Big 12 Struggles
The Big 12 experienced a stunning Saturday when No. 3 Kansas (20-3 8-2 Big 12), then-No. 2, Baylor (20-3, 7-3 Big 12) and then-No. 7 West Virginia (18-5, 6-4 Big 12) all lost on their home courts. Each of these teams also lost to unranked opponents — Iowa State (14-8, 6-4 Big 12), Kansas State (16-7, 5-5 Big 12) and Oklahoma State (15-8, 4-6 Big 12) each took down their respective opponent.
A series of off-the-court investigations and injuries have left the Jayhawks woefully shorthanded, leading to the team’s first home loss in 51 games. No starter played fewer than 33 minutes of Saturday’s overtime game, and the Jayhawks looked gassed in the second half as Iowa State charged back from a 14-point halftime deficit. If Kansas is going to win the Big 12, it must make dealing with distractions part of its norm.
Fortunately for Kansas, Kansas State was the filling in the Big 12 front-runner sandwich of destruction, beating a Baylor team that now has plenty of skeptics. After spending weeks both unranked and at No. 1, the Bears dug themselves into an early 19-point hole. Kansas State dominated Baylor in the paint — outscoring them 26-22 — and forced 16 turnovers. The Bears now carry a two-game losing streak into Stillwater for their next game Wednesday against Oklahoma State.
Of the Big 12 teams mentioned, West Virginia has the most to worry about. The Mountaineers have dropped home games to both Oklahoma and Oklahoma State, and all of the team’s losses have come to unranked teams. Despite keeping its turnovers down and forcing 19 against Oklahoma State, no West Virginia starter reached double figures. The Mountaineers defense allowed the red-hot Cowboys to shoot 62.5 percent from the field, 61.5 percent from three-point range and 88.9 percent from the free-throw line. West Virginia remains two full games behind Kansas and Baylor, and looks to bounce back with a road game against Oklahoma on Wednesday.
The 1-2-3 punch delivered Saturday does not change the conference standings; the Jayhawks, Bears and Mountaineers all remain in order. It does, however, prove that these teams are vulnerable, and that maybe the league is not the three-headed race everyone expected.
Not So Fast, Wildcats
Kentucky (18-5, 8-2 SEC) — a team many thought would cakewalk to the Southeastern conference title — were run out of the gym by then-No. 24 Florida (18-5, 8-2 SEC) 88-66 on Saturday and suffered in the most recent polls, dropping seven spots to No. 15. It was the Wildcats’ third loss in four games, and were it not for a Malik Monk hero shot against Georgia, they would be on a four-game skid. Now, the team that usually dominates conference play sits behind red-hot No. 19 South Carolina (19-4, 9-1 SEC) and the Gators.
Simply put, Kentucky was defeated because the Gators played harder. The Wildcats turned the ball over 13 timesand outrebounded by 22 to the 119th-ranked team in rebounding margin. The Wildcats have plenty of time to make things right with a schedule that works in their favor, as Florida is the only ranked opponent they face the rest of the season. However, they do need to turn up their effort levels in their contests next week against LSU (9-13, 1-9 SEC) and Alabama (13-9, 6-4 SEC) to prepare themselves for March.
The Ducks are Back
Attention, college basketball: Watch out for the Ducks. Facing a then-No.5 Arizona (21-3, 10-1 PAC 12) team on the heels of their most impressive win of the year against then-No. 3 UCLA (21-3, 8-3 PAC 12), a surging Oregon (21-3, 10-1 PAC-12) team made an arena-record 16 three-pointers — including 10 in the first half — in an 85-58 demolition of the nation’s best statistical defensive team.
Arizona came into the game boasting the best three-point defense in the Pac-12, allowing just 29.4 percent from range before Saturday, but the Ducks did not care about prior statistics and shot 64 percent from downtown, sending a resounding message to the rest of the conference — and country — that the team that took a trip to the Elite Eight a season ago is primed and ready to do so again this year. With the expected February chaos breaking out all over the country, the Ducks have proven their potential. Their highly contested matchup with the No. 10 Bruins on Thursday gives them yet another chance to do so on a national stage.
Carter Owen is a freshman in the McDonough School of Business. Three-point Shootout appears every Tuesday.
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