Iowa State completely deflated the balloon of anticipation surrounding the Kansas-Texas rematch this weekend when it beat the Longhorns 85-76 on Tuesday night. An hour later, Texas Tech almost pumped it full again by nearly knocking off the Jayhawks.
But freshman Andrew Wiggins grabbed an offensive rebound and scored the go-ahead bucket in the final seconds to save Kansas and give the Jayhawks a 64-63 win and a two-game advantage over Texas in the Big 12 Conference.
Anything is still possible considering how deep and talented the Big 12 is this season, but it appears the Jayhawks (20-6, 11-2) will have to stumble badly to lose their grip on first place and a 10th consecutive regular season conference title.
The Longhorns went into Ames, trailing Kansas by a game in the Big 12 standings and already in possession of a victory over the Jayhawks earlier this month. Beating the Cyclones would have given Texas a shot at taking over first place and control of the conference if it could have pulled off the victory in the rematch with the Jayhawks at Allen Fieldhouse on Saturday.
The game Saturday is obviously still significant. Texas can move to within a game of the Jayhawks if it can beat them for a second time. But then it would have to rely on another team to Kansas, too. That seems unlikely at best.
Iowa State might be the second best team in the conference when it comes down to it. The Cyclones now have eight victories over teams in the top 50 in the RPI. Coach Fred Hoiberg also has two of the most dynamic players in college basketball on his roster in Melvin Ejim and DeAndre Kane.
The Cyclones clearly aren't getting the respect they deserve in the polls being ranked 17th by the Associated Press and 19th by the coaches. Then again, they didn't do themselves any favors getting blown out at West Virginia a week ago.
Then there is Texas Tech. The Red Raiders probably didn't get enough credit for beating Oklahoma State Feb. 8 because of incident between OSU guard Marcus Smart and a Texas Tech fan that led to Smart being suspended for three games. Few are going to give Texas Tech credit now considering OSU has fallen off a cliff since that game.
But after taking Kansas to the brink on Tuesday, it's clear it's only a matter of time before Tubby Smith will have Texas Tech in position to compete on a more regular basis with the upper echelon of the Big 12 and possibly move into that realm at some point.
If nothing else, Tuesday was an mini preview of how exciting the Big 12 tournament could be in March.
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