Big 12 Conference thrives against lesser lights
It’s little wonder the Big 12 Conference has seen eight of its 10 teams ranked in the nation’s Top 25. The schedules most of the teams play are crowded with lesser lights and home game after home game.
The league likes to boast that six of its coaches have been to the Final Four and five coaches have at least 500 wins, but only Kansas has played a schedule worthy of much mention.
Unbeaten Texas Christian is 11-0 and has played only two teams with much worthiness — Ole Miss and Mississippi State. The Horned Frogs have played three times away from home in Fort Worth. When West Virginia opens its conference schedule in early January, it will see TCU in Fort Worth. The easily diced schedule hasn’t been too popular with the scattered 3,589 people that have been TCU’s average home crowd.
While still in Texas to open its Big 12 schedule, the Mountaineers will also face Texas Tech, a team with a 9-1 record and a loss (like West Virginia) to LSU. Its only other game of any note was a 46-44 win over Auburn. Of its 10 games, Texas Tech has played on the road only once. The Red Raiders average just 5,411 customers per home game.
Both West Virginia and Texas have 10-1 records in games through Sunday, December 21. At least Texas has appeared away from home a few times and has seen another Top 25 team in its way.
Kansas, Baylor and Iowa State are all 9-1. Baylor won by four points at South Carolina, but lost its game at home against Illinois.
Seven of the 10 conference teams are either unbeaten or have one loss.
Oklahoma State is 9-2 overall while Oklahoma is 7-3 against a representative schedule and Kansas State has lost at home twice in going 7-4 overall.
West Virginia has a one-point loss at home in overtime to LSU as its only black mark.
The fullcourt pressure defense often employed by Coach Bob Huggins is producing 13 steals a game, the highest number of steals per game in the conference. West Virginia’s plus-11 turnover ratio is also the Big 12’s best, and its 19 offensive rebounds a game lead the league.
But the Mountaineers have made only .418 percent of their field goal attempts, the worst in the Big 12. And their .301 percentage on 3-point attempts is also the lowest in the conference. Any close game is in jeopardy because WVU’s making only .654 percent of its free throws.
However, point guard Juwan Staten is making .807 percent of his free throws and often has the ball at the end of games.
Only Kansas and Texas have played schedules as difficult as West Virginia’s.
Beginning the season on the road at TCU and Texas Tech could be worse for neither game will see the stands packed with many leather-lunged partisans waiting to skewer the Mountaineer players with their clever words or loud noise.
The Big 12 has won its games against the world’s McNeese States, Southerns, Gramblings, Prairie Views and Arkansas-Pine Bluffs. It’s almost time to actually go on the road to see some teams ranked in the Top 200.