It’s sad that the only game left in the football season is the Super Bowl. And it is still six weeks before spring training begins for baseball.
I guess as a sports nut, the Big 12 Conference basketball race should provide some excitement. This year’s conference has the best field of teams from top to bottom of any other year in conference history. The ACC is being touted the best conference in the country. The Big 12 may give it a run for its money. In the Big 12 no team is a sure win.
Kansas has been the reigning conference champion for the past 13 years and the team has already lost a conference game at home against Texas Tech. They have squeaked out close wins against Kansas State and Baylor in games they were losing going into the final seconds of the game.
Just last weekend Iowa State, which is considered one of the lower end teams in the conference, beat a highly ranked Texas Tech team. Highly ranked Oklahoma, with maybe the best freshman guard in the country in Trae Young, lost on the road to arch rival Oklahoma State. KU finally won a huge come-from-behind victory in West Virginia to break a four-year drought.
There are several Big 12 teams that could be possibilities to reach the NCAA in March. Teams with real possibilities are West Virginia, Texas Tech, Oklahoma, Kansas, Kansas State, Oklahoma State and Baylor. TCU and Iowa State would have to get hot and stay hot the rest of the way through conference play or make some noise in the Big 12 Tournament. exas has potential and might be a tournament team if it was in a different conference.
It is difficult to speculate how many losses the eventual conference champion will have this season. It is likely that this year’s title will be shared by two or three teams. It would not be surprising to see the team or teams that win the title have five or six losses during league play.
To win this year’s Big 12, a team cannot lose more than two home games during conference play. A team in the championship hunt for the title will need to win at least 7-8 road games. It is not an easy task for any team.
KU, on top right now, has no depth but has the will of a champion. If the Jayhawk players stay healthy and do not get fatigued through the grueling conference schedule, it will be Bill Self’s greatest coaching job throughout his historic tenure at KU. The Jayhawks only have one full-time big man able to shoot free throws. Plus, he has a team that must hit 3-pointers to stay in any game.
West Virginia has depth and experience this year. Its style of play makes it very difficult for opposing teams to play at such a fast and competitive level the entire game. Oklahoma has the best freshman in the country in Young. The rest of the team has talent, but he is shooting 40 times a game. He shoots them both in and out of games.
Texas Tech looks solid in all phases. Self thought the Red Raiders were the best team they had played all year after the Jayhawks lost in Lawrence.
The team that no one gives any credit to is Kansas State. They thumped the Sooners at home and had a very tough loss in Lawrence. They are good defensively and play hard even though the Wildcat fans are critical of their coach on a regular basis.
Oklahoma State looks like the other sleeper in the league. They are athletic and tough at home. Baylor is a hard team to figure out every year and this year is no exception. They are big and talented but seem to find a way to consistently lose big games. They still have the talent to be a factor in the league. TCU is one of the most improved teams in the league. They are a team capable of giving any team a fit on their home floor. Iowa State is always tough at home.
Texas is the biggest mystery school. The Longhorn athletic program has more financial resources than any other school in the country, yet they cannot seem to turn the corner in football or basketball to become a consistent factor.
Hopefully the 2018 season will be filled with close games throughout the rest of the season and winter will fly by with a lot of positive entertainment.
• Everyone believes that you must have a quarterback to reach the Super Bowl. I agree but a great defense is a close 1-B. Defense does win championships.
• My quote of the week comes from soccer icon Pele: “The more difficult a victory, the greater the happiness in winning.” The winner of this year’s Big 12 men’s basketball championship will be very happy!
– Tim Crone, a William Chrisman High School graduate, is a former activities director and coach for Blue Springs High School and is a host of a weekly radio show, “Off the Wall with Tim Crone,” on KCWJ (1030 AM) 6 p.m. every Monday. He writes a weekly column for The Examiner. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.