MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Now that the nation’s attention finally has turned away from the Heart of Dallas Bowl, league play is set to begin in college basketball, and it’s the Big 12 sporting the top conference RPI.
How’s that possible? Well, Kansas restocked with freshman phenoms, Oklahoma State has out-Smarted almost everyone and Baylor portends to be more than a football school. Then there’s Iowa State, which still hasn’t lot since the refs allowed Aaron Craft to make a mockery of the block/charge call last March.
All in all, first-semester Big 12 basketball was far better than anticipated. And with conference play starting Saturday, here’s a look back:
No. 2 Kansas (9-3)
No. 6 Iowa State (12-0)
No. 10 Baylor (9-1)
No. 14 Oklahoma State (12-1)
No. 32 Texas (11-2)
No. 43 Oklahoma (11-2)
No. 84 Kansas State (10-3)
No. 118 West Virginia (8-5)
No. 150 Texas Tech (8-5)
No. 153 Texas Christian (8-3)
— Baylor vs. Kentucky 67-62: At Jerry World, the Bears rallied from nine points down in the final 13 minutes against then-No. 3 Kentucky: Said Baylor center Cory Jefferson: ”It wasn’t no hype to us. We’re a great program just like they were a great program.”
— Kansas vs. Duke 94-83: At the Champions Classic in Chicago, Andrew Wiggins enjoyed a strong debut to what figures to be his only college season, scoring 16 of his 22 points in the second half.
— Oklahoma State vs. Memphis: 101-80: OSU rolled in Stillwater behind Marcus Smart’s 39 points, leading Memphis coach Josh Pastner to assess: “When (Smart) scores like that, he could be the best player in college basketball.” Memphis, currently No. 17 in the RPI, took revenge 73-68 when the teams met two weeks later in Orlando.
— Texas at North Carolina 86-83: The Tar Heels (now 33rd in the RPI) had beaten Kentucky, Louisville and Michigan State but couldn’t handle the Rick Barnes Boys. The upset in Chapel Hill instantly vaulted Texas into NCAA contention.
— Kansas State vs. Gonzaga, 72-62: Yes, the Bulldogs played with Sam Dower (back injury) in the second half, but give the Wildcats credit for holding Gonzaga (No. 16 RPI) to 21 points below its season scoring average.
— Virginia Tech vs. WVU, 87-82: West Virginia built a 17-point first-half lead and then blew it … against a Hokies team that currently sits 159th in the RPI.
— Northern Colorado at Kansas State, 60-58: The Bears landed a blow for the Big Sky by knocking off the defending Big 12 champs. Northern Colorado now owns an RPI of 168.
— Longwood at TCU, 82-79: The Lancers sank the game-winning 3-pointer with 1.7 seconds left. For Longwood, ranked 305th in the RPI, it remains the only win against a D-I foe this year.
— Louisiana Tech at Oklahoma, 102-98: On Monday night the Sooners had six players in double figures, but lost in overtime, snapping a seven-game win streak.
— Michael Cobbins tears Achilles: The Oklahoma State forward had started all 13 games before Monday’s season-ending injury. Though his 4.5 points and 4.3 rebounds per game look easily replaceable, Cobbins provided interior toughness and defense to the Cowboys’ loaded backcourt. His absence could cost OSU a shot at the league title and an NCAA No. 1 seed.
— NCAAs (with seeding): Oklahoma State (2), Kansas (2), Iowa State (4), Baylor (4) and Texas (10).
— NIT: Oklahoma and Kansas State