The Associated Press
OMAHA, - Texas and Kansas State have been vulnerable and even Kansas has had a hiccup.
The Big 12 race is shaping up to be wide open if the first couple of weeks of conference play are any indication.
Texas dropped to No. 6 in this week’s Top 25 after losing two in a row following the program’s first No. 1 ranking. No. 11 Kansas State, which knocked off Texas a week ago, lost at home to Oklahoma State. And No. 2 Kansas’ only loss was a whopper, coming against a Tennessee team that suited up six scholarship players and three walk-ons.
No. 24 Baylor, on the other hand, has become the darling of the league after giving the Jayhawks a scare at Allen Fieldhouse and winning its first 11 home games. Texas Tech, with its win over Oklahoma on Saturday, already has matched its win total of a year ago and Colorado, picked to finish last, is no pushover.
“As we go on, the cream will rise,” Texas A&M coach Mark Turgeon said. “For the most part, we felt we had a couple teams that were Top 10 teams, and K-State got in there. I didn’t expect them to lose at home. The rest of us are just going to beat each other up. You see teams 3-2, 2-2. It’s going to be highly competitive.”
The Big 12 went into Monday leading all conferences with seven teams among the top 37 of the RPI, eight teams with 14 wins and eight with a .737 or higher winning percentage.
Those statistics tell Texas Tech coach Pat Knight all he needs to know about the league.
“It’s just a week-to-week deal. You can’t get frustrated.,” Knight said. “If you’re not Kansas, you’re going to have some bad weeks. You have to get through them and not get down.”
The Longhorns (17-2, 3-1) were outshot, outrebounded and were turnover-prone in losses at Kansas State and Connecticut. They were bad at the free-throw line in the two games, making just 18 of 38 attempts.
“I didn’t do a good enough job (conveying) how when you become the No. 1 team in the nation, you’re going to be under attack,” Texas coach Rick Barnes said. “We’re going to have to coach them better and work a little harder. I know we’re a long way from being the team we can be.”
Kansas State (16-3, 3-2) let an opportunity slip away at home in losing 73-69 to Oklahoma State. The Wildcats play at Baylor on Tuesday before hosting the Jayhawks on Saturday.
“At the end of the day,” KSU coach Frank Martin said, “you can’t lose at home. That’s unacceptable. It’s a Big 12 game, and we have to understand there are other good teams.”
Kansas (19-1, 5-0) has won five games straight since losing to Tennessee. The Jayhawks started one of their toughest weeks of the season with an 84-65 win over Missouri on Monday night, and they play another rivalry game Saturday at K-State.
Baylor (15-3, 3-2), picked to finish 10th in the Big 12, moved up a spot in the national rankings after beating Massachusetts 71-45 for its school-record 11th consecutive home victory. LaceDarius Dunn and Tweety Carter are the Bears’ only returning starters from the team that went 24-15 and made it to the finals of the NIT.
Dunn is second in the Big 12 at 19 points a game, and Carter is passing for league-leading 6.7 assists and shooting 42 percent on 3-pointers.
The biggest impact has been made by newcomer Ekpe Udoh. The 6-foot-10, 240-pound transfer from Michigan leads the Big 12 with 4.4 blocked shots and 10.8 rebounds per game. He’s averaging 14 points.
Kansas coach Bill Self said Baylor is the surprise of the league.
“We played very good against Baylor and it took everything we had to win the game at home,” Self said.
Texas Tech (14-5, 2-3) posted back-to-back wins against Iowa State and Oklahoma to match its 14 wins of a year ago, but the Red Raiders will get major road tests this week against Texas and Texas A&M.
Colorado (10-9, 1-4) is 9-1 at home, with a win over Baylor and a six-point loss to K-State. Alec Burks, averaging 19 points, is the only freshman in the nation to score 10 or more points in every game.
But Buffaloes coach Jeff Bzdelik said his team, which has just one senior, still has a ways to go. Their 67-63 loss at Texas A&M on Saturday was their 32nd straight in Big 12 road games.
“We’ve done a lot of good things in basketball games to put ourselves in position to win,” he said. “We have to close out. It’s the little things keeping us from big wins.”