As Big 12 men’s basketball teans work their way through the second and final half of the nonconference schedule during the holiday month of December, there are several games you might want to circle on the calendar.
Three of the four Big 12 teams ranked in this week’s top 25 have tough assignments this month against other ranked teams. The Big 12 got off to a running start last Saturday with then-20th-ranked Baylor upsetting No. 4 Kentucky 67-62 as part of the Big 12-SEC Challenge Baylor (8-1) moved up two spots this week in the USA Today Coaches Poll, while Kentucky dropped down to No. 10 with its second loss of the season
The same day Baylor was putting away Kentucky, Oklahoma State put away South Carolina (former Kansas State coach Frank Martin’s team) by 27 points, 79-62,, and the day before Kansas State disposed of Ole Miss 81-58. Through seven games in the Big 12-SEC Challenge this season, the Big 12 is up 6-2 with two Challenge matchups upcoming.
The first of the two remaining Big 12-SEC interconference showdowns is Tuesday night: Kansas, No. 16 this week in the Coaches Poll, takes on the No. 19 Florida Gators. Both teams dropped in the national polls after losing last weekend, Kansas to unranked Colorado and Florida to No. 12 Connecticut. Also Tuesday night, West Virginia, 6-3 this season under head coach Bob Huggins, entertains Gonzaga, ranked 16th in the USA Today Poll).
On Friday this week, the two big schools in Iowa, Iowa State and the University of Iowa, face each other in their annual rivalry game on the hardwood, this year at Iowa State. Both teams are currently ranked among the nation’s top 25. Iowa State of the Big 12 is the higher ranked team, at No. 16. Iowa is ranked , according to AP; Iowa is ranked 22nd.
Texas and North Carolina square off in Chapel Hill, N.C., on Dec. 18. Neither school is currently ranked, but both have strong national pedigrees historically in basketball. Three days later (a week from from this Saturday), the Georgetown Hoyas come to Allen Fieldhouse to take on Kansas. The Hoyas are not ranked, but did receive votes in preseason balloting and are always a formidable opponent no matter where the game is played. Georgetown already has a 27-point win this season over Kansas State in the Puerto Rico Tipoff Tournament.
The final game in the 2013 Big 12-SEC Challenge will be played later this month, when Oklahoma and former Big 12 school Texas A&M go at each other on Dec. 21 in a neutral-court contest in Houston.
As the calendar turns to January, there are several highly intriguing games right off the bat as the conference schedule tips off Jan. 4. Among the spotlight games that happen early on in the league schedule: Red River rivals Oklahoma and Texas do battle on the opening weekend in January, and then the following week Iowa State is at Baylor (Jan. 7), and Kansas goes to Iowa State’s Hilton Coliseum, always a very difficult place to play as a visitor
So as the weather turns colder outside, the action is heating up fast on the basketball court for Big 12 teams.
Here are a dozen other fun facts and figures that help frame the Big 12 basketball picture at this still-early stage of the season:
.600 – Every team in the Big 12 has a winning percentage greater than .600 at this point in the season. The Big 12 is the only major conference that can make that claim.
1 – The Big 12 is ranked No. 1 as a conference in the latest RPI data. Six conference teams are ranked in the top 40 in RPI (2. Kansas, 4. Baylor, 9. Oklahoma State, 19. Iowa State, 26. Oklahoma, 30. Texas,).
4 – Number of Big 12 teams ranked in the top 25 (Kansas, Oklahoma State, Iowa State, Baylor), the most of any conference.
5 – Five conference teams (Oklahoma State, Iowa State, Oklahoma, West Virginia and Kansas) are averaging 80 or more points a game so far this season. No Big 12 team averaged 80 or more points a year ago.
17 – Iowa State ranks 16th nationally and first in the Big 12 for fewest turnovers. The Cyclones have committed 86 turnovvers in seven games, an average of 12.3 per game.
18 – Number of nonconference losses by Big 12 teams so far this season, the fewest of any conference in the country.
19.7 – Scoring average of Oklahoma State sophomore guard Marcus Smart, who leads the Big 12 in scoring. Smart was the 2012-13 Big 12 Player of the Year as a freshman.
43 – Through games of Monday night, Big 12 teams have won 43 of the 45 games played at on-campus Big 12 facilities, a .978 winning percentage.
53.2 – Three-point field-goal percentage by Oklahoma State sophomore, long-range artist Phil Forte, 15th best in the country. Forte has made 25 of his 47 three-point tries this season.
60.9 – Shooting percentage by Oklahoma sophomore forward Ryan Spangler (14 for 23) in the Sooners’ last three games last week, all victories. He also made 10 of 13 free throws. For his performance, Spangler was named Big 12 Co-Newcomer of the Week.
61.1 – Kansas State leads the Big 12 in scoring defense, yielding 61 points a game to its opponents. This is good because the Wildcats are last in the conference in scoring.. They average just five more points than their opponents on the offensive end of the floor.
88 – Number of wins all-time for the Big 12 over SEC teams in basketball. The all-time interconference record between the two conferences is 88-74, including the six Big 12 wins out of seven games played in this season’s Big 12-SEC Challenge.