By Shannon Ryan, Chicago Tribune –
For a while, it appeared Kansas, Missouri and Baylor probably would take turns losing only to each other in Big 12 play.
Then last week happened.
Missouri lost the stunner of the conference season thus far, falling 79-72 on Wednesday to Oklahoma State. Then Kansas found a way to stumble in a 72-64 loss against Iowa State on Saturday.
Of course, everyone has a bad date every once in a while. This probably will be the worst of it for those talented teams, but the Cyclones’ victory certainly helped them.
Iowa State (15-6, 5-3) probably won’t win the Big 12, but it added a “good win” by NCAA tournament selection standards by beating Kansas for the first time in 15 tries. Kansas State (15-5, 4-4), which didn’t gain momentum after upsetting Missouri on Jan. 7, can’t afford many more slips.
The real race is between the Big Three — Kansas (17-4, 7-1), Missouri (19-2, 6-2) and Baylor (19-2, 6-2).
Kansas plays at Missouri on Saturday and at Baylor on Feb. 8.
Impact Irish: The one team having perhaps the most influence on the rankings is a team not even in the Top 25.
Notre Dame (14-8) beat Syracuse on Jan. 21, knocking the Orange out of the No. 1 spot , and its victory against Connecticut last week dropped the Huskies out of the polls.
Coach Mike Brey is an obvious choice for the Big East coach of the year. At the start of the season, with a hodge-podge group of players, not so much.
Player of the week: Draymond Green, Michigan State. Maybe everyone should be getting used to this from Green by now. But his 22 points, 14 rebounds and six assists against Minnesota demonstrate just how valuably unique the 6-foot-7, 230-pound forward is for the Spartans.
Games to watch:
Tuesday: Tennessee at Kentucky. The Volunteers lost by only three points the last time they met.
Thursday: Gonzaga at BYU. The Bulldogs can’t let up if they want to win the West Coast Conference, which St. Mary’s leads.
Saturday: Marquette at Notre Dame. Two of the hottest Big East teams collide.
Vanderbilt at Florida. Vandy is second in the SEC and can improve its reputation by taking down Florida on the road.
Virginia at Florida State. The Seminoles can make another statement (see Duke, North Carolina) by beating the Cavaliers.
Kansas at Missouri. There’s a lot of jockeying in the Big 12. This is an interesting race.
Ohio State at Wisconsin. The Buckeyes are trying to distance themselves from the rest of the Big Ten pack. Wisconsin might not go along with that plan.