Three Biggest Takeaways From Big 12 Conference Men’s Basketball in Week 5
The fifth week of Big 12 men’s basketball saw the league play the last Big 12-SEC Challenge. Here are three takeaways from the fifth week of the league slate.
Don’t forget about our new feature for men’s basketball — Daily Fantasy Lineups. Every night a Big 12 team is part of the Draft Kings pool, I’ll provide my picks for the game, along with my complete lineup. The hope is that by Big 12 play, I’m able to put together a full Big 12 lineup during conference games.
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The Big 12-SEC Challenge is Dead
The Big 12 and the SEC played its final challenge on Saturday, and the Big 12 owned the day, going 7-3.
It showed off the depth of the conference. Think about it. The teams perceived by outsiders to be the four ‘worst’ teams in the league — West Virginia, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, and Texas Tech — all won. The Mountaineers and the Sooners beat ranked teams at home. The Sooners blew out Alabama, the No. 2 team in the country.
The game I was at, Arkansas at Baylor, was a great matchup that came right down to the wire, with Baylor winning.
The Big 12-SEC Challenge isn’t dying because the Big 12 ‘owns’ the SEC, though. It’s ending for obvious reasons.
With the Big Ten signing its exclusive TV deal with Fox, which starts in 2024-25, ESPN lost its annual ACC-Big Ten Challenge. To compensate, the SEC will now play the ACC in an annual challenge. To understand why, you should know that ESPN has exclusive deals with both the ACC and the SEC.
ESPN must share the Big 12’s rights with Fox.
So, the challenge with the SEC is dead.
The Big 12 intends to continue with an 18-game league schedule in basketball, two fewer league games than the Big Ten and the SEC. The Big 12 has always seen its two cross-conference challenge games with the Big East and the SEC as de facto league games. The Big EAST Battle will continue.
To me, a Big 12-Big Ten Challenge down the road makes a ton of sense. For the past few years, the two leagues have been the best in college basketball. But the two leagues rarely play each other outside of the NCAA Tournament.
A Big 12-Big Ten Challenge would allow for some great new matchups and put some great new venues in the rotation for both teams. I’m all for it. Let’s do it.
Now the Big 12 Race TRULY Begins
The Big 12-SEC Challenge cleansed the palate, so to speak. For the next five weeks, for the next 10 games, the Big 12 will slug it out for the regular-season title and Big 12 Tournament seeding.
And boy it is shaping up to be a fight.
Entering this week three teams are tied for first place with two losses — Iowa State, Kansas State, and Texas. The Cyclones have the advantage for now as they’ve beaten both teams. One loss behind the trio is another trio — Baylor, Kansas, and TCU — all of which have designs on winning the league title and improving seeding.
What’s incredible about this is, because of the league’s double round-robin format — and this will be the last time around with expansion coming next season — every team in contention has at least one more game against each of the other teams in contention.
And it starts this week. Baylor is at Texas on Monday. Kansas State is at Kansas on Tuesday. Kansas is at Iowa State on Saturday. Texas is at Kansas State on Saturday.
No, we shouldn’t discount the other four teams — Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas Tech, and West Virginia — all of whom are fighting for an NCAA Tournament berth. They could also influence the race at the top.
In a league with no bottom, this race will be nothing less than the best in college basketball.
The Cryer Connection
Baylor is going to live and die by its guards this season, and that’s no more evident than with LJ Cryer.
The third-year Bears guard has been on a tear during the Bears’ six-game winning streak. He’s averaged 15.8 points in those games and connected on 16 3-pointers.
His starts in the past two games have been especially impressive, including his 19-point first half against Kansas last Monday.
When Cryer got hurt last February, he led the Big 12 in 3-point percentage (46.8). His accuracy and range have continued to return. He’s shooting 40.2 percent there for the season, just behind Adam Flagler (42.5 percent).
Teammates like Keyonte George said they saw this coming weeks ago. Now that it’s here, they love it.
“We all knew it was only a matter of time,” George said on Saturday. “We really started seeing his game coming along. We’ve seen him practicing. You’re just now seeing it in the game. You know he’s in a really good groove.”
If he stays in that groove, then the Bears have a chance to stay in the race for the Big 12 regular-season title.
You can find Matthew Postins on Twitter @PostinsPostcard