Mozey: The Big 12 regular season was an interesting one, but it’s still not over

Brian Mozey

Coming into the Big 12 regular season in December, many writers and analysts said it would be an interesting couple of months.

Interesting indeed. That’s one way of saying it.

Other words could include upsets, inspirational and wow.

These past couple of months has been a roller coaster not only for Iowa State, but for every Big 12 team. This roller coaster has led to 28 upsets, 28 road victories, seven overtime games and even two double-overtime games within the Big 12 regular season.

Now it’s time to reflect on a memorable season before the gloves come out and an intense four-day tournament begins to crown another Big 12 Tournament champion.

Kansas is once again the Big 12 regular season champions for the 14th straight season and will be the No. 1 seed for the Big 12 Tournament. Even though that title was won, the Jayhawks saw their fair share of upsets including four losses at Allen Fieldhouse.

The biggest challenge for Kansas, out of every single Big 12 team, is Oklahoma State. The first year coach, Mike Boynton Jr., found a way to defeat the Jayhawks on Feb. 3 in Lawrence, Kansas, with an 84-79 final score.

The next meeting was just the same for the Cowboys as Oklahoma State fans were able to storm the court after an 18-point win over Kansas to close out the regular season on March 3. This was the first time in the Bill Self era that Kansas has been swept by a team in the regular season.

Oklahoma State was a team that had many upsets including two at home against Oklahoma and Texas Tech. The biggest win besides Kansas for the Cowboys was an 88-85 win at West Virginia on Feb. 10.

Because of these wins, Oklahoma State will play as the No. 8 seed in the tournament this week and will play Oklahoma in the first round. If the Cowboys can pull out the victory, they’ll play the Jayhawks once again to try and make it a trifecta this season.

Oklahoma State will need to show their dominance in this tournament as ESPN’s Joe Lunardi has the Cowboys in his First Four Out category as of Monday.

Texas Tech was a surprise team that was predicted to do well, but No. 2 seed in the Big 12 Tournament would’ve been a stretch in December. The Red Raiders utilized its veterans like Keenan Evans, Zach Smith and Justin Gray to make an impact on their senior seasons.

The team from Lubbock, Texas, went 23-8 overall this season and had three big upsets to start the Big 12 regular season. Those upsets came on the first night of Big 12 games when the Red Raiders defeated then-No. 18 Baylor as well as a win at Kansas on Jan. 2.

The Red Raiders went 11-7 in the Big 12 and had one of its biggest losses come from Iowa State who won by 18 points at Hilton Coliseum on Jan. 20. That was one of four games the Cyclones won in the Big 12 this season.

It was a rebuilding season for Iowa State as the team lost four of its five starters from last season and gained many different players from across the country. This season was focused on building that chemistry and it was shown in various games throughout the season.

The Cyclones went 4-14 in the Big 12 after going 9-3 in the non-conference season. All four of those wins came at home against unranked Baylor, then-No. 8 Texas Tech, then-No. 15 West Virginia and then-No. 17 Oklahoma.

Iowa State will be taking the last seed in the Big 12 Tournament at No. 10, but will play a Texas team that the Cyclones went into overtime with on New Year’s Day in Hilton Coliseum.

The Longhorns had the freshman that sparked everyone’s interest before the regular season with Mo Bamba. The 6-foot-11 freshman had a strong first year with 13 points per game and 10.6 rebounds per game along with 107 total blocks and 53.5 percent shooting from the floor.

That success from Bamba led Texas to five upsets this Big 12 regular season. Out of those five upsets, four of them were at home with the only road upset coming against Oklahoma on Feb. 17.

Head coach Shaka Smart was able to turn around the program from a 10-21 overall record and 4-14 Big 12 record last season to an 18-13 overall record and an 8-10 Big 12 record this season. That progress allowed the Longhorns to grab the No. 7 seed and play the Cyclones on Wednesday night.

Another team playing on Wednesday night in the first round of the Big 12 Tournament is the Oklahoma Sooners who will be a No. 9 seed in the tournament.

If you would’ve told me that Oklahoma would be second to last in the Big 12 standings, I would’ve thought you were crazy at the beginning of the season. The Sooners had their own freshman phenomenon with Trae Young, who is probably a top 10 NBA Draft pick this upcoming offseason.

Young led Oklahoma in minutes per game (35.2), free throw percentage (85.9), points per game (27.5), steals (51), assists (267) and turnovers (157). It was an unbelievable season for Young, but once the Sooners travelled to Texas on Feb. 3, it went downhill fast.

That game started a six-game losing streak and Oklahoma ended the Big 12 season with six losses in its last eight games. Iowa State and Kansas State were the only two teams the Sooners defeated during that time and will need to refocus for the next four days if they want to claim the Big 12 title.

Kansas State might’ve lost to Oklahoma on Feb. 24, but the Wildcats had a memorable season finishing fourth in the conference. They were led by juniors Barry Brown and Dean Wade who combined to average 33.3 points per game (both averaged about 16.6 points) along with close to 10 rebounds per game combined.

Iowa State’s first loss of the Big 12 season came from Kansas State at Hilton Coliseum. The Wildcats had two upsets this season both at home against then-No. 4 Oklahoma on Jan. 16 and then-No. 24 TCU on Jan. 20.

Kansas State will look to try and get another win against TCU in the quarterfinals of the Big 12 Tournament on Thursday as the Wildcats, the No. 4 seed, takes on the Horned Frogs, the No. 5 seed, for a semifinal spot on Friday.

TCU came into the season with a lot of hype after winning the NIT last year and returning all of its starters. Head coach Jamie Dixon had positive feedback about his team during Big 12 media day last October, but the Horned Frogs had their ups and downs.

The Horned Frogs had one single upset in the Big 12 regular season on Jan. 22 against then-No. 7 West Virginia in Fort Worth, Texas. It was an even field for TCU this season as five of its players averaged double-digits in points to end the season.

Kenrich Williams was one of the seniors to score double-digit points this season (12.9) and also lead the Horned Frogs in rebounds per game with 9.3. TCU will have to win three games to earn the title of Big 12 Tournament champions and it starts against Kansas State on Thursday.

West Virginia might have been upset by Kansas State in January, but the Mountaineers have had their fair share of wins this season in the Big 12 Conference. The Mountaineers finished the season with a 22-9 overall record and an 11-7 Big 12 record.

Senior Jevon Carter led West Virginia with 17 points per game along with 4.8 rebounds, 6.5 assists and 2.9 steals per game in his final year in Morgantown, West Virginia. Similar to TCU, the Mountaineers had five players averaging double-digit points, which led them to a No. 3 seed in the Big 12 Tournament.

The Mountaineers are a lock to make the NCAA Tournament no matter the outcome of the Big 12 Tournament, but a good run this week could lead to a higher seed in Sunday’s selection show. The first team West Virginia will face is No. 6 seed Baylor on Thursday.

Baylor had a couple of upsets, but the two upsets came against the highest seeded teams in the Big 12 Conference. On Feb. 10, the Bears hosted then-No. 10 Kansas and won by 16 points. A similar result came on Feb. 17 when then-No. 7 Texas Tech went to Waco, Texas, and lost by two points.

Manu Lecomte (15.7), Jo Lual-Acuil Jr. (14.4) and Terry Matson (10.8) led the Bears this season in points per game, while Lual-Acuil Jr. led the team in rebounds per game with 8.8. Baylor has one of the most experienced coaches in the conference with Scott Drew in his 15th season and will try to utilize that previous knowledge to make a run in the Big 12 Tournament before heading to the NCAA Tournament.

All 10 teams this season had their share of upsets and dominating performances, but there can only be one Big 12 Tournament champion. The Big 12 Conference has been one of the most competitive leagues throughout the country and it shows with eight or nine of the 10 teams projecting to play in the NCAA Tournament next week.

I’m excited to see how the games unfold starting on Wednesday, but I’m more excited about how the games will unfold in this tournament I like to call March Madness. So sit back, relax and enjoy a wild couple of weeks with upsets, heart breaks and eventually an NCAA champion.