A top-to-bottom look at the Big 12 after the second weekend of conference play:
1. KANSAS (15-1, 3-0) RPI: No. 3
Ben McLemore scored 33 points, including a Hail Mary 3-pointer at the end of regulation, to help the Jayhawks survive Iowa State 97-89 in overtime last week. Can’t wait for the Big Monday rematch in Ames on Feb. 25.
Speaking of ESPN’s Big Monday, Kansas crushed Baylor in the first of five such appearances this season. That marks the 17th time in 18 seasons the Jayhawks have opened league play 3-0.
2. KANSAS STATE (13-2, 2-0) RPI: No. 34
The 65-64 win in Morgantown wasn’t pretty, yet Bruce Weber felt his Wildcats showed maturity and focus in a nip-and-tuck game.
“The top teams, they’ll still be able to go on the road, execute and give themselves a chance at the end of the games,” Weber said Monday. “The good teams, they’re able to go in, keep their poise, fight through adversity.
“We tell our players, ‘If we run a play you’ve got to execute it. No matter if they are physical and bump you off your cuts or if the crowd gets loud, you can’t get stagnant and just stand there and stare at everybody.'”
Now, Weber has to make sure his players remain focused Wednesday against a bottom-feeding TCU squad.
“It used to be you could tell kids ‘Oh, they’re good’ and all that stuff, but they go on the Internet now and they know all (the opponents’) scores and their players, and every game’s on TV,” he said. “You can’t hide things.”
3. OKLAHOMA (11-3, 2-0) RPI: No. 14
Thanks to 8-of-13 3-point shooting and 19-of-21 at the line, the Sooners won their ninth straight home game in the Bedlam series, downing Oklahoma State 77-68 on Saturday.
The win gave OU its first 2-0 start in conference play since 2009, when Blake Griffin helped the Sooners start 11-0. This roster may not have an NBA player, much less a Griffin-like talent, but it possesses several capable pieces that are being maximized by the underrated Lon Kruger.
4. OKLAHOMA STATE (11-4, 1-2) RPI No. 35
The Cowboys certainly look like an NCAA tournament team on paper, but the loss in Norman left OSU 1-20 in its last 21 league road games. Junior guard Markel Brown attempted to explain the struggles by telling The Daily Oklahoman there must be “some kind of spell on us or something.”
In addition, Oklahoma State lost its only nonconference road game this season, 81-71 at Virginia Tech. This trend could be damaging to OSU come March, considering how the NCAA selection committee devalues teams that turn fragile on the road.
5. IOWA STATE (11-4, 1-1) RPI: No. 51
The Cyclones had six players in double figures and came within one second of winning at Kansas before Ben McLemore’s banked-in 3-pointer sent the game to OT, where the Jayhawks won 97-89.
“It was absolutely heartbreaking for everybody involved,” said ISU coach Fred Hoiberg. “You don’t get those kinds of opportunities at Allen Fieldhouse very often. So you’re always sort of worried about a letdown after that type of scenario.”
Iowa State recovered nicely, however, whipping Texas 82-62 three days later behind an 18-to-5 turnover-to-assist ratio.
6. BAYLOR (11-5, 3-1) RPI: No. 41
The Bears topped TCU 51-40 on Saturday as head coach Scott Drew returned from his two-game exile for violating NCAA rules on text-messaging recruits. Baylor beat Texas 86-79 and Texas Tech 82-48 in his absence.
“Every head coach is only as good as his staff and those two games showed everybody what a great staff we have,” Drew said.
Drew’s biggest epiphany during the suspension? Realizing he shouldn’t have climbed on the treadmill while watching the Texas game, which went to overtime. “The next day I couldn’t walk because I was so sore,” he said.
7. WEST VIRGINIA (8-7, 1-2) RPI: No. 78
The Mountaineers won 57-53 at Texas while shooting only 30 percent, then made 51 percent against K-State only to lose 65-64.
“I’d rather shoot 30 percent and win than shoot 50 percent and lose,” said WVU coach Bob Huggins, whose team has led late but come up empty in both Big 12 home games.
After visiting Iowa State on Wednesday, West Virginia will spend its Big 12 “bye” Saturday traveling to face Purdue in a CBS game.
“I would rather not do it,” Huggins said, “but it’s a combination of TV and not being able to find a suitable date in the nonconference schedule.”
8. TEXAS (8-8, 0-3) RPI: No. 143
The Longhorns, after losing 82-62 at Iowa State, have a weeklong break before hosting Kansas on Saturday. Coach Rick Barnes has been publicly frank about his team’s lack of execution and toughness, but says he isn’t worried about losing the team.
“There hasn’t been a day since this summer when I haven’t look forward to working with them,” he said.
9. TEXAS TECH (8-6, 1-2) RPI: No. 246
The Red Raiders dropped two home games last week. While Coach Chris Walker could stomach the 60-46 loss to Kansas 60-46, he referred to the 82-48 Baylor beatdown as “a terrible hiccup where we didn’t show up at all.”
10. TCU (9-7, 0-3) RPI: No. 223
At halftime of Saturday’s game in Waco, the Frogs sent out an upset alert by leading Baylor 22-21. But TCU shot only 32 percent in an 18-point second half and finished with 14 turnovers against seven assists in a 51-40 loss.
“I’d love to be playing fast,” said TCU coach Trent Johnson, “but I have an old saying that we’re only going to play as fast as we can play well. Right now we don’t have the kind of talent to run up and down the floor.”
Johnson expects a grind when K-State visits Wednesday: “Everything we get, we’re going to have to earn, and we’re having a hard time getting open shots.”