The struggles continue for Lon Kruger and his men. This time, in the form of a last second loss to in-state rival Oklahoma State. Their next contest comes on the road in Lubbock, when OU faces another struggling Big 12 team in Texas Tech. The Sooners will look to end their 4-game skid against the Red Raiders, who are coming into Saturday having lost 3 of their last 4. Momentum wise, a few wins down the stretch could help OU get things going in a more positive direction to end the season.
NEXT GAME: 2/4 @ Texas Tech
9. Texas (9-13, 3-6) [+1]
I continue to see potential with this Texas team. Every game, they show flashes of what could at some point become a dangerous team. Winners of 2 of their last 3, the Longhorns have a big test on Saturday in Fort Worth. If Texas can steal a win from TCU, not only will it be huge for the Horns, but it will throw yet another wrench into the Big 12 race. TCU is fighting to stay in the tournament conversation, and who better to ruin that party than a down Texas team? Jarrett Allen leads the Longhorns on the glass, and has really stepped it up scoring wise over the last few weeks to now lead Texas with over 12 points per game. Allen will be the main mode of attack for Texas when they take on TCU this Saturday.
NEXT GAME: 2/4 @ TCU
8. Texas Tech (15-7, 3-6) [-1]
The Red Raiders have strugged as of late, but I continually see the foundation of a cometitive program. Tech has a few winnable games left, and plenty of opportunity for making noise. They currently are sitting just on the outside of the tournament picture, but with big games against some of the conference heavyweights remaining, they have plenty of chances to get into the dance. Chris Beard’s team has a grand opportunity Saturday to get a win against the downtrodden Oklahoma Sooners. If the Red Raiders get a win, they set themselves up with momentum for their tough homestretch.
NEXT GAME: 2/4 vs. Oklahoma
7. Oklahoma State (14-8, 3-6) [+1]
Well would you look at this, the Pokes are on fire. Winners of four-straight contests, the Cowboys get their revenge shot at West Virginia on Saturday. To open up conference play, the Mountaineers took advantage of OSU in Stillwater, but will Morgantown be the same story? I think not. Oklahoma State has one of the best offenses in the country, and recently they have put it all together on defense, leading to their streak. I look for this game to be an absolute slugfest in which players like Juwan Evans and Phil Forte come up huge. Forte hit the game winner on the road this past week for OSU’s first win in Norman since 2004, and that big win momentum is going to come up big in the coming days.
NEXT GAME: 2/4 @ West Virginia
6. Kansas State (15-7, 4-5) [-1]
Not too long ago, I was fairly sure K-State was trending upwards. But here we sit and now I’m convinced of the opposite. Three-straight losses, and one of them at home to the Horned Frogs in overtime, a game where I feel like this Kansas State team absolutely had to win, but alas, the Cats came up short, and now their season may take an even bigger hit when they head down to Waco. Baylor is coming off a tough loss at Kansas, and the Wildcats may become the victims of a rebound beatdown. The one way that K-State can avoid that is with their outside shot. They have plenty of ability to do so, but you can’t predict hot shooting. If they are unable to hit those threes, this season could tailspin for K-State.
NEXT GAME: 2/4 @ Baylor
5. TCU (15-7, 4-5) [+1]
The Horned Frogs just picked up one of their biggest wins of the season. A road win in this conference is never easy to come by, but TCU got their’s in Manhattan. This win could become a turning point to get them back on track. Coach Dixon’s team is on the cusp of a tournament berth, and they’ll need to string together several more strong wins to get solidly into the conversation. I don’t think anyone anticipated this type of performance from TCU in the first year under a new coach, but the results they have produced so far are more than impressive. They have the opportunity to grab another victory against Texas on Saturday, and that could be another step towards March Madness.
NEXT GAME: 2/4 vs. Texas
4. Iowa State (13-8, 5-4) [no change]
Iowa State is constantly on the brink of breaking through to the top tier of the conference, yet continually falling short at the hands of the true best teams in the Big 12. The Cyclones’ loss to West Virginia this past week was confirmation to me of exactly that. Iowa State gets their second chance at Kansas this weekend, and a win in Allen Fieldhouse could completely shift our perpectives on ISU. Naz Mitrou-Long and Monte Morris will try to do what hasn’t been done in 51 attempts, and that is walk out of the Phog with a win. They have the tools to do so if they can create issues against Kansas’ guards.
NEXT GAME: 2/4 @ Kansas
3. West Virginia (18-4, 6-3) [no change]
As we begin the backstretch of conference play, the Mountaineers will look to flex their muscles on one of the hottest teams in the Big 12 this weekend. Bob Huggins’ team already notched a double digit win in Stillwater, but will look to grab a second helping when they welcome in Oklahoma State. This game isn’t a given either, since the Cowboys have turned over a new leaf, yet I think that the Mountaineers and the challenges they present defensively will have enough to slow down the high scoring Pistol Pete’s. Jevon Carter and his teammates will need to keep creating havoc to grab another win and keep pace with the top two teams in our rankings.
NEXT GAME: 2/4 vs. Oklahoma State
2. Baylor (20-2, 7-2) [-1]
If I learned one thing this past week, it’s that Baylor has incredible potential for the remainder of the season. In just their second loss of the year, the Bears had every opportunity to get a win in Lawrence. They held a 6 point lead at the break but saw it evaporate quickly with a trademark Kansas run. Johnathan Motley is clearly one of the most dynamic players in the league. He created massive issues against KU’s interior defense, and if it weren’t for Bill Self’s adjustments, he just may have been too much for the Jayhawks to handle. The Bears will take on K-State on Saturday, and I expect a big statement to be made against the Wildcats to create momentum for the second half of league play.
NEXT GAME: 2/4 vs. Kansas State
1. Kansas (20-2, 8-1) [+1]
After just one week out of the number 1 slot, the Jayhawks have made their return to the top of the hill. Frank Mason III and Josh Jackson have combined to be one of the most dynamic duos in the nation. Kansas’ interior issues have become more clear over the recent contests, but they continue to find ways to win games. Bill Self has solidified himself as one of the best coaches around. His uses of the zone defense to throw a wrench into opposing teams’ strategies have caused emense issues late in games, and I think that could be attributed to their continued success in big games as of late. Their upcoming game against Iowa State has been overlooked lately amidst the contests against Kentucky and Baylor, but it won’t be a simple task. The guard play will need to come up big once again and keep Kansas’ homecourt streak alive.