The SEC/Big 12 Challenge roughly marks the halfway point of the Big 12 Conference season. Through eight games, here is how the conference stands.
T-1. Baylor, 19-1 (7-1)
The Bears are 19-1 overall, ranked 5th in the AP poll, and appear to be serious contenders for the Big 12 regular season conference title. The lone blemish on Baylor’s resume is a blowout loss at West Virginia, a fate that KU fans are all too familiar with. Baylor’s Johnathan Motley is on his way to becoming an All-American, and their early season demolition of Oregon is looking better and better by the game.
T-1. Kansas, 18-2 (7-1)
Last Tuesday, Kansas went into Morgantown and lost for the fourth consecutive season. West Virginia outscored the Jayhawks 27-13 over the final 10 minutes en route to a 16 point victory. After a visit to Rupp Arena and the Kentucky Wildcats, a home game on February 1st vs. Baylor figures to have massive conference title implications.
T-3. West Virginia, 16-4 (5-3)
The Mountaineers are the most perplexing squad in the conference. Both of Baylor and Kansas’ lone conference losses have came in Morgantown by a combined 37 points. On the other side of the equation, WVU has a home loss to Oklahoma and road losses to Texas Tech and Kansas State on their resume.
T-3. Iowa State, 13-6 (5-3)
A two-point road loss to Baylor and a two-point neutral court loss to Gonzaga show that the Cyclones can compete with the very best in both the conference and the country. Iowa State’s schedule the rest of the way is not exactly favorable, as they still must travel to Kansas and Kansas State, host Baylor, and play West Virginia twice.
5. Kansas State, 15-5 (4-4)
Three of the Wildcats’ four conference losses have come on the road and are by a combined eight points. Sophomore Dean Wade is putting up an all-conference level season, posting an offensive rating of 126.5 and an effective field goal percentage of 61%. Kansas State visits Tennessee as a part of the SEC/Big 12 Challenge, with the Volunteers fresh off an upset of #4 Kentucky.
T-6. TCU, 14-6 (3-5)
A year removed from a 12-21 season and a disastrous 2-16 Big 12 campaign, the Horned Frogs have turned a corner under first-year head coach Jamie Dixon. Vladimir Brodziansky of Slovakia, who scored a career-high 28 points in late December against Kansas, has an offensive rating of 131.6, and a block percentage of nearly 11%.
T-6. Texas Tech, 14-6 (3-5)
First-year Red Raiders head coach Chris Beard has his team playing incredible competitive basketball. Their overtime home victory vs. West Virginia was as fun of a game as the conference has produced so far this season. They also nearly took down Baylor this week in Waco.
T-8. Oklahoma State, 12-8 (2-6)
Sophomore point guard Jawun Evans is as good of a player that there is in the conference, but the Cowboys have struggled to close games. Oklahoma State has the best offense in the Big 12 according to KenPom’s adjusted offensive efficiency rating, but their defense is the worst in the conference by that some token, and by a large margin.
T-8. Oklahoma, 8-11 (2-6)
The Sooners have struggled a year removed from a Final Four trip. The departure of Buddy Hield and Isaiah Cousins has left a major void on the offensive end of the floor, where OU ranks outside the top 100 in adjusted offensive efficiency. Their biggest win of the year, and the most head scratching result of the conference season so far, came at West Virginia, where the Sooners left with an 89-87 overtime triumph.
T-8 Texas, 8-12 (2-6)
Shaka Smart’s second season in Austin has not yielded the type of results that many expected when he took over for Rick Barnes prior to the 2015-16 season. Longhorns freshman Jarrett Allen is at the center of a program rebuild, averaging 12.4 points and 8.6 rebounds per game. Texas’ youth movement is no joke, as their top four players in usage percentage are all freshman and sophomores.