Freshman Andrew Wiggins drives to the basket for Kansas.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Don't kid yourself. College football never stops.The body of 2013-14 work in the sport isn't cold, yet the oddsmakers have made Oklahoma the Big 12's best shot of winning next year's national champion at 20-1. (WVU, for those interested, is 100-1.)Yet in the college ranks, it is clearly basketball season, and West Virginia's league, the Big 12, is faring well. Most Rating Percentage Index rankings have the conference No. 1 nationally.There is, however, debate. Columnists argue the Big Ten is still better, especially after a classic Michigan State overtime win over Ohio State Tuesday night. Wisconsin is off to a strong start.
But within the RPI rankings, preseason Big 12 favorite Kansas, which played Oklahoma on Wednesday, was still near the top. Iowa State has likewise been in the top five at 14-0.Baylor and Oklahoma State have been in the Nos. 13-19 range. and Oklahoma has been anywhere from No. 15 to 23.Also, the Big 12 has five of its 10 teams in the latest Associated Press Top 25 poll: No. 7 Baylor, No. 9 Iowa State, No. 11 Oklahoma State, No. 18 Kansas and No. 25 Kansas State.There's an argument to be made.nn
Much of the debate over the Big 12 and Big Ten centers on the top teams in the latter league. Within the Big 12, many are sold that Kansas - and former Huntington Prep star Andrew Wiggins - will be a contender at the end of the season.There's not as much belief in Baylor, which lost to Iowa State 87-72, or the Cyclones or the rest of the league. Attention, however, might be paid to Baylor coach Scott Drew. After his Bears fell to the Cyclones this is what he said:"Iowa State, to me, is a team that can win a national championship."Baylor guard Brady Heslip added the Cyclones are "just a matchup nightmare for teams."Much of that has to do with transfer and former Marshall standout DeAndre Kane, who scored 30 points and had eight rebounds and five steals in the win over Baylor. Before Wednesday's games, he was the Big 12's No. 8 scorer with a 16.1 average. Also, ISU outscored Baylor 47-26 in the paint.Iowa State's Melvin Ejim, a 6-foot-6 forward, is the Cyclones' leading scorer at 17.8 points per game. He is also No. 2 within the Big 12. But the league's leading scorer before Wednesday's games remained West Virginia's Eron Harris, who is averaging 18.5 points. The Mountaineers' Juwan Staten was fifth at 16.8 points. Staten was No. 4 in field goal percentage at 52.1 percent.
As mentioned, Oklahoma hosted Kansas on Wednesday. Whatever the outcome, though, the Sooners have been a pleasant surprise after losing players like Romero Osby, Steven Pledger, Amath M'Baye and Andrew Fitzgerald.OU was leading the Big 12 in scoring, averaging 87.3 points, and had been off to its best start in five years. The last time the Sooners averaged more points for an entire season was in 1993-94, the last under coach Billy Tubbs.What Oklahoma lacks is a true big man, like Kansas has in 7-foot center Joel Embiid. Yet the Sooners have still been outrebounding opponents.nn
Oklahoma State has All-America talent Marcus Smart, but has been in crisis mode of late. Michael Cobbins, the Cowboys' best big man, is out with a season-ending Achilles injury. Also, backup point guard Stevie Clark has been out after being arrested on suspicion of marijuana possession last Wednesday.
Big 12 tidbits:If you're up for a block party, call Texas, which was getting 7.1 blocked shots per game before Wednesday's game at Oklahoma State. The Longhorns have the youngest team in the Big 12.West Virginia was not leading the Big 12 in any major team statistic before Wednesday's games, but were No. 2 in 3-point percentage (39.8 percent), turnover margin (plus 4.1) and assist-to-turnover ratio (1.5).The Big 12's top rebounder has been Iowa State's Dustin Hogue, who is averaging 9.6.Saturday will be a big day in the Big 12. WVU will host No. 11 Oklahoma State at 4 p.m. The other matchups will be No. 9 Iowa State at Oklahoma, No. 7 Baylor at TCU, No. 25 Kansas State at No. 18 Kansas and Texas Tech at Texas.
WVU will host Texas on Monday.When Baylor lost to Iowa State it snapped the Bears' six-game winning streak.The last time Kansas lost four nonconference games it went on to finish 14-2 in the Big 12 and win the 2009 league title.Kansas State's winning streak moved to 10 after defeating TCU in Fort Worth. The Wildcats are now 12-3.Texas Tech, under first-year coach Tubby Smith, lost in nonconference play to Alabama, Pittsburgh, Arizona, LSU and Arizona State.Reach Mitch Vingle at 304-348-4827, firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him at twitter.com/MitchVingle.