STORY OF THE WEEK
Streak outlook bleak: If Kansas is to win a national record-extending 15th straight conference championship, the Jayhawks are going to have to do it playing catch-up. In just the last week, KU learned the NCAA has ruled withheld sophomore forward Silvio De Sousa ineligible through the 2019-20 season, lost sophomore guard and defensive ace Marcus Garrett to an ankle sprain, fell to 1-6 in true road contests with a troubling 74-67 defeat at rival Kansas State and lost lone senior Lagerald Vick to an indefinite leave of absence. The stumble in Manhattan had Bill Self doubting his team’s mental and physical toughness. “Are we in a great position to win the league? No. Do we deserve to be in a great position? Absolutely not,” Self said. “Can we flip the switch? Remains to be seen.”
Kansas State: With the Wildcats trailing by 21 at West Virginia and staring down an 0-3 start to Big 12 play, few in that moment would’ve expected what’s come since — a furious rally past the Mountaineers that kick-started a stretch of seven straight league victories. Carrying the nation’s fourth-ranked scoring defense (59.1 points allowed per game) and the No. 1 scoring defense in Big 12 play (60.1), the blueprint to a league crown for the first-place Wildcats is clear.
Texas Tech: While the Red Raiders have won three of four, they’ve also dropped four of six in Big 12 play, including a 79-63 defeat last Saturday against an emotionally charged Kansas team. Texas Tech's long-struggling offense connected on just 34.4 percent of its attempts in that setback. “We might as well pack it up right now if we play like that,” senior forward Norense Odiase said of the Red Raiders' 20-point halftime deficit. “We can never, ever come out like that again.”
Kansas State at Baylor
5 p.m. CST Saturday, Ferrell Center, Waco, Texas, ESPN2
The Wildcats and Bears square off for the first time this season, with the home team one game out of first place. The biggest surprise to this point in league play, Baylor had reeled of six straight victories before Wednesday’s 84-72 defeat at Texas. More impressive, the Bears have done it without sophomore forward Tristan Clark (season-ending knee injury), who still ranks second on the team in scoring (14.3 points per game) and rebounding (6.2). "Everybody in the Big 12 wants a chance to win the championship and end the (Kansas) streak," BU coach Scott Drew told reporters this week. "So that's what everyone's goal is. But again, it's the Big 12. Each and every night is a dogfight, and if you don't bring your ‘A’ game, you don't even have a chance to win that game, let alone the conference championship. That's why it's so hard, because it's hard to be up for every game."
WEEKEND SLATE (All times Central)
Time ... Game ... TV
11 a.m. ... Oklahoma State at Kansas ... ESPN
1 p.m. ... TCU at Iowa State ... ESPNU
3 p.m. ... Texas Tech at Oklahoma ... ESPNU
7 p.m. ... Texas at West Virginia ... ESPN2
PLAYERS OF THE WEEK
G Makai Mason, Baylor: Former Yale standout authored Big 12’s best offensive showing this season, scoring 40 points on 9-for-12 shooting from 3 in Bears’ 90-64 victory over TCU.
F Dean Wade, Kansas State: Big 12 preseason player of the year followed 24-point effort on 9-for-9 shooting at Oklahoma State with a 12-point, nine-rebound showing versus rival Kansas, both victories.
F Dedric Lawson, Kansas: Only Big 12 player averaging a double-double had 25 points and 10 rebounds in 79-63 victory versus Texas Tech, hitting all three 3-point attempts.
G Desmond Bane, TCU: Helped the Horned Frogs eke out a 70-68 victory over Oklahoma State with a 26-point performance, hitting 6 of 9 tries from beyond the arc.
NUMBER OF NOTE
Field goal percentage in Big 12 play for Texas’ Jaxson Hayes, who has connected on 40 of 53 attempts. Hayes’ mark tops the conference, 15.9 percent higher than the second-place number posted by TCU’s Kevin Samuel, and the freshman forward’s 74.4-percent season clip ranks third nationally.
RANKING THE LEAGUE (through Feb. 6)
1. Kansas State (17-5, 7-2): Cartier Diarra’s windmill jam was the eventual game-sealer, but Barry Brown’s dunk just after the final buzzer may have been more satisfying to Wildcat fans in the victory over Kansas. “Shoutout Brannen Greene,” said Brown, referencing the former Jayhawk guard who dunked at the end of an in-hand victory three seasons ago. (Last week: 4)
2. Iowa State (18-5, 7-3): The Cyclones have won six of their last seven, but it hasn’t been easy of late — ISU held off Texas 65-60 on Saturday before earning a 75-74 victory Monday at Oklahoma. Lindell Wigginton has scored at least 18 points in three of the team’s last four contests. (LW: 1)
3. Kansas (17-6, 6-4): Losers of three of their last four and six of 13 overall, the Jayhawks have bigger problems than their teetering Big 12 streak. "I feel like I should be (former Indianapolis Colts coach) Jim Mora right now in my talk," Bill Self told reporters this week, "because we shouldn't even be concerned about a damn race right now." (LW: 3)
4. Baylor (15-7, 6-3): The Bears have two of the Big 12's top-five most accurate 3-point shooters in conference play in Devonte Bandoo (53.3 percent) and Makai Mason (45 percent). Bandoo, a junior guard averaging 17.7 minutes, hit just 29.7 percent of his long-range tries in nonconference play. (LW: 5)
5. Texas Tech (18-5, 6-4): While Davide Moretti (12.1 points per game in Big 12 play) and Matt Mooney (10.7) have stepped up offensively, star sophomore Jarrett Culver has struggled over the team’s last nine league contests, shooting 43.3 percent overall and 11.1 percent from 3-point range in that stretch. (LW: 2)
6. Texas (13-10, 5-5): If nothing else, the Longhorns are showing strides at home — Texas has downed Baylor, Kansas and Oklahoma in its last three games at Frank Erwin Center, a far cry from the back-to-back nonconference defeats to Radford and VCU in Austin. (LW: 7)
7. TCU (16-6, 4-5): The Horned Frogs avoided a résumé-killing defeat Wednesday, besting undermanned Oklahoma State 70-68 at home. JD Miller’s buzzer-beating fadeaway jumper proved the difference after the Cowboys had erased a 13-point second-half deficit. (LW: 6)
8. Oklahoma (15-8, 3-7): The Sooners have dropped three straight, including an eight-point loss Saturday at lowly West Virginia and a one-point heartbreaker Monday at Iowa State. (LW: 8)
9. Oklahoma State (9-13, 2-7): The Cowboys fielded just six scholarship players in the second half of Wednesday's loss at TCU, with freshman forward Duncan Demuth fighting a back strain. "I think it may be a little more psychological now than truly physical," OSU coach Mike Boynton told reporters of Demuth’s injury. "... I can't tell the kid how he feels, so I don't wanna do that. I do want him to understand there's a difference between being injured and having to need medical attention, and being sore or having some aches and pains, which is part of the process through the college basketball season." (LW: 9)
10. West Virginia (10-13, 2-8): Mountaineer forward Logan Routt will be suspended for the first half of the team’s home game against Texas for tripping Texas Tech guard Matt Mooney from the bench. To be fair, it was probably WVU’s best opportunity to stagger the Red Raiders in the eventual 81-50 rout. (LW: 10)