Big 12 Basketball Recap

"That right there, that's my conference." - Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Now well into February basketball, the best conference in the nation remains a clear definition up top with a muddied middle behind. But has Texas done enough to stake a claim to the top crust, and what lies ahead in the race for the conference regular season title?

1. #8 Kansas 17-5 overall, 8-1 in conference

Key remaining games: Feb 10th @ KSU, Feb 22nd vs. #15 Texas, Feb 24th vs. #21 OU

Despite the loss to Texas, Kansas remains in firm position as tops in the conference with a 1 game lead over the Horns, and a home rematch awaiting. The toughest slate ahead features a home stand against Texas and OU, then a road trip to slumping Oklahoma State. Andrew Wiggins rebounded from his disappointing performance at Texas with 14 points, 7 boards, 5 assists, 3 steals, and 2 blocks in a win against Baylor, though Joel Embiid continued his struggles by sitting out much of the contest with foul trouble.

2. #15 Texas 18-4 overall, 7-2 in conference

Key remaining games: Feb 18th @ #16 ISU, Feb 22nd @ #8 KU, Mar 1st @ #21 OU

A year after being placed squarely on the hotseat due to poor team chemistry, Rick Barnes has the upstart Texas Longhorns right in the mix for a regular season conference title. Riding the leadership of junior Jon Holmes and the lightning quick Isaiah Taylor, Barnes has built a squad around his strong frontcourt that poses a difficult matchup for all of the Big 12. However, some of the Horns' toughest road games remain, with trips to Kansas State, Iowa State, Kansas, and Oklahoma still to go.

3. #21 Oklahoma 17-6 overall, 6-4 in conference

Key remaining games: Feb 15th @ #19 OSU, Feb 24th @ #8 KU, Mar 1st vs. #15 Texas

If not for the surprising Texas start, the Sooners would find themselves as the talk of the conference. Improved play from sophomore guard Bobby Hield, strong performances from senior forward Cameron Clark, and the addition of Gonzaga transfer Ryan Spangler has the Sooners a surprise 3rd in the conference. And OU may have the easiest schedule remaining. After dropping two straight road games at Iowa State and under-the-radar West Virginia, the Sooners have only road contests at Oklahoma State and Kansas ahead, with a home game against Texas as well.

3. West Virginia 14-9 overall, 6-4 in conference

Key remaining games: Feb 8th @ #8 KU, Feb 15th @ #15 Texas, Feb 26th @ #16 ISU

I'd be lying if I said I knew much about West Virginia other than Huggy Bear loves jumpsuits and junior guard Juwan Staten can score with the best of them. However, in stark contrast to OU's remaining schedule, West Virginia's remaining schedule may be the toughest: 6 of 8 remaining games are against ranked opponents, with 4 of them being on the road. If there's a candidate for team to drop out of the rest, its West Virginia.

5. #16 Iowa State 17-4 overall, 5-4 in conference

Key remaining games: Feb 10th @ WVU, Feb 18th vs. #15 Texas, Mar 8th vs. #19 OSU

Riding high on a top 10 ranking and undefeated record, ISU entered a tough slate in mid-January dropping 4 of 5: at Oklahoma, home against Kansas, at Texas, winning at home against Kansas State, then dropping a road game at Kansas. Surviving that stretch, Iowa State remains in the mix with a soft finish to their schedule, no games remaining against Kansas and one difficult road game ahead. I love ISU's roster, featuring point guard Deandre Kane, forwards Melvin Ejim and Georges Niang, and a dude nicknamed 3sus of Nazareth, featured heavily in this piece. The dudes of WRNL are awesome.

5. Kansas State 15-7 overall, 5-4 in conference

Key remaining games: Feb 8th vs. #15 Texas, Feb 10th vs. #8 KU, Feb 22nd @ #21 OU

Bruce Weber has kept the shop afloat with one of Kansas State's lesser talented teams in recent years. With home games against Texas and Kansas, as well as Iowa State, Kansas State could leverage one of the conference's better homecourt advantages into a spoiler bid.

7. #19 Oklahoma State 16-6 overall, 4-5 in conference

Key remaining games: Feb 11th @ #15 Texas, Feb 15th vs. #21 OU, Mar 8th @ #16 ISU

An early contender for a Big 12 championship, the Cowboys have learned the perils of a short bench in a deep conference. Following the early season loss to Michael Cobbins, Oklahoma State entered conference play with a 7 man rotation. That rotation took another hit this week, with the dismissal of young guard Stevie Clark for...well, peeing out a car window. The puns write themselves.

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How do you see the conference shaking out down the stretch?

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