For 14 seasons there has been a blue shadow looming over Big 12 basketball. The Kansas Jayhawks have won at least a share of the conference title every year since 2005. NO matter what adversity the program faces, or what any of the other teams do, Kansas finds a way to be at the top of the league standings. With multiple absences affecting the Jayhawks starting line-up, and a few slip-ups early in conference play, this looked like the year their streak could end.
There are five games left on the conference slate, and five teams are within two games of each other at the top. Despite a slow start, Bill Self‘s Kansas team are once again in contention, tied for second. The Kansas State Wildcats are atop the Big 12 basketball standings at the moment, with a 10-3 conference record. While the Texas Tech Red Raiders are tied with the defending champs at 9-4. The Baylor Bears and Iowa State Cyclones are two games back at 8-5. Can Kansas once again finish strong and maintain their dominance? Will one of these other programs finally put an end to the Jayhawks stranglehold on Big 12 Basketball?
Will the Rest of Big 12 Basketball Please Stand Up?
The conference title is still up for grabs with five games to go. Take a look at each of the four teams in contention. The final few weeks will determine if Big 12 basketball will have a new team on top for the first time in 14 seasons.
Kansas State Wildcats
The Wildcats sit in first place with just a few games to go. They are a balanced team with four players scoring in double figures. Barry Brown Jr. leads the way with 15.9 points a game. Dean Wade has missed six games, including the first three conference games in which Kansas State went 1-2. The versatile forward’s health is key to the Wildcats. They are a much better team with the senior in the lineup. With a trip to Kansas and a visit from Baylor left on the schedule, the Wildcats control their own destiny. If they finish strong they can finally break their rival’s hold on Big 12 basketball.
Texas Tech Red Raiders
Jarrett Culver‘s versatile offensive skill set gets most of the publicity for the team in Lubbock, Tx. The 6’5″ sophomore leads the team in scoring, rebounds, and assists. His 17.7 points on 49% shooting are impressive for sure but make no mistake, this is a defense first team. Texas Tech has only allowed two conference opponents to score more than 70 points this season. They lost both of those games. The Red Raiders are going to defend as well as any team in the nation every night. That commitment to defense will keep them in every game. They will need guards Davide Moretti and Matt Mooney to step up on the offensive end to help Culver if they want to finish strong.
It has been a rough year in Lawrence with roster stability. Lagerald Vick left the team for personal reasons and hasn’t played in the last three games. Udoka Azubuike has been reduced to playing in nine games this season due to injury, and will not return. Both players were starters and all-conference caliber players. Dedric Lawson has carried this team, putting up 19.2 points and 10.3 rebounds a night. Freshman point guard Devon Dotson has stepped up for the Jayhawks, averaging 18 points, 5 assists, and two steals over the last five games. The next two games are against the Red Raiders and Wildcats. Their Big 12 title defense could be determined in the next week.
Still A Shot
The Baylor Bears went to Iowa State and won earlier this week. These two teams are now tied in the standing two games back. The Bears big road win came on the heels of two losses in four games stretch. They still have road trips to face the Wildcats and Jayhawks, so their chances are slim. The Cyclones have lost two of the last three to slip down the standings. They have the easiest schedule remaining, as Texas Tech is the only team in the title hunt they have to face. The high scoring Cyclones have a chance to finish strong while the rest of the contenders beat up on each other.
There is even a fascinating, albeit, a highly unlikely scenario in which the Texas Longhorns could be involved in a six-way tie atop the standings. The chaos needed for that would be entertaining enough to warrant mention of the possibility, but it won’t happen. So with just five conference games remaining, the 15-year-old question lingers. Will the rest of Big 12 basketball finally stand up?
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