Big 12 Conference play begins Wednesday for all 10 league teams, and the conference is fighting to maintain its grasp as the strongest in the nation through non-conference play.
Some teams have performed well. Others have faltered. The Avalanche-Journal has handed out mid-season report cards to all the teams. Here’s a look at which teams made the dean’s list, and which are in danger of double-secret probation:
AP Ranking: 2
Best win: 73-61 at No. 5 Notre Dame
Worst loss: 71-69 vs. No. 4 Stanford
Explanation: There is absolutely nothing wrong with losing by two points to Stanford. Baylor is still the best team in the Big 12 and owns three double-digit wins against top-15 competition. Brittney Griner leads the conference in scoring (20.2 ppg).
AP Ranking: 27
Best win: 60-53 vs. Fairfield
Worst loss: 50-42 vs. Iowa
Explanation: Iowa State probably should have beaten in-state rival Iowa, but it was playing without stud center Chelsea Poppens. Now that Poppens is ready to come back, the Cyclones are poised to sneak back into the top 25. The only bad thing about ISU’s pre-conference slate is lack of marquee wins — a win against Iowa would have granted that.
AP Ranking: 21
Best win: 58-48 at Creighton
Worst loss: 64-56 at No. 23 Arkansas
Explanation: Kansas’ only two losses are to top-25 teams, and they have solid non-conference wins against Creighton and Minnesota. The Jayhawks are just a couple of missed layups away from being undefeated and in the top 10.
AP Ranking: N/A
Best win: 67-63 at Charlotte
Worst loss: 52-50 vs. UTEP
Explanation: A win against UTEP would have been K-State’s best non-conference victory, but the loss gives the Miners a nice resume-building win. The Wildcats were spanked by Notre Dame, as expected, and gave Texas A&M a fight before the Aggies ran away with it. The Wildcats need to find ways to score more points, or they’ll be in a tight race with TCU for the title of worst team in the Big 12.
AP Ranking: 17
Best win: 73-70 vs. No. 23 Arkansas
Worst loss: 76-63 vs. Vanderbilt
Explanation: Oklahoma’s 13-point loss to unranked Vanderbilt cost them an ‘A,’ but the Sooners made up for it with a win against upstart Arkansas earlier this season. Oklahoma will sorely miss Whitney Hand this year, and it showed against the Commodores. Still, Sheri Coale always finds ways to win.
Best win: 80-72 at San Diego State
Worst loss: N/A
Explanation: Oklahoma State hasn’t played against a single power-conference team, but you can’t really punish them for winning all of its games — and leading the Big 12 in scoring along the way — but the Cowgirls may tumble out of the top 25 if they lose their first two Big 12 games. No wins against power-conference teams cost the Cowgirls a perfect grade. They’ll need to go at least .500 in league play to make the tourney.
AP Ranking: 38
Best win: 70-60 vs. St. John’s
Worst loss: 73-65 vs. Central Michigan
Explanation: You can forgive losses to UCLA, Tennessee and even Iowa. You can’t forgive a loss to Central Michigan in Austin this close to Big 12 play. The Longhorns limp into Big 12 play losers of three of their last four. Give Texas credit for playing UCLA and Tennessee, though.
AP Ranking: N/A
Best win: 76-70 vs. SMU
Worst loss: 91-80 at Texas State
Explanation: Losses to Charlotte and Texas State might have flown in the Mountain West, but not in the Big 12. The Frogs competed well against No. 10 Georgia in a 13-point loss, but that’s the kind of game they can expect each night in the Big 12. Frogs are in for some growing pains.
AP Ranking: N/A
Best win: 61-49 at Arizona State
Worst loss: 65-61 at New Mexico
Explanation: Getting road wins against power-conference teams is good. Losing to New Mexico is bad. Very bad. The loss to the Lobos knocked the Lady Raiders down a letter grade, but Tech didn’t really have too many chances for any solid non-conference wins. Playing Michigan State on a neutral court should prepare Tech well, and the Lady Raiders have comfortable wins against lesser teams that will compete for conference titles (Nicholls State, Lamar, Southern Utah).
AP Ranking: 31
Best win: 60-57 at Boston
Worst loss: 71-63 vs. LSU (neutral site)
Explanation: West Virginia is young, so a couple of early season hiccups are to be expected. The Mountaineers have a nice win at Boston, but became a marquee win for Duquesne when they lost by eight. LSU is not the same team it was a decade ago, but the Mountaineers will bring in a unique style to the Big 12 that could parlay into some big wins.