This Week in the Big 12 Conference...
It was a big weekend in the Big 12 Conference, with the still-unbeaten Baylor Bears knocking off No. 7 Xavier and Bob Huggins’ West Virginia squad picking up a huge road victory at No. 6 Virginia.
That and more in the latest edition of This Week in the Big 12.
• It’s never too early to start building your resume for March and the Baylor Bears have done just that. At 8-0, Scott Drew’s team not only sits at No. 4 in the latest AP Poll (one spot behind Kansas), but also already has recorded victories over some big time teams — Oregon, Michigan State, Louisville, VCU and, of course, Xavier.
The Bears’ win over Xavier on Saturday (76-61) featured a 24-point night from Miami transfer Manu Lecomte, a 5-foot-11 junior guard who has taken over the reins at PG for Drew’s team. Through eight games, Lecomte is averaging 14 points and 5 assists per night, but, more importantly, has brought a leadership presence that the Bears definitely needed in the backcourt.
With upcoming games against Southern, Jackson State, John Brown College and Texas Southern, the Bears should easily take a 12-0 record into Big 12 play and, at this point, definitely appear to be KU’s No. 1 challenger for the 2016-17 Big 12 title.
To that end, the Bears also have the advantage of not having to face the Jayhawks until February, which could make the Feb. 1, Big Monday match-up in Lawrence and the Feb. 18 rematch in Waco games to circle on this year’s Big 12 calendar.
• The schedule for 6-1 West Virginia is not nearly as impressive as Baylor’s, top to bottom, but that changed a little on Saturday, when the Mountaineers walked into No. 6 Virginia’s home arena and ended a 24-game homecourt winning streak.
So frustrated were the UVA fans about the outcome that many of them began filing for the exits with more than 30 seconds to play and their team down just five. That’s the kind of spoilage that a 24-game homecourt winning streak can have on a place, so it’s possible that Huggins’ crew did the Cavs fans a favor.
As it typically does, West Virginia is getting by on the strength of its defense, but the Mountaineers’ offense also has been solid. Balance has been the key for Huggins’ attack, with six players averaging 8 points per game or more so far this season.
• It started as a cute little story, with TCU alum Jamie Dixon returning to coach his alma mater and ripping off four straight victories in his homecoming. But those wins were against St. Thomas (Texas), Alabama State, Jacksonville State and Illinois State. Not exactly the powerhouse programs of college basketball.
Since then, the Dixon returns to TCU story has turned from cute to cool, as the Horned Frogs have ripped off four more victories and sit at 8-0 through the first month of the season.
Although TCU’s schedule has not included the same names that Baylor, West Virginia and Kansas have played (and beaten), it’s not a complete joke either.
In addition to a road win against UNLV in the Global Sports Classic, a scheduling quirk delivered back-to-back wins over Washington and freshman phenom Markelle Fultz. The first came in the title game of the Global Sports Classic and the second in Fort Worth. Both were by double digits and both, no doubt, gave the rebuilding Frogs a boost of confidence.
TCU plays at SMU Wednesday night and then will not face another stiff challenge until Dec. 30, when it opens Big 12 play at home against the Jayhawks.
• It’s hard to say exactly what’s gone wrong so far — or if it’s too soon to start to panic — but Year 2 of the Shaka Smart era in Austin, Texas, is off to a rough start.
After racing out to a 3-0 start with wins over three nobodies, the Longhorns dropped three straight to Northwestern, Colorado and Texas-Arlington, the last bringing out the feeling of frustration around the program.
Texas responded with a nice win over Alabama and will play four more tough opponents before the start of Big 12 play, including a pair of KU foes, UAB and Long Beach State.
The Longhorns are 4-3 with five non-conference games to go before opening Big 12 play with K-State. If they can get to 8-4 heading into the match-up in Manhattan, it’s likely they’ll have righted the ship.
If not, the non-con struggles and a Big 12 slate that features four road games in the first seven — including back-to-back at Baylor and Kansas — and all four Big 12 teams that are currently ranked could make for a dangerous start for Smart.