The big picture
Five days ago, it looked like the Kansas Jayhawks could be well on their way to yet another conference title. They had taken care of the Baylor Bears at home, knocking the upstarts from Waco out of the ranks of the undefeated. Five days later, the Bears suffered another setback at home against Missouri, putting them a full two games back of KU. The Tigers had already stumbled on the road to Kansas State early in the conference season, and hoped to keep the Jayhawks within reach heading into their home-and-home series. Instead, Oklahoma State gave the Jayhawks even more padding in the standings by pulling off a big upset over the Tigers at Gallagher-Iba Arena.
With a two-game cushion, the Jayhawks had slight room for error. Unfortunately, they used their mulligan right away, tripping up on the road against Iowa State on Saturday. Missouri looked shaky in wins over Texas Tech and Texas, but managed to stay just a half-game behind their rivals. With the Jayhawks facing Missouri, Baylor, and Kansas State on the road over the next two weeks, things are about to get very interesting.
In the middle of the standings, Kansas State suffered a home loss to the Sooners, giving OU a season sweep of the Wildcats. Coupled with Iowa State’s statement win over the Jayhawks, it looks like there could soon be a very clear division between the league’s top four teams and its bottom six. If the Cyclones can take care of business at home against the ‘Cats tonight, it will only widen the gap.
Oklahoma State at Texas Tech; Tuesday, 7 P.M. CT (ESPN Full Court/ESPN3.com)
Meteorologist and tempo-free guru Ken Pomeroy gives the Red Raiders a 29% chance to finish the Big 12 slate winless. Of course, their best chances to avoid the conference skunking is when playing some of the league’s other bottom feeders at the friendly confines of United Spirit Arena.
While Oklahoma State finally played up to expectations in their upset of Missouri last Wednesday, the Pokes have just a 2-9 record in games away from Gallagher-Iba. If Billy Gillispie and the Red Raiders are going to avoid a dubious historical distinction, this is one of their best chances to do so. Shut down Le’Bryan Nash, and Oklahoma State becomes a very pedestrian team.
Kansas State at Iowa State; Tuesday, 8 P.M. CT (ESPN Full Court/ESPN3.com)
Tonight, the game could very well be won on the perimeter. Iowa State brings in a lofty 37.6% team mark from behind the arc, including a pair of guards in Scott Christopherson and sixth man Tyrus McGee who are making over 41% of their three pointers. Kansas State, meanwhile, has the 15th-best perimeter defense in the country, led by the quick hands of Martavious Irving. While all eyes will be on constant double-double threat Royce White, this one could be decided by the smallest guys on the floor.
Baylor at Texas A&M; Wednesday, 8 P.M. CT (ESPN2)
It wasn’t long ago that the Battle on the Brazos was turning into quite the basketball rivalry. In 2008, the teams played an unforgettable five-overtime thriller that was only seen by those in the building and those dedicated enough to watch an online stream from A&M’s website. Less than two months later, the rematch was a heated affair that involved benches clearing and bottles being thrown on the court, further fueling the hatred between the two fanbases.
With Texas A&M predicted by league coaches to win the Big 12, and with Baylor sporting a lineup rich with NBA prospects, this year’s pair of games appeared to be potential classics on paper. Instead, the Aggies have failed to live up to expectations, dropping to the bottom of the league standings. A&M’s move to the SEC next season means that this will be the last time these two teams play in the regular season for quite some time, but the apathetic Aggie fanbase doesn’t seem to care. Yesterday, A&M slashed upper-level tickets to just $10 for the final installment of this rivalry. It’s a sad way to see this entertaining series come to an end.
Oklahoma at Kansas; Wednesday, 8 P.M. CT (ESPNU)
Winning at Allen Fieldhouse is a nearly impossible task, but even Texas A&M made the Jayhawks sweat last Monday when they brought an injured team to Lawrence and fought Kansas until the final minutes. The Sooners are fresh off a road win against Kansas State, so their confidence won’t be lacking in this one. While Oklahoma probably doesn’t have the horses to pull off the improbable upset, they can certainly be competitive with the Jayhawks.