By Anthony Slater – Aslater@opubco.com - @anthonyVslater
The Big 12 hoops race has become a cluttered mess, open to anyone in the northern half of the conference.
That sudden revelation came Wednesday night in Fort Worth, when the conference doormat beat the perennial favorite.
TCU, a program with eight Big 12 losses during the first half of this season, beat Kansas, a program with seven Big 12 losses in the past four years.
And now we have this:
What we know:
Kansas is certainly still the favorite. Eight straight conference titles earn them that moniker by default.
But the Jayhawks look much more vulnerable than years past. They lack depth and bulk inside and, more alarming, their point guard (that’s not really a point guard) is in the midst of a psychological meltdown.
Elijah Johnson has been brutal during this surprising two-game losing streak (6/26 shooting) and has been hearing it from Bill Self postgame.
That’s has opened it up to any conference teams that don’t play in Texas or West Virginia.
What we’ll learn on Saturday:
-Kansas at Oklahoma (3 p.m. on ESPN) – The most important Big 12 game of the weekend. With a home win, OU could turn a muddled race into a conference free-for-all, vaulting themselves into the discussion and potentially (with an Iowa State win at KSU) getting within one game of the Big 12 lead.
-Oklahoma State at Texas (12:45 on Big 12 Network) – The Cowboys are the hottest team in the conference. They’ve won four straight games, the last three over NCAA tournament-level teams. And despite recent road struggles (sans the KU upset), OSU will be favored in Austin. A win, along with losses from KU and KSU, would put them in a tie for first. Both teams still have to travel to Stillwater.
-Iowa State at Kansas State (5 p.m. on ESPN2) – Conceivably, with an OU win against Kansas and an Iowa State win in Manhattan, we’d have five teams within one game of the Big 12 lead.
-Texas Tech at Baylor (3 p.m. on Big 12 Network) – And if Baylor can beat Texas Tech at home (a virtual certainty), along with the above scenario, we’d have six teams (more than half the conference), within one game of first place.