Campus Corner

KU Chalkboard: Kansas takes over first place in Big 12 after Iowa State loss

Kansas’ Cliff Alexander (left) battled a trio of Oklahoma State players for a rebound during Tuesday’s game.
Kansas’ Cliff Alexander (left) battled a trio of Oklahoma State players for a rebound during Tuesday’s game. The Kansas City Star

Kansas is just eight days and 16 percent of the way through its Big 12 schedule. The Jayhawks are also alone in first place.

On Wednesday night in Waco, No. 22 Baylor clipped No. 11 Iowa State 74-73 in a highly entertaining finish, leaving No. 9 Kansas as the only unbeaten team left in the Big 12. Here’s a look at the updated standings, as of Thursday morning.

Big 12

Conference record

Overall record

Kansas

3-0

14-2

West Virginia

3-1

15-2

Kansas State

3-1

10-7

Iowa State

2-1

12-3

Baylor

2-2

13-3

Oklahoma State

2-2

12-4

Oklahoma

2-2

11-5

Texas

1-2

12-4

TCU

0-3

13-3

Texas Tech

0-4

10-7

Kansas, of course, will travel to Iowa State for an 8 p.m. matchup on Saturday, their unblemished mark likely vulnerable in the hostile confines of Hilton Coliseum. But for the moment, let’s inspect how the Big 12 landscape has changed — even in the last week. Ten days ago, advanced statistical site KenPom.com was projecting Kansas to go 10-8 in the Big 12; now that projection has changed to 12-6. (The 10-8 projection always seemed to be selling Kansas short, but Kansas’ statistical profile was lacking, especially on defense.)

For reference: Here’s how KenPom.com projected the top six of the Big 12 in the days before Kansas’ Big 12 season began:

Team

Projected record

Oklahoma

12-6

West Virginia

12-6

Texas

11-7

Kansas

10-8

Iowa State

10-8

Baylor

10-8

Now here’s how those same projections looked on Thursday morning.

Team

Projected record

Trending

Iowa State

12-6

Up

Kansas

12-6

Up

West Virginia

12-6

Push

Oklahoma

11-7

Down

Baylor

10-8

Push

Oklahoma St.

10-8

Up

Texas

9-9

Down

K-State

7-11

Up

It’s way too early to be making any grand takeaways about these projections or the Big 12 race. But in the next five days, Kansas will travel to Iowa State and face Oklahoma at home on Big Monday. If Kansas loses at Iowa State — and KenPom.com projects the Cyclones as a 76-72 favorite — then it’s game on in the Big 12. But for the Jayhawks, the opportunity exists to gain some separation against two teams that were expected.

Highlighting Oklahoma State

For a basketball game that featured 49 fouls, 71 free throws and no semblance of flow, Kansas’ 67-57 victory over Oklahoma State on Tuesday actually delivered quite well in the highlight department. While The Chalkboard conducted our usual re-watch, there weren’t many takeaways from the action — though it did confirm that Wayne Selden and Devonte’ Graham were brilliant in limiting the touches and clean looks for Oklahoma State’s Phil Forte. (The Jayhawks held Forte to 1.05 points per possession, his lowest mark in four Big 12 games.)

Kansas won’t play many games with 49 fouls, and the physical play and tight whistle contributed to a game that could be described as unkempt. But that didn’t stop the Jayhawks from recording three plays that ARE definitely worth a second look.

Here are those plays — in GIF form!

3. Frank Mason’s Drive

Early in the first half, Kansas’ Frank Mason found himself in transition. He attacked the lane, absorbed some contact, nearly went perpendicular to the floor, and still managed to finish. He also drew a foul, to add to the degree of difficulty.

Here’s a replay from a different angle:

2. Wayne Selden’s block in transition

In almost any other game, this sequence would have been No. 1. Leading by a point in the final minutes before halftime, the Jayhawks turned the ball over and nearly coughed up the lead. But then Wayne Selden appeared in the frame, delivering a chase-down block that sprung Frank Mason into transition. Mason found Cliff Alexander for a lob, Alllen Fieldhouse exploded, and Kansas never trailed again.

1. Cliff Alexander’s dunk

This one doesn’t need much context, but a couple of things: 1. Oklahoma State’s Anthony Allen is listed at 7 feet tall. 2. You’ll probably want to see the reaction of Kansas assistant coach Jerrance Howard.

Here’s a second angle:

The player of the game.

Frank Mason has cornered the market on this honor. He finished with 16 points, nine rebounds, three assists and drilled a pivotal three-pointer with under 10 minutes left while Oklahoma State was still fighting back into the game. Mason has now scored in double figures in 13 straight games, which is the longest streak since Ben McLemore accomplished that feat during the 2012-13 season. He also played 38 minutes. Kansas coach Bill Self would like to lighten Mason’s minutes load. But with upcoming games against Iowa State and Oklahoma, that probably won’t be happening in the next five days.

The stat of the game.

Kansas outrebounded Oklahoma State 43-26. More impressive: Oklahoma State missed 35 shots, and only finished with four offensive rebounds and four second-chance points.

To reach Rustin Dodd, call 816-234-4937 or send email to rdodd@kcstar.com. Follow him on Twitter @rustindodd.

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