In case you’ve been so engrossed in the excitement around Big 12 football and are just now coming up for a breath of fresh air, men’s basketball in the conference is off to one of its best starts on record.
Five Big 12 teams have no more than one loss and a combined record of 39-4 after the first month of the 2013-14 season. And most surprising of all, perennial powerhouse Kansas is not among them. The Jayhawks fell behind early by double digits to Florida Tuesday night and ended up falling 67-60 to the 19th-ranked Gators. It was the third loss in the last four games for Kansas, which three weeks ago was the nation’s second-ranked team after defeating top-10 ranked Duke.
While the young and restless Jayhawks are having their troubles of late on the hardwood, other Big 12 teams are going strong. Iowa State, tied for 16th in the latest USA Today/ESPN Coaches Poll, sits atop the conference standings with a perfect 7-0 record, including wins over then top-10-ranked Michigan and at BYU. Right behind the Cyclones are Baylor, Oklahoma State and Oklahoma, all with identical 8-1 records.
As further evidence of the strength shown thus far this season by the Big 12 in men’s basketball, the conference ranks first in the latest RPI ranking, with six teams in the top 40 nationally. The league is the only conference in college basketball with every team boasting a winning percentage of .600 or higher and its combined 19 nonconference losses are the fewest of any conference. Additionally, the Big 12 is the only conference with four teams in the nation’s top-25.
Out of fairness to Kansas’ situation, the Jayhawks have one of the most difficult nonconference schedules in the country. Kansas beat Duke on a neutral floor, but they have already played Colorado and Florida in true road games as well as Villanova and Wake Forest on a neutral court.
The Big 12 nonconference schedule this season includes some of the country’s best teams and most prominent names in college basketball: Syracuse, Michigan, Iowa, Colorado, Gonzaga, Michigan State, Duke, Memphis, North Carolina, Arizona (currently No. 1 in the land), LSU, Pittsburgh, Arizona State, Missouri and Purdue.
“It’s been incredible,” Kansas head coach Bill Self said this week. “Everybody (in the Big 12) has had quality wins. Our league is going to be far better than what a lot of people anticipated.”
Big 12 Basketball Week 6 Power Rankings
- Iowa State Cyclones – Thought to be a solid title contender from the start, and they’re certainly playing like it.
- Oklahoma State Cowboys – As good as advertised, maybe even a little better.
- Baylor Bears – Thing are as good as ever at Baylor this year. For this first time in a long while, basketball isn’t the only sport drawing the attention of Baylor fams this time of year.
- Kansas Jayhawks – Chemistry is shakey and defense has been very un-Kansas-like. The Jayhawks have not played a game in Allen Fieldhouse is almost a month. That might help explain things.
- Oklahoma Sooners – The Sooners lost five key players from last year, but they’ve been surprisingly good in the early going. Played then-No. 1 Michigan State very tough.
- Texas Longhorns – Longhorns have a tough schedule ahead. Upcoming games with North Carolina and Michigan will definitely test the mettle of this UT team.
- West Virginia Mountaineers – The Mountaineers have lost four of 10 games, the only four-loss team in the conference, but almost upset 16th-ranked Gonzaga (USA Today) Tuesday night.
- Kansas State Wildcats – The defending conference co-champions haven’t been all that impressive in their six wins, and they were blown out by 27 by unranked Georgetown.
- Texas Tech Red Raiders – Although Tech lost by 21 at then No. 2-ranked Arizona, that game experience against a top-10 team should help the Red Raiders when conference play tips off.
- TCU Horned Frogs – The Frogs appear to be improved this season, but still aren’t up to the level of the rest of the conference.