The moment of truth is here, at least in regards to determining which team is best in the Big 12 this regular season — and perhaps the entire country.
Around the time that West Virginia and TCU tip off, the showdown between No. 3 Kansas and No. 1 Baylor will be wrapping up and perhaps providing some clarity into which team will get the No. 1 overall seed in this year’s NCAA tournament.
The Bears will be favored, playing on their home floor in perhaps the most anticipated home game in the school’s men’s basketball history. Having already beaten the Jayhawks at Allen Fieldhouse, a win would all but wrap up the program’s first regular-season conference crown since 1950.
If Kansas wins, Baylor’s regular-season finale at West Virginia may well determine whether that title drought continues.
1. Baylor (24-1, 13-0) Last week: 1
After a few scares, the Bears seem to be rounding back into top form with double-digit wins over WVU and Oklahoma. That Baylor handled the Mountaineers with ease despite missing No. 2 scorer MaCio Teague said a lot about the Bears’ depth.
2. Kansas (22-3, 12-1) Last week: 2
Four of the Jayhawks past five wins have been by double digits, with West Virginia being the lone exception. Marcus Garrett’s run of defensive wizardry has been key to the Kansas surge.
3. West Virginia (19-7, 7-6) Last week: 4
We believe the Mountaineers have bounced back from a three-game hiccup that included the misfortune of consecutive games against Kansas and Baylor. For as much as this team has struggled on the road in the Big 12, there’s no reason it should not win both of its upcoming games at TCU and Texas.
4. Texas Tech (17-9, 8-5) Last week: 3
The Red Raiders remain ahead of West Virginia in the standings, but did not impress in losing at Oklahoma State and eking out a win against Kansas State. Perhaps this is Texas Tech’s version of the lull West Virginia just went through, but against lesser competition.
5. Oklahoma (16-10, 6-7) Last week: 5
The Sooners experienced the Kansas-Baylor back-to-back this week, and fared considerably worse than WVU in the process. Oklahoma lost to Kansas by 17 and Baylor by 11.
6. Texas (15-11, 5-8) Last week: 6
The moment John Beilein’s disastrous NBA experiment came to an end, you could practically see the Bat Signal flashing in the sky from Austin. Or maybe that was due to the millions of actual bats that live in Austin.
Either way, it feels like Shaka Smart has to finish strong in order to quell the Beilein-to-Texas rumor mill that will churn for the next several weeks.
7. Oklahoma State (13-13, 3-10) Last week: 7
Last week, we warned you that the much-improved Cowboys were poised to upset someone in the Big 12 tournament. They didn’t feel like waiting, instead choosing to beat Texas Tech the very next day.
Tuesday’s game at WVU was as good a demonstration as any of this rollercoaster team — 62 percent shooting in the first half followed by 17 percent in the second.
8. Iowa State (11-15, 4-9) Last week: 8
Playing without star point guard Tyrese Haliburton, the Cyclones blitzed Texas by 29 points. Granted, Texas was without starters Jericho Sims and Jase Febres, but a blowout of this proportion was unexpected.
9. TCU (14-12, 5-8) Last week: 9
The Horned Frogs beat Kansas State to snap a six-game losing streak, but got another potential skid started with a flat second-half performance at Texas. With Kansas and Baylor still looming, TCU’s chances of even reaching the NIT probably rest on beating West Virginia.
10. Kansas State (9-17, 2-11) Last week: 10
The Wildcats are 0-for-February — an extremely troubling stat in a Leap Year.