If timed just right, viewers will have a chance to squeeze a brief dinner break into the middle of what will otherwise be seven-plus consecutive hours of must-see Big 12 basketball Saturday evening.
The surging league -- with half of its 10 members ranked in the most recent AP poll -- will put its strength on full display this weekend with a pair of ranked matchups preceded by a showcase for No. 18 Texas Tech. The Red Raiders (13-1, 2-0 Big 12) are the latest to put the conference on notice that they, too, are a force to be reckoned with in 2018. Texas Tech is one of four one-loss teams in the conference, and that list doesn’t include perennial power Kansas.
At the start of the conference season, the Big 12 has made a good argument for being the best and most exciting league to watch. It might not have the top-to-bottom depth of others, but that won’t matter with the very best it has to offer going head-to-head this weekend.
Texas Tech is the first course, taking on a Kansas State team (4 p.m. ET) that has hit 44.2 percent of its 3-pointers in its first two league games. The Red Raiders have a long, large veteran lineup that has allowed less than 60 points per game. They earned their stripes earlier this week by running straight at Kansas on the road and picking up the first victory in Lawrence in program history.
Next on the slate is a top-10 bout with superstar power: No. 7 Oklahoma at No. 6 West Virginia (7:15 p.m. ET, ESPN2/WatchESPN). Watch the country’s best playmaker, Sooners freshman Trae Young, square off with arguably the country’s best backcourt defender, Mountaineers senior Jevon Carter.
In the first two months of his college career, Young has played his best on big stages (in a victory at then-No. 3 Wichita State and, most recently, in a one-point road win over previously unbeaten TCU). Will the soaring rookie eventually come back down to earth for the Sooners (12-1, 2-0)? Carter definitely has the credentials to rein him in for the Mountaineers (13-1, 2-0), but either way, those two should put on a good show.
The nightcap features a Jayhawks team that might be in the uncommon position of being a bit relieved to be on the road. No. 10 Kansas (11-3, 1-1) already has lost twice on its home floor -- for the first time in a decade -- and will head south Saturday night (9:15 p.m. ET, ESPN2/WatchESPN) to face No. 16 TCU (13-1, 1-1).
It’s not clear when or if freshmen Billy Preston and Silvio De Sousa could be cleared to play, but Jayhawks coach Bill Self made it sound this week as though a decision was imminent. One or both would be a big help for a Kansas team that is far from a prohibitive favorite to win its 14th consecutive league title.
The Big 12 has been steadily improving over the past several seasons. Now on the cusp of breaking UCLA’s record for consecutive conference championships, Kansas faces as much serious competition from as many places as it has at any point during its impressive streak.
Others worth watching
Injured Irish: Notre Dame will be playing without its top two senior leaders this weekend and without its best player for maybe the rest of the regular season. Bonzie Colson, the veteran and unorthodox leading scorer for the Fighting Irish (12-3, 2-0 ACC), had surgery this week to repair a fracture in his foot. His roommate and pick-and-roll partner Matt Farrell sprained his ankle and won’t play Saturday against Syracuse (3:15 p.m. ET, ESPN2/WatchESPN).
Mike Brey -- who set the school’s record for coaching wins earlier this week with No. 394 -- has coached his way around injuries and out of tricky situations before. The Irish, though, didn’t leave themselves a lot of wiggle room by dropping three nonconference games. The trip to the Carrier Dome will provide the first look at how Brey and a group that still has plenty of healthy upperclassmen adjust.
Seton Hall at Butler: The Big East feels just a bit more up for grabs after Butler once again pulled a Butler and knocked off No. 1 Villanova last Saturday. Nova and Xavier are still at the top of the list, but don’t sleep on No. 21 Seton Hall. The Pirates (13-2) are off to a 2-0 start in league play. The frontcourt combination of Desi Rodriguez and Angel Delgado gives them a unique look that could be problematic for other conference contenders.
Seminole stamina: No. 24 Florida State reaches the end of a daunting three-game start to ACC play with a trip to No. 15 Miami (6 p.m. ET, ESPNU/WatchESPN) on Sunday. Leonard Hamilton’s team beat No. 12 UNC in a nail-biter Wednesday and put up 93 points in a loss to No. 4 Duke to start the gauntlet last Saturday.
The Seminoles (12-2) have four scorers averaging double figures and a fifth (redshirt freshman Mfiondu Kabengele) nipping at their heels. Is that enough depth to battle the Canes and finish a tough week with a 2-1 conference record? If so, put Florida State on the short list of teams that could cause some problems at the ACC tournament in March.