There are better college basketball conferences than the Big 12 in 2011-12.
But there are none more entertaining.
The Big 12 has three of the nation’s top eight teams, and of the league’s 10 teams, nine are capable of beating good teams.
The league title will likely come down to No. 8 Kansas, which is atop the conference standings at 8-1, No. 4 Missouri and No. 6 Baylor. No conference has a trio of teams more fun to watch than Kansas, Missouri and Baylor.
Outside of North Carolina, Kansas has the best inside-outside duo in the country with Thomas Robinson, who is averaging 17.5 points and 11.8 rebounds per game and point guard Tyshawn Taylor, who scores 16.5 points and hands out 5.2 assists per night. Kansas has won or shared the conference title for the last 7 seasons, but they have serious competitors this year.
Missouri is arguably the best shooting team in the country. The Tigers shoot 49.8 percent from the field, including Ricardo Ratliffe’s nation-leading 75.1 percent, 37.7 percent from behind the 3-point arc and 77.7 percent from the foul line. Mizzou has four players who shoot very well from deep, including Kim English, who is shooting 49.5 from the 3-point line, and Marcus Denmon, who is fourth in the Big 12 at 17.2 points per game.
There’s not a team in the nation that can match Baylor’s athletic big men. Perry Jones III is a 6-11 forward who can run, jump, handle and shoot. Quincy Miller – a 6-9 freshman – is athletic and has a soft touch. Six-foot-10 forward Anthony Jones can light it up from the 3-point line, and 6-7 senior Quincy Acy is a dunking machine. Throw in junior college transfer point guard Pierre Jackson and sharp-shooting Brady Heslip and the Bears are among the most fun teams to watch in the country.
All three of those teams, Kansas, Missouri, and Baylor, are ranked Top 10 in the country for offensive efficiency.
What sets the Big 12 apart, though, is that it has another six teams that can play spoilers. Iowa State, Kansas State, Oklahoma State, Oklahoma, Texas and Texas A&M will likely play as big a role as the Big 3 in determining the conference champion.
Iowa State, led by Minnesota transfer Royce White and coached by former Cyclone great Fred Hoiberg, handed Kansas its only Big 12 loss on Saturday, 72-64. Led by freshmen Le’Bryan Nash and Brian Williams, Oklahoma State knocked off then-No. 2 Missouri, 79-72 last Wednesday. Kansas State also has a 16-point win over Missouri on its resume, and Texas pushed the Tigers to the final seconds on Monday. Even Texas A&M, who looked lost in a 1-5 stretch earlier in the season, is extremely dangerous. It took a late seconds Baylor three to knock the Aggies out last night.
The Kansas-Missouri showdowns on Saturday and Feb. 25, the Baylor-Missouri tilt on Feb. 11 and the second Baylor-Kansas matchup Feb. 8 will have huge implications in the Big 12 regular-season race. But so will the Jayhawks’ trip to Kansas State on Feb. 13, Missouri’s return visit to Texas on Feb. 20, and Baylor’s trek into Ames, Iowa, on the final night of the regular season.
Those must-watch games are what make the Big 12 the most entertaining conference in the country.