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Biggest Takeaways from Big 12 Conference Women’s Basketball in Week 5

Iowa State women's basketball coach Bill Fennelly vs. UW River Falls

The fifth week of Big 12 women’s basketball conference action is a wrap. Here are three takeaways from the latest week of the league slate.

It’s an 18-game march to March in Kansas City, and Heartland College Sports has you covered all season.


The Women Need a Challenge

Let’s not misconstrue what I’m saying in the header. When I say challenge, I need something similar to the Big 12-SEC challenge that men have every year.

Or, the Big 12-Big EAST Battle that will continue next season.

The women have played a smattering of games against the SEC over the years, but this year there were precious few meetings on the schedule. The women haven’t had a consistent opportunity to challenge themselves against another conference, for whatever reason.

That needs to change next season. Whether it be a challenge with the Big EAST or the SEC, or more likely the Big 10, I think there are opportunities there to help the Big 12 grow its brand and give its women’s teams the same opportunity that the men’s teams get consistently.


Earlier this year, the Kansas State women played Wisconsin at the home of the Milwaukee Brewers. I’m not necessarily talking about anything that extravagant, though I’m not opposed to a neutral-site classic (I wrote about how that might be a great idea for the men late last year). But a Big 12-Big Ten women’s challenge would be in many respects just as good as a men’s challenge (which I advocated for on Monday in the wake of the end of the Big 12-SEC Challenge).

Like the men, the Big 12 and the Big Ten are two of the best conferences in women’s college basketball. They deserve that sort of consistent showcase and not just a one-off like Kansas State-Wisconsin or the annual Cy-Hawk between Iowa State and Iowa.

The Big 12 needs more of those games played every year for all 10 teams in this conference, and all 14 teams when the conference expands next season.

I hope that’s something the league looks into because the energy of the Big 12-SEC Challenge is something that would energize the women’s game, too.


The Big 12 Race at the Midpoint

I wrote last week that Oklahoma had a golden opportunity to put some distance between itself and the rest of the conference. All the Sooners had to do was something difficult — beat Texas and Iowa State on the road. Oklahoma failed on both counts and now the Big 12 race resets as we get the back half of the schedule.

Texas and Iowa State now lead the conference at 7-2. The Longhorns and Cyclones still have another meeting ahead.  Meanwhile, Oklahoma is a game behind with unfavorable tiebreakers, and both West Virginia and Baylor are 1 1/2 games behind.

Oklahoma’s two losses allowed four teams to get within a game and a half of first place in the conference. It changed the dynamic of the whole race.

Like the men’s race, this one’s going to come right down to the wire. Pretty much every contender has at least one game against each of the other contenders in the conference. Plus you have like teams like Kansas, Oklahoma State, and Texas Tech trying to keep themselves afloat for berths in the NCAA tournament. Any of those three could reach up and snag one of the contenders.

But, for right now, all eyes are on that matchup on Feb. 13th between Texas and Iowa State in Ames. Right now that looks like the game that could determine who wins the Big 12 regular-season crown and the top seed in the Big 12 Tournament in Kansas City.

Morgan Kane’s Move

The injury to center Stephanie Soares forced Iowa State to adjust back more to the way it played last season without her. That’s easier said than done when Soares was averaging 14.4 points and 10 rebounds per game. It means the Cyclones had to find someone that played last year that could give them something emulating that. But no one has Soares’ height — 6-foot-6 — or her ability to rim protect.

But senior Morgan Kane has shown the past four games she can be effective.

The holdover from last year had settled into a backup role before Soares’ injury. She’s returned to the starting lineup and, after a slow start, she’s contributed heavily to Iowa State’s four-game winning streak. Her season averages say 4.7 points and 4.2 rebounds per game. But in her last four games, she’s averaged 8.8 points and 6.5 rebounds per game. That includes a zero-point effort against Kansas. But, in the other three matchups, she hit double figures.

She was most effective against Oklahoma on Saturday, scoring 11 points and grabbing nine rebounds. She even blocked two shots.

In the past four games, it’s clear Kane’s game has progressed from last year, despite sitting behind Soares. If she keeps this up, she can help the Cyclones rely a little less on their big three — Ashley Joens, Lexi Donarski, and Emily Ryan.

You can find Matthew Postins on Twitter @PostinsPostcard

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