Big 12 basketball: Is this the year someone other than Kansas finally wins?
Bill Self’s Kansas squad has won 11 consecutive Big 12 regular season crowns, and as the stretch run approaches, the Jayhawks are in prime position to extend that streak to 12.
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So who has the inside track to capture the league championship? Let’s check out all five teams’ remaining schedules and see if any has a distinct edge.
Kansas Jayhawks (8-3)
Remaining opponents’ combined Big 12 record: 37-40 (.481)
|Feb. 13||at Oklahoma|
|Feb. 15||vs. Oklahoma State|
|Feb. 20||at Kansas State|
|Feb. 23||at Baylor|
|Feb. 27||vs. Texas Tech|
|Mar. 2||at Texas|
|Mar. 5||vs. Iowa State|
The good news for Kansas: It’s essentially unbeatable at Allen Fieldhouse. The bad news for Kansas: Four of the Jayhawks’ last seven games are on the road, including huge clashes at Oklahoma, Baylor and Texas.
Yikes. The Jayhawks are 2-3 in conference road games this season, including an ugly 19-point loss to 2-9 Oklahoma State. Kansas is 8-3 and tied for first place in the conference, so for all intents and purposes, it still controls its own destiny.
But Kansas isn’t going to win the Big 12 in 2016 simply by taking care of business in Lawrence. This Jayhawks team has struggled on the road, and they’re giving their rivals a rare glimmer of hope.
Oklahoma Sooners (8-3)
Remaining opponents’ combined Big 12 record: 38-39 (.494)
|Feb. 13||vs. Kansas|
|Feb. 17||at Texas Tech|
|Feb. 20||at West Virginia|
|Feb. 24||vs. Oklahoma State|
|Feb. 27||at Texas|
|Mar. 1||vs. Baylor|
|Mar. 5||at TCU|
The Sooners also have three remaining home games in comparison to four road games. One of those home tilts is Saturday afternoon’s main event against Kansas, and the familiar bearings should serve as a major advantage for Buddy Hield’s crew.
Oklahoma still has to travel to West Virginia and Texas, and like the Jayhawks, the Sooners are 2-3 in Big 12 road affairs. Their remaining schedule is slightly tougher than Kansas’, and we’ll know a lot more after Saturday. But simply based on the notion that Oklahoma gets Kansas in Norman this weekend, the Sooners might have a slight edge.
West Virginia Mountaineers (8-3)
Remaining opponents’ combined Big 12 record: 36-41 (.468)
|Feb. 13||vs. TCU|
|Feb. 16||at Texas|
|Feb. 20||vs. Oklahoma|
|Feb. 22||vs. Iowa State|
|Feb. 27||at Oklahoma State|
|Mar. 2||vs. Texas Tech|
|Mar. 5||at Baylor|
West Virginia has more favorable home/road splits than Kansas or Oklahoma (four remaining home games; three road games), has the easiest remaining schedule of the three teams and has already gotten both of its Kansas dates out of the way. The Mountaineers and the Jayhawks split those meetings, and Bob Huggins’ squad has gotten its Oklahoma road trip out of the way, too.
Not many thought West Virginia could win the Big 12 in 2016, but if you take the names out of the equation and just look at the numbers, the Mountaineers have a better shot than Kansas or Oklahoma does based on remaining schedule. The Eers have a date with TCU on Saturday before a tough three-game stretch against Texas, Oklahoma and Iowa State, but two of those games will be played at WVU Coliseum.
Could this be the year of the Mountaineer?
Texas Longhorns (7-4)
Remaining opponents’ combined Big 12 record: 42-35 (.545)
|Feb. 13||at Iowa State|
|Feb. 16||vs. West Virginia|
|Feb. 20||vs. Baylor|
|Feb. 22||at Kansas State|
|Feb. 27||vs. Oklahoma|
|Feb. 29||vs. Kansas|
|Mar. 4||at Oklahoma State|
Texas’ late-season schedule isn’t doing it any favors, at it still has to play all three 8-3 teams in Kansas, Oklahoma and West Virginia. The good news for the Longhorns? All of those games will take place at the Frank Erwin Center. Like most college basketball teams, Texas is very good at home and pedestrian on the road. All four of the Horns’ Big 12 losses this season have come in unfamiliar territory.
Shaka Smart’s group was on the verge of winning five in a row before a Buddy Hield offensive explosion on Monday night, so despite their tough remaining slate, you can’t write these guys off.
Baylor Bears (7-4)
Remaining opponents’ combined Big 12 record: 43-34 (.558)
|Feb. 13||vs. Texas Tech|
|Feb. 16||vs. Iowa State|
|Feb. 20||at Texas|
|Feb. 23||vs. Kansas|
|Feb. 27||at TCU|
|Mar. 1||at Oklahoma|
|Mar. 5||vs. West Virginia|
Baylor has the most difficult remaining schedule of any of these teams from a win/loss perspective, as it still has to square off against the three-headed monster atop the conference and must travel to Texas. Four of the Bears’ final seven games will be played in Waco, but Scott Drew’s team has also struggled of late, dropping two of its last three games.
Baylor isn’t out of the Big 12 race by any means, but to say winning the league outright is an uphill climb would be an understatement.