MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP)Kansas coach Bill Self proclaimed it a ”great week” after tough wins over Oklahoma and Iowa State last week.
It would be a spectacular week if the second-ranked Jayhawks get through this one unscathed.
First up is a rivalry game with No. 13 Kansas State that is suddenly much tougher than anyone would have anticipated before the season. Even after the Wildcats (15-2, 4-1) had their nine-game winning streak snapped by TCU over the weekend, they are still just a half-game back of the Jayhawks and tied for second in the rugged Big 12 race.
After the Sunflower Showdown, the Jayhawks (16-1, 5-0) return home to play the No. 14 Horned Frogs on Saturday.
”The biggest thing I see is the confidence (in the Wildcats),” Kansas forward Jalen Wilson said. ”I think last year, you know it was close last year, and I think it may have surprised some people. But now, they know they can beat teams and they know they can play with a lot of different people. That’s kind of the difference.”
As for the Horned Frogs? They lost an early eyebrow-raiser to Northwestern State but have been solid ever since, their two losses in conference play coming against seventh-ranked Texas and the No. 12 Cyclones.
All those teams figure to have a say in how one of the toughest leagues in the country will shake out.
TCU (14-3, 3-2) gets West Virginia on Wednesday night before heading into Allen Fieldhouse. The Longhorns (15-2, 4-1) visit Iowa State on Tuesday night before a weekend date with the Mountaineers. And the Cyclones (13-3, 4-1) follow up their high-profile showdown with Texas by hitting the road to face Oklahoma State.
Indeed, there are no easy nights in the Big 12, which boasts six of its 10 teams in the Top 25 this week.
”This is the Big 12. Right now, no one is expecting anyone to go undefeated in this league,” said first-year Kansas State coach Jerome Tang, who is plenty familiar with the grind from all this years working for Baylor coach Scott Drew. ”You can prepare, and you can play well and still lose, right? And so yeah, there’s no panic. It is on to the next thing.”
BEASTS IN THE EAST
No. 8 Xavier (15-3, 7-0) has quickly risen to the top of the Big East under Sean Miller, ripping off 11 consecutive wins to jump into the top 10 in this week’s poll. There’s no reason to think they’ll slow down with games against DePaul and Georgetown – the two Big East bottom-dwellers – before facing No. 15 UConn next week.
The featured game in the Big East this week is Wednesday night, when No. 22 Providence visits No. 20 Marquette.
WILD WEST COAST
Some of the hottest teams in the country reside in the West, where No. 5 UCLA will take its 13-game winning streak into Thursday night’s trip to Arizona State, whose four straight wins have the Sun Devils just outside the Top 25. The same night, Southern California visits No. 11 Arizona, which has lost two of its last three games.
Missouri’s rapid climb into the Top 25 was followed by back-to-back losses that knocked the Tigers right back out. But they have a chance to make another statement this week with games against No. 25 Arkansas and fourth-ranked Alabama.
Elsewhere in the SEC, ninth-ranked Tennessee will try to rebound from a loss to Kentucky with trips to Mississippi State and LSU, and No. 16 Auburn will try to keep pace when it heads to LSU and South Carolina.
BRUISING BIG TEN
Third-ranked Purdue, which beat Michigan State on Monday, and No. 23 Rutgers are the only Big Ten teams in this week’s AP poll. But that doesn’t mean the league isn’t tough: Northwestern, Illinois and Penn State were all 12-5 to start the week, a game better than Wisconsin in the win column and one better than the Spartans and Iowa in the loss column.
Every team lost at least once in their first six Big Ten games, which should portend a while rest of the regular season.
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