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Big 12 basketball: Surprise! KU leads

by Berry Tramel Modified: January 14, 2014 at 1:25 pm •  Published: January 14, 2014
Oklahoma State's game against Kansas on Saturday is setting up as an important one in the Big 12. Photo by Chris Landsberger, The Oklahoman
Oklahoma State's game against Kansas on Saturday is setting up as an important one in the Big 12. Photo by Chris Landsberger, The Oklahoman

Kansas has taken command of the Big 12 basketball race. Some things do not change.

The Jayhawks have won the Big 12 outright or tied for the title nine straight years. KU had the decency to share the title with Kansas State in 2013, with Texas in 2008 and 2006, and with OU in 2005. But Kansas always is at the top.

And the Jayhawks are there again, taking a clear lead with a 77-70 victory Monday night at Iowa State.

Just three games into the conference race, Kansas is in command. The Jayhawks are the lone unbeaten in the Big 12, at 3-0. KU has two road wins, including a victory at a fellow contender (Iowa State).

Using the method of giving a team one point for a road victory and taking away a point for a home defeat, the standings look like this: KU +2, OSU +1, Kansas State +1, OU even, Baylor even, Iowa State even, Texas even, West Virginia even, TCU -2, Texas Tech -2.

Which makes OSU’s game Saturday at Kansas even more important. The Cowboys could fall two games behind the Jayhawks and would then need help.

It’s awfully early to be worrying about a conference race that won’t be concluded until March. But fitting. Because it’s Kansas.

The SEC also is dominated by a tradition-rich program, Kentucky. But the Wildcats do not win the SEC every season. Florida won in 2013 and 2011 and 2007. LSU won in 2009. Tennessee won in 2008.

The Big East and Big Ten and ACC have decades-long parity, despite powerhouse programs. The Pac-12 has had a different school win its last four titles — UCLA, Washington, Arizona and California.

But in the Big 12, Kansas rules.

The Big 12 plays excellent basketball. Most analysts list the Big 12 as the top-rated conference this season. But the Big 12 has had no outright champion or no Final Four team other than Kansas since 2004, when Eddie Sutton’s Cowboys achieved both feats.

Can OSU change that this season? The Cowboys already have lost at Kansas State and barely survived at West Virginia. Meanwhile, Kansas won at Iowa State. The Jayhawks won’t be easy to unseat.

by Berry Tramel
Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The Oklahoman,...
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