Big 12 Beat: It's Oklahoma and Kansas in Basketball, Then a Cast of Thousands

Oliver VanDervoortCorrespondent IJanuary 20, 2009

Everyone who has a legitimate shot at the Big 12 Basketball regular season title, take a step forward.  Missouri, Baylor, Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Oklahoma State, Nebraska, Colorado, Iowa State, and Kansas State—not so fast my friends.

While slots three through 12 in the conference certainly appear up for grabs, the first and second spots in the conference are decidedly less so.

That Oklahoma appears to be the cream of the crop in the Big 12 should surprise no one.  They came into the season as the most talented group in the conference and have so far continued to appear that way.

That Kansas is also taking a step up shouldn't shock anyone, but this was supposed to be a rebuilding year for the Jayhawks.  In fact, KU had struggled outside the conference, most recently getting manhandled by the Michigan State Spartans in Kansas' final non-conference contest.

But since beginning Big 12 play, the Jayhawks have looked like the same immovable force they've portrayed over the last few seasons, most notably with their blowout win over a Texas A&M team that was considered a challenger for the conference title.  The Aggies didn't appear to belong on the same court as Kansas in their 73-53 loss.

So since the top two spots look set in stone (despite how early it is), where does that leave the rest of the conference, you ask?  Fourteenth-ranked Texas should certainly continue to make some noise.  Their only loss is to fifth-ranked Oklahoma, and they still have the talent to make a long run in the conference.

Baylor stumbled against Texas A&M (A&M's only conference win), but the Bears still have a ton of talent and should give Texas a run for third place in the conference

Missouri began their conference play with a loss to Nebraska but seem to have awakened after that ugly loss by pummeling Colorado and Iowa State.  Granted, the Buffaloes and the Cyclones might be the only teams in the conference that have no shot at finishing higher than 10th, but 30+ point wins over both teams should send a statement to the rest of the league that Missouri will not be a pushover this season.

Oklahoma State started off strong a year ago and faded badly towards the end of the season.  They've started off strong again, beating Texas A&M and narrowly losing to Baylor in overtime.  While winning the conference isn't a possibility, finishing in the upper half is a strong possibility if they can avoid another fade

Texas A&M might be the biggest surprise of the season in a negative way.  The Aggies were considered a true Top 25 type team entering the season and roared out to a 14-1 start to the season.  Now sitting at 1-3 in the Big 12, A&M's chances at a Big 12 title have all but slipped away, and with their next game coming against Texas, 1-4 seems almost a certainty.

The Aggies are not in danger of missing the Big Dance yet, but they'll need to right their ship sooner rather than later.

Nebraska has opened a surprising 2-1 in the Big 12.  A win over Missouri and a blowout of Kansas State have the Huskers dreaming of a top half finish.  The arrival (finally) of 6'11" Brian Diaz could bolster the team even more.  Diaz was having problems getting okayed to play for the Huskers, but the NCAA clearinghouse finally removed their roadblocks.

Diaz is the only player on the team over 6'8", and while there have been some calls to redshirt him and start fresh next season, if Husker coach Doc Sadler starts sniffing an NCAA bid, he probably won't hesitate to give the big man some minutes