Tramel: Big 12 could be underdogs in majority of SEC Challenge games
Come Saturday, we interrupt the interrupted Big 12 basketball schedule for the Big 12/SEC Challenge.
Only nine of the conference’s 20 scheduled games have been played the last two weeks, due to COVID-19 issues and protocols.
So far, all five mid-week games remain on, as are the 10 games Saturday against the Southeastern Conference, which could solidify the Big 12’s status as one of the nation’s two strongest basketball leagues this season, along with the Big Ten.
Of the 10 Big 12/SEC Challenge games, the Big 12 has the higher-ranked team in only four of the 10 games, using the NCAA basketball committee’s NET rankings. Here are the 10 games:
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No. 64 Auburn at No. 1 Baylor
No. 26 Florida at No. 22 West Virginia
No. 9 Alabama at No. 25 Oklahoma
No. 136 Texas A&M at No. 206 Kansas State
No. 102 Texas Christian at No. 23 Missouri
No. 14 Texas Tech at No. 35 LSU
No. 33 Arkansas at No. 41 OSU
No. 19 Kansas at No. 11 Tennessee
No. 199 Iowa State at No. 92 Mississippi State
No. 10 Texas at No. 82 Kentucky.
So the Big 12 has two big favorites in Baylor and Texas. The SEC has three big favorites in Texas A&M, Missouri and Mississippi State.
And five games look like virtual tossups, including OU-Alabama and OSU-Arkansas.
The SEC has won the Challenge only once since it began in 2014. But in the last four years, the leagues are tied 20-20 in Challenge games.
2014: Big 12 7-3
2015: Big 12 6-4
2016: Big 12 7-3
2017: Tied 5-5
2018: SEC 6-4
2019: Big 12 6-4
2020: Tied 5-5
So the Big 12 has a 40-30 edge in games, but the SEC has made inroads in recent years. And the 2021 matchups look tailored for more SEC success.
Here are the Big 12 rankings for this week, after a light week in which only five of the 10 scheduled games were played, and two of the five involved hearty Kansas State, which soldiers on no matter the COVID situation.
1. Baylor (7-0, 14-0): The Bears look great, beat Kansas and OSU last week, and it didn’t hurt that they caught OSU without Cade Cunningham.
2. Texas (5-1, 11-2): The Longhorns didn’t play last week. Hopefully UT’s home game against the Sooners on Tuesday night isn’t postponed.
3. Oklahoma (5-3, 9-4): The Sooners are playing strong; two of their losses were tight (Texas Tech, at Kansas).
4. Kansas (4-4, 10-5): Don’t weep much for the Jayhawks. They’re about to win a bunch. Five of KU’s next seven conference games are against Kansas State, Iowa State or TCU.
5. Texas Tech (4-3, 11-4): Tech had the week off.
6. Oklahoma State (3-4, 9-4): Without Cunningham and Rondel Walker, Mike Boynton was back to juggling makeshift lineups.
7. West Virginia (3-3, 10-4): The Mountaineers have three Big 12 wins, and two of them are against either Iowa State or Kansas State.
8. Texas Christian (2-4, 9-5): The Horned Frogs are potentially dropping into the bottom tier.
9. Kansas State (1-7, 5-11): The Wildcats were avalanched in losses to OU and West Virginia last week.
10. Iowa State (0-5, 2-7): Can the Cyclones resurrect Hilton Magic against OSU on Monday night?