BIG XII HOOPS RISERS AND FALLERS
The Big XII has been one of the toughest and deepest conferences in college basketball in recent years and contains the defending national champion. The Big XII has had a final four team in four of the past five tournaments and several teams have the credentials to make a big run this season. As February approaches, here are three teams likely to climb and three teams that could fall from its current placement in the standings.
BIG XII RISERS
OKLAHOMA (3-5): The Sooners have had a difficult start to conference play and three of the team’s five losses have come against Baylor and Kansas. Oklahoma didn’t look out of place in any of those games and while it has been an expected transition season for Porter Moser, the shooting numbers are excellent, and this is a top 20 defense nationally. The sooners will face highly ranked Auburn this weekend before a pair of winnable games in league play. There are still several difficult games remaining for Oklahoma, but this group is likely better than its current record, sitting with two overtime losses and with numbers that could improve down the stretch.
IOWA STATE (3-5): T. J. Otzelberger is a prime Coach of the Year candidate with Iowa State 15-5 after he inherited a team that finished 2-22 last season under Steve Prohm. There were several high-quality wins in the non-conference season but in Big XII play Iowa State has struggled with five losses already. The wins have been quality results however and they have already lost to the top two teams in the conference with a five-point loss to Baylor and a one-point loss to Kansas. Two games each with Kansas State and West Virginia remain in the Big XII path and this has been a top 10 defense nationally as the Cyclones will be tough to pull away from.
OKLAHOMA STATE (3-5): The Cowboys have a win at Baylor this season for a result that commands a lot of respect and the past two Big XII losses came by five on the road while allowing only 56 points, and by three in overtime. They still have three games remaining against the bottom two teams in the conference and this is an elite defensive team for Mike Boynton with some of the best numbers in the conference. Bryce Williams has missed the past two losses for Oklahoma State with ankle injury and his eventual return should provide a boost for the Cowboys to climb to at least a .500 finish in league play.
BIG XII FALLERS
BAYLOR (6-2): Casual fans will assume Baylor is on a similar trajectory to last season but this group lacks the great backcourt play of last season and the current injury for James Akinjo could lead to some inconsistency in the coming weeks. Baylor’s two conference losses both came at home and there are several high-quality defensive teams in the conference that can stall the Baylor offense. While Baylor has a top seven grade in efficiency on both sides of the ball nationally, they are not #1 in the Big XII in either, while currently #4 on defense. The non-conference schedule proved to be incredibly weak for the Bears overall and the 6-2 Big XII start has already included half of the wins coming against TCU, West Virginia, and Kansas State. Baylor is a serious threat to win the conference again but a few more losses are likely on the way.
TEXAS (5-3): Chris Beard has taken Texas to 15-5 in his first season since moving up from Texas Tech. The defensive numbers are excellent, but Texas played the nation’s 354th ranked non-conference schedule to pad the numbers. The 5-3 start has not featured a win against any of the top three teams in the Big XII yet as Texas has not played Baylor, Kansas, or Texas Tech yet, meaning six of the team’s final ten conference games will be against that elite trio. Needless to say, several losses for the Longhorns are ahead and this group could possibly fall to the middle of the pack in the conference standings.
TCU (3-3): Most power ratings call TCU the worst team in the conference, yet TCU is in fifth place in the current standings with a .500 record through an abbreviated early-season schedule. TCU has some of its best remaining opportunities in the next two weeks, but the late season schedule is brutally difficult as they will play Baylor, Texas, Texas Tech, and Kansas five times in six games starting in late February. Six Big XII road games remain for TCU and seven games vs. top 20 caliber teams are still ahead with TCU posting zero such wins on its current 13-4 resume. In Big XII play TCU is last in offensive efficiency, turnovers, and free throws as the Horned Frogs could crash to the bottom of the league by early March.