Home was the place to be for Big 12 men’s teams this past weekend, with the lone exception of Baylor, where visiting Kansas State prevailed on a three-point catch-and-shoot three-pointer by senior Rodney McGruder at the buzzer to escape with a three-point win.
Home teams won by an average margin of 16 points, as Kansas and Oklahoma buried their opponents, West Virginia and Iowa State by 26 and 17 poins, respectively, on Saturday. Oklahoma State and Texas Tech also held serve at home over the weekend, as Big 12 men’s play wound down to the final week of the regular season.
Except for deciding the conference champion and the top seed in the upcoming Big 12 Tournament, to be held in Kansas City, all other spots in the conference standings are pretty much set with just two games remaining in he regular season.
Eight-time defending champion Kansas needs only to defeat 3-13 Texas Tech at home on Wednesday and reeling Baylor, which has won just two of its last six games (both over West Virginia), next Saurday in Waco to guarantee no worse than a share of it ninth consecutive league title.
Kansas State, currently tied with the Jayhawks with identical 13-3 records in conference play, will have a say in who captures the league crown, of course, but Kansas clearly has easier road in the race to the wire. The Wildcats have TCU at home on Wednesday, but have to go to Oklahoma State to finish out the regular-season schedule.
Heading into the final week, OSU, 12-4 in the conference and still with a mathematical chance to share or even win the 2013 conference crown, has won three straight and seven of its last eight games. The Cowboys, who polished off Texas over the weekend, lost their league opener in January, a six-point loss at Kansas State. have lost at home only once this season, a heartbreaking one-point loss to Kansas in two overtimes a couple of weeks back.
Oklahoma, which deserves the comeback team of the year award in the conference this season with a six-game turnaround in the win column thus far over a year ago and with two highly winnable games yet to go, appears to have fourth place fairly well sewn up. The Sooners have West Virginia, which they have already beaten twice this season, at home on Wednesday and finish up at TCU.
OU would have to lose one of their final two games, and Iowa State, a game back of OU at 9-7 in the Big 12, would have to win its final two games (at home with Oklahoma State and at West Virginia on Saturday) to displace the Sooners in fourth place in the standings. Regardless of what happens this week with the Sooners or Cyclones, both teams are a lock to face each other in the second round of the conference tournament as the No. 4 and 5 seeds. The only thing that can possibly change between now and then is which team will be the hom team and which the visitor when they meet in the Big 12 tourney.
The only other position in the standings that is likely to change between now and Saturday is a switch-out between Texas and West Virginia. Texas, 5-11 in the conference through Saturday’s games should be favored in its remaining games (at home against Baylor in a mid-week contest and the regular-season finale at Texas Tech, while West Virginia, currently a game up on the Longhorns in the seventh spot at 6-10, finishes at Oklahoma and at home against Iowa State.
Here are a few other things we learned from Saturday’s Big 12 games:
- Oklahoma, wich leads the Big 12 in team free-throw percentage at 79 percent, made 34 of 34 free throws in the Sooners’ win over Iowa State, which tied an NCAA record. OU made 30 free throws in the second half to go along with just eight field goals.
- Kansas’ super freshman Ben McLemore, who many experts will be the No. 1 pick in June’s NBA Draft, scored a career high 36 points on Saturday in the Jayhawks’ 26-point blowout win at “The Phog” (Allen Fieldhouse) over West Virginia. That tied Danny Manning’s freshman single-game scoring record at Kansas.
- Texas Tech shot 62 percent from the field for the game against TCU in capturing its first win in the last 10 games. When the Red Raiders extended their lead to a game-high 14 points midway through the second half, it was their largest lead in a game since Jan. 5. also against TCU.
- Baylor senior guard Pierre Jackson has made 69 three-point field goals so far this season, second in the Big 12. He made three of six attempts from long range on Saturday, giving him 40 consecutive games in which he has made at least one three-point shot. That is second best in Baylor program history to LaceDarius Dunn, who scored a three-ball in 45 consecutive games.
- West Virginia head coach Bob Huggins has a contract provision calling for a $25,000 bonus if the Mountaineers beat Kansas in basketball.
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