By Kevin Lyttle
So if you knew the Big 12 men’s basketball race was coming down to a four-team scrum with just over a week to play, what are the odds that not one of the four would be Texas?
Maybe 20-to-1? How about 30-to-1? Heck, perhaps as much as 50-to-1?
Texas was the coaches’ preseason co-favorite, along with Kansas.
Kansas (22-6, 11-4), ranked eighth in the country.
Iowa State (20-7, 10-5), ranked 12th.
Oklahoma (19-8, 10-5), ranked 16th
West Virginia (22-6, 10-5), ranked 20th
And Texas? The Longhorns (17-11, 6-9) are in eighth place … in the conference, not the country. The disappointing Horns, clearly a bubble team, have a lot of work to do just to make the NCAA tournament. For starters, they probably need to win two of their final three games before the Big 12 tournament.
Planting The Seeds, the American-Statesman’s long-time accurate NCAA projections, had Texas as a 10 seed on Monday, trending toward an 11 seed after the loss to West Virginia.
ESPN’s Joe Lunardi, generally regarded as the top “bracketologist,” listed Texas as one of his “last four in” teams late Thursday.
But back to the top of the league. Kansas got an enormous boost in its bid to win an 11th consecutive regular-season championship when Baylor upended Iowa State on Wednesday night. The Bears became the first team other than Kansas to win in Ames since 2012.
“I’d be lying if I didn’t say I wasn’t a big Baylor Bears fan the other night,” Kansas coach Bill Self told the Kansas City Star. “Our league, it’s hard. I mean, you really look at it, you’ve got four teams in the last eight days of the season that can all win the league.
“It’s pretty high drama.”
No other team has dominated a power conference like Kansas has.
“We don’t want to be the team that messes up that streak,” KU point guard Frank Mason said.
Here’s how the four contenders finish:
KANSAS: Sat. vs. Texas; Tue. vs. West Virginia; Mar. 7 at Oklahoma
IOWA STATE: Sat. at Kansas State; Mon. vs. Oklahoma; Mar. 7 at TCU
OKLAHOMA: Sat. vs. TCU; Mon. at Iowa State; Mar. 7 vs. Kansas
WEST VIRGINIA: Sat. at Baylor; Tue. at Kansas; Mar. 7 vs. Oklahoma State
Chances are, that Kansas at Oklahoma game on the final day of the regular season, one week from Saturday, will determine a title share, at the very least.
“It’s probably fitting it goes down to the wire, considering how tough the league is,” Self said.
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