined with good wins to do so, but the NIT will not invite a team with a sub-.500 record. Right now Iowa State is 13-14, which means they need to win two of their next three games to get over the hump. Unfortunately for Cameron Lard’s team, two of those games are on the road and the Cyclones are yet to win a road game all season. It’s now or never for this team.