Sideline Report: The Big 12 is insane this season

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This has been a glorious season for college basketball. Upsets, an undefeated team and resume-building matchups have consumed a jam-packed schedule. Some teams have separated themselves from the pack, while others are on the bubble, with their hopes of the NCAA Tournament hanging on by a thread. The Big 12, Big 10, ACC and Pac-12 all boast talented teams. Teams like Duke, Kentucky, Virginia, Wisconsin, Arizona and Gonzaga, to name a few. But one conference in particular has been the most intriguing and a source of major debate: the Big 12.

Kansas has sat at the top of the conference for the last decade, with an outright Big 12 regular season title, or at least a share of the title for the last 10 seasons. This is quite a feat to accomplish in a high-profile conference and to play at that high of a level for that long. Head coach Bill Self takes a lot of that credit for his recruiting and superb coaching techniques. But, this year, Kansas is not the only quality team and it isn’t the only team that could make serious noise in March. Iowa State, West Virginia, Baylor, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Texas have all shown glimpses of greatness. Every game matters in the Big 12, with upsets happening left and right and Kansas not always being the clear favorite to take the conference title once again. With results like Kansas State’s victory over Kansas Monday night, the Big 12 race has opened up again for Iowa State. There are always new storylines with the Big 12.

Another thing that has made it interesting is that Kansas has had a down year in general. Instability in the starting lineup and bad performances from forward Cliff Alexander, guard Wayne Selden Jr. and forward Perry Ellis have brought this team down. This has led to losses to Temple, Kentucky, Oklahoma State, West Virginia, Iowa State and Kansas State. Self has done a fine job from a coaching aspect and this is still a quality team. But I feel this team has failed to mesh as well as past teams in this program. Outbreak seasons from guards Kelly Oubre Jr. and Frank Mason have kept this team afloat and in big moments have forced other players to follow suit. Kansas has not proven that it can win on the road against top competition though. Games on neutral courts and games in Ames, Iowa; Morgantown, West Virginia; Stillwater, Oklahoma and Manhattan, Kansas have proven this. This has been a major reason why the race for Big 12 supremacy has been so close, but these many struggles do not usually befall Self-led teams. However, I do feel that they can gain momentum into March and the NCAA Tournament.

The Big 12 could have potentially have seven teams in the NCAA Tournament. That is a high number of teams from a single conference and brings back memories of the year when the Big East got 11 of their 16 teams into the tournament. It’s a testament to a special season, which is what the Big 12 is experiencing. Kansas will probably end up with their 11th straight Big 12 regular season title. But, the amount of teams with success this season in the Big 12 has improved college basketball and added to the insanity if the 2014-15 season.

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