By Wendell Barnhouse | firstname.lastname@example.org
The average margin of victory in the four conference games on Saturday was 5.5 points. The total margin of all four games was 22 points.
Big 12 men's basketball is the No. 1 conference in the latest RPI. Five league teams are ranked in the top 25 - tied for the most of any conference.
The Big 12 winning percentage in non-conference play is the best of any conference in the nation. The league has posted a 102-26 (.797) mark this season.
The Big 12 is the only conference with every team showcasing a .571 win percentage or better.
The Big 12 has 26 non-conference losses this season - the fewest of any conference in the nation.
Three Big 12 teams (No. 7 Iowa State, No. 8 Oklahoma State, No. 9 Oklahoma) are ranked in the top 10 in the nation in points per game.
Baylor (12-1, 0-0)
The Bears are the highest-ranked Big 12 team, checking in at No. 7 in this week's Associated Press rankings. Baylor and Kansas were the only two Big 12 teams that didn't open Conference play over the weekend. Coach Scott Drew will play at Iowa State at 6 p.m. Tuesday on ESPN2 in what has evolved into a huge game in terms of the Big 12 pecking order.
Baylor is coming off an 80-50 victory over Savannah State Friday night. The Bears made 75 percent of their shots in the first half (15 of 20 field goals and six of seven from 3-point range) and finished at 52 percent for the game.
Taurean Prince came off the bench to score 15 points and lead four players scoring in double figures.
"I'm really anxious because we have a lot of good teams in the Big 12, and I think we're one of them," Prince said of the Conference opener. "I want to see what we can do."
Baylor is 12-1 for the fourth time in the last six years.
"The Big 12 is special, and having a chance to go against an Iowa State team that hasn't lost a game, we're excited and ready to go," said Drew, whose team lost both meetings with the Cyclones last season.
Iowa State (13-0, 1-0)
The Cyclones are one of just six Division I men's teams still undefeated. Their 13 victories to start a season is a school record and the streak matches the longest winning streak in school history.
But winning lucky No. 13 in the Big 12 opener wasn't easy. Iowa State jumped to a 15-point halftime lead before Texas Tech rallied to make it 50-all eight minutes into the second half. As it has done in several games, coach Fred Hoiberg's team displayed the poise and toughness needed to win a conference road game.
"We just came out a little soft," said Iowa State senior Melvin Ejim, who had 16 points. "They came out, hit us in the mouth, and it took awhile for us to regroup and hit them back. We just didn't come out the right way, and they just played real physical.
"We turned it up toward the end and were able to make something out of it and (get) a win. We had an eight-minute stretch where we didn't play our type of basketball, and they were able to get back into the game."
Iowa State controlled the game with its defense and shooting, making 51.9 percent in the first half. The Red Raiders' rally was fueled by the Cyclones missing 10 of their first 12 shots.
"We came out of the locker room dead in the water," Hoiberg said. "We allowed (Tech) an opportunity to get in the game, and I give those guys a lot of credit for continuing to play. They turned into the aggressive team after we controlled that for the first 20 minutes.
"One of the hardest things to do in sports is to stop a momentum run. We found a way to do it and reverse it and finish out the game. Usually when that momentum shifts, it stays that way."
After winning its Big 12 opener on the road, No. 9 Iowa State is home against No. 7 Baylor Tuesday, then plays at Oklahoma Saturday before kicking off Big Monday with a visit from Kansas on Jan. 13.
Kansas (9-4, 0-0)
The last time the Jayhawks lost four nonconference games they went on to finish 14-2 in the Big 12 and win the 2009 conference title. Kansas opens Conference play Wednesday at Oklahoma after losing to San Diego State, 61-57, Sunday. The defeat ended KU's nonconference home winning streak at 68 games.
"We're not as good as I thought we'd be, and our players know that," Kansas coach Bill Self said. "I still think we're going to be good, but it's just taken more time than what I thought. If I were to sit here and say, 'Yeah, we're right where we need to be, or we're right where I thought we'd be,' then that would be a lie.' I thought we'd be a little bit tougher."
The Jayhawks have faced perhaps the toughest nonconference schedule in Division I. The four losses have come by a total of 17 points to Villanova, Florida, Colorado and San Diego State – teams that have a combined record of 49-6 and are almost certainly headed for the NCAA Tournament.
Poor shooting (29.8 percent) and a lack of aggressive rebounding prevented Kansas from making a comeback against the Aztecs. The visitors had a 51-39 rebounding edge including 19 offensive boards.
"Every play we made, it seemed like they came down, they got something positive out of the next possession," freshman point guard Frank Mason said after Sunday's loss. "Whether it was free throws or a made basket, we just couldn't get the stops we needed."
Kansas State (11-3, 1-0)
The Wildcats are proving – again – that it's not where you start, it's how and where you finish. Kansas State is far from finished with this season but it has won nine consecutive games and Monday broke into the Associated Press rankings at No. 25. K-State overcame a slow start last season to earn a share of the Big 12 championship.
The Wildcats opened Big 12 play Saturday the same way they did last season – with a victory over Oklahoma State. The sixth-ranked Cowboys were playing their first game without senior center Michael Cobbins, who is out for the season with an Achilles tendon injury.
"We felt like it was one of the toughest games we have played so far," K-State junior Thomas Gipson said after the 74-71 victory. "And for us to be young and come out and get a huge win against the No. 6 team in the nation - that feels real good.Now they have an extreme amount of confidence knowing that we can beat anybody in the country."
Oklahoma State came in averaging 86 points a game. It's the ninth consecutive game that Kansas State has held its opponent under its season scoring average.
"What can you say? It is just a great win - a gutsy win by our guys," K-state coach Bruce Weber said. "They just kept battling," Weber said. "(Oklahoma State is) a potential Final Four team, I do not think there is any doubt about that. We were able to compete with them and find a way to win. We are 1-0 in the Big 12."
Oklahoma (12-2, 1-0)
A 102-98 overtime loss at home to Louisiana Tech on Dec. 30 is the type of result that keeps a team from being selected to the NCAA Tournament.
Saturday's 88-85 victory at Texas is the type of outcome that boosts a team's NCAA resume.
"It was a really good learning opportunity for our guys understanding how tough it is every time out in the Big 12," Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger said. "We've got to prepare with great energy and great enthusiasm and focus every night. And (Saturday night) was a good start."
Both the Sooners and the Longhorns came into the game with 11-2 records. Texas was ranked No. 17 nationally in rebounding margin, beating its opponents by an average of 8.4 rebounds per game. Despite a height disadvantage, OU out-rebounded UT 39-28 and finished with a 19-9 edge in second-chance points.
In last season's game against Texas, the Sooners led by 22 points with about eight minutes remaining and blew the lead, finally falling in overtime. Oklahoma trailed 68-61 with eight minutes remaining before taking control down the stretch. Freshman guard Jordan Woodard had the Sooners' final 10 points.
Oklahoma State (12-2, 0-1)
ESPN basketball analyst Fran Fraschilla who will work the Big Monday schedule of Big 12 games is a former coach. He often says that part of coaching is being able to manage a crisis.
With a No. 11 ranking and a glittering record, Oklahoma State is not exactly in crisis mode. But the Cowboys found out with their loss at Kansas State how challenging the Big 12 schedule will be.
Oklahoma State was playing its first game without two key players. Michael Cobbins, their best big man, sustained a season-ending Achilles injury and freshman guard Stevie Clark – the backup point guard and second-leading scorer off the bench - did not play after he was arrested on suspicion of marijuana possession last Wednesday.
"This was going to be an adjustment game," Cowboys coach Travis Ford said. "It's been a tough week. We lost a major part of our team. We have to adjust."
Kamari Murphy, a 6-8 sophomore, has gone from reserve to starter to replace Cobbins. Behind Murphy, Marek Soucek and Gary Gaskins will have to prove they can produce.
Oklahoma State also needs to improve its free throw shooting. The Cowboys missed nine from the line in the three-point loss and rank No. 105 nationally at 71.7 percent. Sophomore Marcus Smart has a team-high 90 free throw attempts but is shooting 67.8 percent from the line.
TCU (9-4, 0-1)
Last season when Big 12 newcomers TCU and West Virginia met during the season, the Mountaineers came away with victories by 21 and 13 points. The Horned Frogs came into Saturday's Big 12 opener an improved team and on a five-game winning streak. The visitors escaped with a 74-69 victory.
The main takeaway: TCU will probably improve on last season's 2-16 Big 12 record but it's a young team that needs to learn how to close.
West Virginia had a 38-30 rebounding edge that included a 17-8 advantage on the offensive glass that led 17 second-chance points.
"Any time you give a team of that caliber 17 offensive rebounds, that's going to hurt you," TCU coach Trent Johnson said. "There's nothing they did defensively that hurt us. We hurt ourselves by not rebounding the ball. We had plenty of open shots."
The Horned Frogs matched a season-high with nine 3-pointers on 19 attempts, but missed 10 of their final 12 shots there. The second-best free-throw shooting team in the Big 12 also went 10-for-17 at the foul line and 4-for-10 in the final 10 minutes. TCU also was hampered when starting point guard Kyan Anderson fouled out with more than six minutes to play.
"I think they're greatly improved," West Virginia coach Bob Huggins said of TCU. "Trent can get guys open, he can't make [shots] for them. They suffer from what we're suffering from and seemingly a lot of people around college basketball: they're young. When you're young, you're just not as good a player, honestly, as what you eventually will be."
Texas (11-3, 0-1)
With the youngest team in the Big 12, there figure to be nights like the one the Longhorns endured Saturday. Texas erased a 12-point first-half deficit and led by seven points with less than eight minutes remaining.
But that good work melted away thanks to poor shot selection, four missed free throws in a key situation and what Longhorns center Cameron Ridley called "lazy defense" resulted in Oklahoma coming away with an 88-85 victory in the Erwin Center.
The loss ended UT's winning streak at eight on its home court when facing the Sooners. Last year, the Longhorns rallied from a 22-point deficit with eight minutes remaining to win in overtime.
"We didn't do a lot of things," Texas coach Rick Barnes said. "We didn't guard. The fact that we had nine blocks tells me that our guys were not standing in front of the ball or putting on the pressure. Our big guys were coming to make plays then the guards had to come down to help with offensive rebounding.
"I think that they came in here and beat us because of the rebounding. They had 19 second-chance points."
After opening Big 12 play with a loss and failing to defend its home court, Texas will play at Oklahoma State Wednesday. The Cowboys lost their Big 12 opener at Kansas State.
"We work, but the mental side of it, understanding the spacing you've got to have and understanding by now that people guard you," Barnes said. "This time there are no secrets to personnel. They're going to play you. We've got to defend better. We're getting driven by too much."
Texas Tech (8-6, 0-1)
The Red Raiders were on the verge of a blowout loss on their home floor. Texas Tech trailed undefeated Iowa State by 15 but rallied in the first eight minutes of the second half to tie the game at 50-all. The Cyclones, though, regrouped and remained perfect with a 73-62 victory.
Under first-year coach Tubby Smith, the Red Raiders faced a challenging nonconference slate, with losses to Alabama, Pittsburgh, Arizona, LSU and Arizona State. Smith said in December that he believed his team would be able to handle the losses because of senior leadership.
Senior forward Jaye Crockett, who sparked the rally early in the second half, had 20 points and 11 rebounds.
"We feel like we can play with anybody, but just little errors is the fine line between winning and you can't make the mistakes," said sophomore guard Dusty Hannahs, who came off the bench to score 16. "We've gotten a lot better at toning down our mistakes and turnovers but we've still got room for improvement."
Iowa State's lead grew to 17 early in the second half before Texas Tech made its rally.
"We just have a lot of trust in each other as a team as a whole," Crockett said. "We're a family in the locker room and we knew it was going to be tough coming out in the second half, as far as being down that much; so we just had to come out with energy and stay positive; we just kept fighting."
West Virginia (9-5, 1-0)
The Mountaineers ended a six-game road losing streak that dated back to last season when they slipped past TCU, 74-69, in Fort Worth.
West Virginia led over the last 21:43. Juwan Staten scored the Mountaineers' final nine points over the final 4:07.
"We didn't have a better option," West Virginia coach Bob Huggins said of relying on his junior point guard. "He was option 1 and probably option 1A."
Staten, who transferred from Dayton and struggled in his first season with the Mountaineers, is seventh in the Big 12 in scoring (16.2 per game), 16th in rebounding (6.3) and second in assists (6.1). Staten is the only player in the country averaging 16 points, 6 rebounds & 6 assists per game. He needs eight points to match his total last season
Along with sophomore Eron Harris, who leads the Big 12 in scoring at 18.6 per game and had 22 vs. TCU, Staten gives Huggins a solid 1-2 punch.
"That's the part of the game I look forward to the most," Staten said. "I know the ball is going to be in my hands a lot and I'll be counted on to make the right plays. That's what we needed there. We needed the right play. We needed to come down and have smart possessions when the game got close."