Don’t look for much, if any, change in the Big 12 men’s basketball standings as the conference regular season winds down to a thrilling finale with just a quartet of games to go.
Before the rematch of the Kansas-Kansas State Sunflower Showdown two weeks ago and with the Jayhawks having uncharacteristically dropped three consecutive game after sitting on top of the Big 12 as well as the USA Today Coaches’ Poll, it appeared the league was destined to crown a new champion for the first time in nine years. Kansas State had charged into the conference lead, despite having lost two in a row of its own to Kansas at home and on the road at Ames, Ia.
Then, two weeks ago, K-State suffered the wrath of a victory-starved and angry bunch of Jayhawks, who took out their frustration, and then some, on their in-state rival, powering to a 21-point victory and a season sweep over the Wildcats.
While the two teams from the Sunflowe State were battling it out for the conference lead, Oklahoma State, the team that handed the Jayhawks the first of their three straight losses and their first loss at Allen Fieldhouse in 34 consecutive games, was quietly and soundly ringing up victories over seven straight conference opponents and climbing itself within one game of a share of the league lead.
The Cowboys were in perfect position early last week to make their move on the leaders, but head coach Bill Self’s Jayhawks manged to pull out a huge one-point overtime win over the KU’s coach’s alma mater and hold off the Pokes’ charge on the conference’s top spot.
All of the favorite’s held serve over the weekend, setting up a full-out sprint to the regular-season finish line over the next two weeks. Iowa State (9-5, 19-8) has the toughest week ahead among the conference leaders, hosting Kansas (11-3, 23-4) on Monday and then having to travel to Norman to face the Oklahoma Sooners (9-5, 18-8), with whom the Cyclones are tied for fourth place entering the final two weeks of the regular season.
The Cyclones also have arguably the most difficult down the front stretch, with three of its four games against teams with .500 or better records (Kansas and Oklahoma and Oklahoma State). The combined record of Iowa State’s final fourregular-season opponents is 36-20.
As fate would have it, the Cyclones do get both Kansas and Oklahoma State at home at Hilton Coliseum, where Iowa State owns the only perfect home record (15-0) in the conference this season and has won 22 in a row dating back to last season.
Iowa State would have, and probably should have, won its first meeting with Kansas this season at Kansas, were it not for a hope-and-a-prayer last second three-point make by the Jayhawks sendsatioonal freshman guard Ben McLemore that tied the game and sent it into an overtime session, where Kansas eventually prevailed after trailing for most of the game.
“We played them well at their place. We can do better here,” said Iowa State’s Will Clyburn after the Cyclones home win on Saturday over Texas Tech.
KU’s Self knows first hand how good this year’s Iowa State team is: “Iowa State scores easier than any0ne in out league,” he said. “We were fortunate to get a win the first time. We’re going to have to play pur best game away from home.”
Conference co-leader Kansas State has two difficult road tests ahead the next two Saturdays: against a Baylor team that is in a must-win situation and needs a marquee victory over a quality opponent like K-State if it has any hope of making the NCAA Tournament field, and then a rematch with a much-improved Oklahoma State team from the one the Wildcats defeated in their conference opener.
So what will things look like two weeks from now when all is said and done and the brackets are filled in for the Big 12 Championship tournament in Kansas City? I don’t much like being the kill joy who blurts out the punch line or moral before the story is finished, but don’t expect their to be much, if any, movement in the standings 40 games from now.
Here is what our crystal ball said about what you can expect to happen over the final two weeks of the 2012-13 regular season:
Projected 2012-13 Big 12 Final Standings
Kansas 14-4, 26-5 overall
Kansas State 14-4, 25-6
Oklahoma State 13-5, 23-7
Oklahoma 12-6, 21-9
Iowa State 12-6,
Texas Longhorns 7-11,
West Virginia Mountaineers 6-12,
Texas Tech Red Raiders 3-15,
TCU Horned Frogs 1-17,
Projected Seedings for Big 12 Postseason Tournament
2. Kansas State
3. Oklahoma State
4. Iowa State**
8. West Virginia
9. Texas Tech
*Kansas wins tiebreaker over Kansas State for top seeed
**Iowa State wins tiebreaker over Oklashoma for No. 4 seed
Big 12 Championship game: Kansas over Oklahoma State
Follow Big 12 sports all year long at Talking12.com